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The difference a decade makes


The similarities and yet vastly different life-changing outcomes for the people in the two stories appearing on the front page of the February edition of The Southern Cross should not be lost on anyone.

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On the one hand we have a 31-year-old man facing deportation to his home country of Afghanistan because, as the Department of Home Affairs puts it in the much-to-be-expected government jargon, he has been found “not to engage in Australia’s protection obligations”.

Mahdi arrived in Australia in 2012 by boat and his ensuing attempts to gain a visa have failed. He now believes he will be killed by the Taliban if he is forced to return, which is not unreasonable given his circumstances. Not only is Mahdi of Hazara origin but he is a Christian after converting to Catholicism last year… two black marks against his name in a country dominated by Islamic fundamentalism.

A recent list released by Open Doors names Afghanistan as the number two country – behind only North Korea – where Christians are most persecuted, so he has good reason to worry. And even if he managed to stay alive on his return, where would he worship? Catholics do not have the opportunity to practise their religion as the only legally recognised church is in the Italian embassy and it is not open to local nationals.

And so he awaits his fate in a detention facility in Kilburn.

Then we have the uplifting story of two young men – also Hazaras – but who find themselves in totally different circumstances.

Like Mahdi, their fathers also fled the Taliban to find a better life, but it was a decade earlier when government policy was much different.

Since their families joined them in Australia, their sons have done them proud.

Meeting in Year 8 at St Paul’s College, the teenagers instantly bonded through their similar backgrounds and became good friends. They urged each other on throughout their secondary schooling and in a fairytale ending, were named the Dux and Proxime Accessit.

They are now looking forward to a bright future, studying at university and making a contribution to a country that has welcomed them – and which they are proud to call home.

It beggars belief that in a decade there could be such a change of heart towards our refugees.



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