The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada has been engaged on the issue of international religious persecution for a long time. For over a decade, the EFC and others have encouraged the development of an office that would deal with the persecution of religious minorities in countries around the world as an important component of Canada’s intentionality in international relationships. We’ve even included the issue ‘Religious Freedom Internationally’ as a fact sheet in our Election Kit over a number of federal elections.

It is exciting to see this issue hit the agenda of federal party leaders.  Mr. Harper raised the issue and Mr. Ignatieff has come out in favour, noting it is the kind of thing that should have the support of all sides.

Purely by the numbers, Christians are the most persecuted body on the planet today. There are over 200 million Christians facing persecution on a daily basis around the world, simply because of their religious beliefs. 176,000 Christians were killed for their faith from mid-2008 to mid-2009. Other faith communities face similar persecution, particularly where they find themselves in the minority. Sometimes minority sects of a majority religion face the worst persecution in a particular nation because they are perceived to be false teachers within their own larger faith community.

The United States initiated its Office for International Religious Freedom in their State Department – the department responsible for U.S. foreign affairs – during the presidency of Bill Clinton. It was continued under President George W. Bush and remains under President Barack Obama. The office has proven to be immensely helpful in identifying persecution hot spots, including religious freedom as an issue in bilateral and multilateral conversations, and, at times, negotiating the freedom of those endangered for their faith. The American office has shown the value of working with a variety of faith communities to pursue the protection of human life where it is vulnerable or endangered purely because of a difference in religious belief. Clearly, its presence has not depended on the political sway of the senior executive.

With two party leaders already having endorsed the establishment of such an office, I have been asked if the EFC will remove the fact sheet on ‘Religious Freedom Internationally’ from our Election Kit. We will not, just as we won’t remove the fact sheet on ‘Poverty and Homelessness’ because one or more of the parties address proposals for alleviating child poverty in Canada or a strategy for providing much needed low cost housing. The fact sheets are developed base on our platform of biblical principles and posted as part of the Election Kit with just such a hope for action. In addition, the particular fact sheet on ‘Religious Freedom Internationally’ is one in a continuing series on the same topic, updated with more current information prior to the election.

We thought it was a good idea. So did others. It’s nice to see it gain traction with party leaders.

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