|A situation of grave injustice|
Reflection for September 2013
There has been a significant decrease in the number of those seeking asylum in Ireland in recent years. Despite this, the length of time asylum seekers are housed under the controversial “direct provision” system is continuing to increase. The average length of stay in an accommodation centre is anything from a “short” 3 years to 6 years or more. This is unacceptable and inhumane.
Ireland was marketed as “Ireland of the Welcomes” some years ago. But what values do we now live by? It's well known that many people, once they have begun to acquire more than they had in former years, become more selfish, and less willing to share. Is that what has happened in Ireland? Are we afraid that if we open our doors a little wider we will be “flooded” with “undesirables”, whatever that means? Yet we expect to be welcomed in the US, Australia, and other faraway places, and we send our politicians off to plead a “special case” for Irish emigrants.
There are many scenes in the Gospels which illustrate Jesus' attitude to so-called “undesirables”. One scholar has commented that one could be forgiven for thinking that Jesus did nothing else but sit down and eat with others! And the thing is that Jesus ate with “publicans and sinners”, enjoyed their company and spent long hours with them, scandalising Jewish teachers and many others as well. Having a meal with someone shows that they are accepted as part of your inner circle, as it were. Well, “outsiders” were invited to become part of Jesus' inner circle. Do we want to be in their company too? Or will we, in ten – twenty year’s time, find ourselves striking our breasts because our political system “did nothing” for the (relatively small) number of asylum seekers arriving in Ireland, other than place them in institutions with no regard for the trauma many had suffered, or the toll on physical and psychological health of living in continual uncertainty and enforced idleness for years? Let us prove to ourselves that as a nation we can learn from past mistakes.