We thought we had learned from the ethnic and religious purges of the Holocaust and the Balkans.
‘Never again’ was the vain refrain.
But this week hundreds of thousands of Christians have been driven from their homes in northern Iraq under the threat of convert to Islam or die by Islamic state militants.
Chilling images of decapitation, crucifixions and summary mass executions have filled news websites all week.
The images are hard to verify but the reports indicate that the killings include Shiites, former Iraqi army members and Christians.
Churches are being ransacked and destroyed.
In alarming echoes of the Holocaust where Jews were marked with the Star of David, Christian homes have been marked with the Arabic letter ‘N’ to signify that they are followers of the Nazarene, Jesus.
Christians have been in this region for 2000 years and now almost all have fled.
Many of my Facebook friends have changed their profile picture to the Arabic letter ‘N’ as a show of solidarity.
It was also good to see prominent global Muslim leaders condemn the violence.
With world leaders understandably paralysed by the other numbing tragic crises in Gaza and Ukraine, much of what is occurring in northern Iraq is going on under the radar.
However, it was also good to see the Australian government pledge $5 million in aid.
This week, religious liberty analyst Elizabeth Kendal spoke to ACL’s Katherine Spackman about the plight of Iraqi Christians who have been ordered by ISIS militants to leave the city of Mosul or convert to Islam.
Leaders of Australian churches with Middle Eastern roots are understandably very concerned. Many have loved ones in war-torn Syria and Iraq.
They have organised a rally at Melbourne’s Federation Square this Saturday at 1:30pm.
ACL’s Victorian Director Dan Flynn and I will be there. If you can, please join us as a sign of solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering.
His retirement will leave a big hole as he is a rare breed of principled public leader.
It is hard not to like the big man from Queensland.
He can be feisty in a debate but he has a heart of gold.
I know this because I had the privilege of working for him briefly as a staffer for eight months before I joined ACL.
ACL is of course non-party partisan but I hope you will indulge me because honour is due here.
I will have something to say in next week's blog about the good people from Labor who are leaving the Senate when their terms also end on June 30th.
But Ron has been a unique character.
Fiercely loyal to his beloved National party, having been mentored by former Queensland premier the late Sir Joh Bjelke Petersen, Ron is someone who had genuine respect from his political opponents.
This was evidenced by the large number of Labor and even Greens members (his most fearsome sparring partners) who were in the Senate chamber for his valedictory speech on Tuesday.
One of the few parliamentarians unashamed to stand up for the human rights of the unborn, he showed that causes unpopular with the media and political elites could be championed without jettisoning political credibility.
When the Parliamentary Group on Population and Development said in 2008 that Medicare funding of abortion was needed because the birth of disabled babies would be a drain on the disability services budget, Ron went to the defence of the defenceless.
In a speech to the Senate, he said this was reminiscent of the "Hitler regime". It is hard to argue with that.
His Liberal Senate colleague, Alan Eggleston, resigned his membership of the PGP&D in protest to the group’s submission. Senator Eggleston, who also retires next week, was born with a condition that has left him short statured. He too will be missed.
Ron was a tireless champion for marriage and family and of course small business and primary industries.
I dropped by his Senate office an hour before his speech. "There'll be something in it for you guys", he said referring to the Christian constituency.
And in typical style Ron didn't disappoint.
There was hardly a dry eye when he told how much he missed his late son Stephen and then went on to say how he drew strength from God.
"In the Senate, I have always sought guidance and help from my God, and I acknowledge He has always had a guiding hand on my career. In the parliament of Australia, in the assembly of His people, I have always received constant help, and I offer my thanks."
I don't think Ron would mind me saying this, but I'd sometimes walk into his office and find him reading his Good News Bible, a permanent fixture on his desk.
He finished his speech quoting St Paul.
"My time of departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight. I have run the race. I have kept the faith.’ Thank you very much. God bless and goodbye."
ACL is very grateful for parliamentarians like Ron Boswell. We wish him and Leita all God's blessings for their future.
A transcript and Youtube clip of Senator Boswell's speech is available here.
(link not displaying properly? copy this address into your email client to email Ambassador Mohamed Omer - [email protected])
Sudan's appeals court this week began considering the case of Meriam Ibrahim who is sentenced to death for the alleged crime of apostasy, The Independent newspaper has reported.
