A 25-year-old Maronite Catholic will take on political heavy-weights John Alexander and Kristina Keneally in the Bennelong by-election to be held on 16 December.
Joram Richa, who is pro-freedom of speech and pro-freedom of religion, has put himself forward as the candidate for Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives Party in the upcoming by-election.
Mr Richa told The Catholic Weekly he felt compelled to run for a seat in Parliament after the postal survey on marriage and subsequent sidelining of the protection of freedoms by MPs.
“The realisation that our freedom of expression, our freedom of religion and our freedom of conscience are under direct attack, and that the ability of my future children and my Goddaughter to develop in a wholesome way is directly under threat. That was the trigger,” Mr Richa said.
His supporters see it as good news for disenchanted voters in the northern suburbs seat where a slim majority voted “No” to same-sex marriage and many feel deserted by the two major parties.
“Their freedoms are being eroded,” said Mr Richa, who has studied politics and law at both Sydney and Notre Dame universities.
“If they don’t push to defend their existing rights, they’ll very quickly find that they’ll be on the losing edge. Both major parties went back on their promise to protect religious freedoms.”
While campaigning on the streets of Bennelong over the past couple of weeks Mr Richa said he has been overwhelmed by people telling him they are deeply worried about losing their freedoms and losing their right to protect their children from radical gender theory in schools.
“A lot of parents are really disturbed by things like the Safe Schools program, and the effects of radical gender ideology on the innocent and vulnerable minds of children,” he said.
His concerns are much broader than just these issues, however. Mr Richa said he recognises that most people are also concerned about the day-to-day cost of living, the cost of housing, energy and the value of wages.
If elected he said his focus would essentially be on “building stronger communities and stronger families.”
Mr Richa said he would also like to see the Australian environment preserved, while maintaining a healthy and sustainable economy.
“I love our Australian environment. I grew up in the countryside so I have a conservationist tendency. At the same time you have to manage the practical reality, ensuring that if we do have a non-renewable source of energy, that it balances between effective industry and protecting and maintaining the environment for future generations.”
Mr Richa said his Maronite Catholic faith is incredibly important to him. He has been heavily involved in Sydney’s Catholic scene, attending World Youth Day in Madrid as a high school student, and helping run events like Theology on Tap.
His deep faith has inspired him to take a public stand against what he considers concerning trends in our society, in particular the redefinition of marriage.
“We just want people to know there is an alternative party that is taking a strong stance … I will defend traditional family, I will defend parents primarily raising their children.
“For Catholics we know that you have to be black and white on these issues, just like the teachings that we’ve heard from Our Lord himself and the Church for thousands of years.
“If you’re concerned about your family, if you’re concerned about religious freedom, if you’re concerned about the instability of both sides of politics, in terms of not knowing what they stand for anymore, then there is an alternative.”
His advice to the people of Bennelong is, “Do your research and vote for the person who reflects what you believe in.”