Prejudice and bigotry continue to flourish in the world.
Year after year we witness the cycle of violence between tribal groups in Central Africa with mass killings and even more rapes. In Russia several young men have this month been sentenced for the racially-motivated murders of some 20 migrants.
The Uniting Church in Australia was represented by the Rev. Charity Majiza, minister at Waranga Uniting Church in North East Victoria and member of the Christian Unity Working Group, and Rev. Terence Corkin, Assembly General Secretary at the World Council of Churches Uniting and United Churches Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, October 29-Nov 4.
The Uniting Church has today expressed its disappointment with some of the recommendations handed down from the recent parliamentary inquiry into immigration detention in Australia.
“The Uniting Church has been advocating for many years for policy which upholds the human rights of asylum seekers and treats these already traumatised people with care, dignity and respect,” said Rev. Elenie Poulos, National Director of UnitingJustice Australia.
“Whilst we welcome the report’s recommendation to waive existing detention debts for all current and former detainees and cease charging people for their time in detention, we believe that the report’s recommendations do not go far enough in many respects,” Rev. Poulos said.
“In July of this year the Church congratulated the Immigration Minister on his announcement of a new direction for detention policy. The parliamentary committee had a crucial opportunity to make recommendations that would put these principles into practice but they have fallen short.
“In its submission to the inquiry, the Uniting Church outlined its commitment to a policy which fulfils our obligations under relevant international human rights treaties and accords asylum seekers full legal rights and protection. The Church does not believe that the recommendations in this report will ensure such a policy.”
Rev. Poulos welcomed the dissenting report from Petro Georgiou MP and Senators Dr Alan Eggleston and Sarah Hansen-Young, which highlights the significant deficit in the report’s recommendations on time limits and review mechanisms.
“The possibility that asylum seekers will be held in detention for 12 months is frightening. Numerous studies have shown the irreversible physiological damage detention can cause on already traumatised people, and that it occurs in a time frame far less than 12 months.
“Allowing public servants to detain a person for up to 12 months without allowing them access to an independent review of the merits of their detention is a violation of Australia’s international obligation not to arbitrarily detain people.”
“We urge the Minister to carefully consider this report and the need to go beyond its recommendations in order to develop a truly fair and just detention policy.”
Rev. Elenie Poulos is available for comment.
The Uniting Church today expressed its support for quick and decisive action to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions and urged an immediate end to the language of winners and losers.
“We have one atmosphere and one planet. Either we all win or we all lose,” said the Rev. Elenie Poulos, the National Director of UnitingJustice Australia.
“The Garnaut Review Draft Report has pulled together the best science in the world. This is not scare-mongering, but it is frightening. We are suffocating the planet and we are running out of time to make a difference.”
Rev. Poulos said, “We are particularly concerned about the lack of trust some of our political and community leaders and opinion makers appear to have in the world’s leading climate scientists.
“The Christian church has a poor history of not trusting scientists and most of us have learned from our mistakes. No matter how much the church wanted it to be different, the sun did not revolve around the earth.
“No matter how much we would like it to be different now, the world is suffocating from human-induced climate change and the problem is urgent.”
“We must put a price on carbon as soon as we can. We must ensure that the most vulnerable in our society are well supported as we change our economic base. We need to recognise that we must do it together, working co-operatively not competitively. We must be bold, creative and, above all, courageous.”
Uniting Church offices, agencies, congregations and members around the country are working to improve their own energy efficiency and reduce their carbon footprint.
Rev. Poulos said, “We know it’s not much in the grand scheme of things but like so many Australians, we want to live more sustainably and we want our governments to do all they can to help.
“It is time to move to a green economy that takes seriously our responsibility to the planet, all its creatures and future generations,” said Rev. Poulos.
Rev. Elenie Poulos is available for comment.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
During this week of International Church Action for Peace in Palestine and Israel, a group of Australian church leaders has called on the Federal Government to prioritise peacemaking in Palestine and Israel.
An historic event, it is the first time that a group of Australia’s religious leaders has come together to highlight the suffering in the region.
