Uniting Church leaders today condemned the Federal Government for its agreement with the Iranian Government to accept the forced deportations of failed Iranian asylum seekers. The National President of the Uniting Church, the Reverend Professor James Haire said, “Recent High Court decisions have exposed serious flaws in Australia’s processing of claims for refugee status. As a consequence, our confidence in the Government’s approach has been eroded. We are extremely concerned that there are people who have failed the Government’s tests for refugee status, but who do indeed have a genuine fear for their safety. Even if people’s claims do fall outside of the UN definition of a refugee, they may still have a need for protection for other reasons.”
The National Director for Justice in the Uniting Church, the Rev. Elenie Poulos said, “Reports by the US State Department confirm serious human rights abuses in Iran including summary executions and torture.
It is clear that the Iranian Government cannot guarantee their willingness or ability to offer effective protection to people in their country.”
“That the Australian Government would return people to a country where such abuses are know to occur, is an abrogation of our responsibility as decent human beings not to endanger peoples’ lives,” Prof. Haire said.
“The Iranian refugees themselves have already pleaded to be sent to any other country which is a signatory of the UN Refugee Convention. The Uniting Church in Australia calls on the Federal Government to make alternative arrangements for every Iranian currently held in immigration detention. We do not want the blood of innocent people on our hands.”
Media Contact: Elenie Poulos, National Director, UnitingJustice Australia 0417 431 853
The National President of the Uniting Church in Australia, Rev. Professor James Haire, today condemned the Australian Government for its “own pre-emptive strike” by sending troops the Middle East.
“This move pre-empts the Australian people, the Australian Parliament and the United Nations,” Professor Haire said.
“It is a move that takes us further from peace and closer to war.
“The Australian people have not been consulted nor has our Parliament had a chance to debate the issue. The UN Security Council has not yet reported and nothing new has occurred for Australia to ratchet up its military response.
“The Christian message is one of peace and human dignity for all. Jesus urged us to be peacemakers.
“Peace-making is hard work and not for the impatient, but the alternatives being offered to us at the moment will only lead to despair, hatred, fear and death.”
“Another war lead by the so-called ‘Christian West’ will only add a new layer of enmity in the Middle East producing another 50 years of instability and death.
“In the meantime the Uniting Church will pray for the safety of our troops, including our defence force chaplains. And we will pray for peace.”
Media Contact: Kim Cain, Media Liaison 0419 373 123
James Haire is available for media interviews
Labor's asylum policy heads in right direction, but a little more courage, please
The Uniting Church in Australia national spokesperson on refugee and asylum issues says she is encouraged by Labor's Refugee Policy released this morning, "although some areas deserve further work."
"In a nutshell, the Labor policy on refugees is heading in the right direction but it is not quite brave enough", said Rev Elenie Poulos, National Director of Social Responsibility and Justice.
"We are encouraged by the more open and transparent approach evidenced in this policy. We are very happy that Labor will commit to a speedy processing system and put in place a monitoring system for failed asylum seekers who are returned. And we are extremely pleased with the promise to boost aid to source countries, countries of first asylum and the UNHCR.
"We congratulate the Labor Party on its recognition that the management of detention centres should rest with the public sector and that high security detention should only be used for short periods of time and never for children. We are particularly happy with the proposals for media access to detention centres and the provision of health services by independent health care professionals who will be allowed to make public comment.
"While we appreciate the proposal for hostel accommodation we are disappointed with the continued use of Christmas Island and the refusal to reverse the excision of areas from our migration zone.
"Although pleased that the Temporary Protection Visa regime will be radically cut back and more assistance will be given to holders of TPVs, the UCA has been calling for an end to TPVs altogether. We would have also preferred the creation of a class of humanitarian visa that can applied for through the same processes available for Protection Visas, although the more open and transparent system for the use of ministerial discretion is an improvement.
"The aspects of the policy that concern us most are those based on the idea that people do not have a right to move through countries of first asylum. The Uniting Church believes asylum seekers have a right to seek refuge in a safe country that can provide for their needs.
