Media and Communications Office
The Melbourne Archdiocese’s Office for Justice and Peace, along with the Melbourne Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office, joined forces yesterday afternoon to present a powerful 40 minutes of prayer for asylum seekers and refugees at St Patrick’s Cathedral in East Melbourne, followed by a procession to the State Library of Victoria for the annual Palm Sunday Walk for Justice for Refugees.
Those arriving from the cathedral joined thousands of others for the rally and march through Melbourne’s CBD, starting and finishing at the State Library on Swanston Street. Among those processing from the cathedral to the library were groups drawn from the Catholic education and wider social justice community.
At the library on Swanston Street, live audio from Abdul Aziz Adam, speaking by phone direct from Manus Island, was broadcast to the large crowd. Aziz is a refugee from Darfur in Sudan and has been incarcerated on Manus for just over four years. His message was added to by an array of other live guest speakers, including Tim Costello, Chief Advocate, World Vision Australia; Taqi Azra, a Haraza refugee and National Union of Workers organiser; Rohingyan refugee Anwar Ibrahim, Vice President of the Victorian Afghan Associations Network; Nazir Yousafi, an Afghan refugee; and Abdul-Hadi Matar, a refugee and Sudanese community leader from Darfur. They were joined by an interfaith panel, including Rabbi Kim Ettlinger from the Jewish Community, Rev Sharon Hollis of the Uniting Church and Mohamed Mohideen President of the Islamic Council of Victoria.
From the Melbourne Archdiocese Office for Justice and Peace, Executive Officer Mark Clarke called for all Australians to open their hearts to refugees and asylum seekers fleeing to the safety of Australia.
Also appearing were Daniel Webb, Human Rights Law Centre; Jane Wiley, a former teacher on Nauru; and Chris Breen, representing the Refugee Advocacy Network.
Comedian Corinne Grant MC’d the event.
As the crowd was told, detention on Manus Island was declared illegal in April last year, but people are still being held there. Refugees trapped on Manus and Nauru are approaching their fourth year on the islands. Meanwhile, the US refugee deal remains uncertain; no-one has yet been offered resettlement. The humane thing to do, it was stated loud and clear, and echoed in the many banners and flags being carried, is to #BringThemHere.
Rev Sharon Hollis also reminded the assembly that over 30,000 refugees are living on bridging visas in our community, with their futures in limbo. They are only eligible for Temporary Protection Visas. Many families are separated by the harsh system, it was asserted, and people despair of ever being reunited. Many fear being deported to danger under the government’s new Fast Track Assessment process.
Banners and signs aplenty at the rally sent a clear message to politicians and the community that the refugee movement is shifting public opinion, with a majority now reported to be opposed to the continuing detention of refugees on Manus and Nauru.
The 2018 Palm Sunday Walk for Justice was supported by over 100 advocacy, faith and welfare organisations, including the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum, Jesuit Social Services, National Council of Churches of Australia and Refugee Council of Australia. For a complete list of the support groups, refer to the website of the Refugee Advocacy Network