BRISBANE Archbishop Mark Coleridge has used a pastoral visit to Darra to welcome newly-arrived Iraqi refugee families.
Two families driven from their war-torn homeland have spent the past two years in refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon, and have been reunited with relatives already living in Brisbane.
“Last week we had two couples arrive with their children at our school, and it completes an incredible story,” Darra’s Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Primary School principal John O’Connor said.
“We’ve had relatives of one of these families at this school for several years.
“Approximately two years ago we got word that we needed to pray for this family. They were leaving their home in northern Iraq and were fleeing from ISIS fearing for their lives.
“We were praying for them to be safe, and once they were safe we prayed for how their future would unfold.
“On the first day of this term they just arrived at our school. It really put a human face to the effects of war we constantly see on our TV screens.”
Mr O’Connor, teachers and school staff, and Iraqi relatives were on hand as Archbishop Coleridge, accompanied by parish priest Fr Dan Carroll, officially greeted the new arrivals to Brisbane.
“Let’s ask God to bless us, bless this school and the new arrivals,” Archbishop Coleridge said as a grace for a lunch time welcome.
“Australia is a country of immigrants and you are very, very welcome.”
Osama Gaggi, a relative of one of the newly arrived families, said the refugees came from the Nineveh plains, once a Christian stronghold in northern Iraq.
“We came because ISIS occupied our town,” he said. “Our homes, everything we owned has gone.
“We fled to places like Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey and then applied as refugees through the United Nations, and we are very happy because Australia accepted us.
“Now our relatives have just arrived and our family is together again.”
Mr O’Connor said he was proud of the diversity at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart school.
“It’s a big melting pot,” he said.
“One of the things we always say is every face has a place at OLSH.
“It’s diverse in socio-economic factors, from a wide geographical area and we are also diverse in cultures that come together.”
About 80 Iraqi families have recently arrived in Brisbane. As well as the usual annual intake of refugees, the Federal Government last year decided to welcome 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees as a one-off humanitarian intake.
– Mark Bowling