"While increased international aid will help in the long-term, in the immediate future people will still need to seek safety in other countries more able to provide for their well-being.
"The UCA in Australia looks forward to the time when the vilification of asylum seekers ends, when the rhetoric around these issues ceases to be based on fear, misunderstanding and misinformation and when Australian immigration policy on these issues reflects the compassionate heart that resides in Australians.
"We are calling for strong moral leadership as an antidote to the harsh and punitive policies of deterrence and the tactics of fear and race that have marked the public discussion on these issues for far too long," Ms Poulos said.
Elenie Poulos is available for comment.
MEDIA INFORMATION: Contact Kim Cain, Media Liaison 0419 373 123
Speaking from Bali this week, the President of the Uniting Church in Australia, Rev Professor James Haire, says that “I am deeply troubled by the obvious impact the Bali bombings are having on the local community.”
“People are in desperate trouble”, says Professor Haire. “They are traumatised by recent events and as many as 80% of Bali’s population are in some way dependent on tourism.” After visiting the bomb site on Jalan Legian and travelling around the tourist district, Professor Haire says “Kuta is like a ghost town. Local Balinese have no income and future is very bleak. This situation will continue to get worse while tourists stay away.”
Professor Haire is in Bali to participate in a special joint church service this evening, Friday 29th November 2002. The service will focus on healing and peace in Bali. Up to 5,000 people will meet in Bali’s cultural centre in Denpasar and the occasion will involve the Governor of Bali, the Protestant and Catholic Bishops of Bali together with the President of the Uniting Church in Australia.
“I am here to support the local Balinese church and the local Balinese community”, says Professor Haire. “It is vital this community knows that the church in Australia and the church around the world supports them in their time of crisis.”
While possible threats remain and the Australian Government is warning people against travel to Bali and Indonesia, Professor Haire says we must not overlook the plight of the Balinese people. “Bali has been a significant holiday destination for Australians over many years and the Balinese have been great hosts.
“We must never forget this.”
Professor Haire is available for comment today in Bali on his mobile phone (+61 409363362) or tomorrow in Sydney (0409363362).
Christian churches will unite in Kuta, Bali on Friday 29th November 2002 in a vigil for peace and healing in the wake of Bali bomb blasts on 12 th October 2002.
The service will demonstrate a commitment by international churches to supporting the local community and assisting in the re-establishment of Bali as safe place.
The president of the Uniting Church in Australia, Rev Professor James Haire and Rev John Barr, Acting Director of Unity and International Mission, Uniting Church in Australia, will participate.
Professor Haire condemns the terrorist attacks that took place on 12 th October and he expresses his deep concern for the whole of Indonesia where fear and terror are daily realities.
Professor Haire says the Uniting Church's participation in the vigil on 29th November "will demonstrate our solidarity with the people of Bali and Indonesia". "We must at all costs demonstrate our commitment to overcoming terror and supporting peace initiatives in Indonesia".
Professor Haire says the Uniting Church in Australia is involved in a long partnership with the Protestant Christian Church in Bali.
"We will not walk away from our friends in this time of crisis" says Professor Haire. "The people are suffering trauma and the impact on their way of life is serious as the economy declines. Australians have a responsibility to support our neighbours in this time of real crisis."
Professor Haire will be back in Australia on Saturday 30th November and can be contacted on 0409363362 (mobile). He can also be contacted in Bali on +62 361 424862 or +62 361 730442 (hotel).
The leader of the Uniting Church in Australia today expressed concern that comments made yesterday by the Rev Fred Nile may give the false impression that Australian Christian community supports intolerance toward the beliefs and practices of Australian Muslims.
Reverend Professor James Haire, President of the Uniting Church in Australia, condemned the question put to the NSW Minister for Police in Parliament yesterday (Wednesday) by Rev Fred Nile, Christian Democrat MLC, asking whether the Minister would consider prohibition on the wearing of the chador on the basis that it could conceal weapons or explosives.
