Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Abbott's Team Christian Australia

Irfan Yusuf | 21 August 2014

Australia is a Christian country. We wear Christian clothes. We eat Christian food, speak Christian languages and play Christian sport. We also drive Christian cars on Christian roads. And we do all that because we say we have Christian values.

And when we're feeling a bit ecumenical and/or guilty for 2000 years of persecution culminating in the Holocaust, we say we have Judeo-Christian values.

Pardon the scepticism but I've lived here in Australia too long to believe all this 'Christian values' nonsense. And I won't be lectured about my alleged failure to integrate. I won't forget easily the 'Asians out' and 'STOP THE ASIAN INVASION' stickers on shop walls at the Blenheim Road shops. I also won't forget my then-Federal Member John Howard tell me in 1988 that Asians don't make a neat cultural fit into Australia.

I won't easily forget the kids (and in some cases, parents) at Ryde East Public School during the 1970s calling me a 'Paki' and 'nigger'.

My father's advice when I'd come home with a black eye was simple. 'If they hit you, hit them back!' My mum's advice was the same, except she preferred I use words of sarcasm and not bare fists.

'Tell them your skin is the same colour as the real Australians, the Aborigines'. The line didn't work. Now the kids at school started labelling me 'coon' and 'boong'. Logic just couldn't win.

The same bullies would grab my school bag and throw it on the road hoping a car would run it over. And the same bullies would ignore me and punch up a white kid from a different school. I never quite understood this phenomenon until one bully explained.

'It's because he's a f*cking Catholic!'

My experience of Australia as a kid was that it was a nation of bullies trying to protect their turf from anyone they perceived as outsiders. This usually meant people sufficiently different in the wrong way and for reasons beyond their control.

Perhaps this was Tony Abbott's experience growing up as an English Catholic migrant in a very Protestant Australia. Perhaps that is why he took up boxing as a young man, in the same manner as many young Indigenous and Lebanese men take up the sport. In self-defence he may have found a deep sense of empowerment. Abbott knew he had to fight his way into Team Australia.

Abbott must have known what it was like to have his faith pilloried and made the subject of public scorn. He also felt the pull of political Catholicism in the movement of an Italian migrant named Bartholomew Augustine Santamaria, whose anti-Communist views often translated into divisive positions on domestic and international politics, which many Catholics abhorred. That did not stop Abbott from sitting beside Santamaria's deathbed during the latter's final hours.

Australia's history since Federation has been dominated by the politics of exclusion and marginalisation. Minorities have been bludgeoned into joining 'Team Australia' by shedding what they could of their foreign dress, food and religion. They refused. They fought back. Since his days in the campus Democratic Clubs, Tony Abbott was amongst them.

So what now leads him to repeat the same divisive rhetoric? Why is he asking people to give up their legal rights as their price to join his Team Australia?

Abbott told Radio 2GB recently: 'Everyone has got to put this country, its interests, its values and its people first, and you don't migrate to this country unless you want to join our team'. But Mr Abbott didn't become a Protestant. He remained a Papist, part of a religious movement seen by many as putting the Vatican's interests before Australia's. He joined a movement led by a man accused of siding with dictators.

And consider this, Mr Abbott. Many Muslims did not migrate to Australia. Over 40 per cent were born here. They grew here. You flew (or perhaps sailed) here. Albanian Muslims have lived in Shepparton and Mareeba since the 1920s. Descendants of Afghan cameleers can be found across the country. Every major wave of Australian migration has included persons of Muslim heritage.

These people were, in many cases, part of Team Australia before you were born.

Our cultural warriors should familiarise themselves with the Sermon on the Mount or 1 Corinthians 13. They'll then recognise there isn't much Christian about their imbecilic 'Team Australia' yelling and chest beating.


Irfan Yusuf is a lawyer and blogger of Muslim Indian heritage who recently moved from Sydney to Melbourne.


Irfan Yusuf

Sunday, August 17, 2014

What action should Christians take?

Rev Geoff Broughton August 15, 2014
Earlier this week a group of Christian leaders from various denominations – including several friends of mine – sat down and conducted a prayer vigil in the office of the Treasurer Joe Hockey. Similar vigils have been held over a number of months including one in the office of Prime Minister Tony Abbott in which I participated.
Most choose to stay until escorted by police from the premises. Very few charges have been laid. In Adelaide this week the magistrate not only dismissed the charges of an earlier sit in but remarked ‘anything I can say seems trite after hearing what you’ve had to say. You are a credit to your faith and an inspiration. I’ve no hesitation about letting you go without conviction or penalty’.

