News

Cathedral backs 21st century sanctuary

Anglican Dean of Brisbane Dr Peter Catt, the former Dean of Grafton, is leading a sanctuary offer by Anglican churches around Australia to asylum-seekers facing deportation to Nauru.
Anglican Dean of Brisbane Dr Peter Catt, the former Dean of Grafton, is leading a sanctuary offer by Anglican churches around Australia to asylum-seekers facing deportation to Nauru. DAN PELED

THE historical concept of 'sanctuary' is being offered by Anglican churches across Australia to asylum seekers facing deportation, and leading this "moral stand" against the government's regime is former Dean of Grafton and the church's national spokesperson on refugee issues, Dr Peter Catt.

Now the Anglican Dean of Brisbane, Dr Catt has declared his St John's Anglican Cathedral a place of sanctuary, and would do his best to keep authorities out to protect any asylum seeker who sought refuge.

Dr Catt said it wouldn't be a good look if authorities chose to enter a church to take people away.

"We offer this refuge because there is irrefutable evidence from health and legal experts that the circumstances asylum seekers, especially children, would face if sent back to Nauru are tantamount to state-sanctioned abuse," he said.

"This fundamentally goes against our faith, so our church community is compelled to act, despite the possibility of individual penalty against us."

The High Court on Tuesday upheld the legality of the Turnbull government's offshore processing regime.

The decision means that nearly 270 asylum seekers, including 37 babies, who came to Australia to receive medical treatment, face deportation to either Nauru or Manus Island.

The current Anglican Dean of Grafton, the Very Reverend Donald Kirk, has supported the decision of Dr Catt and the Anglican churches across the country to open their doors.

Father Kirk said the church was taking an ethical and moral stance against the treatment of asylum seekers.

"It's a fairly significant issue for us," he said.

"I don't know of any country in the world that has the same method of offshore processing for asylum seekers.

"We have brought them to Australia ourselves for medical treatment and for their mental well-being, and to turn around and kick them out the door is cruel and unusual punishment.

"The vast majority of people are looking for a safe place to live, and are escaping that kind of treatment elsewhere."

Southern Cross University School of Law and Justice lecturer Dr Cristy Clark said the concept of sanctuary has a long history within Christianity, where it was originally designed to uphold the law, while ensuring it was administered fairly.

"Granting temporary sanctuary was designed to prevent the hasty application of bad justice, or vengeance," she said.

Dr Clark said sanctuary was a part of English common law until it was abolished in 1623.

"However, there has been a modern revival of the practice of sanctuary in both the US and Canada, specifically in response to the issue of asylum seekers," she said.

"It has been argued by academics in relation to this revival in Canada that because the Church is actually seeking to uphold International Law by protecting people who ought to be granted official refugee status, they are actually returning to the older practice of sanctuary, which was designed to uphold justice even when the state is failing to do so itself."

Dr Clark said there could be harsh consequences for individuals who harbour asylum seekers who are to be deported, with the penalty up to 10 years' imprisonment or a large fine.

"However, this would depend on whether the Church actually physically prevented the state from removing asylum seekers, since they have certainly been open about their offer of sanctuary," she said.

"That said, the church has acknowledged that it may be breaching the law and has been open about its decision to engage in civil disobedience in defence of a higher ethical principle."

Topics:  anglican church asylum seekers grafton



Mayor clarifies council not listening on SRV comment

Mayor Jim Simmons

Clarence Mayor Jim Simmons is sorry for misleading SRV comment

#17: Racing called off during WW2

ALL QUIET: The betting ring at Clarence River Jockey Club was packed at 1939, but from 1942 to 1945 it was empty, with racing called off during the Second World War.

Continue our countdown of the best July Carnival moments

DERBY DAY: Key match-ups across McKittrick Park

Dylan Collett goes up against Austin Cooper in the Group 2 Battle of the River local derby at McKittrick Park.

The atmosphere is always electric in Grafton in derby week.

Local Partners

What's on the small screen this week

HAMISH and Andy hear another funny story, Netflix premieres a movie about a girl and her super-pig, and a millionaire finds out what it's like to be homeless.

Bonus Bill Busters Bingo card with today's paper!

Get an extra bingo car with today's paper.

Don't miss out on your bonus card.

Digging down to find Clare

Australian actress and singer Clare Bowen, who got her big break on the US TV series Nashville, is touring Australia with her solo album.

After five years on Nashville it’s time to tell her own stories.

TV REVIEW: Offspring season 7 is... fine

Alexander England and Asher Keddie in a scene from season seven of Offspring.

New Offspring won’t be remembered as the best season.

What's on at the cinemas over the school holidays

Tom Holland in a scene from the movie Spider-man: Homecoming.

Escape from reality over the holidays with a trip to the movies.

You'll be sure about Headland at Roches

ON STAGE: Headland will perform their Irish styled music.

Headland plays at Roches this weekend

Enjoy the roots feel of Ino Pio in Maclean

Ino Pio is playing in Maclean this weekend.

Byron Bay musician to play in Maclean

Gateway to $3 billion, 4800 home new Coast city opens

The start of Peter Crosby Way at Sippy Downs, the northern access into the Harmony master-planned community at Palmview.

Palmview's $3b master-planned community of Harmony

Millionaire Nathan Birch to offload $55M in property

Nathan Birch wants to focus more on developing properties.

Sydney property investor has announced he is selling up

Fame factor boosts property prices in Byron

The stunning Clarke's Beach in Byron Bay.

House prices surge by an incredible 39.5% in star-studded area

Grass is greener for Warwick real estate

Warwick's rural charm and affordable property prices are enticing buyers from Brisbane.

Quality houses for half the price of Brisbane attracting interest

New prison unlocks market growth

Works have begun on the construction of the new Grafton bridge.

Influx of workers for project drives healthy growth in house prices

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!