August/September 2016 • issue six • www.mychristiandaily.com.au
DANGERS OF SPIRITUAL ABUSE SAFE SCHOOLS PROGRAM: WHAT’S THE FUSS? NZ’S HOUSING CRISIS
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CONTENTS issue six • august/september 2016 www.mychristiandaily.com.au
14 10 CURRENT AFFAIRS COVER STORY After Saturday Comes Sunday How To Not Sacrifice Your Family On The Altar Of Your 15 08 Career POLITICS CHURCH Christian Leaders Respond To 12 Why Australia’s Abc Should Vladimir Putin’s New Russian EDUCATION Keep Rainbow Politics Out Of Play School Law On Religion Safe Schools Program: What’s All The Fuss? 07 IN SHORT Dangers of Spiritual Abuse
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16 HOUSING Home Sweet Home?
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Dangers of Spiritual Abuse
eadlines this week report a high-profile pastor who was removed after charges of abuse. The congregation is reeling. Some feel wounded, vowing they’re done with church, forever. Across the country, another dismissed pastor, after spending a couple years out of the spotlight, announces he’s ready to return to church leadership. Has he changed his abusive ways? It’s not likely, according to experts. These church leaders practice something that psychologists call spiritual abuse. This abuse occurs when people in positions of authority misuse their power and spiritual authority, in order to control or manipulate them for their own purposes. Abusers may be ministers and other leaders who abuse members–or the abusers may be members and lay leaders who abuse church staff. Victims of spiritual abuse often feel shamed, manipulated, intimidated,
and humiliated. Some actually suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Victims typically place a high level of trust in spiritual leaders. And when that trust is violated, the wounds are deep. Spiritual abusers often employ unspoken rules, secrecy, paranoia, and authoritarianism. They tend to be very image-conscious and averse to criticism. Gregory Sammons specializes in counseling victims and perpetrators of spiritual abuse. He says spiritual abusers are typically very insecure people. “They depend on others to adore them, lift them up, and follow them,” he said. “They try to replace God.” He said these leaders often deny they hurt people. “They deceive themselves,” he said. And, sadly, they’re not likely to reform. Sammons said few spiritual abusers ever seek professional help. They don’t feel they have a problem. “God can work
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miracles, but I’ve not seen a lot of people who are willing to give up that control,” he said. REDUCING SPIRITUAL ABUSE How can spiritual abuse be curbed? First, do not revere, exalt or idolize those in spiritual leadership. Love them, care for them, treat them with respect, but do not “lead them into temptation” with the kind of adulation that intoxicates them with inappropriate emotional control over others. And, if you’re a victim–or a perpetrator–of spiritual abuse, seek professional help. Spiritual abuse can be as harrowing as other relational abuses, such as incest. Counselors can help sort out the confusion and distress found in the context of relationships where someone is in a role of representing God. Thom Schultz - holysoup.com
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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Irina Yarovaya, Chairperson of the State Duma Committee on Security
CHRISTIAN LEADERS RESPOND TO VLADIMIR PUTIN’S NEW RUSSIAN LAW ON RELIGION
ollowing the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the evangelical church in Russia enjoyed 25 years of freedom. “Sadly, however, a new set of repressive laws known as the ‘Yarovaya package’ went into effect Wednesday, July 20, which threaten to eliminate these very freedoms,” Sergey Rakhuba, President of MISSION EURASIA, told ASSIST News Service. In a media update obtained by ASSIST News Rakhuba says: “These laws are alarmingly similar to the 1929 Soviet law on religion that the Stalin administration used to unleash persecution against evangelicals, causing a catastrophe for millions,” Rakhuba said. “Despite the protests of religious leaders, these laws were nevertheless signed by President Vladimir Putin. The collective prayers and appeals by evangelical Christians to the president
went unheeded.” Rakhuba explained that “Under the guise of anti-terrorist rhetoric, these laws are ushering in a new era for Russia and Russian believers that will destroy religious freedom, sow seeds of fear, and encourage the search for internal enemies (i.e. members of any religious group other than the Russian Orthodox Church) and the fight against them. “No longer will people feel safe sharing their faith with a neighbor or a passerby. Moreover, all communications providers, including the internet, will be subject to surveillance and censorship. Both individuals and religious organizations will be threatened with unbearable fines,” Rakhuba said. “We don’t know yet how these laws will be implemented, but it is already clear that they are achieving their goal of creating an atmosphere of fear and suspicion within society, while allowing
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the government to restrict freedom in violation of the Constitution and international norms. Believers will soon need to make a very important choice: whether to obey God or these new Russian ‘laws.’” Rakhuba continued: “The Russian evangelical church will soon find itself behind a new ‘Iron Curtain’ which closes society off from the outside world. Mission Eurasia, however, will not abandon the church in Russia because we firmly believe that Russia needs the gospel more today than perhaps at any other time in history. The evangelical church in Russia desperately needs our support. “It is especially critical that we support the Next Generation of leaders who are ready to serve in any circumstance. These leaders are competent and dedicated, courageous and bold, free and creative. Simply stated, these are the people who understand but who are not afraid.
