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Religious Rights, Human Rights

Remarks by Hon. David Kilgour, MP for Edmonton Southeast (delivered in absentia)

Religious Liberty Banquet, U.S. Senate Caucus Room, Russell Office Building, Washington, D.C.

7 April 2004

It is a great honour to be invited to stand alongside such an accomplished and dedicated group of men and women, and it’s with regret that I can’t be with you tonight.

This fall in Montreal, I spoke at a conference on “Canada and Islam in Asia.” It was organized in part because the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs now recognizes that we in the North have a tendency to forget that for billions of people around the world faith is at the very core of every relationship and every aspect of life. Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and so many others are being motivated by their faith commitments to build hospitals and schools and all kinds of communal associations. In short, the fabric of civil society that political scientists tell us is so important to the spread of democracy is being woven in very significant ways by peoples of faith.

And yet we know that in the last century millions of people were killed or persecuted because of their religious beliefs. Just a few years ago in Edmonton, a large group of us from different faiths gathered at city hall to protest the "ethnic cleansing" and other horrible persecution of our Muslim brothers and sisters in Bosnia.  A few years later, many of us did the same thing at the legislative assembly to denounce the serious mistreatment of the Christian community in Pakistan.  Why don't we all do the same thing whenever any faith community is being persecuted anywhere?  One sad answer is that currently we would be doing so virtually daily.

Presently I am in Kigali to observe the tenth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide with Roméo Dallaire. Dallaire is the Canadian general who persisted in speaking out about the genocide when the rest of the world, including the UN and his own government, chose to look the other way. In his book Shake Hands with the Devil, he says that the entire UN system and governments across the planet must never again opt to rank some people "as more human than others, a mistake that the international community endorsed by its indifference in 1994." It's easy to agree, but the hard part will be getting us all to walk our talk in the face of the next human security catastrophe which shrieks for humanitarian intervention. The work of the International Religious Liberty Association, Liberty Magazine, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and the men and women here tonight is to make sure that we as citizens and policymakers keep our promise to never allow another Rwanda.  

Thank you and merci beaucoup.


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