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 2001.

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.
Last updated 1 December 2001