They have the unique ability to see new God-given opportunities in the midst of what is taking place.” “The door for evangelism in Russia is still open, but it is only slightly ajar,” Rakhuba stated. “Therefore, we must continue to actively share the gospel in Russia and the other countries of Eurasia where we are deeply involved while there is still opportunity. “[It’s] the most draconian anti-religion bill to be proposed in Russia since Nikita Khrushchev promised to eliminate Christianity in the Soviet Union. For years we have watched as huge changes take place in Russia under the increasingly dictatorial rule of President Putin and his administration. Freedom of religion represents a threat to the current political agenda in Russia. Today, few—if any—foreign Christian mission groups have an official presence in Russia, having been pushed out by anti-evangelical regulations.” He concluded: “Please pray for Russia and its people— especially believers—as well as for its political and spiritual leaders. Please pray for those who have been called to serve in God’s mission fields at this difficult time throughout this vast and long-suffering nation.” World Watch Monitor (www.worldwatchmonitor. org) reports that on July 7, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill referred to by one Christian organization as an “anti-missionary bill.” The new law, known more commonly as the “Yarovaya” law (the name of one of its authors), which will come into effect on July 20, was formally introduced as an “antiterrorism” measure, allowing the government to monitor extremist groups. However, World Watch Monitor says its biggest impact may be upon Russia’s Christians, particularly missionaries, who will need a permit, and the so-called “house churches,” which will soon be deemed illegal, as religious activity will only be allowed to take place inside registered buildings, such as churches. Maximum fines amount to the equivalent of $780 for individuals or $15,000 for organizations. In a media advisory, in which it collated Christian leaders’ reactions to the new law, World Watch Monitor says the law is unlikely to affect the Russian Orthodox Church, to which, according to the Christian Post, 70 percent of Russians (and 90 percent of ethnic Russians) subscribe, but it will affect all other evangelical groups and denominations, including Protestants (one percent of the population), Seventh-day Adventists, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Edward Snowden, US whistle-blower granted asylum in Russia, wrote this on Twitter(@Snowden): “#Putin has signed a repressive new law that violates not only human rights, but common sense. Dark day for #Russia.”
HOW THE CHURCH RESPONDED An open letter from the Baptist Council of Churches:
The authors of the bill did not ask for the views of those “who are the most affected by the new amendments.” Instead, the law violates the constitutional right “freely to choose, hold, and disseminate religious and other beliefs.” [It will] create conditions for the repression of all Christians … Any person who mentions their religious views or reflections out loud or puts them in writing, without the relevant documents, could be accused of ‘illegal missionary activity’ and subjected to a heavy fine.”
Sergei Ryakhovsky, head of the Protestant Churches of Russia:
“The obligation on every believer to have a special permit to spread his or her beliefs, as well as hand out religious literature and material outside of places of worship and used structures is not only absurd and offensive, but also creates the basis for mass persecution of believers for violating these provisions. Soviet history shows us how many people of different faiths have been persecuted for spreading the Word of God. This law brings us back to a shameful past.”
