OLN Refugee Support Page

Migrant and Refugee Sunday 26th /27th September 2020

“Forced Like Jesus Christ to Flee”

It is hard to imagine the fear and deprivations that the Holy family, Mary, Joseph and the little baby Jesus endured when they had to flee in the middle of the night to Egypt.   Imagine the overwhelming dread that travelled with them. The dread that King  Herod would find them and kill Jesus. Later they would have experienced the horror of learning about the massacre of the infants by King Herod as a reprisal for the escape of Jesus. Finally, it would have taken faith and courage to eventually return to their homeland of Israel.

This is the theme “Forced like Jesus Christ to Flee “that Pope Francis has chosen for Migrant and Refugee Sunday this year.

Sometimes, we need to put ourselves in the shoes of those who flee. Like Kevin, who at age 13, told his mate ( my son), how his whole family, Father, Mother, brother and sister, together with Kevin had to flee for their lives  from their village in  Kuwait, as they were being attacked by Saddam Hussein’s military. They fled in terror with nothing. Kevin and his mother and sister became refugees eventually finding a safe place in Penrith, Australia, but his father and older brother were gunned down and never got out of Kuwait.

In case we do not realise what a knife edge between survival and extinction refugees face, I would like to quote the following experience of one of the Vietnam Boat people refugees in 1976

“... Back on our boat one of the pirates grabbed a hold of the smallest child.....The pirate wantonly dangled the child over the side of the boat, threatening to throw the infant in. My father screamed at the top of his lungs. “ We must save the child! We will fight to the death to SAVE THE CHILD!’.............Everyone was ready to fight to the end. If the child was thrown into the ocean there would be no survivors.

The head pirate sized up the situation and barked frantically at the man dangling the baby. The child was thrown at the feet of his mother. His life was spared. That baby was my brother Khoa. My crying mother gathered him up and held him tight, like a son returned from the dead.                                From The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do

 

In the 1970’s Asquith Catholic Parish in Sydney settled more than twenty families who had escaped as boat people from Vietnam. The whole Catholic Community worked together to assist these families who had sailed through the dangers of the high seas to be welcomed in Australia. The Parish community like many other parish communities helped with housing, food, clothes and supported these now hoped filled people into education and employment.

When and why did we become too frightened to help Asylum seekers and refugees?

In the late 40s through the 60s hundreds of people from all over Europe were welcomed into Australia.  However, there was a whites-only policy in place.  Is the difference, now, the skin colour of those who are seeking safety or the religion that they practice, that is frightening to us?  We do have to examine ourselves and recognise the possible cultural bias of what has come to be known as white privilege that we have been born into.  Culture has a very strong pull that we must acknowledge when we find ourselves judging others.

Pope Francis invites us to recognise the presence of God in those who are struggling to find a safe home for their families somewhere on this planet.

These are the  good words he has for us, on this World Day of Migrants and Refugees.  I quote:

 

"In a world where everyone wants to be right, all we do is talk.  There is no more room for listening.  It is only through humble, attentive listening that we can be reconciled.  It is not about numbers.  It’s about people.  If we meet them, we will get to know them.  And if we know their stories we will be able to understand them."

 

“Sometimes in our enthusiasm to serve others, we fail to see the riches that they posses.  If we really want to promote the people to whom we offer assistance we must involve them and let them be active participants in their own liberation.”  

 

 This too, requires humble, attentive listening.

 

 

Do we even understand the facts about Refugees today ?

Did you know that prior to 2017 many asylum seekers were in receipt of 89% of the old Newstart allowance whilst they waited years for their visa applications to be assessed? 

Since 2017, the Government has reduced the eligibility of the criteria for these for Asylum seekers. Therefore the vast majority now have no access to any income (unless are in the unlikely situation of having employment). Nor are they any longer eligible for casework support, mental health counselling or vital medication. These stats from Economic Justice Australia 

During this Covid crisis the situation has become much worse for Refugees with their precarious and often casual employment now gone, these people find themselves without income, medical support, increasingly homeless and dependent on charities for their meals.

Fear is the opposite of love. So Pope Francis wants us to let go of our fears and prejudices and reach out to these people trying to escape from violent turmoils all over the world. Pope Francis wants our relationship and attitudes towards refugees to be influenced by the love Jesus has for each of us leading to a sharing of the worlds resources.

We might, as a community, also be asked to help work out a way to stop the violence and injustice within the countries that are forcing people to escape.

In the meantime, what are we called to do for these refugees that land on the doorstep of Australia? 

  • Look at the 3 short  You Tube Video’s “Forced like Jesus Christ to Flee”  produced by Pope Francis 

  • Make a donation  to the Jesuit Refugee Service jrs.org.au/donate-now

  • Act on one of  the other ideas suggested by the publication “Getting Involved”  published by the Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group (see below) 

  • Support the Our Lady of Nativity Parish food drive which will be run in the coming weeks.

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Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group

Getting Involved

 

            Listed below are some of the many ways you can get involve with the work of the Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group.   These range from writing letters which you can do from home or with a group to being part of our visitors program.    See our current campaign.

Changing Hearts and Minds

            We aim to widen public understanding of refugee and asylum seeker issues through:  **Advocatingfor fair treatment of those seeking asylum through social media and main stream media,**Writing submissions and engaging with politicians, **Involving our schools and young people in a range of activities such as speakers, theatrical events and the Christmas ‘Welcome Shoesbox Project’.

