Founded in July 2001, KAIROS Canada—formerly known as KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives—describes itself as “a coalition of churches and religious organizations devoted to justice in the community, nationally and internationally.” The word kairos, the coalition explains, derives “from the Greek word for … holy or God-given time, time laden with meaning and choice … and new possibilities, a time of repentance, renewal and decisive action”—as opposed to chronos, which denotes ordinary or chronological time.
The KAIROS coalition consists of eleven Canadian churches and church agencies dedicated to “faithful action” that advances “ecological justice and human rights.” One of these member churches is the Mennoninte Central Committee of Canada. For a list of all the member churches, click here.
“Inspired by a vision of God’s compassionate justice” and “informed by biblical teaching,” KAIROS strives to promote “social transformation” that fosters “justice and peace.” KAIROS pursues this goal by means of research, education, advocacy, and collaboration with nearly two-dozen global partners in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean/Latin America, and the Middle East. For a comprehensive list of all KAIROS global partners, click here.
The major issues of concern to KAIROS include the following:1) Sustainability: Asserting that “living sustainably” means “committing to live within Earth’s material limits,” KAIROS states that “sustainable communities require a just and moral economy where people are empowered to participate in decisions affecting their lives, where public and private institutions are held accountable for the social and environmental consequences of their activities, and where the Earth is honored rather than exploited or degraded.” By KAIROS’s reckoning, capitalism fails to fulfill these requirements.
Also under the heading of “Sustainability,” KAIROS is highly concerned with:
* Watershed Discipleship: In an effort to protect the ecological integrity of the Arctic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, the Hudson Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Atlantic Ocean, KAIROS strives to derail “resource development projects like the tar sands, the Northern Gateway pipeline, shale gas fracking,” and more.* Resource Extraction: KAIROS laments that “foreign investors and local elites extract great wealth from poor countries while leaving behind a legacy of social inequality, political corruption, and ecological damage.” Working with its global partners to “brea[k] this curse,” KAIROS strives to “empower poor and marginalized populations in resource-rich countries”—especially in the global South—“to participate in decision-making that affects their lives.”
* Climate Justice: KAIROS maintains that “human activity, such as burning fossil fuels for home heating, transportation and various industrial activities including mining, manufacturing and large-scale farming, is the primary cause of global climate change.” “Historically,” adds KAIROS, “this activity and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions have been the responsibility of the global North, or the wealthy, industrialized nations,” while “the burden of climate change”— in the form of “extreme weather events, drought, flooding, crop failures, destroyed fisheries and loss of habitat and homeland”—has been “disproportionately borne by poor and marginalized communities of the global South, peoples who are the least responsible for the changes we are seeing in the world today.”
Based on this premise, KAIROS reasons that “climate justice” entails not only “making real reductions in carbon emissions,” but also “addressing the social and economic inequities between the rich and the poor” by transferring massive amounts of wealth from industrialized nations to developing nations. Moreover, KAIROS calls for widespread divestment of financial resources “from oil, natural gas and coal companies that contribute to climate change.”
* Global Finance: In an effort to create “a new, more equitable financial architecture,” KAIROS advocates the levying of “Financial Transaction Taxes, also popularly known as the Robin Hood Tax, to raise revenues to fight poverty and finance climate change adaptation and mitigation measures in developing countries.” These taxes would be imposed on “all trades in equities, bonds, derivatives and foreign exchange.”KAIROS charges that capitalist systems based on “speculation, competition, and inadequate regulation” have “denied a decent standard of life to the majority of the world’s population”—favoring “the wealthy,” harming “all those who are oppressed,” and bringing about “ecological destruction.” As a remedy for these various ills, KAIROS proposes “the redistribution of wealth and power for all of God’s creation”; “a new and just international financial architecture oriented towards satisfying the needs of people”; a reduction of “the intolerable chasm between the rich and the poor”; and “a system which does not serve greed but which embraces alternative economies that foster a spirituality of enough and a lifestyle of simplicity, solidarity, social inclusion and justice.” Such ideals, says KAIROS, could be “administered by an International Clearing Union, a type of global central bank.”
