Australian Parliamentarian’s Motion Regarding Iraqi Christians

The Prospect Electorate Representative, Mr Chris Bowen MP put a motion(Adjournment) to Australian Parliament in Canberra. This motion was suggested by representatives of the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Council of Australia, when they met Mr Bowen seeking ways and means to help our people in Iraq and neighbouring countries. A delegation of our Council will soon be meeting the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs who is expected to become the Minister for Foreign Affairs soon, to put to him the issue of how can Australia help our people who are fleeing to the Nineveh Plain and those who are becoming refugees in Syria and Jordan.


Mr BOWEN (Prospect) (7.57 p.m.)—Tonight I would like to take this opportunity, as I have in the House previously, to talk about the persecution of Christians in Iraq. Recently a report was released which showed that one in seven people in Jordan is an Iraqi refugee. This is quite an amazing figure, particularly when you take into account that 10 per cent of schoolchildren in Jordan are Iraqi refugees—that is 70,000 young people who are refugees in Jordan having fled from Iraq. Some of the figures are amazing. About four million Iraqis—that is, one in six—have left their homes since 2003. Two million of those have been internally displaced and more than two million others have fled to neighbouring countries. Iraq’s population has not been measured carefully, for obvious reasons, since the 1960s but it is thought to be around 25 million. This means that around one in every six Iraqis has been forced to leave their home.
Around the world the number of refugees has decreased from around 18 million in 1993 to around 10 million last year, but the number of refugees in the Middle East has increased dramatically, the largest increase since the outbreak of war in Bosnia in 1991. The biggest factor in that is the number of people leaving Iraq. I have referred previously to the problems in Iraq and the persecution of Christians. We have seen Christians blamed for the invasion of Iraq and Christians persecuted in ways which we can only begin to imagine. Those countries of the world which were members of the coalition of the willing, I believe, have a special responsibility to protect and support those people who are being persecuted. We can do that in many ways. Of course we can do it by accepting more refugees, and I note and welcome the government’s decision to increase the number of refugees from the Middle East. That is a small step in the right direction, which I welcome. But of course much more must be done.
I note that the United States House of Representatives recently passed a resolution to allocate $10 million in funding for internally displaced refugees in Iraq, predominantly in the regions which are populated by Christians. This is welcome, and I think we should consider something similar. Certainly we are a smaller nation and we would not be expected to allocate $10 million, but at least some contribution would be welcome. Refugees across the world are of course all suffering, but it is a common misconception—I must say perpetuated almost daily by the government in question time—that since the fall of Hussein things in Iraq are fine and things in Iraq are improving. Many Christians in Iraq would say—and these are not my words; these are their words—that they are now worse off than they were under the previous regime.
The SPEAKER—Order!
It being 8.00 pm, the debate is interrupted.