Three Iranian parishioners at St John’s, Adelaide are hoping to call Australia home.
They are part of a welcoming church community that, in turn, is learning what it means to be a refugee.
“For many of our parishioners it’s their first up close and personal encounter with such a different culture,” one parishioner says.
“We are fortunate to have these young men among us, helping dispel negative views about refugees and boat people.”
Theirs is a story told millions of times over – a perilous journey by boat to find sanctuary in another land.
After paying a contact to arrange a flight out of Dubai, they arrived in Jakarta before being taken by van to an unknown destination where they waited to board a ship.
Out of the van they were set upon by locals, “like vultures”, who stole their watches, coats and jackets.
“We were all frightened, but we had paid a lot of money and had been reassured in Iran that we would be aboard a ship on which we could use our laptops and catch fish from the back,” one man says.
They were loaded on to a fishing boat crammed in with more than 60 others and, for 52 hours, they sat in the freezing cold so perilously close to the water that they could reach down to touch it.
The boat was intercepted in Australian waters and they were taken to Christmas Island and then to Curtin in the Kimberley, before being released on temporary bridging visas.
Like the 30,000 refugees on bridging visas, they were initially not allowed to work, despite one possessing a university degree and all three having long-term employment in Iran.
They have been in Australia for two years, and now two of the men are able to work and the other is hopeful that he will soon gain work rights
All three attend St John’s regularly, and two of the men were baptised shortly after their first service and the other is planning his this year.
Several parishioners have invited the men into their homes, taken them out and given English lessons, and St John’s has become a family for them.
“Australia is a safe country where everybody prays for everyone else, which is very different to what we have been used to,” one says.
“It’s very emotional and peaceful for us to sit in this beautiful church and follow a faith of our own choosing.
“It’s a matter of holding on to hope that things will work out.”