Catholic priest remembers Manus refugees’ struggle


Christmas came again with its sentiments of hope, joy, love and peace, says secretary of the PNG Catholic Bishops conference Fr Ambrose Pereira
“From across the different corners of the globe, loved ones and friends travelled for miles, united with family and celebrated the birth of Christ,” he said.
“Over the past few weeks, flights have increased and so have the boats and buses.
“All ensured they were with friends and family at the important time of the year to recall, cherish and celebrate memories down the decades.
“While the air was filled with joy, the atmosphere has sentiments of pain.
“At some point in every home loved ones can no longer gather.
“There were vacant chairs, empty arms and aching hearts.
“For some the grief was fresh, for others the pain was of a loss suffered long ago.
“Some grieved the absence of parents or loved ones, others of events that have left deep scars.”
Fr Pereira said all these as he reflected this Christmas on the refugees in PNG.
“In December 2017, I met the first two refuges who had been whisked away from Manus Island and sent to the correctional facility at Bomana,” he said. “The past year has been a constant interaction with refuges from Sri Lanka, Iran, Iraq, Syria and a number of other countries.
“Thankfully, some are now resettled but the majority are still here in PNG.
“The panel discussion, entitled Manus refugees, brought together Government, churches, students, refuges and Papua New Guineans
in an open discussion at the Catholic Bishops Conference, Port Moresby.”
Bernard Unabali, Bishop of Bougainville, gave a powerful intervention and suggested the Christmas deadline.
“The refuges have spent their sixth Christmas in Papua New Guinea,” Pereira said.
“I look forward with hope.
“However, the promised meetings with the prime minister and the Australian high commissioner never materialised.
“They have been kept busy with the proceedings of Apec and the distribution of the assets.
“The offices are closed and they have now gone home for their holidays, while over 400 refuges struggle to gain access to health and services that are due.
“Pope Francis is reminding us to reach out to the refugees.
“Their stories speak of no land, no identity, no home, no family.”

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