Leaning, not lifting, on Syrian refugees

At the beginning of September 2015, the Abbott government (remember them?) announced that Australia would be taking 12,000 Syrian refugees.

Domino man

Today, The Age announced that Around 20 Syrian refugees have so far arrived under the separate commitment to take 12,000 refugees from the conflict in Syria and Iraq.

That’s around four per month. At this glacial rate of progress, it will take 250 years to reach the target of 12,000.  By then, the war may even be over. Certainly most of the current refugees will be dead.

Now the government has announced that the process of selection with far more strenuous and presumably more time-consuming.

On 7.30, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton used Australia’s goal of  12,000 refugees as a justification for the detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru. It’s a spurious argument to begin with but made all the more spurious by the fact that Australia is  currently and effectively not taking any refugees at all.

This is despite being an active participant of the bombing that is creating the problem.

bombing_syria.jpg

Thick smoke from an airstrike by the US-led coalition rises in Kobani, Syria

Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the donkey, refugees and asylum seekers

Writing in the New York Times, Ross Douthat discusses a range of perspectives on the biblical Nativity story, most of which seem naïvely wrong. However, he does make one useful point:

Then, finally, there’s the secular world picture, relatively rare among the general public but dominant within the intelligentsia. This worldview keeps the horizontal message of the Christmas story but eliminates the vertical entirely. The stars and angels disappear: There is no God, no miracles, no incarnation. But the egalitarian message – the common person as the centre of creation’s drama – remains intact, and with it the doctrines of liberty, fraternity and human rights.

Many people, myself included, do not subscribe to the theology of the New Testament that is found in the Gospels but will agree with what Douthat terms the “doctrines of liberty, fraternity and human rights”.

The Gospel according to St Matthew describes the Flight into Egypt where Mary, Joseph and Jesus fled the infanticide of King Herod (surely one of history’s really bad guys). The interesting thing about this description is that it is just that, a description. There is no sense of moral outrage in the narrative, certainly no solutions.

Joachim_Beuckelaer_-_The_Flight_into_Egypt_-_WGA02113Early refugees arrive by boat

The is one of the important elements of the narrative of the Gospels, they describe in a series of parables what happens to ordinary folk. In this particular story, it is about dreadful persecution of the common people by those in power.

Christmas is an opportunity for us to reflect on the stories such as these and to consider the plight of 5 million people displaced from Syria and the 30,000 people languishing in detention centres in Australia.