By Bev Jordan
A letter signed by 50 church leaders in the Mitchell electorate has been sent to Federal Minister Alex Hawke, Minister for Immigration voicing “deep concern” over the situation in Afghanistan.
Signed by leaders of Catholic, Anglican, Uniting, Baptist and Pentacostal churches in the electorate it urges the Minister to adopt the “7 steps” put forward by the Refugee Council of Australia to the Federal Government
The letter says:
“As leaders of churches throughout your electorate, we wanted to take the time to write to you to share our deep concern about the situation in Afghanistan.
“We know that yourself and Prime Minister Morrison are caring people, and are no doubt personally moved by the plight of the Afghans, in particular the many women and girls who now fear for their lives and their futures.”
The letter backs Australia providing 20,000 additional places for Afghan refugees (as Canada is doing) as part of the “7 practical steps” it says the Government should take and calls for permanent protection to 4,300 Afghans on temporary protection visas.
The shortened version of the plea is:
1. Continue to do everything possible to evacuate people who are at grave risk within Afghanistan.
2. Urge governments in the region to keep borders open for people trying to flee persecution in Afghanistan.
3. Offer additional refugee resettlement places for Afghan refugees immediately, as the Australian Government did in 2015 with 12,000 additional places for Syrian and Iraqi refugees.
4. Increase Australian aid to the region to support programs to assist people who have been displaced across borders and support organisations offering assistance within Afghanistan.
5. Ensure that people whose asylum claims have been previously rejected be supported to submit new claims in the light of the change in Afghanistan.
6. Extend permanent protection to 4300 Afghans on temporary protection visas.
7. Assist Afghan Australians, including people with temporary and permanent protection visas, with urgent family reunion applications for relatives who are at particular risk.
The 50 signatures are from representatives of several local Catholic parishes including St Michael’s, St Madeleines, St Bernadette’s, Christ the King and St Monica’s as well as the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart and the Catholic Bishop of Parramatta; the Anglican Bishop of the Northern Region and Ministers from St Paul’s Anglican Church, Rouse Hill Anglican Church, St Matthews, Kellyville Anglican, Holy Trinity and Norwest Anglican Church plus Wesley Uniting Church, Castle Hill; Northmead and Parramatta Centenary Uniting Church; Rose Hill Baptist Church, Castle Hill Baptist Church, The Centre, Dural; Baulkham Hills Baptist and Riverstone; Dayspring and Hillsong churches and Redeemer Baptist.
The letter was emailed to Mr Hawke on Monday (August 23rd) by Beck Wilesmith an NSW representative from Micah Australia, a not-for-profit coalition of churches.