by Bishop PATRICK DUNN
WELLINGTON — The Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania comprised of more than 80 bishops from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, the Pacific and Australia and New Zealand expressed their support for the bishops, priests and pastoral workers in Papua New Guinea and Nauru who are seeking a “more humane approach” for assylum seekers in Australia.
The bishops expressed their support in a motion passed last May 15, during the assembly held in Wellington. It was directed to the leaders of Papua New Guinea and Australia.
“We express our solidarity with our fellow bishops, priests and pastoral workers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea who are attempting to respond compassionately to the presence and plight of asylum seekers who have been transferred to these nations against their will.
“We appeal to the leaders of Papua New Guinea and Australia to review the Regional Resettlement Arrangement between Australia and Papua New Guinea on Further Bilateral Cooperation to Combat
People Smuggling, signed on 19 July 2013, with a view to developing a more humane approach to asylum seekers attempting to reach Australian Shores,” the motion read.
In the first keynote address, Bishop Eugene Hurley from Darwin spoke against Australian immigration policy and the use of detention centres.
He warned of how “words” were used to dehumanise asylum seekers. They were denounced as “queue jumpers”, but no one explained how to form a “queue” in wartorn Sri Lanka or some bombed out city in Syria.
The government also spoke of turning around “boats” rather than “people”.
Bishop Hurley stressed that “boat people are real people”, and denounced the detention centres as “factories for mental illness”. He spoke of meeting a Catholic couple in one centre who had lost their young twins when a bomb had destroyed their home and had blown
the legs off their little girl and the stomach off her brother.
Another Pacific bishop said the use of detention centres was “devoid of logic, fairness and compassion”.
Bishop Hurley observed that “the giving of sanctuary has always been one of the noblest of human endeavours”.