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Federal

Jan 14, 2014

Abbott's asylum seeker policy an affront to our Jesuit education

John O’Mara, a businessman and friend of Tony Abbott, says the government's asylum seeker policy is unChristian -- and Abbott should know better.

Christmas Island

Like many Australians, I look on the way the Abbott government is handling the matter of asylum seekers with ever-increasing dismay. Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s mantra of “stop the boats” is unprincipled, contrary to signed United Nations agreements and impractical. It is hard to erase the pre-election memory of the Western Sydney interviewee: “I’m going to vote for Abbott, because he’ll stop the boats.”

What dismays me most is that Tony and I shared an educational experience at the hands of the Jesuits and then a friendship that reaches back almost 40 years.

Like Tony, I’m very grateful for my time at a Jesuit school. In our day a substantial number of our teachers were Jesuits, and we had the benefit of their highly trained minds, sharp moral sensitivities and educational method that always emphasised evidence over rhetoric. Even though the Jesuits were strong on presentation skills in argument, the argument had to have substance.

Their clarity of thought and pursuit of learning for its own sake sets them apart from all other educators, especially those I encountered at Sydney University. Their ability to look at all sides of an argument before coming to a conclusion was both stunningly simple and at the same time extremely thought provoking.

Surprisingly, our religious education in latter years included a look at many religions: Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Taoism, Protestantism and others. We were shown the merits of these religions and taught an all-encompassing view of life and peoples.

We were taught quite simply that the major requisites of Catholicism were: love, inclusion, and protecting or looking after those more needy — of any denomination. Father Gerald Drumm went further, stating that as we were boys starting life from a privileged position in a Jesuit school, we owed it to our God, the Jesuits and ourselves to put our teachings in to practical effect if we were ever in a position to do so. It was as black and white as that!

Tony and I were, from our earliest days, taught that people had an inherent dignity, and to use them as a means to an end is the antithesis of anything the Jesuits taught us.

Tony and I were both members of the University of Sydney Students’ Representative Council and had many battles with “the Lefties”, both verbal and physical. We both enjoyed playing rugby for Sydney Uni, if not for Australia. It was a time of great frivolity and for forging life-long friendships. But those playful undergraduate days are long gone. And now in government, the play is for real.

Using desperate human beings for political advantage is absolutely unacceptable. As I said to Tony a couple of years ago over dinner, “Mate, you and I would be the first in a boat with our families were we to encounter the atrocities they have had to face.”

The solution is again very simple. We must embrace these poor, desperate souls, get them into our communities and enrich our lives, and theirs. Give them the dignity to live without fear, give them the dignity to work and pay tax. Let us take the lead in a regional resettlement program to accommodate these people. No more detention centres, political bottom-feeding, refugee camps or queues. Let’s get the Australian psyche back to where it should be.

As Tony should know, playing to the xenophobes in Australia just flies in the face of well-known facts about people movement and its cause in our region.

Asylum seekers are not “illegals” — they are our brothers and sisters.

Tony’s and my Jesuit teachers are turning in the graves for the lack of logic, human sympathy and compassion, let alone any reflection of what Jesus had to say about welcoming the stranger and going the extra mile. Bad luck for the Good Samaritan. He was a mug and would never get endorsement as a Coalition candidate.

*This article was originally published at John Menadue’s blog Pearls and Irritations

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44 comments

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44 thoughts on “Abbott’s asylum seeker policy an affront to our Jesuit education

  1. Don

    you don’t have top be a ‘Christian’ to know and believe this, but, by his actions, not just in this matter, but about every matter he opines about or does anything about, Abbott is as far from a ‘Christian’ as it possioble to be in a supposedly ‘democratic society.

    His words and actions over past four years (in particular) are a flagrant & shameless disgrace, and have, probably permanently, inflicted major trauma and damage to Australian polity, society, our national and individual morality & ethos, and to individual Australians.

  2. leon knight

    Agreed entirely Don, and those that hoped his personality might improve once he achieved his long-cherished goal must be sorely disappointed.
    It is hard to quantify just how much damage he has done to the faith people have in our political system – anecdotally quite severe though, especially to the younger generations. And now his damaged ego prevents him from trying to make amends in any way at all….
    Gladly the cross-eyed Bear wrote an illuminating essay on her blog called “the windmills of Tony Abbott’s mind” which I recommend to anyone trying to fathom the forces at work inside his brain.

  3. Don

    btw i am a somewhat imperfect practicing Pentacostal Christian, and these puffed-up corrupt & immoral politicians (not only, but especially Abbott & Morrision), trading on their so-called ‘Christianity’ while committing appalling acts of immorality and inhumanity (and illegality) is an affront, not just to the many genuine and sincere Christians, but all non-Christians too.

  4. Hamis Hill

    Is Abbott “Un-Christian”?
    The scriptural guide to finding the answer to this fundamental question of fake Christianity is “By their actions shall ye know them”.
    But certain sectarians are not into scripture very much, with the recently canonised traitor Thomas More gleefully burning at the stake those who in his time sought to bring the Bible to the English people in their own language.
    Some Saint.
    Un-Christian sectarians tackling Abbott for being un- Christian?
    There’s your credibility problem, right there.

  5. michael crook

    Thank you John, it appears that Abbott and Morrison are founding members of the group “Christians who Hate”.

  6. drmick

    Thats what happens when you think you are God, and you are really a dog. If he cant eat it or mount it, he lifts his leg on it, says um ahh, and runs away. Another samaritan with a wet leg.

  7. SusieQ

    A lovely article that bought a tear to my eye. Its so simple, isn’t it?

  8. AR

    Wot you mean “our” Paleface/Crowclad?

  9. Michael James

    Apparently a ”friend’ of Tony Abbott eh?

    I doubt it, real friends don’t smear friends on the pages of Crikey. unlike Mr O’Mara here.

    I also note that this first appeared on Menadue’s site, now there’s one man who’s no friend of Tony Abbott or the conservatives of the right of politics.

    More likely someone who shared a school with Abbott and is now using that coincidence to stand on a soapbox, claiming a friendship that’s not really there.

  10. Don

    “friend”? i think it would be impossible for any moral & ethical person to be – or remain – a friend of the ‘no morality zone’ abbott

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