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Towards A Policy on Asylum Seekers - Geelong Interfaith Network.

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Towards A Policy on Asylum Seekers Geelong Interfaith Network July 2014 Guided by our vision of harmony between different religions, and ‘respect, trust and understanding between ... diverse faith communities’ and ethnic groups, and motivated by our common commitment to the Golden Rule to be found in so many religions – ‘Treat others as you would want to be treated yourself’ – the Geelong Interfaith Network Inc. commits itself to welcoming asylum seekers to this city and indeed to this country. We believe that to seek asylum from persecution – often upon religious grounds – is to call upon the compassion that our various faiths proclaim. We hold that to respond by demonising asylum seekers is not only to refuse that compassion, but also to rationalise the refusal by pretending that asylum seekers are something they are not. Instead of treating them as we want to be treated ourselves in similar circumstances we treat them as ‘Others’. We note that the Global Ethic, assented to by numerous representatives of various religions at the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago, included not only the Golden Rule but also commitment to ‘The principle of humanity’ and ‘to non-violence, justice, truthfulness and partnership between men and women’ (https://www.weltethos.org/data-en/c-10-stiftung/10a-definition.php). Australia’s present policy towards asylum seekers, in violating the Golden Rule, also offends against the principle of humanity by treating them as less than human. That policy also offends against truthfulness by representing them as less than human. And by doing all of this, the policy offends against justice. Indeed, in relation to the Golden Rule, our members number the following among its implications: 1/ If we were living in a situation where we had a genuine fear of persecution because of our race or our religious or political beliefs: (a) Would we not want to seek a safe haven elsewhere ? and would we want to be turned back against our will ? (b) Would we not want wealthier countries to take action, through "overseas aid" and other means, to contribute to the reversing of the conditions which cause us to flee ? 2/ Were we, like many asylum seekers, survivors of crimes, torture and trauma, would we not want to be treated compassionately, and not as if were aggressive invaders of another country ? 3/ If we were seeking asylum in another country, would we not want, on arrival there, to have the opportunity to study, to work, and to belong to a new community ? 4/ If we were in a weak and vulnerable position (such as being an asylum seeker approaching Australia by boat) would we want another person who is in a weak and vulnerable position (such as an asylum seeker in an inhumane detention centre) to be used as a deterrent --essentially a kind of weapon -- against us ? 5/ If we were the custodians of government policy in a small and weak country (e.g. Nauru, Papua New Guinea) would we want to be pressured by a more powerful country (e.g. Australia) to help solve "its" problems ? Our various faiths teach us that we can be healed of the malaise that persistence in this policy inflicts upon us by facing the truth of our shared humanity with these asylum seekers. Welcoming strangers, Australian history should teach us, can and should be an enriching experience for this city and this nation.

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