Overcoming Violence Abroad and at Home
Overcoming Violence: Abroad and at Home
Address by Hon. David Kilgour
Conference on Building World Peace
The Role of Religions and Human Rights
Shaw Conference Centre,
October 21st, 2006
Before suggesting ways to reduce one kind of violence in neighborhoods within Canada, permit me to look beyond our borders. Some spills into our own country, but most, of course, results from a range of home-grown causes.
First the important concept developed by Benjamin Barber in his book, Jihad vs McWorld, stressing first, as the author does, that Islam as one of the world's great religions is not the issue. Indeed Barber's introduction to the most current edition of his book criticizes Rev. Jerry Falwell for interpreting the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington as the wrath of God, noting that Falwell no more defines Protestantism than the Taliban defines Islam. Barber is also correct in taking issue with Samuel Huntington for echoing Osama bin Laden since both appear to call for a cultural war between "the West and the rest".
The book uses the term "McWorld' to refer to the forces of aggressive economic and cultural globalization. "Jihad' refers to "disintegrative tribalism and reactionary fundamentalism". It concludes that only the globalization of democratic institutions is likely to offer a way out of a global war between modernity and its critics because it responds best to both sides of the conflict.
Barber continues: "By extending the compass of democracy to the global market sector, civic globalization can promise opportunities for accountability, participation and governance to those wishing to join the modern world and take advantage of it's economic blessings; by securing cultural diversity and a place for worship and faith insulated from the shallow orthodoxies of McWorld's cultural monism, it can address the anxieties of those who fear secular materialism and are fiercely committed to preserving their cultural and religious distinctiveness. The outcome of the cruel battle between Jihad and McWorld will depend on the capacity of moderns to make the world safe for women and men in search of both justice and faith, and can be won only if democracy is the victor."
In my view, Canadians and our governments should be working much harder and more effectively towards achieving a fully democratic world as early as possible in the new century. The 45 or so dictatorships left around the planet, which do so much damage internationally as well as domestically, should know always that Canada stands always with their respective populations and their human rights and well-being, never with tyrants of any political hue.
I share fully a number of the points on democracy promotion which Tom Axworthy of the Queen's University Centre for the Study of Democracy recently made to the House of Commons Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, including these three:
1. The British, Germans, Swedes and Americans are already directly promoting democratic practices around the world, including free elections with universal adult suffrage, freedom of expression, association, political organization and dissent, alternative sources of information and genuine political choice and the accountability of government to voters. Independent courts, equality before the law and protection for minorities, including religious ones, are essential to functioning democracies.
2. There must be a functioning state before there can be a functioning democracy. In the case of Afghanistan, the holding of a Loya Jirga traditional assembly to give Afghans 'ownership' of their democratic process was a good start, but more troops are unfortunately needed to ensure public security. In the successful case of Bosnia, the ratio of soldiers to inhabitants was about 1 to 50, but this level has never been reached in Afghanistan. (Lest there be any ambiguity, I do not think Canada should abandon the Afghans to the Taliban despite the loss there already of some of our noblest sons and daughters in battle.)
3 A Canada-based democracy institution- Democracy Canada – rooted in our federal, culturally diverse, multicultural and bilingual country would be warmly welcomed by the international democracy promoting community. We must stand with the world's democrats and make a serious effort to promote the concept, (knowing full well that government of, by and for the people will differ everywhere).
Twentieth Century Violence
The century we recently left was undoubtedly the worst in all recorded history in terms of brutality directed at believers. One estimate of the number of human beings of all nationalities who died prematurely for their faiths between 1900 and 2000 is an appalling 169 million, including: 70 million Muslims; 35 million Christians; 11 million Hindus; 9 million Jews; 4 million Buddhists; 2 million Sikhs; 1 million Baha'is.
Too many of these victims died in inter or intra-faith violence, but most by far perished at the hands of totalitarian regimes, which, demanding that all authority be vested in themselves, detest religion mostly because its practitioners' deepest loyalties lie elsewhere. Stalin, Hitler, Mao and other dictators had murdered untold tens of millions of believers.
Falun Gong in China
Having just completed a visit to four Asian locations (South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong) to raise awareness about the issue of organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners in China, permit me remind you of what is happening even today in China to this new faith community. The experience offers lessons for other religions in the new century as well, especially the need for all faith communities to stand together when one is being persecuted anywhere. Persecution directed against one community must be seen as an attack on all.
Founded only in 1992 in China, Falun Gong enjoyed phenomenal success there initially, in part because of the spiritual vacuum created by Mao and the militant atheists in power since 1949 and partly because, unlike the Communist party, its roots are deep in Chinese culture and religion. Following the Tiananmen events of 1989, the government of Deng Xiaoping was willing to tolerate religions as an outlet for popular frustrations with the authoritarian, if not totalitarian, governance combined with the unregulated, if not heartless, model of capitalism Deng had unleashed in China a decade earlier.
Falun Gong contains more health elements than most traditional religions and more religion and ethical features than other qigong schools. Falun Gong offered to many Chinese the opportunity to access spiritual and moral principles through physical exercise and healing. Faith followed exercise. There is also a community dimension, but no aspiration to any political office and no violence. Another Polish Solidarity movement, Falun Gong clearly was not, although Deng's successor, Jiang Zemin, being preoccupied mostly with keeping his party in power by force, evidently thought that the two were identical in the threat they posed to Communism.
What really sparked Ziang's declaration of war on Falun Gong was its popularity; by the late 1990s, there were 70 – 80 million practitioners across China, considerably more than members of his party. Beijing alone by then had 2000 exercise practice sites and in the mid- 90s Falun Gong meditation was even practised within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the capital. A spark was lit when 10,000 – 16,000 Falun Gong practitioners from all walks of life petitioned at Party headquarters in central Beijing against an attack in them in a publication. Jiang declared a violent war almost immediately in the summer of 1999.
Seven Years of Terror
On what has resulted since the summer of 1999, permit me to quote from a speech, I gave recently on behalf of Interfaith International at the UN Human Rights Council plenary in Geneva: