Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
January 18, 2010
CCCB to monitor, reflect on KAIROS funding cuts
Concern over anti-Semitism charges, stifling dissenting voices, prompt prelate pause
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
OTTAWA - As concerns about religious freedom compete with charges of anti-Semitism in the wake of KAIROS funding cuts, Canada's Catholic bishops have adopted a reflective, "wait and see" approach.
"There seems to be many people speaking out," said Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops associate general secretary Bede Hubbard, noting the CCCB executive will take up the matter of KAIROS funding in late January. "Bishops feel it is sufficient to monitor reactions from government and other groups."
In a letter Nov. 27 to International Development Minister Bev Oda, CCCB President Bishop Pierre Morissette asked that KAIROS funding be approved. However, on Nov. 30, Oda's ministry informed KAIROS that CIDA would not renew its funding of the ecumenical social justice organization.
Since the funding cuts, accusations of anti-Semitism have surfaced against KAIROS and some of its Middle East partners. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney recently mentioned the KAIROS cuts positively in a speech at an anti-Semitism conference in Jerusalem.
"If there are any ambiguous statements by KAIROS, those will need to be looked at," Hubbard said. "Knowing the Church partners, those who are represented, I don't think the description of anti-Semitism is a good one.
The CCCB's position on the Middle East has been one of even-handedness, supporting the aspirations and hopes of both the Palestinians and the Israelis and pointing out the limitations of various tactics used by either side, he said.
Kenney was not available for an interview, but his spokesperson directed CCN to a Dec. 18 letter to the Toronto Star.
"I did not accuse KAIROS of being anti-Semitic," Kenny wrote the newspaper. "What I said was that KAIROS has taken 'a leadership role in the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign (against Israel).'
Kenney wrote that though he disagreed with KAIROS' "militant stance toward the Jewish homeland," that was not the reason why funding was denied. Oda made the decision because KAIROS did not meet its current priorities, he said.
Liberal MP John McKay, one of several politicians from opposition parties who spoke against the cuts, said CIDA has had 24 different priorities since the year 2000.
"This is an endemic problem with CIDA," he said. "With every minister we have new priorities."
McKay sees the cuts as a religious freedom issue and an attempt by the Harper government to stifle dissenting voices.
KAIROS represents an amalgam of about a dozen ecumenical social justice coalitions that, with the encouragement of the CCCB, came together in one organization in 2000.
The CCCB contributed $115,000 to KAIROS in 2009 and will give the same amount this year. But while other member churches may have KAIROS as their main social justice outlet, the CCCB has a number of Catholic partners, including Development and Peace, who are more closely linked to the conference.
While McKay said he has received a flurry of phone calls and support "from surprising places" for KAIROS, Hubbard said the CCCB has received some, "but not very many."
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.