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Pages tagged "Middle East"
Pope Francis announces day of prayer and fasting for Syria
· September 05, 2013 10:00 AM
Last Sunday, Pope Francis announced this Saturday 7th September a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria:
"To this end, brothers and sisters, I have decided to proclaim for the whole Church on 7 September next, a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative."
to find out more.
The civil conflict in Syria began in 2011, with the death toll said to be well over 100,000. The United Nations estimates that more than 1.5 million refugees have now fled the country to Jordan and Lebanon. Last month, a chemical weapons attack alone killed over 1,400 civilians.
In July this year,
ACL renewed calls
for Australia's humanitarian intake to give greater weighting to vulnerable minorities, particularly those displaced by the conflict in Syria and the wider Middle East.
MR: Refugee intake should give greater weight to vulnerable minorities
· July 04, 2013 10:00 AM
Thursday, 4th July, 2013
The Australian Christian Lobby has renewed calls for Australia’s humanitarian intake to give greater weighting to vulnerable minorities, particularly those displaced by the conflict in Syria and the wider Middle East.
Managing Director Lyle Shelton said the debate opened up this week by the new Rudd Cabinet about the refugee program is an opportunity to again assess whether vulnerable ethnic and religious minorities were getting a fair go.
“A fresh look at our humanitarian program by the new leadership is warranted in order to ensure public confidence in it,” Mr Shelton said.
ACL supported the Government increasing the intake from 13,000 per year to 20,000 per year.
“There are around 1,000,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon including those from vulnerable Syrian minority groups such as Alawites, Christians and Druze. Many of these have lost confidence in the UNHCR processes and were not registering because it locked them into a slow and arduous process.
“ACL would like to see some flexibility in our humanitarian program so that an allocation could be made for some of these people,” Mr Shelton said.
“ACL believes a greater weighting system should be applied to vulnerable persecuted minorities to ensure that they have a fair chance of being eligible for placement in Australia.
“It is important that our humanitarian program is calibrated towards people who are in the greatest need,” Mr Shelton said.
Chris Bowen raises plight of Egypt's coptic community in parliament
· May 30, 2013 10:00 AM
Last night the
Federal Labor Member for McMahon Chris Bowen spoke about the plight of Copts in Egypt in the House of Representatives. The transcript of his speech can be read below or
and his video address is below.
Tonight I wish to raise in the House of Representatives the plight of the Copts of Egypt. Copts make up between five and 10 per cent of Egypt's population, but they are suffering persecution and they are suffering violence as a growing concern. Copts have always been a group in Egypt who has been at risk but now we are seeing the Coptic community having their property stolen or destroyed, their members harassed and beaten, and their places of worship burnt or demolished. Due to a recent increase in tax, we have seen an estimated 100,000 Coptic people leave the nation of Egypt.
Now it is very clear that there is an obligation on every government of every nation of the world to provide protection to its citizens, protection regardless of race or religion. That obligation of protection of citizens falls on the government of Egypt, just as it falls on every other government in the world. We saw perhaps the first spectacular outbreak of violence with the Maspero massacre of October 2011, in which Copts staged a peaceful demonstration outside a local television station. They were protesting against the demolition of a church in northern Egypt.
By happenstance I was visiting St Mark Coptic church of Arncliffe the next day, and I recall being briefed on the events in Maspero square the night before—just before I visited the Church of St Mark in Arncliffe— and talking to the congregation of that church about the Australian government's concerns. We saw the deaths of more than 20 Coptic Christians in that massacre and the injury of many, many others. We saw St Mark and Pope Peter church in 2011 being attacked, and more
recently we have seen more attacks on the cathedral of St Mark in Egypt. An attack on a cathedral anywhere is an attack on cathedrals and on freedom everywhere.
I know that there are many, many people in Australia who are deeply concerned about the situation of Copts in Egypt, as I am, as other members of the House are and as the government is. I know the foreign minister, Bob Carr, is very alive to these concerns. I know he has raised the plight of Copts directly with President Morsi.
I know he has also raised the plight of Christians in the Middle East more generally with former Secretary of State Clinton, current Secretary of State Kerry and Foreign Secretary Hague. I also think it is important that Australia uses its role as a member of the UN Security Council to be prosecuting the case for enhanced protection of Christians in the Middle East. I think the plight of Christians in the Middle East is one of the world's crises at the moment that is not receiving enough attention. Clearly the plight of the Copts of Egypt is one of those situations that is not receiving enough attention, and all members of the House and the other place would do well to ensure that it receives more attention. I know that former foreign minister Rudd felt this matter particularly keenly, and he hosted a reception of Copts on his visit to Egypt when he was foreign minister of Australia.
