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The Song of Canada

Remarks by Dr. Christine Botchway

39th  Annual  Canadian National Prayer Breakfast

Room 200 West Block, Parliament Hill, Ottawa

March 25, 2004

Fellow brothers and sisters, fellow Africans, fellow Canadians: I look around me and I am indeed honored and greatly humbled to be here. I salute you women and men of every tribe nation and language gathered together today in unity and in honor of this sacred week of National Prayer.

I thank God for this privilege to be able to freely gather without fear of reprisal.

This expression of who we are: our freedom, our dignity, our basic human right to exist in this capacity, our embracing of the essence of others could cost us greatly if we lived in some other country.

But we live in Canada and it is my belief that we have been placed here for a purpose.


Canada and Canadians have earned the reputation of those who facilitate the gathering of the nations, the  sheltering of the persecuted, the celebration and  honoring of  uniqueness, diversity of culture and creeds.

Canada has earned the ability to legitimately boast of possessing the reality of the existence of a vast diversity of cultures and religious leanings that meet on the common ground belief that our diversity is our strength and our potential to learn from one another; that each one of us has something of value to share, to give, to contribute; that every man, woman and child has the right to live, and prosper in dignity and peace within the essence of who they are.

We have been given a strong voice so that we may be the voice for all the politically spiritually and emotionally silent prisoners in our world; we have been given the charge to bear a sacred light that we may shine  into the darkness of  our neighbour’s sickness, poverty, hopelessness, desperation.

We are not a nation of stunted-minded people. Neither are we afraid to  express and live to honour our beliefs whilst still respecting and guarding others who live in our midst that they too may have the same expression.

And this my friends is the one achievement that nations whose soils are drenched with innocent and guilty blood and whose landscapes are littered with dead, decayed and rotting bodies have never truly believed to be possible and hence have never learned to do.

Follower of Jesus

I am a personal, privileged, intimate friend and uncompromising follower of the teachings of Jesus Christ, my personal savior and Lord who changed my life and placed His own spirit within me so that with His strength and for His glory I could and will accomplish what the world defines as the impossible.

I am a personal friend and follower of Jesus, the man who looked into the soul of a woman who was brought before Him to be stoned and who drew a line in the sand and forbade anyone who was truly better than her to cast the first stone.

I am a follower of the man who broke a strict taboo that forbade him share a simple drink of water at the well with a woman from Samaria, a nation strictly forbidden to interact with the people of Jesus

Jesus teaches us His followers a love that crosses all racial barriers, all ethnic boundaries all spiritual strongholds and commands us to raise our voice against injustice and to shine our light in places of abysmal darkness--to take the hand of the brother who hates us and to bless Him with a sincerity and truth that comes only from the Living God.

The path of the follower of Jesus is the path of the sacred warrior. Each day we wage a war on armies that cannot be seen with human eyes whose manifestation in the physical world heralds the genesis of division, destruction and human degradation.

The dark forces that operate in this world operate for one purpose alone-- to build walls between us and to destroy us. To build fear and apathy amongst us.  To convince us that what is black and what is white is really gray.


We talk about unity a lot because it is safe and politically correct, yet without action the word is powerless.

We talk about pulling down walls of division and the word tolerance surfaces. The word tolerance is alien to my Christian vocabulary. The word   tolerance has no place linked with human relation-building because it implies instantly  the "putting up with," a reluctant acceptance of, a silent passive suspicious attempt to remove barriers of fear, suspicion, division--the roots of which are always deeper than suspected.


Jesus did not teach tolerance.  He does not inspire it now. Jesus never practiced tolerance.  He practiced a sacred love of whose capacity we have no comprehension. How can a man tolerate what he loves so dearly what he would put his life in danger for?  In the same manner, we his followers are commanded to do the same with the power of His spirit that lives within us.

BUT make no mistake, Jesus hated every seed of darkness that takes root in a man's heart and makes his actions evil. He hated every chain of captivity that binds and makes men born for freedom shackled as slaves Jesus hated every poison dart of shame and guilt that made women born for honour afraid and ashamed  to raise their heads. And he hated the walls of deception that divide us from our brothers.

He expressed his truth to those who hungered for life. He threw the moneylenders (his own people) out of the temple because of the seeds of corruption they sewed. Yet he embraced the strangers who were defiled in terrible sickness and in compassion he healed them--even on the Sabbath.

Tolerance is a counterfeit love that the world offers as a whitewash that leaves fear and suspicion close behind. Tolerance ensures the erection of walls between us.

Jesus did not substitute tolerance for Love. We his followers do not substitute tolerance for love. This is NOT what we are commanded to do.

When I was in university I had two best friends. Our alliance baffled friends and staff. I was well known as the straight-laced Christian girl and was often asked why my two best friends were a Muslim girl from Mashad in Iran and an atheist from Wales.

