Protestors will be held in at least four Australian capital cities today over the issue of asylum seekers. Amnesty International, which is organising the protests, says it’s desperate to avoid a repeat of the 2001 election campaign when then Liberal prime minister John Howard used the Tampa incident to bolster the coalition’s prospects. The protests will be held on beaches in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide. People will be forming giant life rings to show politicians many Australians believe in saving lives by helping refugees fleeing war and persecution.
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Rebirth brings hope during a time of turmoil This year, the eternal Easter message should carry special meaning for the leaders of our churches. As congregations gather to contemplate the profound meaning of the crucifixion – Christ’s vicarious atonement for our sins – the promise of renewal offers a way forward for those charged with shepherding the churches through turbulent times. At tonight’s Vigil ceremonies and on Easter Sunday, in evangelical halls, in suburban and country parishes, in Catholic and Anglican cathedrals, and in the unadorned naves of Uniting Churches, the talk and prayer will be of redemption and hope, that men and women can change, grow and transcend the mortal and the material. The existence of sin and the belief that, through the acceptance of Christ and his teaching, it can be forgiven, lie at the heart of the message. For Christians, Easter Sunday is a time when human frailty is vanquished by the incomprehensible mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection. Or as one Sydney church proclaims in neon lights: 1 cross x 3 nails = 4-giveness. Inelegant, but succinct.
Bella Counihan, 25/3/10
In the pink … Tony Abbott helped promote The McGrath Foundation Ironman event, in Manly yesterday. Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has admitted a “poor choice of words” when it comes to gays and lesbians. Mr Abbott has come under fire recently for comments regarding homosexuality, saying he felt “threatened” by homosexuals and that homosexuality “challenges orthodox notions of the right order of things”. But speaking today on Joy FM, a Melbourne gay and lesbian radio station, Mr Abbott seemed to soften his stance, admitting that his comments were a “poor choice of words”. While he reiterated Coalition policy that marriage should remain between a man and a woman, he declared the Liberal Party’s support for a federal anti-discrimination law that would include protection for gays and lesbians.
The sexual abuse scandal plaguing the Catholic Church crept closer to the Vatican yesterday, with reports the German archdiocese led by the future Pope Benedict XVI ignored repeated warnings in the early 1980s by a psychiatrist treating a priest accused of sexually abusing boys that he should not be allowed to work with children. The psychiatrist, Werner Huth, told The New York Times: “I said, `For God’s sake, he desperately has to be kept away from working with children’. I was very unhappy about the entire story.” Dr Huth told the paper he was concerned enough that he set three conditions for treating the priest, the Reverend Peter Hullermann: that he stay away from young people, alcohol and be supervised by another priest at all times. Dr Huth said he issued the explicit warnings – both written and oral – before the future pope, then Joseph Ratzinger, archbishop of Munich and Freising, left Germany for a position in the Vatican in 1982, the report said. In 1980, after abuse complaints from parents in Essen that the priest did not deny, Archbishop Ratzinger approved a decision to move the priest to Munich for therapy, the paper reported.
David Sharrock, 16/3/10;
The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland resisted calls for his resignation yesterday, despite admitting he took part in meetings where the victims of a pedophile priest were forced to take a vow of silence. Cardinal Sean Brady, the Primate of All Ireland, has confirmed he was present at a closed canonical tribunal in 1975 when two child victims of Father Brendan Smyth were ordered to sign agreements, under oath, that they would not discuss what happened to them with anybody other than an approved priest. There were immediate calls for Cardinal Brady’s resignation. Colm O’Gorman, head of Amnesty Ireland and founder of One in Four, a charity helping victims of sexual abuse, said Cardinal Brady’s tenure was impossible.
5/3/10; (2 Items)
Australia and Japan struggled to strike a deal in a bitter dispute on whaling yesterday, but the US negotiator in intense talks said nations would keep seeking a compromise. Key players on whaling were wrapping up three days of talks at a Florida beach resort where they debated a compromise to let Japan, Norway and Iceland hunt the ocean giants openly despite a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling. In return, whaling nations would agree to sharply reduce their catch over a 10-year period and put their activities under the close supervision of the 88-nation International Whaling Commission (IWC). Asked if supporters and opponents of whaling could strike a deal, Monica Medina, the US commissioner to the IWC, said: “I think the jury is out.”
Cheuang Kavan; Decorah, Iowa; 3/10
Come January 2010, I will have lived in Decorah, Iowa, for 25 years. When I was 11 years old, my family escaped from Laos. We became refugees and stayed in refugee camps in Thailand and the Philippines. Why did we flee from Laos? To escape the same communism my father had fought in his youth. Under communism, people were forced to work in collective farms, but the crops that were raised went to Russia and China in exchange for weapons and war planes, while the majority of the people were left starving. In 1984, Laos finally allowed the United States and other countries to offer refugees a new beginning. One of the ways they decide where to resettle a refugee is where that refugee has relatives. My aunt and uncle were living here in the United States.
Peter Rodgers; The Australian; 30/1/10;
Peter Rodgers worked in Indonesia as a diplomat and journalist and received the Graham Perkin Journalist of the Year award for his reporting on East Timor.
