Religion underlies battle over Oda

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Kairos is an ancient Greek word, translating as "the time to say or do the right thing; the time when conditions are right for the accomplishment of a crucial action."

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/02/2011 (4189 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Kairos is an ancient Greek word, translating as “the time to say or do the right thing; the time when conditions are right for the accomplishment of a crucial action.”

Kairos Canada has been funded by the Canadian International Development Agency since 1974. Its mission statement says it unites 11 churches and religious organizations including all major Protestant denominations, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Mennonite Central Committee of Canada, the Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers), the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund and the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace “in a faithful ecumenical response to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God (Micah, 6:8).”

Then follows the part that ran it afoul of the Conservative government: “Inspired by a vision of God’s compassionate justice, Kairos advocates for social change, amplifying and strengthening the public witness of its members… Responding to Christ by engaging in social transformation, Kairos empowers the people of God and is empowered by them to live out our faith in action for justice and peace, joining with those of goodwill in Canada and around the world.”

That “witness” involves Kairos with more than 20 partner organizations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East and with about 80 local Canadian groups to support education, research and advocacy projects related to poverty reduction, corporate social responsibility, human rights and improving governance.

This is the crux of the current imbroglio: Neither the Conservative government nor the Christian right thinks taxpayers should fund advocacy for social and economic change. Hence the decision by International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda (or someone in the Prime Minister’s Office) to override her staff at the Canadian International Development Agency and cancel a $7-million grant to Kairos on Nov. 30, 2009, having apparently signed the document just three days earlier. The grant was cancelled by the amazingly clumsy insert of a hand-printed “not.”

The minister’s political career now hangs in the balance as the combined opposition accuses her of lying to Parliament for changing her story three times about who ordered the insertion. So far, she has said her staff (CIDA) recommended the refusal; then that she stood by the “not” but didn’t alter the document herself or know who did; and finally, that it was her decision to defund Kairos, although she still denied knowing who inserted the “not.”

Late Saturday, a fourth explanation emerged from the government caucus. The proverbial “senior government officials” told Conservative MPs: “The minister was travelling out of Ottawa… so they, with the minister’s authority, applied her automated signature… and indicated her decision on the memo by clearly indicating that she did NOT approve the funding application.”

This farce recalls the murder mystery board game Clue. Was it Miss Scarlett in the library with the candlestick? Or Col. Mustard in the billiard room with the lead pipe?

Unfortunately, there is nothing funny here. And not only because contempt of Parliament is an extremely serious offence.

The Conservatives suspect the federal bureaucracy and federal institutions of being “Liberal” and “liberal.” The ideological battle is remarkably bitter at CIDA, where Canada’s traditional liberal-left religious and social aid agencies are being confronted by the new Conservative and conservative evangelical Christian and Zionist organizations who covet their dollars.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is their chief spear-carrier. He accused Kairos of anti-Semitism for assuming “a leadership role” in the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel, charges Kairos emphatically denies. Kairos says its position has never changed and follows long-standing Canadian foreign policy favouring an independent Palestinian state co-existing peacefully with an independent Israeli state. However, Kairos also supports the United Nations resolution urging Israel to stop its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and return to its 1967 borders.

Conservatives are determined to keep their recent political converts within Canada’s Zionist community and therefore label Canada’s formerly “balanced” Middle East policy anti-Semitic. They are equally determined never to stray too far offside of their Christian evangelical base.

Evangelicals believe salvation is between an individual and God. Government-sponsored social and economic justice initiatives are “social engineering” and, thus, Communist and anti-Christian.

 

Frances Russell is a Winnipeg author and political commentator.

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