I read an interesting story about a Sudanese man who has applied unsuccessfully for more than 1000 jobs who then resorted to using a fake Anglo name on his resume in a desperate attempt to get work. As a result he received five call-backs for an interview.
Agnok Leuth is a Swinburne University biomedicine and commerce double degree student who can speak three languages, has a favourable work history and volunteered for three years for an Australian aid organisation. Yet his true name left him bereft of interview employment opportunities.
Of course none of this is new. From the time of the Chinese diggers during the gold rush from the 1850s, to the Italian and German citizens during both Wars (most of them hard working Australians), to the southern European immigrants of the 50s and the Vietnamese refugees of the 70s and the more recent plethora of people who 'look different from our Anglo background' and whose names might be unpronounceable by those of us who only speak English, people have Anglicised and changed their names in order to be better accepted by the mainstream culture.
Even members of the British Duke of Edinburg's family Anglicised their German-derived name from Battenberg to Mountbatten at the beginning of World War II. There is no place anywhere in Australia that is as welcoming to fellow Christian immigrants than is a local church.
In the early 1970s while living in Port Kembla and worshipping at the Port Kembla Baptist Church, there were two brothers from El Salvador, and their names were Napoleon and Caesar who were both Christian men with unerring commitment to Christ, and they loved the fellowship of the local church.
I remember on one occasion at the beach the youth group thought it would hilarious to shout out their names so everyone on the beach could hear, and in turn witness the reaction of the beach goers as they both responded. Those on the beach were not disappointed.
But rather than being a sign of discrimination, this was a sign that Napoleon and Caesar by joining in the 'game' were learning to understand the Aussie humour; and the fact that the teasing was done in good humour (and in a sense, was aimed at the other beach goers) indicated that these two young Christians were now considered 'mates' and part of the establishment.
This "generic" scenario is played out in many local churches today, where new arrivals and their families from a wide range of different cultures are warmly welcomed into the Sunday school program, the youth group, the morning tea roster, the pastoral care program, the senior's mid weekly activities, the fellowship teas and the whole plethora of local ministries.
The theology of the Christian world view is that all peoples, regardless of their colour of skin are individuals to be won to Christ and all are welcomed and equal before God in the framework of Christian ministry, service and worship. So, as Christians, we should be accepting of all. And as Australian citizens, it is illegal for us to discriminate on the grounds of religion, creed, cult, appearance, gender or a range of other things.
Christian Ministers are very much aware that many immigrants experience two very different types of lives, that of warm acceptance inside the functioning of the local church and its ministrations, but when they go out of those surroundings, the nature of much of the Australian society leaves them feeling like second-class citizens.
This is one of the critical reasons why immigrants initiate their own businesses for in this way they are independent of being beholden to employers, and in fact, they in turn quite often become employers of others.
Like the experience given in the article above, a name on a piece of paper says nothing about the real person. People with names that sound unfamiliar or with a Middle-Eastern-sound (particularly), as the article explains are at a disadvantage in the eyes of numerous employers.
There is sometimes criticism that one group or another 'does not try to assimilate or fit in to our Australian culture'. But imagine, if you will, what you would do. Would you perhaps go back to people who looked like you, who were from the same culture as your parents, where you felt loved and comfortable? Consider this: whose fault is when some groups appear not to assimilate well? Is it the immigrants themselves, or is it their neighbours and would-be employers who reject them?
When we look at someone's name, or even their face, or sometimes their manner of dress, we sometimes make assumptions based on stereotypes we have encountered with others or have read about second-hand. We do not know if the person (perhaps someone asking us for employment) is a Christian, a Muslim, a Hindu, an atheist ... or what. We do not know how well they will work, or if they are honest and law-abiding. Most of the time, we take a person's statements about themselves as being true. Most of the time they are. If we can, we check any references.
But, in my experience, deceit can come from someone who looks just like our classmates did when we were kids, as it can come from someone who looks or sounds a bit different.
John chapter 4 verses 4-42 tells us that Jesus accepted the Woman at the Well, though she was a Sumarian (and Sumarians at that time were not well accepted by the dominant Jewish culture), and although she was not considered 'respectable'. As Christians, we should accept the person, and get to know the person, and advise those around us who are employers to 'not be fooled' by the name on a piece of paper, or the photo of a different-looking face on an application form.
In this way, we can help all our fellow-citizens to learn about our Australian customs and way of life, and to help them assimilate and 'fit in', no matter what their cultural or religious backgrounds were before they came here. Moreover, this is where genuine evangelism might take place.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html