March 2014

“National lament” for asylum seekers during Lent

Catholic Religious Australian (CRA), the peak body for more than 180 religious congregations of sisters, brothers and religious priests in Australia, is inviting all people of goodwill to participate in a “National Lament” for people seeking asylum in Australia.

Launched to coincide with the Lenten season, the “National Lament” is a campaign of prayer, penance and action for people seeking asylum in Australia.

Sister Clare Condon, Congregational Leader of the Good Samaritan Sisters, strongly supports CRA’s campaign and has encouraged all Good Samaritan Sisters, oblates, colleagues and friends to participate in whatever way they can.

“This National Lament highlights the tragedy and despair that is experienced by those seeking to find refuge in Australia. It also highlights the tragedy of our current Federal government policies, whereby those seeking refuge are rejected and not processed compassionately and efficiently,” she explained.

“Over 30,000 asylum seekers here in Australia still remain without any processing of their claims. Such an approach is inhumane.”

In a media statement released on the eve of Lent, CRA President and Sister of Charity Annette Cunliffe, said the “National Lament” is a Christian response to asylum seekers, rather than treating them as a ‘problem’ to be solved.

“Many people throughout Australia are disturbed by the punitive and harsh policies and conditions to which people seeking asylum in Australia are being subjected,” she said.

“The recent incident on Manus Island and the death of one person and the injury of many highlights the lack of care and dignity in the policies of both the Government and the Opposition, and the absence of awareness of their legal and moral responsibilities.”

CRA is taking its inspiration from the words of Pope Francis when he visited the small Italian island of Lampedusa last year to commemorate the thousands of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants who have died trying to reach the island from North Africa. During that visit he said: “We are a society which has forgotten how to weep”.

“We lament the lack of compassion for people seeking asylum in Australia, we lament the denial of human dignity and freedom, we lament the indifference, we lament our inability to turn the tide”, said Sister Annette.

The “National Lament” has two parts. Part one invites people to engage in prayer, penance and action for people seeking asylum in Australia. Suggestions include making Friday in Lent a day of prayer and penance for people seeking asylum, and writing letters to Minister Scott Morrison and local Federal Members of Parliament, expressing lament for people seeking asylum in Australia.

Part two of the “National Lament” will be a “Week of Prayer and Prophetic Presence” during Ascension to Pentecost, June 1 to 8.

Participate in the “National Lament” using this Reflection and Prayer Sheet.

Write to your local Federal Member of Parliament and to Minister Scott Morrison using this sample letter.

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