It has been my great pleasure to work with many members of the Coptic community, to work with Sayedna Bishop Daniel and Sayedna Bishop Sureil of Melbourne on these issues during my time as both a minister in the government and as the member for McMahon. I have also worked with the Australian Coptic movement. I have attended their rallies, including a recent rally in Sydney at Martin Place. We had hoped that the earlier rallies would be the last. We had hoped that the rallies in 2011 would be the last because we would no longer need to rally for freedom of religion for the Copts of Egypt. But alas we have had to continue to rally. Alas we have had to continue to fight and argue—and we will continue to do so.
As I said, it is incumbent on all governments to protect their citizens in every regard. It is incumbent on all governments to ensure that their people can live in peace and freedom and harmony. And the Copts of Egypt are not currently living in peace and freedom and harmony, and it is incumbent on the government of Egypt to ensure that they can. In many cases the revolution we have seen in the Middle East has resulted in poor outcomes, in worse outcomes for Christians. We have seen that in Iraq; we are seeing that now in Egypt. The Arab Spring has turned to an Arab winter for many, many people in the Middle East. Those people in the Middle East, in Egypt, and their friends and relatives in Australia, in my electorate and in electorates around the country need to know they have many friends in the House of Representatives, as indeed they do.
ACL's Jim Wallace writes in The Australian about persecuted Christians in Syria
· May 29, 2013 10:00 AM
The Australian Christian Lobby's deputy chairman Jim Wallace had an opinion piece published in The Australian recently. A copy of the opinion piece is published below but can be read online
. An extended version of Mr Wallace's piece was also published in MercatorNet called
We cannon abandon Syrian Christians
West must act decisively to protect Syria's persecuted Christians
THE hardest test of foreign policy is not its intersections at the lofty geopolitical level but where it inevitably affects ordinary people, and nowhere is this test as difficult as in the Middle East.
As I visited the area recently to assess the situation of minorities in the Syrian conflict, it quickly became evident that the West's policy there courts a disaster.
I was not surprised. While my experience was dated, I had lived in the Middle East and observed some of its most enduring conflicts. Unfortunately, the passage of time seems to have taught us little.
Some level of confusion about Middle East politics is excusable for anyone.
Attempts to decipher it are always muddied by a bewildering array of sects and agendas in the context of alliances of convenience, even between sworn enemies.
But surely an alliance with al-Qa'ida is beyond the pale for any US government, even if its purpose is to counter Iran's influence.
The pictures of the American family devastated by the Boston bomb would be enough for me, but the US State Department certainly hasn't considered Syria's Christian minorities adequately.
There are reports of heartbreak as people who lived in harmony for decades are suddenly turned into bitter enemies by the radicalisation of previously moderate Sunnis under the influence of the al-Qa'ida proxy Jabhat al-Nusra.
Syria has always been somewhat unusual in the Arab world for its secularism and religious freedom.
When I lived in Damascus for six months, Christian churches were easy to find and join. There was also a ready acceptance by Muslims and Druze, many of whom became good friends. And it seems this continued to be the case until the revolution two years ago. Then cries of "Alawites out" and "Christians to Lebanon" suddenly filled the air in crowds stirred up by extremists.
For Christians to be thrown out of Syria after more than 2000 years of history is too much for most. Despite the steady flow of refugees, most will stay. But the cost of staying is extreme.
Al-Nusra empties any area it captures of the "infidels". Occupants of centuries-old Christian quarters in the ancient cities of Aleppo, Hama and Homs have been turned out of their homes with nothing. The aged are not spared and those refusing to leave are sometimes killed.
Also heartbreaking for these ancient communities is that their churches in the occupied parts of these cities have been destroyed and desecrated, at least one being used as a toilet by al-Nusra, as an illustration of its utter contempt for Christianity.
There are some Christians fighting with the Free Syrian Army. Although they were part of an initially secular opposition, their position becomes increasingly tenuous as al-Nusra's dominance of the opposition increases by the day.
As always in war, it is perhaps the women who suffer most.
Al-Nusra fighters see Christian women as little more than booty. One woman tearfully told of a friend considering suicide as she contemplated the possibility of rape, which two of her friends had suffered. As a Christian in an al-Nusra-held area, she knew she risked the same fate.
These are ancient Christian communities that look to Western governments not to abandon them by pursuing irrational policies, including a partnership with foreign jihadists allied to al-Qa'ida.
