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Remarks to the Beijing International Christian Fellowship Men’s Fraternity  

Hon. David Kilgour, MP (Edmonton Southeast) and Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific)

21st Century Plaza

Beijing, China, October 20, 2002

It’s a great honour to be have been asked to share a few thoughts this morning and to see so many believers from all numerous parts of the world.  My time is very limited so let me get on with it:

First, an anecdote about something that happened in the Great Hall of the People about five years ago.  A number of us traveling with a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, Canada, were invited to a dinner there, hosted by some senior officials from the National Peoples Congress. 

During the meal, Marvin Kehler of Vancouver, who was then head of Campus Crusade - Canada, and is with us here this morning – was recounting how his growing commitment to Christ had improved his own business practices.  One of our hosts, a lawyer, kept insisting that what Cina needed was more laws to fight crime and corruption.  Marvin was in effect saying that when men and women have the Bible in their heads and faith in their hearts, there will be more fair dealing in the market place.  We are all sinners, of course, and believers – including King David of the Old Testament – can do very bad things.

We Canadians hoped that our hosts got the point that evening – that encouraging religions to flourish in China would help on crime and many other fronts.  We were allowed to pray at the end of the event for our hosts and even to give them copies of the Jesus film.

About a month ago, while in Guangzhou (Canton), I was pleased to learn that registered religions, including Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity, are now legal at least in Guangdong province. Our delegation visited a Christian church and prayed there and earlier did the same thing at a Buddhist temple. 

Pope John Paul II

Second, a word about Pope John Paul II, who as you may know, celebrated World Youth Day this year in Toronto, along with the largest gathering of people in Canada’s history.  The estimated turnout for the final mass was from 800,000 to 1.2 million.

I’ve since read John Paul II: Man of the Century, by John Kwinty, who spent eight years researching the book.  My wife, Laura, thinks I am 51% Protestant and 49% Catholic, but let me tell you that it was one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read.

One of the points Kwinty makes is that if any one individual “won” the Cold War, it was John Paul and his constant demonstration across Poland and elsewhere around the world that Christianity must stand always for the dignity of all human beings.  That position, demonstrated on countless occasions by deed and word, by a worker/priest and later Bishop, Cardinal, and Pope, proved decisive in winning hearts, minds and souls across Europe.

Disabled Peoples’ World Assembly

It’s just been my immense good fortune to attend the 6th World Assembly of Disabled Peoples International in Sapporo, Japan.  There were more than 3000 delegates from 109 countries and an estimated 3400 volunteers to help out.  Persons with many forms of disability were present at the closing ceremony and banquet, and let me tell you that it was one of the most spiritually inspiring events I’ve ever attended.  There were women, children, and men from almost everywhere.  What an extraordinary community of positive-minded individuals.   Japan now appears to be leading the way in access to transportation etc. for people with disabilities.  The next assembly I believe will be in South Africa in 2006.

Let me close with a true story about Nelson Mandela, which took place some time after this other man of the century was released from Robben Island but before he was elected president of a newly democratic South Africa in 1994.

The young man who told my wife and myself what happened was traveling with Mandela when the President visited Canada about 3 years ago.  He was sitting among a large crowd at a university graduation ceremony when Mandela arrived as the guest speaker.

There was, he told us, a momentary delay, as the chancellor of the university and Mandela each refused to go through a gate before the other.  Once on the platform, the chancellor went to the mike and stunned the crowd by what he said:

“You think you know Nelson Mandela, but I know him better.”  He went on, “Many years ago, the two of us practiced law in Cape Town.  I attempted to apply the laws of the day; he attempted to bring justice for people. Years later, as a judge, I found him guilty and sentenced him to life in prison.”

At that point, the chancellor broke down.  Mandela, the young man said, walked over and hugged his old adversary.  He then took the mike and said simply, “How can I ask South Africans to forgive and reconcile if I’m not prepared to do so myself.  I forgive you.”

The young man who said he was another very angry South African when he got to the ceremony, found it to be a life changing experience.  When my wife and I met him, he had become a Christian.

God bless you all, and God bless the work of this ministry.


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