Just one question for the Tory leadership candidates

Tomorrow night Alberta will have a new premier. Either Doug Horner, Alison Redford, or Gary Mar will win the second ballot in the Progressive Conservative leadership race tomorrow and, since Alberta is virtually a one-party state, will become the new leader of our province as well.

During the campaign the candidates have debated many issues, but there is just one that is dear to my heart. I would like to ask the three remaining candidates this question: ‘Gary, Alison, and Doug: which do you think is more important: NHL hockey, or enough teachers to do a good job of teaching our children?’

I have a very personal interest in this question. You see, my daughter worked very hard to get her education degree, because the only financial help I was able to afford to give her was a free place to stay. She got a small inheritance, and she worked part time, and she worked a summer job through ’til Christmas one year, taking five years to get her B.Ed. instead of four, but she came out without a student loan to pay off. She then decided to take advantage of the opportunity to teach in England and ended up working over there for two years.

My daughter decided to come back to Canada in the summer of 2010, hoping to get a teaching job here. Bad timing! Budgets were so tight and there were so many unemployed teachers around that she was not able to even get her name on a sub list here in Edmonton. And as for getting a job this Fall – forget it! School boards across Alberta were laying off a thousand teachers because of inadequate funding from the government. Consequently, she is now back in England, looking (so far unsuccessfully) for another  job over there.

Meanwhile, here in Edmonton, what does our city council think our province should be spending taxpayers’ dollars on? A brand new hockey arena! Darryl Katz (a millionaire), who owns the Edmonton Oilers (another group of millionaires), apparently thinks that he doesn’t have enough money to build this piece of private enterprise himself. So, like so many capitalists, he wants to be socialist with his costs and capitalist with his profits; he wants the city to contribute money. The city has agreed to put a total of $225 million into the project, and is asking the provincial government – the same provincial government which is apparently too poor to continue to employ the one thousand teachers it laid off this summer –  for another $100 million.

Please understand – I know it is not a simple issue of the next premier of Alberta making a straight choice between $100 million for an Edmonton arena or $100 million to put more teachers in our classrooms. I know that there are many potential projects for funding and that the issue of provincial budgeting is a huge one. But nonetheless, the idea that I might possibly be a citizen of a province that laid off a thousand teachers while giving Edmonton $100 million to build a new arena for its millionaire hockey players somehow sticks in my craw. Just as it sticks in my craw that in our province child and youth care workers (who often put their personal safety on the line) working in group homes still make about $15 an hour, while provincial cabinet ministers make $184,000 a year (one third of it tax free!).

So far, to his credit, Premier Stelmach has said ‘no’ to direct cash grants to Edmonton’s arena project, although he has mused about other ways of helping. But of course, after tomorrow night Premier Stelmach will be out of a job. So I would like to ask the three people who are contending for his job this one question: Gary, Alison, and Doug, which do you think is more important: NHL hockey, or teachers?

I would really like to know.

Missing Felix Hominum

Of all the blogs I read, Felix Hominum was far and away my favourite. I loved Joe’s ability to write about Dante and Augustine, about parenting and making a backyard skating rink, about the Scriptures and about jazz. I loved his sheer writing skill and his down-to-earth and thoroughly mischievous sense of humour.

I find that the majority of blogs are fairly predictable. This one hates the Anglican Covenant, this one hates Obama and all he stands for, this one is absorbed in her own pain, this one thinks gays are going to destroy the world, and so on. But with Joe, you could aways be sure of finding something unexpected, something interesting and absorbing (he was interested in so many things). And it was all based on his deep rootedness in Christ and the long tradition of Christian spirituality and theology.

Since Joe died on August 10th I have continued to check my blogroll every day. I realised this morning that deep down inside, I’ve been hoping against hope for a new post on Felix Hominum. And it came to me in a fresh way this morning that this is not going to happen. And I can’t deny that this thought caused me a tear or two.

Rest in peace, Joe, and rise in glory. I hope there are blogs in the kingdom.

Update on Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani

Early this morning, the ACLJ received this troubling news from Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani’s attorney in Iran, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah. Mr. Dadkhah firmly denies that the court has agreed to overturn Pastor Youcef’s death sentence. He believes this is a lie spread by the Iranian secret service, even to members of his own family, to stop the media from reporting on this case.

Read the rest here. And please pray.

