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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AUSTRALIAN TRIAL OF CHRISTIAN PASTOR AND EVANGELIST NEARS VERDICT
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February 23, 2004, The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) www.www.persecution.org, is aware of several updates in the Australian court case, Islamic Council of Victoria vs. Pastor Daniel Nalliah of Catch the Fire Ministries and Pastor Daniel Scot, an expert on Islam and pastor of the church which held the seminar. The trial, which began in October, will resume February 25th, and it is expected to conclude by March 5, 2004. Both pastors are charged with religious vilification by inciting fear and hatred through a seminar conducted in March 2002, an article on Islam in a Catch the Fire newsletter issued in the summer of 2001, and a website article. The case is being tried by a single judge, and is expected to have worldwide implications.
The plaintiffs are basing their case on the Victorias Racial and Religious Discrimination Act. According to this law religious vilification includes engaging in conduct that incites hatred against, serious contempt for, or revulsion or severe ridicule of, another person or class of persons. This case is a major affront to basic values of Western society such as freedom of speech and religious expression, and has the potential to impact the right to assemble peacefully and discuss other faiths. In addition, the vary nature of the law allows potential abuses to occur. Expert attorneys on both sides will make it a difficult decision for the trial judge to make.
ICC had a representative in the courtroom in October 2003 when a tape of the entire seminar was played at the presiding judges request in order to better understand the nature of the allegations made in the suit. Pastor Scot, who did much of the teaching, is a native of Pakistan, and he is highly educated in Islam. ICCs representative has lived and worked in Saudi Arabia, the center of Islam, and he commented that Pastor Scots presentation of Islam was the best factual study of Islamic teachings from the Koran that he has ever heard. Not once was there a condescending remark made concerning Muslim people or Islam. In fact, the tone of the conference was for Christians to reach out in understanding and love to Muslim people, as well as to pray for them. Our representative further stated that he would recommend Pastor Scot as a speaker on the subject of Islam in any forum worldwide.
ICC urges Christians everywhere to lift up this trial in prayer, as a ruling against Catch the Fire Ministries and the two pastors could set a precedent so as to repress religious expression for all beliefs. ICC also urges Christians to let their views by known on this issue by calling or writing the Honorable Michael Thawley, Ambassador to the United States from Australia, The Australian Embassy, 1601 Massachusetts Ave N. W., Washington D. C. 20036- phone 202-797-3000, or fax 202-799-3168. ICC urges an immediate, but polite and firm response to this issue to inform the Ambassador that the people of faith in the United States look with disfavor upon the proceedings taking place in this case in Victoria.
ICC is a Washington-DC based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC delivers humanitarian aid, trains and supports persecuted pastors, raises awareness in the US Church regarding the problem of persecution, and is an advocate for the persecuted on Capitol Hill and the State Department. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.