KAIROS also calls for “reform of taxation” as “a feasible way to reduce inequality, fund social programs, and finance investments [that are] in harmony with Earth’s ecological carrying capacity.” Such reforms would include: “ending tax avoidance by the wealthy and transnational corporations”; “ecological taxation” such as carbon taxes on “activities that pollute or destroy ecosystems”; and steeply “progressive tax reform.” KAIROS approvingly cites the claim of one economist who estimates that the optimal top marginal tax rate—i.e., the rate that would raise most revenue without hurting the economy—could be as high as 83%. “Christian churches have important roles to play as advocates for tax reform” that will “fight poverty,” and “redistribute wealth,” says KAIROS.2) Dignity & Rights: Declaring that human rights are “an expression of commitment to the dignity of all people made in the image of God,” KAIROS focuses heavily on:
* Indigenous Rights: These include “recognition of Aboriginal title and nationhood, and the implementation of Aboriginal land, treaty and inherent rights.” Key among those rights are Aboriginal “access to land and resources,” which governments worldwide “continue to disregard, limit, and terminate.”
* Women of Courage: KAIROS works with women’s organizations and movements for “gender justice” on behalf of those who are “affected by gender-based oppression, particularly Indigenous and migrant women.”* Migrant Justice: KAIROS maintains that “economic globalization” and “free trade” have “destroyed the livelihood” of many people in the Global South, thereby “increasing the global gap between rich and poor,” and “push[ing] many” to “flee poverty” and “look for alternate employment in the North.” In other words, capitalism’s inherent injustices have literally “fueled” migration—both legal and illegal—to North America. To address the problems faced by these migrants, KAIROS urges that they be granted “permanent residence status” so that they may gain better “access to social services” and better protections against employers who subject them to “sub-standard wages, long hours without adequate rest or overtime pay, and verbal or physical abuse.”
* Palestine & Israel: Seeking to “promote a peace that is just for both Palestinians and Israelis,” KAIROS draws a moral equivalence between Palestinian suicide bombings aimed at Israeli civilians on the one hand, and Israel’s targeted killings of Palestinian terrorists on the other. For instance, on March 22, 2004—immediately after the Israeli military’s assassination of Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin—KAIROS stated: “Like suicide bombings, targeted assassinations destroy the fragile trust between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Similarly bereft of any moral distinctions between terrorists who target civilians, and governments that target terrorists, is the set of Basic Affirmations that KAIROS drafted in 2002 regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict. “Both Palestinians and Israelis must be held to a common human rights standard which includes the protection of civilians,” says this document. “All attacks on civilians, whether in pursuit of political ends or as a part of military operations, or for any other reason, are unacceptable and must be deplored.” Mentioning neither the relentless wave of Palestinian terror attacks against Israeli targets, nor the non-negotiable pledge by Hamas to bring about the permanent annihilation of Israel and genocide against the Jews, KAIROS states that “God wants people to live with a certain mutuality” drawn from “the basic Biblical call that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves”; that “all human life is sacred and … violence is wrong”; and that Israelis and Palestinians alike should commit themselves to “building democratic and pluralistic societies.”
In a September 2002 policy paper, KAIROS suggested that a “sustainable and just peace requires” a two-state solution. But the coalition’s summary webpage, by contrast, speculated that “at some point in the future this may take the shape of one bi-national state for two peoples.”
KAIROS has frequently joined other anti-Israel NGOs in accusing the Jewish state of “war crimes” and “collective punishment.” In a November 3, 2003 letter to Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Bill Graham, for instance, KAIROS referred to Israeli house demolitions—where the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) razed Palestinian terrorists’ homes and bases-of-operation—as “war crimes.”
