Iraq: churches and govt agree... sort of 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. Tune in on Fridays at 7pm or Saturdays at 12pm.
Australia accepts 13,700 refugees per year. There are a staggering 51 million displaced people in the world.
There are now hundreds of thousands more - mainly Christians, Yazidis and Shia - thanks to ISIS brutality.
At the Coalition’s campaign launch just over a year ago, Tony Abbott said: “And we won't increase the humanitarian migrant intake until such time as it's no longer being filled by people smugglers.”
That’s fair enough but the Government’s policies have worked. After 1200 deaths in the past few years, no one has drowned in the past year. People smugglers are out of business.
To its credit the government has used its newly-won flexibility to target those most in need, recently announcing 4400 places to those fleeing ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
This is a very good start but it is obvious the persecuted need far more help.
The long term strategic aim of the international community must be to eradicate or at least contain ISIS so a safe haven can be created for Christians and other minorities to return home.
A Middle East purged of Christians is too glittering a prize to hand the extremists.
Nonetheless, many will need resettling.
Yesterday at the National Press Club in Canberra, the Immigration Minister Scott Morrison gave the government’s reason for not acting on increasing Australia’s humanitarian intake.
Asked if it could be doubled, Mr Morrison said the cost of resettling refugees at $2 billion over the forward estimates was too high.
But surely there are offsets in the closing down of detention centres and the eventual cessation of offshore detention.
Sure, Australia’s refugee intake is high by global standards on a per capita basis.
But the need is phenomenal and we are rich.
Military intervention in the name of humanitarianism is laudable. But so too would be allowing in more refugees fleeing ISIS brutality.
Both are costly. It’s hard to understand why we can afford one and not the other.
If you haven’t already, please sign our petition.
For release: Monday 8 September 2014
Liberal Member for Longman Wyatt Roy’s call for a doubling of Australia’s humanitarian intake should be heeded, according to the Australian Christian Lobby.
Mr Roy’s call comes a week after the Coalition’s junior partner, The Nationals, voted unanimously in favour of an urgency motion seeking an increase at its Federal Council meeting in Canberra.
ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton said 19,500 people had signed ACL’s on-line petition calling for an increase in the wake of the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
“The Government deserves credit for stopping people smuggling, halting the deaths at sea and removing children from detention,” Mr Shelton said.
“But the problem of 51 million displaced people in the world is massive and has been further exacerbated by the persecution of hundreds of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq.
“While Australia’s refugee intake of 13,700 is generous on a per capita basis, much more needs to be done to help suffering people.
“Extraordinary brutality requires extraordinary generosity and Australia, as a relatively wealthy nation, is well-placed to do more.”
Mr Shelton said Mr Roy was right to point out the escalating persecution of Christians in north Africa and the Middle East.
While resettlement of refugees was necessary, the international community should also be ultimately seeking to establish safe havens for Christians and other persecuted religious minorities so that they could return to their homes in Syria and Iraq.
“The Islamists’ goal of purging Christians, Yazidis and other Muslim minorities should not be allowed to stand,” Mr Shelton said.
This follows unanimous support for such a move at this weekend’s Nationals Federal Council meeting in Canberra.
The chair of the Nationals’ New South Wales Women’s Council, Claire Coulton tweeted that the Nationals’ Federal Council “unanimously supports urgency motion to increase foreign aid to and refugee intake from Iraq and Syria”.
ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton welcomed the junior Coalition partner’s urgency motion which calls for a change of Government policy to see the humanitarian intake go beyond its cap of 13,700 refugees per year.
“Extraordinary brutality requires extraordinary generosity,” Mr Shelton said.
“Christians, Yazidis and Muslim minorities are being targeted in what can only be described as religious cleansing and Australia is well-placed to do more to help.”
ACL previously welcomed the 4,400 places recently announced for Christians and other religious minorities but noted this was within the 13,700 quota.
“The Government has made a good start in responding to what Prime Minister Tony Abbott has described as a ‘humanitarian catastrophe’, but we can do better.
More than 19,000 people have signed ACL’s petition calling for the Abbott government to lift the cap on refugees beyond 13,700.
“ACL believes the quota should be lifted to at least 20,000 and possibly beyond,” Mr Shelton said.
For release: Tuesday April 22, 2014
The Australian Christian Lobby has welcomed the government’s announcement that it will contribute $20 million to provide schooling for Syrian refugee children but says more should be done given the scale of the crisis.
ACL’s Managing Director Lyle Shelton said whilst the government’s pledge is commendable, the enormity of the humanitarian crisis in Syria requires a lift in our humanitarian intake from 13,700.
“So far, around 2.7 million people have been displaced as a result of the continuing crisis in Syria and 140,000 have died in what is one of the world’s biggest humanitarian crises since World War II.”
Mr Shelton said cuts to Australia’s Millennium Development Goal promise on overseas aid would also restrict our ability to respond.
“We are a prosperous country by comparison and have a moral responsibility to provide greater aid to those suffering around the world, especially given the large number of displaced persons in this instance,” Mr Shelton said.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop yesterday announced that $20 million would go towards a joint Australia, United States, United Kingdom and United Nations initiative to provide schooling for almost one million Syrian children.
Earlier this month, ACL expressed disappointment at a senate inquiry report recommendation to extend the time by which Australia increases its overseas aid in line with its bi-partisan MDG promise.
Mr Shelton said that the escalating number of asylum seekers from Syria meant a refugee intake of just 13,700 was too low for an adequate response to the sheer numbers of people displaced by the Syrian and other conflicts.
While I do not like binary terms such as 'left' and 'right' to pigeon hole people on the political spectrum, I have, like Karl, been concerned that it is ok to speak out about some political issues but not others.
