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December 16, 1994 Halifax Herald

Thanking Great Spirit for blessing of being Canadian

This Christmas season, letís take a few moments to reflect upon a God-given blessing - being Canadian. In order to put everyone in the proper mood for the exercise, I'll take us on an imaginary trip to a sampling of trouble spots around the Globe. And while traveling, I'll touch upon a subject that is the root cause of a great deal of disharmony among the peoples visited - religion.

In transit, letís ask ourselves: How many millions of people have perished over the passage of time, at the hands of people who envision themselves as the epitome of righteousness? The toll must be uncountable. One can only conjecture that the Great Spirit must suffer the pains of the condemned when seeing these people who, in His name, oppress, persecute and demean their brothers and sisters.

These zealots have at their hand the Bible, Koran, Torah, etc., for reference, and call upon their perverted interpretations of these great books as justification for the havoc they wreck upon those they view as sinners. In trying to get the supremacy of their views across, they will unleash civil war, drive their peoples into the depths of poverty and degradation, and invoke as grounds the preposterous notion that they do it all to fulfil God's desire to chastise the infidels. In the eyes of these madmen, the only salvation for those perceived as sinners is that they abandon their beliefs and embrace theirs.

The Irish have had among them a religious war that has raged on for decades. Thousands have died to accomplish what common sense and goodwill will probably accomplish now that the antagonists, Catholics and Protestants, have laid down their arms and decided to discuss their differences. Let us hope that the Great Spirit will bless them with the wisdom to lay aside their hatreds and build a future as a people united for peace.

The Indian sub-continent is another place where religious intolerance is nourished, and prospers. To date, the country, mainly upon religious grounds, has been subdivided twice and now constitutes three countries - India proper, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. In the process, tens of thousands have died to prove the unprovable - that their way to worship the Great Spirit is the best. In the future, with rival religious factions pulling in many directions, these countries may very well be subdivided many times over again, and eventually be reduced to a multitude of small states trying to prosper in a sea of hatred. Then again, maybe someday, instead of finding new ways to demean and despise one another, common sense will prevail and these people will reunite and direct their energies towards building the great country that India has the potential to become.

Now we skip over to the Middle East and visit the hatred religion has spawned there, and think about the blood it has caused to be spilled; Jews and Muslims going head to head, one Muslim sect going against another and so on. In some of these countries, religious fanatics have taken over and ride herd over their flocks like the slave drivers of old. People are told what to think, what to eat, etc.; and may the Great Spirit help them, if they speak up against the oppression they suffer - it has meant the death penalty.

Then we visit Bosnia and sample the sickness that has driven that country into civil war. In this instance, we have Christian killing Christian as well as Muslims, and Muslims killing Muslims as well as Christians. These people are all of Slavic descent who live in a beautiful country turned into a hell-hole of hate, because of religious differences.

If these people would only take a lesson from the unreasonable hatreds that drives their civil war, and begin to respect one another and have tolerance for different views, they could soon end the horrible suffering that they have subjected their own people to - but they won't. They would sooner suffer deprivations and live in misery, with visions of righteous victories, than to have peace and prosperity!

These are but a few examples of the excesses carried out in the name of God by religious zealots. Rampant intolerance for diverse views is the root cause driving the hate.

The Pope has recently condemned those who foster religious wars and, to be candid, it was long past the hour for him to have done so. However, he finally has; now, perhaps someone can persuade the leaders of the other great religions to do the same.

While enjoying this Christmas season and our blessings, letís make a commitment among ourselves to fight intolerance whenever it raises its ugly head in our midst. By so doing, we can assure, as much as humanly possible, that our peoples will never suffer the horrors being suffered by people living in countries governed by senseless intolerance!

May the Great Spirit be with you and bless you with happiness this joyous season, and may He watch over you and yours throughout the new year!

Daniel N. Paul

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