TPVs campaign

The following statement on the needs and futures of people on TPVs has been launched, and a copy has been sent to the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition. The statement has been signed by a number of prominent faith leaders around Australia. Additional names are welcome to be added (contact #setthemfree #welcomerefugees.
Early next week further resources will be available to support this advocacy work. This will include a video case study featuring a person who is on a TPV, a website that assists you to send messages to your local MP, and some photos. It is hoped these resources will enable us all to keep this issue in the public arena in the lead up to the election.
Please share this statement widely.

Statement from Australian faith leaders 29 April 2022

We urge our political leaders to reconsider the needs and futures of people who are still on Temporary Protection Visas. It is time to offer people on TPVs permanent protection.

We raise this matter cautiously, mindful of how fraught discussion of such matters has been in previous Federal Elections.

But we must speak because compassion and care for others are universal values shared by all major faith traditions. As people of faith, we bring this perspective to our consideration of all things, including public policy around protecting refugees and people seeking asylum.

Hence, we advocated for and welcomed recent steps to release most Medevac refugees from hotel detention; to move forward with the New Zealand resettlement plan; and to increase the number of Afghan refugees being offered protection.

We speak now, relatedly, out of deep concern about the current division between the two major parties on the issue of temporary protection visas.

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 TPV’s 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.

It is as a voice for the relatively voiceless that we are moved to write to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese in support of a more unifying and compassionate national policy on this important matter.

Signed by:
Sister Brigid Arthur, The Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project
Bishop Paul Barker, Anglican Diocese of Melbourne
Dr Greg Barton, Deakin University
Dr Makarand Bhagwat, President Hindu Council
Dr Graeme Blackman, President, Victorian Council of Churches
Tamara Domicelj, Country Director Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Australia, co-Chair of the Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum
Bishop Genieve Blackwell, Anglican Diocese of Melbourne
Revd Sandy Boyce, Executive Officer, Victorian Council of Churches
Fr. Frank Brennan SJ, Rector Newman College
The Hon. Diana Bryant, AO,QC
Revd David Bullock, Director of Mission and Ministries, Baptist Union of Victoria
Professor Des Cahill, Religions for Peace Australia
Dr. Leslie Cannold, author and ethicist
The Most Reverend Geoff Smith, Archbishop of Adelaide and Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia
Mr Tim Cartwright, APM and Advisory Board of the Australian Intercultural Society
Revd Debra Saffrey-Collins, Head of Chaplaincy and Diocesan Partnerships, Brotherhood of St. Laurence
Revd Tim Costello, Executive Director of Micah Australia Dr Diana Cousens, Vice Chair, Buddhist Council of Victoria
Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen, Bishop of Parramatta and Chair of Catholic Bishops Commission for Social Justice, Mission and Service
Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Brisbane Bhakta Dasa, International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Imam Alaa Elzokm, Imam of Heidelberg Mosque
Adel Salman, President Islamic Council of Victoria
Celia Andrews, Anglican, Perth
Julie Edwards, Chief Executive Officer Jesuit Social Services, co-Chair of the Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum
Dr Adrian Evans, Emeritus Professor of Law, Monash University
Ms. Wendy Francis, on behalf of Australian Christian Lobby
Rabbi Ralph Genende
Revd Scott Holmes, Chaplain at the Brotherhood of St Laurence
Bishop Philip Huggins, Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture
Mr. Ahmet Keskin, Executive Director of the Australian Intercultural Society The Very Revd Dr Andreas Loewe, Dean of Melbourne
Dr. Mohamed Mohideen, Islamic Council of Victoria
Bishop Kate Prowd, Anglican Diocese of Melbourne
Dr Susan Riley, Former Deputy Lord Mayor, City of Melbourne
Revd Helen Summers, Director, The Interfaith Centre of Melbourne
Jasbir Singh Suropada, Chairperson, Sikh Interfaith Council of Victoria
Barney Zwartz, Senior Fellow of the Centre for Public Christianity
Harold Zwier, Jewish community
Brenton Jayatilaka, Anglican Parish of City on a Hill
Revd Gemma Baseley, Anglican Diocese of Perth, Social Responsibility Committee
Br Peter Carrroll FMS, President Catholic Religious Australia
Shaykh Mohammad Ramzan, President Victorian Islamic Commission of Research, Fatwa and Charity
Rev. Charles Balnaves, PP

News Sandy's Comments

Climate Change

“Easter is a celebration of life,” the letter reads. “In order to celebrate life all people need to flourish, but we acknowledge that Australians have been enduring dark days – with droughts, bushfires, severe storms and massive floods.”