In a statement to the Government, leaders of the Uniting, Anglican and Catholic churches —among others — have said that, after 60 years of dispossession, military occupation, armed hostilities and violent deaths, it is now time for the Australian Government to work for peace in the Holy Land.
With some 40 signatories to the statement, the group is calling on the Government to lead the international community in working with Palestine and Israel towards a just and continuing peace.
HEADS OF CHURCHES STATEMENT ON PALESTINE AND ISRAEL
Parliament House, Canberra House of Representatives Alcove
4 June 2008 10.30am
Speakers Rev Gregor Henderson, President of the Uniting Church in Australia Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, Anglican Primate of Australia Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn Tim Costello, Chief Executive World Vision Australia
Morning Tea will be served after the launch.
The Uniting Church in Australia has today called on the Australian Government to address the humanitarian crisis affecting Iraq, even though Australian troops are on the way home.
The President of the Uniting Church, the Rev. Gregor Henderson, said that, while the Church commended the decision to withdraw 500 Australian troops, the Federal Government should commit more funding to rebuild the country.
“When Prime Minister, John Howard, sent Australian troops off to invade Iraq in 2003, the Uniting Church did not agree,” Rev. Henderson said.
“However, we prayed for the safety of our troops as well as for a just outcome for the Iraqi people.
“At that time, Uniting Church leaders also said they hoped Australia would spend as much money on healing and reconstruction in Iraq as on prosecuting the war.
“Sadly that has not come to pass and we are disappointed that, once again, more money has been spent on guns than on bread.”
Rev. Henderson said the Australian Government was to be commended for its commitment to humanitarian relief in Iraq, but called for more; asking the Government to spend as much on rebuilding, reconstructing and healing the desperately battered nation over the next five years, as was spent on the military effort.
“That would mean an extra $2billion in aid over five years,” he said.
“We know, from a 2007 Oxfam International report, that the situation for many Iraqis is worse now than it was before the 2003 invasion.
“We urge the Australian government not to abandon the Iraqi people, most of whom are without food and adequate water, are displaced and living in absolute poverty, and who have little access to basic medical services.
“Providing increased aid to Iraq would at least give priority to peace and the needs of people who have suffered far too long.”
Rev. Henderson is available for comment.
The Uniting Church in Australia has today commended the Federal Government for its latest efforts towards banning nuclear weapons.
The commendation comes in the wake of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s announcement of the formation of the new Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Commission.
National Director of UnitingJustice Australia, Rev. Elenie Poulos, said the Uniting Church had long been committed to the elimination of all nuclear weapons, most recently lending its voice to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).
“The Uniting Church has been consistent in its calls on successive Australian Governments to take a strong stand on nuclear disarmament and to advocate for the complete elimination of all nuclear weapons,” Rev. Poulos said.
“We have been particularly concerned by the most recent threats to the integrity of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Many countries, including the US and Russia, both signatories to the Treaty, are continuing to invest in the development of nuclear weapons technology, and more than 5000 nuclear weapons around the world remain on high-alert.
“The establishment of a new international commission will hopefully reinvigorate the commitment to nuclear disarmament through renewed support for the NPT and the proposed Nuclear Weapons Convention.”
Rev. Poulos said that the Commission should also focus its work on gaining a commitment from all nuclear weapons states to immediately lower the operational status of their weapons and commit to a comprehensive ban on nuclear testing, as well as raising the level of support for the work of Mohamed El-Baradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“We believe there is no greater threat to the peace of God in this world than that posed by weapons of mass destruction,” she said.
“The Uniting Church in Australia welcomes the Prime Minister’s initiative and looks forward to working with the Government to end the threat of nuclear weapons once and for all.”
Rev Dr Sandy Yule, Secretary of the Christian Unity Working Group, has recently participated in a consultation of senior ecumenical leaders, primarily from Asia, who gathered to consider the future and revitalisation of the ecumenical movement.
The Mission Prayer Handbook 2009 is now available to order from MediaCom Education. The Handbook provides the opportunity to reflect on the 12th Assembly theme, Living Water Thirsty Land. Collectively these prayers, and accompanying reflections, offer insight into what it means to thirst and hunger; and how we might be spiritually nourished in the whole of life.