Thursday, July 28, 2005

The AmishThrasher Wrap, July 28th

Posted by AmishThrasher at 11:35 am
Man's best friend:
The AmishThrasher
The Wrap - a weekly look at current news and events - is back. In this issue, we discuss the power of religion to help the oppressed, the new measures taken by the State Government to protect children, the Red Cross Appeal for West Africa, and calls by the Lost Dogs Home for a doggy-census. Oh, and our buddy, Environment Minister Ian "absolute categorical assurance" Campbell, is back too. All that, and more, in this edition of the AmishThrasher Wrap.Welcome to the second edition of the AmishThrasher Wrap. And in this wrap, we break the rules of polite conversation and openly discuss religion and politics.

In this Issue:

Helping the Helpless
There has been a lot of debate recently about the role of religion in society. Well, as I have previously mentioned in the AmishThrasher, chruch-backed groups, who share many values with the secular humanist community, do an extrodinary job in helping the downtrodden, both at home and abroad. And this press release - from AngliCare (a group linked to the Anglican Church) - shows how religion, and a secular state, can work together to promote a common humanitarian goal in our community:
19 July 2005
The state's largest provider of foster care services, Anglicare Victoria, today welcomed the State Government's announcement of new measures to protect children.

The Working with Children Bill 2005 will assess a person's eligibility for working or volunteering with children.

Anglicare Victoria CEO Dr Ray Cleary said the measures were welcome because they strike a balance between the interests of children and the rights of the individual.

"In welcoming the Government's initiative it is important to remember that we all must remain active and vigilant in ensuring the wellbeing of our children.

"Anglicare Victoria currently conduct mandatory police checks on all of our staff and volunteers who have direct contact with children. However we welcome a system that sets minimum standards and puts the interests of children at the forefront."

Dr Cleary said the most important task facing the Government would be educating the community of the benefits of the Bill.

"There will be those who feel the legislation doesn't go far enough and those who feel it is too invasive. Creating legislation around protecting children is an essential and difficult task that must be undertaken in close consultation with the community and service providers."

Dr Cleary said that mandatory police checks did not prevent people from volunteering at Anglicare Victoria.

"We should not assume that the Bill will prevent people from volunteering. It is reassuring for volunteers to know that agencies place the rights and safety of children first. We work with thousands of volunteers who understand the need to protect the children in our care."

The Government's decision to pay for the costs associated with volunteer checks will reduce the burden on community organisations Dr Cleary said.
Children's aid organizations, I would immagine, would seem very attractive to paedophiles. The State Government deserves to be commended on its efforts to ensure that those who work with children - particularly vulnerable children - pass a background check to safeguard vulnerable children from risk.

But perhaps more interesting is that government money is being used to cover the costs of these background checks to child welfare groups - including AngliCare -who already undertake them. This is an example of a secular state working with a religious backed body to advance a common humanitarian cause; in this case, the plight of disadvantaged children. And I personally think that, in this case, it is thoroughly commendable to do so. The interraction between church and state should not be one where religious dogma - in the cloak of 'values' - are forced on to the community and thus heightening the tensions between those who chose to actively participate in organized religion, and those who don't. Rather, we need to build bridges between religion, secular individuals, and (where appropriate) the state to further the cause of social justice in our community.

Inspiring the Downtrodden
As we have seen, religion, and religious backed charities, play a critical role in keeping our social fabric together. The sad truth for many of Melbourn'e homeless is that the local church may be the best hope for both a , while for many abandoned and homeless children, charities like AngliCare is the only hope for a safe bed to sleep in at night. Both at home and abroad, religion plays another critical role - giving help to the downtrodden. And this article from the Uniting Church about the inspiration Christianity provided to overcome Indonesian oppression is a good example of this at work:
It was clear, the Moderator of the Protestant Church in East Timor wanted us to see the great statue of Christ the King erected by President Suharto in 1997 on the promontory five kilometers east and north from the centre of Dili. It was built two years before the referendum that ended the last uneasy years of Indonesian occupation.
Yet the power of a symbol can sometimes be turned on its creators. The Moderator of the Protestant Church in East Timor did just that. “Look closely at the hands,” he whispered through the city, “they are not raised to bless, they are held out palm upwards toward Dili. Jesus is not blessing Indonesian Dili, he is in fact questioning whether the Indonesians should leave!”

One can only imagine the way that would fizz through a community under oppression. The image was ever present to the eye during the day and lit at night, a living message read differently by invader and oppressed. It was not long before the lights at night were disconnected. But it was too late. By 2000 Christ the King had become the prophetic sign of a liberated country.
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Religion is a powerful and important force in society, and the world. That's a power that can be used for both good, and evil. Those of us who are religious (of all faiths), as well as those of us who aren't, must unite to make sure that the power isn't hijacked for the purposes of evil. Those who want to hijack religion want to wage culture wars, holy wars, and further an agenda of hate; both the extremist Christian Identity nuts, and their more "moderate" counterparts. Well, this perversion of religion for evil - and the social injustice in our own society - can be defeated. But it will take an alliance of progressive people, progressive politics, and progressive reigion to do it.

