Spur Ottawa Correspondent
Have you ever wondered how former politicians spend their time? The media often portrays retired politicians as simply living the good life on a gold-plated government pension.
Some retired politicians, however, put their time and energy into serving the Lord. David Kilgour and Jack Murta are examples of two retired members of parliament who are actively engaged in a higher calling. In one form or another they are working in the service of the King.
Both men have occupied seats at the cabinet table, but now once a week at noon you can find them waiting on tables, serving the homeless at the Union Mission.
“It’s one thing I always look forward to,” Kilgour states with obvious enthusiasm. “It keeps me grounded.”
“I have made this my prayer,” Murta adds, “Lord, help me to love you more, because if I love you more, I will love others more. I need to live out that prayer wherever I go.”
Murta served as the Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament for the Manitoba riding of Lisgar from 1970 to 1988. In the Mulroney government of the mid 1980’s, he served first as Minister of State for Multiculturism and later as Minister of State for Tourism.
“Security waves us through saying ‘Ah, it’s the Happy Gang!’”
“I admit I was quite disillusioned with politics by the end. It’s not an easy life—the constant travel and pressures of office.”
After leaving politics, Murta did not return to Ottawa until 2003. It was a man from across the aisle, David Kilgour, who welcomed Murta back. “For the first few weeks I stayed with David and Laura.”
What drew Murta back to Ottawa was his involvement in the Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast. For many years he has been the guiding hand behind the weekly prayer meetings among members of parliament.
“I see this as my vocation now,” he states with calm conviction.
But in his modest way Murta disagrees with the term “guiding hand.”
“It’s really the Lord who does the guiding.”
The group meets on Parliament Hill at 7:00 on Wednesday mornings. Every week, Murta picks up Kilgour and two or three current members of parliament on the way there.
“When we arrive on the Hill, security looks through the window of the car and waves us through. ‘Ah, it’s the Happy Gang!’ they always say.
“Most mornings we have from 20 to 25 MPs in the room—across all party lines. In addition to that we have a prayer meeting for parliamentary staffers at noon. That’s usually a younger set—in their twenties or thirties.”
“An estimated 80 percent of the persecution of faith communities around the world today is done to Christians. That’s a good part of what motivates me to speak out.”
Though David Kilgour actively participates with Murta, his primary area of service and expertise is in a different field.
He was first elected to the House of Commons in 1979 for an Edmonton riding and continued to serve in that role through seven elections, until 2006. In the Chretien government from 1997-2002, he served as Secretary of State for Latin America and Africa. Then from 2002-2003 he served as the Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific.
It’s this broad international experience that Kilgour draws on as he presses for human rights around the world.
“An estimated 80 percent of the persecution of faith communities around the world today is done to Christians. That’s a good part of what motivates me to speak out, but we all need to do it on a united, interfaith front. The cause is any persecuted religious or cultural group.”
Kilgour is active in a number of international organizations which promote democracy and human rights. For him this means a good deal of travel as he speaks on these topics in various world capitals. In January his advocacy work took him to Tbilisi, Georgia.
Earlier this month he spoke at Queens University at a conference organized by the Christian Legal Fellowship. His topic was “Should Christians Speak out on Human Rights?”
But Kilgour does more than give speeches and chair committees. He also has written a number of books. In 2009, along with lawyer and human rights advocate David Matas, he wrote Bloody Harvest: The Killing of Falun Gong for their Organs. For their work Kilgour and Matas won the 2009 Human Rights Prize from the International Society for Human Rights, in Switzerland.
On April 2, David Kilgour will be the plenary speaker at the Ottawa Christian Writers Conference.
“C. S. Lewis called himself God’s terrier. I like to think of myself that way too,” Kilgour says with a grin. “If freedom of religion exists in a country, other freedoms, such as freedom of speech and association will usually exist too.”
Perhaps the examples of Kilgour, Murta, and others like them can help restore the public’s perception of the retired political class.