We observe National Refugee Week each year June 18 – June 24, coinciding with World Refugee Day on June 20th.
This year’s theme, Finding Freedom, invites us all to ask “What does it mean to be free”?
Many of us take for granted the securities and freedom that come with living in Australia. We enjoy political freedoms, such as freedom of speech, and a freedom to participate in democracy, but we also enjoy subtler freedoms, such as the freedom to know where our next meal will come from, and to know that our families will return home safely each day.
Every day, millions of people across the world embark on dangerous journeys, searching for these same freedoms. Freedoms not just for themselves, but for their families and children. But rather than show compassion, or celebrate the resilience of refugees, we too often demonise them, implementing draconian and needlessly cruel policies.
Those most cynical may even argue that the cruelty is the point.
Recent changes in policy point to positive changes for refugees, and a more humanitarian approach, but significant work remains to be done in this space. Freedom should not be an ask, it should be a way of life.
In addition to National Refugee week, each year on Palm Sunday rallies for refugees take place across Australia: https://aran.net.au/palm-sunday-2023/#listingevents
What parallels can we draw between Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the entry into Australia of refugees seeking freedom? As Christ entered the city on the back of a lowly donkey, rather than a regal horse, what then of those who enter Australia by way of fragile boats? Do we greet them as the people greeted Jesus? Do we turn on them as many turned on Jesus within the space of a few days or do we remain committed to their inviolable dignity?