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Friday, 24 October 2008

PM listens to UCA concerns

Representatives from the Uniting Church in Australia have met with the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, for the first time, speaking with him on issues of climate change, human rights and the death penalty.

Meeting with the Prime Minister in Canberra on 21 October were the UCA President, Rev Gregor Henderson, National Assembly General Secretary, Rev Terence Corkin, and National Director of UnitingJustice Australia, Rev Elenie Poulos. They had a half hour meeting with Australia's leader, presenting him with an information pack about the Uniting Church. Included in the pack was an overview and explanation of the structure of the Church along with a copy of the Basis of Union and the 1977 Statement to the Nation.

“We spoke about who we are as the third largest church in Australia and our commitment to making a difference to the Australian community and nation,” syas Rev Henderson.

“We talked about UnitingCare, Frontier Services, Uniting International Mission and Uniting Church Overseas Aid, and UnitingJustice. We talked about our multiculturalism and the importance of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress."

Rev Henderson says the Prime Minister shares the UCA's belief in the importance of upholding human rights. The Uniting Church has expressed a strong commitment to better human rights protection in Australia, in the form of federal legislation, and voiced an intention to raise the issue ecumenically.

The Bill of Rights charter, the Northern Territory Intervention and its recent review, and our commitment to the Millennium Development Goals were all raised in the meeting, too.

"We gave him the Heads of Churches statement on Palestine and Israel as well as key Uniting Church statements such as Uniting for Peace and Dignity in Humanity,” says Rev Henderson.  “And we shared our view about the death penalty and explained that the Church is against capital punishment in all circumstances including the Bali bombers.”

The Church affirmed some of the government’s policy directions to date including the apology to the Stolen Generations, efforts on climate change, social inclusion, creating a positive relationship with the United Nations, the initiative it's taking on nuclear disarmament, and the handling of the current economic crisis.

All three Assembly staff agree that the Prime Minister places great value in churches and their contribution to the Australian community and that there was a good deal of agreement on basic principles.

“He spoke to us as a person of deep Christian faith with a deep personal interest in public theology,” says Rev Henderson.

"The UCA has a positive relationship with the highest levels of government. That encourages us to continue to do our homework well on the national and international issues that concern us most and to know we have the avenues of further representation to the government."