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21-09-09, 00:13
Multi-faith Forum Focuses On Human Rights
By Cindy Chan
Epoch Times StaffSep 20, 2009 Facebook Digg del.icio.us StumbleUpon | |
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ONE FREE WORLD: Rev. Majed El Shafie, founder and president of One Free World International, speaks at the multi-faith forum on human rights held at Congregation Machzikei Hadas in Ottawa on Sept. 10. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
OTTAWA—A multi-faith expert forum is traveling across the country to call attention to human rights concerns facing various faith-based communities in Canada and abroad.

Co-organized by One Free World International (OFWI) and B’nai Brith Canada, the forum was held in Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto last week and will take place in Vancouver on Sept. 24.

The idea took shape when several leaders from different faiths sat down together a few months ago and decided to begin coalition building to help each other’s communities that are facing persecution.

Among them were Rev. Majed El Shafie, president of OFWI, a Toronto-based human rights group that works for the rights of religious minorities worldwide, and Dr. Frank Dimant, Executive Vice President of B’nai Brith Canada, a national body that serves Jewish communities across the country.

Speaking at the Ottawa forum at Congregation Machzikei Hadas on Sept. 10, Rev. El Shafie told how OFWI came into being.

A Muslim from Egypt who converted to Christianity while in law school, Rev. El Shafie was persecuted and severely tortured after building an underground congregation and appealing for equal rights for Christians in the late 1990s.

He fled to Israel to escape execution and spent over a year in jail while Amnesty International and the United Nations investigated and intervened on his behalf. He eventually came to Canada, where he started OFWI.

UYGHURS FACING PERSECUTION: Mehmet Tohti, founder and past-president of the Uyghur Canadian Association, speaking on the Chinese communist regime's persecution against the Muslim Uyghur people in Xinjiang, China, formerly the Uyghurs' independent stat (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

“When I came to Canada, my perspective was, just defend my own community—the Christian Egyptians. Later, I grew up and I thought, ‘I need to defend every Christian around the world,’” Rev. El Shafie explained.
“But later on, one day at three o’clock in the morning, I woke up and asked myself, ‘If somebody was crossing the street in front of me, and a car came and hit him, would I ask him first about his religion, or would I call 911 anyway?’

“This was when I started to defend every community and everybody that I can help and support.”

Echoing this sentiment, Mr. Dimant told the audience that human rights is an issue “not only for the Jewish community, but we have others who are suffering. . . . We want to bring their plight to the attention of our community.”

Other forum speakers included Li Xun, president of Falun Dafa Association of Canada; MP Pierre Poilievre, parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper; Mehmet Tohti, founder of the Uyghur Canadian Association; and Iranian-Canadian human rights advocate Farnaz Farrokhi.
Slaves in Their Homeland
Mr. Tohti belongs to the Muslim Uyghur community in the Xinjiang region in northwest China, formerly the independent state of East Turkestan before the communist invasion in 1949.

He said the Uyghurs have become an ethnic minority who are “slaves” today in their homeland, a result of communist repression and large influxes of Han Chinese under the regime’s policy of assimilating his people.

All forms of telecommunication have been shut down since early July, when the human rights protests and violent suppression that occurred in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi captured the world’s attention, Mr. Tohti said.

But “the bad news is coming,” as he has just received news that one of his younger brothers was in prison.
Illicit Organ Trade
Since the communist party took control of China in 1949, it has waged brutal campaigns against one group after another, Mr. Li said.

Introduced to the public in 1992, Falun Gong, also called Falun Dafa, had 70 to 100 million followers by 1999 when the regime launched its persecution.

MULTI-FAITH FORUM SPEAKERS: Four of the six speakers at the multi-faith forum on human rights in Ottawa on Sept. 10. (L-R) Rev. Majed El Shafie of One Free World International, Dr. Frank Dimant of B�nai Brith Canada, Li Xun of Falun Dafa Association of (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
The regime orchestrates massive hate propaganda throughout China and abroad to vilify Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline that teaches “Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance,” Mr. Li said.

