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Tuesday, 29 May 1973
Page: 2818


Mr DRURY (Ryan) - I rise to speak tonight on a matter which transcends party politics. I speak not as a Liberal but as a free citizen in a free country and above all as a Christian. In common with other honourable members in this Parliament I received some time ago a translation of a debate that took place in the Norwegian Parliament on 1 February 1972 on the question of the persecution of Christians in various countries, particularly those countries behind the Iron Curtain. I feel it would be appropriate that we in this Parliament should at least place on record our support of the views expressed on that occasion, and that is what I want to do. In the limited time available to me I want to mention some of the main points that were covered in the course of the debate. First of all I wish to quote from the introduction to the report which was written by Bishop Monrad Norderval, Chairman of the Convocation of Norwegian Bishops. In the introduction he stated:

On 1 February 1972, a debate took place in the Norwegian Parliament on the question: Can anything be done on the part of Norway to end the persecution of Christians in the countries the other side of the Iron Curtain.

Members of all the five parties now represented in the Parliament took part in the debate.

During the debate, reference was made to the unanimous statement published by the Convocation of the Bishops of Norway on 11 November 1971, on the subject of the persecution of Christians. This statement in its entirety is reproduced in Appendix 1.

If time permits, I would like to quote from that appendix. The introduction continued:

Many of the countries in which religious persecution is carried out under government auspices have signed the UN Charter on Human Rights, of which freedom of religion is one of the fundamental ones. People who are today suffering under religious persecution appeal to this Charter. On 27 March 1972, i.e., after the Norwegian debate had taken place, 17,000 Catholics in Lithuania protested against systematic religious persecution - which is in contravention to the Soviet constitution - as practised in Lithuania. Appendix II.)

No speaker in the debate denied that religious persecution had been taking place for more than 50 years in the Communist states. All those who spoke deplored this.

They deplored it as, I am sure, all of us in this Parliament deplore it. Further on in the introduction Bishop Monrad Norderval stated:

In his reply to the Question, the Foreign Minister, said: Now that we have the two UN Conventions on Human Rights, which were presented for signature in 1965, it is to be hoped that the time will soon be past when infringements of human rights can be regarded as a purely national concern'.

To our knowledge, this is the first occasion that a national assembly has debated the religious persecution which takes place in the Communist countries. In my capacity of Chairman. I am most grateful for that debate, and I have come to the conclusion that the correct thing to do is to let the governments of all countries have a transcript of the debate. A translation into English will be sent to all governments, both East and West.

I am also taking the liberty of appealing to alt governments - separately and jointly - to take up this matter, so as to put an end to religious persecution, which today is a disgrace to humanity.

There are 2 appendices to Bishop Norderval's statement. One is the text of a unanimous statement by the Convocation of the Bishops of Norway dated 11 November 1971. The second is the text of a protest by 17,000 Catholics in Lithuania dated 27 March 1972 and refers to the systematic religious persecution going on in that country in contravention of the Soviet constitution. Turning very briefly to Appendix 1 referred to by the Bishop, he says:

The Norwegian Convocation of Bishops have unanimously adopted the following strong and clear statement on the suppression of dissidents in the Soviet Union and other Iron Curtain countries.

The wording of the statement is as follows:

Concerning Oppression

In the recent years within our entire culture there has developed a new understanding of one's own guilt over against a humanity where poverty, lack of freedom and oppression continue to be a dramatic reality.

Further on he refers to the text of a minute by a meeting of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches in Addis Ababa in January 1971. This is the text of the minute:

We bad been vocal on the racial issue but less articulate in speaking on other issues where human rights were threatened. We longed and prayed for the day when all member churches would have the privilege of speaking against unrighteousness, not only in other parts of the world but in their own societies. The World Council had to be sensitive to the situation of Churches which did not yet have this privilege and this was the reason for the apparent silence on the violations of human rights in various parts of the world which caused some members to question the political objectivity of the WCC. Basic human rights are denied to millions of men and women, to students, intellectuals, journalists, authors, denying their right to express their own political convictions if these do not coincide with those of the government or the political party, denying the right for citizens to leave their country in order to settle down in another, denying the rights to Christian ministers and lay people who do not accept the limited area of activities permitted by the government.

That is the end of the text from the World Council of Churches minute. The Bishop goes on to say:

We join wholeheartedly in underscoring this. In the statement we issued last year on International Cooperation of Churches, we pointed to a disturbing tendency in the ecumenical resolutions and statements of recent years: Wrongs in the Western World are being condemned with considerably more consistency and strength than violation of human rights in communist countries in the Third World.

He goes on:

With this background, we are pleased with the strong and explicit statement from the meeting of WCC. And we find it fitting to point to three serious situations which there is every reason for the Christian Church to protest. All three of these cases deal with violation of obvious human rights in communistic countries.

t.   We begin by naming the suppression of the Jewish minority in the Soviet Union against which the attention of the world has been repeatedly directed.

2.   Further we point to the suppression of freedom of spirit in the same country which in a grotesque way is expressed in the fact that troublesome critics of the system are being treated as insane and interned in psychiatric facilities. On both these two points there is now being created an international opinion, and we appeal to the churches of the world to participate actively in this forming of world opinion.

3.   In addition to this we must mention the persecution of Christians which continues to be an overt fact in a number of countries behind the Iron Curtain. Officially there prevails in these countries full freedom of religion. One should, however, realize that Christian evangelization is being restricted to such an extent that believers are deprived of the basic opportunities to witness to their faith. Christians who violate such restrictions are being punished as enemies of the state and as offenders of civil law. In reality they are, however, punished for their faith. They are punished because they take their faith seriously and in accordance with the Master's words try to convert people.

We would feel like traitors against the cause of the Gospel itself if we forget this, if we fail to speak up against this, and if we neglect to do that which is within our power to build world wide opinion against this.

He also said that we should make it a point of honour: . . to speak up for those who cannot defend themselves and for the oppressed. The question of the persecution of Christians in our time ought to be raised in all the international meetings where it is possible to speak to those states which are responsible for the persecutions. We also turn to the World Council of Churches and the Lutheran World Federation with an appeal for an untiring endeavour to change these conditions.

Time does not permit me to quote any further points from the debate. It was a very interesting and detailed debate, which was initiated by a woman member of the Norwegian

Parliament. I take this opportunity to repeat that I endorse and support wholeheartedly the sentiments and views expressed in the course of it.







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