Respectful Relationships now compulsory across Victoria

The Respectful Relationships curriculum is now compulsory across Victorian schools and early childhood learning centres. Children will be first introduced to material in kindergarten.

With all the attention on the now unravelling Safe Schools program, its cousin, Respectful Relationships has received little attention, despite it targeting not only teenagers but also our young children, and it being made mandatory throughout the State. It has however received some attention this morning in The Australian,with reporter Rebecca Urban, revealing that Safe Schools co-author, Joel Radcliffe,  has been appointed to the Victorian Education and Training Department to assist in rolling out the program across the schools.

It is important for parents to have knowledge of Respectful Relationships and to ask questions where they are unsure of its content or have concerns. One may well discover that their school shares similar concerns over the material

I want to make it clear that there are positive aspects to this new program as well as  significant concerns, and it would be a shame for the program’s aim to be hijacked by the unscientific theories and morally dubious suggestions that currently run throughout. It would be certainly irresponsible to teach some of the content without parental awareness. 

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If you are unfamiliar with the program, here is an overview that I wrote last year:

I agree with Daniel Andrews’ recent comments about the evils of domestic violence in our society, and I laud the Victorian Government for adopting strong measures to support victims and convict perpetrators. Domestic violence is a dreadful, dreadful thing: Sexual, physical, emotional, and material abuse is never justified.

In August 2015, Daniel Andrews announced that the program replacing SRI in schools would be Respectful Relationships, which has been introduced into secondary schools, and will be compulsory from kindergarten to year 10 in 2017.

There are many things to like in the curriculum, but oddly, a significant portion of the material has little to do with domestic violence, but is teaching children how to find partners and have sex.

For example, year 8 students are asked to write an ad, describing what qualities they would like to find in a partner. Is it appropriate to ask 12 and 13 year old children what kind of sexual relationship that would like to have?  Is it healthy for children to be directed to online dating sites, and given examples, such as these found in the curriculum?:

‘hot gay gal 19 yo seeks outgoing fem 18-25 into nature, sport and nightlife for friendship and relationship’

‘lustful, sexually generous funny and (sometimes shy) Tiger1962 seeking sexy freak out with similar intentioned woman.’

Not only are young teenagers taught about what to look for in a partner, they are taught what to seek in sex, and they are taught what to believe about sexuality, even to explore and affirm alternative sexual orientations.

As one of the year 8 sessions explains, it is designed to,

“enable students to explore the concept of gender and the associated notions and expectations that have an impact on sexuality. It also provides them with the opportunity to connect issues of gender to different positions of power central to adolescent sexual behaviour. The activity also aims to extend their understanding of gender by exploring traditional notions of gender in a case study that examines the experience of a young transsexual person.”

Much of the ensuing material explores broadening the horizons of sexual relationships, with the determination of deconstructing the “narrow” view of gender.

It may surprise some people to learn that children can legally have sex in Victoria from the age of 12 (younger in some States), so long as it is consensual and the other person(s) is within the legal age bracket. This may be lawful, but I suspect many parents would be shocked to learn that schools teach our children it is okay for them to engage in sexual intercourse at such a young age.

We are fooling ourselves if we think that exposing children to these ideas will not result in influencing sexual and social behaviour. The fact that Respectful Relationships makes consent unequivocal (a vital point) does not mean the activity is therefore good and okay for the child.

Also astonishing is what is missing. In a curriculum teaching relationships and sex, marriage receives almost no mention. Why is that? Marriage is mentioned on a ‘character card’ where Stephen, a 16 year old Christian attending a Christian college, believes sex should only take place within marriage between a man and woman (got to love the pastiche Christian example!). And there is Maria, a 15 year old girl who doesn’t want to wait for marriage before experiencing sex. Otherwise, marriage is only mentioned as a power structure behind which domestic violence occurs. What a sad and miserable view of marriage. I understand there are marriages where appalling abuse happens, and in my work I have ministered to victims from such circumstances. But marriage is designed to be, and often is, a beautiful thing, and it remains the best model for loving and caring intimate relationships in society.

Is it not a wonderful thing when a couple covenant together for life, ‘for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish’?

There is much sensible and good advice offered in Respectful Relationships, which could be easily taught without the intrusion of particular views on sexuality and without exposing young children to ideas that blemish their innocence. It is a travesty that the issue of domestic violence has been taken captive by sexual libertarian ideology.

