It was a damp and drizzly day when we gathered on parliament steps May 2013 to be a voice for those whose homes were ransacked and torched in the Joseph Colony of Lahore. And yesterday at the invitation of the Australian Association of Pakistani Christians, we gathered again. This time, although it was a sunny day, we were here to mourn a very dark one and the tragic loss of life on Easter Sunday following a suicide bombing in a Lahore park.
The video of my 7 minute address in Federation Square is above and here is the transcript:
Transcript: Sunday 3 April 2016
We have gathered today to participate in a vigil for those whose lives were cruelly cut short in Lahore on Easter Sunday. A vigil is about staying awake and keeping watch and we pray the victims of the most recent atrocity in Pakistan know we are not just keeping watch but attempting to alert others to their plight and lobby for change for them. Because we care about their life and loved ones. Cultivating a society that values every life is the ultimate remedy to such brutality.
And Pakistan is no stranger to the type of brutality unleashed in the Park in Lahore on Easter Sunday. Just over a year ago, on Sunday 15 March, two churches were targeted in Youhanabad, Lahore (the largest Christian colony) and when claiming responsibility for the church bombings, the same terrorist group that committed this latest atrocity promised more attacks would ensue. Jamaat-ur-Ahrar was responsible and ironically their name means ‘Assembly of the free’. Yet there was no freedom permitted for their victims. It is believed the park was chosen for the attack because security at churches has become very tight since the the horrific Peshawar church attack in 2013. This left multitudes dead, injured and orphaned and was followed in 2014 with the massacre of 134 school children at a military run academy in Peshawar. The pain for survivors is revisited with each and every atrocity.
On Monday in a vigil held in the same park in Lahore where this latest suicide bomber blew himself up (notably, beside children’s amusement rides) the Bishop of Lahore, said :
"There are people who live to live and there are people who live to die". How true!
Father Jamal Albert said the message is "whether you are Christian, Hindu, Jewish or Muslim, you are unsafe and they are trying to break down our nation, destroy our sense of oneness, our sense of being Pakistanis".
While we know that people were killed indiscriminately, regardless of their faith, and that most of the injured and dead were women and children, the group that claimed responsibility, said it was specifically targeting Christians on the holy day of Easter Sunday, and has vowed more such attacks.
Only the day before this brutal Lahore suicide attack, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, that’s the official name of the Afghan Taliban, released a statement on its official website entitled “Only Islamic rituals can be celebrated in an Islamic country”. The Taliban in Pakistan has given an oath of allegiance to the Afghan Taliban and therefore to this kind of totalitarianism. That’s bad news for everyone else – especially Christians who they have vowed to target.
This type of attitude was certainly bad news for the Indian Catholic Priest who was abducted in Yemen and who had to endure torture by ISIS jihadis. They have consequently claimed they crucified Fr Tom on Good Friday. While this claim of actual crucifixion is still unconfirmed, the intent to strike fear into Christians is very factual. Anti-Christian attitudes are escalating everywhere and were on display over this Easter period. A Scottish Muslim was stabbed to death (by another Muslim) simply because he wished his Christian friends a happy Easter.
As Dr Zuhdi Jasser from the American Islamic Forum for Democracy reported
“The news of the most recent attack on Christians in Pakistan … is a tragic reminder of the ongoing genocide being waged against those who refuse to bow to radical Islam.”
As the Senate candidate for the federal party Australian Christians contesting a seat in the upcoming federal election, I am committed to be a voice for those who do not have one. I understand that these atrocities not only require a change of heart and culture, but also a change of law, and we are committed to lobby for that. Laws that validate the concept of some citizens as second class citizens for simply not holding a particular faith; laws that restrict freedom of belief and speech and promote ‘us and them’ discrimination - these laws must change. They send the wrong message entirely.
With the spread of ISIS revealing the breadth of Islamist ideology and the threat to anyone in their path who does not subscribe to this distorted worldview, we must have Islamic authorities - local, regional and umbrella international groups such as the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) – we must see them renounce rather than promote sharia laws that sanctify disregard for the life and views of other citizens. We must see laws that restrict legitimate freedoms be renounced. Renouncing terrorism is not enough – it is going to the lowest common denominator. This is particularly pertinent when it comes to apostasy and blasphemy laws which are used as weapons against ordinary citizens.
