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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Dalai Lama, Falun Gong and Christians

Canadian Christianity: Novemb er 1, 2007 [...] Too soon, it was over, however, and we returned home to catch up on the day's headlines, which included the news that the Dalai Lama had told 8,000 people earlier in the day that inner disarmament was the ideal precursor to military disarmament.

His comments sounded, for all the world, like some of the Christian-based conflict studies reading I have been doing lately, under the loose guidance of Mennonite Vern Redekop Neufeld out of Catholic St. Paul University.

It was intriguing to read about and watch the Dalai Lama's Ottawa activities. In part, that was because of my recollection that when he and former prime minister Paul Martin met at the Catholic archbishop's Ottawa palace three years ago, there were a number of quiet stirrings in some parts of the charismatic Christian community.

The sense among those Christians was that the Tibetan Buddhist leader-in-exile was surrounded by some nether spiritual forces, which needed countering in the name of Jesus.

For whatever reason, there were no such stirrings around Ottawa this time, or if there were, they were kept under wraps in the interests of making common cause with those who reportedly suffer persecution in China.

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That takes us to Monday night, October 29, when former foreign secretary of state for Asia and the Pacific, David Kilgour, talked to a Christian men's group about the plight of the Falun Gong in China.

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Kilgour, since his retirement from elective politics, has been travelling widely and speaking out in the interests of a range of persecuted and oppressed groups in Africa and Asia -- the Falun Gong, among them.

The point of his address was to speak of the widespread belief, seemingly well documented, that Chinese health authorities take Falun Gong people into custody on minor charges and subsequently execute them, harvesting their organs for placement with recipients who need them.

Kilgour indicated that the Chinese contention that only criminals are executed seems to beg the question, because Falun Gong's only crime seems to be that they are considered a "cult" by the government, something like Tibetan Buddhists or unregistered Christians.

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To the question: "Are these Falun Gong Christians?" Kilgour answered obliquely. The real point, he suggested, was that they suffer the same fate as Christians, given the same circumstances.

My sense is that there is a new level of acceptance of people of non-Christian religions by Christians who, in times past, might have aggressively proselytized against them.

Around Ottawa, at least, the newer emphasis is to opt for understanding, making the assumption that religious freedom should not belong exclusively to one's own particular group.

That does not mean that Christians of various stripes hold to or share any less dearly, the beliefs and values that sustain their faith and shape their behaviour. Undoubtedly, on the very day that the tenets of Reformation Christianity were being enunciated to a Christian Reformed/Presbyterian body of worshippers, all sorts of other perspectives were being put forward in churches of 30 or 40 different denominations.

But, along with those declarations, I would gently suggest, there was likely in most cases, more than a modicum of acceptance for the ideas of understanding, mutual encouragement . and a willingness to tackle, in the name of Christ, such issues as human rights, health, the environment, poverty and so on.

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Lloyd Mackey is a member of the Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery in Ottawa and author of Stephen Harper: The Case for Collaborative Governance (ECW Press, 2006). He can be reached at

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