A Christian college professor will be Canada’s first ambassador of religious freedoms and head of a new government office focused on international persecution.
Andrew Bennett, Dean of Augustine College in Ottawa, was named to the new position on Tuesday after Prime Minister Stephen Harper officially opened the Office of Religious Freedom.
The office will operate as part of the foreign affairs ministry and focus of international matters of religious tolerance.
“Around the world, violations of religious freedom are widespread and they are increasing,” Harper said. “Dr Bennett is a man of principle and deep convictions and he will encourage the protection of religious minorities around the world so all can practice their faith without fear of violence and repression.”
The Canadian Press reports that human rights groups and political opponents have accused the Conservative government of inappropriately injecting too much religion into their foreign policy. Others, of course, suggest such a focus is long overdue, calling for stronger measures against religious persecutors.
OpenCanada.org recently presented a compelling debate on both sides.
Wise-acres on social media, meantime, point out that the Office of Religious Freedoms sounds suspiciously like something from George Orwell’s “1984.”
The trumpet is loud for this new office, but is there much behind it?
After all, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade already addresses human rights issues abroad. The United Nations, of which Canada is a member, also has an office focused on freedom of religion.