We are here tonight to honour three individuals who have built partnerships among Jewish and Christian supporters of Israel: Dr. James Lunney, MP, Pastor John Raymer of the Peace Tower Church and Ms. Anna-Lee Chiprout. Congratulations to all of them.
I hope the day will come soon when all faith communities will be united on such basic convictions as human dignity being indivisible.
A personal word about Jerusalem: as we all know, it is an epicentre for a number of the world’s great religions and denominations. I wish everyone of any faith—or no faith—could see the city and indeed all of Israel. They are both magical places, full of fascinating people of many backgrounds. To see, for example, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and the Sea of Galilee a few hours away by car renders a Christian almost speechless.
One of us here tonight visited Capernaum in Israel years ago and was met by a Catholic monk. Asked if she and her husband were ‘Christian or Jewish’, they replied, ‘Jewish’. The monk gestured warmly to enter and then said, “Come and I’ll show you where one of your boys made good.”
‘Horseman of Helplessness’
Permit me to quote from a recent speech by my friend David Matas to the International Society for Human Rights in Switzerland on receiving a human rights prize His opening words brought tears to the eyes of some of us in the audience:
“…If we can give any meaning at all to the meaningless slaughter of so many millions of innocents, we must learn the lessons of the Holocaust. To say ‘Never again’ is easy. To make it happen is not so easy. The reality is that since World War II, genocide has happened again and again, not to Jews, but to Cambodians, to Hutus, to Tutsis, to Bosnians, to Somalis and now to practitioners of Falun Gong. ( I’d add ‘African Darfuris’ to his list)
"One of the lessons I have attempted to draw from the Holocaust is never to accept in silence gross violations of human rights, wherever they occur. The Holocaust would not have happened if people everywhere had protested gross violations of human rights anywhere as soon as they occurred.
“I have engaged in human rights work to act on this lesson, to join the human rights struggle on this front. In fighting on this front, I have had to combat an enemy that prowls throughout the human rights battlefield, a horseman of our very own human made apocalypse, the horseman of helplessness."
The three people honoured tonight, and I’m certain all of you, stand courageously against the ‘horseman of helplessness’.
There are few if any countries today that share more Canadian values than Israel. Although only 62- years- old, and having been the target of wars, countless rocket, propaganda and other attacks, Israel has contributed to helping people in difficulty in many places. Its residents have truly taken to heart the lessons of the Torah, or, as Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. put it about two years before his death, “Do something to help others.”
This is remarkable, given Israel’s tiny size. On the immense tragedy caused by the earthquake in Haiti, for example, Israel is a nation that stands out. While much of the world struggled to organize themselves, Israelis landed a modern field hospital and staff in Haiti and began saving lives.
In summary, don't ever stop supporting Israel. Bonds purchases, visits by you and your children and instilling in them and everyone you know, a sense of identification with a country that supports international human rights internationally and contributes much to the world—all are important.
Be vigilant in your own efforts - even if it's only one letter of support to the media or a phone call once a month a month to your Member of Parliament, Provincial MPP or City Council - to be informed and inform about current events in the region. There are numerous web-sites, including Israel at 21C, HonestReporting.com and others that are very useful in being well-informed.
Thank you and God bless.