As we mourn with Pakistan the compounding human loss with the death toll rising from these latest victims of the Easter bombing, we should not overlook that Christian rights activists are right now voicing fear for the lives of Asia Bibi and others languishing in prisons on charges of blasphemy. The Morning Star News highlights the concerns of one activist who said:
“The situation for Christians in Pakistan is getting increasingly dangerous,” … On one hand, the Taliban are saying that they will launch more attacks on Christians, while on the other hand the government is being pressured by Islamists who want to keep non-Muslim citizens of Pakistan subjugated through the blasphemy laws.”
Are these the only options for Pakistan’s Christians – deadly attacks or subjugation? We must see change.
Today as we mourn we should also pray that Pakistan will find a way to be rid of such laws and be rid of the poisonous attitudes they breed, in order that there will be a culture change and every life will be valued as it should be.
May these precious lives cut short on Easter Sunday, every life, not be cut short in vain.
It was a great privilege to offer the following short address to the Assyrian community in Melbourne in recognition of Assyrian Martyrs on their annual day of commemoration observed on the 7th August:
Thank you for the invitation to stand with you today to remember and honour the Assyrian Martyrs. Remembering is so very important because not just in Australia but in most western nations, the persecution, displacement and genocide of the indigenous people of Syria and Iraq, the Assyrian Christians, remains one of the best kept secrets. Indeed, the average Australian may never have heard of the Assyrian people or know that the indigenous people of Syria and Iraq are Christian. The average church goer in Australia may not even know that you are here today in Australia or consider that through our common faith, we share both a history and a tradition.
Australians desperately need to remember and be educated about our Christian heritage and the history of the war torn Middle East. There are few people better placed to deliver that education than the Assyrians who have lived through that history. Yet sadly, there seems to be little political will to remember the legacy left by our Assyrian Martyrs, or indeed, to learn from it.
As I mentioned at the recent Protest Rally over the land grabs by Kurdish Peshmerga displacing even more Assyrians, Western politicians appear to be growing increasingly apathetic to their own faith tradition and incapable of understanding the consequences of the contempt others may have for it. We seem incapable of understanding that Christians are continually at risk of losing life, limb, liberty and their homelands in the Middle East because of an ancient hostility toward them. This is a hostility that connects them to the west and this same hostility is rising in the west.
Today we remember the many Assyrian individuals who have been martyred and we remember that Assyrian people, culture and religion have suffered persecution from ancient times to the present day. As the world’s conscience remains dull, and as Foreign Editor of the Australian Greg Sheridan points out ' western media shuts its eyes to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East' - we are here today with deep regret that Assyrians continue to be abandoned by those they would naturally consider to be of their own household of faith. It would be understandable if Assyrians felt like the Patriarch Joseph when he was rejected by his own household. On behalf of that household, I am truly sorry that the Assyrian people continue to be abandoned to corrupt regimes and trans-national jihadists.
As we mourn together the neglected martyrs and decimation of the Assyrian nation, let us commit to educate our fellow Australians in order that they can also remember and that we as a nation can learn from the past and not repeat it.
I want to encourage you to publish your history, to share stories in our local schools, to write and perform plays and use the arts in Australia to tell your story.
To this end I’d like to commend a resource to you that has been authored by religious liberty analyst, Elizabeth Kendal to assist others in understanding the Middle Eastern crisis and genocide of our fellow Christians. It’s called:
After Saturday Comes Sunday
Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East
Unfortunately, Elizabeth was not able to be here today but be assured she continues to keep your plight before the churches, our MPs and DFAT officials in Canberra.
Elizabeth’s latest book, After Saturday Comes Sunday is a timely resource for all teachers, academics, politicians, community leaders and parents; for all citizens of the free world. This is a resource that will enable us to better understand the past and present and prompt us to remember the fallen as we are today. I encourage you to add it to your library and share it with others. Lest we forget.
Thank you once again for this opportunity to stand with you in memory of those from your community who have been martyred for identifying with Christ.
