Progressive Christians offering sanctuary to refugees

More than ten Australian Churches across Australia are offering sanctuary to refugees who may be transferred to detention on Nauru. Now 10 Anglican and Uniting churches around the country have offered sanctuary to the asylum seekers who are at risk of being returned.

The Churches, all with strong progressive values, are invoking the historical concept of sanctuary, opening their doors to asylum seekers facing removal back to offshore detention centres.

Key points:

  • ‘Sanctuary’ concept yet to be tested under Australian law
  • High Court rejects challenge to the legality of Australia’s offshore detention centres
  • 270 asylum seekers in fear of being returned to Manus Island or Nauru

The High Court has rejected a challenge to the legality of Australia’s offshore detention centres, a ruling that means nearly 270 asylum seekers who came to Australia for medical treatment could be returned to either Nauru or Manus Island.

One of Australia’s senior Anglican leaders, Rev Dr Peter Catt, said places of worship were entitled to offer sanctuary to those seeking refuge from brutal and oppressive forces.

Peter Catt is Dean of St John’s Anglican Cathedral, Brisbane. From 1997 to 2007 Peter was the Dean of Grafton. He helped establish and run the International Philosophy, Science and Theology Festival, which wPeter Cattas held at Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton. He holds a PhD in evolutionary microbiology from the University of NSW and a BD from the Melbourne College of Divinity.

His interests include Christian Formation, liturgical innovation, the interaction between science and religion, and Narrative Theology . He is a member of a number of environmental and Human Rights organisations and has serves on Anglican Social Justice Committees at both Diocesan and National level. He is the current chair of The Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce.

The Australian Human Rights Commission’s new report reveals what Ms Narayanasamy describes as the “alarming impacts of detention on children”.

The report is based on interviews and medical testing of children at Wickham Point detention facility, many of whom spent time on Nauru.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is under increased pressure to allow asylum seekers to remain in Australia following claims the overwhelming majority of former child detainees are at risk of serious mental health issues.

Labor MP Melissa Parke has lashed out at her party for supporting the Federal Government’s “utterly repugnant” offshore processing regime following a High Court ruling upholding the policy of detaining asylum seekers on Nauru.

A woman who was held in detention on Nauru before giving birth to a son in Darwin last year after complications during the pregnancy has described today’s High Court decision as a nightmare.

Immigration minister Peter Dutton said the government would not be “dragging people out of churches” but insisted that the people’s cases would be individually considered on medical advice.

As well as St John’s Cathedral in Brisbane other churches and affiliated chapels offering sanctuary were:

  • St Cuthbert’s Anglican church, Darlington, Western Australia
  • Wesley Uniting church, Perth
  • Gosford Anglican church, Sydney
  • Pilgrim Uniting church, Adelaide
  • St John’s Uniting church, Essendon
  • Paddington Anglican church, Sydney
  • Pitt Street Uniting church, Sydney
  • Wayside Chapel, Sydney

Acknowledgement: Material taken from several ABC News bulletins and The Guardian News.

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