(this is a statement released this week by the UCA National Assembly by the President of the Uniting Church in Australia. Its primary focus is on the kind of community we seek to be in Australia)
The President of the Uniting Church in Australia Stuart McMillan has condemned as racist comments made by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton about Lebanese-Muslim Australians.
Mr Dutton has suggested that the arrival of Lebanese Muslims in the 1970s is partly to blame for a small number of Australians joining ISIS/Daesh as foreign fighters.
“Mr Dutton’s remarks unfairly stigmatise one migrant community and serve only to promote division and undermine our vibrant multicultural society,” said Uniting Church President Mr Stuart McMillan.
“We need to name that for what it is – racism.”
“Mr Dutton’s attacks also defy common sense. No single generation can be held to account for the actions of future generations.
“Political leaders need to uphold and promote what is good about our society. The Immigration Minister has a special responsibility in this regard but he has failed us all.
“The Uniting Church stands in total opposition to all forms of racism as incompatible with the Christian faith. [Assembly resolution 85.162]
“Comments that provoke fear, misunderstanding and distrust only serve to divide and isolate Australians from each other,” said Mr McMillan.
National Director of UnitingJustice Australia, Rev. Elenie Poulos said, “I am bitterly disappointed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s refusal to condemn Mr Dutton’s remarks.
“Does Mr Dutton personally believe that predisposition to terrorism is an inherent trait of a certain nationality or faith? Or is he saying these things for perceived political advantage?
“Whatever the case Mr Turnbull should pull Mr Dutton into line and make a clear statement of support for Australians of Muslim faith and Lebanese heritage.”
Rev. Michael Barnes, the Convenor of the Church’s national committee on interfaith relations, pointed to the promise the Church made at its formation in 1977 to “work for eradication of racism within our society and beyond”.
“We will always stand against racism in our society,” said Rev. Barnes.
“We value our good relationships with the Australian Muslim community and the extraordinary contribution to this country made by successive generations of Australians of Lebanese heritage.”
“Already there are reports of death threats against prominent Muslims. “I am extremely concerned by the permission being given by too many of our politicians for the expression of racism. What was once dog-whistling is becoming more overt and shameless.”
Rev. Barnes said, “This is not the kind of future we want for our country. We seek a vibrant, diverse and inclusive society where all people feel valued. Now, maybe more than ever, we need leaders who will call us together to build this future in hope and love.”