Tag Archives: Andrew Bennett

Our Whole Society conference brings old and new friends together

I knew that I knew her from somewhere. The woman at the end of my row in a workshop at the “Our Whole Society: Religion and Citizenship at Canada’s 150th” in Ottawa was eerily familiar, but I couldn’t quite place her.

I caught a glimpse at her name tag and did a quick google. I discovered we shared one Facebook friend, and that was an old elementary school friend of mine, who was later my university roommate.

I realized with a jolt of surprise that this woman was the mother of my old friend. It had been at least 28 years since I had seen her, and now here we were at a conference dedicated to thinking about the role of religion in our country.

After I introduced myself, we exclaimed and embraced, and I thought how interesting it was to be at a faith-based-and-centered conference with my friend’s mother, who I had always known as the “Mormon Mother.” They were the family who didn’t drink tea and were very mysterious and somewhat exotic, with a host of other rules and practices that back then I did not understand, or even try to, quite honestly.  Back then,  I just knew that my friend came from a very religious family, and that we were different. I never, ever would have thought I would someday find myself at the same conference with her family.

But all of the faiths present at this conference, and there are several, share concerns about the topics being addressed at the conference, which include religious freedom, solidarity in diversity, reconciliation, and immigration and refugees. We are here together.
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Why Religious Freedom is so Important: An Interview with Ambassador Andrew Bennett

As the next EFC webinar on June 11 rolls around (this time on religious freedom) we revisit some relevant blogs. What does Ambassador Andrew Bennett say about religious freedom?

Canada is talking about religious freedom. Last year, Faith Today explored that topic with Ambassador Andrew Bennett of Canada’s Office of Religious Freedom (ORF), an office that focusses on religious freedom in other countries (not Canada). His insights can help our discussion: “Religious freedom is a fundamental human right,” said Bennett. “It links in with freedom of expression, gender equality. It’s incumbent upon us, where we have that in Canada, to speak out.”

Read excerpts of the interview in this Faith Today blog post, and the full interview in the magazine by clicking here

Ambassador Andrew Bennett hosting a religious freedom roundtable.
Ambassador Andrew Bennett hosting a religious freedom roundtable.

FT: When you are visiting countries and the governments know you are there as a kind of watchdog for religious freedom, how do they receive you? Is it awkward?

AB: It’s awkward for them, not for me. At times they don’t necessarily receive Canada coming to talk to them about their own challenges and government restrictions on their own communities. That would be the same as when I meet with foreign diplomats in Canada. There might be a sense of Canada judging and meddling.

There is a difference between that and speaking what is true.
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Asking the Right Questions of the Right People on Your Behalf

Click the cover image to read the Mar/Apr 2014 issue.

It was right down to the wire to schedule the interview with Ambassador Andrew Bennett of Canada’s Office of Religious Freedom. He was travelling the week before our interview and committed to a busy schedule after that, but he graciously made time for us just before our deadline.

As his newly created government position reached its first anniversary, we thought it important to check in to see how the work is going. Religious freedom is something Evangelicals watch carefully, even in Canada – maybe especially in Canada.

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