President of the Uniting Church in Australia Dr Deidre Palmer has called on Australians to respond with love, hospitality and inclusion to a surge in anti-immigration rhetoric in Australian public life.
“Jesus’ great commandment to his followers was to love God and love your neighbour. As Christians we believe all people are created in the image of God and deserving of respect and dignity. Racism is incompatible with the Christian faith,” said Dr Palmer.
In recent weeks, inflammatory opinion pieces have suggested a “foreign invasion”, a neo-Nazi has been allowed to air his views on a news channel; there has been more fearmongering about so-called “African gangs”, and a Senator has used his maiden speech to honour the White Australia Policy and call for future migration to “reflect the historic European-Christian composition of Australian society.”
“The Uniting Church is a proudly multicultural church. Our ministry in Christ continues to be powerfully transformed by the strong and flourishing intercultural community we hold across our diversity,” said Dr Palmer.
“Every day I thank God for the blessings of our gloriously multicultural Church.
“I was delighted to meet leaders of eleven of the Uniting Church’s National Conferences in Sydney recently and to hear first hand about their amazing ministry, which is transforming lives and communities around them. These Conferences include Uniting Church members from South Sudan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, the Middle East, Vietnam, Niue, Korea, and China.
“When I think of ‘Christian values’ I think about overcoming racism and discrimination in all its forms. In his ministry, Jesus challenged religious and social prejudice and sought to break down the barriers that separate us from each other socially, religiously, culturally and politically. Christian values are about inviting people to create communities, where all people can flourish.”
Outgoing Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane recently condemned politicians for race-baiting and sections of the Australian media industry of using racism as part of their business model.
Dr Palmer called on Church members to boldly bear witness to the reconciling ministry of Christ that we proclaim.
“Jesus’ call is to love in the face of hatred and to embody God’s generous hospitality. As Martin Luther King Jr famously observed – hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
“So I urge Uniting Church members and all Australians to embrace the multicultural nature of our society and respond with love and compassion to those who are being made to feel unwelcome,” said Dr Palmer.