Last Saturday, ACL's managing director Lyle Shelton called for an increase to Australia’s humanitarian intake when he addressed a crowd of about 4,000 who rallied in Melbourne to condemn the persecution of Christians in Iraq.
The rally was organised by leaders from Australian churches with Middle Eastern roots as a show of solidarity with the hundreds and thousands of Christians who have been driven from their homes in northern Iraq under the threat of 'convert to Islam or die' by Islamic state militants.
Mr Shelton said he wants the government to increase its intake from the current 13,700 refugees a year it takes. ACL has launched a campaign calling on the federal government to increase Australia's humanitarian migrant intake and to offer asylum to those fleeing persecution. You can add your voice by signing the petition at refugees.acl.org.au.
"The Australian Christian Lobby is calling upon the federal government to increase our humanitarian intake so that we can take some of these refugees and share some of the burden," Mr Shelton told the crowd.
Other speakers on the day included Bernie Finn MLC, Bishop Suriel of the Coptic Orthodox Church and Father Geoff Harvey of the Antiochian Orthodox Church, as well as other leaders from the Assyrian, Syriac, and Chaldean churches.
ACL supporter Collin Nunis, who was also at the rally, said that "Though this rally was born out of very unfortunate circumstances, the rally was also a blessing as it brought Australian Christian churches together in solidarity and spirit; Christians from all walks of life professing one faith."
We continue to hear stories of persecution Christians are facing in Syria and Iraq.
An ACL supporter in Victoria said he has received a text message from a Syrian business associate based in Abu Dhabi about the continuing persecution of Christians in his homeland.
The text message he received from the associate said:
- Yesterday my relatives - a woman and child - were killed in Damascus and terrorists gunmen now occupy their home.
- The situation is very bad in the capital.
- I told you more than 120,000 Syrian Christians threatened with death in the coming days.
- It's really holocaust for the Christians in Syria and Iraq.
- I have no home to go back to it, but we trust in Christ to help us.
Last week, ACL's Katherine Spackman interviewed religious liberty analyst Elizabeth Kendal about the plight of Iraqi Christians who have been ordered by ISIS militants to leave the city of Mosul or convert to Islam. You can listen to the interview here.
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.
Last week, the Lachlan Macquarie Internship ran a three-day short course for pastors and church leaders on the outskirts of Canberra.
The aim of the program is to empower church leaders with a greater understanding of the democratic process and inspire them with the impact the church can have on society, and challenge them to think politically and strategically about issues facing Christians in Australia and around the world.
Nine church leaders attended this year's program, titled 'Engaging Politics'. They came from across Australia including Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland, and represented a number of denominations such as Baptist, Orthodox, Anglican and Presbyterian.
- Nick Aroney, Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Queensland's TC Bierne School of Law, and the author of the Lachlan Macquarie Internship curriculum
- Jim Wallace, Deputy Chairman and former Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby
- Lyle Shelton, Managing Director the ACL
- Nick Jensen, Course Manager and director of the Lachlan Macquarie Internship and of Leadership Development at ACL
Pastors had an opportunity to hear from parliamentarians from both sides of politics.
The pastor's course ran for the first time last year. Mr Jensen spoke to ACL's Katherine Spackman about the course prior to its commencement. Listen to the interview here.
Visit this link for more information and to keep informed about upcoming pastor's short courses.
Get a Christian perspective of news and politics with the latest political commentary from ACL on “The Politics in Focus”. This TV segment airs fortnightly on the Australian Christian Channel as part of Seventh Day Adventist Media’s weekly InFocus program. Tune in on Fridays at 7pm or Saturdays at 12pm.
In this week’s edition, ACL’s Katherine Spackman explains the significance of the High Court decision on the national school chaplaincy program.
Challenges for chaplaincy: Politics InFocus from InFocus on Vimeo.
Get a Christian perspective of news and politics with the latest political commentary from ACL on "The Politics in Focus”. This TV segment airs fortnightly on the Australian Christian Channel as part of Seventh Day Adventist Media’s weekly InFocus program.
In this week's edition, ACL's Katherine Spackman talks about prostitution law reform, and the case of Meriam Ibrahim who is sentenced to death in Sudan for her Christianity.
Politics InFocus - 13.06.14 from InFocus on Vimeo.
Breeders: A Subclass of Women? - Trailer from CBC Network on Vimeo.
The Centre for Bioethics and Culture has produced a film called Breeder: A subclass of women? which explores the issue of surrogacy and the implications it has on women, children, and families. They talk to surrogates, physicians, psychologists, and activists across the political and ideological spectrum to find out more about this complex and sensitive issue.
You can watch the trailer above.
The film is now available to rent online. You can also purchase a copy through the official film website.
In 2011, ACL's Katherine Spackman interviewed Jennifer Lahl from the Centre for Bioethics and Culture about another one of its films, Anonymous Father's Day, which explores the experience of three donor-conceived people. Follow this link to listen to the interview.