Writing Letters

                                    TAKE ACTION Write to your politician

            From time we are asked to write to politicians. We offer guidelines and addresses to Senators and Members of the House of Representatives.

Writing Letters Read more

Join the BMRSG Writing Group

BMRSG Writing Group meets on the second Thursday of the month at 11 am at the home of Judy Reynolds in Leura.   Members write to politicians on a current topic relevant to refugee issues.    New members encouraged.  Come when you can.

If you are interested contact socialmedia@bmrsg.org.au

Help with Events

                                                Julian Burnside lunch

            We are always looking for people who can help organise events. When an event is scheduled we often ask for help with selling tickets, serving tea and coffee, manning a stall, selling raffle tickets, etc. If you would like to help with events please email events@bmrsg.org.au

Fundraising

            In 2020 BMRSG is supporting about 50 households of asylum seekers in Western Sydney (a household may include more than one family). Many of these people have been cut off from the federal government’s SRSS program, leaving them with no financial support at all.  People on bridging visas without centrelink/medicare or work rights are particularly disadvantaged.  The assistance that we provide is absolutely necessary for people to maintain their lives here at the most basic level.

            We are also seeing deportations of asylum seekers back to places where they are likely to experience persecution including imprisonment, torture, even execution. A barrister can issue a writ which stops this process until the case is heard in court. Lives can be saved in this way but barristers are expensive.

BMRSG needs to raise more than $50,000 each year to maintain its important and necessary commitments to refugees and asylum seekers.

            If you are interested in assisting with fundraising activities such as organising events, selling raffle tickets, helping with online campaigns, providing afternoon tea for events etc. contact our Secretary by email at secretary@bmrsg.org.au

 

Donations of Smart Phones and Laptops

                                    Smart phone and laptop

BMRSG no longer collects and distributes furniture and clothing.

            There is another service now operating in Sydney, The Generous and Grateful, so we will be referring any needs to them.

            A huge thank you to our many volunteer drivers, offsiders and donors who made this service possible and to Adelaide, Julie Martin and others who have coordinated it previously.

            We will continue to collect smart phones and laptop computers.

If donating these, please either clear them or provide a password so we can clear them for you.      Send to Robert at furniture@bmrsg.org.au

Employ an Asylum Seeker

                                    BMRSG helped this welder find work

            Asylum seekers, in their bid for protection and resettlement want what ordinary Australians desire – a fair go. They don’t want special treatment, they want an opportunity to make their own way and not be dependent on charity or government. If you can employ someone directly, or refer someone who may be able to offer employment please contact refugee_employment on refugee_employment@bmrsg.org.au.

Become a Visitor

            Visiting can be challenging. It demands a regular commitment and a high level of interpersonal skills and sensitivity. You will need to be a financial member of BMRSG, complete a Confidentiality Agreement and a Working with Children Check. There is a selection and induction process.

Community Visitors

            Community visiting can be both rewarding and confronting. Visitors see refugees and asylum seekers who live in the community, usually in Western Sydney. Each household is different, so needs and support vary widely. At times this might mean simply befriending a family or an individual. At other times this might involve supplying basic food and household supplies, vouchers, lifts to medical appointments or organising furniture and bikes. The people we support often face hurdles with bureaucracy and need help tackling forms. Communicating with real estate agents/property owners and school, or organising repairs and appointments are things where we are frequently asked to help. Liaising with caseworkers and signposting people to other agencies who can provide support, is also a feature of the work.

            A few visitors also volunteer to home tutor in English or other subjects.

If you are prepared to travel to Western Sydney and can respond flexibly to a wide range of ever changing needs, community visiting may suit you. There is a small contribution to travel expenses and arrangements for re-imbursement of costs, within agreed guidelines

DOWNLOAD:  Community Visitor Guidelines

If you are interested please contact communityvisitors@bmrsg.org.au  for an informal discussion about the role.

Villawood Immigration Detention Centre

                                                Villawood Visitors

            BMRSG Teams visit Villawood Detention Centre regularly. Like visiting in the community the role requires a sustained commitment in order to build trust. Visitors provide a friendly face, food, conversation and links to the outside world. At times you will need to be prepared to listen to some distressing experiences so a high level of self-care is also necessary. You will also be confronted with the high security demands of the prison-like environment.          

 For more information email villawood_visitors@bmrsg.org.au

 

 

OLN Food Drive for Refugees June 2020.

After 4-5 weeks of collecting food, toiletries and blankets, our parish has delivered 3 car loads to the House of Welcome for Refugees at South Granville.

The Drive has now ceased at this time. Later we may  resume the Food Drive as the need is great. 

However the response to the Food Drive from  most of the parishes in the Blue Mountains Deanery has been most generous and we will hopefully be collaborating with the other parishes to continue our outreach in these most difficult times.

 In our opinion, the members of our parish have been looking for opportunities to help  people, including families, who are struggling during this horrible virus. It is an example of the Christian care and compassion that has been a hallmark of our faith ever since Jesus himself practised and prioritised care and concern  during his ministry.

Those who can are encouraged to donate supermarket  food vouchers or money to either the Jesuit Refugee service, jrs.org.au/donate-now or the House ofWelcome stfrancis.org.au/house-of-welcome/make-donation-house-welcome.