Professor Haire said that such a request is not supported in any way by the Uniting Church.
“Such remarks are inconsistent with the Christian gospel of freedom and peace and inconsistent with the position of the Uniting Church in Australia which is blessed by an excellent relationship with the Australian Muslim Community”.
“We support the right of Muslim women to wear whatever clothing they feel is appropriate in accordance with their beliefs.
“The Uniting Church opposes all forms of discrimination and seeks to uphold religious freedom in our country,” he said.
Professor Haire also expressed his concern at the linking of religion and ethnicity with violent acts, pointing out that terrorism has been condemned by Muslim, Jewish and Christian religious leaders.
Professor Haire said, “The Uniting Church in Australia is deeply committed to Australia as a multicultural country in which the beliefs and practices of people of all faiths are respected. Now, more than ever, it is vital to the future of our society that we live together in peace and with understanding.”
MEDIA INFORMATION: Contact Kim Cain, Media Liaison 0419 373 123
The leader of the Uniting Church in Australia and long time Indonesian resident/ commentator, Rev Professor James Haire, today expressed his concern and sympathy after the bombing in Bali.
- Condemned totally, on behalf of the Uniting Church, terrorist acts of all kinds and in all places; “they are an evil before God and humanity.”
- Expressed the church’s sympathy and concern for all those who are bereaved and injured.
- Warned against ‘pre-emptive judgement’ about who is responsible – best evidence based on past experience would suggest this is not local Indonesian groups acting alone as the coordinated timing and devices are too sophisticated.
- Suggested this is an extremist Islamic organisation from outside Indonesia;
- Said he believes that the aim of such an act is to destabilise the Indonesian Government of Megawati Sukarnoputri by creating tensions with the West, and to draw Balinese Hindus into inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflict to further destabilise Indonesia.
Professor Haire said, “It is important for Australians to understand that Indonesia has been living with the reality of terrorism for many years.
“While we condemn this particular act of violence, we express our concern for the whole of the Indonesian people where fear and terror are daily realities.
“One of the greatest dangers is an extremist response to this extremist act. That will only produce the kind of instability the perpetrators are trying to provoke.
“In the Uniting Church we will be praying for peace. We will be urging our political leaders to continue to use peaceful means to achieve justice: that includes working through the United Nations, to using diplomatic resources, and following international law.
Professor Haire encouraged Uniting Church members to pray for all victims and their families of the Bail massacre.
The national UnitingCare network has asked its counselling and family based care agencies to be available, as they are able, for people who require counselling or ‘someone to talk to’ due to the Bali massacre.
Coolamon College will become a constituent member of Adelaide College of Divinity (ACD) in 2003. The national office of the College will re-locate to Adelaide at the end of 2003.
"Being part of ACD and co-located on the ACD site opens up some important new partnership possibilities for us, as well as a whole range of new study options for our students," said Revd Dr Anita Monro, Acting Principal of Coolamon.
"2003 will be a year of transition for us," she continued. "We will need to consider many students' programs individually to assess their best options for completing awards. Delaying the office re-location to the end of 2003 will give us time to make the administrative move."
New students with Coolamon for accredited award programs in 2003 will commence with ACD. Some existing students will complete their programs with Brisbane College of Theology or Sydney College of Divinity, and others will transfer into ACD programs.
On 1 January 2003, Coolamon College also celebrates its 10th anniversary as the Uniting Church's national provider of distance theological education. For the first 10 years of the College's life, the Uniting Church's Queensland Synod has provided substantial support.
"It's great that on Coolamon's 10th anniversary, the college is taking such a significant step for its future ministry," endorsed Revd Terence Corkin, General Secretary of the Uniting Church's National Assembly. "The Assembly acknowledges the extensive support given by the Queensland Synod during the first 10 years of the College's life, and looks forward to the new partnership relationship with South Australia through Coolamon College."
