March 27, 2020
To: Mr. Bob Dechert, MP, Mississauga – Erindale
From: Marlene Cuthbert
Re: Members of my United Church support Omar Khadr
I write to support a letter sent to you from the Free Omar Khadr Now Committee.
As a member of United Church, I heartily endorse their letter. We’ve researched this case and have corresponded with Omar Khadr since his return to Canada. His responses to a Christian hand of friendship reveal the person described by his U.S. military psychiatrist, Dr. Stephen Xenekis, who interviewed Omar for over 100 hours in Guantanamo & described him as “a nice, decent young man.” The doctor said he was overwhelmed by Omar’s “thoughtfulness, his sensitivity, his civility, his honesty.” Dr. Xenekis said it was wonderful to be able to see Omar again in the Edmonton prison and that — as a physician who believes in trying to do what’s right and following the rule of law – he has a responsibility to be an advocate for Omar. [ > Interview with Dr. Brian Goldman, CBC, Nov. 30/13 ]
Some excerpts from Omar’s letters to United: “…send my greetings and thanks to the congregation at your church for their support and prayer.”(Oct.28/12)
“I’ve been following Nelson Mandela’s (Madiba’s) health and it is saddening to see his condition become worse. But he should be at peace for he has made the world a better place…. From these people we learn to know what is right and pursue it.” (July 9/13)
“This is one of the beauties of faith; it gives us hope even when it doesn’t seem like there is any.” (Oct. 21/13)
Omar greatly admires Nelson Mandela and Omar himself is greatly admired by the people who have come to know him, including professors from a Christian college in Edmonton who have voluntarily taught him since his days in Guantanamo. They find him a keen student who loves to study.
Omar’s punishment is grossly out of proportion. Former child soldiers from other nations have received much support in Canada and elsewhere; yet our former Canadian child soldier continues to be punished, 12 years later. Many of us at United have had 15 year old children. Let us not punish Omar for his name. As Canadians we are all part of a “collective Canadian failure to extend justice and humanity.”(1). We want to see justice prevail.
Our congregation looks forward to welcoming Omar to worship with us when he is released — just as we have welcomed worshippers from both synagogue and mosque in our interfaith programme.
I hope you will take time to become familiar with the truth of this case and respond positively to the ‘Free Omar Khadr Now’ committee letter.
Marlene Cuthbert, Ph.D.