Senior representatives of the Uniting Church in Australia and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry today urged Australians to show how decent, caring and fair-minded we really are in the wake of the arrests of alleged terrorist conspirators in Melbourne and Sydney this week.
Meeting in Melbourne for the November session of the UCA/ECAJ dialogue, the call followed a frank discussion on the possible impact of anti-terrorist legislation.
“Terrorism is a genuine problem and governments have a responsibility to act to protect all of us from threats to our most basic human right – the right not to be killed,” a joint statement by the group said.
“While the individuals against whom charges have been laid will face the judgement of the courts, it is completely unacceptable that Muslim Australians in general should feel they are on trial.
“We call on all Australians of good-will to act to ensure no Australian, regardless of religion, feels that they need to be in fear of bigotry and prejudice,” the statement concluded.
Uniting Church Representative, Rev. Glenda Blakefield said the new laws and police action against terrorism must not be allowed to undermine tolerance and create a climate of fear in Australia – the very things dialogues like the Jewish-Christian one were started to overcome.
“While the Government is responsible for ensuring the safety of its citizens from terrorist acts, members of the dialogue are deeply concerned that the civil liberties which are at the heart of our democracy are also protected and that all possible efforts are made to prevent the development of a climate of fear and intolerance towards those who are different,” Rev. Blakefield said.
Jeremy Jones, on behalf of the Executive Council of the Australian Jewry said Australia has developed a remarkable culture of freedom, human rights and positive cultural diversity.
“At times of tension and uncertainty, all fair-minded Australians will be standing up to racists and bigots and supporting the potential victims of harassment and discrimination.”
“We must respond to terror by celebrating, not rejecting multicultural Australia,” he said.