The church leaders reflect that damage to the climate is a key contributing factor to these disasters. “Yet among these shared struggles there is Easter, a message of hope,” the letter reads. “The greater challenge of preventing such disasters in the future requires systemic transformation.”

The letter urges government leaders to heed the advice of climate experts to reduce carbon emissions.

“Churches along with other institutions in civil society and the business community must examine our own practices so we can help reverse damage to the climate,” reads the letter.

Among the signatories of the letter is Bishop Philip Huggins, director of the Centre for Ecumenical Studies at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture.

He joins other churches leaders in urging Australia’s government leaders to stop the nation’s climate change isolationism.

“Consistent with the purposes of the Paris Agreement, Australia now has obligations with a timeline,” reflected Huggins. “You would not know this from current pre-election discourse.”

Huggins believes the obligations are entirely sensible. “There is no hiding place from the consequences of climate change,” he said. “We must contain carbon emissions if we are to prevent global temperatures rising beyond the 1.5 degree target of the Paris Agreement.”

Yet Australian politicians are not yet connected with this reality, Huggins added. “The justice issue is that those who have had least to do with causing climate change will continue to suffer the worst consequences,” he said. “That includes our own young people as well as our neighbours in the Pacific.”

On a personal level, Huggins said he looks at his grandchildren and fears for their future. “We are still in the early days of this election campaign,” he said. “The politics around climate change must become more just and more internationally responsible.”

Huggings insisted that proceeding on a path that feeds global warming would be extraordinarily stupid as well as unjust. 

“More inspired leadership, in coming weeks, would give our young people and our Pacific neighbours the possibility of real optimism and hope for the future,” he said. “Wouldn’t that be wonderful!”

Source: WCC News


Faith Leaders: Ukraine

A joint statement by Faith Leaders on a diplomatic solution to Ukraine conflict, published by National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA), 7th March 2022

History shows us that, sooner or later, a negotiation silences the weapons.

Sooner or later wars cease. People stop killing other people .

The best thing we can do for the people of Ukraine and Russia is to encourage this through the United Nations, with other nations of goodwill.

The time is now. We see the suffering. We see the distress across the planet.

We know where this leads – the further wars go the faster is the deterioration in moral behavior and the greater the number of deaths, the greater the destroyed environments and the increased number of refugees .

There is a phrase – “the epiphany of the human face”.

The living face; the face of the dead .

It is time. We have seen the faces of the living, now dead.

We know the traumatic and persistent effects of past wars.

And there are already millions of refugees without a new place to call home.

We know the pressure on Australia’s refugee intake , as this conflict adds demand whilst ,as one instance .UNICEF predicts the death by starvation( and related causes)of 1 million children under 5 in Afghanistan during 2022!

The political energy must now be invested in international diplomacy.

This is the urgent request of faith leaders.

Our faiths are global. They cross national boundaries.We have connections and friendships across these boundaries .

At the heart of each of our global faiths is an ethic of compassion.

As a matter of compassion and with a unifying consciousness, we urge further Australian political and diplomatic leadership now.

A statement prepared by the Convenors of ‘Justice for Refugees’ and the initiators with others of #SetThemFree.
* Bishop Philip Huggins, Director of Centre for Ecumenical Studies, Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture; Convenor,Anglican Church Working Group on Refugee Issues.
* Imam Alaa Elzokm, Imam of Heidelberg Mosque.
* Rabbi Shamir Caplam,Beit Aharon Synagogue.


Yom Hashoah 2022

‘Remembering Together’

Yom Hashoah is an annual commemoration of the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, and the heroism of survivors and rescuers. Registration here.

In Victoria, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) will host an online inclusive virtual community on Wednesday April 27 at 7.30pm. The event will be an online commemoration with poignant testimonies, the participation of a range of Jewish students, and messages of support from communal members, leaders and affiliates.

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All Pharaohs Must Fall

All Pharaohs Must Fall: 

Some Thoughts About the Passover Holiday

By Rabbi Brant Rosen, Tzedek Chicago

This Passover, I thought a great deal about the exceedingly radical message at the heart of the story we tell and retell around the seder table every year.

