by ROWENA OREJANA
As the first Syrian refugees arrived to make New Zealand their home, Wellington Cardinal John Dew and Auckland Anglican Bishop Ross Bay reminded Christians in New Zealand that the refugees will need long-term support.
“It’s not just a week of welcoming people. It’s journeying with these people for a long time, because many former refugees and migrants continue carrying with them the pain of leaving home and the separation from their homeland,” said Cardinal Dew.
Cardinal Dew and Bishop Bay spoke at Auckland Cathedrals’ Lenten Studies on February 24, 2016, a lenten retreat jointly held by the Catholic cathedral of St Patrick and St Joseph and the Anglican cathedral of the Holy Trinity. Cardinal Dew said about 85 refugees, who arrived to settle in Wellington, were warmly welcomed by people from both churches. “Last Sunday afternoon (February 21), I happened to look out of the window of the house where I live in, and there were about 30 people and the driveway was full of goods donated to the refugees,” he said.
“Working there sorting them out (donations) all Sunday afternoon, a very hot afternoon, were people from the Anglican community and our community.”
The Church officials also stressed the importance of working with agencies like Red Cross. “They are the official agency responsible for resettling the refugees,” said Bishop Bay.
Bishop Bay related a commitment made by his parish when he was a teenager, to help in the resettling of a refugee family in south Auckland.
“They’ve adapted into our culture. They established their own business. Their children then grew up and went to universities. You see a family embedding itself into our community and culture, being able to genuinely make a home. It is wonderfully satisfying to see,” he said.
In the question and answer portion of the talks, Bishop Bay responded to a comment that pointed out New Zealand’s social agencies were already stretched out and overwhelmed.
“Any nation like ours can make that claim,” he said. He pointed out that New Zealand’s quota of refugee intake is 750 people each year. “Perhaps it is about understanding our relative stability,” he said, “We are not talking about a huge number of people.”
Citing statistics, he said Sweden accepts 14.62 refugees per 1000 people, Canada: 4.28, Australia: 1.58 while New Zealand only accepts 0.31 per 1000 Kiwis.
“We really need to gird our loins and say, yes, there will be a cost to offering hospitality to those in desperate need,” he added.
Cardinal Dew said Pope Francis had been advocating opening arms to migrants and refugees.
“He coined the phrase ‘the globalisation of indifference’. The globalisation of indifference has taken from us our ability to feel,” Cardinal Dew said. “Those words really challenged me.”
Bishop Bay said the theology of migrants and refugees can be found in the Old and New Testaments. From the stories of Abraham to the flight of the Holy Family, the Bible clearly tells us to be welcoming to strangers.
He noted that in the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus shifted the question from “Who do I find as deserving of my help?” to “What does it mean for me to act as a neighbour?”
“I’ve always found it a powerful thought.”
by ROWENA OREJANA