Thursday, 24 April 2014

A remarkable Easter.

It was a remarkable Easter. 

I met my refugee friend's family for the first time. He has been here 13 years waiting to be granted refugee status, while his family waited in Sri Lanka for him to send for them.

He arrived by plane so fortunately spent no time in detention however, he was denied the right to work and denied asylum, but they still handed him the cost of his plane fare back to the country that would bring him certain death. He relied on the charity of others to survive...mostly churches and mainly Fr. Michael. Thankfully he couldn't pay for his return flight and was stranded in the country to which he fled. 

I became involved when we participated in a refugee support program and accommodated a family for a weekend holiday by the sea. At the community meal this little man began to talk to my husband and they struck up a friendship. He made strong friends with two other families here in Warrnambool and stayed with us regularly.

Finally he was granted a work permit and was able to earn enough to feed himself and save a little to pay for his flight back home, thanks to Fr. Michael. Four times he received his deportation orders...and each time he nearly died with the stress of it.

It was during one of these times that he received news that his beautiful youngest daughter had died from dengue fever. He was a broken shell of a man...a bundle of nerves.

Just when we thought he would finally be sent home after 11 years of struggle and with us writing, petitioning and gathering an army of writers and petitioners, Chris Bowen the Immigration Minister was approached by Patrick McGorry to personally revise our little friend's case.

Suddenly our friend received word that he had been granted refugee status! I cried and cried.There were so many times I thought he would be sent home and shot. The last time he asked for a gun so he could protect himself.

Inter-denominational congregations all over Melbourne and Warrnambool were praying for him and finally it would seem our prayers had been answered. Four months ago, 13 years after he arrived in the country, his family joined him in Melbourne and they now live with him in a Parish house.

This Easter he brought them to Warrnambool and I was able to meet them for the first time. Such beautiful grown up children and a saintly wife, whose prayers must be mighty powerful. We went to Mass together on Easter Saturday and I sat there in awe of them, trying to take it in. The priest nearly fainted when I told them who these Sri Lankan people were. Another goodly priest who had shown him incredible kindness. We had all worried and prayed for him.

It was a big crowd for dinner on Sat night at our place. There was my family and my sister's family and the Sri Lankan family. We prayed and gave thanks. I was completely overwhelmed.

Of course, now, in the present political climate my friend's rescue would be impossible. It was well nigh impossible under Labor! But now, thanks to brutal Labor and Liberal policies, such people languish on Manus Island and Nauru, in despair with no hope of refuge. How do we get rid of this dreadful Government that causes people such suffering? How do we get people to vote the party with the most humane policies into Government? Of course I refer to the Greens.

It was, however, a sublime Easter for us and one I won't easily forget.

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