Is it the role of Government to absolutise onto children a theory about gender that is disputable and widely contentious? James Merlino has made it clear that this curriculum is to be compulsory in Victorian schools; I wonder, is forcing explicit sexual language and ideas onto children, moral or even legal?

Far from solving the unspeakable horrors of domestic violence, it is ultimately presenting a different version of the me-centric vision of the world. Author, Tim Keller writes, ‘It is possible to feel you are “madly in love” with someone, when it is really just an attraction to someone who can meet your needs and address the insecurities and doubts you have about yourself. In that kind of relationship, you will demand and control rather than serve and give.’

Instead of leaning on a failed sexual revolution in order to find a way forward on domestic violence, would we not serve our children better  if we considered a paradigm of sacrifice and service, and where living for the good of others is esteemed more highly than our own gratification?

We can learn from NSW…sometimes

I know we like to dislike our northern neighbours in NSW, but sometimes we really ought to take notice and learn from their example. No, I don’t mean playing football with an oversized egg or drinking their faux coffee. Yesterday, The Australian  reported that students in NSW schools will no longer be permitted to learn gender theory,

Students will no longer be taught that gender is a “social construct”, or that sexuality is “non-binary”, occurring on a ­continuum and “constantly changing”.

An edict encouraging teachers to “de-gender” their language will also likely be scrapped, along with sexually explicit case studies and teaching aids such as the “Genderbread Person”, which promotes the idea that there are “infinite possibilities” of gender identity.

The decision follows an independent inquiry that reported in September last year. The review was headed by Professor Bill Louden (of the University of Western Australia) and examined sex and health education resources for NSW schools. It appears as though changes are being implemented not only with Safe Schools, but any part of the State curriculum where a de-gender and gender-continuum message has been integrated.

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Of particular relevance for Victoria is  that Professor Loudan’s review is finding bi-partisan support in NSW. In fact,  NSW Labour MP Greg Donnelly has taken the unusual step of writing an open letter to the Victorian Premier, imploring him to give this report due consideration,

“Politicians in one state do not generally take kindly to colleagues in another state giving them advice. There can be exceptions but the unwritten rule is that if you stick your head out and give advice across the border, you are likely to get it knocked-off. With that said, let me now give some advice to my Labor colleagues in Victoria.

The Safe Schools program that the Victorian Government is imposing on public schools in that state is political poison. While it may be just starting to show up in focus groups and other polling activities undertaken by the Labor Party, do not underestimate its malignancy. When it fully manifests, it will be like a fully laden freight train that you will not be able to stop.

The problem for the Premier and the Minister for Education is that the Safe Schools program from the get-go was never about anti-bullying. It was about inculcating into school children hard edged sexuality and gender ideologies. The same ideologies that are examined and debated when undertaking Gender Studies units at university. The same units that such students elect to do by choice; no compulsion or requirement. Not only are these ideologies being presented to school children as a matter of fact i.e. sexuality and gender are not to be understood in any other way, but parents are being kept completely in the dark about what is being presented to their children and by who.”

Mr Donnelly continues, “Premier Andrews and Education Minister Merlino have been both doctrinaire and obstinate about the Safe Schools program. As a case in point, in March last year following a review of the resource material located on the Safe Schools Coalition Australia website it was recommended by the reviewer, Professor William Louden, that certain content was not fit for purpose. It was subsequently removed from the Safe Schools Coalition Australia website. In Victoria though the material that was removed from the website was immediately uploaded onto the state’s Department of Education and Training website, presumable under instruction from the Premier and/or Minister for Education. That material still sits on the Department’s website and is being actively promoted. In other words instead of taking into account what were rather modest recommendations by Professor Louden, the Victorian Premier and Education Minister got all hairy chested and gave the whole review exercise the middle finger.”

I totally get why Victorians build rhetorical walls to keep out this colony of convicts. Listening to a New South Welshman may sound like a Banshee singing Justin Bieber, but on this occasion we Victorians are fools to ignore such sage advice.

Mr Andrews and Mr Merlino, as a Victorian and parent of 3 children, I strongly urge you to re-examine your position on Safe Schools, and the unscientific and harmful gender theories now being forced upon our children. It’s ok to once in a while to redress mistakes and poor policy; humility is in fact a virtue that we value in our political leaders.  In winding back ‘Safe Schools’ and aspects of the ‘Respectful Relationships’ program, we do not have to wind back the clock on caring for children who may be working through issues of their own sexuality. We want to see them safe and flourishing, and this is achievable without having to promote ideology that is demonstrably skewed and unsuitable for the classroom.

