It was a relatively long, detailed resolution – an attempt to respond to the Gospel in the face of obvious human need. But that was before Tampa, before the "Pacific Solution", and before the global challenge of refugees was turned into a domestic party-political argument.
Since that time the Uniting Church's view of the issues has continued to be shaped by the Gospel, while our energy for the struggle has been constantly refreshed by hope in God's promise of "that reconciliation and renewal which is the end in view for the whole creation" (Basis of Union, para. 3).
The most recent developments in this situation have concerned the work of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers, and the Migration Amendment (Regional Processing and Other Measures) Bill 2012 . On your behalf, UnitingJustice Australia made a detailed submission to the Panel reflecting the position that has been established by the Uniting Church over the last twelve years.
UnitingJustice has also resourced and supported me as I have represented the Uniting Church in media commentary and interviews, in letters to all the Commonwealth Senators and to the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, and in coordinating a joint statement from several Australian church leaders.
At the same time, many Uniting Church members and congregations have been actively engaging with the public debate and also in the ongoing personal process of welcoming refugees into their communities. Many have contacted the Assembly asking for resources to help them engage well with the issues of this moment. In response, UnitingJustice and the Assembly Working Group on Worship have developed this kit.
In commending these resources to you, I also call you to pray:
• for all refugees and asylum seekers, and especially for those who seek shelter and help in Australia;
• for political leaders and the staff of government departments who have responsibilities in this area, that a longing for justice and peace will guide them in the exercise of their responsibilities;
• for UnitingJustice Australia and its work of analysis and advocacy;
• for chaplains to the detention centres and volunteers who regularly visit, and all who endeavour to extend the hand of welcome and care to strangers in need.
I encourage you to be informed about the issues at stake here – the faith issues as well as issues of human rights, society and politics – so that you will be ready to contribute a Christian perspective to the conversation when this "barbeque stopper" comes up with your family, friends or colleagues.
"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." (1 Peter 3:15)
Rev Prof Andrew Dutney