Responding to Refugees in Australia: What is the Christian Response?


  • Tim Costello World Vision Australia
  • Nils von Kalm Anglican Overseas Aid



refugees, immigration, Australia, churches


What role should Christians play in dealing with the march of displaced people across the globe? What moral and spiritual obligations do we owe the distant stranger — the refugee? We can learn from the experience of the Hebrew refugees leaving Egypt and the inclusive nature of the early Christian Church. In the Australian context, this article explores the historical and current attitudes towards asylum seekers and calls for a faith-led movement to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who are demonised and dehumanised.

Author Biographies

Tim Costello, World Vision Australia

Rev Tim Costello - Chief Advocate for World Vision AUSTRALIA. LLB - Dr of Sacred Theology Australian Catholic University

Nils von Kalm, Anglican Overseas Aid

Grad. Dip. Theol; BLitt (Hons) – Sociology; Cert IV TAE; BBus (Accounting) - Church and Community Engagement, Anglican Overseas Aid


United Nations High Commission for Refugees. Convention and protocol relating to the status of refugees. December 2010. Available from:

Stark R. The Rise of Christianity. San Francisco, CA: Harper; 1997. pp. 74-75.

Ferngren GF. A new era in Roman healthcare: How the early church transformed the roman empire’s treatment of its sick. Healthcare and hospitals in the mission of the Church. Christian History 101. 2011. pp. 6-12. Available from:

Anning F. First speech. Australian Senate. Parliament of Australia. 14 Aug 2018. Available from:

National Archives of Australia. Immigration Restriction Act 1901 (commonly known as the White Australia Policy). Available from:

Australian Bureau of Statistics. Census of population and housing: Australia revealed, 2016. 27 June 2017. Available from:

Durkin P, Bailey M. More than a third of ASX100 CEOs are foreign. Financial Review. 23 April 2017. Available from:

Menzies R. Broadcast by the prime minister (Mr. Menzies) for the opening of the world refugee year in Australia. 27 Sept 1959. Available from:

Howard J. Australian Federal Election Speeches. 28 Oct 2001. Available from:

Australian Human Rights Commission. Pathways to Protection: A human rights-based response to the flight of asylum seekers by sea. Report 2016. Available from:

McCarthy-Naidoo K. Closing the offshore detention centres. 22 June 2017. Amnesty International. Available from:

Doherty B. Scathing UN migration report mars Australia's first week on human rights council. The Guardian. 1 Mar 2018. Available from:

The Coalition’s Operation Sovereign Borders Policy. July 2013; pg. 3. Available from:

Burnside, J. Boat people un-Christian? Wrong, Mr Abbott. ABC. 11 July 2012. Available from:

The Australia Institute. Asylum Seeker Policy – Polling Brief. June 2016. Available from:

The Sydney Morning Herald. Federal election 2016: Immigration Minister Peter Dutton links asylum seekers with terrorism. 1 July 2016. Available from:

Powell R, Pepper M, Bevis S. Refugee intake – Church attenders’ views, NCLS Research Fact Sheet 14017. Adelaide: Mirrabooka Press. 2014. Available from:

Hasham N. Some voters believe asylum seekers get $10,000 and Nike shoes. The Age. 10 March 2016. Available from:

Ipsos Game Changers. Perils of perception – perceptions are not reality: What the world gets wrong. 14 Dec 2016. Available from:

Australia Bureau of Statistics. 2016 Census data reveals “no religion” is rising fast. 27 June 2017. Available from:

Higgins SJ. Boundless plains to share? Australia, Jesus and refugees. A Just Cause. 2014.

King ML. Letter from a Birmingham jail. 16 April 1963. African Studies Center, University of Pennsylvania. Available from:

King ML. Conquering self-centeredness: Sermon delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Montgomery, Alabama, USA. 11 Aug 1957. Available from:




How to Cite

Costello, T., & von Kalm, N. (2018). Responding to Refugees in Australia: What is the Christian Response?. Christian Journal for Global Health, 5(2), 21–28.