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Faith and Forgiveness: The Challenges Facing Youth


Remarks by the Hon. David Kilgour

Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific) and M.P. for Edmonton Southeast

To the Praise and Worship Service at Onnuri Church

Seoul, South Korea

August 8, 2002


*Check Against Delivery

Dear sisters and brothers in Jesus Christ,

I can hardly wait to go back to Canada to tell our young people that more than two thousand young Koreans gathered here to praise and worship God for two hours on a Thursday evening.

You will all be aware of the World Youth Day celebrations that took place recently in Canada, drawing young people from all denominations from around the world. Those who gathered for the final celebration constituted the largest known gathering in Canada’s entire history! Estimates ranged from 800,000 to 1.2 million.

Our suffering Christian brother – Pope John Paul II – who attracted these numbers of mostly young people from around the world was speaking to young people everywhere when he said: “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to speak out for what you believe …” He urged them and you to have the courage to do something with your lives, to resist the lure of consumerism and fashion and money and see what is really important in life. “You are the salt of the earth,” he concluded. “You are the light of the world.” I want to encourage you in your walk with Christ as well, especially those also thinking of becoming missionaries. One of my own family members served many years ago as a missionary in South Asia.

Those of you who are planning to be missionaries must know that you will need all the education and skills you can get. The century we just left was the most dangerous in all in terms of religious persecution. One estimate of the number of believers who died prematurely while standing up for their respective faiths is a dismaying 169 million worldwide, including 35 million Christians.

My time with you today is very short, so let me turn briefly to two matters which I hope will be encouraging to you all: a bit of my own experience with Christianity around the world, and some thoughts on one of the challenges facing us all – the challenge of forgiveness and reconciliation.

It has been my immense good fortune to travel widely since the Cold War ended in 1989. In virtually every country I’ve been – approximately 75-80 on all continents (35 in Africa, all but one in Central and South America, most in the Caribbean and a lot in Asia) I’ve been struck by the vigor, confidence and optimism of local Christians.

This is not to say for a moment that in some of these lands Christians have it easy – quite the contrary – but at least there is more tolerance now and growing congregations even if they must meet in secret as in the days of the Roman Empire. For example, several of us Canadians were permitted to speak of Jesus at a private dinner with National Peoples’ Congress officials in the Beijing room of the Great Hall of the People in China’s capital.

The collapse of ideological competition has virtually made it easier everywhere for both Christians and other faith communities. The ‘crisis of the soul,’ to use the phrase of Aleksandr Yakovlev, the advisor to Mikhail Gorbachev, which inflicted the Russian people for decades has clearly begun to change. There are plenty of bumps on the road, but an important process has begun.

On a visit to South America and South Africa a few years ago, I discussed spirituality with a number of individuals.  A leader from Central America, a minister in the government of El Salvador, indicated quite spontaneously that God has been good to her and her family. He, she added, gives talents to everyone; the more one has the greater the ability to be a “beacon.” Whenever she feels herself to be in God’s presence, which I took to occur frequently for her, she wants to use all her abilities to advance his will.

A Canadian colleague on the same flight offered another perspective. For him, Jesus offers every believer a sound basis for salvation because He came into the world to help the marginalized and suffering.  He loves every human being and does not judge individuals in the foolish way the world so often does.  Love and redemption are the promise to believers.

One of the results of September 11 is that there seems to be a recognition that a better dialogue needs to take place among the world’s faiths; one that focuses on the fundamentally similar underlying values we share.  I would like to expand on one of these values: forgiveness.

Michael Henderson, a Christian, has written a book entitled, The Forgiveness Factor: Stories of Hope in a World of Conflict (Grosvenor Books, 1997).  Throughout, he tells the stories of citizen-diplomats of all backgrounds who have found the strength to bring faith communities together through forgiveness, breaking cycles of violence in the process. I’d like to share one of these stories with you.

In 1971, Joseph Lagu was the leader of the guerrilla movement in the south of Sudan during the first civil war between the predominantly Muslim north and largely Christian south.  A plane from the north crashed one day in a region controlled by Lagu’s soldiers, and there were twenty-nine survivors. His colleagues wanted them killed but, in reflecting overnight, Lagu recalled that Jesus, when asked how many times one should forgive, had replied: “seventy times seven.”  The northerners were released unharmed; their message about this at home helped persuade the government of the day to negotiate the Addis Ababa agreement, which ended seventeen years of armed conflict.

May I, in closing, offer a prayer:  Father, please look with continuing favour on the All Nations Worship and Praise Ministries. Keep safe the many missionaries ANM has sent out across the world.  Allow all to see Jesus reflected in what the makers of this congregation do in their daily lives.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

God bless All Nations Worship and Praise Ministries. God bless all of you.

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