Mr. Chris Hayes MP raises the Assyrian concerns with the Australian government

12/12/2010 3:48:00 PM
Mr. Chris Hayes MP

The Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA) has received a reply from Mr. Chris Hayes MP, Federal member for Fowler, showing his strong support for the work of the Assyrian Universal Alliance in trying to highlight and alleviate the humanitarian crisis that has resulted from the persecution of Assyrians in Iraq. After meeting with AUA delegates on 16 November 2010, Mr. Hayes raised the Assyrian concerns in the Federal Parliament.

Mr. Hayes indicated that he has also received a response from the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, the Hon. Chris Bowen MP, for his calls in October of this year for a more compassionate response when assessing the humanitarian visa applications of Christian refugees from Iraq. The Minister has assured Mr. Hayes that the departmental staffs are aware of the precarious position of Assyrians in Iraq, and that those issues are taken into consideration when evaluating applications. The Minister is currently considering the composition of Australia's 2010-2011 Humanitarian Program and expects Iraqis will continue to be a priority caseload for this year’s program.

Mr. Hayes assured the AUA delegates that he will continue to lobby the government about appropriate measures to protect and repatriate the Christians who have had no choice but to flee the conflict and persecution in Iraq.

On behalf of the AUA and the Assyrian Australian community, we thank Mr. Chris Hayes MP for his sincerity and outstanding effort in raising the Assyrian concerns with the Australian government.

Mr. Hayes made the following presentation in the Federal Parliament on Tuesday, 25 November 2010:

Mr Hayes (Fowler) (12:04 PM) —I rise today merely three weeks after the worst attack on Christians in Iraq since the invasion of 2003. While 100 people gathered to celebrate Sunday mass on 31 October, armed Islamic militants stormed Our Lady of Salvation Catholic church in Baghdad. The militants were armed and wore explosive suicide vests. By the end of the day 52 Christians had been killed. I want to express my total

condemnation of these attacks at the hands of members of the Islamic State of Iraq, a known terrorist group with links to al-Qaeda. The same group has made it their mission to rid Iraq of Christian minority groups, including the Assyrians, Mandaeans, Syriacs and Chaldeans.

Christians everywhere in Iraq have been declared legitimate targets and they now rightly feel as though they are being ethnically cleansed by Islamic militants. In fact, there are now reports that Christians are fleeing. Posters have been placed on their houses telling them that they have three days to leave the country or face death. Nijem Abdallah, who lost two cousins in the attack in Our Lady of Salvation church, was not in the church on the day because he had already escaped to Jordan from Iraq after visits from those militants. Last week he told the ABC about his ordeal. He said:

“They came into my shop and demanded I give it to them,” he said. “So I did. Then they followed me home and demanded $1,000 a month or they would kill me and my son.”

The man did the only thing that he could do: he left behind his home and his extended family and went to a refugee camp in Jordan.

Other Christians have fled to camps in both Syria and Egypt. In fact, the Catholic Church reports that one million Christians have left Iraq since the invasion of 2003. This is a disturbing figure and a rather distressing situation when one considers the long associations that Christianity has had in that country. For over 2,000 years, Christians such as the Assyrians, Mandaeans and the other Aramaic speakers have called that part of

the world home. It will be a damning critique on humanity and the coalition forces, who have vowed to protect the people of Iraq, if religious groups with such a significant history within the region are forced out at the hands of terrorists.

Last week I met with the Assyrian delegation which is desperately trying to help those of its brethren in Iraq and in refugee camps in Syria, Jordan and Egypt. The delegation was led by Hermiz Shahen, the Regional Secretary of the Assyrian Universal Alliance in Australia and New Zealand; Mr David M David, the Secretary of the Assyrian Universal Alliance Australian Chapter; Simon Essavian, President of the Assyrian Australian

National Federation; and Paul Azzo, Senior Advisor to the Assyrian Universal Alliance.

They expressed their anger and sadness over the systemic violence against Assyrians and other Christian minorities in Iraq. They also called on this government to do more to address the growing humanitarian crisis which is a result of the violence.

I have spoken in this place many times about the need for a more compassionate response from the government to Christian refugees fleeing the unstable and dangerous situation that they find in Iraq presently, for it can be rightly argued that the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the subsequent withdrawal of coalition troops opened the door for the prosecution of the world’s oldest Christian communities. I will continue to support the cause of Assyrians, Mandaeans and other Christian minorities in Iraq, who merely want us to help them deal with the consequences of our participation as members of the coalition of the willing. Unless we can assure these people of their future safety free of threat or terrorism, then as a group they certainly must be considered to be refugeed from their traditional lands and must be considered for repatriation. By being part of the coalition of the willing we helped create this situation, and it is now our responsibility, with our other coalition partners, to deal with the consequences.

For more information visit the link:

Assyrian Universal Alliance - Australian Chapter
PO Box 34, Fairfield NSW 1860 Australia.