During Operation Cast Lead—a December 2008 military operation targeting Hamas and other terrorists who had been firing massive numbers of rockets from Gaza into southern Israel—KAIROS wrote to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper alleging that “[o]ne and a half million [Palestinian] people living under illegal occupation … have no escape from being bombed as punishment for violent acts they did not commit.” “Mass killings [by Israel] turn youth growing up in despair and humiliation into fighters,” added KAIROS. In yet another letter, KAIROS denounced Israel’s “collective punishment of the people in Gaza” and stated that Hamas’s “[rocket] attacks in no way justify this siege.”In June 2010, after Israeli commandos had boarded a Free Gaza Movement (FGM) ship in the Mediterranean Sea and killed nine of its passengers, KAIROS condemned “the assault and killing of innocent people aboard the humanitarian convoy” that was “attempting to deliver humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza, who have been under a crippling Israeli blockade since 2007.” Notably, KAIROS did not mention that FGM was a pro-Hamas organization; nor that the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Freedom and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), which co-organized the flotilla with FGM, had longstanding ties toHamas, al Qaeda, and the Muslim Brotherhood; nor that as the flotilla headed toward Gaza, it ignored numerous Israeli notifications indicating that its cargo would have to be inspected before the ships could dock; and that when the Israeli commandos rappelled from helicopters onto the decks of one of the vessels (the Mavi Marmara), the IHH-affiliated passengers—among whom were senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood and some 40 Turkish jihadis—responded violently, attacking the commandos with knives, clubs, steel pipes, and stun grenades.
In 2010 KAIROS published a highly politicized and one-sided bulletin for the “World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel” initiative of the World Council of Churches, a major supporter of the Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions movement. The bulletin stated: “For more than 40 years, Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem have been suffering under the Israeli occupation. Day-to-day life is interrupted by the separation wall, checkpoints, house demolitions, ever-expanding settlements, land seizures and inequitable water use policies. Human rights are denied through arbitrary arrests and an intricate web of bureaucratic rules and regulations limiting the most basic of freedoms.”
During November 2012’s Operation Pillar of Defense—an Israeli military initiative designed to stop a relentless barrage of missiles that Hamas terrorists in Gaza were launching into southern Israel—KAIROS issued a statement calling on Israel to “immediately stop its escalating levels of military attack on the people of Gaza.” The statement also maintained that “the basis of the current conflict” was “the Israeli occupation.”
That same month, KAIROS lauded, as “an important and positive step towards peace in the region,” a recently passedUnited Nations General Assembly resolution upgrading the Palestinian Territories to the status of a non-member observer state. “By recognizing Palestinian statehood,” said KAIROS, “the UN has helped level the playing field and balance negotiations between Israel and Palestine towards a successful peace process.”
In May 2013, KAIROS issued a proclamation of support for a United Church of Canada proposal that whenever Canadian stores sold products which were manufactured in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, they should bear “proper identification” so that consumers could “make ethical choices”—i.e., boycott those products. KAIROS also supported calls for “an end to tax exemptions for products from the settlements.”
In July 2014, KAIROS said that peace in the Middle East “requires an end to Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian Territories and related actions such as the blockade of Gaza.”
KAIROS frequently distributes documents published by the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, one of its global partners, alleging that Israel is guilty of “illegal and immoral behavior” and “apartheid practices.” Sabeel actively participates in BDS campaigns and utilizes anti-Semitic language in its publications and statements.The KAIROS website features “resources” and information from numerous anti-Israel NGOs, including European Jews for a Just Peace, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, Jewish Voice for Peace, New Profile, Not In My Name, Sabeel, and the World Council of Churches‘ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel.
* Congo: “Since war broke out in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 1998, more than 5 million people have died—most of them from lack of access to food and health care, but many directly from violence. And though technically the conflict ended in 2003 with ratification of the Pretoria Accord, fighting has continued. Today, the humanitarian situation in eastern Congo is among the worst in the world…. KAIROS works with human rights partners in the DRC … to support human rights and reconciliation in the South Kivu, North Kivu and Maniema regions, as well as the larger Great Lakes region of Africa including Rwanda and Burundi.”
* Colombia: “KAIROS works with human rights groups, churches, women’s organizations and other social movements in Colombia … to oppose militarization, end impunity, defend human rights and promote peace with social justice. Colombia has suffered almost five decades of internal armed conflict, a conflict rooted in huge and growing inequities and fueled by massive amounts of military aid from the United States. The Colombian government has responded to the conflict with a counter-insurgency strategy that targets the civilian population. The result is one of the worst human rights situations in the world.”
* Sudan: “Sudan has faced over twenty years of a civil war that has brought violence, death, and destruction. With the signing of peace accords between the Government and the South in January 2005, new hope came to the country. Yet conflict remains in areas of the country such as Darfur, and both peace and development remain strong concerns. KAIROS works through the New Sudan Council of Churches in the areas of human rights, peace building, and community development.”