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WCC leader challenges Australians

The general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Rev Dr Samuel Kobia, called on the Australian Government to abandon its policy of mandatory detention of asylum seekers when he visited the country in July. He said the policy violates human rights and is unchristian.

Samuel issued two challenges to Australian Christians during his visit. He urged them to visit detention centres such as Baxter Detention Facility and be like Good Samaritans to the detainees held there. He also urged them to support Aboriginal people who feel their self-determination is threatened by government moves to abolish the elected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission and replace it with an appointed advisory council.

After spending a day with Aboriginal people in Port Augusta, South Australia and detainees in Baxter, 10kms outside Port Augusta, Samuel attended the Adelaide forum of the National Council of Churches in Australia.

“I appeal for as many Christians as possible to visit these centres and show your love and your care to the detainees,” he said.

“Many of those I talked with in Baxter expressed their happiness at being visited by ministers and priests of the Uniting Church, Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church. They said they would very much like to have more Christian people visiting them.”

In a later sermon he said there is something profoundly disturbing about the Australian Government putting asylum seekers in isolated detention centres. It is easier to deport people when no one in the country knows them, when they have no friends as advocates.

He said he was shocked by the physical reality of the Baxter facility with its prison-like fences and forbidding gates.

“Australia has a long tradition of supporting the international system of refugee protection and international legal norms on refugees and asylum seekers. However, policies adopted by the Australian Government in the last five years have called into question this legacy and have damaged Australia’s reputation abroad,” Samuel said.