Nearly 1000 children remain in detention centres in Australia or off shore processing centres. It is just one of many despairing issues in our world which are overwhelming in their complexity.
Most of us pray, some of us write letters, while others still attend rallies. A growing number of Christians – lay and ordained – are choosing a path of direct action such as the prayer vigils. Another friend and ministry colleague was recently arrested while being chained to a cross in a blockade outside Maules Creek in northern NSW trying to save Leard State forest.
This kind of direct action is usually called ‘civil disobedience’ where Christians decide that, in order to be obedient to God, laws may be broken. Theologians and interpreters wrestle with the implication of Jesus’ words in Mark 12:17 ‘Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s’ and Paul’s words in Romans 13 ‘Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established’.
I find it curious that less attention is given to Jesus’ own action which led him to be crucified on a Roman cross between two criminals.
Perhaps theologians have been more concerned to preserve Jesus perfect obedience to the Father, or his innocence, that his penalty for civil disobedience has been overlooked.
Of course the Roman Imperialism of the first century is very different from a 21st century democracy. Numerous Christian witnesses became martyrs during the early centuries by refusing the demands of governors and rulers. Great theologians, from the Apostle Paul to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, spent significant time in prison. It is the expected outcome when Christian convictions are in opposition to public opinion, government policy and the law of the land.
Slowly the Church is re-awakening to the counter-cultural reality of Christian convictions. Jesus expected no less when he called his followers to ‘take up a cross’. As Bonhoeffer prophetically declared ‘when Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die’.
The twenty first century will see the continued marginalisation of the Christian church in public life in the West. It is hardly surprising then that more Christians find obedience to God at odds with public opinion, government policy or obeying the law. This morning the Treasurer Joe Hockey remarked that ‘evil always has its way when good people do nothing’. I agree with Mr Hockey. Some Christians enjoy getting in evil’s way because they believe that ‘Love Makes A Way’.
The morning we assembled for the prayer vigil in Tony Abbott's office I was struck immediately by the age (mostly in their twenties) and gender (more women than men) of the gathering. The media has tended to focus on middle-aged-blokes wearing collars. The deeper reality is that a new generation of disciples are willing to take action based on their Christian conviction. Maybe these young activists are the answer to our prayers? Maybe these young activists also need our wisdom and support?
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Friday, August 8, 2014

From The Unknown Christ of Hinduism (1981) Raimundo Pannikar

There are ex-Catholics, ex-Marxists, ex-Buddhists and so forth, but I know of no ex-mystic. Once the transformation due to an authentic mystical experience has happened, it is irreversible….

Nothing is so dangerous in the Christian apostolate as the paternalistic attitude and false security of one who thinks he is in full possession of the truth. The true Christian (as also the true Hindu) possesses nothing, not even the truth. Rather, he is possessed by the truth, as Thomas Aquinas points out. He knows God because God knows him….

Two propositions are universally accepted by Christian Theology: one, salvation comes exclusively through Christ, and two, God does not condemn anybody. Now, this second proposition amounts to saying that God provides every Man coming into existence with the means of salvation.

We have mentioned God’s universal will to save. Now if he created Men for union with him, then surely he also provided them with a means whereby to attain this end. If these means were exclusively in the viable Church or in ‘official’ Christianity, other people could not be saved, but this, in fact, is not so. If it be true that ‘outside the Church there is no salvation’, this ‘Church’ should not be identified with a concrete organization, or even with adherence to Christianity….

The ultimate reason for this universal idea of Christianity, an idea which makes possible the catholic embrace of every people and religion, lies in the Christian conception of Christ: he is not only the historical redeemer, but also the unique Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, the only ontological – temporal and eternal – link between God and the World….

If we take the concept of the sacrament not in the restricted sense used by the Church when she speaks of the sacraments of the New Law – to distinguish them from other sacraments – but in a more general sense, … then we may well say that sacraments are the ordinary means by which God leads the people of the earth towards himself.

No true sacrament is magical. Nevertheless the sacraments have a special causative strength because of their extrinsic connection with the will of God. Thus the efficacy of the Christian sacraments does not reside in themselves … but depends on the action of Christ within them as instruments of grace. One may or may not assume that the same efficacy is conferred upon all other sacraments…. Yet it remains true that Christ may be active and at work in the human being who receives any sacrament, whether Christian or any other.

The good and bona fide Hindu as well as the good and bona fide Christian are saved by Christ – not by Hinduism or Christianity per se, but through their sacraments and, ultimately, through the mysterion active within the two religions. This amounts to saying that Hinduism also has a place in the universal saving providence of God and cannot therefore be considered as negative in relation to Christianity.

From The Unknown Christ of Hinduism (1981)