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The Word on the Week

Olympics and Refugees

After the boxer doping and the illegal sale of Irish tickets there was palpable relief that our rowers won a silver medal! At last the journalists had a good news story and it’s all over the papers. It was pure homespun. That the O’Donovan brothers from Skibbereen in West Cork, proved to be as good craic as the rest of their tribe, was manna for the media!
Perhaps it was the Fiji’s annihilation of the opposition in the rugby 7 asides that drew my attention to that region of the Pacific. The healthy state of sport in Fiji is in marked contrast to the situation next door. It was with disbelief that I read of the atrocities being committed on the neighbouring island of Nauru.
Apparently it is owned by Australia who are using it as a dumping ground for its refugees. This started in earnest three years ago and has been kept secret by virtually banning journalists and swearing to secrecy the Government officials who work there. These people have no future. Australia refuses to accept them but instead hopes that their plight will become a deterrent to other would be refugees from choosing Australia.
What is remarkable is that this behaviour occurs alongside the open policy to immigrants who present themselves from the West and have skills to offer. Many from Ireland have benefitted from this policy especially over the recent recession. But it is how a nation treats the most vulnerable of its people that indicates it’s true worth not the cherry-picking of the talented.
Back in 2001 Australia again showed hostility towards refugees when they tried to prevent 438 mainly Afghans, who has been rescued by a Norwegian freighter M V Tampa, from entering Australian waters. The captain had asked for food and medicine but got commando troops. After an astonishing amount of turmoil including an attempt to prohibit the Tampa from entering Australian waters by passing a Bill in parliament, the refugees were dumped on Nauru!
The treating of refugees like scum is not confined to Australia it’s just that they have developed it to a higher level than most other nations. Like many of us in a crisis they had forgotten “The Golden Rule” – “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (St Matthew Chapter 7 verse 12).
When people get an unpalatable answer, like one requiring a higher degree of love, instead of acting on it they try to get round it like the lawyer who questioned Jesus; “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (St Matthew Chapter 22 verses 36-40).
The Law and the Prophets is shorthand for the scriptures in Jesus day and he sums them up by the requirement to love. And there is no end to its extent “Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for his friends (St John Chapter 15 verse 13).