Joel Griffith of the Slavic Gospel Association:
“I understand from one source that this package of bills was actually drafted in April and it’s been back and forth through a few committees here and there so I’m imagining this has probably been well discussed behind the scenes … It’s been signed into law, now it’s all going to depend on how this gets interpreted down the food chain within the Russian Federation … There are potentially very wide-sweeping ramifications to this law. It just depends on, again, how it is going to be enforced and that is a very huge question mark … Our whole ethos and purpose is to serve the church. And the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists is registered with them. And our sole purpose for existence is serving those churches.”
Jake Roudkovski, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary professor:
“Baptist churches in Russia will survive … [It] is nothing new to them … [But it] will significantly undercut all of the missionary activities [though it] will not stop [missions and evangelism] altogether.” www.mychristiandaily.com.au | 9
In the course of my work as a magazine editor, I had five middleaged men—independent of each other—tell me that the one regret they had at this stage of their life was that they hadn’t spent enough time with their kids when they were growing up.
How not to sacrifice on the ALTAR OF
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ou face a difficult choice. How will you invest your most valuable resource—the 168 hours you are allotted each week? Not one of us gets a second more or less. Despite my age and my commitment to finish well, I didn’t just now start thinking about how to prioritize my time. Something told me, early on, to invest it wisely so I’d have no regrets. When people ask what I want said at my funeral, the number of books I’ve published, the number of copies sold, or how many times my titles reached the New York Times bestseller list do not come to mind. I’d like to be remembered as a faithful husband, father, and grandfather. The only thing I care to have said about my career? That I redeemed the time. It Gets Harder All the Time If your calendar looks anything like mine, you’re already balancing enough plates to make a veteran waiter sweat. You feel pulled in every direction by the demands of your job, your friends, your church, and perhaps civic or charitable efforts. There simply isn’t enough time, you tell yourself. Something has to give. So what’s it going to be? What are you willing to cut from your life to prioritize your family? I can think of a lot of things—TV, movies, parties, concerts, maybe a sport or hobby you enjoy. But What About Quality Time? Can you cut in half the time you choose to spend with your spouse or the kids, making sure the time you do spend with them is quality time? Don’t you deserve to chase all your dreams? They’ll understand, won’t they, that during certain hours you have to pursue your own agenda? I mean, they accept that you go off to your job every day. No, No, A Thousand Times No! If you must choose between your
dreams and your family — Give up the dreams. That’s right, I said it. I’ve made my living, my career, my life as a writer. It’s paid the bills, put food on the table, kept us out of debt, and put our kids through college. But I was not willing to sacrifice my family on the altar of my career. If writing had demanded that—less time with my wife and our three sons, I would have chosen another career. My Story and My Policy One week in the early 1970s, when I was a 20-something newlywed and long before Dianna and I had children, I took a message right between the eyes. In the course of my work as a magazine editor, I had five middleaged men—independent of each other—tell me that the one regret they had at this stage of their life was that they hadn’t spent enough time with their kids when they were growing up. Clearly, someone was trying to tell me something. I told Dianna that if I got to be that age and had that same regret, I’d be without excuse. We talked it over and established a policy for when our own children came along. Simply, it was that I would do no work from the office nor any freelance writing from the time I got home from work each day until the kids went to bed. The Benefits • I found time to continue to court and date my wife. • I gave her a much-needed break at the end of each day. • I learned to change diapers, heat bottles, rock babies, and put them to bed. • I catalogued 1001 funny things toddlers say. • I taught the kids to pray, sang with them, and saw each of them come to faith. • I taught them sports and watched them in every soccer match, baseball, basketball, and volleyball game until they left home. You can tell kids they are your top
