13 Mar 2017

Foreign policy plea

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micah do justice together  |  media release Monday 13 March 2017

Church leaders all for more compassionate foreign policy

Church Leaders representing 12 major denominations have written to Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, calling for Australia to set a more compassionate direction for future foreign policy.

The ‘Church Leaders Statement on Foreign Policy’ is endorsed by signatories from the Adventist, Anglican, Apostolic, Baptist, Catholic, Chinese Methodist, Churches of Christ, Congregational, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Salvation Army and Uniting churches.

It came as one of over 9,000 public submissions to the Government’s Foreign Policy White Paper coordinated by Micah Australia and its sister campaign, the Campaign for Australian Aid.

The church leaders argued that “the purpose of Australia’s foreign policy should be to achieve the sustainable flourishing and wellbeing of all Australians and of our global neighbours.”

“Jesus’ call to love our neighbours as ourselves remind us that a concern for the needs and rights of others must not be an afterthought nor the accidental by-product of a unilateral pursuit of self-interest. Rather, that we must apply the same concern for the rights and interests of others that we apply to our own.”

Highlighting the fact that Australia is a wealthy nation in a region marked by extreme and unacceptable poverty, as well as vulnerability to natural disasters and climate change, the church leaders urged that Australia’s foreign policy address poverty, economic exclusion and inequality, violations of human rights, and climate change. They noted that, despite its wealth, Australia’s aid to tackle poverty in the region has fallen to its lowest ever level and called on the Government to take concrete steps to increase development assistance towards the internationally-agreed target of 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) – a benchmark which the United Kingdom, among other nations, has already met.

The church leaders spoke about the particular threat climate change poses to island nations in the Pacific which are vulnerable to sea level rise, damage to crops, water supplies and fisheries, and increasingly severe extreme weather events such as flooding and cyclones. They called on the Government to match our diplomatic efforts on climate change with more urgent domestic action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and also to change course on refugee policy.

Micah Australia National Coordinator, Ben Thurley, said, “With national and international politics seemingly turning away from generosity, it is heartening to see Australia’s Christian leaders speaking up for a more just, generous and compassionate foreign policy. Australia’s Christians want Australia to be a nation that acts as a good neighbour in a region where too many are still forced to live in poverty and vulnerability. We want to live in a nation that increases aid to help our poorest neighbours tackle poverty, instead of cutting it. A nation that stands with vulnerable communities as they face up to climate change, instead of denying we have a problem.”

Micah Australia is a coalition of church groups and Christian aid and development organisations, raising a powerful voice for justice and a world free from poverty.

Media contact:  Ben Thurley     0431 985 009


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