Priest says Sudanese fears baseless

Racially based fears of the Sudanese community are unwarranted and unhelpful, according to the local parish priest in the Melbourne suburb that is home to Australia's largest concentration of Sudanese refugees.

St Anthony’s Fr Tony Feeney, said since the brutal murder of 19 year old Sudanese man and Noble Park resident Liep Gony and the bashing of a police officer following Gony’s wake, the suburb has been in the news for all the wrong reasons.

Fr Tony also said the rationale given by the Federal Government for their decision to reduce the intake of African immigrants to Australia in 2007/08 whilst increasing the intake of people from the Middle East, sparked intense debate on Sudanese immigration.

“There is no need to fear the Sudanese community (even though) media reports have spoken of ‘Sudanese gangs’ roaming the streets,” Fr Tony said.

“They are just young men “hanging out” with their friends.

“This is a young adult group that missed out on formal education because they’ve lived through civil wars and constant displacement. They are frustrated and so they hang around together for companionship and friendship. Who else can they talk to? They are the only ones who understand,” he said

While Fr Tony admits the integration of the Sudanese into the community has not been without its problems. He said part of the problem is that once they get a visa, they are given a short time to get to the country, and once they are here there is not much support for them, Kairos Catholic Journal reported.

Catholic Bishops Conference delegate for Immigration and Refugees Bishop Joseph Grech said the lack of housing contributes to the feelings of displacement among the migrants.

“There is a dirth of government housing in this country for the people who already live here, let alone newcomers,” Bishop Grech said.

“We should be welcoming these people to our country and offering them every assistance to adjust to their new life in the best way possible,” he said.

Interest free loans are offered by St Anthony’s to pay for flights to Melbourne and so far more than 100 people have found passage to Australia with the help of the parish. Once a month Fr Tony says Mass in Arabic to make the Sudanese community feel welcome.

“They sing everything – the Gloria, the Creed, everything. It’s an event, but it’s more than that. It’s coming together, it’s the faith, it’s the culture, it’s friendship and it’s a way of life.

“We could learn a lot from the way the Sudanese community celebrates their faith.”

SOURCE
No need to fear (Kairos Catholic Journal 28/10/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Archdiocese of Melbourne
St Anthony's, Noble Park