Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 29, 1999
A celebration of equality
People of all faiths unite to challenge racial discrimination
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Edmontonians marked the international day for the elimination of racial discrimination March 22 with a festival of song and prayer.
Children from Bishop Greschuk School led the City Hall noon ceremony singing We Can Change the World and Black and White.
Representatives of 13 different faiths prayed in many languages for an end to racial prejudice. They included Aboriginal, Hindu, Jewish, Zoroastrian, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Unitarians, Sikh, Jain, Baha'i and Eckankar.
The Edmonton Interfaith Centre for Education and Action organized the hour-long service. This is the seventh year the service has been held in Edmonton. In past years bishops, business people and students have led the prayers.
This year most faith representatives were educators - from high school teachers to university and theological college professors. Organizers said they focused on educators so they can spread a message of tolerance among young people in schools and universities.
More than 160 people attended the event, including the 95-member student choir from Bishop Greschuk School.
In 1966, the United Nations declared March 21 the International Day of the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in memory of those killed and wounded in peaceful demonstrations against apartheid in Sharpeville, South Africa in 1960.
"Apartheid now is gone but racial discrimination continues in all countries, including Canada," observed Gloria Chambers, a consultant with Edmonton Public Schools.
Chambers called for a personal commitment to struggle against racial discrimination and to widen our circle of friendship.
Racial discrimination has somewhat diminished since the end of apartheid but continues in different forms in different parts of the world, noted Interfaith Centre director the Rev. Donald Mayne, a retired United Church minister.
Examples of racial discrimination include recent slurs against a New Democrat MLA in the Alberta Legislature and the treatment of the Lubicons, who have been fighting for a land settlement for some 50 years, he noted.
"There are even people at this service who have felt discriminated," Mayne said. "By praying together, groups become aware of other groups in the city and come to understand each other."
In Islam there is no place for racism, although some use the Scriptures to justify it, noted Muslim representative Sal Mugrabi.
"Racism is a tool of Satan to push us further apart," Mugrabi said, calling for an end to racism against people as well as against animals and nature.
Holding an eagle feather on his hand, aboriginal leader Michael Marrier called for an end to discrimination against aboriginal people and all who suffer because of their race.
"May this country of ours be free from racial discrimination," he said. He prayed for two-and-four-legged creatures, for nature and for all victims of alcohol, gambling and natural disasters.
Racial discrimination has been around for thousands of years and "we need to pray to eradicate it," noted Zoroastrian representative Ava Ellen Fast. "Let's pray that generosity triumphs over indifference, that love triumphs over hatred."
Rosaleen Zdunich, a Catholic who is resource coordinator for the Interfaith Centre, said racial discrimination is seen in newspaper reports describing fights between high school gangs of different ethnic origins.
"Edmonton is not isolated from racial discrimination," she lamented, adding prayer can lead to action to eliminate it.
"In prayer we get to know the heart and religion of one another. And once we know one another that erases the fear. It's fear and lack of education that causes racism."