Australian premier urged to give priority to Christians
SYDNEYSep 09, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
Sep 09, 2015 12:00 am
Prime Minister Tony Abbott came under mounting pressure yesterday to increase Australia's intake of Syrian refugees and to give priority to Christians. Abbott has so far resisted several days of calls to increase the number of refugees taken in this year beyond the current 13,750, but said on Sunday that Syrian refugees will become a bigger portion of that intake.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told broadcaster ABC Tuesday that the government was looking at the best way to offer both permanent and temporary protection to help the current crisis in Europe. "I think that Christian minorities are being persecuted in Syria and even if the conflict were over they would still be persecuted," Bishop said. "So I believe there will be a focus on ensuring we can get access to those persecuted ethnic and religious minorities who will have no home to return to even when the conflict is over."
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, seen as a rival for the party leadership, said Christians in Syria were being denied places to live and survive. The Labor opposition has called for an immediate increase of 10,000 refugees. Some in Abbott's own party said it should be double that number, but the ABC reported conservative MPs were privately telling Abbott "no more Muslim men." Sydney's Catholic archbishop Anthony Fisher called on the Australian government to increase refugee intake but said priority should be given to Christians. "There are concerted campaigns to drive Christians from the Middle East," Fisher told The Australian newspaper yesterday. "Other groups are also suffering badly and being persecuted but many Syrian Christians have relatives and a cultural affinity in Australia and we should be honoring those ties and connections." Fisher said the current persecutions against Christians were the worst in history, including under the Romans. "It's estimated 100,000 Christians are now martyred every year, 11 killed for their faith every hour," Fisher told a church leader gathering, the Australian reported.
The Catholic Church leader also backed military action against Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) targets in Syria saying the "monumental crisis" justified "last resort" military action. "Sometimes force is all that you have got to bring about justice and advance a solution," the archbishop said. Abbott said he was expecting a report from Immigration Minister Peter Dutton who is in Geneva meeting the UNHCR to discuss how Australia could best help.