By Charles Newington, FamilyVoice Australia National Director
A serious infection that is common globally is now starting to manifest in Australia. It accounts for the death of 250 people every month and the suffering of 215 million people globally last year. However, the mainstream media and most political leaders don’t think it is important enough to report or comment on.
Occasionally something will appear like the BBC’s report recently that the UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has ordered a review into the plight of persecuted Christians around the world and how much help they get from the UK.
The review, led by the Bishop of Truro, will look at government efforts to help some of the 215 million Christians who faced discrimination and violence last year, according to the UK Foreign Office.
Foreign Office officials noted that violence against Christians is rising dramatically and Mr Hunt said the UK "must do more". "Britain has long championed international religious freedom," he said. It may seem un-Christian to restate his comment as it sounds in our ears: “Britain has long (ago) championed international religious freedom (but not for a while as it creates difficulties with some trading partners and in marginal electorates.)”
Mr Hunt also made this helpful observation: "So often, the persecution of Christians is a telling early warning sign of the persecution of every minority."
The UK Foreign Minister describes the growing violence against Christians as the canary in the coal mine to warn that people other than Christians may soon be targeted. It may seem an un-Christian inference again but it sounds like Christians suffering is unfortunate but not as politically important as the suffering of other minorities.
The victimisation of the Rohingas, Yazidis, Ahmadis, Gypsies, Jews, Tibetans, Uighurs and others is totally unacceptable. It seems that the world has stopped listening for the canaries. In all the nations implicated in the suffering of the minorities listed above they have been beating up on canaries for some time with hardly any international media or political concern.
So often the ongoing abuse of millions only gets attention when one individual suffers in a headline worthy manner. In this case the UK Foreign Office intervention came after the outcry over the treatment of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who faced death threats after being acquitted of blasphemy in Pakistan.
Ms Bibi spent eight years on death row until her conviction was reversed by Pakistan's Supreme Court earlier this year. Large crowds took to the streets to protest against the court's decision, as her husband pleaded for asylum from the UK, US or Canada, saying the family were in danger.
The BBC article mentioned that UK Prime Minister Theresa May defended herself in Parliament after being asked whether she had intervened to stop the UK government offering asylum. Mrs May told Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith he "shouldn't necessarily believe everything he reads in the papers", adding "the absolute prime concern" was the "safety and security" of Asia Bibi and her family.
We are to read between the lines that the UK and other governments in the Free World were having private conversations in order to minimize the potential for Islamic or other repressive government reprisals. It’s the script from yet another monster movie coming to a theatre near you – try and rescue the maiden but whatever you do, don’t wake the monster.
Christians are also being targeted in other parts of the world. The BBC also reported that in China there has been a recent surge of police action against churches, raising concern that the government is getting tougher on unsanctioned Christian activity. The Chinese government insists that Christians in China register and submit to the restrictions of the State.
The list of repressive governments is long - it has to be in order to make the daily lives of 215 million people unbearable by Australian standards. They burn or destroy church buildings and resources, arrest and imprison Christian leaders, deny Christians equal opportunity in the workplace and intimidate them into silence and subservience. But the Australian public must be very attentive if it wants to catch a glimpse of any reference in our media or Hansard.
If this seems ‘victimesque’, why then is the ALP so concerned to make sure that the Australian refugee policy shows no favour to the most persecuted minorities (Christians) in the Middle East? And why is there such a beat up about the as yet unproven injustice of Christian schools against students who identify as gay?
I see another canary getting wobbly on its perch.
Of course in today’s marketplace of social and political ideas, religious freedom has been discounted. The big ticket items are gender and sexual preference. But that’s obvious to everyone except the far right wing of the Christian movement – who it is hoped will stop poking the bear and accept that they are second class citizens now.
If only we hadn’t burnt all the (older) history books that have so many examples of how tyranny begins with what seems like justice. Surely our national educators were not deliberately wiping the national memory clean in order to scrawl misspelt revisions on the farmyard wall? With a voice like honey we are told that there is no need for either the historical or empirical facts. Australia is evolving into a more tolerant, equal, inclusive and diverse society - soon to be free of reactionary attitudes like religious freedom (for Christians…)
Political correctness has seeped into every aspect of life. Everything is valued in terms of its politically correct currency – even the suffering of human beings. Apparently the suffering of some people is much more importance than the suffering of others. Despite the massive and endemic abuse of Christians globally, attempts to deny them freedom of religion in our country raises very little protest. In our own national conversation about religious freedom Christianity is being characterised as a flock of vultures and not a canary in a coal mine.
The canary analogy is very pertinent however, because the bird sings not just for itself… Selah.