Time for Repentance

“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 4)

We are appalled and shocked, although sadly not completely unsurprised. The Royal Commission yesterday released statistics relating to child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church of Australia, and the read is sickening.

The Royal Commission disclosed that a survey conducted by the Australian Catholic Church found 4,500 alleged cases of child abuse within their organisations. This number reflects claims made between January 1, 1980 and February 28, 2015, and it also excludes cases that were not investigated.

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There are few significant organisations in the country that have not discovered someone who has abused a child; my own Baptist denomination is not without known cases. Jesus warns us about the log in our own eye, and the Scriptures also call Church leaders not to treat gross sin lightly. We anticipate people will try to infiltrate all kinds of organisations in order to scope and prey on innocence; this is not to excuse due organisational diligence, but this world holds insidious individuals who will attempt to circumvent the highest standards. Having said all that, this new data communicates what we perhaps already knew, and that there is a major flaw in Roman Catholic attitudes, brought about in part by flawed theological belief and practice. While any instance of child abuse is repugnant, there is a difference between isolated cases of abuse and a culture of abuse.

7% of catholic priests serving between 1950-2009 have been identified as alleged perpetrators. The current known number is 1,880 men. Among some Catholic organisations the percentage is considerably higher: 22% of ‘Christian Brothers’, and 40.4% of those belonging to the order of ‘the Brother of St John of God’ are known to be sex offenders.

The issue extends beyond the fact that thousands of children have been abused by priests, but that Catholic Dioceses have also failed to properly address allegations and priests in question.

This is a national catastrophe.

Abusing children is unacceptable for any person belonging to any community group or society, and sadly it is occurring even now in many family homes across our suburbs and towns; it should not be. The Royal Commission has disclosed child abuse in schools, sporting clubs, Government organisations, and across religious groups. There is however something particularly evil about the presence of such sin among communities who profess Jesus Christ.

It would be unwise for me to speak to many of the points that are being made at the Royal Commission, not because one doesn’t have strong reactions, but one needs to recognise that there are complexities being addressed, for example, issues relating to reporting processes and investigations. Without reading all the material and having due knowledge of many legal affairs, it would be imprudent to comment on many particulars. The last thing one wants to do is add confusion or cause further pain for people involved in the Royal Commission, especially to the victims.

And yet, something needs to be said. Is this not one of the cries being levelled at institutions, that for too long they have remained silent and ignored the extent of the issue?

As a parent with three children I can imagine what many Aussie parents are thinking about these revelations, and these thoughts are not cordial. There are feelings of disgust toward the perpetrators and toward ecclesial authorities who have repeatedly failed to investigate and protect. There are feelings of sorrow for those whose childhood was snatched from them.

As a Christian and as a Church minister, I am angered that men would betray children under their care and that they would so disdain the name of Jesus by their gross sin. It is beyond reprehensible.

“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 4)

As much as we may point out that these priestly behaviours are irreconcilable with authentic Christianity, for they certainly contravene the person and teaching of Jesus Christ in every way, and yet we must appreciate that this issue has understandably tainted peoples trust in Churches. I can also see how many Australians don’t differentiate between Roman Catholicism and Christian Churches, for their are correlations, but there are also stark differences, which pertain to deeply held theological views that are proving to be unbiblical and untenable, such as Rome’s view of the priesthood.

Christians mustn’t give up being like Jesus, we need to become more like him. In the same short New Testament letter of Jude, where Christians are urged to look out for potential abusers in our churches, a few verses later we are also encouraged to ‘be merciful to those who doubt’.  This is not a time for defensiveness, but repentance, public repentance. 


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Post-truth hits NSW

At a time when many people are rightly questioning facts and figures, and rolling our eyes at the concept of ‘alternative facts’, surely it is incumbent upon us to tread with great care before casting allegations into the public sphere.

In the space of 4 days, the same newspaper, Newcastle Herald, has published an astonishing 5 articles by the one journalist, talking to the same topic, Scripture Classes in NSW schools. There is little development of the story across these pieces, they are mostly repeating the same negative rhetoric toward SRE.

Given the nature of the accusations being made, it is important that the public is given balanced reporting, with opportunity for alternate views to be expressed. Sadly, such balance is absent in these articles. We read of a string of protagonists who are  quoted at length, but with no SRE supporters quoted at all (with one exception being a Youthworks statement from their website). Is this story so obvious and one-sided? It is one thing to find a couple of dissenting priests, one who is known for his dislike of orthodox Christianity and therefore is hardly representative of mainstream Christians in NSW. Why not ask the many clergy who support SRE? The one-sidedness of these stories is enough to sink a battleship!