They were right--our beliefs, our ways of life and our cultures were very different but schedules forced us into fellowship. The more we learnt about each other the more the walls between us broke down. People were right when they said we were so different but there were three things we had in common and built our friendship on-- respect, trust and a genuine love for one another. That was the common ground on which we formed one of the deepest and most long-lasting friendships.

That kind of friendship does not come from an agreement to tolerate a stranger. It comes from sitting down with a stranger and sharing bread and life experiences.  And discovering a friend. That is what Jesus did. That is what He teaches us to do.

Jesus' charge to us that carry His name is this:

"if a man says he loves God and does not love his brother he is a liar. For if he does not love his brother whom he has seen how will he love God whom he has not seen?" Jesus also said, "Love your brother as your self. Entertain strangers in your homes, if your brother asks you to go one mile with him, go two. Bless those who persecute you."


I want to talk about a nation that practiced "tolerance”... and a soldier who practiced unbeknownst to himself the love of which Jesus spoke. And a journey that took him face to face with darkness personified.

In April 1994 a terrible crime was committed amongst a people who lived behind walls of ethnic, political and spiritual strongholds.

 It was a highly organized, premeditated, systematic series of killings that shocked the world. So whilst the world was sleeping and the watchmen were bound and gagged one million men women and children were murdered in 99 days. Eighty per cent of an ethnic tribe was wiped off the face of the earth. What caused this rapid breakdown of tolerance?

It was a deep-seated and malignant fear of one another disguised skillfully as a fierce hatred. This hatred began as a seed. Like all seeds it was planted amongst men to divide men and to destroy them.  It was placed and took root in the soil of ignorance and uncertainty and it was watered and nourished by venomous and potent drops of  fear, suspicion and fabrication. It blossomed into walls of resentment and tangled thorns of festering hatred. Finally it erupted into the unthinkable. It could only have occurred in the absence of a sacred love.

Today all over the country side of Rwanda are memorials-- solemn reminders of the day that plunged lives into desperation-- that made orphans, widows, widowers, victims, and murderers of a nation.

I spoke to a woman from Rwanda a few weeks ago. For ten years she had silently carried the scars of the genocide inside her, never speaking of it and avoiding people of her nation to avoid the memory. She was very interested in the HIV educational project I told her we would be setting up in November, so she asked about the location of the project and became very uneasy when I wrote down the name of the village. She informed me I must be mistaken because she was from that village and that everyone there had been killed. I advised her it was true that most people had been killed, but not all. A small group of women who had survived alone had come together and setting aside their terrible loss had began to rebuild their lives. For every child murdered they went and picked a street child to raise as their own. They tore down walls of sorrow and grief.

The moment I walked into my house I received a phone call. I spoke with the same lady for over two hours and I have not heard such desperation for a long time. This woman carried such deep emotional wounds. It was painful to hear how she hid under dead bodies and smeared herself with blood to survive. She went for days without water and food. At the end of the ordeal she told me she weighed 45 pounds. She had not talked about this for 10 years. The genocide was not over for her.

It was a solemn reminder of what happens when men violate the command to love one another and substitute tolerance for sacred love. Tolerance can come to an end abruptly...the sacred love of Jesus lasts forever.

Sacred Love

Jesus did not love people from afar. He got to know who they were...not superficially, but intimately. Because he had the advantage of seeing their souls and their spirits, there was no fear or suspicion.  Jesus knew his followers and their most secret weakness and yet  He still He loved them. He expressed His love by revealing who He was and accepting them as who they were and challenging them to grow... and to reach the potential he saw in each of them. In the same manner does he instruct all men.

He knew that Peter would deny him and that Judas would betray Him and yet He embraced them with a love that is beyond our comprehension. It is that same love that He commands us to spread and to share with one another. By sharing who we are, the love we have received, and by honoring those who might not always share our views but certainly share our humanity we are living the love of Jesus.

Roméo Dallaire

In the midst of the genocide that ravaged Rwanda was a Canadian light bearer-- a warrior who found himself almost destroyed by the terrors he witnessed and the darkness he negotiated in those demonic days of the massacre. Again it is my belief he was not placed in Rwanda in his position of command by coincidence but by design, to bear and shine the light that even he doubted he possessed into the abysmal darkness.

Gen. Romeo Dallaire exemplified the teaching of Jesus and I am uncertain if he was at all aware of the spiritual significance of his actions.

I think I would be safe in saying that Gen. Dallaire was not thinking of Jesus when he recognized what was about to happen in Rwanda. He was surrounded by a people who were different, perhaps even hostile and untrusting of his presence in their country. He was immersed in a culture that was alien to him. And he was about to discover a political culture that defied the voice in his heart that defined the anatomy of his soul and exemplified the compassion and genuine love that Jesus teaches us to have for one another.

His voice cried out for those who were silently paralysed by years of fear and resignation to silent hopelessness. He bore witness not only to a tribalistic massacre but a shameful apathy from the powers that be that possessed the resources and the manpower and the forewarning to have prevented the genocide from ever occurring. They turned their backs on a nation in serious and deadly crisis, not deeming the lives of 800,000 Rwandans valuable enough to merit the presence of an army to save the day.

