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Refugee on the road to Jericho (a parable)


Good Samaritan stained glass windowIn the time of the uprising a certain man fled from the Romans who were seeking to kill him and his family. For his brother had taken up arms against them. He went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

And by chance there came down priests, scholars and rulers who came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.

But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the inn keeper, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

But the innkeeper thought unto himself, 'Too many fugitives have died along this road. They greatly anger the people and must be prevented.'

It so passed that in that hour a caravan halted at the inn. The innkeeper gave the fugitive into the  charge the merchants, paid them 30 pieces of silver, and bade them, 'Take ye this man to a desert fort and bid the guards confine him there, never to see his wife and his children. They are to set him free only when the sun sets on the day when peace doth rule from coast to coast and the lion lies down with the lamb.'

And that night the innkeeper stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank thee, that I am not as this fugitive is, unclean, in rags, and like to die, nor even as that Samaritan is, a feigner of compassion, hypocrite and angel of death. I pay my taxes, I meditate right thoughts, and this day have I pleased the people and saved from death a multitude of fugitives.'

And that same night the fugitive turned his face to the dungeon wall and prayed to die. 

After three days the Samaritan returned to the inn. And the inkeeper told him all that he had done.  And the Samaritan left the inn and wept bitterly.

Andrew HamiltonAndrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street


Topic tags: Andrew Hamilton, asylum seekers, refugees, Good Samaritan



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Existing comments

Thanks again Andy, for a succinct and poignant piece. All parables are there to be broadened and dug deeper. You have mined for us today's currency, so as to reveal again the gem we hold in our hand.

Vic O'Callaghan | 17 August 2012  

But the innkeeper thought unto himself, 'Too many fugitives have perished in the sea while escaping the tyranny they are in .' While helping them, the value of life should get precedence over any other surge-coated "compassion" arguments. So, I will start walking towards the Samaritan and help the Samaritan to set up humane shelters in the transit places. I will offer the Samaritan to take as many brothers and sisters who are in distress in those shelters and will bring them to the inn by plane. I will gently but firmly inform my brothers and sisters in distress in those shelters not to take the risky route, because that may put their lives in danger. (PS: "..since 2000, an estimated 946 people have died (or been presumed deceased) while attempting to reach Australia by boat, 604 of them since October 2009" states the Report by the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers (page 69))

Fr Jaison Mulerikkal CMI | 17 August 2012  

We have a lot on our consciences as Australians at this time in history My love and take care and hope you are feeling fighting fit Frank.l

Frank and Maria Duncan | 17 August 2012  

A very moving piece indeed...

Val | 17 August 2012  

Our local paper is delivered to our door on Wednesdays and I was startled to see this ad in the 'Personal' column: Boat person seeks caring, compassionate country with view to permanent relationship. I've been through a torrid time but am sincere in my commitment. Only genuine replies please. ps. my favourite colour is green.

Pam | 17 August 2012  

There's a frightening truth about Andy's compelling parable,where we commit those in need to a slow death of body and spirit.Somehow respondent Fr. Jaison has naively confused life on Nauru with 'humane shelters'. Thank you Andy.

Peter & Carmel | 17 August 2012  

Just clarifying - the parable never told that "humane shelters" are Nauru. But if the parable challenges Australia to look beyond the convenient "compassion" arguments without the real determination to make changes, it has served its purpose. And it will continue to challenges us to show "radical compassion" above any sugar-coated arguments that may satisfy our need to feel good.

Fr Jaison Paul Mulerikkal | 17 August 2012  

A poignant passage to read and reflect on, Andy. How does this story inform my thoughts and actions each day? How best can I walk with another in difficult times? Knowing a man who was picked up by the Tampa and his horror time then on Nauru, I cannot support this new solution that could leave people to 'rot ' on this island. And these people could possible be his family or from his village. Australia must take full responsibility for those who come to our shores and process people onshore.

Jo dallimore | 17 August 2012  

A timely teaching from Christ himself on the human and Christian obligation to asylum seekers. Would it be asking too much of ES to publish other moving parables that will teach us what Christ expects of us in dealing with other terrible abuses of humanity by such practices as abortion and euthanasia? I presume these, like the refugee Samaritan, were around in Christ's time with the same import
as they have today

john frawley | 17 August 2012  

Well, I agree with Jo. Refugees who arrive on our shores, by any means, should be processed here. In my opinion there is very little compassion in off-shore processing of humans by this vast first world country. Government has to do something, yes. But this legislation is not enough. There are much more humane means of dealing with
this issue, which is worldwide! Too many Australians watch commercial television, which does not put objective, accurate, global-view stances on the issue. This is not the only country with boat people arrivals! There are thousands more weekly in Western Europe and the United Kijgdom! Too many Australians are still racist,
I reckon. I'm with the Samaritan in Andrew's parable. I feel like him.

Louw | 17 August 2012  

Father Jaison, travel the world a bit and see for yourself what is happening to people - it is only when you have visited people living in wartorn places that you will understand why they flee at any cost and any risk.
I am sick and tired of "Christians" presenting this deterrence argument on behalf of our morally-corrupted politicians.
Jesus did NOT put conditions on helping people in need.

AURELIUS | 17 August 2012  

"process people"......like battery hens.

john dallimore | 17 August 2012  

Thank you, Andy. But like the whole situation, this parable has made me cry.

Avril | 17 August 2012  

The process is juat a couple of interviews and filing of an application form for a protection visa. 18 hours work.

