Comment: Suffer the children, they have no asylum

Melbourne’s Anglican Archbishop has criticised asylum seeker policy which he said was causing great suffering, particularly to nearly 1000 children in mainland detention ”and another 177 in grim conditions in Nauru”.

Philip Freier, in an Easter message, said the resurrection provided hope that ”cruelty, violence and despair do not have the final word”, particularly for people seeking asylum in Australia.

He said churches could not be silent on the issue, ”given how powerfully the theme of caring for the alien, orphan and widow is expressed right through the Bible”.

”My prayer is that we might revive the important humanitarian consensus that children should not be in detention,” he writes in Friday’s Age.

He said Australia’s refugee policy should be ”a compassionate one that allows those feeling persecution a measure of hope”.

Uniting Church in Australia president Andrew Dutney also reflected on the plight of refugees in his Easter message, saying: ”We hope for the day when Australia welcomes strangers in need, rather than punishing them.” He said the disadvantage and marginalisation experienced by indigenous Australians was another area of suffering that seemed intractable.

National Council of Churches in Australia general secretary the Reverend Tara Curlewis said Easter was a time to reconcile differences with family or neighbours and ”to stand for justice for our first peoples, the refugee and asylum seeker, for children and for all whom society has marginalised”.

Congregational Federation of Australia and New Zealand moderator Joe Goodall said Easter showed that no matter how hopeless a situation or relationship may seem, ”it can be saved”.

”Nothing is so destroyed it cannot be fixed, not as a repair but as a transformation,” he said.

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‘Stop the suffering of children in detention’, says Archbishop Philip Freier