Whither the United Church?

Jews & Christians

Re: Why The United Church Is Dying, editorial, Aug. 15.

Your editorial claims that “Israel is one of the few places in the whole Middle East where Christians can worship in peace,” while failing to mention that the number of Christians in the Holy Land has gone down from 20% during the Mandatory British rule of Palestine to only 3% following the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. Most Christians, like my family, were forcibly evicted in 1948, and have not been allowed to return. Latin Archbishop Michel Sabbah, the most senior Catholic figure in Israel , best echoes the views of those few Christians that remained behind. He said following an arson attempt on the Church of Annunciation in Nazareth, which is one of the holiest sites of Christianity, “that the person who tried to perform the terrible deed was born and bred on racist views and wild incitement against Christians in particular and Arabs in general.”

Khaled Mouammar, national president, Canadian Arab Federation, Richmond Hill, On

Somali-Canadians feel harassed in Kenya: activists

CBC.ca

Somali-Canadians are often singled out by border and immigration officials in Kenya as
vulnerable people from a wealthy country who are perfect for a shakedown, community
activists say.

“And they’re constantly asked for bribes,” said Ahmed Hussen of the Canadian Somali
Congress. “If they refuse, they run the risk of having the same ordeal as Suaad Hagi
Mohamud.”

The Kenyan border issue gained national attention following the release by Kenya of
Mohamud, the Toronto woman who faced criminal charges in the East African nation
and deportation to her former native Somalia after Kenyan immigration officials —with
Canada’s consent — charged her with identity theft.

Mohamud, 31, was trying to return to Toronto in May after visiting her mother in Kenya.
But immigration officials there said the photo on her Canadian passport didn’t look like
her and threw her in jail. Canadian consular officials agreed and urged Kenyan officials
to prosecute her for allegedly using another person’s passport and being in the country
illegally.

Her case was dismissed on Friday and she was released and repatriated to Toronto on
Saturday only after a DNA test proved her identity.

“This is not an isolated case,” said Osman Ali of the Somali-Canadian Association of
Etobicoke. “Many, many cases like this are happening. People are frustrated … afraid to
travel with their own Canadian passport.”

Toronto restaurant owner Hussein Adani, who is originally from Somalia, said the last
time he was in Kenya he had to bribe immigrant officials with $50 to get out of the
country even though he had a valid Canadian passport.

“Travelling to Kenya as a Somali, you are not Canadian,” he said. “When they see you,
they judge your colour, they don’t see your passport.”

The Canadian Arab Federation said many people don’t trust Ottawa to protect them
when they’re overseas.

“Who will be next?” asked Mohamed Boudjenane, CAF’s executive director. “I think as a
Canadian we should be very shocked and we should be very revolted when our
government is treating between its citizens differently.”

Border corruption

Human rights lawyer Darren Thorne said Canadian consular officials know all about
Kenyan border corruption.

“Our consular officials, who tend to be very good by and large. are well aware of these
circumstances,” he said. “They have more experience with this than anyone else. They
have seen this before from Canadians who have come through.”

The Somali-Canadian Association of Etobicoke is calling on the federal government to
hold an inquiry and to compensate Mohamud for her three-month ordeal.

“The Canadian government has to send a clear message that all Canadians are equal
and should be treated equally,” Ali said.

Both Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon and Public Safety Minister Peter Van
Loan said they have asked their departments to review Mohamud’s case to determine
what went wrong, but they didn’t indicate when the reviews would be completed or
whether they will be made public.

Canadian woman stranded in Kenya back on home soil

By Mike Drolet, Global News

TORONTO — It was an emotional homecoming Saturday for Suaad Haji
Mohamud, the 31-year-old Toronto woman whose nightmare stranding in Kenya
ended late last week when a Kenyan court dropped charges of using someone
else’s passport and being illegally in the country.

Mohamud landed at Pearson International Airport Saturday afternoon, ending a
three-month ordeal that began when officials said she didn’t look like her
passport photo.

“I’m really happy to come home,” Mohamud told a crowd of supporters gathered
at the airport, as she embraced her son, Mohammed Asbscir, 12.

Mohammed, who had not seen his mother for all that time, was among the mob
of supporters, singing and waving Canadian flags, who greeted Mohamud as she
arrived. “I’m very happy to be with my son,” Mohamud said, wiping away tears.

Mohamud had only planned to be in Kenya for three weeks. But when she
arrived at the Nairobi airport on May 21 to board her flight back home to Toronto,
a Kenyan immigration official said she did not look like the woman pictured in her
four-year-old passport.

What was up for debate was the size of her lips, said Mohamud.

The Canadian High Commission in Nairobi sided with the official, saying it carried
out “conclusive investigations” and confirmed Mohamud was an “impostor.”
Kenyan authorities then charged her with possessing and using a passport
issued to another person, as well as being present unlawfully in the country even
though she provided half a dozen pieces of identification proving she was who
she said she was.

In spite of that, Canadian consular officials voided her passport and sent it to
Kenyan authorities as evidence in their prosecution.

In all, Mohamud spent eight days in jail before being released on bail.
But her legal troubles continued until last week when DNA testing finally proved
her identity.

A Kenyan judge dropped the charges against Mohamud Friday, with the
Canadian High Commission in Nairobi providing her with emergency travel
papers the same day.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, and others, slammed the federal government
for its handling of the case, saying there was “no excuse” for the way Mohamud
was treated.