If You Leave Us Here We Will Die: How Genocide Was Stopped In East Timor; By Geoffrey Robinson; Princeton University Press, 319pp, $54.95
Geoffrey Robinson is a campaigner, determined to prove that Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor in 1975 led to genocide and that a second Indonesian-created genocide in 1999 was prevented only by UN-led armed intervention. The broad-brush nature of the UN Convention, which he relies on, gives him a head start. Its definition of genocide includes the killing of or causing harm to national, ethnic racial or religious groups “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part”. Early in the book Robinson writes that there is no evidence that the Indonesian army commanders who planned the operation in East Timor in 1975 intended to kill one-third of the population. Yet, he argues, the very nature of the “culture of terror” fostered within the Indonesian military “inevitably and predictably led to a massive loss of life”.
26/12/09; The Sydney Morning Herald, Letter
There is no doubt that Pope Pius XII helped some Jews of Rome. But by only assisting some of the old established patrician families, he failed as the Pope for all Catholics (Letters, December 24). To say that he did not interfere in case it would make things even worse for Jews is a bad joke. How often would they have gassed the Jews in Auschwitz? What he could have done is to say in clear language that any Catholic involved in the killing or torture of any person due to racial grounds would be excommunicated. He knew what was happening in Germany from 1933, when he was living there — and he received reports about the concentration camps and the gas chambers. He did nothing except arrange for the Pacelli family’s tailor and a minority of rich Roman Jews to enter and live in the Vatican. An uneducated Catholic maid and her daughter hid a Jewish woman in Budapest. They were declared 65 years later as “Righteous among the Nations”, the highest honour Israel bestows. I know, for it was my mother and me they hid. They risked their lives. No sainthood for them. Steven Colman; Chatswood
The Free Papua Movement (OPM), like all civil society organisations in West Papua, has supported the concept of a zone of peace in West Papua. The OPM has also been calling for dialogue with Jakarta. Unfortunately, it appears that Jakarta’s response to this peace initiative is to kill Kelly Kwalik, an OPM leader who is of great symbolic importance to the West Papuan people (“Suspected Papuan separatist leader killed”, 17/12).
Jason Koutsoukis, 27/11/09
When Barack Obama met Benjamin Netanyahu six months ago at the White House, his demand was clear. Israel must freeze all settlement construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank for the peace process to get back on track. After countless subsequent negotiations, Netanyahu has finally got back to Obama with a formal answer. For 10 months, he says, Israel will freeze residential construction in the West Bank. So does that mean the hammers will fall silent immediately? Far from it. Under Netanyahu’s plan for a freeze, construction of 2500 partly built units in the West Bank can be completed. So can construction on another 500 units in the West Bank announced this year. Construction of schools, synagogues, and other public buildings can also continue. This isn’t even a slowdown on last year.
Karuni Rompies, Lindsay Murdoch, & Ben Doherty; 26/10/09
Police say they will use force if hunger-striking Sri Lankan asylum seekers refuse to leave an Australian Customs ship expected to dock today at the Indonesian port of Tanjung Pinang, where they will be housed in a heavily guarded detention centre. Rabussalim, the chief of police at the dock, told the Herald: ”It’s no problem. If they refuse to come off we can take them off … but only if it is necessary.” The group of 78 includes women and children as young as five, at least one of whom has been unwell. The adult men among them have been refusing to eat. They have been on the Oceanic Viking for eight days since being picked up in Indonesia’s search and rescue zone.
Lindsay Murdoch; 17/10/09
Gawirrin Gumana is deeply troubled. Sitting in a wheelchair with his Order of Australia medallion around his neck, the most senior traditional leader in Arnhem Land warns that white man’s politics threaten his Yolngu people’s culture, traditions and future. “I feel empty because people have been using my name to please themselves and our traditional laws have been usurped,” he says, waving his leprosy-disfigured hands. “I fear we will be gone as a people. Everything important to us will be gone.”
Nearly 1000 children in a central Chinese province have tested positive for excessive lead in their blood, state media reported on Tuesday, the latest of several lead poisoning cases involving thousands of children across the country. After reports of large-scale lead poisoning in neighbouring Shaanxi province, the health bureau in Jiyuan City, Henan province, conducted blood tests on 2743 children under the age of 14, the official Xinhua News Agency quoted the bureau’s director, Wei Zongchang, as saying. Signs of lead poisoning were found in 968 of the children who live near three major lead smelters. Similar reports of lead poisoning have emerged in Yunnan and Fujian provinces in recent months, and the number of affected children is now past 3000.
The Palestinian Authority appears to be attempting an about turn on endorsing the Goldstone report that criticises Israel’s conduct in its war on Gaza. The Palestinian representative to the United Nations in Geneva said he was in talks to convene an emergency session of the world body’s human rights council to discuss the report. Ibrahim Khreisheh’s announcement on Thursday comes a day after the UN Security Council rejected Libya’s request for an emergency session on the report. Published at the end of September, the UN-sanctioned report by Richard Goldstone, a former South African judge, identifies war crimes committed during Israel’s war on Gaza between last December and January.
SMH Letters; 20/9/09; http://www.smh.com.au/national/letters; (6 Items)
The Catholic Church is not that dissimilar to Scientology, despite what Greg Cantori says (Letters, September 18). I recall vividly the last time I attended Mass. In the homily the priest announced the parish would be undertaking “prayers for the dead of the parish”. In order for the parish to pray for my recently deceased three-year-old son I had to register and “donate with notes only”. At the time our family had lots of medical bills and funeral expenses, but I paid so the parish could pray for my baby. I never returned to see if it actually did so. – Anne Freestone, Narara