OTTAWA – The crowd was eager at Ottawa’s Congregation Machzikei Hadas, the sentiments of the human rights advocates were powerful and their messages were critical.
“More than 160,000 Christians were killed around the world for their faith last year,” said Reverend Majed El-Shafi of the NGO One Free World International, the group that co-sponsored – along with B’nai Brith Canada – the September multifaith, multi-city symposium focusing on human rights.
“A week ago, a village of 3,000 Christians was attacked in Pakistan. Fourteen people were killed, nine of them burned alive. Many homes were destroyed. I was there.
“There are actual slave camps in Pakistan and most of the people in them are Christian or Hindu.”
El-Shafi also noted how Jews are at ever-increasing risk the Middle East.
“In Egypt, a country that has a peace treaty with Israel, the rise in antisemitism is very bad. Children are taught in school that there will be another war with Israel soon.”
Also in Egypt, he continued, “Baha’is are discriminated against. They can’t get identity cards, It’s as though they don’t even exist.
“Indeed, foreign aid to such countries must be connected to the improvement of human rights.”
The reverend was one of about six religious leaders who are taking part in the travelling symposium, which has already stopped in Montreal and Toronto and will be in Vancouver Sept. 24.
Frank Dimant, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, compared current days to recent history: “If we look at the mood of the times, we have to ask ourselves, is it 1932, or is it 1937? In 1932, and even in 1937, Hitler wasn’t talking about genocide. In 2009, in Iran, they’re openly talking about murdering 6 million Jews using nuclear weapons.
“Israel today is being accused of everything the Nazis accused the Jews of, including killing babies and stealing human organs.”
Dimant noted how Israel is treated differently than every other county: “If you have a problem with Russia, you may be angry and you may pass resolutions against that country. The same thing goes for Hungary, or Pakistan, or anywhere else. Israel is the only country whose very existence is deemed illegitimate.”
Dimant is also bothered by the fact that, “no one seems to care about the number of Christians killed annually.”
Other speakers included: Xun Li, co-founder of the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong, Mehmet Tohti, Founder and past president of the Uyghur Canadian Association and Farnaz Farrothi, a human rights activist from Iran.
Xun Li said, “In 2006 a Chinese official, who defected in the embassy in Australia, reported that the Communist Chinese government has more than 1,000 spies in Canada.”
Tohti discussed the role China plays in fomenting conflict in the Middle East: “Many of the rockets used by Hamas and Hezbollah originate in China.”
Farrothi noted that the government of Iran “does not represent the views of most Iranians,” adding that “after being appointed to office in 2005, Ahmadinejad stated openly that one of his goals was to get rid of Christians (in Iran).”