As a nation, need to take at this time in responding to the plight of Afghan refugees - Photo:canva.com
Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv, chair of the Catholic Bishops Commission for Social Justice, Mission and Service, calls on us, as a nation, to welcome refugees from Afghanistan. He says it is a moral duty towards Afghan refugees.
The plight of Afghan refugees fleeing their homeland has brought back memories of his own escape from war in his home country of South Vietnam. He recalls the welcoming spirit, generosity and hospitality of Australians when he came to Australia as a refugee in 1981.
Bishop Long is very clear on what action he believes we, as a nation, need to take at this time in responding to the plight of Afghan refugees. He says, “We must offer additional refugee resettlement places for Afghan refugees immediately, as we did in 2015 for Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Canada has already committed to 20,000 additional places for Afghan refugees, and we could match this offer to show that we are ready to shoulder our responsibility to those in need.”
“I also believe that people of faith, and Australians more broadly, must stand for social and moral issues, because this is the only way that we can build the world we want to see in the future..."
Concerning the actions we need to take for Afghans living in Australia, he says, “We must extend the temporary visas of all Afghan citizens in Australia so that they will not be at risk of forced return to a dangerous country, and extend permanent protection to any Afghans on temporary protection visas. Finally, we must support family reunion applications for Afghan Australians whose families are in danger”.
In speaking of his Catholic faith and what his faith calls from him, Bishop Long says, “My Catholic faith compels me to try to address these kinds of injustices, ones that remind me of what I and my loved ones experienced in Vietnam. I believe in the universal and inclusive love of God, a love that seeks to embrace all people, most especially those at the periphery, who are experiencing poverty and injustice”.
Furthermore, he says, “I also believe that people of faith, and Australians more broadly, must stand for social and moral issues, because this is the only way that we can build the world we want to see in the future. And this is a pivotal moment for us to step up and support those in need in Afghanistan. I hope to see the same level of bipartisan support for Afghan refugees now as there was for Vietnamese refugees then”.
Columban Fr Kevin O'Neill is currently on the Peace, Ecology and Justice (PEJ) Team at St Columban's, Essendon.