Australian Christian apologist JOHN SMITH ponders on the harrowing story of a Vietnamese refugee.

John Smith
John Smith

"I never thought I would see this here in Australia." This lament was wrenched from a faithful, caring Catholic priest, prevented by Australian Immigration officials and police from blessing and giving a farewell to a Sino-Vietnamese couple and their disabled son. He was in tears. Some time previously he had married the couple and baptised their child.

Even if the apparently heartless rejection of the couple's plight and their request for asylum could be justified, the inhuman handling of their deportation could not.

Fifty thousand soundbite-hungry politicians and media figures do not make racism right even if it could be shown that 90 per cent of our population might agree with them. I have no reason to believe that Australians are different from Germans, Russians or Bosnians. Given the right socio-economic conditions and sufficient misinformation, jingoistic media outbursts and political perversions, we Aussies are just as capable of cruelty, racism and self-interest.

60 years ago, who would have believed one of the most theologically and technologically sophisticated populations on earth could follow the manipulations of Hitler?

Ling Meng Zhang was rejected by her parents when she was very young. Later, her grandmother died while Ling was still in school. The isolated 16-year-old gained passage on a refugee boat. On arrival in Australia she was detained without protection among 60 men in the Port Hedland Detention Centre. Vulnerable and at risk, she was preyed upon sexually. Her daughter, Katie, was thus conceived.

What kind of country has Australia become that institutionally abuses a mere teenager? Incarcerated for four years, Ling now faces deportation after systemic physical and sexual abuse. At one stage she was suicidal. Ling is hysterical about herself and her baby daughter's future, begging for at least asylum and adoption for the child she conceived in her suffering. Ling is barely beyond adolescence and has been lost in a bureaucratic and political nightmare. Australian public servants have closed their eyes to the abuses perpetrated on Ling and others like her in detention, says her migration representative Mrs Le.

Her plea for asylum has now landed at the feet of Mr Phil Ruddock, the Minister of Immigration. It is to be hoped that despite racist outbursts from politicians and talk show hosts, Australia's Government will ignore perceived electoral self-interest and heed the ancient Biblical maxim: "Justice exalts a nation but sin (injustice and immorality) is a reproach to any people."

Australia owes something to this young, violated woman and her one-year-old child, following the incompetence, incarceration and callous indifference to rape and emotional abuse she has suffered. As Mrs Le notes: "In our Judeo-Christian tradition we cannot ignore the hungry, the homeless, the sojourner, the orphan and in Katie's case, the little children."

It would be better as Jesus said, that a millstone be tied around our (collective) necks. Surely all the world's religions would concur. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.