Helping Africa
Speaking of global social justice, a press release from the Australian Red Cross has made an urgent appeal for funds to fight hunger in west Africa. The press release is below:
Australian Red Cross has launched an urgent appeal to assist international efforts to avert possible widespread starvation in the four worst affected countries of the Sahel region of West Africa.

The appeal will support efforts by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, aiming to raise $18 million for disaster relief.

The CEO of Australian Red Cross, Mr Robert Tickner said the situation is especially serious in Niger, where according to the UN 3.6 million people, or 28 per cent of the population, are affected by food shortages, caused by a combination of drought and the effect of last year's invasion by swarms of locusts.

'The Red Cross wants to help 222,000 of the most vulnerable people for the next six-months, through food, seed, fodder distributions and mobile feeding centres,' said Mr Tickner.

'The funds raised will be used to provide assistance in Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.'

According to current UN estimates, 800,000 children in Niger are going hungry. But it is not only Niger that is in the grip of food shortages. Populations in neighbouring countries - some 2.2 million in Mali, 1.6 million in Burkina Faso and 750,000 in Mauritania are also under threat.

To donate to the Niger Emergency 2005 Appeal:

* Call 1800 811 700
* Visit to make a secure online donation
* Send a cheque to GPO Box 9949 marked 'Niger Appeal' in your capital city
African poverty has been on the agenda lately. At the recent G8 summit, the world got some eloquent spin about the need to relieve Africa's debt Meanwhile thousands attended Live-8 concerts calling for an end to African poverty. Well, the time has come for people to put their money where their mouths are. Long term solutions are great, but the truth is that there are people starving to death in Western Africa right now. The question is will you help out the Red Cross, or just let the people die?

Helping the Environment
Within weeks of his radio lies being exposed, the Environment Minister has again come under fire for inaction over climate change in a recent press release from the Greens:
The release of the report Climate Change: Risk and Vulnerability vindicates two decades of Greens political pressure and is a damning indictment of Howard Government inaction, Greens Senator Bob Brown said today.

"The government, in particular this Prime Minister, is charged with intergenerational abuse – it has put self gratification for the coal industries way ahead of our obligation to secure the next generation's life security.

"When I warned about global warming on entering the Senate a decade ago, government members laughed.

"They are not laughing now. This has been a decade of failure," Senator Brown said.
Australia undeniably has the world's most beautiful and unique continent, and it is our patriotic duty as Australians to make sure that our environment is preserved for future generations. And I think most patriotic Australians do genuinely care about the environment - but at the same time, we also have busy lives to lead. The challenge for our leaders is to find simple ways where we can all make a difference, to encourage people to make a difference, and to show their patriotism to Australia by enacting laws which make the Un-Australian destruction of our environment not just immoral, but also illegal. And it needs to come up with long term, big picture planning, on issues like infrastructure, that will see sustainable economic growth which doesn't undermine our natural habitat.

And it seems that, if not asleeep at the wheel, then our Federal Government certainly hasn't been pulling it's weight. Put differently, it's been a low priority - if not outright off the agenda - which has led to a decade of missed opportunities. And it's no surprise that the man at the center of this is Ian "The only options that we're pursuing are on offshore islands" Campbell. Campbell, who has . It's time for him to either encourage the Howard government to make sure that we don't suffer another decade of missed opportunities, or reconsider what he is doing with the Environment portfolio.

And if he doesn't either fix up his act and get his (and his government's) priorities straight, then it is up to us, voting public, to decide if we want him as our environment minister. It's really that simple.

Doggy Census
Those of you who know me know I'm definately a 'dog person', being the proud owner of a Kelpie named 'Tugs'. And for my fellow pet-owners and animal lovers out there, the Lost Dogs home ahs their Autumn newsletter out (it's in PDF), and it's well worth downloading and printing off. One of the interesting articles in there raises the issue of adding questions about our pets to the census:
We were delighted to see that the National General Assembly of Local Government (NGALG) meeting in Canberra last November passed the following resolution:
That this National General Assembly endorses the proposal that the Australian Bureau of Statistics include as part of the National Census, a series of questions that would indicate the dog and cat population kept at residential premises on census night.
We like it! If and when this ever happens the appropriate bodies at all three tiers of Government – Federal National and State – plus all animal welfare organisations, will be better informed, and therefore far better equipped, to deal with the many current problems associated with the welfare of domestic animals in our society.

The data revealed by such an inclusion would certainly be valuable not only to Local Councils but to most animal welfare organisations and of course to marketers of pet products and services – plus other segments of our society. It would certainly be of significant interest to us since The Lost Dogs’ Home has for years now served the community on a national basis. We are confident that our national activities will greatly expand in the not so distant future.

Unfortunately the NGALG left its run a little late for next year’s (2006) census. At the time of its conference last November the deadline for such suggestions was long, long gone. No way could it be received, considered and acted upon by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in time for the 2006 national census.

However there will be another census in 2011 and we would encourage the NGALG to persist in its efforts. We will certainly have it in mind as a project to inititate in 2007-2008. So – as the saying goes – watch this space! It makes good census!

Having accurate census data will help not just the Lost Dogs home, but also the RSPCA, by helping them do their job better by allocating resources to where they are needed. It will also help governments at all levels create policy that better deals with, and protect, our beloved pets. It's time to do it!

And that's all for this week, thankyou again for reading!

- Andrew
(the AmishThrasher Webmaster)