Easter blessings from UCAN
There is no more important week in the year for Christians than this Holy Week. We call it Holy because of the mystery we celebrate - God's gift of His son who loves us to his death on Calvary and beyond.
Because of that love, we wish each other Happy Easter even when we know there is a lot of tragedy about it - Good Friday. As Christians, we know that what we see happening with and in Jesus goes to the heart of what we know from our own experience of life.
At the Second Vatican Council, the Christian lives we all lead were described as being shares in the Paschal Mystery. We have our share in the death and resurrection of Jesus every day. Our lives are part of the Paschal Mystery.
At UCAN, we work to describe that mystery in the unfolding tragedies and astonishing blessings of the people we seek out and report, feature and comment on.
While at times deeply distressing work, this effort of ours gets its coherence in the same way the death of Jesus did - because of the astonishing grace of a God who never gives up on life and love.
Because of that, we can wish you Happy Easter.
Fr. Michael Kelly SJ
Whatever happened to fair play?
Compassion appears to have been forgotten in the debate on refugees and asylum seekers
- John Murray, Bangkok
- May 12, 2011
The Australian news this week showed Prime Minister Julia Gillard performing during Question Time in Parliament. Â The issue was asylum seekers and a new Australian Government deal with Malaysia to push the problem offshore. Â Gillard's line was that she was not going to be schooled by the Opposition on compassion.
For me that is a key word in any approach to this ongoing political "hot potato." Â It is much more than an "issue" as here we are dealing with real people. Â They are extremely vulnerable and desperate and just seem to be totally misunderstood or unwanted by the world. Â They have become an issue for politicians to handle and not a people in need deserving our attention.
I speak as a Catholic priest and religious who has the privilege and honour to work with such people here in Bangkok. Â I find a great energy working with and for them as I see people who are desperate and who just need a hand in life. Â They suffer so much and I often just stand in awe as I see how they deal with their burden.
Under the deal with Malaysia, Australia will send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia for processing. Â In exchange, Australia will resettle 4,000 refugees currently residing in MalaysiaÂ over the next four years
This deal has attracted criticism from several quarters. Â One is the Bar Council of Malaysia, hardly a left-wing, radical establishment. Â It issued its own press release, tellingly titled â€“ â€śAsylum seekers and refugees are not commodities to be tradedâ€ť. Â Their basic line is that Australia is "passing the buck."
Australia is seen as abdicating its responsibilities as a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention on refugeesÂ to Malaysia which is not a signatory. Â It is passing its responsibilities on to a nation which has no suitable legislative or administrative system in place for dealing with these people and their plight. Â This is the judgement of Malaysiaâ€™s own Bar Council.
I question that this is any way to deal with people who have fled their country because of war or persecution. They are just plain scared and see no other option than to get out and look for a place where they can be secure and find a life and a future for their family. Their lot is tough and not something they looked for in life. Â As a result, they meet with all sorts of opposition and unnecessary maltreatment.
As someone who lives and works outside his home, I often reflect how protected Australia is from the harsh realities of life found not so far away. Â We maybe then donâ€™t appreciate the suffering and desperation faced by so many people in the world.
I then think of the Australia I grew up in. Â It was the land of a fair go for all and a place where you stood by your mate. Â Okay, this was always a myth but it was a myth that energized my Australia. It spoke of good, decent human values of solidarity and compassion, and of opportunity for all. Â I now wonder what happened to that Australia. Â As I hear the word "compassion" being used in Parliament, I wonder what it is about that word that we just donâ€™t get.
Augustinian Father John Murray works for Caritas Thailand