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Turning Back the Stranger

Rev Prof Andrew Dutney, President of the Uniting Church in Australia.

WITH the federal Parliament set to toughen our treatment of asylum seekers, I'm reflecting deeply on the Bible's message about the importance of welcoming strangers.

"I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me." (Matthew 25:35-36).

It's a fundamental theme running through both Old and New Testaments.

As we contemplate the re-opening of detention centres in places like Nauru, we should also recall that "just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me" (Matthew 25:40).

While the Uniting Church welcomes an increase in humanitarian places, Australia remains the only country in the world with the inhumane policy of reducing its offshore refugee intake for every person accepted as a refugee onshore.

The pitting of one group of disadvantaged people against another is wrong. It is unworthy of us as human beings, and it is especially unworthy of those of us who would follow Jesus.

An extended Op Ed by President Rev Prof Andrew Dutney has been published by the ABC: http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2012/08/16/3569184.htm

Rev Elenie Poulos, National Director of UnitingJustice Australia, Uniting Church in Australia National Assembly, was interviewed on Monday 13 August by Al Jazeera English news for a response to the report released by the Houston Committee on asylum seekers: http://www.unitingjustice.org.au/refugees-and-asylum-seekers/video-and-audio/item/874-response-to-houston-committee-report

Photo : Rev Prof Andrew Dutney, President of the Uniting Church in Australia.