Honouring the persecuted

Ashin Moonienda.

Ashin Moonienda.

REFUGEE groups in Bendigo and central Victoria are commemorating World Refugee Week by protesting, praying and celebrating.

Rural Australians for Refugee members attended a concert at the Anglican Parish of Castlemaine last night and some people are going to a Festival of Hope in Apollo Bay over the weekend.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International Bendigo branch members have been conducting a letter box drop condemning offshore processing and the Karen community is holding a service at St Andrew's Uniting Church at 10am this morning.

The service at St Andrew's will be a multi-faith sermon to honour refugees around the world.

Karen refugee leader Moonienda said the day would encourage refugee children to contemplate their cultural backgrounds.

"The children born in refugee camp, they don't know why refugee," he said.

"It's to remember the children who are refugees from Burma and to remember the experience."

The day would encourage children to reflect on their cultural heritage and the persecution from which they had escaped, he said.

It would encourage them to think of relatives and friends living in poverty on the Thai-Burma border.

"Especially we can pray for family," he said. People from all ethnic groups were invited to attend, Mr Moonienda said, but sermons would be delivered in the Karen language.

Amnesty International Bendigo member David Hooke said his group was concerned about community attitudes toward people from different cultures.

"Fear of the unknown is a big problem and only education can overcome it," he said. "We're trying to present people with more accurate information on the real (refugee) situation.

"What we're trying to do is letterbox drop to get the facts out to counter some of the  misinformation coming from other sources."

The pamphlet includes a letter to Prime Minister Tony Abbott stating Australia, Nauru and Papua New Guinea are, "Failing to protect the lives and welfare of the asylum seekers and refugees they have locked in detention centres". 

It invites people to sign a letter calling on the Prime Minister to "end offshore detention and work toward a genuine regional solution".

The Festival of Hope in Apollo Bay will feature prominent refugee activists including lawyer Julian Burnside, immigration lawyer Kerry Murphy and author Mark Isaacs, to name a few.

It will include film screenings, singing performances and art.


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