An Irish bishop has criticised the way his country’s government treats asylum seekers, saying that the system “is designed and operated in such a way that it prevents people from integrating, and in that way it contributes to the deepening of ignorance, resentment and suspicion”.
Driving the news
Writing in the latest issue of Intercom magazine, an Irish Bishops’ Conference resource for priests, Bishop Kevin Doran of the Diocese of Elphin said that although the Direct Provision system for asylum seekers “may not be motivated by racist ideology”, “in practice” it is a different story.
More than 6,000 people are currently in Direct Provision, in conditions that human rights advocates have described as “inhumane, demoralising and degrading”.
That number is more than the system can handle, which means over 1,000 asylum seekers are now living in emergency accomodation in hotels and B&Bs around the country, to the profit of private contractors.
Bishop Doran denounced that the Irish Government’s hardening on the asylum seeker issue is just one of the “disturbing signs of racial prejudice” in Ireland today, “especially towards those who have arrived as refugees and those who don’t speak our language or share our culture”.
“Racial prejudice can impact negatively on any person or group of people whose ethnic origin, language, religion or culture makes them appear different”, the prelate warned.
Doran recalled that the Irish Bishops condemned at their summer meeting in June “the rising number of incidents of racism, xenophobia, and religious intolerance in Ireland – carried out sometimes by those who consider themselves faithful Christians – and which can occur anonymously or otherwise on social media, in quiet conversations, by open verbal onslaughts or through physical violence”.
“Have we forgotten that many of ‘our’ essential services are provided by people who have come to Ireland from Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East?”, the bishop asked.
“Have we lost sight of the fact that many of our own people have been and still are ‘strangers and sojourners’ in foreign lands?”
Why it matters
Doran encouraged Irish people to fight the “pragmatic racism” that often begins “with the vague suspicion that those who are different pose some kind of threat to our well-being”.
“Those suspicions then harden and become the fertile ground for the more ideological racism that can so easily take root in a society”, the bishop warned.
Doran also called on Irish people to shrug the “ideological racism” that “has its roots in the refusal to accept the uniqueness and individuality of the other as a person”.
“As Jesus himself points out, it is in the heart that attitudes are formed, and it is out of these attitudes of the heart that actions flow”, the bishop recalled.
“Ultimately, racism will not be eradicated without changing peoples’ hearts and forming new attitudes”, he insisted.
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Doran suggested a series of “practical ways” to root out racism from Irish society, ranging from “ensuring that cultural diversity is allowed to enrich the life and liturgy of the Church” to extending “the hand of friendship to people from other countries and religious traditions who move into our local communities”.
But he also suggested the Church pressure the Government to develop “a humane and racially equitable policy in relation to immigration and asylum”.
Doran also encouraged people to “work actively against any vision of Europe which seeks to exclude the participation of less well off nations, or which involves the exploitation of third world countries”.
“We might not like to admit it, but the present increase in support for extreme nationalism, with its focus on building walls and fences, is a symptom of ideological racism which, like a virus, is always with us in some form”, the bishop warned.