Montreal, Tuesday, 17 May – In an open letter sent to Canada's largest religious denominations and other faith-based organizations today, the Canada Tibet Committee called on Canada's multi-faith communities to form an inter-denominational task force focused on promoting religious freedom in China.
The CTC's letter coincides with the 16th anniversary of the abduction by Chinese authorities of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the 11th Panchen Lama. The Chinese government abducted Gedhun with his family after his nomination as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama. The Panchen Lama is the second most important figure in Tibetan religion, culture and politics after the Dalai Lama. No international body has ever been given permission to visit Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the 11th Panchen Lama, or his family, despite repeated requests from foreign governments and senior UN officials, including the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The CTC believes it is incumbent on faith-based organizations to speak with a common voice regarding religious freedom in China and, ultimately, to work with the future Office of Religious Freedom that was promised by the Conservative party in the recent federal election.
“The right to worship freely must be a right enjoyed by every Tibetan and Chinese citizen alike, because deplorably those who try to worship freely in China today face severe repression,” said CTC executive director Dermod Travis.
In addition to Dharma centres across Canada, the letter has been sent to numerous denominations including: the Anglican Church of Canada, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Christian Reformed Church in North America, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, the Presbyterian Church in Canada, the Quakers and the United Church of Canada.
According to the Conservative party platform, the proposed Office of Religious Freedom would operate within the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. It would monitor religious freedom around the world, promote religious freedom as a key objective of Canada's foreign policy and advance policies and programs that support religious freedom.