I am glad the Australian Government has finally agreed to take more refugees. But what a missed opportunity for moral leadership! The politicians were dragged to it by a community shouting our willingness to respond compassionately and sensibly to the crisis in the Middle East and Europe.
Country towns like Katanning and Albany offering to re-settle asylum seekers, and householders with spare bedrooms reaching out to integrate new people into the Australian community have put the Government to shame.
Instead of leading with compassion and with sensible plans for bringing people to this continent, the Government have played politics firstly with numbers – can we stretch to 10,000 or 20,000? – and secondly with cherry-picking those considered in greater need than others.
At this point in the crisis, both limiting numbers and having the luxury to choose between desperate people are irrelevant. Sure, we need to be practical: Australia cannot take 800,000 refugees in a year like Germany, but there is no danger of that happening. Any discrimination in favour of one group, whether it is Christians or Yazidi, will inevitably be perceived as discrimination against other groups. This morning Muslims are complaining, and rightly so, that yet again, our Government is treating Muslims as less than human.
As citizens, we should thank the Government for their willingness to consider increasing our humanitarian intake and encourage the Prime Minister to stretch his imagination to be as generous as possible. (https://www.pm.gov.au/contact-your-pm)
We should also encourage those who express generosity and offer practical help to them if we are able to provide it (Katanning Shire President: firstname.lastname@example.org ; Albany Mayor http://www.albany.wa.gov.au/?receiver=146&page=feedback ).
We should also look around the facilities that are ours with the same generous imagination. Is there anything we can do as individual families, churches or community groups to welcome refugees, and what action do we need to take to initiate that welcome?