priority. They’ll hear what you say, but they’ll believe what you do. To kids, love is spelled T-I-M-E. What Happened To My Writing? Despite that I am a morning person and the writing I do before noon is the best work I’ll do all day, during those growing up years with the kids, I could write only from 9 to midnight. Yet, because I wrote without guilt, I was as productive during those three hours a night as I had ever been—and in truth, as productive as I have been since, despite that I have been a fulltime freelancer for 25 years. We gained credibility with our kids, and they became our best friends. Naturally we didn’t agree on everything, but they never doubted our commitment to them. What It Cost Me • A lot of TV • An hour or two of sleep per night • As full a social life as we might have preferred So, What’ll It Be? Only you can decide your own priorities. TV? Movies? Parties? Concerts? Sports? Hobbies? Social Media? (There are apps to help you control that, i.e., Freedom. Google it.) Let Me Say It Again Whatever you decide, don’t sacrifice your family on the altar of your career. You’ll never regret the time you spend with them, but you’re almost certain to regret the time you don’t. Jerry Jenkins is the author of The Left Behind Series and a total of 189 books. His titles have sold more than 70 million copies worldwide, and 21 of his books have reached the New York Times bestseller list. He and his wife live in Colorado and have 3 sons and 8 grandchildren. www.mychristiandaily.com.au | 11
ver the past week the Safe Schools program (SCAA) has featured in the news with some in the Federal Coalition calling for a review. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull ordered the independent review last Tuesday and it will be completed by mid-March. Safe Schools is a school education program aimed at promoting acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & Intersex (LGBTI) students. The teaching manual was set up by Labor but launched by the Coalition in 2014. The main concern appears to be the ageappropriateness of what is being taught to 11 year-olds. Other concerns include some of the links from the program to websites that promote concerning material. For example, The Minus 18 website (Australia’s largest youth-led network for gay, bi, lesbian and trans teens) has an article instructing kids on how to “Cover their tracks” on the Internet. Another link leads to an article on how to make your own sex toys, finding women to teach cross-dressing skills, healthier and safer ways to bind your chest, an online sex shop and so on. Seeing that $8 million of federal money is being used to support this program the government has every right to call a review – and any tax payer has a right to express their opinion on this. While some are calling for all funding to be withdrawn and the program to be axed, the review could lead to some healthy modifications to SCAA so that it is fairer and more age-appropriate. In the meantime there seems to be plenty of unhelpful mudslinging from both “sides” of the debate. For example, Katherine Hudson on the New Matilda site writes, “The prejudiced views of Senator Cory Bernardi and his rightist droogs are shared by many dictators, despots and despicable leaders, including Putin, Kim Jongun, Mugabe, and ISIS terrorists. Those who’ve come out against the Safe Schools Program aren’t reasonable conservatives, they’re homophobic reactionaries, who want a return to ‘the days of the old school yard’ where LGBTIQ students lived in fear and silence.” This sort of rant is singularly
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Safe Schools Program: What’s all the Fuss? unhelpful. Just because someone asks questions doesn’t make them a homophobic reactionary. I’m asking questions but I’m neither reactionary nor homophobic – in fact I’m just the opposite and have received my fair share of criticism over the years for speaking graciously towards LGBTI people and suggesting the Christian Gospel includes ALL people! The hateful emails that some politicians have received about the Safe Schools program are also unhelpful – even more so when they are sent by people professing the Christian faith. Surely genuine Christian behaviour should include things like love, kindness, gentleness and self-control. It saddens me greatly when Christians fail to present their Christianity Christianly! So, where to from here? Of course we’ll have to wait for the review. Personally I hope the SCAA program isn’t shut down but I do hope it’s modified. Having a school program that is aimed at increasing our understanding of one another and decreasing bullying is a worthy goal, but I believe the current Safe Schools program is too narrow. While it’s more than appropriate to educate teenagers about the diversity of human sexuality, it’s also vital that we educate them about diversity in other areas too – such as culture, race, and religion. For example, classmates often pick on our youngest daughter because of her Christian faith (and she attends a Christian based school). Bullying takes place for any number of reasons and it would be helpful for all teenagers to have age-appropriate teaching that seeks to help them deal with it in healthy ways. Over the
past few days I’ve had a number of conversations with teenagers and all of them have told me the number one cause of bullying in schools has to do with body image (being too fat, too thin, having red hair etc.). It was the same when I was in high school in the 70s. We had a gay guy in our class and he was really cool. No one ever picked on Graham. But lots of people picked on the overweight Italian guy. In making this statement I do not want to underestimate what LGBTI teens face at school. I’m sure many of them experience bullying and that certainly needs to be addressed through education. Secondly, on highly personal and potentially divisive topics such as human sexuality it’s vital that parents be involved. With the current model, there’s some material in the Safe Schools program that encourages students to go behind their parents’ backs. It also deals with topics that may go against parents’ beliefs and values. Parents currently have no choice whether their children attend the Safe Schools program if their school is a member school of SSCA. There’s no way to “opt out.” I believe this needs to change as well, much like it has for Christian Religious Instruction. Thirdly, if you’re a concerned parent then I encourage you to speak to your children’s school and ask good questions. Also speak with your children, ask them what they’re learning at school and allow good discussion to occur. Christie and I have wonderful conversations with our girls on a whole range of subjects. We’ve talked about how important it is to be kind and respectful to all people including LGBTI people. Obviously
