Letters to the editor – July 2017

Responding to terror

Hear, hear! to the views expressed by the editor in regard to using the awful terrorist attacks in Manchester as a means to vilify those seeking to escape bombings and war to find refuge in a safer place.

I use the word ‘those’ deliberately, whether their skin colour is white, brown, black, brindle wearing head scarves or not. What would you do if your family home was being bombed from above or from shelling close by? Or if your country was being invaded or persecuted as happened to the Jews and those from the Baltic States during the Second World War. Some were fortunate to escape and find a safe haven in a refugee camp.

Why is the burden falling heavily on Italy and Greece at the moment? They are sending out boats to rescue these poor souls from overfilled boats and drowning. Not like us who send out the navy to turn these boats back not caring whether they make it back or not or whether they drown or not. Italy and Greece need help in doing the right thing. And let’s not ever forget that Jesus was a refugee.

Meeting a pilgrimage of Catholics and Lutherans from Germany, Pope Francis said he does not like “the contradiction of those who want to defend Christianity in the West, and, on the other hand, are against refugees and other religions”.

“This is not something I’ve read in books, but I see in the newspapers and on television every day,” Pope Francis said.

“The sickness, or you can say the sin, that Jesus condemns most is hypocrisy… You cannot be a Christian without living like a Christian. It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help, someone who is hungry or thirsty, toss out someone who is in need of my help. If I say I am Christian, but do these things, I’m a hypocrite.”

And bravo to Stuart McMillan for his article on the 2017 Budget and in particular foreign aid. Cutting  the foreign aid budget for the fourth time in a row is truly a disgrace and embarrassment.

We now sit 16th in the world in terms of GNP given to overseas aid. And what is more, UNICEF, UNHCR and the UN are aware of our lack of generosity to those in need due to famine, drought, hurricanes, earthquakes and so on.

Bruce Rogers
Seaford, VIC.

Editorial mistake

Earlier this year I forwarded a letter to Crosslight for possible publication. It was in response to a letter you had published earlier that suggested there were things we could learn from Islam.

In my letter, I outlined several aspects of Islam critical of the outworkings of that faith. What I said then I would repeat now. It was true then and true now.

If that letter, plus others you alluded to in an editorial response, were found to be unacceptable because they were erroneous at some point, or malicious in content, I could accept your decision quite readily. However, it seems that while it is acceptable to laud Islam, your editorial policy does not allow any criticism!

The recent horrific events must give you cause to review that policy and allow your readers the opportunity to express valid opinions that you may find unacceptable, but which are valid and held legitimately.

Rev Bob Ower
Via email

Once again as I read your editorial in the June issue of Crosslight I had to say that I disagree with the thoughts expressed.   

Some years ago I was strongly against what our government was doing in treating refugees the way it did and sending them into offshore detention centres. I attended a number of rallies in Melbourne protesting this, and wrote letters on two or three occasions to every newspaper in Western Victoria stating that “I am ashamed to be an Australian” because of what we do to these people.

But then one day I happened to sit down and look at a map of the world and I asked myself, ”Where are all the wars in the world at the moment?” Of course it was in the Islamic countries. Sunni versus Shia and so on. And all the people were fleeing the wars in these countries.   

Of course it is true that the great majority of them only want to live in peace – but there are many who don’t. We only have to look at the terrorist occasions here in Australia and the many plots that have been discovered before they came to fruition.

You also mention Muslims who live here being subjected to abuse. There is no place for this of course, but these people are quite free to leave Australia if they don’t like it here and return to their own country – unlike the many Christians in Islamic countries who suffer harassment, imprisonment, beatings and even death because they are not prepared to give up their Christian faith.    

I decided to leave the Uniting Church but have not yet done so because my wife and I belong to a very small country church which is noted for the friendliness and welcoming attitude of the congregation. However, our house is up for sale and you can be sure that when we leave this area we will also be leaving the Uniting Church.

If ever I raised this matter for a discussion with our members, almost all of them have exactly the same opinion as I do. 

How many of our taxpayer dollars have we spent in the last five years on police resources to uncover and try to prevent Islamic terrorism?  I’d really like to know that answer to that one. 

Len Martin
Pomonal VIC

Ask Google

Gosh, sometimes when I open my church Crosslight and read the letters I really wonder.

In June a minister seemed to be saying don’t bother about a Keeping Children Safe policy and then another writer from Balwyn doesn’t seem to have a computer. Or even a phone to ring the synod.

Even though I’m getting on in years, I managed to google (my grandkids taught me that verb) ‘Royal  Commission’ and found a report that said the UC across Australia had 2504 incidents or allegations of child sexual abuse and 133 were said to have occurred at a place of worship. I reckon one allegation or incident would make me want to introduce a safe children system. I congratulate the synod for wanting to do this.

And in Balwyn, a writer said there is no visible sign of this important (MSR) document. Well, I love using my new verb ‘google’ and sure enough I found lots of lists straight away for the MSR Report. And I would think that if I asked my minister or rang up synod they would arrange for me to get a copy.

Anyway, I’ve just discovered online scrabble so I’ll see if I can get two ‘G’s and two ‘O’s on my board and use the word ‘google.’ That would earn me 30 points on a triple word.

Rose-Marie MacDonald
Via email

WWCC/R wrong

I completely agree with the letter in the June Crosslight by Rev Adelene Mills.

