Friday, May 29, 2015

Kevin Donnelly from Australia: We are a Christian nation under threat

A 17-year-old charged with planning an attack involving home made bombs in Melbourne; an Islamic school in Adelaide sacking a moderate teacher, scrapping its music program and putting a stop to singing of the national anthem; and an Islamic school allegedly banning girls from running.

A Muslim-organised meeting at Melbourne University where women are segregated from men, a video in Sydney where children are seen shouting anti-American slogans, and the Lindt café siege.

When you add the fact that approximately 90 Australians are fighting in Syria and Iraq on the side of terrorist organisations like Islamic State, as well as incidents like the Bali bombings and the plan to attack the Holsworthy army barracks in Sydney, and it's clear we are facing a clear and present danger.

Britain is also facing problems with Islamic fundamentalism. In addition to the London bombings, a number of Muslim schools and teachers in Birmingham have been investigated for undermining British values. Such were the concerns about a number of schools being influenced by Islamic fundamentalists that an official inquiry was held that concluded there was a problem that had to be addressed.

What is to be done?

A good start would be for Australian politicians to follow British prime minister David Cameron's example of defending freedom, equality and the rule of law. Cameron, who has just been re-elected, argues Britain is a Christian country committed to a democratic form of government where there is "a belief in freedom, tolerance of others, accepting personal and social responsibility, respecting and upholding the rule of law".

That's why Britain and Australia - unlike countries like Indonesia, China and Saudi Arabia, along with many of the states in the USA - have banned the death penalty. If Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran had been arrested on Australian soil, instead of Indonesian, they would be facing long-term prison sentences instead of death.

And such values don't exist in a vacuum or happen accidently. As argued in a 'Values' document signed by 22 Christian leaders and presented to the British parliament, individual rights like "freedom of speech, debate, conscience and religion" are "derived from our Judaeo-Christian foundations".

David Cameron and German chancellor Angela Merkel also argue that multiculturalism is a failed government policy as it often leads to communities where migrants are unable to assimilate.

Australia is also a Christian country. At the time of Federation in 1901, 96 per cent of Australians described themselves as Christians, and while the figure is now about 62 per cent, the reality is that Australians still turn to the Church in moments of sorrow and loss.

At the 100 year ANZAC commemoration in Gallipoli, the Lord's Prayer was recited and Australians across the country attended churches to mourn the death of those in the Malaysia Airlines tragedy when MH17 was shot down over Ukraine. 

The British common law system and Westminster form of government that we have inherited are based on Christian values and beliefs. That's why parliaments in Australia begin with the Lord's Prayer and the Preamble in our Constitution refers to "Almighty God".

The freedoms we take for granted - such as separation of powers, trial by jury, innocent until proven guilty, and equal rights for women - are denied to millions around the world.

In Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive. In Iraq, Islamic State terrorists rape women and behead Christians without a second thought.

There are some in Australia who argue that we are a secular nation and that there is no room for Christianity; especially in relation to being involved in public debate. They are wrong. The freedom to hold and to express religious views and beliefs is guaranteed by international covenants and agreements.

In addition to being the source of our rights and freedoms, Christianity also contributes to community health and welfare.

Groups like the Salvation Army, the St Vincent de Paul Society and the Brotherhood of St Laurence are critical to the wellbeing of millions of Australians, and Catholic schools teach 20 per cent of Australian children.

Christian and Christian-inspired organisations and voluntary groups save governments, and taxpayers, millions of dollars each and every year. Such groups also make for stronger communities by building social capital represented by relationships and friendships.

In 1993, American academic Samuel P Huntington argued that while the Berlin Wall had been taken down and the cold war may have ended, the "clash of civilizations will dominate global politics". Such is the case. 

There's no doubt that geographically we are part of Asia and that migrants from around the world are vital to the nation's future. At the same time, there is no denying that we are a Western, liberal democracy where Christianity is the major religion and where Islamic terrorism represents a significant threat.

If we are to remain a peaceful, prosperous and welcoming country, like the British prime minister argues in relation to England, we need to acknowledge and celebrate Australia's Judeo-Christian heritage and what makes this nation unique.

Dr Kevin Donnelly is a senior research fellow at the Australian Catholic University and Director of Education Standards Institute.


david said...

I have considerable sympathy for Kevin Donnelly's views, but some of his premises deserve challenge.

He implies that we hold particular values because of our Christian heritage. Yet many of the characteristics that he favours such as tolerance towards those of different beliefs (homosexuals for example) are of relatively recent origin and their adoption probably coincides with the decline of the church. In fact the Bible can be seen to support a range of views and maybe we cherish those teachings of the Bible that support our world view rather than the other way around.

His general thesis is that our values are better in some way than those of other cultures. I agree of course, but if I had been brought up in a different culture I no doubt would think otherwise. If we are to preserve what we believe to be right we have to convert others to our views. The conviction that our beliefs are divinely given is not going to help. That conviction is also held by our enemies.