Marilyn | 17 August 2012  

Thanks for the parable, Andy. May it open eyes and hearts.

The Reverend Patricia Bouma | 17 August 2012  

Two midrash. (1) That fox Howard has set man against man and woman against woman, so that none does what is right, but all do the bidding of the powers of this world. (2) Now True Blue, when he saw the three strangers coming out of the horizon was sore afraid. And the closer they came on their boat Mamre, the more he feared. And he said to his servant, tell those people to piss off over to the washpots of the Archipelago. Now the Lord saw all that True Blue did, his lack of hospitality and face like flint, and He bided His time, considering how long True Blue would continue thus, and how it would fare in True Blue’s own land, where so few showed compassion for the stranger, even to two or three.

RABBI BLUEGUM | 18 August 2012  

Please forward this parable to Tony Abbott, the country's most devout Catholic politician. If deeds have failed him as a Christian, perhaps words might move his heavy heart?

Alex jNjoo | 18 August 2012  

This parable is a story that appeals to those with hearts without heads. The inescapable tragedy is that there are far more people in the world with legitimate claims to asylum than any country can take. We need to ask some difficult questions. How many asylum seekers can Australia reasonably take? How do we sort out those who are most deserving of protection? How do we sort out those who are not legitimate asylum seekers at all? How can we help those who cannot afford to get on a boat and arrive in Australia, but are stuck in a refugee camp in a place such as Africa? Why should someone who arrives here by boat be treated differently to someone who has applied offshore? Is accepting asylum seekers who arrive by boat only aiding traffickers in human misery?

For my money, we are not the bad guys, we the inn-keepers. To my mind the bad guys are the Romans, those who drive people from their homelands, and also the people smugglers, those who thrive trade on people's desperation. It was interesting that Fr Hamilton had no equivalents for these guys in his parable.

MJ | 18 August 2012  

@Alex Njoo. Shouldn't this parable also be CC'd to Julia Gillard. Why do you spare her from your righteous anger?

John Ryan | 18 August 2012  

Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude of refugees were coming to him,
Jesus asked MJ a very difficult question. - "How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?" This he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. MJ answered him, "Even if we are not the bad guys, we are the inn keepers.Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little. One of his disciples, Andrew, said to him, "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?" Jesus said, "Whoever will come to me I shall not cast out. Make the people sit down." So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost." So they gathered them up and filled
twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten - ready for the next multitude of refugees to also eat and have their fill.Jesus than looked at MJ and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."-

Jesus | 19 August 2012  

Thanks Andy. Though it seems from all the comments that the same parable can be turned to any purpose - good or ill. Just tweek the characters, their priorities and their values a little and 'bingo' you can pitch the story towards Heaven or Hell! Fact is this legislative amendment to our so-called Border Protection Act was never needed. What was needed was the balls to use executive powers to do the right thing for desperate fugitives. Government already has all the authority it needs to treat asylum seekers with justice (read head) and humanity (read heart). It could use our navy to transport asylum seekers here for on-shore 'processing' and detain the smugglers' crews for arrest and legal processing by Indonesian authorities. The opportunity for yet another joint military operation would be welcomed by both countries, while Australia might hold it's head up once more as a responsible signatory to the UN charter on refugees.

Dr Frank Donovan | 19 August 2012  

Correction to my last: As Frank Brennan informs us with his legendary accuracy it was the Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing and Other Measures) Bill that was to establish off shore processing: a Bill to amend the immigration legislation, not the border protection legislation as I stated. My apologies to all, though my argument remains.

Dr Frank Donovan | 19 August 2012  

Good to see JESUS is still making comments and that he's caught onto the online thing - I have a few questions to ask him to clarify how he thinks we're doing following his teachings 2000 years down the track.
Jesus, do you think those left-wing nuns preaching the "social gospel" are is it the on the right path, or do you prefer the Opus Dei crowd going to daily benediction?

AURELIUS | 21 August 2012  

Responses to the above complex parable have been interesting, and complex. In case readers out there think that I see the Samaritan in Andrew's parable as a "people smuggler", I don't. I see the Samaritan as those Australians who would prefer that asylum seekers were "processed" here on our shores.

Louw | 21 August 2012  

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the
wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. “The owner’s servant, Aurelius, came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?'"An enemy did this,' he replied. “The servant asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?'"No,' he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest". He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for he himself knew what was in man.

Jesus | 21 August 2012  

Sorry Ryan, the PM is an atheist and doesn't pretend to believe in Divine Interventions. Indeed, her beliefs (in whatever) should also be challenged. I'm happy to forward the parable to her as well. I agree that on the asylum seekers issue, she's just as palpable as the rest of the country. However, Abbott's wears his Catholicism on his sleeves, his faith (like all other faiths) deserves to be challenged. In humanitarian terms, we all could be better.

Alex Njoo | 22 August 2012  

ALEX NJOO, this parable by Jesus is just as suitable for atheists like Julia Gillard, because it's about "human intervention" not "divine intervention" at all. The only reference to the divine was those thanking God they were not wretched refugees.

AURELIUS | 24 August 2012  

what can I say a parable for out times but who is listening, and more importantantly acting

irena mangone | 30 August 2012  

Mind you though, the innkeeper hadn't signed up to an international agreement to appear caring then subsequently choosing to ignore the terms of that agreement

Tony KNIGHT | 05 September 2012  

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