these discussions are age-appropriate – we speak in much more detail with our 17 year old than we do with our 14 year old. Our seven year old is too young for in-depth discussion on human sexuality. We’re trying to allow her to maintain the innocence that a seven year old should be able to enjoy. Parents should be allowed to choose when, where and how they talk to their children about LGBTI issues. Teenagers (and all people) need to understand the difference between acceptance and agreement. Just because we accept someone, and choose to be kind and gracious towards him or her, doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything they do, say or believe. On the issue of sexuality there are people who, because of religious or cultural reasons or just personal opinion, consider any sexual behaviour other than that between a man and woman in the covenant of marriage to be wrong. Others disagree. We all need to learn respect for other people’s opinions even if they are different to our own and, while we’re at it, let’s stop the name calling towards those with which we disagree!
Rob Buckingham is the Senior Minister of bayside Church in Melbourne, Australia
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After Saturday Comes Sunday Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East We sat down with author, ELIZABETH KENDAL to find out about her new book ‘After Saturday Comes Sunday’ and her thoughts on the crisis in the Middle East... What motivated you to write this book? Most media coverage of the Syrian conflict is thin on context, thick with propaganda, and driven by interests. Every night the newsreader tells us that the heavily armed, bushy-beared, black flag waving, Allahu Akbar (Allah is greater) shouting, “moderate rebels” on our screens are fighting for democracy, liberty and human rights. But as news of Islamic atrocities leaked out, Christians around the world grew increasingly concerned about the fate of their co-religionists. Cognizant of a growing demand for information, I committed to writing a book that would not merely expose the suffering but explain the Christian crisis in the Middle East. We need to understand what is happening, for not only do the Christians of the Middle East need all the help they can get, but Mesopotamia, long known as the cradle of civilization, is merely ground zero in the increasingly global battle for civilization. We’ve been told the Syrian conflict is about advancing democracy and human rights; that it’s about ridding the world of a repressive, evil dictator named Bashar al-Assad. Are you suggesting that is not quite the case? Leaders in the US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia insist that “Assad must go” be-
cause he is a brutal dictator who abuses human rights and has used force to put down popular protests. The very fact that the West’s partners in this supposedly honorable and humanitarian, pro-democracy and pro-human rights venture are Turkey and Saudi Arabia—leading human rights abusers and oppressors who also use force to quell protest—should indicate that democracy and human rights are not the issue. The conflict in Syria is about a lot of things, but human rights is definitely not one of them, despite what the would-be regimechangers might say. So why do the US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia insist that “Assad must go”? If the Syrian conflict is not about democracy and human rights, then what is it all about? The rise of the Shia Crescent, and the ascent of Axis of Resistance leader Iran, has alarmed Israel and the US-allied Sunni Arab dictators, for an ascendant Iran is a threaten their security and to the Sunni Arabs’ economic interests. It was in this high-stakes context that the US and her Sunni Arab allies, along with neo-Ottoman Turkey, sought to exploit Syria’s 2011 Arab Spring protests as a cover for illegal regime change in Damascus. The plan was to re-orient Syria by replac-
ing the Alawite-led, Shia Axis-aligned, Syrian government with a Sunni Axis-aligned, Sunni regime more amenable to US and Sunni interests. How has the conflict impacted the Christians? The impact on Christians has been phenomenal, especially as transnational jihadists have flooded the theatre. In Iraq, the indigenous Assyrian nation has been decimated—from a population of 1.4 million (1987 census) to some 200,000 today, virtually all of whom are displaced and destitute. Driven from their homes and from their historic heartland in the Nineveh Plains, they now survive under the protection of the Kurds, shielded by Kurdish peshmerger and Assyrian militias, although tensions exist, especially as Kurds lay claim to Assyrian lands. In Syria, Christians are surviving in the west of the country under the protection of the Assad government, shielded by the Syrian Arab Army. Hundreds of thousands are displaced. Like their co-religionists in Iraq, most have lost absolutely everything.
