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African refugees – Uniting Church leaders say “Give them a break”


Uniting Church leaders from the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania today expressed “deep concern and disappointment” at the Government’s decision to prohibit Africans into Australia under the current humanitarian refugee program.

The Rev. David Pargeter, Director of the Synod’s Commission for Mission at the Uniting Church said, “When a Government Minister, on the eve of an election, connects violent action with one particular cultural group we know we have reached deeply into the darkness of racial politics.”

“This, coupled with punitive action against one of the most traumatized refugee groups in Australia, exposes once again this Government’s lack of understanding of what life is like for a refugee. Refugees from the Sudan need support, not vilification.”

“African refugees need a break, not a smear campaign against them”, Mr Pargeter said.

The Rev. Dennis Hawkey is a Minister at St. James Uniting Church, Box Hill South.  Four years ago, his congregation established a Travel Loan Fund that has since subsidised 700 southern Sudanese refugees so that they may come to Australia.

Mr Hawkey said “we are a country that has set such store on helping those who need help and then finding a way, like the Good Samaritan did. The Government’s response now mimics that of the two high and mighty people in the story of the Good Samaritan, who just walked past. Australia is going to leave these refugees to be cared for by another Good Samaritan.”

The Rev. Swee Ann Koh, Minister at North Essendon Uniting Church said “some African refugees may be having difficulties settling into Australia, but shouldn’t this mean that we have a responsibility to help them acclimatize, rather than saying the problem is too hard and simply closing our doors?  Which migrant groups do not have problems initially when trying to rebuild their lives in a new country?” he said.

The Rev. Lavingi Tupou, Minister at Springvale Uniting Church provides pastoral care to over 150 Sudanese adults and children in her congregation. She said “these people have already been through a lot; suffered enough and to add the Federal Government’s decision on to what they have already been through is beyond human comprehension.  Children have suffered psychologically.  Mothers have been traumatized enough. Families are already divided and wounded.  What more do they need?  Not this inhumane decision to turn Australia’s back on these people.”

“What the Immigration Minister is doing is "dressing the wound" and hoping the wound will heal itself” she said.