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Monica Doumit: Stand up to the hate, strong in faith

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Protesters attempt to disrupt the Victorian launch of the Coalition for Marriage campaign in Melbourne. Whether such confrontationist and intimidating tactics have worked for the “Yes” campaign seems doubtful.

Over the past week, I had the privilege of attending two of the campaign launches for the Coalition for Marriage: the national launch in Sydney and the smaller state-based launch in Victoria, which occurred on Saturday night of last week.

While the other launches went off largely without incident, the Melbourne one was interrupted by four separate protests.

The first occurred as people were arriving into the auditorium. Two protesters unfurled a banner that read “Burn churches, not queers.” The duo was quickly removed by security, but not after revealing something about many of the “yes” campaigners. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, this ideology is not about “live and let live,” but a desire to force a belief on others and to destroy that or those opposed. “Burn churches,” the sign announced. That’s not exactly in keeping with the freedom of religion we are being promised.

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The next interruption occurred as Lyle Shelton, Coalition for Marriage spokesman and Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby was making some opening remarks. Another protester, with another banner in hand, rushed the stage but was quickly removed by security before the content of the banner could be revealed.

At this point, there were two security guards placed beside the stage to ensure a similar episode did not occur, and a handful of guards were spattered throughout the crowd.

Shortly after Mr Shelton spoke, Cella White took the stage.

For those not familiar with Cella’s story, she is the Victorian mum who withdrew her kids from a so-called “Safe School” after her son’s class was told they could wear the uniform of their choice to school the following year. She was called a liar by the school principal and the hundreds of media outlets that reported his rebuttal. Some days later, the Department of Education corroborated Cella’s version of events, confirming that she had two meetings with them to complain, and that the Department of Education had engaged with the school on the matter.

A “Safe Schools” poster – featuring a young man in a school dress – all pointed to the truth of Cella’s claims. Sadly, albeit unsurprisingly, the supporting evidence for Cella’s complaint has gone largely unreported.

Cella has suffered a barrage of abuse and threats since she told her story, as has her mother.

In any event, while Cella was speaking, two separate but coordinated interruptions occurred in the auditorium. Groups of people on opposite sides of the crowd stood, two of them yelling profanities at the crowd while others passionately kissed.

As security flocked to remove each of these groups from the premises, Cella was momentarily left unguarded on stage, and two more activists jumped up, first commandeering the microphone which Cella was using before also engaging in a passionate kiss. They too were removed – screaming and swearing – from the arena.

The coordinated interruption was concerning. The distraction caused by the two groups in the crowd left a gap in which disaster could have struck. While Centre security handled the matter and no one was injured, the fact remains that a diversion by two simultaneous groups of protesters saw the stage unattended and a young mum vulnerable to attack.

Some of the more than 1000 people who turned out to the official launch of the “no” campaign in Sydney on September 16, 2017. PHOTO: Patrick J Lee

I cannot be certain about the protesters’ intent, but it seems to me that the concurrent disruptions were planned so as to strain the security resources and leave the stage open for takeover. The alternative is just too coincidental. The chaos from Saturday night caused me to think about where we are as a country at this time.

Last week, as the majority of Australians received their ballots for the postal survey, two separate euthanasia bills hit parliaments in New South Wales and Victoria. This comes off the back of another hard-fought victory in NSW recently, with the defeat of a bill to decriminalise abortion and to restrict the freedoms of those who would disagree.

Like the disruption from Saturday night, this does not appear to be a coincidence. Rather, it seems to be diabolical. There is an enemy out there who hates human life, marriage, the family and the Catholic Church. That we will be facing significant challenges on a number of different battlefields at the same time is not an accident. This is a coordinated attack, in the hope that while we will be so engrossed in one or two battles that we will let our guard down on the others.

We can’t blink. We can’t let our defences down, even for a moment.

What does this mean in practice? It obviously means that we need to continue to engage with these issues. The more numerous the battles, the more soldiers we need. For those not already part of the marriage campaign or the fight against euthanasia, I invite you to get involved.

But I think also, it means we must keep our spiritual lives in good order, upping the ante in prayer and sacramental life. If the enemy is supernatural, then so too must our defences be.

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