- Statement from Jewish, Muslim and Christian faith leaders
4th November 2018
As faith leaders from different traditions we see a clear moral imperative to end the nightmare in which some 1,250 refugees, including 38 children, have been confined by our government to Manus and Nauru for over 5 years without hope or prospect of resettlement. These things matter to us.
In the language of our faith communities we say that each of us holds the spark of the transcendent which informs our empowering belief in the dignity of all people and our common commitment to treating all people with decency, respect and compassion. These are not merely ideals, but are an intrinsic part of our communities, and far from seeing ourselves as imposing this view on the wider community, we see this as a common shared value and indeed one that must find expression in the policies and words of our government. These things matter to us.
In the messy world in which we live, the moral and ethical teachings of our different faith traditions, provide guidance for our individual conduct, for our communities, our society and institutions of our society such as our parliaments and governments.
We are well aware that there are problems which confront governments for which there are no clear and certainly no ideal solutions. Dealing with and managing the arrival by boat of people seeking asylum, is one such problem. We understand that people fleeing danger and seeking asylum are open to exploitation by people smugglers. But in June 2018, after refugees in Manus and Nauru had been waiting for 5 years to be resettled, the Minister for Home Affairs was quoted as saying:
“It’s essential that people realise that the hard-won success of the last few years could be undone overnight by a single act of compassion in bringing 20 people from Manus to Australia.”
Is the strategy of deterring asylum seekers from attempting to reach Australia by boat so fragile, that it is dependent on implementing a policy that withholds compassion? So fragile, that it requires indefinitely confining one group of refugee adults and children to Manus and Nauru as an example to others? These things matter to us.
During the 5 years in which the lives of refugees in Manus and Nauru have been on hold, they have suffered mental and physical damage; rape, self-harm, suicide, death through deficient medical care and even murder. A steady stream of health professionals have articulated concerns about the damage sustained by people who have been given little reason to hope for a time when they can start to establish permanent roots in a community. These things matter to us.
The 2016 agreement with the USA to resettle up to 1,250 refugees from Manus and Nauru has so far resulted in the resettlement of around 450 people. The compassionate offer by New Zealand to resettle 150 refugees has been rejected by our government on more than one occasion. But ultimately none of these options will finally empty the camps in Manus and Nauru.
Losing sight of the values that should illuminate the approach of our federal government and guide it through difficult decisions, has led to the plight of the refugees in Manus and Nauru. This morally flawed policy of holding people for 5 years and counting, is a sentence that needs to come to a full stop
These things matter to all of us.
Bishop Philip Huggins
Sheik Abu Omar
Rabbi Shamir Caplan
Rabbi Fred Morgan AM Sr
Yasser Soliman (Muslim Community Elder)
Bishop Vincent Long
Imam Alaa Elzokm
Imam Riad Galil OAM