Palm Sunday Walk for Justice for Refugees

Palm Sunday Walk for Justice for Refugees Photo by Razia Osmani

Razia Osmani, Reporter

The Sunday before the Easter Long weekend is known to Christians as Palm Sunday. In many Christian churches, it is observed to mark Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem. The celebrations revolve around palm branches.

According to some religious and historical scholars Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were refugees for some period of time and entered Jerusalem not long before Jesus was crucified.

Because of this, Palm Sunday Walk for Justice for Refugees (PSWJR) has a very significant historical and religious meaning to many people around the world. Although primarily celebrated by Christians, Palm Sunday holds meaning in various beliefs. For example, Jesus is also an important person to those of the Muslim faith, as he is considered a prophet in Islam.

Greens Member of Legislative Council Alison Xamon told NewsVineWA, “I have been coming to Palm Sunday forever, this is because I am a Christian, I come with my church, the Uniting Church. I am also a Greens Member of Parliament, you will see that there was a good Greens contingency here, so I would be here no matter what because obviously, Palm Sunday is a holy day for me.”

She further added, “But one of the reasons the Greens were particularly here this year and they have been in the last few years, is because there is a particular focus on refugees and the Greens have really strong policies around refugees that are in line with all the people that are here today. I was part of cofounding the Parliamentary Friends of Refugees in the State Parliament and have been working on it with Janine Freeman, MLA.”

Regardless of whether those participating in the PSWJR believe in any religion, the meaning behind it is relatable to many refugees and asylum seekers, as well as those who stand in solidarity with them, because of how refugees are still portrayed and treated.

In an interview with NewsVineWA, Tim O’Connor, the Impact Manager at Amnesty International Australia said, “The Palm Sunday Walk is a great opportunity for people across the community to come together and show support for refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia and across the world.”

For others who participate in PSWJR, it may not have any religious or historical significance, but they see it as an opportunity to stand in solidarity with their fellow human beings who are refugees and are not able to stand up for themselves.

They stand with those who are in detention centres, or refugee camps and need desperate international help and support.

Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John told NewsVineWA, “I am here today to join in solidarity with the community and say enough is enough, it is time to end mandatory detention, it is time to close the camps, bring the people home.”

O’Connor said, “We know the economic, social and cultural benefits refugees bring to our society and have a moral obligation to welcome more refugees. Inclusive leadership is especially important at a time when immigrants and refugees are too often being used as political pawns to stir hatred and division in our society.”

Australia is one of the most multicultural countries in the world, in recent times, there have been some strong changes in the approach towards those seeking asylum and refuge in Australia.

O’Connor further added, “Australia is a multicultural success story. It’s time to celebrate the positive impact diversity brings and to send a message to refugees that they are welcome here. And especially now, as we approach an election, it’s time for Australia’s leaders to denounce racial and ethnic hatred in all its forms.”

A refugee is defined by The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) as “someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.”

According to the World Economic Forum, due to violence, conflict and persecution, 68.5 million people were forced from their homes by the end of 2017.

Geoffrey Bice from Uniting Church Western Australia told NewsVineWA: “Over 40 community organisations, human rights agencies and faith groups will join thousands of individuals this Sunday to say no to the cruelty, limbo, and uncertainty of temporary protection, offshore processing, the separation of families and indefinite detention, instead calling for justice, for safety and for freedom.”

On Sunday 14 April, people from across Perth gathered to display a progressive and unified movement of people and organisations who call for fairness and decency for refugees and for those seeking asylum.

The Palm Sunday walk for refugees was also held in many places across Australia, the event takes place every year and it attracts thousands of people.

Pius Joseph, the Chief Operating Officer at the Multicultural Services Centre told NewsVineWA, “Our sponsorship/participation in this event is to express our solidarity with agencies and individuals who are doing the best they can under very trying circumstances to ensure that people who have sought asylum under UN Conventions are treated humanely and their needs are met appropriately and in a timely manner.”

The event in Perth was hosted by Justice and Mission Uniting Church Western Australia (UCWA) and endorsed by a countless number of organisations some of which include; Amnesty Australia, City of Fremantle, Curtin Centre for Human Rights, Multicultural Services Centre WA, WA Young Labor, The Greens WA, Unions WA, Uniting Church in Australia Synod of Western Australia, WA Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office, Western Australian Council of Social Service (WACOSS).

Kate Leaney, The Social Justice officer at UCWA told NewsVineWA, “In the lead-up to a Federal Election, where the issue of Australia’s response to people seeking our protection will once again be a key issue, the Walk for Justice for Refugees on Palm Sunday presents a prime opportunity to demonstrate to our leaders that a broad, united community calls for a compassionate and humane response to people seeking safety.”