Gen. Romeo Dallaire has become a very respected and honoured symbol of the light bearers of this nation. Gen. Dallaire embarked upon a journey in the physical that every follower of Christ negotiates in the spiritual.  Like every follower of Jesus he was given a wall on which to keep watch and a people within that wall to love. He may not have changed them...he may not have saved them...but he succeeded in executing and exemplifying the sacred love of God. He loved them with a genuine love. And his love was turned into an action that has changed his life.


Jesus said when a man gives away his life for His sake he will find it again.

These people were of a different race, culture and creed, as are the people Jesus calls us his followers to love. Like every follower of Jesus on those dark and dismal days, Dallaire would have battled against forces of evil that bucked his efforts from every angle. Like every follower of Jesus his love for his fellow men would be tried, tested and challenged and like every follower of Jesus, his love for his fellow man deepened and intensified to an extent where he was moved and completely convicted to make a go the extra mile to put his own honour on the line for an amazing love and compassion unconvincingly disguised as duty. 

Brothers and sisters...if we are the light bearers of the earth and connected in this rich Canadian family then we ought not to allow another act of genocide, another crime against humanity to ever occur. The terrors of Rwanda indeed sobered us into alertness and inspired us to join hands with one another. Now I have shared with you the essence of who I am and all that I believe, the wall that stood between you and I when I first stood on this platform to deliver this speech is a little lower. When you walk a mile with me and you share laughter and tears, achievements, failures, sunsets, births, dawn-breaks with me, you will find the wall lower still until it is no longer there. This is the command that Jesus gave have fellowship with others. This the essence of who I am in Him.


I urge you today, fellow Canadians, to stand with me and raise your voices with me against another genocide that rages through the plains of sub-Saharan Africa. That of HIV and AIDS.  According to the World Health Organization, 42 million people have the AIDS virus today. Most of them live in sub-Saharan Africa. Most of them live in poverty and some live in war.

It is not a topic we like to speak of. The face of HIV and AIDS is not one we like to stare into. But it is real and we have the power to make a difference.

In 1999 13.2 million children were orphaned by AIDS. Twelve point one million of them lived in sub-Saharan Africa.

Poverty, lack of education and hopelessness have accelerated the disease to an unbelievable level. Lack of nutrition, lack of drugs, lack of hope create a dark place for these people struggling to survive with no hope in sight.

Stigmatization and rejection causes people to hide their status. Denial and ignorance cause them to spread it. They die alone, rejected, isolated and afraid. As a believer of Jesus I cannot stand by and say nothing and do nothing and go about my normal daily tasks in apathetic silence. This is NOT loving my brother as myself. This is NOT what Jesus has commands me to do.

As the light bearers of this blessed nation I implore you to accept that we cannot, we must not turn away from this terrible disease that like a genocide of massive proportions is ravaging beautiful Africa.

In November this year I travel to Rwanda to help set up an HIV educational program in a small village where an almost entirely female population of genocide survivors live. It is an overwhelming task but not an impossible one. It is the little we can do to make a difference-- be a voice in the silence-- to bear light in the darkness. 

But I cannot do it alone.  So I beg you to join me-- lift your voices with me so that it will be a mighty roar. Shine your light with mine so that it will be a blinding light in the darkness of hopelessness. Sit at my table of fellowship so that you will be with me and not against me-- so that you will be my brother, my sister, my friend.

Take the blessing of the power that has been placed in your hands and extend it where it is needed desperately. If I am wise now your words can make me wiser. If I am strong now your support will make me stronger. If my prayers alone rise up in the name of Jesus against HIV and AIDS in Africa I will be a lone warrior and He will hear me still, but if you lift your voices with me we will be an army crying out to Him for the suffering of our brothers and sisters. Sing with me the song of my heart that was born and nurtured long ago on the rugged plains of Africa-- the song of Hope-- the song of Canada.


The Song of Canada

Words and music by Christine Botchway, copyright 2003

erse 1
Can you hear the sound of voices
Rising with the dawn?
From every tongue and tribe and nation
Sacred Harmony is born
Rising up from hopes and dreams
Of nations Near and far
Echoing the voice of peace
The song of Canada

Like a beacon shining bright
For all the world to see
Walls are breaking wounds are healing
Captives are set free
Warriors are rising up
From broken shackles broken chains
Raising voices, joining hands
To declare that freedom reigns
Lift your voice with me don't be afraid to be the
light that you were meant to be
In every heart there is a song of hope dying to be sung
with all the colours of creation come lift your voice as one with me
We'll take your light both near and far and we salute your song of peace 

Oh Canada

The reflection of her rivers are the colours of creation 
And the music of her mountains is her truth.


CD recordings of "The Song of Canada" can be purchased from Christine Botchway (Contact David Kilgour's office at 780-495-2149 or for information on how to order). All proceeds to benefit HIV educational project in Rurenge, Rwanda. 

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