A poll was attached to one of the articles, conducted by Fairfax and asking the question, ‘Should scripture in state schools be suspended until the NSW government releases its scripture review?’ Over 73% of the 5000+ respondents answered no. The cynical side of me suspects that this poll was placed in the middle of the article in order to garner wide public support for suspending SRE, except it fell flat.

Some of the allegations are relatively minor, but others are most serious. Of gravest note is the implication that Youthworks’ Connect material has been involved in the Royal Commission into child abuse, and that the material is creating space for ‘grooming. This is fallacious and slanderous. Child abuse is a national moral issue and allegations cannot be treated lightly or flippantly. The media, and any person for that matter, should refrain from drawing ties to abuse when there is no evidence, and should there be evidence, surely the authorities including police must be informed.

One of the two articles published this morning begins by stating,

“SCRIPTURE in public schools is not an issue about religious views or what you believe about the historical accuracy of the Bible, which is where a lot of the argument seems to settle these days given the heavy involvement of evangelical Christian churches.

The scripture debate is about a more basic issue than that – child protection.

For more than three years the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has considered how institutions – churches, schools, sporting organisations, welfare providers, government departments, police, the justice system – have responded to child sexual abuse.

What can be said today, without any doubt, is that an institution with responsibility for children that fails to make child protection the top priority, is an institution where children are potentially at risk.” (Newcastle Herald, Feb 2nd)

It is astonishing to see a newspaper publishing not just sensationalism, but defamatory and slanderous claims. If I wrote an article linking an atheist group to child abuse, without clear evidence, I should expect to find myself in trouble.

Truth telling works both ways. SRE providers have a responsibility to work within the parameters set by Education Departments, and to ensure their material is age appropriate. When we make mistakes we must be eager to correct them. Evidence shows us that SRE providers continue to  work well with Education Departments in fulfilling all righteousness. The Queensland review is a clear example that the system is working well, with Youthworks taking ownership of poorly worded material and being quick to amend it.

I understand that not everyone likes the Bible and Christianity, and that some Australians have a view that such things don’t have place in a secular education. It is one thing for people to disprove of Scripture classes, but it is quite another to engineer false claims in order to have these classes suspended altogether. As it became apparent in Victoria, the agenda was not to suspend classes, but to remove Christian ideas and thinking out of schools completely, and the NSW public should not be tricked into thinking that those orchestrating the campaign are intending anything less.

We should also remember that no child is compelled to take SRE classes. Families have freedom to participate or not. That many thousands are choosing to enrol their children into the classes (I believe these numbers are growing in some schools), signals that not only SRE’s popularity but also the public wanting this curriculum for their children.

Perhaps leaders of the anti-SRE groups might consider arranging a face to face meeting with SRE providers? Would that not be more constructive rather than using newspapers to throw around out-dated and misinformation?

If we truly care for our children’s well being (and I’m sure that this is the case for people across the different perspectives on SRE), surely it is in our best interest to avoid false facts and stick close to what is true. 

This morning, as I read the Newcastle Herald, I remembered how a group of agitators conspired against Jesus. He did not retaliate or compromise integrity, he stood firm but not arrogantly, but with conviction and love, even for those who were accusing him. It is disingenuous to create an air of suspicion and fear by misrepresenting the facts and not publishing  balanced views. We should expect a higher standard of our media, but regardless of how Christians are portrayed, we must continue to graciously pursue what is good and right and noble.

“If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” (John 18:23)


Below is a copy of the corrections that Youthworks released yesterday:

“We also submitted a correction request to the Newcastle Herald this morning, asking them to address serious inaccuracies and misleading statements regarding Connect and SRE more broadly. We are still yet the hear back from their editors.

Here are the changes we’ve asked for:

1. The Connect material never encourages students to have secrets with their SRE teachers or other adults.

2. The use of the term “Special friends” was used in the context of describing someone who is a follower of Jesus – “Jesus was asking Matthew to be one of his special friends” and “Jesus calls us to become one of his special friends”. Education Queensland acknowledged that while they understood the context – a child-friendly translation for Jesus’ disciples – the term was unsuitable in context of child protection, and asked CEP to use an alternative (p. 11 of the Education Queensland Review). There is no suggestion in the material that students should have special friendships with adults. The term has taken on a particularly insidious connotation since the Royal Commission into Institutional Abuse and will be removed from future SRE material.

