Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom visited Ukraine

October 16, 2014

Andrew Bennett, Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom, on October 8, 2014 visited Ukraine. During his visit Ambassador Bennett was in Kyiv and Lviv, where he met with government officials, religious leaders and civil society leaders.

“We stand with the people of Ukraine as they seek to build a peaceful, democratic and prosperous future in which the right to religious freedom is fully enjoyed by all. The Ukrainian people continue to show resilience, courage and commitment to building a more pluralist, peaceful, democratic and prosperous future while their country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity continues to be threatened by Russian aggression,’’ noted Ambassador.

He met with Ukrainian-Catholic Bishops Bohdan Dziurakh and Josyf Milyan, Metropolitan Anthony Pakanych of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate, archbishop Yevstratiy Zorya of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate, Grand Mufti Sheikh Akhmed Tamim, Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and other government officials as well as representatives of civil society initiatives and Crimean Tatars leaders.

Ambassador Bennett also announced two projects to be supported by the Religious Freedom Fund in Ukraine.

The Office of Religious Freedom is partnering with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe through its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights to increase awareness of international standards on freedom of religion and belief, to prevent and respond to hate crimes, and to facilitate multi-community dialogue on FoRB issues.

The Office is also partnering with the Catholic Near East Welfare Association to educate and promote understanding among the many diverse ethnic and civil communities in different regions of Ukraine.

“It is essential that all Ukrainians, regardless of their church or faith, be allowed to contribute to Ukraine’s democratic development without fear of violence or consequence,” Ambassador Bennett added.

This funding follows the announcement by Prime Minister Stephen Harper earlier this year of $220.9 million in financial assistance to promote economic and social development in Ukraine.

The Religious Freedom Fund, which is managed by the Office of Religious Freedom at Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, aims to increase the capacity of organizations in various countries to directly address violations of freedom through a variety of activities, including awareness-building initiatives, legal and legislative training and support for the promotion of freedom of religion and pluralism.

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