By Audrey Schueren
A record turnout of more than 150 people attended the Justice and International Mission (JIM) unit’s 2014 convention on Saturday 9 August.
The theme was “We’ve Boundless Plains to Share,” and focussed on refugees and asylum seekers.
The event, held at the Centre for Theology and Ministry, commenced with some powerful poetry, stories and a song from local community member Abe Nuok, who had the whole room singing along with him.
Keynote speaker Sr. Brigid Arthur, Coordinator of the Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project, led a reflection on the Biblical view of welcoming the stranger. This was followed by a lively panel discussion.
Anna Burke, Federal Member for Chisholm spoke forcefully about the role of government and the most effective ways for attendees to spur government change.
Brad Chilcott, Director of the Welcome to Australia campaign, explained that we have to do better.
“It’s not an ideological position we’re fighting for,” he said.
“It’s not left versus right, or refugee supporters versus racists. It’s not a progressive versus conservative political debate – we need to measure our victories by the amount of difference we make in the lives of real people.”
Professor and researcher Linda Briskman concentrated on the importance of looking overseas for moral alternatives and said many countries are more tolerant in their policies toward asylum seekers.
Paul Power, chief executive officer of the Refugee Council of Australia, spoke about acting with hope in a climate of despair, including options for positive response.
Following lunch, attendees discussed the work areas of the JIM unit before choosing from six workshops.
Jill Ruzbacky, social justice officer with the JIM unit, said it was heartening to see so many church members turn out for the event.
“This clearly indicates that people in the Uniting Church are passionate about the issues,” she said.
“Many supporters are prepared to do as much as they can to ensure people who have fled persecution are treated humanely as they go through the process of seeking asylum, and to challenge the current rhetoric, policies and practices of the Australia Government.”
If you were unable to attend the convention a DVD recording and handouts from keynote presentations are available.
For more details email email@example.com.