Many of the people, regardless of their religious belief, would be there happy to sing Christmas carols, happy to enjoy the fact that we celebrate Christmas as a Christian society. It's beyond my comprehension but it has gone too far.
- Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton, as quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald, 16th Dec 2016
As a Christian, I find Immigration Minister Peter Dutton's comments disturbing on several levels.
Firstly, while I agree with the sentiment that the phrase "Happy Holidays" and that sort of ilk is trite to the point of meaninglessness, if people feel the need to erase Christ from Christmas, then as a evangelistically secular and commercial society, then that should be taken as a signal that the major religion of society has changed. Where once the language of the Bible might have been a common reference point one hundred years ago, that certainly isn't the case now.
There is more than a hint of irony in the fact that a holiday like Christmas which stole elements from various sources to uproot and supplant Roman and Germanic holidays, has itself been uprooted and supplanted by the modern holiday of the Red Man Festival or Winterval which itself has been stealing elements from various sources including Christmas. It's symbol of the Red Man who is dressed inappropriately for an Australian summer and is pulled along by eight reindeer, is the outward expression of the holiday for most people and if Peter Dutton claims to be Christian then he should realise that he is now part of a religious minority.
I will also point out Section 116 of the Constitution of Australia which governs the rules of the Parliament of which he is a cabinet minister:
The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.
- Section 116, Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900
For him to complain about other people's religious observance of the Red Man Festival, which includes secular commercialists and people of other formal religions is weird. Granted that he is free as a Christian to speak as per anyone else's civil rights but to suggest that Australia is "a Christian society" when the founding document states otherwise, is untrue.
Mr Dutton linked the issue to the "Teachers for Refugees" campaign in which many teachers in NSW and Victoria wore t-shirts protesting Australia's offshore detention camps for asylum seekers.
"If they want to conduct these sort of campaigns, do it online or do it in your spare time. Don't bring these sort of views into the minds of young kids," Mr Dutton told 2GB.
- Sydney Morning Herald, 16th Dec 2016
Secondly and more disturbing is the claim that he is a Christian and that this is informing his worldview. As Immigration Minister he is the one responsible for deciding the terms and conditions under which foreigners and aliens visit and arrive in Australia.
As a Christian, I would hope that he is at least familiar with what is contained within the Bible:
Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt. Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless.
- Exodus 22:21-22
When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.
- Leviticus 19:33-34
Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow.
Then all the people shall say, “Amen!"
- Deuteronomy 27:19
Now admittedly this is from the Torah and forms part of Israel's civil law. If in the event that Israeli Civil Law from the Torah was cancelled by Christ then there should be some underlying principle which can be found in the New Testament which would explain the new position:
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
- Hebrews 13:2
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.
- Ephesians 2:11-22
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
- Galatians 3:28
I wonder what this should say to an Immigration Minister who purports to be a Christian. What is the official policy an expert in the law? I like to think of the parable of the good New Zealander:
A refugee was going down from Sydney to Canberra, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A well dressed billionare happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a expert in the law, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a New Zealander, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds.
Then he put the man in his car, brought him to the hospital and they took care of him. The next day he came back with three thousand dollars and paid it as a deposit. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
If we set that aside, let's set up a hypothetical. Let's suppose that we have a Middle Eastern family who are fleeing persecution because a militant regime had threatened to kill their child. Let's also assume that due to political circumstances, that their citizenship couldn't be established and that they had no identifying papers for their travel.
I could of course point out that Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus were refugees fleeing persecution and had no identifying papers and that had they arrived in Australia by boat, they would have been turned away and promised never to be settled in Australia. If only Peter Dutton knew someone who had access to the Immigration Minister because the existing policies would have sent the baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph to Nauru. It's not like Peter Dutton as an expert in the law has passed by on the other side of the road has he? Oh wait.
Happy Holidays, Peter Dutton.
All of this is quite apart from the fact that as a nation, we give a two finger salute to any obligations that we have to refugees under international law, as well as their humanity.
1. The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of Article 1, enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.
- Article 31, Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees 1951