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Published: The Australian

What is the Catholic Church in Australia doing to help to secure the spiritual, emotional and physical health of 25 Catholic Tamil asylum seekers on board a vessel in the port of Merak in Indonesia?

They are part of a group of 246 people on board a vessel designed to carry 50. They have been stuck on the vessel for 3 months and are the group who prompted Kevin Rudd’s ill-fated demarche to the Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Rudd’s proposal to Yudhyono was designed to shift the onus of responsibility for asylum seekers, transiting through Indonesia for Australia, from Australia to Indonesia. At the time the media labelled it the Indonesia solution. The major thrust of the proposal was to get Indonesia to solve an Australian domestic political problem – the processing of asylum seekers arriving by boat.

The asylum seekers rotting in Merak are victims of Rudd’s failed diplomacy. His response has been to turn his back on them and now pretend they do not exist.

But he is not alone in this. So has champion of the Catholic faith, Tony Abbott and Cardinal George Pell, who would have us believe his Christmas message.

It should not be necessary to single out one group on that boat for attention. But if by doing so it hastens the amelioration of the collective plight of all on board then so be it.

The Catholics on board are desperate for pastoral care and on Christmas Eve one of their number and father of three, Charles Jacob, died for want of medical care.

Senior religious and political figures who claim strong religious commitment and passion for their faith have demonstrated nothing but rank hypocrisy.