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Tuesday, April 2

Will Canad's Harper Regime's So Called Canadian Office of Religious Freedom's Be Investigating Israel's Abuses During Holy Week
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New Canadian Office of Religious Freedom called upon to investigate Israel’s abuses during Holy Week

Please note:  This request was submitted directly to Ambassador Andrew Bennett of the Canadian Office of Religious Freedom.

March 29, 2013

Canadian Friends of Sabeel (CFOS) notes with concern at this time -- Holy Week in the western Christian calendar -- the curtailment of freedom of religion imposed by Israel through its illegal occupation of the West Bank including the Old City of Jerusalem. In light of the current restrictions and denial of access for thousands of Palestinian Christians to their mother city of Jerusalem for Holy Week observances, we are calling on the new Office of Religious Freedom of the Canadian government to investigate and demand Israel comply with international law. This is consistent with the Office’s mandate to promote “Canadian values...of human rights and the rule of law worldwide.”

Palm Sunday celebrations in Jerusalem were diminished this week by the denial of permits to hundreds of Palestinians, including girl and boy scout marching bands planning to take part in the ancient annual procession retracing Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. CFOS Chair, Fr. Robert Assaly, recalled with regret the continued such restrictions on religious practices since he lived there 20 years ago, “I remember the shame I felt every year as we headed down the road with our Canadian passports to the Mount of Olives for the Palm Sunday procession, bidding farewell to my neighbours who were denied access.”

Today, these and the multitude of other restrictions imposed by Israel’s occupation forces which violate freedom of worship are part of wider institutionalized discriminatory practices against Palestinian Muslims and Christians. The hundreds of thousands of Israeli and non-Israeli Jews living in settlements in the same West Bank, however illegally, are allowed unfettered access to occupied East Jerusalem. The “systemic discrimination” which the Office is mandated to address is unabashedly evident in the Jewish-only settlement roads leading to Jerusalem, built on illegally seized Palestinian Muslim and Christian land and which carve up and render unusable Palestinian access. Palestinian roads are punctuated with Israeli military checkpoints and roadblocks, and end at the illegal separation (apartheid) wall severing occupied East Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied West Bank.

Respected Palestinian Spokeswoman, Hanan Ashrawi, a Christian, insisted, “There should not even be a question of needing permits to visit one’s own city. East Jerusalem is the occupied capital of the Palestinian people and freedom of worship is a basic human right for all of our Christian and Muslim citizens — a right which is being systematically and increasingly denied by a foreign occupying force.”

The curtailing of religious freedoms for Muslims and Christians are inevitable in such a discriminatory system which denies them freedom of movement and access to work and trade, to educational, cultural and medical facilities, as well as to religious and family celebrations and observances. These restrictions are imposed on the basis that they are Christian and Muslim, however one Palestinian people.

These are contraventions of fundamental human rights and international law, including the IV Geneva Convention for which federal law requires Canada to “ensure respect” by the occupying power, Israel. We thus call upon the Office of Religious Freedom to address this, and to clarify unequivocally that these violations are contrary to both Canadian values and the rule of international law. We further request the Office to publicize its findings and report such that the Minister of Foreign Affairs as responsible for the Office could publically call Israel to account during his upcoming visit there and demand a permanent termination of such discriminatory practices before the Eastern calendar Holy Week in one month’s time.

CFOS issues this call on western Good Friday, conscious of this being the observance of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and in response to yesterday’s prayer request of Sabeel Jerusalem. This day’s most holy commemoration of the Lord’s passion and love for all humanity, in His forgiveness of our sins reconciling us to God and one another, is also when Christians around the world, not least Palestinian Christians, most closely identify Christ’s crucifixion with their own suffering and that of any people. At the same time, we join with Palestinian Christians in unequivocally condemning any abuse of this most sacred event for the odious deicide charge, or for any other form of the evil of anti-Semitism or any racism.


CFOS is committed to giving voice in Canada to Palestinian Christians, joining with all in Palestine and Israel striving for peace with justice toward reconciliation.


www.sabeel.ca
sabeelcanada@gmail.com

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Sabeel prayer request:
http://www.sabeel.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=56&Itemid=73


News article:
http://goo.gl/6KGE6


Office of Religious Freedom, Mandate:
http://www.international.gc.ca/religious_freedom-liberte_de_religion/mandate_mandat.aspx?lang=eng
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