03/24/2021 Canada (International Christian Concern) – Calls are being made in Canada for the resurrection of the Office of Religious Freedoms with advocates saying that it’s closure by Liberals within the Canadian parliament has left the country without a strong response against targeted abductions, rapes, and forced conversions of young Christian and Hindu girls in Pakistan. The office was shut down in 2016 and replaced with the new Office of Human Rights and Freedoms, which would purportedly be more inclusive of all human rights abuses, according to the Liberal government.
Conservative Party Deputy Leader Candice Bergen said the atrocities in Pakistan require a stronger response from the Liberal government, which has largely overlooked the ongoing religious freedom and minority rights violations in Pakistan.
“The reports coming out of Pakistan of Christian and Hindu girls being abducted, raped, forced into marriages and coerced to convert from their faith are deeply concerning and need to be addressed,” she said in an emailed statement to the Canadian news publication, National Post.
Bergen called upon Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to re-establish the Office of Religious Freedoms and resolve to work with Canadian allies to end the targeted abuses against women and girls in Pakistan. Garnett Genuis, a Conservative member of parliament, echoed similar sentiments, saying that the complex dynamics of religious persecution is often overlooked by Western governments because religion is not as deeply rooted in the West as it is in places like Pakistan.
Many argue that the problem with the Canadian approach to the situation lies in misplaced priorities on the part of the government, which has highlighted its commitment to advancing gender equality and empowerment of women and girls. Experts, however, have said that Pakistan issue is not one of gender equality or female empowerment, but one of religious persecution stemming from deeply rooted religious intolerance and accepted violence. The targeted rapes, kidnappings, and forced conversions of over a thousand women and girls a year are merely symptoms of these deeply engrained ideas which, according to Reverend Andrew Bennett, the former Ambassador of the Office of Religious Freedom, are amplified by the Pakistani media and religious leaders who incite people to violence against religious minorities in an outpouring of what he calls a “persecution ideology.”
Aaron Rhodes, president of the Forum for Religious Freedom-Europe, echoed a similar sentiment. “Such acts are committed by extremists who are operating in an environment that breeds extremism, does little to discourage or punish extremism, and indeed, rewards these acts of violence, as perpetrators are often valorized by media and political leaders,” he said.
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