I believe that the person replying to her letter should have given her the courtesy of using her title of Rev, not Ms. (Or is that an “Ethical Standard”?)*

I must state that we do not have children in our church!

Could someone please explain how the holding of WWCC/Rs by leaders and worship leaders will protect children if they attend our church?  A WWCC/R only indicates that the person has not come under attention by the issuing authority, not that he/she is OK.

I put this hypothetical but possible scenario to you: A child attends a church with its parents. During the service the child goes out to the toilet. A visiting person happens to be in the toilet and interferes with the child. Hey! That can’t happen, because all the appropriate people have WWCC/Rs!

The statement was made that if we do not have WWCC/Rs we would have to turn away any family who came to church with children. So parents are not capable of protecting their own children! How presumptuous! The only place that children are unsafe with their parents is at church?

Outside of the church situation, a child can still go to a shop without his/her parents if the shopkeeper does not have a WWCC/R. I would consider this a far greater risk than a child going to church with parents.

And we were told that we would not be able to take our grandchildren to church! I would not hesitate to say that every member of our congregation who has grandchildren would be happy if they would come to church with them, and to this end a WWCC/R would not be required. After all, all of those grandchildren happen to be adults.

It will be interesting when the findings of the Royal Commission are made public. I dare say that in every case where a child has been abused by someone in the church they have been a member of a choir, youth group, altar attendant or the like, or in a church institution, and I doubt that there will be one case of a child being subjected to abuse as a member of the congregation attending with its parents, with no involvement in any other activity of the church.  I wonder if the powers of the Royal Commission extend to examining the treatment of innocent children of asylum seekers who are imprisoned on a remote island by our supposedly very caring government.     

I am also disappointed by the attempt to frighten and/or shame our church council, which only demonstrates how desperate some people must be to justify their position.

Keith Wools-Cobb,
Shearwater, Tasmania.

*(Editor’s note: Reverend or Rev is an honorific adjective. It is not a title or honorific in the same way as Professor, Doctor, Father or Bishop.)

Just JIM

Reading Crosslight I noted with interest an advertised position for executive officer of the new Mission and Capacity Building unit.                                                                                                                     

A list of the responsibilities appeared in the advert showed the breadth of the Uniting Church in Australia’s involvements, one of which is Mission and Justice (the JIM unit).                                            

The JIM Unit has been a very important team, encouraging our congregations to write, and put into practice as Christians, our concerns on slavery, refugee treatment, corruption, racism, and other important issues.

The abuse of human rights by foreign and Australian governments is not unnoticed by the JIM unit, often resulting in an appeal for us to write respectfully to the appropriate foreign, or sadly at times, Australian governments.

The JIM unit’s valuable background information for our letters always included detail of responsible persons we can to appeal to, such as company directors, and government ministers who may have influence to correct the injustice.                                                     

In closing, the purpose of this letter is to appeal that the ‘Capacity Building unit’ recognise the importance of our Uniting Church’s JIM unit in challenging injustice.                  

I proudly have provided information from JIM over the years to City of Kingston Human Rights Committee, the Kingston Interfaith Community and, at times, seen positive change for the good.                                                                                                                                            So please, members of the Capacity Building unit, in your decisions for change, don’t throw out the baby with the bath water!

Les C Williams OAM
Edithvale 

Universal belief

In 1966, Time magazine ran a cover story ‘Is God dead?’, reflecting the prevailing cultural narrative of western civilization that as science progresses, the need for ‘God’ to explain the universe became inapplicable, almost silly. 

The wheel has come full circle. The best argument for God’s existence is now coming from science itself. In 1966, Carl Sagan pronounced that a planet need only meet two criteria to support life: the right star and the right distance from that star, leading to massive and hugely expensive SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) projects, with scientists confident of debunking Genesis. They estimate that there are at least a septillion (1 followed by 24 zeros) planets that meet the criteria.

But as our knowledge of the universe increased, it became clear that there were far more factors necessary for life than Sagan supposed. As the parameters grew to over 200, the number of potentially life-supporting planets plummeted to nil.

Every one of the 200 life-sustaining criteria must be precisely met or life cannot exist. Without gravity-rich Jupiter nearby to draw away the thousands of asteroids on a collision path with Earth, life cannot exist. Without the protective envelope of its planetary magnetic fields that deflects harmful solar radiation, life cannot exist. In fact, by scientists’ reckoning, the precision with which life-giving factors and their interplay need to be fine-tuned and balanced is so mind-boggling (of course here we have to remember we are talking about the ‘mind’ that is confined to our 1.3kg brain here) it’s a ‘miracle’ that we are even here, on earth, alive and …talking about being alive.

Fred Hoyle, the astronomer who coined the term ‘Big Bang’, said that his atheism was ‘greatly shaken’ at recent discoveries on the creation of the universe so much so he wrote that “a common-sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has ‘monkeyed’ with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology”.

Dr John Lennox, professor of mathematics at Oxford University would have hit the bulls-eye with his observation: “the more we get to know about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator . . . gains in credibility as the best explanation of why we are here.”

Which asks less faith of us? Believing that an intelligence created the universe and perfect conditions for life on Earth? Or that the universe ‘just so happened’ and it ‘just so happened’ our planet and life on it somehow managed to beat inconceivable odds to come into being.

Kimmy Fam

Ballarat, VIC

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