Welcome to Australia, Tragedy and Hope of 2014

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Our Resolution: Normalize compassion, Radicalize brutality.

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Like every year, it seems, 2014 was full of …
the ‘darkest tragedy and the brightest hope‘.

We’ve seen firsthand the damage being visited upon families and individuals by indefinite, mandatory detention and by the hopelessness and poverty of bridging visas – and we’ve seen thousands of Australians respond to this darkness as volunteers, donors, friends… people becoming living examples of an alternative future.

We’ve witnessed the overt prejudice and fear-mongering of our leaders and media in regards to our Muslim community – and we’ve joined with thousands of Australians in declaring “We’ll Love Muslims for 100 Years“, visiting mosques on the National Day of Unity and in the beauty of our nation’s collective response to the Sydney siege.

Faith leaders invite the Australian community to join them in the following message of solidarity.

“As people committed to building healthy, cohesive and diverse communities in Australia, we have observed with dismay and empathy the way our Muslim friends have been affected by the language and tone of recent public statements and media coverage. We agree with the concerns of Muslim community leaders that the language and policies of our leaders should not marginalise or vilify people of Muslim faith, and that rhetoric used in relation to Australian security and conflicts around the world should not cause further division in our society, or lead to anyone feeling alienated from the nation they call home.

We believe people of Muslim faith are being unfairly smeared in the eyes of the Australian public by both subtle and overt links to violent extremism in political and media discourse.

We know and understand the deep concern and hurt this is causing to our Muslim friends and the risks these kind of generalisations present to social harmony and cohesion. The violence and values of extremists like ISIS are not representative of the vast majority of Muslim people in Australia, who are recognised better by their commitment to peace, community and mutual respect.

We stand in solidarity with all people who are suffering the results of war, violence and terror around the world, recognising the dignity of all people and their right to enjoy freedom from persecution and oppression.

We celebrate the diversity of the Australian community and recognise the valuable contribution of people of Muslim faith to our culture and community.

We know that vilification and alienation are not the way to peace or social harmony, but that authentic relationships, solidarity, listening, learning and mutual respect go a long way to building the kind of community we’d like to live in.”

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We mourned the cruel and unnecessary deaths of Reza Berati and Hamid Kehazaei – and we saw thousands of people across Australia turn out for snap candlelight vigils in their honor.

We grieved over the continued erosion of welcome, generosity, dignity, justice and compassion in Australia’s political debate, immigration policy and national character – and recognized that we’re all “common people with common dreams” as thousands of Australians celebrated our diversity at Walk Together events held in 20 cities and regional centres.

Welcome to Australia is an idea. The idea that welcome is better than fear; that compassion builds a better nation than cruelty; that unity builds better communities than division; that if we’re all people, we’re all equal. The people who turn this idea into a movement are those who live each day as the evidence that such a future is possible. Thank you – all of you who volunteer in one of of our 8 branches, or in our Welcome Centres in Adelaide and Newcastle, who work with our friends in other organisations who dream similar dreams to us – you have not only given us hope for a better tomorrow – your simple acts of welcome have literally saved the lives of asylum seekers mired in legislated, intentional hopelessness.

In 2014, our political leaders and media continued the normalization of brutality and injustice towards the world’s most vulnerable people. Australians are now well-accustomed to policies that permanently damage children, destroy families and cost lives. We barely bat an eyelid when legalization that enshrines gross injustice is passed by our Parliament. We have grown cold to the stories of trauma, the pictures of suffering and the claims of state-sanctioned child abuse, and we’re comfortable disregarding legal experts, the United Nations, doctors, psychiatrists, academics, celebrities and the activists who strive to end this assault on basic human rights.

In 2015, our resolution is to play our part in reversing this trend. We believe in an Australia where, instead of being an act of protest, welcome is normal. We believe in a future where compassion is commonplace. We’re working to build communities where all people – no matter who they are, where they came from, or how they arrived – are seen as equally worthy of dignity, justice and opportunity. We believe a day is possible where cruelty is unpopular and prejudice hurts at the polls.

Our resolve is to turn brutality, fear-mongering and discrimination into the radical actions of an extremist fringe rather than the acceptable activities of our leaders and mainstream media.

We hope this might be your resolution, too.

Thank you to all who helped us build towards this dream in 2014 – we look forward to creating a better Australia with you in the New Year.

Brad Chilcott
National Director
Welcome to Australia

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