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Monday, 10 July 2006

Church calls for end to human rights abuses

The Uniting Church today called for an end to human rights abuses and publicly committed itself to monitor and advocate for human rights in the face of increasing reports of violations in the Asia-Pacific region.

Uniting Church President, Rev. Gregor Henderson, said a statement endorsed by the 11th National Assembly meeting in Brisbane today, Dignity in Humanity: Recognising Christ in Every Person, offered a comprehensive expression of the churches’ commitment to, and support of, international human rights instruments.

“In 1937 representatives from churches around the world met to ensure that human rights were included in the United Nations Charter and the churches went on to play a significant role in the development of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today, members of the Uniting Church are regularly reminded through the relationships we have with partner churches in our region, that human rights violations still occur.

“We are deeply troubled by reports from our partners in areas like the Philippines and West Papua that the most basic human rights we take for granted, are being ignored. Today’s statement commits us to take a very public stand against these situations.”

Rev. Henderson said the statement would provide a framework for other more specific resolutions of the Church, such as the commitment made today to support the Evangelical Christian Church in the Land of Papua, at a time when Papuan culture faces marginalisation through transmigration and military action in West Papua.

“Today’s resolutions commit us to continue to speak for those whose voices are silenced. They also call us to monitor and asses Australian Government policy and practice against the international human rights instruments,” Rev. Henderson said.

“We do this as an expression of our long-held commitment to the dignity inherent in every person as a human being made in the image of God.”

The National Director of UnitingJustice Australia, the Rev. Elenie Poulos, said as well as clearly articulating the Church’s motivation for upholding human rights, the resolution also offered encouragement to agencies and other groups within the Church to advocate for social policy and legislative outcomes consistent with Australia’s international human rights obligations.

“This resolution calls on the Australian Government to ensure that it fulfils its responsibilities to uphold human rights. It also calls on the Government to develop and promote human rights education to help foster mutual understanding, healthy and harmonious communities, and justice and peace. It commits the National Assembly to play its part too, by promoting awareness and understanding of human rights through existing and future Church programs and promoting and respecting human rights in our work and mission,” Rev. Poulos said.

“We hope that this statement provides a specific frame of reference for the Church to continue and expand its current work in the area of justice and human rights, both on domestic and international levels. Today’s statements are affirmations of our belief in the dignity of each person as bestowed by God and recognition that human rights are essential for achieving peace with justice.”

Media Contact: Gavin Melvin, Manager, National Media and Communication – 0417 416 674