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Monday, 3 June 2013
Page: 4884

Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (21:26): I would also like to thank the member for McMahon for bringing this motion forward. If I have any Assyrians in my electorate I am not aware of it, but in all these cases where there are Christians in the world that are being persecuted—and that takes place across the whole world, in many places in many nations—I would like to take the opportunity to speak about it. It is a sad reality that in places around the world—in Iraq, in Syria particularly and in Egypt—it is usual that groups such as Christians are targeted by Islamicist extremists. That is the case most definitely in Iraq. When you look back upon what happened under the Ba'athist regime of Saddam Hussein, things were bad then, but things have only got worse since then.

These days we like to look upon the great term 'Arab Spring' as somehow leading to a great future—a pluralist, secular future where democracy reigns supreme. Yet in many ways it seems as if Iraq is the example that should have indicated to us for the future that that was not the case at all and that what replaces these autocratic regimes in the Middle East is so often extremist in its views. Always in the background is this Islamicist view—the Wahhabiism or Salafism that hearkens back to what some holding Islamicist views might call the 'golden age' of Islam. In any case, it always relates to persecuting, finding fault with and blaming minorities.

That is definitely the case in Iraq and Syria. As other members have alluded to, so often what has happened is that people who have fled the persecutions of Christians in Iraq have gone across the border into Syria only to find themselves now trapped between the Alawite regime of President Assad and the increasingly Islamicist opposition. The Islamicists blame the Christians for being on the government side, and the government blame the Christians for not being sufficiently supportive, and all the while the Christians have to make the decision, 'What are we going to do now?' Many have fled from Iraq into Syria and now have to flee again. At the heart of it is always the persecution of Christians.

Shortly I will also take the opportunity of tabling a petition from the Barnabas Fund which highlights the cause of Christians persecuted in the world, and I thank them for that. But when I saw that this motion was coming up I thought I would take this opportunity as well. I also congratulate the member for McMahon and all members that have—

Debate interrupted.