By David d'Lima - National Secretary, FamilyVoice Australia
Christians may utilise the advent season to remind themselves and the world about the historical facts pertaining to the life of Jesus, and commend him as personal saviour and lord of all the nations. A starting point is to explain that the vast majority of scholars (Christian or not) regard the New Testament as a valuable historical source, and that ancient pagan Roman writers mention Jesus - though they gave him no respect! Three among them are prominent:
Pliny the Younger wrote in about AD 112 as governor of Bithynia-Pontus, asking the Emperor Trajan for his advice about responding to Christians, and criticizing their disgusting, fanatical superstition [Epistulae 10:96].
Tacitus wrote in about AD 116, keenly denouncing a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. He further explained that ... Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus .... [Annals 15:44].
Suetonius wrote disparagingly in about AD 122, stating that the Jews rioted at the instigation of Chrestus [Lives of the Twelve Caesars: Claudius 25].
At an earlier time, the physician Luke connected the nativity to world events. Luke carefully investigated everything, and then wrote an orderly account in two books that he dedicated to the most excellent Theophilus (Luke 1:3) - a believer whose name means something like "loved by God", who may have been a Roman authority. Further, Luke makes reference to Augustus and to a census conducted while Quirinius was governor of Syria (2:1-2). Those positive references to Roman civic authority in the advent accounts make a most important New Testament commendation of God's gift of government.
The advent episodes presented by Luke provide us with important examples of God's interest in civic governance. They are seen firstly as we examine the dutiful response of Mary and Joseph to the census, and secondly when we see the shepherds testifying - regardless of restrictions on them as witnesses.
Mary and Joseph respond dutifully at the time of the census, as he went with her to his own town to register (Luke 2:3). We may constrast them with the reactionary figure Judas the Galilean who appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt (Acts 5:37). Judas was killed by the Roman government and all his followers were scattered. That episode in the Book of Acts is confirmed by the First Century Jewish historian Josephus, as he described Judas as leading a rebellion against the census (Antiquities 18:1).
While a ruler should not hold a census based on diabolical or self-reliant motivation (I Chronicles 21:1), it is helpful to tally the people to achieve a righteous aim (Exodus 30:12). Census taxes and data collection are necessary as the civic authorities give their full time to governing (Romans 13:6).
We may also perceive the sovereignty of God as the census required Mary and Joseph to journey to Bethlehem (Luke 2:4). This fulfilled the prophecy of Micah 5:2 regarding where the Christ was to be born (Matthew 2:4).
Another civic implication in the Gospel of Luke (2:17-18) may be seen in the response given by the shepherds after they had visited the newborn Messiah: they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
Shepherds were ill-reputed within Judaism and were banned as witnesses (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 25b). Thus the term good shepherd is used of Jesus who lays down his life (John 10:11), so outsiders may enter the fold. By God's grace, the shepherds are authorised to testify as they are inwardly compelled to speak - regardless of the unjust cultural and religious restraint.
As the shepherds effectively challenged the unwarranted restriction on their testimony, and as the holding of a census may enable the good functioning of government, Luke's account of the nativity may encourage modern Christian people to be more zealous when providing civic engagement and enrichment.
Important civic implications of the birth of Jesus Christ may be seen as we compare two responses that are detailed in Matthew's account of the nativity. The first is seen in the action of the Magi who honour Jesus as lord. The second occurs as we see Herod the Great despising the newborn King of the Jews.
Disturbing Herod and all Jerusalem, the Magi gave testimony concerning the King of the Jews, saying: "we have come to worship him" (Matthew 2:1-2). Traditionally regarded as three kings from the East, or three wise men, they are better understood as astrologers or magicians. Nor is their number given in the Bible - although three gifts are named. This much we know about them: they commended Christ to Herod in word and deed, travelling to fulfil the aim of honouring the Messiah. That pilgrimage of the Magi prefigured the spread of the Gospel to the Gentiles and their kings (Acts 9:15). Like those Magi, all kings will bow down to him and all nations will serve him (Psalm 72:11).
Sadly, King Herod stands in stark contrast to the Magi as he rejected Christ, and lied by saying he wanted to honour Jesus. Sending the Magi to Bethlehem, Herod said: "Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him" (Matthew 2:8). This in fact produced the first instance of civil disobedience in the New Testament, as the Magi were warned through a dream not to go back to Herod (2:12).
Then came a massacre after the Holy Family escaped to Egypt. By the order of Herod, his soldiers killed all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under (2:16). Like Pharaoh who rejected the grace of God (Exodus 1:8) and massacred infants (1:16), Herod commanded the slaughter of boys in Bethlehem. But like Moses who escaped death and was adopted into Pharaoh's household (2:1-10), Jesus was rescued and adopted by Joseph. Thus our Lord re-enacted aspects of the history of God's people.
Appallingly, a much greater killing of babies has occurred through abortion which became legal in many nations from the early 1970s. At the same time, adoption fell into gross disrepute in Western countries, though it was applied to Jesus from his nativity, and is also prophetic concerning the people of God - as we wait eagerly for our adoption (Romans 8:23) through the work of Christ. God's people today do well to challenge the abortion epidemic, and seek to restore community and governmental respect for adoption.
