Tuesday, January 24, 2012

In Varietate Concordia

It means Unity in Diversity, and it is the motto for Indonesia, Ghana, Papua New Guinea, India, South Africa and the European Union. Multiculturalism in Australia has, for decades now, focused on the same ideal without ever stating it so explicitly. We have sought in this country to allow people from all over the world, who come to make Australia their home, to continue their customs, culture and language while enjoying the benefits of living in a free and tolerant society.

Tomorrow is Australia Day. January 26. We commemorate the arrival of the First Fleet under the Command of Captain Arthur Phillip, and the establishment of a penal colony at Sydney Cove in 1788 from which our nation was born. It is the official view of the government and the belief of the many people, that we find our real strength as a nation when we embrace the diversity which comes from our history of migration. Not everyone who arrived on the First Fleet was a convict. There were many free settlers who chose to come. Nothing has changed. Although we are no longer a penal colony, there are many who still arrive against their will. Refugees forced from their homes by war, persecution or famine. Others choose this country because of what it offers. Millions are born here and though they may travel, they never find a better place to live. We all call Australia home wherever we originally came from.

There are those who see multiculturalism as a weakness. The old trade union slogan, 'united we stand, divided we fall' is used to support calls for greater assimilation. Critics, usually racists, argue that we have become too tolerant, and as a result we are losing our identity.

The problem with both sides of the argument is that the concept of the nation-state, or country, is a modern construction. It is an invention of man designed to serve political purposes. Yugoslavia and the USSR are just two examples of how the devolution of nation states is almost inevitable. People find their identity first as a part of their family, then as members of a particular race or ethnic group, then, finally, with the country in which they live.

It would be unnatural for anyone to be more loyal to their country than their family, or even sometimes to their ethnic group. That is why nationalism falls short of its goal of unification. Nationalism purports to bring peace through allegiance to one's country, and the common ideals to which it subscribes.

However, only Christ can bring true peace and unity as he calls for not just allegiance but also submission to Him, The Lord of all creation. It is Christ who tears down the walls that divide us, and brings us together as one family. Beware of the false god called nationalism.