|Dr. Andrew P.W. Bennett (source)|
Bennett looks like a nice enough person to me -- the kind of person I'd likely enjoy conversing with. Really, he looks like a great guy and I really don't want to keep writing these posts. It's just that things like this recent interview with Bennett keep falling into my Google Alerts.
Q Should Canadians with no religious beliefs care about religious freedom?
A Absolutely. If we don’t have religious freedom in society, it’s very hard to also have freedom of expression, freedom of association. All these different human rights are linked together. When we look at freedom of religion, it’s the freedom to openly — publicly or privately — profess your faith. It’s the freedom to engage in public worship in peace and security. It’s the freedom to engage in missionary activity. And here’s the real acid test: does a country allow people to freely convert to another faith? Conversely, does it not force them to change their faith?
There must also be an understanding that people should be able to not have religious faith. But the vast majority of people in the world who are suffering as a result of the denial of religious freedom are people of faith.
What am I supposed to make of this? Is there no time in Bennett's schedule to simply issue a single statement on the Office's website condemning the obvious human rights violations being made by places like Saudi Arabia against atheists there? The Media Room site seems to have roughly one release per month. Surely, someone there could find some time to fit a little something in.
And they're not very long either. Here's a sample.
Ambassador Bennett Concerned by the Shooting of an Ahmadi Muslim in Pakistan
May 24, 2014 - Andrew Bennett, Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom, today issued the following statement:
“I was sincerely shocked and appalled to learn of the death of Khalil Ahmad, who was shot while in police custody in the Sheikhupura district in Pakistan on May 16, at the age of 65. He was being held on charges of alleged blasphemy.
“In Pakistan, hundreds of Ahmadis have been murdered for their faith and beliefs, and thousands arrested for declaring Islam to be their faith.
“This is only the latest event in a long series of violent attacks on individuals who are accused, often falsely, under Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws.
“Canada strongly denounces such violence and we call for Pakistani authorities to ensure the personal safety of other Ahmadis associated with Mr. Ahmad who were also charged with alleged blasphemy.
“On behalf of the Government of Canada and Canadians, I extend my prayers and sincere condolences to the family and friends of the late Khalil Ahmad.”
This is tragic and I can understand why Bennett would release a statement like this. However, I don't see why he wasn't also be shocked and repelled by the brutal hacking to death of atheist blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider last year in Bangladesh. Randy Tyson from Legion of Reason posted this long letter addressed to him over at their Facebook page, just in case they missed it -- but I'm pretty sure they have people to keep track of these things.
Could Bennett or perhaps a staffer -- or hell I'll write the thing and let him proofread it! -- have possibly spared a half hour to whip a little something up for any atheist in trouble anywhere?
But the vast majority of people in the world who are suffering as a result of the denial of religious freedom are people of faith.
I wonder how Christian it is to prioritize like this? Oh, no I need to check myself -- as I am not aware of all the bureaucracy involved with issuing the equivalent of a two paragraph statement onto an HTML web page. Perhaps they should switch to Blogger or Wordpress? I guess within the Canadian Government this could be a major feat. Who knows.
Oh, and by the way, there was a report released last year by IHEU about widespread systematic human rights abuses, oppression and violence against atheists across the world. It demonstrates the dire consequences that await hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands... perhaps millions(?) of people who question religion across the planet publicly. People are not stupid. They understand their situation; that at the hands of oppressive cultures of dogmatic authority, people really do get beaten, slashed or murdered by those interested in silencing any questioning of religious dogma.
Really, how could Bennett know what's in the hearts and minds of atheists across the world if they cannot ever hope to freely express themselves without being persecuted or killed?