The key idea of his article, which is not available on-line, is summed up here:
“Where is the left-leaning Christian voice on issues of morality and Biblical ethics in our present community? Why do they remain completely silent? How is it justifiable to use the Bible as a text to call for justice and yet fail to speak for what the Bible has to say about morality, the sanctity of life and the dignity of the individual? Where are the clear statements about issues such as abortion, euthanasia and same sex marriage?”
Karl nominates same-sex marriage as an issue on which some Christian leaders are silent while advocating, often quite vociferously, for 'social justice' issues.
As an organisation, ACL took a strategic decision three years ago to work towards preserving man-woman marriage in the face of what has become a very fierce, intolerant and relentless campaign for changing the definition of marriage.
We live in a participatory democracy and we believe marriage, and the idea that children should wherever possible have the opportunity to know and be raised by their biological mother and father, is worth upholding for future generations.
We are committed to advocating for the public benefits of marriage between a man and a woman but we are also motivated by other issues as well.
When I joined in 2007, one of my first tasks was arranging meetings in Parliament House for the then fledgling Micah Challenge organisation which also campaigns against poverty and injustice.
This week I took a delegation of Australian Syrian Christian community leaders into the Parliament seeking help for persecuted minorities caught in the cross fire of the civil war.
Karl said in his article "Like many Christians I have cringed at the way Christian leaders have spoken publicly about moral issues".
I have learned some hard lessons along the way about the importance of messaging – there have been times where I wished I could have rephrased something I’ve said.
But at the same time, the media environment is very tough in a culture which is increasingly antagonistic to a Christian worldview. It’s also not very forgiving when it comes to making mistakes.
It’s also not always balanced. This week I was asked to do an interview for Channel 10's late night news with regards to the High Court case on marriage. Of the five minute plus package that went to air, I was given nine seconds. The rest was devoted to pro-same-sex marriage commentary.
Whenever I question whether we should continue to speak into the space on this issue, I always come back to my conviction that speaking truth in love to our culture is a necessary part of the Gospel. I’m grateful to ACL supporters for their continued encouragement and support throughout this campaign.
Karl expresses concern that there is sometimes inconsistency when about speaking into the public square. ACL shares this concern and I believe the environment would be less toxic had there been more voices in the marriage debate over the past few years.
The same-sex marriage debate is a debate that has sadly paralysed dissent, leaving a vacuum which the proponents of changing marriage have filled.
It is a debate that goes to the heart of social justice for children, yet we are largely silent.
Last night a Christian friend approached me at a function, complimented me on the fine job ACL was doing but then proceeded to say same-sex marriage was inevitable.
I wonder if he realises what he is conceding in a statement like that?
I believe only death and taxes are inevitable. It is time we as Christians found a bit of Churchillian "we will never surrender" spirit and applied our faith in a miracle working God.
Yes, we should and must be gracious in our public pronouncements. But we should also be clear. It is ironic that on other 'social justice' issues it is quite ok to be voiciforous.
It is also ironic that we are on the cusp of seeing the the political campaign to change marriage sidelined for many years and yet many think it is inevitable.
I am hopeful the High Court will overturn the ACT's same-sex marriage laws next week. There have been eight failed legislative attempts in the past three years to change marriage and advocates have all but run out of options. It will be the ninth failed attempt if the High Court overturns the bill.
We should not give up, we should be prophetic across the full range of Biblical teaching. Future generations will thank us.
“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.
Click here and follow the links to sign the petition.
Barnabas Fund exists to provide practical aid for the Church where Christians face persecution, discrimination or disadvantage in various countries around the world.
Around 600,000 Syrian Christians have fled the country and even more are internally displaced. They have not only been caught in the crossfire of Syria's civil war, but have also suffered violent attacks at the hand of Islamic extremists.
Please sign the petition and promote it within your church and community.
Follow this link for more information on the petition and the persecution of Syrian Christians.
For release: Tuesday, 23rd July, 2013
The Australian Christian Lobby says the Papua New Guinea arrangement is an acceptable response to the tragedy of deaths at sea as long as humanitarian concerns are met and it allows Australia to expand its refugee intake to areas of greatest need.
ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton said there were no easy or perfect solutions to stopping the deaths at sea generated by people smugglers exploiting asylum seekers.
“This new policy hinges on a lot of complex detail which is yet to be resolved, including providing humane living conditions for asylum seekers whose claims are being processed in PNG,” Mr Shelton said.
“However, if it is successful in stopping the deaths at sea and re-settling people humanely, Australians must not be lulled into thinking that our responsibility as a nation to asylum seekers is over.
“The impasse over people smuggling has diverted both public and parliamentary attention from areas of real and pressing need.
“We must prioritise our offer of refuge to those who are proven vulnerable minorities and Syria and Egypt should be our immediate focus,” Mr Shelton said.
“Then we must look to resettle those who as a result of previous conflicts are still languishing in refugee camps – some for as long as ten years.
“There are 45 million displaced people fleeing persecution and we have a responsibility as a nation to do our part and to work with the international community to help these people regardless of whether or not the boats are stopped.
“ACL welcomes the government’s plans to increase our humanitarian intake to 27,000 and urges bi-partisan support for this. There is capacity for us to be even more generous with our humanitarian program,” Mr Shelton said.
“If people smuggling ceases, Australia will be in a position to do more to help refugees languishing in camps who had no ability to pay smugglers and any so-called PNG solution is a sensible response to people smuggling, but must be the circuit breaker that allows us to prioritise our support to those in greatest need and danger.
“In this regard Government and Opposition calls to see the Refugee Convention reviewed are timely,” Mr Shelton said.
“Its post-World War II context takes no account of the fact that people can be in equal fear of their lives from famine or natural disaster and should also be treated as refugees.”
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.