In particular, I thought about what the story tells us about power, about the ways the powerful wield their power against the less powerful, and about the inevitability of corrupt power’s eventual fall. And I’m thinking about what is possibly the most radical message of all: that there is a Power greater, yes even greater than human power.

Empires, of course, have perennially failed to heed this message. Powerful empires have come and gone, but the Power that Makes for Liberation still manages to live to fight another day. Will the Pharaohs among us ever learn?

There’s no getting around the fact that the Passover story is not a neat, tidy or particularly pleasant story. That’s because – as we all know too well – the powerful never give up their power without a fight. No one ever made this point better or more eloquently than Frederick Douglass when he said in 1857:

The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.

This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.

A century later, Dr. Martin Luther King said much the same thing in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”:

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

Passover thus poses a special challenge to those who wield power and privilege. What would it mean if the powerful truly took to heart our tradition’s most challenging teachings: that God hears the cries of the enslaved, that God is a God of Liberation, that God stands with the oppressed, not the oppressor and demands that we do as well?

As well: are those who benefit from Empire prepared to confront the ways this power is wielded in any number of oppressive ways at home and abroad? Might we possibly be willing to contemplate this truth: that even the mightiest Empire will eventually, inevitably go the way of history?

Indeed, if there is any message we learn from Passover, it’s that, to paraphrase the words of poet Kevin Coval, all Pharaohs must eventually fall:

Wake in this new day
we will all die soon
let us live while we have the chance
while we have this day
to build and plot and devise
to create and make the world
this time for us
this time for all
this time the pharaohs must fall

May the Passover story inspire us all to be bearers of that vision in our lives and in our world. 

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Letter to Moscow

An Open Letter to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, Moscow
From The Rev. Dr Keith Clements

8 March 2022

Your Holiness,

I greet you in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

During these recent days I have been recalling very clearly the visit which in May 1999 Your Holiness and I together with other church and ecumenical figures made to Belgrade. We met with President Milosevic to present and discuss with him a proposal, drawn up by the Vienna Group of which both of us were members, for ending the conflict over Kosovo. Belgrade at that time was under aerial bombardment by NATO forces. In Belgrade and elsewhere we saw at first hand the effects of such attacks and our visit involved not a little danger to ourselves. But we went willingly, with the aim of contributing towards a cessation of hostilities and the creation of an opportunity for peace. This remains with me as a very positive memory of ecumenical fellowship in pursuit of peace, for which I am deeply grateful.

Today, in Ukraine, we are witnessing attacks on a country and its people, on a far greater scale than anything seen in Europe since 1945. This time, it has to be said in plain truth and in sorrow, the military operations are being carried out not by NATO but by Russian forces under the orders of President Putin. The devastation being wreaked upon Ukraine, its people and its infrastructure, the displacement and flight of civilians now being numbered by the million, are being witnessed by the whole world. It is a situation which cannot be justified by any Christian spirit or conscience, and for the sake of the people of Ukraine and of Russia must be ended without delay.

In the same spirit which led us to visit Belgrade in 1999, I appeal to you for a word which acknowledges and addresses this situation in terms befitting a great Church of Jesus Christ. Thus far, we in the world outside have heard words about the desire for peace, but not about the things that make for peace: first of all an acknowledgment of the wrong that is being committed against the people of Ukraine, without which no genuine movement towards peace can begin. It is known that there are voices in your Church and in other Christian communities in Russia, which are already expressing these aspirations towards repentance and the hope which repentance brings. I and others hope and pray that you will hear, defend and uphold them.

Many of us are well aware of the real historical factors which are involved in the relationship of Russia and Ukraine. We also realise that all countries, including those in the West, will need to reflect on their policies in Europe over recent decades, and be ready to learn from past mistakes. Moreover we are aware of the constraints which Your Holiness experiences, as leader of a Church with such close ties to the Russian state. But ‘the word of God is not chained’ (2 Timothy 2:9) and history shows us that there are moments when the Church is challenged to confess, perhaps at great cost but greatly strengthening its witness to the love of God for all people, where its truest and highest allegiance lies. Christians are called to place above all claims of earthly powers their loyalty to Jesus Christ to whom alone ‘all authority in heaven and on earth has been given’ (Matthew 28:18).

With all those who eagerly await such a word from you, and with continuing prayers for the guidance and inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit upon Your Holiness, I remain,

In Christ,

Keith Clements

Former General Secretary of the Conference of European Churches 1997-2005

Keith Clement is former General Secretary of the Conference of European Churches, 1997-2005.