Pick up your copy of ‘After Saturday Comes Sunday at www.elizabethkendal.com
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Why Australia’s ABC should keep rainbow politics out of Play School
arents should be able to trust their toddlers to the ABC’s Play School program without worrying if they are being exposed to controversial political and social agendas, according to the Australian Christian Lobby. A recent segment of Play School featured two men raising two girls in its popular Through the Windows segment. The Australian Christian Lobby’s (ACL) Queensland director, Wend Francis, has spoken out on the matter, stating the moral issues at hand. In a recent interview, Ms Francis said, “As a grandmother I find it disappointing that the ABC is seeking to include rainbow politics for toddlers when millions of their parents do not agree with redefining marriage in law.” “Millions of Australians also do not agree that two men should be allowed to deliberately deprive a child of its mother. This does not mean two men cannot love a child, of course they can. The issue is whether or not it is right for the child to be deprived of its mother and whether this should be taught as ethical to toddlers. “The ABC should also not assume that producing children through harvested eggs and a rented or donated woman’s womb to meet the desires of two men is a public good. “Unsupervised watching of Play School was always considered safe by generations of parents. Now parents can’t be sure if their children are going to be exposed to contested social and political agendas. “As ACL warned in February this year, Play School is not the place for the
ABC to run agendas. The Australian people will be deciding whether or not marriage (and with it parenting) is redefined in a national plebiscite after the federal election, should the Coalition win. “Many parents will be disappointed with this, particularly as this is a taxpayer-funded program that should refrain from pushing confusing adult messaging to our children. “Parents shouldn’t be forced to have adult conversations about sexuality and bioethics with their kids at such a young age and it certainly should not be the government broadcaster raising the subject with them.” Ms Francis said the nature of the ABC as a taxpayer-funded broadcaster meant that it had an
obligation to maintain its objectivity on political issues, particularly when matters crucial to the definition of marriage and family are subject to a national vote. “ABC Kids should be particularly sensitive to what it shows to young impressionable minds and refrain from introducing contested social concepts into their children’s programing,” Ms Francis said. “We encourage the Communications Minister, Mitch Fifield, to take these concerns to the ABC so that the integrity of the ABC can be maintained.” The ABC is an Australian government-owned and run media organization. Play School celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
Benita Collings & Don Spencer with Play School’s Big Ted & Maurice. www.mychristiandaily.com.au | 15
Exorbitant house prices, an insufficient housing stock, high rents, cold, damp rental houses and overcrowding are putting families under pressure. Salvation Army social policy analyst, ALAN JOHNSON talks to MARIE ANTICICH about the housing crisis.
