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Launch of Give Me Shelter: Dr Sev Ozdowski (2001)

Rights and Freedoms

Launch of Give Me Shelter

Speech by Human Rights Commissioner
Dr Sev Ozdowski at the launch of Give Me Shelter for the South
Australian Council of Churches, Adelaide, South Australia, 28 October

Recently, Human Rights
Commissioner Dr Sev Ozdowski visited Adelaide where, amongst other things,
he launched the booklet
Give Me Shelter which is an interdenominational
production of the South Australian Council of Churches. The booklet uses
St. Matthew's Gospel to illustrate human rights issues and will assist study
groups in gaining greater understanding and compassion for refugees.

  • Recent reports
    that the skeletal remains in the Basilica of Santa Giustina in Padua
    Italy are 99% confirmed by the scientific world to be those of St Luke's
    - gives today's launch an extraordinary feel.

  • While the faithful
    may never have doubted the veracity of the gospels - in today's materialistic
    and scientific world - a little independent proof goes a long way!

  • The Gospel According
    to St Matthew is probably the most humanistic of the four. Certainly
    it is infused with love and tenderness and, as the introduction to Give
    Me Shelter
    points out, "of all the Gospels, Matthew is the
    one closest to the refugee experience".

  • At a time when
    "compassion for refugees" is in relatively short supply, this
    booklet - which relates actual refugee experiences to St Matthew's account
    of the life of Jesus - could not be better timed.

  • Encouraging attendees
    at biblical study groups to reflect on these stories - thereby fostering
    a deeper consideration of the issues involved - can only be a force
    for change.

  • As Human Rights
    Commissioner I am only too well aware that education is absolutely essential
    to a greater understanding of human rights issues.

  • One of the key
    criteria by which I will benchmark my tenure as Human Rights Commissioner
    will be the extent of improved education and understanding of this subject.

  • I am also most
    impressed with the direct and accessible language used to illustrate
    the key points in Give Me Shelter.

  • Because much
    of the international human rights language is rooted in legalistic treaties
    and conventions, it is easy for practitioners to become subsumed in
    points of law and specialist acronyms that are unintelligible to the
    average Australian.

  • If we are to
    encourage average men and women of Australia to become informed about
    human rights issues in this country it must be couched in direct, everyday
    language that is accessible to all.

  • On that score
    this booklet is an outstanding success; one which I will keep in mind
    when composing my own writings.

  • In closing can
    I refer briefly to Matthew 25:31-46 (page 24) which I consider to be
    one of those scriptural moments which should be a constant reproach
    to people of our ilk -

    Lord when
    was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food or thirsty and gave
    you to drink; a stranger and we welcomed you, naked and clothed
    you, sick or in prison and we visited you?

  • And the son of
    man will answer:

    Truly I
    tell you, when you did these things to the very least of my family
    members - you did it to me.

  • On that poignant
    note - it is my great pleasure to launch
    Give Me Shelter.

updated 1 December 2001