Along with the governments of France and the UK, the federal government has responded to the humanitarian crisis in Northern Iraq by offering both immediate aid and refugee places to some of those displaced by the advances of the barbaric terrorist group, the Islamic State.
The situation of the Christians in this region is different from that of Sunni or Shiite Muslims who have also fled these terrorists. In close proximity to the war zone, there are Muslim countries and communities which can offer safe haven to those fleeing the war and persecution.
But for the Christians who have lived in this region for nearly 2,000 years, there is nowhere to go. In response to this, the Anglican Primate of Australia, Dr Philip Freier, has called for asylum in Australia for Christians facing death in northern Iraq.
The need to help these Christian refugees is therefore even more urgent. The government has announced that it will accept 4,000 Middle Eastern refugees under its Special Humanitarian Program, to deal with such emergencies. A further 4,000 places are available next year.
There are already communities of Iraqi and Syrian Christians in Australia, so there is a welcoming environment in this country for those fleeing war and death in northern Iraq and Syria.
In light of the unfolding emergency, Australia can and should do more to assist the Iraqi and Syrian Christians who not only face death, but have no place of refuge in the region where they can truly be safe and call home. Expanding the intake of Iraqi and Syrian Christians to 10,000 would not only make a significant contribution to addressing this crisis, but send a very clear message to other countries to do more to help these desperate people.
– Peter Westmore is Publisher of AD2000.