We can do better for refugees and asylum seekers

Uniting Church members from congregations across WA will come together with other churches and community groups at 1.00pm this Sunday 9 April for the fourth Palm Sunday Walk for Justice for Refugees at St George’s Cathedral, 38 St Georges Terrace, Perth.

This year, it will be led by a couple of particularly special guests: two donkeys will be heading the walk, as part of a re-imagining of the original Palm Sunday story. Rev Steve Francis, moderator of the Uniting Church WA, went to visit the donkeys with James Jegasothy, vice-chair of the Centre for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees (CARAD).

“They are very cute,” said Rev Francis, “but they are also a symbol that Jesus deliberately employed to communicate the nature of his message. A message of humility, peace and love, especially for the outsider and the stranger.”

The Uniting Church will be an active participant in Palm Sunday walks which are happening in cities around Australia. The Uniting Church has continually advocated for the rights of asylum seekers and refugees as reflected in the Assembly’s statement Shelter from the Storm

The Perth event has over 40 community organisations, churches and human rights groups calling for humane policies for asylum seekers and refugees (see list http://justice4refugeeswa.com/about/).

Rev Steve Francis, moderator of the Uniting Church WA, said, “The people stuck on Manus Island and Nauru are suffering, even though they sought our help.

“Australians are compassionate people. We know that we can do better than the limbo to which we sentence asylum seekers.  Whether it is offshore or onshore detention, bridging visas or temporary visas – people cannot lead fulfilling lives amid such fundamental uncertainty about their futures.” 

The voices of refugees themselves will be centre stage at the beginning of the walk with messages from refugees on Manus Island to be read out.  Iranian poet and refugee, Arad Nik will also be present to perform one of his pieces. Here he shares an excerpt from Boat and Pain (English translation):

My sad face, asks for your sympathy.

In my dream is a poor child.

‘Sleeping’ boat children on the beach, makes you distraught.

City mindlessness is poison for my thought.

Moaning buried in the sea, makes you sad.

The passion of this poetry – gives them voice anew.

Hearing tears from over the ocean, leaves us in sleepless vigil.

Participants are invited to bring a palm frond to St George’s Cathedral this Palm Sunday before peacefully following the donkeys on a brief circuit through the city.

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