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Canada helping U.S. protect religious freedom globally comment (0)

July 25, 2013

OTTAWA, Canada — Canada’s fledgling Office of Religious Freedom is joining the United States as the only other major diplomatic-level office fighting religious freedom violations around the world.

The office opened in February in Canada’s Foreign Ministry, so its new ambassador of religious freedom, Andrew Bennett, is in the early stages of traveling to countries with religious freedom violations.

Bennett also is traveling from Ottawa to the United States to brainstorm with U.S. officials and advocates on the issue. 

In an interview with WORLD News Service, Bennett stated his definition of religious freedom: It is not merely the “freedom to worship,” he said, noting that religious freedom encompasses all of life, including the freedom to express one’s religion, the freedom to conduct missionary activities, the freedom to convert and the freedom not to believe. 

Perhaps the most significant among Bennett’s plans: His office will be training Canadian diplomatic staff around the world on the issue of religious freedom. The idea is to equip foreign service officers on the ground to be able to recognize and handle religious freedom violations. The U.S. State Department’s religious freedom office also trains American foreign service officers.

“We push religion so far into the private sphere that we forget to engage in the public sphere on matters of religion and faith,” Bennett said. “My goal is that Canadian diplomats abroad are the go-to people on religious freedom issues.”

Canada may be able to speak more openly on the issue than the eggshell-walking American diplomatic corps. Bennett was diplomatic on that point, but he said Canada would play the role of the “honest broker” on religious freedom violations. Last year Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird was more pointed about the office, saying Canada is “no longer a country that simply goes along to get along.”

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