Current constituent members of ACD are Parkin-Wesley College (UCA), St Barnabus' Theological College (Anglican), Catholic Theological College and Nungalinya College (Ecumenical). Parkin-Wesley, St Barnabus' and Catholic Theological College are co-located on the Adelaide Theological Colleges Campus site at Brooklyn Park, Adelaide, SA. ACD also forms the School of Theology for Flinders University.
Media contact: Rev. Dr Anita Monro, Acting Principal ph: 07 3377 9940
Uniting Church Frontier Services has appointed Rev John Case as Patrol Minister to provide a ministry of physical and spiritual support to people living in remote parts of South West Queensland.
Mr Case took over the Burke and Wills Patrol from retiring Patrol Minister, Brian Henman, in July.
The Charleville-based patrol covers an area of some 320,000 square kilometers that stretches west to Birdsville and includes part of the north-east corner of South Australia.
Although a minister of the Uniting Church, Mr Case will undertake an ecumenical ministry
to people from a wide range of Christian traditions. He's expecting to conduct baptisms, weddings, funerals and ecumenical worship services. In addition to this, Mr Case expects to be spending a great deal of time on the road visiting individuals and families in remote stations and settlements and lending a hand wherever he can.
"The role of a Uniting Church Patrol Minister is very hands on", said Mr Case. "My role is to be available to support people in whatever way I can - to share their joys and concerns and provide emotional and spiritual counsel as it is needed. No matter whether the needs are great or small, one thing I hope to achieve with all I meet, is to simply extend the hand of care and friendship. That's the vision that Rev John Flynn (Flynn of the Inland) had when he set out on his first outback patrols in 1912. If I can earn people's trust and be a help in some small way, then I will feel I am making a difference and my ministry is worthwhile."
Frontier Services has 18 Patrol Padres throughout the country, who together travel a combined distance of over 1 million kilometres each year. They reach more than 80% of the Australian continent and provide care and support to more than 15,000 isolated families and individuals. The patrol regions reach from Cape York to Central Australia and the West Coast of Tasmania.
Media Contact: David Sullivan - National Development Manager
Phone: 0407 276 796 or (02) 8267 4247
Interviews can be arranged upon request.
Key leaders of the Uniting Church in Australia have expressed their anger and outrage over the Australian Government's vote against the United Nations anti-torture protocol.
Rev Professor James Haire, National President of the Uniting Church said, "By voting against the draft optional protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Government has severely compromised Australia's right to speak out against cruelty and torture around the world.
"They have aligned our country with some of the most questionable regimes around the world.
"There is now a moral vacuum in this country. When the government of the day actually votes against a measure to eliminate torture, we have hit an all time low. I can't believe it.
"I never thought I would see the day when Australia would be giving comfort to those with the mentality of the Dark Ages who use electric shocks, branding irons and sharp blades to administer pain to their fellow human beings," he said.
The Rev Elenie Poulos, Director of Social Justice and Responsibility said, "The Uniting Church is proud of Australia's good record of advocating on behalf of those who suffer cruel and torturous treatment at the hands of authoritarian regimes. We spoke out when our neighbours in East Timor suffered at the hands of the Indonesian military. We spoke out against apartheid in South Africa. How will we be able to speak out now and what right will we have do so?
"Australia's proud record in human rights has suffered a terrible blow.
"Our right to speak for the well-being of all people has been compromised and traded for the right to ke the UN out of our detention centres. We can only assume the Government has something to hide.
"To be a moral and responsible member of any community includes accepting some level of accountability to that community. By refusing to be accountable, the Federal Government has placed our country outside the bounds of international law. At what cost to our nation's reputation and good-standing does the Government continue to maintain the arrogant stance that no-one has a right to tell us what to do?"
In reply to the government line that it was not in Australia's strategic interest Professor Haire said: "How could it be in our national interest not to stamp out torture? This is a vote of shame".
MediaContact: Kim Cain, Media Liaison 0419 373 123