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Interfaith service offers prayers for peace

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Sometimes making peace is as simple as making a little space for each other.

Three congregations based out of a St. Vital church plan to make a little more space for their neighbours next week by inviting them in to pray for peace. The interfaith service commemorating the United Nations International Day of Peace is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19, at St. Mary Magdalene, 3 St. Vital Rd.

"It's extremely important that we all gather in prayer and surround this whole event in prayer, because it brings a spiritual dimension to the United Nations event," explains Rev. Mary Lysecki of St. Mary Magdalene.

"There are different groups represented and different faiths represented, but we're all praying for the same thing."

That service is one of several faith-based events in Winnipeg marking the UN Peace Day, celebrated internationally on Sept. 21 since 2002.

"For many of us, (peace is) the fundamental, basic message of being part of a faith community," says Dianne Cooper of the faith-based Project Peacemakers.

"We care for each other, we don't waste our money on weaponry, and as much as we can, we try to find non-violent ways to solve conflicts."

Cooper says her group decided to address the federal government's decision to spend $28 million on the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 in a lighthearted evening of skits and song, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 21 at the Free Press News Café, 237 McDermot Ave.

"I think it is important Canadians know their history, but I don't believe there needs to be that much focus (on an event) when we weren't even a country yet," says Cooper, who would prefer Canadians focus on our history of peacemaking and peacekeeping.

After two years of organizing peace day concerts, Winnipeg Rotary Clubs decided to expand their reach in promoting peace, justice and human rights by involving people of faith, says David Newman, co-chairman of the Rotary World Peace Partners Committee.

A member of St. Mary Magdalene, Newman asked his own congregation to host an event, and put out the call to other faith groups. The Rotary Clubs are sponsoring an invitation-only concert on Sept. 21.

Although under renovation, St. Boniface Cathedral is hosting two events: a multilingual, multi-faith prayer service, 7:30 p.m., Sept. 20 in the parish hall, and an outdoor youth rally, 11:30 a.m. Sept. 21.

Participants at the Friday rally will be invited to participate in a global minute of silence for peace, which is planned to roll around the world from New Zealand to Hawaii at noon Sept. 21, says Julie Turenne-Maynard of St. Boniface.

"When our bells ring (at noon), that's when our moment of silence will be," she says.

Rabbi Alan Green of Congregation Shaarey Zedek also plans to invite people to silence through a guided meditation and visualization on peace, 7 p.m., Sept. 20.

"It's only when we meditate that we can find the inner depths of our being, and there we find a reservoir of peace, energy, intelligence and harmony, and connection with everything and everyone in the world," explains Green.

Because of security concerns, the synagogue event was initially billed for invited guests only, but Green says anyone interested in peaceful prayer and meditation is welcome to attend.

"We are open to almost anyone coming," he says.

"We don't want any bombers, graffiti artists or publicity seekers to come. But those people aren't generally interested in peace."

Although Lysecki's Anglican congregation has not faced issues of security here in Winnipeg, the church has come to understand not all people in the world have the same freedom to worship and live in safety.

"You get a sense of how important faith has been to people who have been through difficult times," explains Lysecki, referring to the groups from Pakistan and the Congo that share space with the Anglicans in their St. Vital building.

"We are often not challenged to call on our faith in the same way."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 15, 2012 J13

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