Please pray for Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani

The following article is lifted in its entirety from the website of Christian Solidarity Worldwide. Please pray.

Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani has twice refused to recant his Christian faith during two court hearings held in Rasht, Gilan Province on 25 and 26 September. Sources close to CSW indicate that recanting will again be demanded at sessions scheduled for 27 and 28 September, and that if he continues to refuse, he will be executed thereafter.

Pastor Nadarkhani was tried and found guilty of apostasy (abandoning Islam) in September 2010 by the court of appeals in Rasht. The verdict was delivered verbally in court, while written confirmation of the death sentence was received nearly two months later. At the appeal in June 2011, the Supreme Court of Iran upheld Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani’s sentence, but asked the court in Rasht, which issued the initial sentence, to re-examine whether or not he had been a practicing Muslim adult prior to converting to Christianity.  The written verdict of the Supreme Court’s decision included provision for annulment of the death sentence if Pastor Nadarkhani recanted his faith.

Following investigation, the court in Rasht has ruled that Pastor Nadarkhani was not a practicing Muslim adult before becoming a Christian.  However, the court has decided that he remains guilty of apostasy because he has Muslim ancestry.  Pastor Nadarkhani’s lawyer, Mr Mohammed Ali Dadkhah, has made it clear to the court that the repeated demand for recanting is against both Iranian law and the constitution.  The court replied that the verdict of the Supreme Court must be applied, regardless of the illegality of the demand.

The death sentence for apostasy is not codified in the Iranian Penal Code.  However, using a loophole in Iran’s constitution, the judges in Rasht based their original verdict on fatwas by Ayatollahs Khomeini, the “father” of Iran’s revolution in 1979, Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, and of Makarem Shirazi, currently the most influential religious leader in Iran.

Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, of the Church of Iran denomination, was arrested in his home city of Rasht on 13 October 2009 while attempting to register his church. His arrest is believed to have been due to his questioning of the Muslim monopoly on the religious instruction of children in Iran. He was initially charged with protesting; however the charges against him were later changed to apostasy and evangelising Muslims. His lawyer, Mr Mohammed Ali Dadkhah, a prominent Iranian human rights defender, is also facing legal difficulties. On Sunday 3 July a court in Tehran sentenced Mr Dadkhah to nine years in jail and a 10-year ban on practicing law or teaching at university for “actions and propaganda against the Islamic regime”. He is currently appealing the sentence.

CSW’s Special Ambassador Stuart Windsor said, “CSW is calling on key members of the international community to urgently raise Pastor Nadarkhani’s case with the Iranian authorities. His life depends on it, and we have grave concerns regarding due process in this case, and also in that of his lawyer, Mr Dadkhah. The verdict handed down to Pastor Nadarkhani is in violation of the international covenants to which Iran is a signatory, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICPPR), which guarantees freedom of religion and freedom to change one’s religion. It also violates article 23 of the Iranian Constitution, which states that no-one should be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief.”

Time is of the essence. Please take action today.

CSW is calling for urgent prayer and action on behalf of Pastor Nadarkhani today.  Please email the Iranian embassy as soon as you can, urging them not to go ahead with the execution following the trial.

Here is my email:

To: Mr. Kambiz Sheikh-Hassani, Chargé d’Affaires and Head of Mission, Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Canada

Dear Sir:

I am writing to express my Christian solidarity with my brother in Christ, Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, currently on trial for his life in Iran on the charge of apostasy, although in fact he was never a practising Muslim adult.

As you are no doubt aware, Pastor Nadarkhani has been charged, and faces execution, solely on the basis of his adopting Christian faith. As such, it seems that the Islamic Republic of Iran is violating its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 18 includes a provision for the right to “have or to adopt” a religion, which has been interpreted authoritatively by the UN Human Rights Committee as including the right to change one’s religion. Iran’s constitution sanctions Christianity as a legitimate minority faith and asserts that Christians are allowed to freely carry out their religious rites. Article 23 asserts that no one may be “reprimanded simply because of having a certain belief”. 

I therefore respectfully express my hope that the Iranian judiciary will cease to pursue their current course of action against Pastor Nadarkhani and will acquit him of all charges, in accordance with Iranian and international law.

I thank you for hearing my request and passing it on to the appropriate authorities.

May God bless you and your country.

Yours faithfully,
Tim Chesterton