Bishop's Heart and Mind - Colour of Culture

The Agricultural Region of our state of Western Australia has been blessed with regular rains this year. Crops are growing well to the delight of the hard working and patient farmers.

In our Midwest Region a good season like this brings out from the earth a kaleidoscope of wild flowers. Add to this the many bushes and shrubs, and the country is ablaze with rich colours.

The people that populate our Great Southern Land - from the Traditional owners to the latest arrivals - bring a much greater richness and colour to our country. 

On Sunday the 20th of August we celebrated the 102nd World Day of Migrants and Refugees. On this Sunday some Parishes encourage people to come in their National dress or costumes. Women generally outdo the men and their colourful dresses rival even the colours of our God created wild flowers.  

The rich array of National dress symbolises something deeper - the richness and diversity of the cultures these countries have brought, and continue to bring, to Australia.

I experienced something of the variety of the people who make up our country on my recent Visitation / Confirmation Round of our Parishes in the Pilbara.

In Newman for example, I Confirmed 11 young people. Yet even in this small number, there were represented, together with those born in Australia, the countries of Zimbabwe, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Philippines and the Congo. These are only part of many more cultures in that Parish.

In South Hedland a farewell concert and meal was graciously organised as a Farewell for me. To the best of my memory there were Aboriginal people, together with Australian born and people from Samoa, India, Philippines, Fiji, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Tanzania and Nigeria. In Port and South Hedland there are some 70 different nationalities.

Some of the people at this function put on a cultural item, but all brought food, which of course displayed a great variety of National dishes. It was truly like a banquet.

We have Migrants in all our Parishes. What I observe, and especially in the Parishes I have just mentioned, is the harmony of our multicultural society. These people live together in the one town, many work together and as Parishioners pray together and happily socialise together.

Such is this openness to each other and respect for one another that people with quite diverse backgrounds form one community.

Obvious too is the contribution these people, together with the many Migrants who preceded them, have made to our country - to its development, culture, family life and values, and from our Churches point of view, Faith.

While the plight of Refugees is not something new, in recent years it has taken on worldwide proportions and therefore attention. Our country and other first world countries can take more to heart the words of Pope Francis for the 102nd World Day of Migrants and Refugees. He said, “Migrants are our brothers and sisters in search of a better life, far away from poverty, hunger, exploitation and the unjust distribution of the planet’s resources, which are meant to be equitably shared by all. From this perspective, it is important to view migrants not only on the basis of their status as regular or irregular, but above all as people whose dignity is to be protected and who are capable of contributing to progress and the general welfare”.

To respond to the plight of these people we and our countries need to not only open up our borders more, but even more our hearts. As Monsignor Hawes inscribed of the lentil of his front door at the Mullewa Presbytery, “Janus patet, cor margis” - The door is open but the heart is more widely open.