Saturday, November 7, 2009

Refugees or queue jumpers? Where is our compassion?

I know that many items of news have been reported as important over the past few weeks but none seem to have touched me, and obviously many others, as much as the plight of those who are variously described as refugees, asylum seekers or even as ‘queue jumpers’.

This matter, the refugees etc, is both an ethical and a political issue. The politics of this I will avoid because I really believe that any resolution MUST be based on ethics. The unfortunate people involved have, for a variety of reasons, left their home country and faced severe difficulties in attempting to reach Australia.

It is worth looking at what many of these people are running from. Think of what life would be like in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Sri Lanka, in Burma or Somalia. These are war torn countries, many with oppressive governments or, in the case of Somalia, no effective government at all. What does life hold for those in these counties, what quality of life, what hope for the future? If I lived in any of these places I would want to leave! In fact I did. Nearly thirty years ago I brought my wife and family to Australia from Zimbabwe – we were, I suppose, what would now be called economic refugees. There were other issues as well of course, the main ones being health and education. I had a wife who needed medical treatment unavailable in Zimbabwe and two young children that I wanted educated in a civilised country. Australia accepted us and as the saying goes the ‘rest is history.’

To get back to the refugees, or whatever you choose to call them, holed up in various boats, ships and islands there is:

Issue number one: If Australia does not want these people to even leave their home country then Australia and the world must ensure that conditions are made pleasant enough, at home, such that they have no real desire to leave.

Issue number two: If conditions at home cannot be made more pleasant then for God’s sake accept them as refugees. Treat these unfortunates as we would like to be treated, with compassion, consideration and kindness.

Think about it. Many countries, over the years have benefited by accepting immigrants. Even Australia!! America accepted, with open arms, all those who were in need – Irish (from the ‘great famine’ days) – and others from all over the world. And America is now the greatest country in the world (I am no great ‘lover’ of America and things American but I must give credit where it is due). Sure it has suffered a few setbacks and has more than a few shortcomings but then which country hasn’t? It is this diversity of peoples that gives America a vibrancy and an energy which is palpable.

We Australians seem to have lost sight of something – that Humanity is paramount. Being human is what binds us together. We are all human and should treat others the way we would like to be treated - with compassion, consideration, kindness and understanding. This is ethical way. This is the only way. What can be more important than having a good relationship with our fellow beings?

We are, after all, supposed to be a civilised, Christian country, living and upholding Christian ideals, morals and values. I wonder if we are?

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