House debates

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Constituency Statements

Petition: Persecution of Christians

10:23 am

Photo of Tony ZappiaTony Zappia (Makin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Medicare) Share this | Hansard source

Last year I presented a petition handed to me by Mr Colin Johnston, of the Barnabas Fund, drawing attention to the persecution of Christians around the world. Today, I present a second petition signed by 3,754 people on the same theme.

This petition draws the House's attention to the plight of converts from other religions and calls on the House to: (1) fulfil its obligations under article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to protect the rights of all Australian residents whose have converted from other religions, including Islam; (2) promote and protect UDHR article 18 through Australia's UN engagement and foreign aid policies to ensure no-one shall be subject to coercion which would impair their freedom of religion or belief; (3) give priority status to asylum applications from those at risk in their own countries because they have converted and to fully recognise the complementary protection provisions and non-refoulement obligations under international human rights law; and, (4) give consideration to religiously persecuted minorities, especially converts from other religions whose lives are at risk due though their religious laws or local culture, and to grant protection visas under Australia's refugee and humanitarian program.

Today in too many places in the world Christians are being targeted with acts of aggression, discrimination and ridicule. Even in Western countries with a Christian heritage, Christianity is increasingly being scorned and denigrated. It is, of course, much more serious when a person's Christian faith results in their brutal killing or torture. The kidnapping of young girls by militant Islam group Boko Haram is also linked to anti-Christian sentiments.

Over the past year, my office has been supporting an Australian residency application by a Christian man from Nigeria. I quote excerpts from a letter this man wrote to Minister Peter Dutton in 2017:

My murdered uncle, a prominent Christian, was first targeted by the Islamic sect Boko Haram, in northern Nigeria where he had lived all his life. He fled to Awka in south-eastern Nigeria when his house was burnt down by the sect group.

On 12th December 2013 he was on a commercial bus travelling from Awka to Enugu when Boko Haram members stopped the bus. He was recognised as a Christian and shot alongside other Christians on the bus and set ablaze.

A friend who was also an ex seminarian and the financial secretary of the Catholic Youths Organisation in my parish, when I was president of the organisation, was beheaded along with his mother on their farm in my home town by Boko Haram members.

I have met this young man who is now married to an Australian woman and is pleading to be given permanent residency in Australia because, having served in a leadership position of a Christian youth group, he gravely fears for his life if he returns to Nigeria. The case of this man highlights the concerns of the petitioners.

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