May God Bless and protect you all.
After waiting 30 days for the primary vote to be determined, the 825 counts necessary to determine the final preference allocation occurred in just 30 minutes yesterday. Without group voting tickets the preference flow was poor and it was clear that many voters chose not to follow the party recommendations.
Australian Christians (AC) did very well to more than double our primary vote to 34,763 but were excluded on Count 741-750 accumulating only a small number of preferences. The final AC vote with preferences was 49,708. Family First candidate Peter Bain stayed in the game somewhat longer and was the last to be eliminated before the Green and Liberal candidates took up the final two senate seats.
It appears that much of the Christian constituency did not support Christian values parties. In the light of the upcoming plebiscite and other issues, this is worth reflecting on.Thank you to all our faithful members and supporters and also to the many new supporters; many of which joined us with great enthusiasm in the last hour. We so appreciate the hours in prayer, on booths, letter boxing and promotions via social media. Please continue to prayer for our role in the future direction in Australian politics. We thank you all.
Michael Short, The Sunday Age Opinion Editor and Board Member of the Research Centre responsible for the study ‘Growing Up Queer’ has apparently transfigured himself into the Religion Editor with commentary in todays paper about the values associated with Jesus.
The one thing Short does get right is a reference to the biblical Golden Rule which is a tenet of civil society; ‘treat other people as you would like to be treated’. Short then uses his opinion piece as a means of deriding the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) for its hollow faith which he claims ‘tramples the very values commonly associated with Jesus’. Apparently ACL do this by their support for the current Marriage Act. As self appointed moral priest, Short announces that laws and people opposing same-sex marriage are ‘morally wrong’. How pluralistic.
With many loaded adjectives ACL are accused of being needlessly hurtful and disrespectful because of the view they hold. Sadly, this life is full of hurts and I don’t think we can limit this discussion to just one type of hurt when addressing such a significant social change.
For example, in September 2015 I stood on a marriage platform at a public rally with Millie Fontana who was raised in a same-sex family and she was hurt too.
Millie talked about her right: the rights of the child to a mother and father. Incidentally, Article 7 & 8 of the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child support preserving the identity of a child and offering every child the right to know and be cared for by their parents. But Millie talked more about hurts than rights. She referred to the ‘oppression’ when people tell children like her what it’s ok to feel. Millie loves her gay mums and her dad, but is a voice supporting the current Marriage Act. I don’t think we can call her homophobic or hollow.
Although she is not a Christian, Millie applauded ACL on their own platform and thanked Christians present for giving her a voice because as she said ‘no one else will.’ Millie doesn’t find ACL hurtful, but what she does find hurtful is the suggestion that biological parents in the life of a child doesn’t really matter.
As a fellow citizen who was also raised without a dad I have to wholeheartedly agree. Both fathers and mothers are incredibly important to children and their identity security. The hollow and heavy heart many children carry is often due to an absent parent. With the popularity of ancestry.com and programs like ‘Who do you think you are?’ anecdotally it seems clear a connection with our biological roots is food for the soul. Just ask our indigenous Australians.
Short’s mocking of references to the Stolen Generation as an ‘appalling and ridiculous argument’ should be considered in light of sentiments expressed by past Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. In his apology Rudd said these children were ‘human beings who have been damaged deeply by the decisions of parliaments and governments’.
Why were they ‘damaged deeply’ if someone loved them? I would suggest they were damaged because they were deprived of their ethnic, cultural and biological identity normally provided by their natural environment. Shouldn’t we consider why any other group should be less damaged?
President Obama has on many occasions publicly lamented the pain of not growing up with a father in his own house and pointed to the connection of fatherlessness and violent crime. And former PM Prime Minister Julia Gillard when apologising for the forced adoption of babies referred to the ‘most primal and sacred bond there is: the bond between a mother and her baby’. Why is it these findings are now ‘appalling and ridiculous arguments?’
Treating other people the way we want to be treated would be allowing children the legal possibility of that important biological connection with mum and dad. If Short actually read the Bible he would know that ‘true religion’ is to care for orphans, not create them by design.