Following a 2005 China mission, U.N. Special Rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak reported that two-thirds of the torture cases brought to his attention were Falun Gong.

Mr. Li noted that former cabinet minister David Kilgour and Winnipeg-based international human rights lawyer David Matas, legal counsel for B’nai Brith, conducted an investigation into the persecution in 2006-2007.

Their report, “Bloody Harvest,” detailed substantive evidence and concluded that the Chinese regime has been conducting large-scale organ harvesting from Falun Gong prisoners for an illicit organ trade.

“The Chinese government has yet to come clean and be transparent” after two U.N. requests for a satisfactory response, Mr. Nowak told The Epoch Times last month.

Chinese lawyers are another group suffering persecution. Gao Zhisheng, a Christian attorney and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, suffered extensive torture in 2007 after writing three open letters urging an end to the persecution of Falun Gong. Taken into custody again in February, his current whereabouts are unknown.
Connecting Aid to Human Rights
Rev. El Shafie said last year more than 165,000 Christians were killed because of their faith—about 80 percent in Muslim countries; 20 percent in communist countries like China, North Korea, and Cuba; and some in India.

He has travelled widely to conduct fact-finding missions and help those being persecuted, particularly in Asia and the Middle East.

Recently returned from Pakistan, he spoke about that country’s blasphemy law, which carries the death penalty for speaking against Islam, the Koran, or Muhammad. It is also a discriminatory law that has been used to intimidate and attack minorities including Hindus and Christians.

Noting other religious persecution in places like Egypt, Iraq, and China, Rev. El Shafie called on Canada to stop supporting countries that abuse people’s rights.

“Our aid to these countries needs to be connected to the improvement of their human rights,” he said.
Iran Nuclear Threat
Mr. Dimant said the Jewish people are facing a “very frightening” situation today.

“In 1932 and 1937, Hitler was not talking publicly about genocide and the Holocaust. Yet today, from reports in Iran, they are actually openly talking about a nuclear warhead being built to kill six million Jews. There is no attempt to disguise it.”

COMBATING ANTI-SEMITISM: M.P. Pierre Poilievre spoke at the multi-faith human rights forum in Ottawa about Canada's efforts to combat anti-Semitism. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
He also spoke of systemic discrimination against Israel and Jews in many parts of the world.

Mr. Poilievre highlighted Canada’s leadership in the fight against anti-Semitism.

Canada was the first country to withdraw from the Durban II conference in Geneva in April, a U.N. event intended to review progress toward the goals set in 2001 at Durban I to fight racism.

In 2008 Canada announced it would not participate because the “expression of intolerance and anti-Semitism” during Durban I was carrying over into preparations for Durban II.

The U.S., Netherlands, Germany, Australia, Israel, and other countries followed Canada’s lead.

Indeed, at Durban II, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “poured verbal acid all over Israel and the U.S. and Europe,” said Mr. Poilievre.

Ms. Farrokhi tcalked about the persecution of Christians, Bahai’s, Jews, and other religious minorities in Iran.

With Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, “no longer can the Iranian government hide from the international community,” she said, pointing to the role social networking tools played in communicating with the world about the mass protests and suppression following the disputed election results in June that returned Ahmadinejad to power.

Ms. Farrokhi urged the audience to sign the World Jewish Congress online petition to boycott Ahmadinejad’s speech at the U.N. General Assembly in New York later this month.
China's Backing of Rogue States
When talking about rockets launched by Hamas into Israel, weapons proliferation in Iran, genocide in Sudan, and U.N. resolutions blocked by Muslim countries, Mr. Tohti emphasized that “it is the Chinese government mostly supplying financial and military aid” to those countries and groups.

“It’s important for all of us to stand up against the Chinese government’s ongoing persecutions, not only Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetans, and Uyghurs, [but] its support of terrorist groups in the Middle East,” he said.

The next multi-faith forum on human rights will take place in Vancouver on Thursday, Sept. 24, 7 p.m., at GT Church, 3456 Fraser St. The event is free.
Last Updated
Sep 20, 2009