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Religious freedom on the retreat

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OP-ED

by Candice Malcolm

Toronto Sun
March 30, 2016

Over the Easter long weekend, Canadians had a choice.

Many observed a religious holiday, celebrating the resurrection of Christ in church with family.

Others enjoyed secular festivities, participating in a community Easter egg hunt and enjoying chocolate from the Easter bunny.

Others ignored the holiday, choosing to work overtime, go on a road trip, or watch sports.

The point is, in a free society, you get to decide whether you observe religious holidays and how.

Most of the world does not have that choice.

On Easter Sunday, we were given a sad reminder that most people do not have this very basic freedom to worship as they desire.

In a crowded park in Lahore, Pakistan, a suicide bomber targeted and killed Christians celebrating Easter.

A Taliban-affiliated group, Jamaat ul-Ahrar, claimed responsibility for the attack that killed at least 72 people, mostly women and children.

“It was our people who attacked the Christians in Lahore, celebrating Easter,” said a Taliban spokesman. “It’s our message to the government that we will carry out such attacks again until sharia is imposed in the country.”

Islamist totalitarianism or bust.

Pakistan already has strict blasphemy laws. But to the Islamo-fascists, it isn’t enough.

They will not rest until every non-Muslim is converted or killed.

This problem is not unique to Pakistan.

The same mentality is employed by Islamic State, which beheads Coptic Christians and slaughters Assyrians.

The United Nations released a report on the group’s genocide against the Yazidi people — an ancient Kurdish tribe following a Zoroastrian and Christian faith — during the summer of 2014.

Yazidi men and boys were slaughtered; girls and women sold into sex slavery unless they were “too old”. Then they were killed, too.

In Nigeria, the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram targets Christians.

It’s been nearly two years since its Chibok raid, when it kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from their Christian village.

The #BringBackOurGirls campaign helped raise awareness of Boko Haram’s atrocities, but brought no justice to the victims and their families.

Meanwhile, in Canada, Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion confirmed the Liberal government will shut down the international religious freedom office.

To score cheap political points with its secular base, the Trudeau government muted one of Canada’s main voices defending religious liberty.

Contrary to Liberal spin, the Office of Religious Freedom was having a real impact.

It had projects in Nigeria, Pakistan, Iraq, Burma and Ukraine and worked to promote religious tolerance in schools and help targeted religious minorities find safety.

The office was also symbolic of Canada’s commitment to helping the world’s persecuted religious minorities.

It issued statements condemning religious crimes and led Canada down the path of a principled foreign policy.

It spoke in defence of persecuted Muslims in Burma, Jews in eastern Europe, and Christians in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.

Canada’s Office of Religious Freedom was inspired by the brutal assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, a Pakistani leader who criticized his country’s odious blasphemy laws and defended victims of religious persecution.

Bhatti had just returned from a visit to Canada when he was murdered in 2011.

He was killed because he spoke out in defence of religious freedom.

In his memory, Canada created an office to defend the basic freedoms he championed.

That office is now gone. The Trudeau government has put petty politics ahead of helping the world’s most vulnerable people.

Photo credit: Rahat Dar/EPA

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