17 Australian Churches have offered sanctuary to the 267 people who face deportation to Nauru (including 70 children with 37 recently born in Australia) after the High Court’s decision last Wednesday. We are one of those churches.
Thank you to so many in our community who have reached out with encouragement and offers of practical support for the vulnerable children of asylum seekers made more vulnerable by the decision of the High court.
The decision by Paddington Anglican Church – its staff and council – to offer sanctuary reflects our advocacy and activism regarding children in detention. Back in 2014 I was involved in one of the early “Love Makes A Way” prayer vigils/ sit-ins in then Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s electoral office and since then other staff and parishioners have been involved in other actions. It is with sadness and frustration that we have had to find yet another way to pressure successive governments and their intransigence on this issue.
Paddington Anglican Church is close to the the CBD and the property comprises church, hall and rectory residence making us practically suited to make this offer of sanctuary. Being a small site we could not accommodate large numbers – maybe a handful of families at most. In the last 24 hours the offers of practical assistance and care have been overwhelming and we are glad that our small step has emboldened many individuals and organisations to say continued inaction is not okay.
At this early stage we don’t have enough information to make definitive plans and will certainly contact you once those are at hand.
In the meantime we are inviting each other to reflect on our “safe places” beyond the church – the homes we live in, the parks our children play in, the cafes and restaurants we eat in – and how each of these might become places of both refuge and hospitality.
The genuine surprise shown by many to the church’s action is because we have not always practiced what we preach: we talk a lot above Jesus’ command to ‘love your neighbour’ but the church has not always beenhospitable with our places of refuge.
At Paddington Anglican Church we do not want our offer of sanctuary to be a one-off or an empty gesture but to ensure that our church, our sanctuary, our place of refuge is a safe place for all who need our hospitality. We’d love to have local neighbours, businesses and organisations join us in that commitment.