National Magazine of the Lutheran Church of Australia

Serving the least of these

October 2013

by Rosie Schefe

Having a choice is something that Australians take for granted, but for many people choice is limited—or even absent.

‘We are so beyond blessed in this country. In Egypt, getting involved in politics can get you killed. In Australia we can have a “bloody political coup” without any blood!’ Tom Brennen said.

Tom spoke to The Lutheran on 4 July, the day that the Egyptian Army removed elected President Mohammed Morsi and installed interim President Adli Mansour, suspending the country’s constitution
for 30 days.

Tom and Robyn Brennen returned to Australia from Egypt in mid-June, after 18 months living in a Cairo neighbourhood and working to support refugees who find themselves in Cairo fleeing various situations.

I always wanted to do aid work out of an understanding that the command to love your neighbour includes everyone in the world.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has a processing station in Cairo which acts as a gateway to the rest of the world for refugees from African nations.

In 1951 the Egyptian government signed the Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol and allowed the UNHCR to process refugees on its territory. But they have still not put any Egyptian domestic asylum procedures in place, effectively assuming no responsibility for refugees transiting through their country.

Estimates of refugee numbers in Egypt vary between 500,000 and 3 million people. People who have no access to healthcare, education, or employment. Many of them are from South Sudan, but they also come from other parts of Africa and the Middle East, including Libya and Syria.