KAIROS Responds to Accusations of Anti-Semitism and Renews Call for CIDA
Funding to Be Restored

TORONTO, Dec. 18 /CNW/ - KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives denies allegations by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney that it is anti-Semitic and decries the apparent politicization of aid that led to its funding being cut by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). It wants CIDA funding restored.

"Minister Kenney's charge against KAIROS is false," KAIROS says in a statement released today. "Two points need to be made: Criticism of Israel does not constitute anti-Semitism; and CIDA was developed to fund international aid and not to serve political agendas".

KAIROS' response goes on to say, "Minister Kenney's statement, in a highly charged environment, raises very disturbing questions about the integrity of Canadian development aid decisions. If aid decisions are based on political rumour rather than on due diligence, development criteria and CIDA's own evaluation process then this is a matter of grave concern for the entire international development sector -- and for the Canadian people who pay for this aid".

On November 30th, a senior CIDA official informed KAIROS that the agency would no longer fund KAIROS' human rights program, despite a 35-year collaboration. The only reason given was that KAIROS no longer "fit" CIDA program priorities. However, there has been widespread speculation that the real reason for the CIDA funding cut was to sanction KAIROS for its views on the environment and other controversial issues.

KAIROS, a church-based non-governmental organization that represents seven of Canada's largest church denominations, works on a range of social justice issues, including human rights in Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East. Since 1973, KAIROS and the church coalitions from which it was formed had received funding from CIDA to support partners in countries with the world's most egregious human rights violations including Sudan, the Philippines, Colombia, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

KAIROS work is highly regarded in Canada and around the world. It supports 21 ecumenical and civil society groups overseas. Hundreds of thousands of people benefit from and depend on KAIROS' support.

Since news of the cuts broke a week ago, the government has been under increasing pressure to reverse its decision. Canadians from across the country, churches and non-governmental groups have written letters of support for KAIROS and called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Minister Bev Oda to reverse the decision. Questions have been raised in the House of Commons and all opposition parties and the Green Party have also issued media releases calling on the government to reverse its decision.

The full text of the KAIROS statement is below and also available at: www.kairoscanada.org .

KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives responds to Minister Kenney's comments on anti-Semitism

December 18, 2009

The Minister of International Cooperation, Bev Oda, has been telling KAIROS, Parliament and the Canadian people that funding to KAIROS was cut because its work did not fit current Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) priorities of economic growth, food security and children and youth.

On Wednesday, however, a completely different reason was given in a speech by Jason Kenney, Minister of Immigration. Addressing the Global Forum to Counter Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem, Minister Kenney described his government's fights against anti-Semitism and, as an example, said the government had "defunded organizations ... like KAIROS for taking a leadership role in the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign" against Israel.

Minister Kenney's charge against KAIROS is false. KAIROS did not lead this campaign. In 2007, KAIROS took a public position opposing sanctions and a boycott of Israel.

A recently released document, Kairos Palestine, 2009: A Moment of Truth, is not a document of KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives. Kairos is a Greek word meaning "God's time" and is commonly used by Christian groups.

A Minister of the Crown says that his government decided, for what is a highly political reason, to cut funds for a proposal developed in consultation with and approved by CIDA.

Canadians need the truth.

Two points must be made: criticism of Israel does not constitute anti-Semitism; and CIDA was developed to fund international aid and not to serve political agendas.

Minister Kenney's statement, in a highly charged environment, raises very disturbing questions about the integrity of Canadian development aid decisions. If aid decisions are based on political rumour rather than on due diligence, development criteria and CIDA's own evaluation process then this is a matter of grave concern for the entire international development sector -- and for the Canadian people who pay for this aid.

Many non-governmental organizations have proposals before CIDA that have been on Minister Oda's desk for months. Others are about to apply for funding. How can they possibly trust this decision-making process in the future?

In the past two weeks, Canadians from across the country have called for the restoration of CIDA funding to KAIROS.

People working for human rights are the true victims of the funding cut to KAIROS. This decision cuts funding for a new legal clinic in the Congo to help women who have been raped in the brutal conflict there. The 5,000 members of the Women's Popular Organization in Colombia will lose funding for life-saving protection against rampant human rights abuses in their country.

To label KAIROS criticism of Israeli government actions as "anti-Semitic" silences dissent and honours no one. KAIROS has a clear position of support for the legitimate right of the Israeli people to a safe and secure state.

KAIROS asks that our funding be restored.

SOURCE KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives

For further information: For further information: Media contact: Adiat Junaid, Communications Program Coordinator, KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, (416) 463-5312, ext. 223, (877) 403-8933, ext. 223, ajunaid@kairoscanada.org, www.kairoscanada.org

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KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives

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