The Government's announcement that it will permanently resettle an additional 12,000 Syrian refugees is welcomed by the Atheist Foundation of Australia (AFA). We support helping displaced and desperate people as much as possible.
However, religion (or the lack of it) should not be a deciding factor in helping those in need.
Calls for help with the Syrian crisis have resulted in worrying suggestions that any intake should be biased in favour of Christians. Unlike the French Prime Minister who unequivocally rejected that idea, the Australian Government continues to leave the door open – at least by implication.
Australians' genuine expression of compassion should not be limited on the basis of belief. Regardless of their cultural and religious background, the harrowing accounts of persecution and powerlessness should not result in prioritising on the basis of whether those in need are of 'the correct faith'.
Combined with the recent Border Force debacle, the AFA is concerned at a tendency towards othering, silencing and promoting fear, which contributes to the worrying rhetoric that exists around refugees to this country. The Government appears to be engaging in "dog-whistle" politics to pander to the likes of Rise Up Australia party, Reclaim Australia, Fred Nile and the Australian Christian Lobby – who have all demanded that Christians be preferenced.
"Charity and humanitarian assistance, funded by all Australian taxpayers, should not be co-opted to preference sectarian interests" AFA President Michael Boyd said. "It should be made available equitably to people of all faiths and none – the plight of non-believers in that conflict having been lost in the distasteful religious clamouring for the lions' share of that charity".
The AFA calls on the Government to adopt a transparent, fully non-discriminatory protocol for selecting 12,000 Syrian refugees for resettlement in Australia, equitably considering applicants of all faiths, and of no faith at all.
Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc
PO Box 1062
Lane Cove NSW 1595
Phone: (02) 8007 4503