Let's Fully Welcome Refugees

March 22nd, 2014, 5pm

Walking along one of Melbourne’s busiest streets past Flinders Street Station, I looked up to see a sign on the Anglican cathedral that for a moment melted my heart. I don’t think I had fully realized the depth of my despair, or the extent of my rage, against the arrogance, immorality, and the heartless indifference to suffering that has come to characterize much of modern Christianity. Seeing that sign reminded me that not all Christians are like that.

The world’s refugee problem is everywhere serious and everywhere growing worse. No one knows quite what is the best way forward. Neither side of politics, not the left and certainly not the right, have been able or willing to provide leadership in one of the great moral dilemmas of the age.

In Australia, the basic solution proposed and implemented by both sides of politics has managed to combine remarkably ruthless and inhumane approaches with expensive and impractical procedural obfuscation. The basic rubric is threefold: 1) boat people refugees are outside the law 2) we will immediately deport them all for processing elsewhere and 3) none (that is, not one) of these desperate people, not even those shown to be authentic refugees, will ever be resettled in Australia.

The current prime minister recently demonstrated the illogic of his own policies by saying out of one side of his mouth ‘no asylum seekers are to be resettled in Australia’ and in the very next breath (but from the other side of his mouth) saying “every nation has to do its part.”

I have never really cared much for Emma Lazurus’ New Colossus referring as it does to refugees as “refuse” indeed as “wretched refuse”. But, at least, the underlying sentiment, once accepted by most civilized people, showed a modicum of compassion, now almost entirely missing from our policy, our rhetoric, our hearts:

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

-part of a sonnet by American poet Emma Lazarus (1849–87), written in 1883. In 1903, the poem was engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.

Samuel and Adrian said thanks.

Share this moment

David Wade Chambers

Born in Oklahoma: 30 years in US. 6 years in Canada, 40 years in Australia. Academic field: history and philosophy of science. Currently, teach indigenous studies online at Institute of American Indian Arts (Santa Fe, NM) and Brandon University (Manitoba). Come visit our B&B on Australia's Great Ocean Road. Mate's Rates for Hi community! (http://www.cimarron.com.au)

Create a free account

Have an account? Sign in.

Sign up with Facebook