The federal Opposition said Friday Mohamud’s ordeal shows Ottawa is not doing
enough to guarantee the rights and safety of Canadian citizens abroad.

“Holding a Canadian passport must mean the Canadian government will protect
you — no matter where, no matter when,” Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said in
a news release. “Instead, the Harper government handed Suaad Mohamud’s
passport over to Kenyan officials to aid in her prosecution. She’s only the latest
Canadian endangered abroad by a government that picks and chooses which
citizens it wants to protect.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper defended his government’s actions, saying
officials were working to get Mohamud home.

“There are more and more Canadians who have challenges — when they’re
abroad — of very different kinds,” Harper said in Chelsea, Que., Friday. “The
Department of Foreign Affairs does what it can to aid people, but we always
advise people to be cautious when they’re travelling.”

On Saturday, family spokesman Abdi Warsame said despite the controversy over
the Canadian government’s response, Mohamud “feels more Canadian than ever
before.”

“She was jailed for eight days for something she didn’t do,” he told media crews
at the airport.

“She was accused of being an impostor,”_Warsame said. “Now that she’s finally
home with her son she’s very happy.”

Khaled Mouammar, president of the Canadian Arab Federation, called the
government’s response to Mohamud’s case a “disgrace.”

“It’s another blemish in the history of Canadian human rights,” he said Saturday.
“You can’t expect to get protection from the Kenyan government . . . but you
expect it from the Canadian government.”

© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service

Canadian government owes a public apology to Suaad Hagi Mohamud

The Canadian Arab Federation (CAF) finds the treatment Suaad Hagi Mohamud received at the hands of Canadian officials to be disgraceful. We echo the sentiments of Premier McGuinty of Ontario that “something is fundamentally wrong when we can’t count on the Canadian government to stand up for Canadians.”

Suaad’s ordeal is yet another example of how Mr. Harper’s government is out of touch with Canadians. Just as with the case of Abousfian Abdelrazik, the Canadian government seems indifferent to the plight faced abroad by a growing number of Canadians. It appears that the Canadian government is trying to create two types of citizenship based on one’s religion and skin colour.

CAF is relieved that Suaad has been cleared to come home. However, we want processes put in place to ensure that this never happens again. CAF joins Ms. Mohamud in demanding an apology from the Harper government for the hardship that she and her family experienced over this ordeal.

Kidnapped soldiers `cards to trade’ – Israeli believes brother is safe Group hopes to raise $20M in aid

By Steve Rennie
The Toronto Star

The brother of one of two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah guerillas last month said
yesterday he’s confident the militant Lebanese group will not harm his older sibling.

Though Yair Goldwasser hasn’t heard from his brother since he was captured July 12,
he said Hezbollah needs the two soldiers as bargaining chips in its negotiations with
Israel.

“They need them as cards to trade, so they’ll have to keep them alive … in the best
shape as possible,” Goldwasser said.

Hezbollah captured Ehud Goldwasser, 31, and Eldad Regev, 26, in a cross-border raid
last month that quickly triggered a bombing campaign by Israel on southern Lebanon.

Hezbollah has responded by firing rockets into northern Israel.

About 800 people — overwhelmingly Lebanese civilians — have been killed in the
conflict.

Ehud, a reserve soldier in the Israeli army, was due to finish his one-month stint the day
he was captured, his brother said.

Yair Goldwasser, 27, was in Toronto to promote the launch of the UJA Federation’s
Israel Emergency Campaign. The Jewish organization launched the campaign to raise
money for humanitarian aid for Israelis caught in the conflict.

UJA Federation spokesman Howard English said the group wants to raise $20 million, to
be used solely for the humanitarian and social needs of the more than one million
residents of northern Israel it says have been displaced since fighting began.

The group plans to raise money through online donations, direct mail, and face-to-face
and telephone solicitations, he said.

The UJA Federation said the money would be used to move endangered children to
safer parts of Israel, provide medical and psychological support for Israelis, buy supplies and food, find new homes and jobs for those who have been affected by the conflict and
rebuild war-torn parts of the country.

Mohamed Boudjenane of the Canadian Arab Federation said in an interview that Muslim
groups are also trying to raise money to help people in Lebanon.

But Boudjenane said it’s difficult for Muslim groups to fundraise because of public
suspicion about organizations that collect money for Arab or Muslim causes.

“A lot of people are very unsure when they send their money, they’re not sure where it
goes, because of all this fear created by government legislation, by the main public
discourse, which is making us almost as criminals if we fundraise for Arab or Muslim
countries,” he said.

Boudjenane said a larger problem is getting aid to Lebanon because of heavy attacks in
the region.

“That’s the main problem. We need the ceasefire to be able to send that help to people,”
he said. “Different groups are putting together help and donations to send to the people
in Lebanon.”

Ya’acov Brosh, Israel’s consul general to Toronto and western Canada, said it is “very
unlikely” Israel would agree to a ceasefire that doesn’t include the release of Ehud
Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.

“Certainly, the position is these soldiers must be released immediately,” he said. “I don’t
believe Israel will agree to a ceasefire which will not include this item, but we shall have
to wait and see.”

Yair Goldwasser said the release of the captives is the “most important” part of any
ceasefire talks.

“We never leave the wounded behind,” he said. “It’s a very personal thing for the State
of Israel.”

With files from Associated Press