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Archbishop’s Appeal Update

by Fr. Peter Smith

When Archbishop, Anthony Fisher OP, launched the Archbishop’s Afghan Refugee Appeal last August, we knew there was a desire within our community to help, but we had no idea the response would be so generous and so widespread. Nor did we think we would have such a profound impact on the government’s own decision making.

Eight months after the launch last August we are now able to begin reporting back to you about how those desperately needed funds are being used.  And at a time when the world can seem pretty grim for so many in need, we really appreciate knowing that the Catholic community is always ready to come to their assistance.

Because the commitment was to get the support and the funds to services that directly support Afghan people and families fleeing the collapse of their homeland, one of the first recipients was the wonderful House of Welcome in Granville (HoW); a work of the Franciscan Social Services. Further funds have been sent to The Brigidine Asylum Seekers Network (Vic.) and Jesuit Refugee Services are next on the list; each organisation give direct support to Afghan Refugees. The House of Welcome is the largest housing provider of transitional accommodation for asylum seekers and refugees in NSW and the only asylum seeker specialist agency in Western Sydney. They also run employment programs through their catering social enterprise programs.

The Justice and Peace Office met with Hoorieh Hosseini, one of HoW’s social workers.  We began by asking what difference the funds form the Archbishop’s appeal had made to those who come to HoW from Afghanistan.

“Can you imagine what it was like for families who had fled Afghanistan and come to Australia to find they needed support for life’s basics: for food, rent support and even medicines” said Hoorieh.


“Yes sometimes people have had very critical illnesses and the medicine is not covered by Medicare, so they really need support because these medicines are vital.”

As we all know, renting in Sydney is expensive for those even able to find somewhere to rent. For asylum seekers it is even more complex.

“They need the bond and at least two weeks rent in advance,” said Hoorieh. “So we have many clients at risk of homelessness because their rent is soon in arrears. This money means we can give them the help they need to just get back in front and keep their families safely together.”

Food relief, rental support and financial support to buy desperately needed medicines is a good start. But HoW gives more than that, Hoorieh, Miriam and the rest of the team have created a place where it is safe to be the “other”; the outsider, and safe to ask for a hand up when it’s needed.

Perhaps the even more surprising result from the Appeal and all the lobbying efforts of both Catholic and other Christian communities across Australia has been the change of heart within the federal government.

The government had agreed to let 3000 Afghan citizens into Australia after the fall of Kabul. We joined with Christian churches across Australia and said’ because the need was so great’ that the number needed to be at least 20,000 on top of the existing number of refugees given visas in Australia.

Then on Budget night we were all told the government had agreed to increase the offer of 3000 to 16,500 people. This is the result of intense lobbying from across Australia and is a result we can all be very proud of.

When Archbishop Fisher launched the appeal he said in part, “Those lucky enough to make it to Australia seeking protection will need all the support that we can give. So today I am launching the Archbishop’s Afghan Asylum Appeal and committing the resources of our Catholic schools, health and welfare agencies to support our Afghan friends when they get to Australia.”

As the number of people fleeing Afghanistan grows, we know that between all of us, and with the ongoing generosity of the Archdiocese, we will be able to offer desperately needed funds, but also the resources of our Catholic schools, health and welfare agencies. It has been a real privilege being a part of such generosity, hope and community building. Your contributions have not only saved lives, given hope and health but have helped restore dignity to these broken people. Thank you on their behalf.

Solidarity Still Strong for Refugees

On Sunday 20 March 2022 around a thousand people gathered outside Sydney Town Hall to advocate once again for justice and dignity for people seeking protection in Australia.

The familiar calls to close the camps, end immigration detention, reinstate permanent protection visas have only increased in fervour over the years now that Australia’s deplorable treatment of refugees has become entrenched for so long. Pulled together in just a few days the solidarity and compassion on display were as strong as ever.

A small but stalwart group of us met before hand for light lunch and were able to share our experiences of walking with people seeking asylum over the previous years. With the Catholics for Refugees banner prominently unfurled, we were privileged to be there in solidarity with our colleagues and friends from the Jesuit Refugee Service, House of Welcome and SJ Around the Bay. It was also great to know that there were several other Catholics spread out throughout the crowd, standing in support of people seeking asylum.

Everyone present was moved to hear from Thanush Selvarasa, a refugee released from Park Hotel, Melbourne, and Mustafa, an Afghan refugee on temporary visa, who once again highlighted the atrociousness of Australia’s policies and practice towards people seeking asylum.

We were also privileged to hear from Asma Nayim Ullah (a Rohingya community youth leader and refugee on temporary visa) who described her family’s harrowing journey of seeking protection in Australia. “We did not leave our home country by choice. We were forced…We escaped from extreme persecution and genocide at the hands of the Burmese military. In Burma, Rohingya people were stripped of citizenship before I was born. We are called “the most persecuted people in the world” by the United Nations.” said Ms Ullah.

