In light of the events this week on Manus, President of the Uniting Church in Australia Stuart McMillan has called on the Federal Government to take moral leadership and resolve the status of refugees on Manus Island in mainland Australia.
Hundreds of men who remained in the offshore detention centre after its closure on 31 October have been transported to new facilities by Papua New Guinean authorities. Their removal follows a tense stand-off in which the men initially refused to leave.
“Haven’t these people suffered enough? After all this time, is it still impossible for the Federal Government to show some compassion and bring them here?” said Mr McMillan.
“As Christians, we believe all people should be treated with respect. The parable of the Good Samaritan is just one bible story that illustrates the Christian ethic of caring and sheltering people in their time of need.”
“We stand together with our sisters and brothers of faith in other Australian churches calling for a long-term humanitarian solution that upholds the dignity of these vulnerable people.”
The Uniting Church in Australia has advocated for the humanitarian treatment of refugees since its inception, and for many years has called for an end to mandatory detention and the closure of all offshore processing centres.
“The Federal Government should take the lead in developing a genuine regional approach, where refugees are offered permanent protection regardless of their means of arrival,” said Mr McMillan.
“Just bring these poor people here!”.”
Meeting today, the South Australian Synod has resolved to encourage congregations to join the call on the Federal Government to find safe haven for the refugees without delay.
Here is the text of what was agreed to at the SA Synod on Friday 24th November (note #2 was passed by formal majority, the rest by consensus):
That the Presbytery and Synod:
1. Express its deep concern for the health and welfare of the refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island to the Minister for Immigration, Peter Dutton, and the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and urge the Government to effect immediately a humane resolution to the unfolding humanitarian crisis, and to ensure physical security, medical care and basic necessities for their health and welfare, and to reinstate immediately the provision of torture and trauma counselling and interpretation services.
2. Encourage Uniting Church members and their congregations to join in with community actions that call for the Australian Government to evacuate the men on Manus Island t a safe place and if necessary to Australia to await resettlement, to ensure their safety and security, and to find safe haven for the acknowledged genuine refugees without further delay.
3. Encourage Uniting Church members and their congregations to contact Federal MPs by letters, emails or phone calls to express their grave concern for the refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island, and to ask Government MPs to ensure that the Government expedites a humane response to the continuing crisis unfolding for the refugees and asylum seekers on Manus.
4. Resource members and their congregations with current information, to be available on the Uniting Church SA website (sa.uca.org.au), so that informed conversations can happen with friends, families, work colleagues etc., in order that a groundswell of community concern is enabled, and request the Public Theology and Mission sub-committee (Mission and Leadership Development Board), in collaboration with the National UCA justice network and refugee networks (Circle of Friends, Justice4RefugeesSA, ACFID, Amnesty and our partner church in Papua New Guinea – UC Papua New Guinea) to compile current information and keep resources updated on the Uniting Church SA website.
Proposers: Rev Sandy Boyce, Margaret Chittleborough