Australia’s shame

By Penny Mulvey

On Tuesday 23 July, approximately 370 thousand babies were born throughout the world. Not one of those 370 thousand babies asked to be born and they certainly had no say regarding the circumstances, location or ethnicity into which they were born.

Whilst many of those babies are longed for and welcomed, it is estimated that every minute of every day 50 babies are born into extreme poverty, adding a further burden to an already overstretched family.

And yet on Tuesday 23 July and Wednesday 24 July one baby was singled out. Australian news teams joined the world’s media gathered outside a hospital in London to document the breathtaking event regarding a royal baby.

George Alexander Louis, great grandson of Queen Elizabeth II and third in line to the throne of England, had his first experience of the life ahead of him when thousands of cameras flashed, capturing his first moment in the open air 24 hours after his birth.

As George was born, hundreds of other babies were being delivered in the mud and squalor of refugee camps. There are 50 million refugees and displaced persons in our world, 80 per cent of whom are women and children.

Sadly, our northern neighbour, Papua New Guinea – the focus of much interest in the wake of Prime Minister Rudd’s new asylum seeker policy – has infant mortality rates that are unchanged despite its significant aid budget. For every one thousand babies born in PNG, more than 70 will die before their fifth birthday, a mortality rate 14 times higher than Australia.

Each year Christians celebrate the birth of a baby who was a different kind of royalty. Jesus, the son of God, whose example whilst on earth, and whose death and resurrection, reshaped the world and provided a counter cultural perspective on children.

In Matthew’s Gospel (18:1-5) Jesus tells the disciples that ‘whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me’.

Every one of those 370 thousand children born on 23 July is precious in God’s sight. Every child who boards a leaky boat to come to Australia with his or her parents will enter the kingdom of heaven according to Jesus (“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”).

What has happened to the heart of our nation? Has compassion been replaced by political expediency?

Is the life of the new Prince of Cambridge any more valuable than these children? And yet, instead of a lifetime’s free entry to Sydney’s Taronga Zoo (Australia’s gift to the prince), babies of so-called ‘boat people’ who could benefit from Australia’s health care system, will never reach our shores. The door has been slammed shut.

Let us weep for these infants, for their future options have been exchanged for short term political polls.

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