inter is here and our thoughts turn towards home – a warm, dry, comfortable home. But for many Kiwis the dream of home ownership is becoming a nightmare of skyrocketing house prices, escalating rents overcrowding and homelessness. Home ownership in New Zealand has reached its lowest level in 60 years and the government is coming under scrutiny for its handling of the Auckland housing crisis. Although house building has increased in Auckland, the shortage of housing continues to worsen, mainly because of high net migration. This is bad news for both tenants and would-be house-buyers. Salvation Army social policy analyst Alan Johson, author of the army’s ‘Moving Targets’ 2016 State of the Nation report, says house prices are increasing faster than wages, making it hard for the average wage or salary earner to buy a home. Many of those who have bought a home are mortgaged to the hilt, and the house price bonanza is increasing household debt almost to levels seen before the 2008 global financial crisis. Salvation Army Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit director, Lt Colonel Ian Hutson says the government needs to urgently address root causes of the housing crises and examine possible solutions, such as investment and development in the regions and the building of large scale State residential housing projects. Lt Col Hutson is concerned that
ingrained inequality and poverty is causing many to live at a grim level of misery with homelessness, overcrowding, child poverty and its attendant ill health, dysfunction and loss of opportunities becoming accepted as the new norm. Despite the significant upturn in residential building activity in Auckland – more consents for new dwellings were issued in 2015 than in any of the previous ten years – the overall deficit of housing continues to widen, due to even stronger population growth. “We need to build around 13,000 new houses a year to keep up with the demand for housing in Auckland but we’re only building around 10,000 houses, and so the shortfall keeps increasing. What we’re seeing on our TV screens and the homelessness in our streets is a consequence of what we haven’t done over the last five to ten years,” says Mr Johnson. “There’s a gap between income
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and housing values. No-one is building cheaper houses and so we now have a critical shortage of affordable housing – new houses in Papakura are costing $1.1 million. People ask me ‘What’s affordable?’ and I say ‘Anything less than $400,000.’ Unspectacular houses in Auckland are selling for twice that price,” he remarks. “Many households don’t earn a lot of money and couples with a combined income of say $50,000 can’t afford to buy a home. That’s when you get two or three families crowding into one house in South Auckland, and spilling into garages, caravans and shacks on the lawn. Over-crowding places huge stress on families and facilitates the spread of respiratory illnesses and diseases.” It’s not just an Auckland problem. “Population pressure is spreading to Northland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Wellington. People at the bottom end of the housing market in those communities are finding it tough to
20,000 homes. “New arrivals need somewhere to live the moment they step off the plane, but councils, government and industry haven’t been able to cater for that demand. The government blames land zoning but that’s nonsense – they have a 30-year supply of undeveloped land. They needs to take a handson approach with State housing and State-led residential developments. “Back in the day families used to be able get low-interest loans from State Advances and capitalise on Family Benefit payments.” The Family Benefit was introduced in 1946 and families could access 3% State Advances Corporation loans. By the 1970s, home ownership in New Zealand had reached 70% as baby boomers began to marry and start a family.
find a home. “Migrants are putting pressure on the housing market, but it’s really important we don’t blame them for our housing problems,” says Mr Johnson. “The government has been pursuing a liberal immigration policy and allowing migrants to come in without providing the infra- structure needed to support them. “Migrants bring money and contribute to Auckland’s growth by spending on new houses, cars, whiteware and appliances, which bolsters our economy. They’re coming to New Zealand to access to our social resources – I’ve got no problem with that – but it’s tough on everyone if the government isn’t meeting people’s needs for housing, schools and hospitals. New Zealand’s net immigration figures are around 90,000 a year, and this includes returning Kiwis. Last year Auckland’s population grew by about 60,000, requiring some 15-
RENTAL HOMES Auckland rents have increased much faster than background inflation and wages, and Wellington is experiencing modest rent rises. Christchurch rents rose about 35% after the earthquake – and the demand created by migrating workers during the rebuild – but this is tapering off as damaged housing stock is replaced. Children’s Commissioner, Russell Wills, who is also a paediatrician with the Hawkes Bay District Health Board, says more than 40,000 children are admitted to New Zealand hospitals each year due to poverty and housing-related illnesses, and some children die. In 2012 Wills’ expert advisory group on child poverty recommended targeting the poor quality of rental housing by introducing minimum health and safety standards for building, determined by an agreed warrant of fitness. But this hasn’t happened. Respiratory diseases have increased and Third World illnesses like acute rheumatic fever and tuberculosis are emerging.