Is the UK's internet filter coming here next? 29.11.13 from InFocus on Vimeo.
The Australian Christian Lobby's Katherine Spackman comments on moves to block child abuse material from the internet, and NSW's recently passed "Zoe's Law".
The Courier-Mail recently reported that the move would give independent public school principals the ability to increase the hours of chaplains and other staff including guidance counsellors and psychologists.
Currently, the Queensland government provides up to $11,000 a year for school chaplains in addition to federal government funding of the chaplaincy program.
The move has come out of a discussion between Scripture Union’s Queensland (SU QLD) CEO Peter James and John-Paul Langbroek’s advisor in regards to additional funds being required around occasions of natural disaster and tragedy in school communities.
SU, which employs most chaplains in state schools, said it’s found additional support from school chaplains is vital around these times and previously there had been no allowance for this.
In recent months, SU QLD has been called to appear before the High Court to defend its national school chaplaincy program.
It first appeared in the High Court two years ago when a Toowoomba resident claimed the chaplaincy program violated religious freedom under the Constitution. The High Court found it did not violate religious freedom as chaplains were not employed or appointed by the government.
A second challenge to the Court’s decision was launched against the program this year.
In response, SU QLD asked Australians to sign a statement of support in favour of federal funding for school chaplaincy by visiting backourchappies.com.au.
Last month, ACL’s Communications Director Katherine Spackman interviewed SU QLD’s CEO Peter James on the Political Spot where he spoke about the second High Court challenge. You can listen to the interview by following this link.
The ACL places a strong emphasis on changing the state of poverty and justice in Australia through public policy; as Christians, we are called to be "generous to the poor" (Proverbs 19:17) and to "give to the needy" (Luke 12:33).
This week, the Pastor of a church in Sydney's Kings Cross urged the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott to focus more on the needs of the unemployed and homeless during this election campaign. In an interview with ABC News' Sally Sara, he says the most vulnerable in our society, including the homeless and asylum seekers, are being dehumanised by the level of fear in the current political debate, and that more and more, we are becoming a country with no heart.
Also this week, welfare group St Vincent de Paul Society demanded an anti-poverty strategy for Australia in the election campaign. Its CEO Dr John Falzon said that nearly 13 per cent of the population was living in poverty, including more than half a million children. The group has called on both sides of politics to commit to meeting the Homelessness White Paper target of halving all homelessness by 2020.
According to Homelessness Australia, there are over 105,000 homeless people in the country. That means that on any given night, 1 in 200 people have no home to go to. The rate of homelessness is also on the rise; the 2011 Census showed that in five years, the rate of homelessness increased by eight per cent. This is caused by a number of reasons, including a chronic shortage of affordable and available rental housing, domestic and family violence, and financial crisis.
ACL's Katherine Spackman recently interviewed Mission Australia's CEO Toby Hall about the need for political parties to address the issue of homelessness in Australia. Mr Hall said that both sides of politics have been weak on the issues; Kevin Rudd has loosely made comments about halving the poverty rate in Australia by 2020 but this has not been backed by any policy or money, and there has been very little focus on it by the Coalition. Mission Australia is asking both sides to partner together to provide the necessary resources and affordable housing to combat poverty and homelessness on our streets.
In the lead up to the federal election, the ACL sent a questionnaire to political parties designed to educate voters of party positions on issues of particular importance to Christians. Follow this link to find out their answers to the homelessness question.
ACL's Chief of Staff Lyle Shelton and Communications Director Katherine Spackman will be speaking at this year's Easterfest.
Easterfest is Australia's largest festival about Easter…not just at Easter, but about Easter. Celebrating its message draws thousands of people from across the country to make the pilgrimage up the mountain to Toowoomba.
The ACL staff will participate in 'The Forum' presented by Bible Society, facilitating group discussions on challenging issues of life and faith.
On the Friday, Lyle will be facilitating two group discussions: Are We There Yet?…response to world poverty and Addicted to Technology? The pleasures and pitfalls of living in the digital age. In the evening, Katherine will be a panel guest in a discussion on The Sexual Individualism of the iWorld.
Lyle will also be a key panel guest on Saturday on Being a Voice in the Political Arena and Christians in Politics - A history of advocacy of those in need. He will also be a key panel guest on Sunday on Responding to the crisis in child well being in Australia, and will facilitate a discussion on One Heart…Church Unity.
On Sunday evening, Katherine will be the primary speaker on Human Trafficking, facilitated by David Wilson and including guests Destiny Rescue.
If you're able, we encourage you to come along and participate in this event as we celebrate the true meaning of Easter.
Details are as follows:
Date: 29th-31st March
Where: Queen's Park, Toowoomba
Cost: Click here for a detailed breakdown of prices
Visit the Easterfest website to register your attendance.