As Short turns to address ACL criticism of the Safe Schools Program it would appear he has little understanding of what Jesus actually valued. We can agree that no one should be bullied for any reason but despite Short’s claims, this is not what the the Safe Schools program is about at all.
I attended the launch of the Safe Schools Coalition and I have resources that were available on the day to promote the program. A flippant and hollow attitude toward sexual activity is expressed throughout this program. Should a school resource instruct children to ‘do it when they feel ready’, encourage experimentation, quote no minimum age and present a very casual attitude to sexually transmitted infections? Ironically it is those who care about the whole person and not just ‘the wibbly-wobbly bits’, as playfully described by the Safe Schools program, that are referred to as ‘hollow’. Perhaps Short ought to read a little more about Jesus and what he values.
Yes, Jesus takes the protection of children seriously and we should treat others the way we want to be treated. As a child of the sexual revolution myself I know, promiscuity hurts people; especially children. All children naturally desire to know who they are and central to this is a mother and a father. Denying this innate desire may create many more hollow hearts. That is a genuine concern many share with ACL.
Victorian State Director Jeff Reaney and I were very grateful to Pastor Alec and Glenda Witham for the warm welcome we received in Warrnambool. Following an hour long interview with Cameron Price on community radio 3WAYFM addressing the proposed marriage plebiscite, Safe Schools program and Australian Christians policy platform, a successful campaign meeting was hosted by the Warrnambool Presbyterian Church. The enthusiasm of the audience culminated in the establishment of an Australian Christians Warrnambool branch. Special thanks to Ps Ben Johnson for his support and also for including Jeff and I around the bountiful Johnson family table.
Australian Christians ‘in the market’
With small to medium size business making up over 90 per cent of all companies and small business responsible for thirty per cent of Australia’s wealth, being an active member of the ever expanding Business Marketplace Community (TBMC) has offered great insights into grassroots business growth. It has also given me hope for a better Australia for all. My co-Senate Candidate and drafter of our Small Business Policy , Eleni Arapoglou is also a strong small business advocate. We believe entrepreneurs and businesses should be rewarded for the financial risks and initiatives they take.
So it was a delight to emcee the Speakers Forum at the most recent TBMC Expo. The only downside to this was that I missed out on the bustle in the exhibition hall as one of the 100 or so stallholders. But fortunately our State Director Jeff Reaney and a few faithful helpers had that covered and the Australian Christians flag flew all day. We are definitely a party that is ‘in the market’.
Our colours were also flying at this years Life Coalition dinner. After catching up with our good friend and former Member of the Legislative Council Jan Kronberg, we were inspired by the address from the courageous Dr Rachel Carling-Jenkins and able to network with co-workers and supporters of life and family.
Speaking opportunities continue to flow in and I appreciate the opportunity Pastor Andrew Russell afforded me to make a short address to the enthusiastic Calvary Chapel congregation. Every community we visit has the same concerns about the consequences of any change to the Marriage Act and the continual push for expanding gender theory in Victorian schools. Clearly this mandated celebration of sexual diversity goes well beyond tolerance of any alternative view and is of real concern to many parents and all freedom lovers. This is a hot topic that has allowed me the opportunity to speak to a number of groups over the past several months and ‘Friends of Frith’ home groups should receive a particular mention. Last week it was ‘Friends of Frith in Frankston’. It appears our friend Frith is becoming quite famous!
But despite all the activity we can only get to so many meetings in the weeks before 2 July. So we are very grateful for the support of Damian Delahunty of Digital Catch Media who is enabling us to reach so many more people during this campaign. We all have different gifts and talents to contribute and many people are using theirs to support Australian Christians in some way.
In my previous blog I shared Damian’s short video of Colin Sievers who is an artist submitting my portrait into the Doug Moran Art Awards which is his way of offering support to my campaign.
Damian has also produced this campaign video and he is seen below getting organised to shoot the next one. Watch this space for his latest contribution: a conversation with Vickie and Australian Christians Policy Researcher and co-Senate Candidate Eleni Arapoglou .
Its been an eventful month to date and there’s no easing up. If you would like to get involved or can help with this campaign in some way please register here: