It is encouraging indeed to see the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, put out a strong call to his flock to respond not only with prayers but with practical assistance and with hospitality to the anticipated influx of Syrian refugees. Equally encouraging is Dr Davies’ clear rejection of the proposal to favour the applications of Christian over Muslim asylum seekers.
In the following article that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald the Archbishop is careful to avoid criticising the Australian government for the decision to participate in US-led bombing missions within Syria, even though this is likely to increase the flow of refugees from the country. With the government’s decision though now open to review since the change in leadership, we may yet hope that Dr Davies will extend his influence here too and address the causes of this immense human tragedy as well as the symptoms.
Open the door widely to Syrian refugees
A little boy, drowned at sea and washed up on a Turkish beach has shaken and galvanised a response from the nations of the Western world to the plight of Syria’s refugees. That it has taken so long for the sort of action that is being considered now is shameful. Nevertheless, the fact that our public discourse has turned so emphatically towards the need to make a real and lasting impact in the lives of those displaced by the Syrian conflict is very welcome and I applaud the government’s decision to expand the refugee program.
At times like this, we must all act within our spheres of influence to raise awareness, build understanding, and work to ensure that our own good intentions have real and practical expression.
Australian Christians feel a particular heartache at the fact that those we consider as family, our brothers and sisters in Christ, have been singled out for persecution in Syria and Northern Iraq. Nevertheless, we would be very reluctant to see an expanded refugee program that uses religion as a discriminating factor. This is antithetical to the love of God for all people and the unmerited and non-discriminatory grace and mercy that is at the heart of the Christian gospel.
The parable of the Good Samaritan is an incendiary critique of discrimination based on race, ethnicity and religion. Listening to the story for the first time, many would have been incensed that Jesus had used the word “good” to describe a despised Samaritan. Yet it never crosses the Samaritan’s mind in the story to ask about the religion or background of the man he finds beaten and dying on the side of the road. His response is immediate, generous and unquestioning.
As for who should or should not be included in an increased number of refugees from Syria, it makes no sense to be discriminatory. Some minority groups have been specifically and systematically targeted by Islamic State. These include, but are certainly not limited to Christians. There are also Yazidis, Druze and Mandeans targeted, along with Shiite Muslims. IS show little fear or favour and even Sunni Muslims who do not share their view of the world are just as likely to bear the brunt of their displeasure.
Our ability to show love and mercy and provide a warm welcome to anyone in distress, regardless of their faith, must serve as a counterpoint to the brutality of IS. Our response needs to be immediate, generous and unquestioning regardless of race, ethnicity or religion.
To this end, I have called upon Sydney Anglicans in parishes all across our diocese, not only to pray for these victims of persecution, but to step up and be prepared to do whatever is within their power to provide a warm and generous welcome, coupled with practical assistance, to ensure that those who come to find safety in Australia are afforded the best possible chance to make a new start and benefit as fully as possible from the peace, freedom and opportunity that far too often we take for granted.
I have asked our diocesan organisations – our schools, our retirement villages, our youth division and its college – to assist in any way they can with funds, goods in kind, educational support, personal support, language classes, and accommodation.
Anglicare has disaster recovery volunteers already trained to assist with the reception of those needing immediate assistance upon arrival. Anglicare’s hamper-packing and second-hand clothing warehouse is available to provide food and clothing. Our Youthworks ministry through its college and campsites is looking to offer medium-term accommodation for up to 150 refugees and short-term accommodation for up to another 250 refugees as well. I have already received offers of accommodation from across our parishes as well.
We are also looking to working as effectively as possible in a co-ordinated manner alongside other non-government organisations and government agencies.
You can read the full article here
You can donate to the Archbishop’s Syrian Refugee Crisis Appeal here