The appeal petition argues that there were "procedural errors" during Meriam's trial which would thereby warrant her release.
If the appeals court upholds the original conviction, Meriam will receive 100 lashes for adultery after the court refused to recognise her marriage to a Christian man and be subject to death by hanging for apostasy.
Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop last week announced Australia's condemnation of the sentencing and said she'd instructed Australia'a Ambassador to Sudan to raise the case with the Sudanese government.
Over one million people worldwide have called for Meriam's release. Christian and human rights organisations around the world have collected hundreds and thousands of signatures in pursuit of this.
Last month, the 27-year-old gave birth to a baby girl in a prison clinic. She is currently imprisoned with both her daughter and 20-month-old son.
Sudan outlaws apostasy in 1991 yet Amnesty International reports that to-date, no one have been executed for the 'crime'…all have recanted their faith.
Meriam is the first person to refuse to recant.
Please keep Meriam, her husband Daniel and their family in your prayers.
Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act makes it illegal to offend, insult or humiliate someone because of their race.
The Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt ran foul of these laws and was fined, prompting the then Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to promise to repeal them.
No thinking person, and especially Christians, wants racism.
The question is, how do you strike the right balance between free speech and creating a culture of respect for all people?
The human rights lobby believes strong legal protections are needed against racist elements in the Australian community and wants the laws unchanged.
I tend to think the Australian community is far more tolerant than some give them credit for.
The Attorney General George Brandis has argued that free speech is a higher value and is proposing to repeal Section 18C.
However, he proposes to make it against the law to vilify or intimidate people on the basis of race where vilify means to incite hatred against a person or group and intimidate means to cause fear of physical harm.
While still subjective, that seems to be a more appropriate place to strike the balance.
But what of non-race-based claims of vilification?
Some people claim the statements: "Marriage should be between a man and a woman" and "that wherever possible, children deserve their mother and father" to be deeply offensive, humiliating and even 'hateful'.
Some politicians have even said there is "no place in Australia" for these views.
It seems the debate about free speech and freedom of religion in Australia is only just beginning.
“These events which happened in Saddad are considered the greatest massacre of Christians in Syria… We ask if the terrorists are gone permanently, or if there is the possibility of a return for a second massacre… We cried out to the world and no-one heard us. Where is the Christian conscience?” Senior church leader in Syria
[caption id="attachment_29058" align="alignright" width="300"] Islamist militants patrolling Saddad[/caption]
Dozens of people were killed when Islamist rebels besieged the Christian towns of Saddad and Haffar in Syria. As churches, homes and schools were looted and destroyed, 2,500 families fled while 1,500 were held as a human shield.
Militants from the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front stormed Saddad and Haffar on Monday 21 October and occupied the towns for a week. Until then, they had been relatively safe places, and hundreds of internally displaced families had sought refuge there.
A Barnabas Fund partner described the scene as 60 armed vehicles entered Saddad, a town that is mentioned in the Bible (as Zedad; Numbers 34:8; Ezekiel 47:15):
“As the vehicles and armed personnel made their way through the streets, the shouting of “Allah Akbar” [“Allah is great”] and the touting of the Quran made it clear to both permanent and displaced that their time of relative tranquility was quickly coming to an end. As the armed groups began to set up sniper posts and a campaign of shelling, the day moved from bad to worse.”
He said children were crying in fear as the militants took over the towns.
[caption id="attachment_29059" align="alignleft" width="300"] A vandalised church in Saddad[/caption]
Estimates of the number of Christians killed during the siege of Saddad and Haffar range from 45 to 70; others were threatened and injured. Homes, businesses, schools and other public buildings, including the hospital, were looted and destroyed. Church buildings were attacked and graffitied with insults against Christianity.
Our partners helped Christian families to evacuate to neighbouring villages, the central city of Homs and the capital, Damascus. Barnabas sent funds to provide transport, blankets, food parcels and other essentials.
On Monday 28 October, government forces recaptured Saddad and Haffar, enabling people to return. They came home to a scene of devastation; around half of the buildings in Saddad had been destroyed, and there was no power, water or telephone connection.
It is thought that the towns were being used as a launching point for strikes against a nearby army base and arsenal. They are strategically located between Homs and Damascus.
For release: Tuesday 17th September 2013
The Australian Christian Lobby is urging the ACT Government to delay its same-sex marriage bill until consultation with churches occurs.
ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton said church leaders he had spoken to had not been consulted by the Government.
“Redefining marriage and enforcing this new definition of marriage by law has significant consequences for freedom of speech and freedom of belief,” Mr Shelton said.
“Many people, not just Christians, watched with great concern Kevin Rudd’s treatment of Brisbane pastor Matt Prater on ABC1’s Q&A.
“There will always be people in our society who for reasons of conscience will always believe that the truth about marriage is that it is between a man and a woman.
“They will want to be free to speak about this and teach it to their children,” Mr Shelton said.
“This bill needs to be delayed until there can be a proper discussion about how this change to the definition of marriage will affect the civil liberties of those who cannot agree with the redefinition of marriage.”
Mr Shelton noted that local same-sex marriage advocates did not agree with churches being exempt from performing same-sex weddings.
Ivette Madrid of Equal Love Canberra told ABC radio on July 29 that her organisation disagreed with protections for religious freedom.
“The churches will be discriminating on the basis of gender and so I don’t think that should be allowed at all. We have human rights legislation and so they are willing to bypass that,” she said.
In the UK, a wealthy same-sex couple is planning to sue the Church of England for not providing them a church wedding. This was despite UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s guarantee of protection for churches.
“It is naïve to think that any exemption the ACT Government might provide churches will not be challenged in the future,” Mr Shelton said.
“No government should create a vulnerability to religious freedom, one of the most basic human rights.
“A redefinition of marriage in the ACT is likely to end up in the High Court. It would be disappointing if Australia went down the American path of having judges determining important social policy.”
A bill regulating abortions was passed convincingly in the Texas lower house last Wednesday by 96-49 votes, and on Friday passed in the Senate 19 votes to 11. This comes after it failed to pass last month because of a filibuster and angry protests by pro-abortion activists. The passing of the bill now makes Texas one of the safest places for unborn babies and their mothers.
The new laws mean that:
a) Most abortions on unborn children will be banned after 20 weeks of pregnancy, at which point scientific evidence shows babies can feel pain. An exception to this ban is granted when it is to protect the life and medical health of the mother or when the child has a "severe fetal abnormality."
b) Safety standards at Texas abortion clinics will increase to the level of ambulatory surgical centres (ASCs), of which there are 420 in Texas, including six that conduct abortions. This would treat abortion facilities in the same manner as other ambulatory care facilities.
c) Doctors who perform abortions will have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic to treat life-threatening complications after botched abortions.
d) A woman's access to abortion-inducing pills will be limited by requiring the 18,000 RU-486 abortions performed each year in the state be conducted according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) safety standards.
This ensures a physician has greater oversight over their administration, improving safety for the mother. In the US, eight women have died from bacterial infections following an RU-486 chemical abortion administered to an off-label protocol. No women have died from such infections when following the FDA-approved protocol.
Whilst it would have been ideal if the law changes had gone further, the Texas measures at least acknowledge the dangers to women of the R-486 drug and seek to redress this to some extent.
The regulation of abortion clinics as outlined in the new laws is a measure that would effectively make them safer by allowing, for instance, for medical transportation in the event of emergencies. A woman who went to convicted US abortionist Kermit Gosnell for the procedure died after her heart stopped beating on the operating table. Her life may have been saved if the doors of Gosnell's clinic had not been locked and the hallways were wide enough to facilitate the gurney needed to transport her to a hospital by ambulance.
The Texas abortion law reform follows similar changes in the state of Virginia earlier this year which, passed regulations to strictly monitor abortion clinics and ensure abortion providers meet the latest standards set for newly constructed hospitals.
While pro-abortion activists claim that the new laws would force most abortion clinics across the state to shut, those in support of the new legislation argue that the bill is necessary to ensure women’s health is protected and foetuses are kept from feeling pain.
A recent HuffPost/YouGov poll shows 59 per cent of Americans would favour a federal law banning most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and almost half believe abortion to be morally wrong.
WHAT GOOD IS CHRISTIANITY?
Vishal Mangalwadi, international Bible teacher, cultural and political columnist, and author of thirteen books, will be touring Australia in August, and you are invited to attend. The event is hosted by Family Voice Australia in celebration of its 40th anniversary.
