An opinion piece by Jim Wallace Deputy Chairman of the Australian Christian Lobby.

The hardest test of foreign policy is not at the lofty geopolitical level but where it affects ordinary people, and nowhere is this test as difficult as in the Middle East. As I visited the area recently to assess the situation of minorities in the Syrian conflict, it quickly became evident that the West’s policy there courts a disaster. I was not surprised. While my experience was dated, I had lived in the Middle East and observed some of its enduring conflicts. Unfortunately, the passage of time seems to have taught us little. Some level of confusion about Middle East politics is excusable for anyone.

Attempts to decipher it are always muddied by an array of agendas in the context of alliances of convenience, even between sworn enemies. But surely an alliance with al-Qaida is beyond the pale for any government, even if its purpose is to counter Iran’s influence. The US State Department hasn’t considered Syria’s Christian minorities adequately. There is heartbreak as people who lived in harmony for decades are suddenly turned into bitter enemies by the radicalisation of previously moderate Sunnis under the influence of the al-Qaida proxy Jabhat al-Nusra. Syria has always been somewhat unusual in the Arab world for its secularism and religious freedom. 

When I lived in Damascus for six months, Christian churches were easy to find and join. There was also a ready acceptance by Muslims and Druze, many of whom became good friends. And it seems this continued to be the case until the revolution two years ago. Then cries of “Alawites out” and “Christians to Lebanon” suddenly filled the air in crowds stirred up by extremists. For Christians to be thrown out of Syria after more than 2000 years of history is too much for most. Despite the steady flow of refugees, most will stay. But the cost of staying is extreme. Al-Nusra empties areas it captures of “infidels”. 

Occupants of Christian quarters in the cities of Aleppo, Hama and Homs have been turned out of their homes with nothing. The aged are not spared and those refusing to leave are sometimes killed.  Heartbreaking for these communities is that their churches are being destroyed and desecrated, at least one being used as a toilet by al-Nusra, as a show of utter contempt for Christianity. There are some Christians fighting with the Free Syrian Army. Although they were part of an initially secular opposition, their position becomes increasingly tenuous as al-Nusra’s dominance of the opposition increases by the day.

As always in war, it is perhaps the women who suffer most. Al-Nusra fighters see Christian women as little more than booty. One woman tearfully told of a friend considering suicide as she contemplated the possibility of rape, which two of her friends had suffered. As a Christian in an al-Nusra-held area, she knew she risked the same fate. These are ancient Christian communities that look to Western governments not to abandon them by pursuing irrational policies, including a partnership with foreign jihadists allied to al-Qaida. It is past time for the West to make a stand in two other areas that are essential to combating Muslim extremism at home and abroad.

The first is that Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are funding the extremist al-Qaida fighters, must be told to back off. In addition we cannot accept that as many as 200 Australians might be fighting for al-Qaida in Syria as part of a contingent of foreign fighters drawn from overseas Islamic communities. All Western countries must pass and enforce anti-mercenary laws that will forbid their nationals from fighting as mercenaries without losing their nationality. Unless the West reconsiders its support to an opposition dominated by al-Qaida, vulnerable Syrian Christians will face even worse persecution than that experienced by Egypt’s Copts.

Source: by Jim Wallace – Australian Christian Lobby



The Queensland Court of Appeal recently ruled that a Moranbah motel were able to preclude prostitution on their premises. As the proprietors explain in the media release below, they participated in two Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) inquiries prior to the judicial hearing over a three year period. QCAT ruled last year that the owners had breached the Anti-Discrimination Act stating “The issue raises the rights of businesses and motels across the state to decide what occurs on their premise.” The Australian Christian Lobby also said the issue highlighted the need for prostitution reform in the state. 

Following is the media release issued by Evan & Joan Hartley, proprietors of the Drovers’ Rest Motel, Moranbah, Qld on 17th May 2013 at the conclusion of the Court of Appeal hearing. 

Our court ruling won’t stop unwanted motel prostitution. The Queensland Court of Appeal has ruled we had the right to stop prostitution, after it nearly destroyed our Moranbah motel business. We thank the Premier Mr Campbell Newman, his Government and particularly the Attorney-General Mr Jarrod Bleijie and his legal team for their support with our appeal. Also in the support team we thank the Accommodation Association of Australia, the Australian Family Association, the Australian Christian Lobby, other businesses, our staff, family and friends.

The court’s finding that no discrimination occurred has much the same effect as Queensland legislation passed late last year. It exempted accommodation providers from discrimination claims if they refuse, as we did, to let out a room for prostitution. As our experience has shown, however, we need more than the current right to evict prostitutes who are ‘caught in the act’ or suspected of past prostitution. No one should be forced to play a ‘cat and mouse’ game to discover, or prove that prostitution is happening behind closed doors.

The sale of sex will continue to harm accommodation businesses like ours by lowering both occupancy rates and property values, unless an upfront disclosure requirement is put in place. We ask the Attorney-General to consider further support for accommodation owners by making booking a room for prostitution practices unlawful unless written consent from the owner has first been obtained. Anti-discrimination claims are decided under a parallel system of injustice that is heavily biased towards professional complainers. In defending ourselves against this claim, we lost the right to a fair trial of the kind that civil litigants and accused criminals can expect.

We gained the right to legal representation before the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal only after our Barrister requested it three times. And then we only got a barrister as we needed to argue a point of law. We were then forced to waste fees in two tribunal hearings before getting a proper judicial hearing in the Court of Appeal. It took us close to 3 years and in excess of $50,000 in legal fees to get there. Even though we won, we lost, because the process and the stress is the punishment. The government should scrap the parallel system of ‘kangaroo justice’ reserved for anti-discrimination cases.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby



South Australian based convenor of the Presbyterian church and nation committee the Rev Stefan Slucki said some of the most brutal aspects of Sharia law were being used in Muslim communities and should not be allowed to gain a foothold in Australia. He said in the most extreme cases Islamic leaders had threatened to have Sharia law take over Australian law. “The main issue we have with Sharia is the subjugation of women, the wearing of total coverings for women, the repression of women in terms of Christian principles,” Mr Slucki said. “We are also opposed to the totalitarian view of the state governance. 

“This is an issue that will not go away, just as it has not gone away in the UK and in Canada and other places. “People must not flirt with the idea that it would be nice to allow Sharia law to be practised within selected communities. “There are already people who send their children overseas for female genital mutilation and then bring them back.” In some parts of the world, the most extreme aspects of the law require brutal punishments such as chopping off hands for theft and stoning of women for infidelity. The criticisms of Sharia come despite the Presbyterian Church being one of the strongest refugee advocacy agencies in Australia.  

Mr Slucki said even within the refugee community Christians in Muslim-dominated cultural groups were victimised according to the principles of Sharia law. He said the church was motivated by fostering social inclusion for all members of the Islamic community. “We are being told by some of the Arabic-speaking members of our congregation that problems are being created because of the divisiveness of Sharia law,” Mr Slucki said. “Some (in Sydney) have had petrol bombs placed outside their homes.” Mr Slucki was speaking as part of the church’s evidence to the Federal Government’s inquiry into multiculturalism.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports