Josephites regret Australians' 'fear of difference'

The Sisters of St Joseph have quoted the words of the late Pope John Paul II in a statement that questions the human cost of border-protection policies that they assert "many Australians are not willing to pay".

The statement, released yesterday and signed by Sr Joan Healy of the Congregational Leadership Team, reflected on Australia's recent "nightmare" witness of a mentally ill resident detained as an illegal immigrant, an Australian citizen deported to the Philippines, and a three year old child released from detention only when the media exposed the harm inflicted on her by detention.

"We Josephites have previously quoted the words of the late Pope John Paul II, 'From bitter experience, then, we know that the fear of 'difference,' especially when it expresses itself in a narrow and exclusive nationalism which denies any rights to 'the other,' can lead to a true nightmare'."

"Not publicised but even more troubling is the ongoing dehumanisation of those who come to seek refuge in our country, those whose human stories are never permitted to reach the media.

The statement argued that many Australians are "not willing to pay for 'the integrity of our borders' by inflicting suffering not only on children and the mentally ill, but also on those who have a legal right as refugees to seek asylum in our country."

It said that while Australia has signed the international convention permitting those fleeing persecution to find shelter with us, border control to prevent illegal immigration is entirely a separate issue.

The Sisters said that policies that deny human dignity have consequences "not only for the individuals concerned but also for those who administer the policy, and indeed for Australia as a whole".

"The lack of compassion and even of due diligence in the culture of DIMIA has been acknowledged in the reports of recent miscarriages of justice. It is unacceptable that public servants are required to routinely administer and support harsh policies. Policies that call for inhumane treatment of the innocent do, as we have seen, have nightmare results.

"This is a moral issue. We should be concerned about the effect not only on those who frame and administer the policies but also on Australia as a whole."

The Sisters said that it is "greatly encouraging" that a small number of Liberal MPs is proposing a conscience vote on the moral issue of Australia's treatment of asylum seekers.

"We hope that Labor's immigration spokesman, Mr Laurie Ferguson, will be able to enter into fruitful dialogue with the Liberal MP Mr Petro Georgiou and his group. They have taken a courageous stance on this issue."

Josephite Comment on Detention Policy and the 'Conscience Vote' (Sisters of St Joseph 30/5/05)

Sisters of St Joseph

Bishop says bills signify welcome change to detention policy (CathNews 30/5/05)

Justice Committee Of Catholic Religious Congregations Applauds Detention Reform Proposals (Social Action Committee, Conference of Leaders of Religious Congregations in Victoria 27/5/05)
Immigration bills signify a welcome change to detention policy - Catholic Bishop (Australian Catholic Bishops Conference 27/5/05)
Bakhtiyaris back on home soil (Herald-Sun 30/5/05)

31 May 2005