A University of Otago study reports that rental housing is often in poorer condition than social housing or privately owned homes, and a 2010 Building Research Association (BRANZ) survey showed that 43% of rentals had ‘moderate to high levels’ of mould. “Greedy investors often look to maximise profits without reflecting on the welfare of their tenants,” Mr Johnson observes. “Some landlords have increased rents by $50 a week so I think it’s unreasonable for them to say they can’t afford to insulate their properties. “Landlords need to think about justice and fairness and ask ‘Would I let my kids or grand-kid live in this house?’ If the answer is ‘No’ they should improve the property.” Few landlords have taken advantage of government subsidises to retro-fit insulation and clean heating in cold old house, available through the Warm up NZ: Heat Smart and Warm Up NZ: Healthy Homes schemes. “Housing standards need to rise,” Mr Johnson asserts. “We need to bring in minimum standards for insulation, building materials and energy efficiency and deter ‘cowboys’ in the construction industry. Our minimum housing standards are based on regulations made in 1947 – imagine building cars and aeroplanes to 1947 standards!” BOOMERS Baby boomers are people born between1946 and 1965. The oldest boomers began receiving national superannuation in 2011, and by 2031 one million Kiwis will be aged over 65, twice the current number. A recent Salvation Army report estimates that 200,000 baby boomers living in Auckland don’t own their own home. “There is a whole host of reasons for this including business failure, financial losses, high interest www.mychristiandaily.com.au | 17
“LANDLORDS NEED TO THINK ABOUT JUSTICE AND FAIRNESS AND ASK ‘WOULD I LET MY KIDS OR GRAND-KID LIVE IN THIS HOUSE?’ IF THE ANSWER IS ‘NO’ THEY SHOULD IMPROVE THE PROPERTY.” rates, low incomes, ill health and patchy employment,” says Mr Johnson. “New Zealand’s retirement income policy is largely based on the idea you will own a home when you retire. Superannuation provides a reasonable income if you own your own home, but it’s really tough if you don’t. As more baby boomers retire, we need to be planning for more affordable rental housing for them.” Marriage and family breakdown contribute to the problem. “The reality is that marriages do break up and for all sorts of reasons. But when matrimonial property is divided up, women may struggle to find credit to buy a house as they usually have
lower incomes. You end up being disadvantaged after a lifetime of effort.” What can Christians do? “Christian people can express public opposition to what’s happening, especially with regard to housing for children, families and older folk,” says Mr Johnson. He himself spent two nights sleeping in his car during last month’s Park Up for the Homeless events in Auckland. A group of young Christians supported this initiative which saw more than 1,000 people sleeping in cars to demonstrate solidarity with homeless people. Protestors included Mangere Labour MP, Su’a William Sio, Green Party MP, Marama
Davidson and representatives from Lifewise, Child Poverty Action and Te Puea Marae. The Salvation Army has 300 social housing units throughout New Zealand and some emergency housing, mainly in central Auckland and Christchurch, and its Community Ministry offers advocacy and advice. Other church-based organisations helping with housing in Auckland include the Bays Housing Trust, Vision West, Monte Cecelia and De Paul House. “As part of our Christian commitment,” says Mr Johnson “we need to lend a helping hand to the work these organisations are doing.”
“Kendal’s book is a godsend to anyone who is at a loss to understand what lies behind the suffering in the Middle East. Drawing on authoritative voices from the region, her clear-eyed analysis untangles the conflicts with the heart and insight of a prophet. She gives a sobering account of the West’s complicity in the atrocities – and what we can do to bring healing in a crisis as appalling as the indifference to it.” – Jeff M. SellerS, editor, PerSecution newS Service, Morning Star News
For hundreds of thousands of now destitute Christian families, THIS IS THE NEW REALITY. Yet contrary to all appearances, GOD IS AT WORK in the Middle East and you are invited to join him. For more information, including purchasing options visit 18 | The Christian Pulse, August/September 2016
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