Loving young people seeking asylum

Some Australian public high schools have students who are asylum seekers living in community detention. Having arrived as unaccompanied minors, they are under the supervision and care of a Non Government Organisation (NGO), which coordinates housing and support for them.

Many of these teenagers have come from large extended families. Some no longer have families alive. Others still have families in their country of origin, but have very limited prospect of reunification. Whatever their story, they are young, alone and here for a painful reason.

In NSW, it is the final fortnight of the school term (for State schools). I have a suggestion. Some of us might phone our local high schools this week, to ask if there are any young people attending their schools who are in this situation. From there, the school might pass your contact details on to the NGO social workers who are supporting those particular young people. Then you might be able to talk to a social worker to ask your questions and ask if there is anything useful you can do. Through the social worker, you might invite some young people over for a meal (ask some questions about their diet first). Eat, kick a soccer ball around, build Lego. These young people might just really want to spend time with an ordinary Australian family. Your family, perhaps. It can be good for them and good for us, in all sorts of ways.

Maybe you can offer to spend some time reading their English texts aloud with them, before the new school year starts. They can find out their texts for next year, if they don’t know already. Imagine, sitting around the lounge room, with a pot of tea, sharing a story across a few evenings over the Summer.

What is useful and possible will vary for each individual and even from one NGO to another, but it is worth asking the questions.

Our church gathers on Sundays in a local high school hall. This really good relationship has ushered us into opportunities to know some of these young people (from that high school) who are in community detention. In the middle of the political mess of asylum seekers, there are thousands of little opportunities to love real individuals.

Christians, we were once foreign (and even enemies) to God. Through Jesus’ death and life, we are people who have been welcomed by a God who was free to reject us. We are people who have had God’s kindness lavished on us through Jesus, the Great Reconciler. We get to share (family, houses, food, time, kindness, language, stories, friendship) because God has shared all this with us.