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December 20, 2011

Interfaith Breakfast Focuses on Freedom of Religion
By Nathalie Thirlwall

Ten Ottawa-area Bahá’ís attended the 3rd Interfaith Breakfast on Parliament Hill on November 22nd. David Sweet MP and Rabbi Reuven Bulka, Co-Chairs of the All Party Interfaith Friendship Group, welcomed approximately 150 Members of Parliament, Senators, Ambassadors and faith community representatives to the breakfast in the Parliamentary dining room. The event marked the 30th anniversary of the the UN Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.

Following the breakfast, a workshop was held to discuss the role of religious freedom. Diana Salguero, a Bahá’í youth who participated said that the workshop discussion was “a personal highlight of the morning.” She benefited from listening and learning from the comments, concerns and thoughts of others about this important issue.

Keynote speaker, Mario Silva, provided an historical perspective and current context to the UN Declaration. This topic has added relevance in view of the Government’s plan to create an Office of Religious Freedom. Mr. Silva explained that the Declaration supported the “global effort to challenge the face of religious intolerance irrespective of the cost.”

David Sweet MP invited Susanne E. Tamás, Director of Government Relations for the Bahá'í Community of Canada, to describe the importance of religious freedom. “It is not something we should take for granted,” said Ms. Tamas. “We must treasure it for its contribution to the well-being of the community. Canada [is at] the leading edge of combating intolerance and is able to draw on its diversity,” she added, saying that religious freedom helps to enable human development.

What can we do? Mr. Silva provided some concrete actions. He pointed out that political leaders across the globe have the prime responsibility to bring people together. He challenged citizens “to stand up when the light of tolerance begins to fade”. Intolerance does not stop at national boundaries. “Wherever we find persecution on the basis of religious belief, we are sure to find all manner of oppression, which if left unchecked will only grow and mature to a point that reversal becomes all the more difficult.” He asserted that “All nations that herald the value of religious freedom and human rights in general must stand together.”
Interfaith Breakfast photo
Interfaith Breakfast photo 2

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