This is an open letter to Prime Minister Tony Abbott from Bishop Eugene Hurley, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Darwin.
It was written when Tony Abbott was still Opposition Leader, on the 16th August 2013.
By BISHOP EUGENE HURLEY
Dear Mr. Abbott,
I have just returned to my office from the Wickham Point and the Blaydin detention centres here in Darwin.
Sadly, I have been involved with detention centres since the creation of the Woomera centre, followed by Baxter and now, over the last six years, with the various and expanding centres here in Darwin.
I experienced once again today, the suffocating frustration of the unnecessary pain we inflict on one another. I celebrated Holy Mass with a large number of Vietnamese families, made up of men, women, children and women waiting to give birth. The celebration was prayerful and wonderful, until the moment of parting.
I was reminded of something a young man said to me during one of my visits to Woomera, all those years ago. I was saying something about freedom.
He replied, “Father, if freedom is all you have known, then you have never known freedom.”
I sensed the horrible truth of that statement again today.
I was also conscious of that beautiful speech made when the UNHCR accepted the Nobel Prize in 1981. In part it states,
“Throughout the history of mankind people have been uprooted against their will. Time and time again, lives and values built from generation to generation have been shattered without warning.”
“But throughout history mankind has also reacted to such upheavals and brought succour to the uprooted.”
“Be it through individual gestures or concerted action and solidarity, those people have been offered help and shelter and a chance to become dignified, free citizens again. Through the ages, the giving of sanctuary had become one of the noblest traditions of human nature.”
“Communities, institutions, cities and nations have generously opened their doors to refugees.”
I sit here at my desk with a heavy heart and a deep and abiding sadness, that the leaders of the nation that my father, as an immigrant, taught me to love with a passion, have adopted such a brutal, uncompassionate and immoral stance towards refugees.