NATIONAL AFFAIRS: by Jerome ApplebyNews Weekly
Christians launch the Canberra Declaration
, August 7, 2010
An Australian manifesto of support for religious freedom, the sanctity of human life, traditional marriage and family values, has been launched at Parliament House, Canberra.
Following on from the US Manhattan Declaration
(2009) and the UK Westminster Declaration
(2010), the Canberra Declaration
, which aims to mobilise Australia's Christian community, was launched on July 23, 2010.
The impetus for the timing of the launch was the forthcoming federal election. And with Prime Minster Julia Gillard's atheism currently being a topic of debate, and the likelihood of the Greens securing the balance of power in the Senate, the declaration is an attempt by its backers to bring Christian concerns to public notice.
According to the declaration, "when Christian values are respected and allowed freedom of expression, not just confined to so-called sacred spaces but in the public arena as well, society is richer and healthier".
Australians who agree with these sentiments are then called upon to support and sign up to the declaration.
The declaration's position on the sanctity of human life is unequivocal: "We believe all human life, being made in the image of God, has intrinsic and equal value from conception to life's natural end."
The section on human life goes on to say on behalf of signatories to the declaration: "We will not comply with any directive that compels us to participate in or facilitate abortion, embryo-destruction research, assisted suicide, euthanasia, or any other act that involves the intentional taking of human life."
The declaration likewise supports a traditional interpretation of marriage and family. It says: "Lifelong marriage between a man and a woman guarantees children their biological birthright to a mother and a father and has a proven track record of providing them with protection, education, welfare, support and nurture."
On religious freedom, the declaration says: "We affirm the basic necessity of freedom of conscience, having the liberty to speak publicly about one's faith and beliefs, and having the right to practise the religion of one's choice."
It further notes the stifling effect of anti-discrimination and vilification legislation, saying that these "may be interpreted in a way that effectively works as a barrier to religious freedom and freedom of speech".
The Australian Christian Values Institute is the driving force behind the Canberra Declaration.
Institute founder Warwick Marsh said at the July 23 launch: "We believe Australian values are Christian values." He added that the declaration "is simply a reaffirmation of those values that have made Australia what it is today".
Mr Marsh said he hoped the document would "galvanise those in the Christian community who are sympathetic to Christian values to stand up and be counted".
"We were inspired by both the Westminster Declaration and the Manhattan Declaration and we thought it was important to follow on with our unique Australian declaration", he said.
The Manhattan Declaration has attracted over 460,000 signatures, and the Westminster Declaration over 65,000.
Christian voters played a crucial role in delivering Kevin Rudd an election win in November 2007. This time around, backers of the Canberra Declaration hope to convey to politicians that, not only is there a Christian vote to be courted, but gaining it requires the political will to uphold traditional social values, not just the mouthing of platitudes and reassurances.
Crafting a document that attempts to be agreeable to Christians of Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant persuasions has not been a straightforward task. Not all Christians are likely to find themselves in complete agreement with every detail.
However, the Canberra Declaration's intention of providing a voice for all Christians on key issues of the sanctity of human life, family values and freedom of religious belief provides an overdue counterweight to the onward march of secularism.
Extract from the Canberra Declaration
"The Preamble to the Australian Constitution contains the words, 'Humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God.' As Australian citizens, we continue to declare that we too put our trust in Almighty God.
"For centuries, to speak of Western civilisation was to speak of Christian civilisation. The two were in many ways synonymous. The values that we have cherished and sought to strengthen are in large measure founded on the Judaeo-Christian belief system.
"The many freedoms, advantages, opportunities, values and liberties which characterise the West owe much to the growth of Christianity with its inherent belief in the dignity of the human person as created in the image of God and the code of behaviour that flows from this belief."The Canberra Declaration website is at: www.canberradeclaration.org.au