The President of the Uniting Church in Australia Stuart McMillan has joined faith representatives and members of Parliament in Canberra to support renewed efforts to restore some compassion to Australia’s asylum seeker policies.
At a cross-party forum at Parliament House Mr McMillan described the continued abuse of asylum seekers in offshore detention centres as “inexcusable”.
“In increasing numbers, courageous citizens are expressing their concerns about the inhumane and illegal treatment of people seeking asylum, especially children.
“I applaud the actions of staff at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital in refusing to return children in detention to places where they are at risk of further abuse and trauma. Concerned citizens including many of deep religious faith continue to make their voices heard on this issue in public rallies and other peaceful protests.
“It’s vital that we harness growing goodwill in the community to improve the plight of these most vulnerable people.
“I congratulate MPs of principle and good faith who are not letting this matter rest in their party rooms or in public.
“The Uniting Church in Australia believes in the inherent dignity of all people. We believe that our commitment to Christ calls us to work for justice and to oppose all forms of discrimination.
“So we stand together with all people of decency, of faith or no faith, for the welfare and dignity of asylum seekers,” said Mr McMillan.
Representatives of different faiths agreed to form a working group with five MPs to advance the case for reform.
In a media conference after the meeting, Mr McMillan restated the Uniting Church’s longstanding call for the closure of Australian immigration detention facilities on Nauru and Manus Island.
Last month, Uniting Justice National Director Rev. Elenie Poulos and UCA President Stuart McMillan were two of 230 signatories on a citizens manifesto calling for changes to Australia’s asylum seeker policy. The statement seeks policies based on humanitarian principles, calls for an end to locking away innocent men women and children, and envisions a country that sees asylum seekers as an opportunity not a problem.
“Citizens for Change on Asylum Seekers (CCAS) implores our politicians to give us leadership on the issue of refugees and asylum seekers. Community opinion has moved on and wants policies driven by humanitarian imperatives rather than the electoral needs of domestic politics.” said the statement.