Mr Mangalwadi has explored why some nations are more successful than others, and what the Bible says about this. To him, the evidence is overwhelming: the Bible has sown unique seeds in western culture allowing science, technology, human rights and families to thrive. This lead to his best-selling book, The Book That Made Your World.
Mr Mangalwadi was also a guest speaker at ACL's National Conference in 2011, where he shared about the Christian basis of Western civilisation, and spoke about educating kids in a truthless society. Follow this link to listen to his speeches.
Join Family Voice this August to hear his story and inspiring insights as he examines:
- What has shaped Australia into the nation it is today?
- Has Christianity done any good in our culture?
- 8 August, 7pm: Public forum, Mueller Performing Arts Centre, Rothwell, QLD
- 9 August, 10am: Christian leaders seminar, Beenleigh Baptist Church, Beenleigh, QLD
- 12 August, 7pm: Public forum, Scots Church, Wynyard, Sydney, NSW
- 13 August, 10am: Seminar, St Anne's Anglican Centre, Ryde, NSW
- 15 August, 7am: Breakfast meeting, National Press Club, ACT
- 16 August, 7:30pm: Public forum, Melbourne School of Theology, VIC
- 17 August, 10am: Christian leaders seminar, 1330 Auditorium, 1330 Ferntree Gully Rd, VIC
- 20 August, 7pm: Public forum, Hobart City Church of Christ, Hobart, TAS
- 21 August, 7pm: Dinner, Fogolar Furlan, Felixtow, SA
- 22 August, 10am: Seminar, Edwardstown Baptist Church, St Mary's, SA
- 24 August, 7pm: Dinner, Perth Town Hall, Perth, WA
Please visit this link for more information.
Australian Technology Park, Redfern, Sydney
May 18, 2013
We, the delegates of the World Congress of Families VII, assembled in Sydney Australia, this 18 May 2013 affirm that the sustained prosperity and happiness of nations rests on the foundation of strong natural families.
The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed by every nation on earth, states that “men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family … The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.” (Article 16.1, 16.3)
In agreement with earlier World Congresses and with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we hold that the natural family is the basic unit on which human societies are built and is the best environment for the moral, social and emotional development of children.
The natural family is the most efficient way of nurturing and educating children, of looking after the health and welfare of its members, of creating a vital domestic economy, of building cohesive communities, and of extending a compassionate hand to individuals and households, whatever their situation.
We affirm that the productive economy is sustained by strong families, which reliably shape the virtues needed for healthy economic exchange. Social and economic research overwhelmingly demonstrates that children born into stable loving homes have the best prospects for growing into healthy, intelligent, creative and morally grounded adults. On average, they become the most productive and engaged citizens and are the least likely to become dependent on the welfare state.
Accordingly, we declare that a family-centred economy requires the following basic framework:
• The economy should serve the family rather than the family being a servant of the economic system and the state.
• A strong domestic, household economy is a true measure of a healthy society and the basis of a robust economy;
• Economic policies should enable families to hold productive property and to be independent of the welfare state.
• Employers and governments need to respect the needs of natural families in their wage and labour policies.
• Market policies should support and encourage entrepreneurial innovation, ensure low barriers of entry into small business, and guard against excessive concentration of economic power and financial instability.
• Family-owned businesses should be encouraged as part of a market economy.
Gross Domestic Product must be defined to include the economic value of unpaid work done in the home and the community by families, so that society can recognize the contribution of this form of labor.
Governments must pursue policies of affordable housing, particularly for young first home buyers.
From these principles, we also affirm:
• Marriage is being the union of one man and one woman, voluntary entered into for life;
• The protection of human life from conception to natural death;
• The right of children to be raised by their biological parents, wherever possible;
• That the root causes of hunger, poverty and environmental decay are the breakdown of the natural family and political and economic failures, not human “overpopulation”;
• That the real demographic dangers of the 21st century are ageing and declining populations: the world needs more, not fewer, children;
• That the great opportunities for family friendly commerce, communication and education on the internet must be made safe from the destructive impacts of pornography and other harmful content at the national and international levels.
• The concept of the family wage: wages, salary levels and taxation policy should reinforce natural family bonds; and
• That the natural family is the surest guide for the economic and healthy development of all peoples, including the indigenous communities of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.
This Congress appeals to policy makers, community leaders, the media and people everywhere to recognize that overwhelming research based evidence demonstrates the importance of marriage and families to our society.
Adopted this day, by affirmation.