PJ said...

I too have sympathy for Kevin Donnelly's views and applaud his insights actions in education but Mr Donnelly would do well to reflect on the history of Christianity - it wasn't too many generations back when the "values" of our christian forebears were just as barbaric and savage.

It's easy to be benevolent and caring when when you're top. Try taking away some of our largesse and watch how we behave then.

Further - what other religion celebrates the death and suffering of its deity? No wonder we are such a doer and cheerless lot.

One Law for All said...

Muslims need to have a 'Reformation', as christians had 500? years ago. To drag out the hoary old 'Christian used to do that as a reason to forgive the current Islam atrocities is disingenuous, to say the least. We need to follow the countries that have banned Islam, calling it a religion is deceitful and of no help.

Dianna said...

Speak for yourself Paul. I would never consider myself dour or cheerless, but I do consider myself to be a doer. i.e. one who gets off her backside and gets stuff done and creates good things while always striving to leave things better than they were before I arrived.

The difficulty with characterising Christianity as having a savage side is not accurate. The savagery visited on Christian principles is derived by the ugliness of mankind, rather than Christianity.

There seems always to be a bunch of egocentric humans who want to push the rest of us around and they are usually men of poor character masquerading as leaders. I do hope that Muslim women stop allowing their hideous men to bully them and push them around making absurd rules that the women "must" obey.

Jean Jackson said...

With some Botany training, anthropology &c. I googled 'incense,' religious subjects &c to find there's endless info on political + social Cannabis use. Historians say heavy doses may be used politically or socially but have the same dangerous effects as Ergots in grain when a whole harvest is ruined.
Folk might use no soil enrichment then if the fungus isn't removed by smutting it goes into flour then breads. Hence violence and unrest. Our Maori tribes went through years of poor harvest or no smutting and lost profit about the 1860-70s. Are there parallels. Ergot's down-side is like that of magic mushroom - and Cannabis /Marijuana varieties. ISIS?
We forget that 'hash' is an hypnotic incense; some lists have it. Political hypnosis has been used for a very long time, and recently, in several forms.
NB Christianity developed after Christ's sacrifice. Is it a standard for believers to take 'bread and wine' partly to grow away from sacrifice of living creatures?

Dianna said...

Indeed I agree entirely with the "poison language" proposition. It started in the 60's and 70's. Those catch cries that were bought back from Communist Camps in Cuba, by people such as Hone Harawira, Sue Bradford, Donna Awatere and their ilk. These serial protesters screamed intolerance, judgemental or racist at the establishment at every opportunity and wormed their way into our educational institutions where they have white anted Universities and poured "poison language" into the minds of several generations of our youth and we now see the results of the process where we have dumbed down, weak and dependent individuals who embrace socialism. People like Metiria Turei. Always shrieking about the oppressed. I call them the halt, the lame and the lazy spiritually bereft, always with outstretched begging bowls demanding that the doers in our society be stripped of more and more of their earnings to give it to overpaid public servants who redistribute a small proportion of it to the halt the lame and the lazy.

If you lived by the 10 commandments, you would be living a good and constructive life. However, when men start adding rules that suit their egotistical nature, that is when the trouble starts with so called Christianity. For example: the tithing that robs Pacific Islanders of a great deal of their income. I'd have to say that I think such practices are evil and do not bear any relationship to Christianity. The rules that used to apply to women ... such as stoning women for perceived misdemeanors. That is not related to Christianity, but to the ego's of insecure men who suffer from great hubris and other character flaws.

The same goes for all those ugly rules that are imposed on Muslim women by their evil male relatives. A very ugly and evil religion for sure. I note with disgust that in Adelaide, Muslims have forced a school to discontinue singing the Australian National Anthem and there are many instances where similar moves have been made in NZ.

And to you Paul, I do not include myself in your view that "we are a dour and cheerless lot". I do however, consider myself to be a doer. i.e. I am one who gets things done, creates beautiful things, grows flowers, cooks and generally strives to make all things in my realm better for my being there. I consider that to be the responsibility of every human being. Alas it is not so.

Barend Vlaardingerbroek said...

To call Australia a ‘Christian country’ is misleading as Australia has to State religion. The case could be made that the UK is a ‘Christian country’ as there are seats in the House of Lords reserved for senior CoE clergy, but even the UK is generally regarded as a ‘secular State’. ‘Secular State’ and ‘secular society’ are two different things as the example of Turkey exemplifies.

I’m not sure what a ‘Christian government’ or ‘Christian law’ would look like anyway as Christianity, unlike Islam, presents no blueprint for either – there is no Christian equivalent of the Sharia.

To make the tensions between Islam and the West look like a religious squabble is legally unfounded and also rather silly because it plays into the hands of the Islamists. The tension is between a model of governance in which religion plays a leading role (in this case Islam, although some Christian fundamentalist groups would want the same) and a system of governance in which religion has no formal place, i.e. secularism. The Western liberal democracy is secular by definition.