3. The Education Queensland Review never accuses or suggests that Connect encourages grooming behaviour, but provides recommendations where language and terminology has been unhelpful in this context.

4. The insinuation in the story that SRE has been a feature of the Royal Commission is untrue and intentionally misleading.

5. The articles contain a decontextualized quote asking about a man born blind: “Was it a punishment from God because his parents or someone else had done something wrong?” which is used to imply that the curriculum links disability (in this instance, a man’s blindness) with sin. The quote in its actual context is a question asked of Jesus in a Bible passage, to which he immediately responds “No”. At no point are students asked this question, nor are they asked to evaluate disability in this context. Joanne McCarthy’s use of it is intentionally misleading and sensationalist.

6. The February 1 article makes no mention of the fact that the Education Queensland review found the “vast majority of Connect materials are consistent with legislation and policy concerning religious instruction”, nor that changes have already been made to the material which were reviewed by Education Queensland.

We eagerly await their reply.”

Here is the link to a statement published by Youthworks, also dated February 2nd: https://www.youthworks.net/press_centre/response-to-connect-articles-1-2-17


Update February 4th. The Herald today published another article by the same journalist, also speaking to the topic of the Royal Commission but this time there is no mention of Scripture Classes and their providers. I am only mentioning this update because in sharp contrast to the previous days articles, this one was well written and substantive.

http://www.theherald.com.au/story/4445757/church-prospects-grim-while-abuse-culture-remains/

The Glass Ceiling Women are not allowed to break

Recent conversations about abortion in Australia and in the United States have made it clear that it is not enough for a woman to be a woman, nor is being a feminist suffice; one must also publicly support abortion. A woman may reach the zenith of public office but it is apparently redundant if they are not promoting a particular type of womanhood. It is not enough for a woman to be woman (which I assume is insulting to many women), but you have to be a woman who talks to and represents a particular agenda.

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Last week the world witnessed over 3 million Americans marching through their cities, protesting the Presidency of Donald Trump. These protests are understandable given the unacceptable views on women that the new President has expressed. I want to emphasize how appalled I am by his comments about women. However, not everyone who wanted to march in support of women was welcomed, those who describe themselves as ‘pro-life’ were excluded.

The new Minister for Women in NSW is Tanya Davies, and within moments of giving her first press conference as minister,  numerous journalists and social commentators began calling for her removal. The reason? What atrocious deed is lurking in her wardrobe? The problem is, Tanya Davies is pro-life.

She said,

“Personally I am pro-life … but in my role I am there to support all women and I will support all women, and I will listen to all women and I will take on board all the stakeholders’ comments and feedback … and ensure the best outcome for all women is secured,”

In today’s The Age, Jenny Noyes made it clear as translucent silica that one cannot be Minister of Women if one does not support a woman’s right to abort her children,

“the appointment of Tanya Davies as the new Minister for Women was immediately soured when she admitted during the press conference to being “personally pro-life.”

“This simply is not good enough…NSW needs a Minister for Women who will actually fight for women’s rights, who is willing to put reproductive rights on the table – not to wind them back…”

The comment that I found most troubling was this one,

“The so-called “pro-life” movement says a life that hasn’t even begun is more important than the self-determination of a living, breathing woman.”

First of all, let’s not fudge the facts: life has already begun. Treating unborn children as pre-life and pre-human counters what we know to be true scientifically and ethically. To grade human beings according to levels of humanness is gross and immoral, and reminds us past generational ideologies which rightly cause us to shudder. Life does not begin at birth; our children are living sentient beings inside the womb. They are feeling and thinking and feeding and growing, responding to music and to touch.

Noyes’ also misrepresents the “pro-life” paradigm, painting  an either/or fallacy. It is possible to be both for unborn children and for women. But in the highly charged individualism which so much feminism has now adopted, room isn’t permitted for women (or men) to both support a woman’s health and life, and the health and life of the child in her womb. 

In Ancient Rome, baby girls were often abandoned and left to die in the open. Today, it is not sexism and misogyny that is responsible for most abortions in Western countries (although evidence suggests that the majority of world-wide aborted babies are girls), and neither is it the endangered-life of the mother, but the endangered life-style of women who are encultured to smash more glass ceilings. 

The irony is, Tanya Davies is cracking another panel, but it is not one that some women want broken.

