The Canadian Intelligence Community and Spiritual Conflicts: A Case for Government Action

Canada should not be idle when it comes to religious tolerance and spiritual understanding. In an exclusive, broad-ranging interview with Pluri Vox correspondent John Atputharajah, community leader Murugesu Sivaneson urged Canada to do more to foster cross-religious dialogue.

"A multiracial nation like Canada should have an active organization to promote inter-religious understanding and harmony," Mr. Sivaneson, the leader of Multi Religious Worship Canadians (MRWC), one of several cross-religious movements subsisting in Canada, said in a unique interview.

As a possible root cause for deep-seated conflict, the former blueprint draftsman also pointed out that some Christian priests tended to look down upon people of other faiths and criticised other religions from the pulpits. "In that matter," he explained, "they cannot be different from Muslims," some of whom, he indicated, hold the view that "those who do not believe in Allah are to be doomed." This perspective view can be contrasted with a recent comment by First Bapist Church Reverend Michael Morris, who noted that many White churchgoers consider it "a step down" to worship in a Black Church with a Black Minister. Arabic community Bishop Ephram Aboudi also points out that Canadian mainstream media scrutinizes Muslim Arabs, largely ignoring the Christian Arabic reality in North America. Mr. Sivaneson also cited Russians and Greeks, who "tend to live in self-centred enclosures," and urged less rivalry and more cooperation. "If they were true to their faith, they would not decry people of other religions," Mr. Sivaneson explained "Christians should enable all the people of the world to share the blessings of God."

Since September 11, 2001, certain religious groups and charities have been under increased, direct pressure from the Canadian government, including the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (FINTRAC).

In its deliberations on the contents of Bill C-36 last fall, Special Senate Committee member Senator David Tkachuk (Saskatchewan) stated that "we are all seeking ways to prevent injury because we believe that at one time or another there will be groups put on the list that should not be on the list." The list the Senator referred to is comprised of organizations whose charitable status may be investigated and possibly revoked. Pluri Vox has already reported on at least two communities calling on the federal government to review and revoke competing communities' charitable status.

This cross-cultural denouncing was predicted. In October 2001, Security and Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) Chair Paule Gauthier remarked that the proposed changes to Canadian legislation contained in Bill C-36 would "generate a substantial increase in complaints to the committee," because the (CSIS) Act permits Canadians "to complain about any act or anything done by CSIS, " she explained. "Many of the individuals and organizations listed, as well as those who have been denied charitable status, will likely complain to SIRC," Ms Gauthier added when questioned on ways in which groups doing fundraising in Canada may be able to obtain have a review of a revocation of charitable status.

Mr. Sivaneson's organization has maintained its not-for profit status since 1999, when it was founded as an inter-religious foundation to promote spiritual dialogue. Other informal groupings involving Christian, Jewish and Christian religions exist as well. But Mr. Sivaneson argued further that cataclysmic events like the September 11 tragedy could be avoided "if there were a world-wide awakening to counteract the grave problems of religious rivalry." Leaders of faiths, he noted, "are experts in propagating their religion but rarely practise them," he said, "especially, when pushed in a tight corner." Hence a role for a spiritually-neutral player like the government.

One could argue that secular governments are imperceptibly inserting a hand back in the religious sphere. Canada for example, has partially funded the founding of the Musée des religions in Nicolet Québec, which has been functioning since 1991, and boasts an impressive collection of religious documents from the five main world religions (http://museedesreligions.qc.ca/) On the other end of the spectrum, in the People's Republic of China, the government continues to legislate against and prohibit the activities of cults such as the Falun Gong. However, when Falun Gong sect members sought to disrupt consular activities at a Chinese embassy in Canada recently, it was Canadian security forces were on hand to force the members out of the embassy. Finally, the Church of Scientology, once defended in Canada by one of its most brilliant lawyers, is prohibited to function in Germany.

To foster this - a more fruitful understanding between religious Canadians - Mr. Sivaneson seeks to promote a new form of cross-religious dynamics, with an emphasis on youth, and he sees a role for government. "A multicultural country like Canada must have an organization to promote cordial relationships," he emphasized.

No religion or spiritual leader alone could manage the task. For example, describing Hinduism as a "relatively a tolerant religion that accepts and accommodates the goodness in other religions," Mr. Sivaneson nonetheless added that Hindus should also "get over their lukewarm attitude to religion and meditate on their father- the Lord Siva at all times."

The MRWC founder also outlined his plans for his community and interest of bringing all the communities into it. The first step in his long-term plan requires not less than three acres of land to establish his multi-religious worship centre where people of diverse faiths could meet. Eventually, the centre would feature an auditorium, a gymnasium, and classrooms and conference rooms, especially for youths. Adolescents, he said, "need both physical and spiritual exercises."

Mr. Sivaneson, 75, and a retired structural designer from Srilanka, initially contacted the late Mr. S.V. Rajanayagam, a founding member of the Tamil Christian Church of Canada, and an educational planner with the Toronto District School Board, to help him with the initial organisation of MRWC. Ultimately, Mr. Sivaneson said he also wished to recruit Canadian Parliamentarians to work towards the realization of his cross-spiritual project.

Meanwhile, in its latest activities, FINTRAC is concentrating on warning Canadians about their financial dealings with the Pacific island-state of Nauru, the world's smallest republic, boasting some 11,000 residents ekeing a living from their phosphate-rich 12 square kilometer island, and whose official currency is the Australian dollar. "Reporting entities should exercise an enhanced level of caution in dealing with financial transactions to, or from, Nauru," FINTRAC Director Horst Intscher said.

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