On Friday 29 April, a group of interfaith leaders, including Sr Brigid Arthur CSB, Rev Tim Costello and Dean Andreas gathered at St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral in Melbourne to launch a statement urging political leaders to reconsider the needs and futures of people on Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) and offer them permanent protection. The statement has since been signed and sent to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese.

Signatories include Sr Brigid Arthur CSB, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Bishop Vincent Long OFMConv, Bishop Emeritus Greg O’Kelly SJ, Br Peter Carroll FSM on behalf of Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) and Julie Edwards and Tamara Domicelj on behalf of Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum (CAPSA) and its member organisations, as well as many faith leaders from other Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu faiths.

Sr Brigid Arthur has long advocated for the fair treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, and on Friday reiterated the need for government leaders to do all they can to recognise those who have made Australia home. ‘I would like to pray for all those people who are stuck in a Temporary Protection Visa situation here in Australia,’ she said.

Many of those people are working hard to make their home here, yet they are not fully recognised as residents of our country. I would like to pray that our leaders will change the narrative they have often used so all human beings are recognised as equal, as precious – no one more precious than another in the sight of God.’

The faith leaders raised the matter cautiously, they said, mindful of how fraught the discussion of such matters has been in previous federal elections. 'We must speak because compassion and care for others are universal values shared by all major faith traditions,' the statement said.

As people of faith, we bring this perspective to our consideration of all things, including public policy around protecting refugees and people seeking asylum. . . . These TPVs serve no public policy purpose and have lost community support since their introduction two decades ago.

‘Our pastoral knowledge is of people who have been living with stressful insecurity on TPVs in communities around Australia. We hear their prayers and know their fears. Having sought refuge, they just want to belong and contribute. With their families and friends, they are part of community groups and neighborhoods. Many have found jobs, work hard, pay their taxes, and have embraced Australia as their home.

'COVID-19 has required many rethinks and reminded us all of what is truly important in life. There is a wonderful opportunity for our political leaders to now embrace a group of people who want to put down roots, build lives and work hard for Australia's best future.

Like generations of migrants and refugees before them, this group will become an integral part of the Australian story.’
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The joint statement was signed and sent to Mr Morrison and Mr Albanese on Friday 29 April. Photo supplied

The statement is available to read in full at www.welcomerefugees.info, where there are a range of resources for parishes, organisations and individuals to spread the word and add their voices.