by ROWENA OREJANA
Young Catholics have been called on to stand up for the poor, marginalised and oppressed in order to stand up for
Refugee Council of Australia president Phil Glendenning told participants at Auckland World Youth Day 2015 that when people cannot realise their human dignity, “that is when we [participants] should put our boots on”. He spoke to them on July 11 at St Patrick’s Cathedral.
“Have you ever seen an injustice taking place that you find just makes you angry? That’s the voice of God, and
don’t you dare suppress it,” he said.
Mr Glendenning said at present he is ashamed of his country. “Ten years ago, we decided that if refugees come by boat, we send them back to where they were being persecuted,” he said.
He recounted an experience in Kabul last year, where he met Sarah, the mother of two refugees who were sent back. “Sadly, we had to tell her we knew where one was buried,” he said.
Mr Glendenning said Sarah’s income is only about three to four dollars per day. He tried to give her $20.
“She spun around very quickly and told me, ‘If you are poor and someone just gives you money, it makes it worse.
Just because you live in oppression doesn’t mean you have to live without dignity,’” he said.
He said he learned a lesson then. He emphasised to the young participants to always work with people and not for them.
“Refugees don’t want our pity. They want our compassion,” he said. “If we even talk about advocacy or justice, it
has to start with people and relationships.”
Mr Glendenning said he hates it when people say young people are our future “as if you [young people] don’t have a present”.
He pointed out that young people are good with social media. “Unleash your creativity,” he said.
He expressed confidence they can do things to change the world.
“The only thing that makes a difference is if people gave a damn and moved,” he said. “Change does happen and you need a vision to make it happen.”
He urged the participants to talk to their bishops and let their politicians know what they stand for.
“Jesus was crucified because he spoke truth to the people of power,” he said. “He was crucified by the political
leaders of the world. We have to be people who stand up for the poor, the marginalised and the oppressed,” he said.
“There are 59 million refugees on the planet. They need us to show solidarity. They need us to say things will have to change,” he added.
by ROWENA OREJANA