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Rally promotes peace, social harmony

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By Larry Kusch

An American diplomat joined local religious and community leaders at the Manitoba Legislative Building on Wednesday to promote peace and social harmony in the wake of recent incidents of bigotry and violence at home and abroad.

A crowd of about 50 people attended a hastily organized event to drive home the message that hate, ignorance and divisive rhetoric are unacceptable.

The show of unity was a response to several recent incidents, including the discovery of anti-Semitic posters in downtown Winnipeg, the violent reaction in Libya to an anti-Islam video produced in the United States and offensive new cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a French satirical magazine.

"This is the time for us, at least, in this little corner of the world to show people that we all stand together — that hate cannot divide us and violence cannot divide us," said Shahina Siddiqui of the Islamic Social Services Council.

Her group organized the event along with the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg. The gathering included leaders from the Anglican, Roman Catholic and United churches as well as the Hindu, Jewish, Mennonite, Sikh, Baha'i and aboriginal communities.

Timothy Cipullo, the U.S. Consul to Winnipeg, said his government unequivocally rejects the "message and content" of a 13-minute American-made video that is reported to have motivated the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Libya. But the video’s release did not justify the brutality that followed, he said. "I think that people of faith, regardless of their faith, recognize that there is no justification whatsoever for this sort of violence and targeted killings."

Later, Cipullo said the United States is gratified by the support it has received from Canadians in the aftermath of the attack.

"We’ve had a tremendous outpouring of sympathy, condolences at the embassy in Ottawa and at all our missions," he said. "I’ve heard it personally here in Manitoba."

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

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