To kick-start the program and encourage other communities to get involved, Victoria’s Crossway Baptist Church. A church of 6000 members, with Mission Australia and other national charities, are offering to provide community accommodation to 13 unaccompanied minors at no cost to the taxpayer. In addition, volunteers across Australia will be trained and mobilised to ‘open their hearts and homes’ to asylum seekers through connecting with new and existing service providers.
Dale Stephenson, the Senior Pastor of Crossway, said, “Our church community is proud to be involved with the Welcome to My Place initiative. It is disappointing that the Federal government is looking at changing legislation despite the success of the recent High Court injunction. I am saddened at the nature of the government action against these vulnerable children. Our alternative is a more compassionate community response. It is better for the wellbeing of the asylum seekers and lifts the financial burden from the Australian tax payers.”
Eight Christian communities from five denominations across three States have already signed up to become Welcome to My Place communities and mobilise their communities towards cultivating a culture of welcome for asylum seekers. And it’s not just the traditional ‘social justice’ denominations taking a stand.
Pastor David Hall of Lifepoint Church, a Pentecostal congregation in Adelaide, said ‘It’s very clear to me that the Bible teaches us to welcome the foreigner and treat all people with equal dignity and respect. Jesus made it very plain when He said ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me in’ that a welcoming spirit would be one way of recognising those who claim to follow Him.’
Brad Chilcott, Director of Welcome to Australia, explains, ‘Welcome to My Place is about demonstrating that not only are Australians not afraid of asylum seekers, we’re so committed to seeing them as real people - with real hopes, dreams, families and stories – that we’d invite them into our lives, into our homes, invite them to be our friends.’
Community groups across Australia are invited to register as Welcome to My Place communities, visit www.welcometoaustralia.org.au for more information