Editors comments: This is an edited version of a blog written by Akos Balogh who works for the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students at Southern Cross University.
After earlier threatening to de-register religious clubs who required their leaders and members to be people of faith, the Sydney University Student Union has finally come to see reason: In a statement it said “After long and thoughtful consultation with our religious communities on campus, the University of Sydney Union Board of Directors has resolved to amend the Clubs and Societies (C&S) regulations to allow faith based declarations as a condition of membership and the holding of executive office in faith based clubs registered under the Sydney University Student Union’s C&S program.” As a result of this decision clubs such as the Evangelical Union can continue unhindered, holding out the word of life to university students. It’s a great outcome: but for how long?
Whilst the Student Union’s earlier behaviour may have been an exception, it is likely to become the new normal. Unfortunately it is likely that having our basic freedoms challenged will be the new normal. As Atheist philosophers like Frenchman Luc Ferry have pointed out, our western understanding of human rights, and basic freedoms developed out of a Judeo-Christian view of reality. However, that view of reality is rapidly leaving the western mindset, certainly among the secular elite of our culture. Therefore, what we used to call ‘common sense’ in relation to basic freedoms is likely to become less common. And at the moment, especially on many university campuses, there’s a culture developing that doesn’t value basic, traditional freedoms: the Student Union’s views aren’t as unusual as we might like to think.
We need to understand that what’s culturally accepted in the first generation, becomes legal in the next. We need to be ready as the challenges come. Part of that will mean developing a strong apologetic of why these basic freedoms matter, and speaking up in defence of them carefully, and winsomely. Both Christians and non-Christians suffer greatly in countries where basic freedoms of religion, speech and association are weak. People are less likely to hear the gospel in a society with less freedom. To protect these basic freedoms within our own nation will not only benefit Christians but it will also show we care about our neighbours wellbeing as well. It therefore becomes an obligation we have to fight for the freedoms that we have enjoyed as a nation, fought for by many who have gone before us.
GAYBY BABY CREATORS LAUNCH TOOLKIT TO HELP STUDENTS LEARN ABOUT DIVERSE FAMILIES
The makers of controversial film Gayby Baby are launching a resource they hope will help school students understand the changing face of Australian families. The documentary, which follows young people who have same-sex parents, made headlines last year when it was banned from New South Wales schools by the state’s Education Minister Adrian Piccoli. The filmmakers have launched the Gayby Baby School Action Toolkit, which was written by education specialists and is intended to be taught under the health and physical education curriculum. It aims to educate teachers and students about the different types of families that exist in modern Australia – from single parent households to same-sex parented families.
The toolkit has been developed for school years 5 to 10. Director Maya Newell said the school resources included lesson plans that helped teachers explain different types of families. The film was banned in NSW schools after Burwood Girls High School in Sydney’s inner west sent parents a flyer informing them that all students would attend a screening of the film Gayby Baby during class hours. The screening was intended to be part of Wear It Purple Day – an initiative designed to promote acceptance and tolerance of diversity. The state’s Education Minister intervened to stop schools from showing the film during school hours and Premier Mike Baird defended the move at the time, saying the ban was not prompted by the film’s LGBTI content, but rather the use of school time to screen it.
The Victorian Government lent its support to the new resource, with the Minister for Equality Martin Foley saying “The Victorian Government supports all our families to be represented right across society,” Mr Foley said. “Our families come in all sorts of colours of the rainbow, we need to make sure our rainbow families are reflected in everything we do. Gayby Baby highlighted how far we have to go. The banning of the film in NSW just showed how far we’ve got to go, so we’re more than happy to make sure this tool is available to our schools.” In a statement, the NSW Education Department said public schools determined which resources they used to support their academic, student wellbeing and other programs and the department did not endorse externally produced resources.
CONTINUE TO PRAY FOR DR KEN ELLIOTT STILL HELD CAPTIVE BY ISLAMIC TERRORISTS
Islamic Terrorists are still holding captive after four months 81-year-old Australian missionary Dr Ken Elliott in Burkina Faso. Jocelyn Elliott, who was released after being held for more than three weeks by an al-Qaeda affiliate in West Africa, said she wants to be reunited with her husband and to return to the Burkina Faso village where the two run a surgical centre. “I am very moved to be here with my Burkina family,” the 76-year-old said after the government of Burkina Faso and neighbouring Niger negotiated her release. “I want to be with my husband shortly so that we can go to Djibo and continue there.” Her husband Ken, 81, is still being held hostage. As the sole surgeon in Djibo, he performed about 150 procedures a month.
The couple were kidnapped in an attempt to force the “release of our captives who sit behind bars and suffer the paint of imprisonment, as well as being deprived of their basic rights,” a recording from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) said. Jocelyn was released after public outcry, and after al-Qaeda higher-ups told AQIM that women were not to be involved in war. In a statement, the Elliott’s three children said they were “deeply grateful for the safe release of our mother.” “We are trusting that the moral and guiding principles of those who have released our mother will also be applied to our elderly father, who has served the community of Djibo and the Sahel for more than half his lifetime,” the family wrote.