Ms Ullah continued to describe the difficulties she faces in Australia today reiterating that permanent protection is what would make the biggest improvement in the lives of refugees here. “People assume our pain is over once we start living in a country like Australia. But, that is far from the truth… And every day, we have to sacrifice, endure, compromise and wait for who knows how long for things to get even slightly better. ” Despite having been accepted to university, because she is on a temporary visa, she has to pay international student fees which makes university completely unaffordable for her and anyone else in her situation.

“People with lived experience were front and centre at the rally, bravely sharing how they and their communities have been so detrimentally impacted by punitive government policies. The system has broken and fractured people and now is the time to grant people the permanent protection they need to enable them to move forward with their lives,” said Miriam Pellicano, Executive Manager, House of Welcome.

Michael Whaites, a director from the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association reiterated the importance of freeing the Medevac refugees and the physical, psychological and emotional toll that immigration detention has on people seeking asylum.

“Coming to the rally was my way of showing support for people seeking asylum as well as for the many volunteers and advocates working to bring about change,” said Fay Hair, a Catholic parishioner from Sydney who attended the rally. Hearing the stories of people seeking asylum has led Fay to their admire their strength and resilience but also triggered her frustration and anger about how Australia can treat human beings so poorly.

While many of the supporters there have been advocating for years, the recent crises in Afghanistan and Ukraine have brought the plight of people seeking asylum to the forefront of many more people’s minds. It has made more people realise that people seeking protection aren’t doing anything wrong, they are just looking for a safe place to live and start their lives over. Any one of us could be living an ordinary life, but due to the ill-considered and senseless decisions of some leaders, we could find ourselves fleeing our life-long home with almost nothing and no certainty as to our future.

It is this knowledge that inspires us to stand for justice in support of people seeking protection and we will continue to do so until everyone is treated with the dignity and respect they deserve as our brothers and sisters.

Palm Sunday at the Park Hotel, Melbourne

A Prayer of Hope

by Dorothy Scott

We came together on Palm Sunday, gathering in front of a hotel in which refugees continue to be imprisoned.

The windows had been deliberately tinted so all we could see inside was darkness.

Despair descended upon us.

Suddenly from a window high above, a few faint lights began to move slowly back and forth in an arc.

Oh, the fragility of hope. The refugees were gently waving to us, using their mobile phones.

This was a small but precious gift of hope that they, who had suffered so deeply, gave to us at the start of Holy Week.

Let us gather all the small and precious gifts of hope we can find so they can speak to the condition of the world.

Sisters and brothers of all faiths, the spirit of our age is one of darkness and despair.

May we find within ourselves and within one another the Light to nurture hope and to illuminate the path on which we walk together in peace.


Palm Sunday at the Park Hotel, Melbourne

by Dorothy Scott 

Faint lights moving back and forth,

Held by men invisible behind a tinted window,

An arc of light silently communicating with protestors below.

On this day, the start of Holy Week.


Seven years imprisoned on a distant land,

Despairing and struggling to comprehend.

And now confined in hotels for over a year.

Some released, but these men left to suffer.


Whose idea was it to tint the windows?

Who ordered it to be?

Who did this task

So those in the street should not see?


One among countless acts of cruelty,

Oh, the banality of evil.

Faint lights moving back and forth,

Oh, the fragility of hope.


Dorothy Scott is an Elder of Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). She wrote this 

prayer and poem in Autumn 2021, inspired by the 150 Days of Action campaign.

Prime Minister’s response to Christian advocates for Afghan refugees is inadequate

In mid-October 2020 several Christian leaders from the Prime Minister’s electorate of Cook wrote to him to urge the Government to do more to support the people fleeing Afghanistan and seeking refuge in Australia. The leaders requested a meeting to explain their deep concern for the people of Afghanistan and how their congregations were willing to support the Government in helping to welcome Afghan refugees who arrive here. In late October the Prime Minister wrote back and despite recognising that the “situation in Afghanistan remains extremely volatile and dangerous, and deeply disturbing” there was no commitment to do anything further to assist the Afghan people still trapped there or those trying to escape. You can read the Prime Minister’s full response here.Continue reading

Imagine this Australia

Omid was the love of his mum’s life, Australia’s cruelty broke the lives of two people the day he died. Last week Queensland Coroner, Terry Ryan, said. “Omid started his journey In 2013 as an optimistic and perhaps naive 22 year old. Within three years he had died a painful death in a Brisbane hospital after struggling to come to terms with the reality of an indefinite period on Nauru.” As Craig Foster says, imagine his pain to be driven to this in Australia.

This short clip shows Craig Foster describing the tragedy of Omid’s death.