Since returning to Australia in 2003 Marist Sister Grace Ellul has been involved in ministry to refugees and asylum seekers, at times a regular visitor to Villawood Detention Centre. She has learnt much from so many resilient and loving people who only ask for a chance to begin life again after having endured imprisonment, torture, fear, anxiety for their families and often dangerous sea voyages.
The present plight causes great concern. The many situations of conflict in our world, the countless instances where minorities are persecuted, lead to displacement of peoples and the need to seek asylum. Governments are reacting defensively, looking for ways to exclude those seeking asylum.
What is worrying at present in Australia are the punitive measures that are in place. The return to offshore processing, detention of children, the very long waiting period before visas are granted are all measures that are unacceptable if basic human rights are to be respected. People continue to be forced back to their country of origin, despite clear evidence in some cases of well-founded fears.
As Marists committed to Gospel values of compassion, inclusion and hospitality we are concerned about this situation and desire to witness to these values concretely in our lives and ministry.