The Federation of Pontian Associations of Australia has asked Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to take a stance against Turkey’s invasion of Syria. The President of the Federation, Peter Stefanidis, recently sent a heartfelt letter to the Australian government regarding the attacks occurring in Syria, urging them to use their influence to end the violence.
“What makes the invasion of Syria hit so close to home is the fact that history is repeating itself. The Armenian, Assyrian and Greek communities are abhorred at how the world has turned a blind eye to Turkey’s aggressiveness throughout the last 100 years. It is clear that if our communities do not apply the necessary pressure on our leaders to bring Turkey into line for their behaviour and continue rewarding their aggressiveness, then more of our people will suffer be they minorities in Turkey, Syria or the actual people of Cyprus, Greece, and Armenia,” Peter told GCT.
The President also said that the Association works closely with the Assyrian refugee community in Melbourne and they understand the pain that is being felt. “This year commemorates the 100 year anniversary of the 2nd stage of the Greek Genocide in Asia Minor and Thrace. One of our members, “Akrites Tou Pontou” engaged Assyrian and Armenian dance groups in Victoria for a joint performance at the Lonsdale St Festival.
As President of Akrites, I saw firsthand just how well our youth connected with both groups. We were surprised though that the Assyrian group was primarily made up of refugees from Syria. We got to know them and learned of their tragic story. It allowed us all, predominantly our youth, to understand what their ancestors went through and why commemorating and demanding recognition is more important now than ever before,” added Peter.
The letter written to the Australian Prime Minister is as follows:
“Dear Prime Minister
On behalf of all our members, we would like to thank you for taking the initiative and asking our Ambassador in Turkey to plead the case for a halt to the Turkish invasion in Syria.
Our Federation, as well as the rest of the Greek community, have been working very closely with the Assyrian refugee community (many of whom were brought here under Tony Abbotts “persecuted minorities” program). The horrors faced by the Assyrians as well as the Yazidis and now the Kurds have been traumatic and very destabilising.
With the escape of hundreds of ISIS/ISIL prisoners, we are pleading with the Australian government to do more to pressure Turkey to stop its horrific campaign in Syria against the Kurds as well as other minority groups. Their increasing authoritarian regime as well as aggressive stance to all their neighbours has been appeased by members of the global community for far too long.
We have many friends in the Turkish community here in Australia. We, therefore, emphasise that our appeal is not an attack on the Turkish people but a matter of human rights and the rights of minority communities to lead a safe and peaceful life regardless of their ethnicity, religion, and country of origin.
It is time that the Australian Government uses its unique relationship with Turkey to be firm and honest and showcase that aggression has consequences. Our ancestors, be they Turkish, Greek or Australian, sacrificed their lives for us to live a better life. The actions in Syria are an afront to all humanity and to the values that these people laid their lives down for.
There is a time that leaders with strong moral convictions take a stance and that time has come for Australia. Winston Churchill once said, “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”
We hope that you stand with the persecuted minorities and use the full power of the prestigious office you hold to protect these people, and show the world that Australia does not reward or appease aggressive behaviour from any country, and more so a friendly one. Our friends are a reflection of who we are and hence we must hold them a higher standard.
We have faith that you and the Government will do the right thing.”