Is Christian Persecution a Problem?
Reprinted from the Victoria Times Colonist: http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/story.html?id=%2091c7c0b7-a3ff-4232-98e2-2257f0bcbfbf
Canwest News Service
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
OTTAWA - A Parliamentary committee on human rights received a sobering message Monday after hearing testimony about religious persecution around the world and how Canada should respond to it.
In one instance, MPs heard how 300 Christian girls were raped. In another, they were told how 7,000 Egyptians were imprisoned for their faith.
But perhaps the most poignant moment was a Pakistani Christian father describing, on video tape, how his four-year-old daughter had been raped and left unconscious by the roadside after he refusing demands to convert his family to Islam.
"The family remains in hiding and cannot report the incident or obtain further medical help for the child," said a report from the Toronto-based human rights organization, One Free World International.
"Persecution is the canary in the coal mine," Chantal Desloges, a lawyers with specialties in both immigration and refugee law, told the committee. "Anywhere there is religious persecution, women, homosexual and political minorities will also be persecuted. These are also countries where terrorism is gaining a foothold."
But first, MPs were told that Canada's immigration appeal process needs to improve.
Desloges said that panelists deciding an immigration claimant's fate often have no idea what it means to be victim of religious persecution and the dangers they face if returned to their homelands.
"Secularism is highly valued, but maybe that has gone too far," said Desloges. "Not only is there a gross misunderstanding of how religious people think, there is even hostility."
Secretary of State Jason Kenney said after the meeting that the public has averted its eyes from persecution because many just don't want to face it.
"To acknowledge it makes them feel a little uncomfortable. It's unfortunate because millions face persecution and Canada has a special role to defend them."
Rev. Majed El Shafie of One World International told the committee that Canada must confront offending countries with their human rights abuses, and back it up with aid and trade sanctions.
"During the Nazi holocaust, Canada had a similar approach to Jewish refugees, refusing to make special provision for them and strictly enforcing limited immigration quotas," he said. "As a result, hundreds of Jews turned back by Canada, including many of those on the ship St. Louis, died in Nazi death camps."
The committee's hearings continue Tuesday.