Parramatta Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv recently held a deeply moving meeting with refugees from Iraq and Syria who fled ISIS, Catholic Outlook reports.
The Syrian and Iraqi refugees fled the persecution of Islamic State and now receive support at the Fairfield Centre of STARTTS (NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors).
The 45 refugees recited traditional ululations to welcome Bishop Long. They became engrossed in his life story, which they understood deeply because of their own experiences.
“So we have something in common between you and I and that is we are immigrants or refugees to this country,” Bishop Long said.
He told his story, with interpreters assisting with live Arabic translation.
“I left on a very small boat, no bigger than this table here … only six or seven metres in length … and we had over a hundred people on board, so extremely overcrowded,” he said.
Their boat quickly ran out of food and fuel but a passing ship rescued them.
Bishop Long explained the historical background of the Vietnam War, and how Vietnamese refugees were the first group of non-European migration since the White Australia Policy.
"I left Vietnam on a boat and I came to Australia via a refugee camp in Malaysia. Why did I take such a risk, in leaving my country of birth and taking such a big risk by leaving on a boat, crossing the Pacific ocean and coming to Australia?
“I think you know the answer already, because it’s the same reason you left your home countries in coming to Australia. So I am just a living testament to an Australia that is generous, that is open, that is bold in its outreach to refugees and to migrants. It is my hope that this same Australia: open, generous, hospitable to refugees, migrants, that’s the same Australia that you’ll find yourselves.”
Bishop Vincent meets refugees who fled from ISIS (Catholic Outlook)