Strangers in our midst

Strangers in our midst

Strangers in our midst

The 55-year prison sentence for multiple gang rapes handed to
a 20-year-old Lebanese man in Australia received a strong reaction from the
public, media and social commentators. The sentence reflected the outrage of the
Sydney community and the imposition of new laws to punish gang rapists. The laws
were introduced specifically in response to the attacks committed by the young
offender and his gang. The sentence is more than what a convicted murderer is
likely to receive.

Unbelievably there is a darker side to these attacks. The
young men involved were all from Muslim-Lebanese migrant families and the
victims solely white Australian females. To deny an underlying social tension
based on ethnicity, cultural values and religious belief would be naive.

Reports from Australia, reveal a migrant problem that goes
beyond the incarceration of refugees in the wilderness of their outback. NZ
Herald reporter Greg Ansley described the rapists' home turf, Bankstown-Lakemba
in western Sydney, as a melting pot with a population larger than Dunedin's and
where more than 60 languages are spoken. Almost one in five are Lebanese,
another 16 per cent Vietnamese. It has the characteristics typical of new
migrant communities anywhere: low incomes, unemployment up to three or four
times the national average, large numbers living in public housing, frustration
and anger among the young. Crime, frequently violent and fed by drugs, is high
and rising.

A study by Macquarie University and the University of NSW
found that western Sydney is among Australia's least tolerant societies. The
study spoke of "Islamophobia," heightened by violence in the Middle East,
terrorism and boat people. It frequently erupted into attacks on mosques and
vilification of Muslims in the street.

The situation in Australia may be symptomatic of the failure
to offer new migrants anything other than state fed poverty or crime. For
ourselves we must take care to learn from the lessons of the racial conflict
that has erupted in the UK, Europe, Australia and even New Zealand, lest we
forget the recent death in Mt Roskill Auckland, sparked by a neighbourhood row
split along ethnic lines.

Biblically we are called to love strangers who dwell amongst
us, they shall have standing that is equal to our own:

Leviticus 19:34 "But the stranger that dwelleth with you
shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for
ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God."

There is however a rider to the Lords instruction to the
Israelites, by being treated as an equal all strangers become subject to the
laws and social mores of the land. It does not state that strangers be accepted
with their differences, in fact the requirement to abide by the laws of the land
is emphatic for all peoples both native born and aliens:

Leviticus 18:26 "But you must keep my decrees and my laws.
The native-born and the aliens living among you must not do any of these
detestable things,"

In our general election, NZ First were accused of playing the
race card, but their political catch cry of reducing migrant numbers, was
reflective of the mood of a large section of our society and captured 10% of the
popular vote. This in itself should send a sombre message to our policy makers
that immigration requires more than setting numbers and making support services
available for new migrants.

The expectations of the resident community need to be taken
into account, those calling for the proper assimilation of new migrants are
seeking harmony. A major problem that confronts our society is that we have
steadily moved away Gods standard and the vacuum has been filled with an
eclectic mix of political correctness and situational ethics. The ramifications
of accepting any belief system into our community was clearly received by the
prophet Jeremiah:

"And when the people ask, 'Why has the Lord our God done
all this to us?' you will tell them, 'As you have forsaken me and served foreign
gods in your own land, so now you will serve foreigners in a land not your own.'"
Jeremiah 5:19

The loss of our culture our customs and conventions, the
fundamental values of our society is a fear that many New Zealanders hold, but
any ambivalence on the Lords standards in our lives will inevitably lead us to
being foreigners in our own land. Social harmony can be achieved but only
through the salvation of Christ and an unwavering love of God.

Isaiah 56:6-7 - "And foreigners who bind themselves to the
Lord to serve him, to love the name of the Lord, and to worship him, all who
keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant - these
I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their
burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will
be called a house of prayer for all nations."