Here is the report on the event from the LTNI website:Conference on the Office of Religious Freedom
Foreign Affairs Canada, 125 Sussex, Robertson Auditorium, Ottawa
October 3, 2011
The conference was attended by approximately 100 participants from all spectrums of the society including; Federal Ministers, MPs, Academia, NGOs, and human rights organizations. Canadians of Pakistani Christian background were represented by a dozen delegates, seven of which addressed the conference and presented community views and concerns.
Hon. John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, in his opening speech to the conference assured Canada’s commitment to the promotion of freedom of religion around the world and specifically paid tribute to Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti and Salman Taseer, who give their lives for this cause. The tribute the Shahbaz Bhatti was echoed by all panelists and many conference attendees, who also thanked Peter Bhatti Chairman International Christian Voice (ICV) for the participation in this conference.
Mr. Bhatti, attended the conference accompanied by two ICV executives. He was very well received by Hon John Baird, MP Robert (Bob) Dechert, a majority of the panelists, and conference attendees. In his remarks to the conference Mr. Bhatti applauded the Prime Minister and his team for this undertaking, and offered suggestions by ICV for the need and working of this office.
Hamilton South Asian Christian community was well represented by Mrs. Phoebe Samuel and Mr. Vincent Samuel at this conference on the office of religious freedom in Ottawa. Mr. Samuel thanked Rt Hon Stephen Harper, Hon John Baird, and MP Bob Dechert, for their leadership in championing this cause. He also thanked MP David Sweet for extending an invitation to attend the conference. In his presentation Mr. Samuel spoke of the context of a religious / Christian minority in the oppressed society in Pakistan to the conference, to help develop this new office. He presented these following six approaches to promotion of freedom of religion:
- The first is through constitutional equality of human rights. Governments need to develop laws which are not discriminatory towards internationally accepted human rights particularly, towards religious minorities. Each country needs to identify all of its discriminatory laws and abolish them to promote human rights and freedom of religion;
- The second is combating discrimination through legal protections. Governments need to develop robust legal protections to address acts of discrimination against individuals and bias-inspired violent crimes.
- The third is to condemn hateful ideology and to reach out to affected groups. Legal safeguards are essential, but it is better to create a climate that seeks to prevent discrimination and violence before it happens, than to punish after the fact. This requires the commitment and courage of political and societal leaders.
- The fourth is to defend the freedoms of religion, belief, and expression. Leaders in government, politics, religion, business and the rest of society must vigorously defend the rights of individuals to practice their religion freely and exercise their freedom of expression. Samuel paid tribute to Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti for his sacrifice and applauded Canadian government for their efforts to defend and promote freedom of religion around the world.
- The fifth is through the elimination of poverty in religious minority groups. Poverty is one of the major causes, allowing for social injustices. Governments should develop educational and economic programs specific to religious minority groups; in example those similar to existing programs for women and children. Samuel specifically referred to Canadian International Development Agency, which has a special relationship with some of the worst violators of freedom of religious. As a policy matter this offers an opportunity to act and have a positive impact on the persecuted minorities.
- Lastly, the sixth approach is through protected class immigration, where those religious minority individuals, families and groups, who are in imminent danger of death, cared for, and are brought safely to Canada.
Many politicians, delegates and clergy appreciated Mr. Samuel for his comments and plan to work jointly towards promotion of religion around the world. Over twenty participants including seven of Pakistani Christian heritage spoke at the conference. At the conclusion of the days talks, MP Bob Dechert thanked the participants for their contributions, and vowed to continue the consultation process in the creation of this office. The conference ended with a luncheon hosted by Agha Khan Foundation, where Hon Jason Kenny, Minister for Immigration and Multicultural joined the delegates as well and thanked for their contributions to the process.
To read the recommendations by LTNI for this office click here.
For more pictures from the event click here.
I was asked to include other members of the Pakistani Christian community who attended this event. They are the following:
Sam Laldin (CCASA), Tabassam Iqbal, Shahbaz Sindhu, John Gill, Mr. Abid, Qamar Khan and Obeid Chaudhary.
I just want to remind everyone that I am not a reporter whatsoever, I just thought it would be nice to have a place to inform people on what's going on outside the mainstream with regards to the development of our community here and back home; and specifically this report was made to highlight our participation at this consultation (as can be seen in the title).
I understand a lot of people have their own opinion as to how things should be done but that's the beauty of media today; it's so easy to create your own :) As for me, I can only tell you things from my own perspective and that of my family's! So bear with me if you find something not to your taste, comments and advice are always welcome!