Letters to the editor – March

Giving up prejudice

Lent is said to be a time of self-imposed abstinence. This Lent maybe it’s time we go a little further and try to give up more than chocolates. We could give up pre-judging others, whether by force of habit, narrow-minded nurture or just plain self-limiting fear. For instance, we may tend to equate Islam with dangerous extremism (thanks, no doubt, to the well-publicised IS fondness for beheading and torching people).

Christians cannot ever claim their faith has always led them on the path of peace either. It was not too long ago that Catholics and Protestants were each labelling the other side heretics and literally at each other’s throats. In the early part of the 17th century in central Europe, the unimaginably destructive 30 Years War (1618 to 1648) saw thousands of men, women and children (yes, children –  some hardly more than toddlers were accused of being the Devil’s paramours!) burnt alive at the stake for heresy.

Christianity and the Church had been around for some one thousand six hundred years then. The warring parties were Christians, people who believed in Christ and knew His teachings. The Church – on both sides – was part and parcel of this insane carnage. Pope Gregory XIII wrote to France’s King Charles IX after the earlier massacre of Huguenots (French Protestants) in Paris: ‘We rejoice with you that with the help of God you have relieved the world of these wretched heretics.’ The Protestants gave as good as they got and torched Catholic clergy and congregation alike. A more recent flare-up of this Christian-you versus Christian-me bloodbath was the IRA versus the North Irish Ulsterman episode of the 70s.

So it’s not about God. Never was. God was and is hijacked. He was just the pretext, the cover.

Back to our Muslim brothers and sisters.  A great majority of them value peace, safety and a place to raise their family free from fear and danger. There are over a billion Muslims in the world. If every Muslim were radicalised to go on a rampage, the world will be in deep, deep trouble! It is the fanatical leanings of a tiny fraction which has brought the whole into disrepute.

Lent is also a time of introspection. Perhaps this Lent we could deny ourselves our perceived self-righteousness and the tendency to put ‘the different’ into convenient boxes of our labelling. Perhaps this is what the Bible meant by ‘dying to self’ so that we may live anew.

Kimmy Fam


Remembering the truth

In a week when our PM Malcolm Turnbull made his stirring ‘Closing the Gap’ speech, I read with interest a news item in February’s The Melbourne Anglican.

The Dean of Melbourne’s St Paul’s Cathedral, Rev Dr Andreas Loewe, has stated that the Cathedral’s Culture and Heritage Committee “is actively considering a memorial to Aboriginal lives lost in the frontier wars”. Australians are learning that there is no reconciliation and recognition without truth – the truth of violent Indigenous dispossession. Already this year I note sadly the anniversaries of these massacres: ‘Flying Foam’ Burrup Peninsula, WA, 7 Feb 1868;  Cape Grim, Tas., 10 Feb 1828; Barrow Creek, NT, 22 Feb 1874; Fighting Hills, Wando Vale, Vic., 8 Mar 1840.

Surely it’s not too late for an ecumenical memorial? I would hope that the synod of Vic/Tas, with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Congress, can have input into this discussion. I feel that an appeal for financial support would gain a ready response from UC congregations.

Dr Loewe says he will be reaching out to the Koori Heritage Trust and other Koori elders and artists to assist with the process. The Aboriginal Catholic Ministry in this state has previously commemorated massacres in Victoria in a ceremony at Doug Nicholls Reserve, Thornbury. Let’s work together to end the silence.

Rev Neil Tolliday
Retired UC minister,
Werribee, VIC


Christian response

The Pope declares Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall to prevent people seeking asylum in the United States is unchristian. Predictably, strident voices oppose the Pope. But this is not the Pope’s creation as early Christian texts show.

Jesus warns the authorities of his day that they are like blind leading the blind, and they inhabit darkness (Matthew 15). They are like whitewashed tombs; their claims to serve the ends of justice and righteousness are false. (Matthew 23). This stinging critique warns us most sharply that we need go neither to first century Palestine nor to the US’s migration policy. We Australians have problems enough with our detention centres, the maltreatment of children, and policies to ‘push back the boats’, all under the veil of secrecy. Politicians who know what is happening in detention centres but support the code of secrecy deserve the most severe judgment. We, as citizens, who fail to uncover the repression of defenceless humans in detention are most to be condemned.

Aren’t these our ‘whitewashed tombs’? Those incarcerated in island death holes deserve our most strident actions seeking to close these places of oppression and brutalisation. But a shift is taking place toward asylum seekers. Churches are declared as places of sanctuary, church groups are engaging in civil disobedience in politicians’ offices. Premiers are offering places of residence; professional and citizens’ movements are growing. Will we refuse to be silent until their plea is heard?

Rev Dr Wes Campbell
Castlemaine VIC


Days for girls

I was thrilled to read what the East Gippsland Days for Girls is doing. We commenced the Berwick Days for Girls group in December 2015 and meet monthly. There are many groups both metropolitan and country meeting to sew reusable sanitary items for girls in developing countries where sanitary items are not readily available and difficult to dispose of after use. Groups need people who can sew but also need people who are non-sewers to help prepare and pack kits. To find a group in your area visit www.daysforgirls.org or contact the Victorian coordinator Michelle Gates 0414 854 649. If you are in the Berwick area and are interested in finding out about our group contact me on 0422 760 984.

Judy Williams
Berwick Victoria


Man of many talents

I read with great interest the article about Arthur Tonkin, who was for many years a much loved and appreciated Worship Leader at The Grove MUC.

He took his first service at the historic Wesleyan Chapel in the 1940s.

Many ‘elderly’ Methodist ministers would remember Arthur as the manager of the Methodist book shop and a gifted organist and chorister.

His very early preaching would have been with visiting deputations for the Methodist Babies Home alongside my late father Clive Lord.

He compiled the history of the Surrey Hills area and anyone who is on his Christmas card list would be aware of his painting  cover of the card.

David Lord
The Grove MUC


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