on the bridge between reconciliation and refugee

Many of you would have been aware that 27 May-3 June was National Reconciliation Week in Australia.

Many would also be aware that coming up from 17-23 June is Refugee Week.

As we find ourselves positioned in the middle of these two weeks it seems as good a time as any for a point of reflection.

Within our collective consciousness, deep in the spirit of this nation, lies a fear of the refugee “threat”. This is no doubt energised by

political powers and their populist insistence on sidelining our legal responsibilities in the international community. And what inspiring leadership it is!

In response to the, shall we say, widespread unwelcoming attitudes against asylum seekers in this country, a minor meme states, “We are all boat people!”, alluding to our common history of immigration and the related hypocrisy of resisting asylum seekers.

In reality the only immigrants who have ever caused widespread problems for the populace of this land were those who arrived on ships in 1788. The treatment of Aboriginal people in Australia since then has been nothing less than inhumane.

Since I have covered these topics previously on this blog I need not do so here.

What I do want to point out is the connection between these issues in our national psyche. I would suggest that our propensity for prejudice against asylum seekers (and perhaps immigrants more generally) is a result of our own colonial history. Deep down we are afraid that what was done to the first people of this land could also happen to “us”.

Conversely, many Australians have a fear of immigrants “taking over” because that’s what we did!

In truth this nation will never find compassion for asylum seekers and immigrants until we come to terms with what was done to the Aboriginal people in our past. Until our national guilt is assuaged and real reconciliation is forged we will never be able to overcome our own reflective fears, no matter how illogical, illegal or disgusting they might be.

And in the midst of this where are the majority of churches? Isn’t the ministry of reconciliation our ministry, given by Christ himself? Indeed, and imagine the change that could come if the Church mobilised around these grave injustices.

Worth taking some time to ponder on a long weekend.


Posted on June 8, 2012, in Advocacy, Current Events and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I disagree. I think a lot of the problem the Australian public has for boat people is that the perception that they have “jumped the queue”. Much like our British forebears, Australians are generally happy to queue for a service. The propensity for some of those from more Asian cultures to *not* queue orderly has been a minor problem in our society for some years. Rightly or wrongly, the boat people are seen as “ignoring the immigration queue”.

    That leads me to ask what are we doing to address the problems of just *why* these desperate people undertake such dangerous journeys. I look around and the answer seems to be “very little”. 😦

  2. remember that your queue ‘staticsan’ is imaginary. and the people ‘jumping’ the ‘imaginary queue’ most are british backpackers.

    queuing orderly is not a european phenomena. a french colleague at work informs that queuing is seen as foolish in her homeland culture.

  3. So true Joel!

    Though I don’t think staticsan was saying the queue was true, or good, just that it reflects the perception of many Australians. Is that right staticsan?

  4. An interesting thought worthy of consideration. I’d be interested to hear how you came to this conclusion. I wonder if it’s not so much a fear that what we have done will be done to us, but a sense of colonial entitlement. Not so much guilt but selfishness, arrogance and an unwillingness to acknowledge the sins of our past (or present for that matter. )

    Perhaps we are coming at the same coin from to different vantage points? All that to say I agree Matt, in the tradition of the recovery movement; until we own our past we can’t truely move to a future of reconciliation.

    Good thoughts as always.

  5. Sorry for the delay, but yes, I was pointing out the perception.

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