It is long past time for the West to make a stand in two other areas that are essential to combating Muslim extremism at home and abroad.
The first is that Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are funding the extremist al-Qa'ida fighters, must be told to back off.In addition we cannot accept that as many as 200 Australians might be fighting for al-Qa'ida in Syria as part of a contingent of foreign fighters drawn from Western and Middle Eastern Islamic communities.
All Western countries must pass and enforce anti-mercenary laws that will forbid their nationals from fighting as mercenaries without losing their nationality.
We have an army to fight our wars and joining it should be the only way for an Australian to become a combatant.
The so-called Arab Spring was never going to be that for anyone but extremists across the Middle East. Unless the West reconsiders its support to an opposition dominated by al-Qa'ida, vulnerable Syrian Christians will face even worse persecution than that experienced by Egypt's Copts.
Jim Wallace is deputy chairman of the Australian Christian Lobby.
Jim Wallace on the Political Spot about his trip to the Middle East to look at persecution of minorities
· May 14, 2013 10:00 AM
Jim Wallace is the deputy chairman of the Australian Christian Lobby. In this interview with the ACL's Katherine Spackman, Mr Wallace talks about his recent trip to the Middle East where he assessed the situation of minorities in the Syrian conflict. He says that Christians are vulnerable to both sides of the conflict and that the Syrian opposition is being radicalised by previously moderate Sunnis under the influence of the Al Qaeda proxy Al Nusra. He says there are reports that as many as 200 Australians might be fighting for Al Qaeda in Syria and urges western countries to pass Anti-Mercenary laws that will forbid nationals from fighting as mercenaries.
In the media - a wrap up of the last week's commentary
· April 10, 2013 10:00 AM
In the last week, the ACL has been quoted in the media on the issue of religious persecution in Egypt and on proposed changes to abortion legislation in Tasmania. See below for links to mentions in the media.
On proposed changes to abortion laws in Tasmania:
The Examiner -
Flood of views on abortion bill
On an attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt:
The International News Magazine -
ACL condemns latest attack against heart of Christianity in Middle East
Also, ACL's Chief of Staff Lyle Shelton was interviewed by UCB Australia while participating at Easterfest in Toowoomba late last month.
He shares some of his beliefs about the role of Christianity in today's society and the importance of maintaining a strong Christian voice in politics.
Click the YouTube video above to watch Lyle's interview.
MR: ACL condemns latest attack against heart of Christianity in Middle East
· April 08, 2013 10:00 AM
Monday, 8th April 2013
The Australian Christian Lobby has expressed concern at the latest attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt which occurred at the epicentre of the International Coptic Orthodox community and has urged the Australian Government to denounce these attacks.
ACL’s Chief of Staff Lyle Shelton said the latest attack against Copts at St Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo, in which a person died, was at the headquarters of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate.
“The Coptic Community in Australia sees this as a symbolic attack on Christianity on Egypt which is incomprehensible,” he said.
“No minority in any country should be subjected to fear of expressing their faith. Sadly violence against Copts has escalated since the Muslim Brotherhood came to power,” he said.
“It is important that the Prime Minister’s Office and Office of the Minister for Foreign Affairs condemns these attacks today and urges action from the Egyptian Government to protect its citizens and to uphold freedom of religion.
“The Coptic Community is in a minority position in a Muslim country. This is simply another incident in a long line of suffering for these people by attackers deliberately targeting them for their faith,” he said
Elizabeth Kendal on the Political Spot
· February 19, 2013 11:00 AM
Elizabeth Kendal is a religious liberty analyst. The ACL's Katherine Spackman spoke to her about the conflict in the middle Eastern country of Syria that's been going on for two years. The UN estimated 70,000 people have died as a result of the conflict between the Syrian Army and rebel forces.
MR: ACL welcomes increase in humanitarian intake
· August 24, 2012 10:00 AM
Friday, 24 August, 2012
The Australian Christian Lobby welcomes yesterday’s move by the federal government to increase Australia’s refugee intake.
The humanitarian program will increase Australia’s refugee intake by 6,000 every year, and will focus on bringing people from problem regions such as the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
ACL supports the generosity of our nation, and any attempts of the Australian government in putting an end to the dangerous people smuggling trade and looking after displaced persons.
ACL’s Managing Director Jim Wallace supports the new move, and says that Australia’s increase in humanitarian intervention should be an example to the rest of the world.
“ACL has long advocated that Australia raise its humanitarian intake,” Mr Wallace said.
“Too many people have died over the years waiting for us to deliberate over the asylum seeker policy. I praise the government’s move in preventing further loss of life,” he said.
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