Michael Spence, reflecting on the racial violence against overseas students that has made world headlines for the past year, has this to say:
"...[W]e need to get serious about the services we provide to overseas students. Each student we welcome into Australia is a person with complex needs and aspirations, unlike the volumes of coal and iron ore that have traditionally dominated our links to Asia. Students should not be perceived as cash cows to be milked at every opportunity. Sure, overseas students make a huge economic contribution but why shouldn't state governments recognise this by, for example, treating them like other students and providing travel concession cards?" - SMH
Dr Spence argues that a way forward is for universities to provide more on site or local accommodation for international students. He also notes that "our education links are often as strong as, if not stronger than, our diplomatic links." I think that I agree with him. However, I want to take it further; because it is not only institutional change that is needed. It's not only our governments and universities that see overseas students as "cash cows", but employers who work international students on 12 hour shifts and pay them a pittance. Our landlords who charge students $200 a week to share a two bedroom apartment with seven other people. What is need ultimately is a change of heart. As agents and victims of sin and evil, what we need is to be set free.
That's why I'm thankful for being involved in the overseas students ministry at church. Because as Australians and Chinese (and one Colombian guy), we can say "yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. (1 Cor. 8.6.)