People on the Move: Solidarity and Advocacy
UCA President Dr Deidre Palmer joined a global ecumenical conversation on the impact of COVID-19 on people on the move as part of a series of webinars facilitated by the World Council of Churches.
Dr Palmer spoke about the challenges faced by refugees, migrant workers and international students in Australia during the pandemic and the ways in which Australian churches responded, bringing compassion and hope.
The webinar posed three important questions:
- What are the particular challenges they are facing as a result of COVID-19?
- In what ways are women and children affected or particularly vulnerable?
- What can churches do at this particular time?
Along with Dr Palmer, other panellists from across the globe included:
- Rev Joram Calimutan, Program Coordinator in migrant work in HongKong
- Ms Alicia Mathura – a migrant teacher in Trinidad and Tobago
- Dr Torsten Moritz, working with migrants across Europe
- Ms Priyanka Samy, Social Activist and Intersectional Feminist, supporting Dalit women in India
There was recognition among all speakers that people on the move, whatever the reason, had become even more vulnerable, open to exploitation and at real risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr Palmer shared about the campaign in Australia, Nobody Left Behind: Ensuring people seeking asylum, refugees and other vulnerable groups are included in COVID-19 responses, in which the Uniting Church and many other groups participated, and about the ways local Churches had practically supported migrant and international students impacted.
“One of the great strengths we have seen in this time of our local churches have been those already engaged in ministry with newly arrived migrants, asylum seekers, refugees and international students. They’ve already built relationships and were very aware of some of the immediate and longer-term impacts of COVID-19,” Dr Palmer said.
“Churches have also been involved in addressing racism, in places where blame for the spreading of the virus was directed to migrants who are forced to live in more densely populated areas and are more likely to be working in high-risk locations.”
Different speakers reflected on the potential for a wider church response and wider advocacy to build communities where migrants were more welcome and able to live lives of dignity.
A final theological reflection was provided by Rev Jack Amick, a church relief worker in the USA.
The webinar concluded with panellists reflecting on the hope they see in the resilience of people, the voice of the church speaking out and the compassionate responses of everyday Christians for their fellow human beings.
Dr Palmer said: “In a time of fear and uncertainty for us, there have been people and communities who have truly embraced the call of Christ to love our neighbour and create welcoming communities where all people are able to live the abundant life God desires for us all.”
Click on the picture below to view the full webinar.