As Christian people should in every way ... make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive (Titus 2:10), making the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:16), we may lovingly reach out during Christmas time - when unbelievers may be more open to the gospel. Practical options are as follows:
Advent expressions of love provide a timely basis for challenging individuals, communities and authorities with the truth about Jesus Christ, especially since Christmas festivities tend to overshadow him as the reason for the season:
Individuals may be urged to accept Christ as lord and saviour by renouncing sin, and receiving forgiveness - "because of the tender mercy of our God ... to guide our feet into path of peace" (Luke 1:78-79).
Communities can be urged to echo the angelic message: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests" (2:14) recognising that only as God is glorified do we find peace - and only through his mercy. We may inform communities that as God's people we seek the peace and prosperity of the city and pray to the LORD for it (Jeremiah 29:7).
Authorities may promote peace by recognising that the government will be on his shoulders (Isaiah 9:6), and as we warn them that God "has brought down rulers from their thrones, but has lifted up the humble" (Luke 1:52).
FamilyVoice Australia is questioning the ALP’s decision at its National Conference on Monday to continue to push for the removal of gender from official documents.
Despite cleverly wording the push as simply a “review” of gender rules for official documents, the cultural Marxist agenda influencing Labor to legitimize so-called “transgenderism” is clear.
In October, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said his government would not remove gender from official documents.
“No, no … it’s nonsense, no plans to do that,” Mr Shorten told reporters.
“We’ve got no plans to change that (gender on documents),” he said.
“We were repeatedly told before and during the plebiscite that redefining marriage had no consequences,” said FamilyVoice National Director Charles Newington.
“And yet, a year after gender was removed from marriage, the ALP is seeking to remove gender in society more broadly,” said Mr Newington.
“Bill Shorten must stand up to the radicals in the Labor movement and give voters an iron-clad guarantee that a government under his watch will not remove gender from official documents such as birth certificates and passports.
"For obvious international identification and medical reasons birth certificates and passports should be reliable records of the biological sex of a person.”
For more information, contact Charles Newington on 0412 163 862.
FamilyVoice Australia has slammed Labor’s commitment to expand Australia’s refugee intake, especially as it promises to funnel $500 million to the United Nation’s refugee agency that has a well-known bias against Christian refugees.
“In 2015 and 2016, the United Nations High Commision for Refugees (UNHCR) selected 6,444 refugees from the Middle East for resettlement in Australia. Twelve percent were Christian — just 782 people,” said FamilyVoice National Secretary David d'Lima.
“Under the Coalition government, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection prioritised religious minorities in the Middle East, particularly Christians.
“According the New York Times, 78 percent of the approximately 18,563 refugees from Syria and Iraq granted entry from mid 2015 to early 2016 were Christians.
“Christians in parts of the Middle East face heavy persecution and are under continual threat of being wiped out.
“In 2015, Labor immigration spokesman Shayne Neumann mouthed support for ‘a non-discriminatory immigration program’, in opposition to the Coalition desire to bring in Christian refugees, which aimed to offset the UN program’s bias against Christians.
“FamilyVoice opposes increasing the refugee intake under any Government that refuses to protect the most vulnerable. Indeed, Australia should fund an intake it can afford, and the current level of 16,250 is about right.”
For more information, contact David d'Lima on 0414 969 145.
A federal Labor bill to undermine religious freedoms enjoyed by faith-based schools failed to pass the senate last week, but the legislation still remains a threat. It's an issue the Parliament will consider in the new year.
The legislation to remove faith-based exemptions was pushed by Labor on the basis of a discredited notion that same-sex attracted students suffer discrimination at faith-based schools.
South Australian Liberal Senator David Fawcett, a strong advocate for religious freedom, explained his concerns about the legislation:
“The Labor bill modified Section 37 of the Sex Discrimination Act (SDA) which deals with religious bodies (churches, synagogues, temples and mosques) as opposed to religious schools (educational religious bodies - Section 38). The Labor bill would expose someone providing education within a religious body (eg: a course or seminar run by a Church, and potentially even teaching on a Sunday morning from the pulpit) to the provisions of the SDA.
This creates the possibility that a priest or pastor who taught the accepted view of a Church that God created people male and female or that marriage was between a man and a woman could be hauled before a Discrimination tribunal in the same way Jason Tey (a Perth based photographer) was recently, just for stating his belief.”
Senator Fawcett added that the Labor Bill “represents an unprecedented attack on religious freedom, and freedoms more broadly (speech and association) that have always underpinned Australia’s successful plural democracy.”
FamilyVoice Australia upholds Christian values and the family: permanence of marriage, sanctity of human life, primacy of parenthood and limited government.
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