We are a Christian nation under threat

May 21, 2015 by

Photo: Our systems of law and government are based on Christian values and beliefs. (ABC News)

By Kevin Donnelly –

There is no denying that Australia is a Western, liberal democracy where Christianity is the major religion and where Islamic terrorism represents a significant threat, writes Kevin Donnelly.

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.

Source: We are a Christian nation under threat – The Drum (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

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