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How a Stamp-Collecting, Church-Going, Teetotal Suburban Solicitor Got Me into Blogging


I was hoping that the Good Weekend cover story on Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock would go up on the website of The Age or the Sydney Morning Herald, but it hasn’t. Never mind. I can still comment on it.

 

With the sub-title, “How a stamp-collecting, church-going, teetotal suburban solicitor became one of the most controversial ministers we’ve ever had”, it attempts to explain how this seemingly gentle and compassionate Christian man could preside over what many (including myself) believe to be cruel and heartless policies towards refugees.

 

It is not just that the policies themselves—locking children in detention centres for years, refusing to allow refugees in leaky boats fleeing oppressive Middle Eastern regimes entry to Australia for processing—have been cruel. But Ruddock himself has been a crucial part of a sneaky campaign of lies and misinformation, along with the demonisation of the refugees.

 

The article, spread over six pages, doesn’t really manage to explain all the contradictions of the man, and I’m not about to try. I’m writing this commentary because it was partly due to Philip Ruddock—a Christian, as is the Prime Minister John Howard—that I started this blog.

 

When the Tampa crisis erupted last year—a Norwegian freighter had picked up hundreds of refugees trying to reach Australia and whose boat was sinking, leading to a major Australian military operation to stop the freighter from entering Australian waters—I was appalled at the policies of our government.

 

As a Christian I thought Jesus had commanded us, in the story of the Good Samaritan and elsewhere, to help the stranger in trouble. For the first time in my life I wrote a letter to my Member of Parliament.

 

My MP, Kevin Andrews, is a prominent Christian. He led the fight to overturn the legalisation of euthanasia in the Northern Territory. I appealed to him as a Christian to take a stand against the Government’s policies. The reply I got was bland in the extreme, noting my concern and telling me what the Government was doing.

 

I found it hard to believe that so many Christians supported—often with enthusiasm—policies that demonised refugees, that refused them entry to Australia (that is, refused them entry to Australia just for processing; if they turned out not to be true refugees then of course I believed we had the right to send them home again), or that locked them up, sometimes for years, in outback detention centres.

 

For example, the leader of Australia’s Christian Democratic Party, Reverend Fred Niles, issued a disgusting statement on the refugees, a statement that I feel is tinged with hatred.

 

A leader of the Salt Shakers Christian ethics group wrote sarcastic letters to the press against the refugees and against those Christians who supported their cause.

 

I kept wondering.

 

How can parts of Australian Christianity maintain a huge infrastructure of high-fee private schools that may once have provided the masses with an opportunity for a Christian education but which now exist mainly to help the elite of this country—and increasingly, the elite of Asia—get into the best universities?

 

How can parts of Australian Christianity support chains of large bookstores that lavishly promote the latest American fashions—Prayer of Jabez merchandise and books on the evils of Harry Potter—but where you struggle to find information on the suffering Christians of the world?

 

Why do so few Australian Christians seem to care that Jihad is occurring against brother and sister Christians, just across the waters in Indonesia?

 

Why are so few Australian Christians excited beyond words about the revival taking place in the Chinese church and the huge growth in Chinese congregations in Australia?

 

I wondered what had happened to the message of Jesus.

 

So I started this website.
 

 May 3rd, 2002