As a Christian I can’t help talking about Jesus, for I reckon he is more relevant to these discussions than we often think. We know Jesus’ views of women countered the norms of his day, which angered many men who sought to subjugate women. Jesus also taught us to welcome and care for little children. A healthy and mature society will do both.

I wonder, instead of women and men jumping to break more ceilings, what if we learned from Jesus, and stopped climbing on our step-ladders and shattering glass all over those underneath us? How often in advancing our own dreams we sacrifice others whom we leave below? Jesus accomplished the greatest act in the history of human rights, not by asserting his position but in laying down his life out of love for others. He flipped on its head the alleged axiom of ‘power verses abuse’, when he chose to serve those with whom he held strong disagreement. And instead of discarding those whom we perceive as holding us back, Jesus gave them dignity and called them to walk with him through life. At least to me, this sounds like a better way forward.

There was evil in Melbourne today

‘My heart is in anguish within me;

    the terrors of death have fallen on me.

Fear and trembling have beset me;

    horror has overwhelmed me.

 I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!

    I would fly away and be at rest.

I would flee far away

    and stay in the desert;

 I would hurry to my place of shelter,

    far from the tempest and storm.” (Psalm 55:4-8)

Melbourne was frightened today, and tonight Melbourne mourns. This afternoon Melbourne witnessed the worse act of mass violence since the Queen St massacre of 1987, where 9 people were killed and several injured. Even as I write the toll from today’s crime has increased from 3 people dead to 4, and with a further 20 people injured. Police have told the public that the number of deaths may yet increase, and among the dead and injured are young children.

My city, our city, has been subjected to a pointless and evil act of terror. Like so many Melbournians I am trying to make sense of the incomprehensible, that a man would aim his car at innocent pedestrians in the centre of our city, along Elizabeth and Bourke Streets. 

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As with many others, I first realised some terrible event was unfolding as my twitter feed went into a frenzy with reports of a red car mounting the path of Bourke St, striking down several people. Within minutes a growing picture emerged of a police chase, an out of control driver doing donuts outside Flinders St Station, and hundreds of people shortly afterward running for their lives through city streets. One friend of mine reported that he heard gunshots and ran inside a nearby building, realising soon after that the assailant was being arrested, only 100m away.

During the first hour very few of us did not at least wonder whether we were seeing an act of terrorism; some foolishly sparked rumours on twitter, assuming without knowing. Police soon assured everyone that this was not terrorism and that the situation had been contained. Late afternoon police informed journalists that the alleged man was wanted for a stabbing from earlier today, and that he has a history of domestic violence and mental illness.

As with many others, I thank the police, ambulance, and hospitals who serve us so well. We should not forget them in our prayers as they work to protect, save, care, and heal.

The statement from our Premier, Daniel Andrews, echoes our own thoughts and prayers tonight,

“Our hearts are breaking this afternoon.

People have died in the heart of our city.

Others are seriously injured. Young and old. And all of them were innocent.

All of them were just going about their day, like you or I.

Some families are just starting to find out the news about their loved ones, and right now, our thoughts are with each and every one of them.

I’m so proud of all the Victorians who reached out and provided care and support to strangers today.

I’m so thankful for all our police, paramedics and emergency services workers who launched into action, and will now be working around the clock.

And I hope that everyone can be patient and cooperative, so we can let these professionals do their job.

This was a terrible crime – a senseless, evil act – and justice will be done.”

Mr Andrews is absolutely right, This was a terrible crime – a senseless, evil act”. Such appalling actions remind us how we need the moral category called, ‘evil’, and indeed that there is such a thing as evil. We are not stuck in an enclosed cosmos without Divine and ultimate reason and righteousness. Our recognition of evil forces us to discard esoteric notions of a godless universe, for we know and feel the odious presence of the nefarious, and we desperately need it gone, and perpetrators punished.

Tonight, some of our fellow Melbournians are entering the shadow of the valley of death, and many others stand nearby stunned and saddened. Psalm 23 reminds us that we do not have to walk through that valley of death alone,

‘Even though I walk

    through the darkest valley,

I will fear no evil,

    for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

    they comfort me.’

More than that, the one called Jesus has walked this path ahead of us, and for us. He is no out-of-touch Deity, but a God acquainted with grief.

Tonight, perhaps others would also like to pray for all those tonight wrestling with what they witnessed, especially for the injured and for those facing the most inexplicable grief; praying that friends will surround them and weep with them, and asking that the God of comfort might give comfort and peace through the darkness.


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Update Sunday morning (Jan 22nd): a 5th person has now died, a 3 month old baby boy.