March 17th 2012

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Two Melbourne academics want infanticide legalised

QUEENSLAND: Election outcome could derail same-sex marriage push

MEDIA: Journalists scandalised by family lobby's tactics

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Abbott's pre-election commitments come under scrutiny

EDITORIAL: Bob Carr's appointment will destabilise Labor

MEDIA INQUIRY: Finkelstein's Monster: a media horror story

POLITICS: Is GetUp! a democratic organisation?

POLITICS: Daniel Hannan: future prime minister of Britain?

IRAN: Iranian opposition pleas unheeded by Obama

INTERNATIONAL TRADE: The case against floating exchange rates

PARENTING: Caring for terminally-ill unborn babies

SCHOOLS: Gonski report penalises non-government schools

OPINION: Russia and the West reverse roles on Christianity


CINEMA: Marilyn's mystique mesmerises still: My Week with Marilyn (rated M)

BOOK REVIEW From Vinegar Hill to the mountains of Afghanistan

BOOK REVIEW Excommunicable heresies

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Russia and the West reverse roles on Christianity

by Babette Francis

News Weekly, March 17, 2012

While Australians have been absorbed in the Daze of our Political Lives soap opera of Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd, none of our political commentators have paid attention to the remarkable role reversal between Russia on the one hand, and the United States and Western democracies on the other, on moral issues, and the plight of persecuted Christians.

Both Moscow and St Petersburg’s mayors have opposed the holding of “gay pride” parades, refusing to issue permits and arresting those who defied the law to hold the parades.

This is in contrast to cities in the United States, and also to Sydney where the New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell is using taxpayers’ money to subsidise the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade.

Contrast this also to Mrs Erika Christakis, co-head with her husband of a student residence at prestigious Harvard University: she says that pornography is fine so long as it is ethical (like fair-trade coffee and chocolate) and if the performers are paid a fair wage and not coerced.

Communist Russia under Lenin was the first country to legalise abortion in 1920; but last year the Russian parliament, the Duma, restricted abortion, partly to remedy plunging birth rates (see News Weekly, May 28, 2011).

Abortion-providers must devote 10 per cent of their advertising to describing the dangers of abortion, and it has become illegal to describe abortion as a safe medical procedure. Russia’s recent first lady, Svetlana Medvedeva, is crusading to lower abortion rates. Russia has also cut off funding for most late-term abortions that are done for “social” reasons.

It is Russia’s support for persecuted Christians in the Middle East that provides the most striking contrast with the silence of the political commentariat in the West.

The on-going persecution of Christians has been aggravated by the so-called “Arab Spring” as a result of which autocratic secular governments — some of them friendly to the West, or at least neutral — were overthrown in favour of Islamist regimes determined to impose Sharia law, which is inimical to the rights of minorities and women.

Every day there is news of churches being razed and Christians killed or evicted from their homes, or imprisoned on spurious charges of “blasphemy”.

Kevin Rudd in his former role as Minister for Foreign Affairs, has been credited with having encouraged the US and NATO to impose a no-fly zone on Gaddafi’s Libya which helped topple his regime, and Rudd until his recent resignation has also been lobbying for action against President Assad in Syria.

Forgotten in the West’s enthusiasm for transplanting democracy on to Middle Eastern countries is that these countries have little tradition of democratic civil society organisations.

To use medical parlance, for a transplant to be successful, one has to deal with “immune rejection”. In the case of the Middle East, this means the rejection of democracy inherent in Sharia law which underpins the majority Muslim religion in these countries.

So the irony in the Middle East is that it is Russia which is speaking out on behalf of Christians, while the United States, Europe and Australia are notably silent.

Australia offers a safe haven (well, sort of, if we overlook the tragic drownings of asylum-seekers whose boats have sunk between Indonesia and Christmas Island) to Muslim refugees fleeing from the tyrannies of their countries, but shows little interest in the rights of Christians persecuted in those same countries.

An article in Interfax, a Russian non-governmental news agency based in Moscow, is titled: “Putin vows Russia will defend persecuted Christians abroad”.

I have yet to read any similar statement from President Obama (who frequently apologises to Muslims for perceived or imaginary slights) or from his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, or from Julia Gillard and regular Christian church-goer Kevin Rudd when he was Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Of course, there have been a number of articles in the US claiming that Russia’s stance on the plight of Christians is motivated by self-interest.

Nevertheless, it is fascinating that the country of atheist tyrants Lenin and Stalin is today speaking — and acting — on behalf of Christians while the West is glossing over the fact that the “Arab Spring” is turning into a bitter winter for minorities and women.

Russian opposition to Western intervention in Kosovo was in part culturally and religiously based.

The Serbian Orthodox Church uses the liturgy of an old variant of the Russian Orthodox Church, not the Greek, and Russia empathises with persecuted Christians of its own brand.

Russia opposed Western intervention in Egypt, Libya and now Syria, specifically voicing concerns over the fate of the Christian populations there.

Russia may be primarily concerned with its own economic and military interests, but it is a disgrace that Western democratic countries have been silent about the persecution, banishment and murder of Christians in the Middle East.

Babette Francis, B.Sc. (Hons), is national coordinator of Endeavour Forum Inc. 

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