David Kilgour

David Kilgour: faith, hope and love in politics

By  Susan Korah, Catholic Register Special
  • April 13, 2022

It was as if the Earth stood still on its axis for a moment. That was when a family friend broke the news to me. On April 5, the Hon. David Kilgour, the distinguished Canadian politician and ambassadeur extraordinaire of global human rights, had boarded his last flight, and gone home to his father in Heaven.

My heart was breaking, but after the first days of grief I found the strength to reflect on his life.  I found comfort in the thought that our Heavenly father had welcomed him with the words: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).

His life was lived in the fast lane of Canadian and international politics — first as an MP and cabinet minister, and upon retirement from politics as a globally renowned human rights activist — but always as the humble servant of Our Lord.

As David himself once stated in a speech at the annual Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast: “Followers of Christianity are asked to obey God’s commandments, to love the Lord their God and serve Him with all their heart and with all their soul. Jesus Christ said, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself’ (Matthew 22:37-39). Christians love God by trying to obey His commandments. God’s love is toward people, and people who have God’s love are committed to loving other people also.”

Tireless crusader in the fight against genocide and ethnic cleansing in any part of the world, Nobel prize nominee, firebrand of Canadian politics who put humanitarian principle above partisanship — tens of thousands of words have been written in David Kilgour’s lifetime and after his death to capture the essence of this extraordinary man.

But Christian love was the modus operandi of his political and personal life. And the “neighbour” he embraced was all of humanity, from the homeless in Ottawa to suffering Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetans and Uyghurs, brutally oppressed by the authoritarian Chinese government that he described as the “Party State.”

One of the joys of his life was his weekly visit to the Union Mission Home in Ottawa where he joined other volunteers to serve lunch to the homeless who showed up there at noon. But he was equally adept at addressing not only the Parliament of Canada, where he was an MP for 27 years, but the movers and shakers of global power politics from the U.S. to Eastern Europe.

A devout Presbyterian, he followed the denomination of his Scottish forebears, but was committed to interfaith dialogue and religious liberty for all. He won the Religious Liberty Award from the International Religious Liberty Association in Washington, D.C., in 2006.

In his private life, he was an incredibly kind and generous friend, and I will always cherish the times we spent together with a circle of remarkable people, including Holocaust survivors and those who escaped Communist brutality in Vietnam.

A power house of youthful energy whose zest for life and wide-ranging interests belied his age — until the last few months of his life when his health took a sudden turn for the worse — David was my also my fellow writer and comrade-in-arms in the ongoing battle against Christian persecution in the Middle East, and in upholding the democratic rights of people in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Myanmar.

Most importantly, he was my Canadian Christian political hero, along the lines of William Wilberforce the 19th-century British MP who fought a courageous battle against slavery in his day.

So, with a heavy heart, but hope for the future, I bid farewell to this larger-than-life hero. His legacy will live on and blaze a path for those who survive to carry on his work. He has passed on the torch to countless friends and human rights activists around the world.

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