Opinion  |  

Beyond borders with asylum-seekers

Tim Costello on the faith-fear battle

There is no more deeply confusing or divisive current issue for Australian Christians than the debate over asylum-seekers.

Advertisement

In the lead-up to a federal election, border protection is a defining issue. Sadly, this has already led to debates that reveal the best and worst of our Australian character – from compassion and care for others to political opportunism and rabid fear of outsiders.

We need effective policies that protect our borders and national security. But surely there are broader and deeper questions about our attitude to and concern for vulnerable and suffering people.

The federal government claims the so-called ‘medivac bill’ that recently passed through parliament and allows the transfer of asylum-seekers to Australia for appropriate medical treatment leaves the border wide open for people-smugglers. But this is a political game. The legislation applies only to those already on Manus and Nauru who need urgent medical attention.

Many Christians were involved in the successful campaign to get kids off Nauru. But there is more to be done. Like the Good Samaritan, we have a responsibility to all victims on the road.

Of course we should help our own, but that does not mean turning a blind eye to those who also need our help outside our borders. It should never be an either/or situation.

Ultimately, for Christians, this is a battle between fear and faith. The church has, at crucial times in history, been a powerful transformation and change agent. The commitment to justice has been an essential part of our mission.

So what is our obligation – our responsibility – to those who are suffering because they were born into poverty and injustice? One of the major gospel themes is Jesus’s concern for outsiders. He said caring for them was caring for Him.

Our Australian aid budget has bottomed out and yet there are calls for those funds to be diverted to help those at home facing droughts, floods and fire.

Of course we should help our own, but that does not mean turning a blind eye to those who also need our help outside our borders. It should never be an either/or situation.

Australian aid helps millions of people across the world living in poor communities. Aid saves lives through breaking down the barriers of poverty which prevent people from realising their God-given potential and building a better and fairer future. Australian aid is the best expression of who we are.

The debates over asylum- seekers and aid present an ethical and spiritual challenge to Christians. Can we stand back from the political debate and consider the Kingdom view that goes beyond matters of border sovereignty? Do we now move forward in fear or faith?

Comments

More