It is the establishment of an office of religious freedom in the Department of Foreign Affairs. What does this mean?
In an oft quoted speech to the right-wing Civitas Society, in 2003:
... he [Stephen Harper] outlined plans for a broad new party coalition that would ensure a lasting hold on power. The only route, he argued, was to focus not on the tired wish list of economic conservatives or “neo-cons,” as they’d become known, but on what he called “theo-cons”—those social conservatives who care passionately about hot-button issues that turn on family, crime, and defence ...Arguing that the party had to come up with tough, principled stands on everything from parents’ right to spank their children to putting “hard power” behind the country’s foreign-policy commitments ..." (1)Many believe, and I have no doubt that they are right, that if given a majority, Harper will criminalize abortion and end gay marriage. But putting “hard power” behind the country’s foreign-policy commitments, for holy purposes, is far more alarming.
And adding this to the Conservative platform, is clearly a call out to what he referred to as 'Theocons', to get him his majority, where their wish will be his command. Many have been disillusioned with his failure to legislate their agenda. This may be their last best chance.
Yesterday Jonathon Malloy had an op-ed piece in the Globe and Mail: Hidden in plain sight: The Tory evangelical factor
There are many statements made by Mr. Malloy that need to be addressed, beginning with this one: "A prominent Ottawa journalist I consulted said it’s “just a sop to ethnic communities.” But the proposal’s greater impact is among millions of suburban white evangelical Christians, many of whom consider religious freedom a bigger issue than same-sex marriage or abortion."
So this was written for "suburban white evangelical Christians"? It's not about "religious freedoms" at all.
Malloy referred also to the "Coptic Christians in a key Mississauga swing riding", something the media believes that this is all about. I'm familiar with that story, and unfortunately, as is often the case, we only heard one side.
First off, I want to say that what happened to the Coptics was horrible. Six Coptic Christians were murdered in the Egyptian village of Nag Hamadi, sparking riots, and the violence continues today.
However, in situations like this a proper investigation must take place, and before we go in with guns blazing, all diplomatic avenues must first be exhausted.
According to professor of political sociology at the American University of Cairo, Said Sadek, the incident is part of a broader tribal culture, where sex is used as a weapon. And the murder of the Coptic Christians was retaliation for the abduction and rape of a 12-year-old Muslim girl.
In fact a local bishop confirmed that some of his parishioners had received phone calls and threats alleging that Muslims "will avenge the rape of the girl during the Christmas celebrations."
When a rally was held in Toronto to raise awareness to the plight of the Coptics in Egypt, one attended by the Conservative MP Bob Dechert in the "swing riding" of Mississauga, the rhetoric revealed something else.
A Syrian Christian woman told me, "I'm sorry, but white people have to wake up." ... with so many Muslims in Toronto, she has to deal with them as part of her job. When her ignorant Canadian boss told her she had to be nice to them, she said she would be polite but he couldn't make her like them. She said Muslims will be pleasant and get along when they are a minority but, when there are enough of them in the country, they will become forceful and insist on Sharia law.Yet many who come to Canada, do so to escape that kind of oppression.
It is very dangerous to establish foreign policy that could incite hatred at home. We must demand an explanation from Mr. Harper. What is the intent of this new office established to appease "suburban white Evangelical Christians"?
Malloy also says: "Canadian evangelicals pray regularly for “house churches” in China and other secretive Christian gatherings. One best-selling evangelical book, God’s Smuggler, is about a Dutchman who transported Bibles across the Iron Curtain in his car during the Cold War."
So this is about proselytizing, not rescuing. Something the Geneva Convention forbids. Yet guns have been found, many used by our soldiers, that have scripture engraved into the gun barrels. And Christian groups are pushing for more Bibles in Afghanistan.
We need to pay attention to this people. This is not what one journalist called “just a sop to ethnic communities".
And While We're at it, Let's Cut the Stockwell Day Nonsense
Malloy attacks the Liberals for abandoning Evangelicals, once again bringing up the Stockwell Day incident, when he stated that man roamed with dinosaurs.
Many of the attacks against Day came from within his own party, and they were far worse than humming the Flintstones theme and presenting him with a stuffed Barney doll.
During the 2000 Alliance leadership race when Day was running against Preston Manning, the race became a small holy war. Both men were Evangelical, but Day had created a small army of Crusaders:
Within the religious community, Families for Day was no doubt his strongest supporter. Created by Ron Beyer (head of the Calgary-based Canadian Family Action Coalition) and Garry Rohr .. Families for Day organized an E-mail campaign to sign up new members. Beyer claimed the organization signed up at least 6,000 new party members who voted for Day on the first ballot—approximately the margin of Day's lead over Manning ... (2)This prompted Manning's team to accuse Day of creating a cult and saying that there was a "Jim Jones Kool-Aid" thing going on. (3) One of Day's people, John Carpay fired back: "I'm upset at the negative campaigning, but I hold Preston Manning responsible. He wears a fake halo and pretends to be innocent. It's rather sickening." (4)
So let's see. A Barney doll or being compared to a cult leader. I can't decide which is more offensive.
Then during the Alliance leadership race in 2002, between Stockwell Day and Stephen Harper, another holy war took place.
One thing is for certain. This is going to be a dirty campaign--perhaps even nastier than in 2000, when the Tom Long campaign was accused of being a homosexual coven and Mr. Day was compared to mass murderer Jim Jones. And despite Mr. Harper's promise to avoid personal attacks--a promise made also by Mr. Day--it was his campaign that drew first blood. (5)And after holding a "secret" rally at Briercrest Christian college, Harper accused Day of exploiting religion.
Stockwell Day yesterday continued to seek support from evangelical Christians with a barely publicized campaign stop at Canada's largest Bible college, even as one of his opponents warned the Canadian Alliance leadership race risks being "perverted" by a single-interest group. Mr. Day held a campaign rally at Briercrest Bible College in Caronport, Sask., an event that attracted hundreds and was not included in the public itinerary posted on the candidate's Web site. He campaigned earlier in the day at the evangelical Victory Church in Moose Jaw, Sask.And yet he is now doing the same thing, allowing a "narrow base" to dictate not only domestic, but foreign policy.
... Mr. Harper went public with concerns that Mr. Day is appealing to a narrow base of religious groups -- including orthodox Jews, Pentecostals and anti-abortion Catholics -- in a bid to regain the leadership post he was forced to relinquish late last year. (6)
This is why you can't mix religion and politics. And this is why you must separate Church and State. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects all religions. But then Stephen Harper never liked our Charter.
Everyone needs to be protected from violence, based on not only their religious beliefs, but their gender, colour and race. Singling out protection only for Christians who are trying to 'convert' the world, is not something we should be involved in.
But how do we get the media to start paying attention and stop cheering for a Harper majority? It's a puzzle. For Stephen Harper it's all about power and he'll do whatever it takes to hold onto it, including the exploitation of religion and culture.
So again, on May 2, vote and vote wisely. It may be our only hope.
1. Stephen Harper and the Theo-cons: The rising clout of Canada’s religious right, By Marci McDonald, Walrus Magazine, October 2006
2. Requiem for a Lightweight: Stockwell Day and Image Politics, By Trevor Harrison, Black Rose Books, 2002, ISBN: 1-55164-206-9, Pg. 52
3. Harrison, 2002, Pg. 63
4. Manning Backer Drops Bid to Woo Social Conservatives, National Post, July 5, 2000
5. Strange Alliances, By Kevin Michael Grace, Report Newsmagazine, February 04, 2002
6. Day slips into Bible college for Rally, By S. Alberts, National Post, February 13, 2002