Tuesday, December 22, 2009

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

TORONTO, December 18, 2009 /Canada NewsWire/ - 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 available at: www.kairoscanada.org