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Vernon group combats religious hate crimes with education

Hundreds showed their support for Quebec City mosque shooting victims at a vigil held at the Kelowna Islamic Centre Jan. 31, 2017. A small reception was also held in Vernon.
March 03, 2017 - 4:30 PM

VERNON - A group in Vernon wants to give residents a chance to learn about other faiths in the community, in large part to get ahead of a wave of hate crimes popping up across the country.

The Vernon Interfaith Bridging organization is organizing a Sacred Spaces Tour on March 11 which will introduce people to some of the many faiths represented in the local community, organizer Richard Birnie says.

“This is an opportunity for members of the public to learn about other faiths and cultures and experience something unique in their own community. You do not have to belong to any particular faith group to attend. We welcome everyone,” he says.

The purpose of the event is to dispel stereotypes, increase understanding and building friendships, he says.

Earlier this year, six people were left dead after a shooting at a mosque in Quebec City. In the past month, other mosques were vandalized, and cases of anti-Semitism have cropped up everywhere from condominiums to universities.

“With the rise in hate crimes — not in Vernon but around North America and in Quebec — it’s good to get to know different cultures and people,” Birnie says. “I think we have to get ahead of it. A lot of times, people sit back and just see what they see on T.V. We have to get out and see the positive side of these religions.”

The tour will include a visit to the Vernon Mosque and Islamic Centre, followed by a First Nations ceremony in Polson Park and presentations on the Baha’i and Buddhist faiths at the People Place.

He says the tour is an opportunity to learn more about the different faiths in the community, and get an inside look at at some of the city’s sacred places. If you’ve ever driven by the Vernon Mosque and wanted to know more about it, this is your chance. 

“There’s never really an official opportunity for them to walk through the doors and see what’s inside and meet people,” Birnie says.

During the tour, people will get to hear from the mosque’s imam, who will give a presentation on the Islamic faith. There will be an opportunity to ask questions, and have conversations, Birnie says.

He believes people in the community are interested in learning about other religions and showing their support for diversity.

“As an example, when there were those shootings in Quebec, there was a reception at the mosque here in Vernon. There were a lot of people there. A lot of people brought cards and flowers. I think people are concerned and want to show support for the different faiths,” he says.

In the future, he says the group would like to offer more tours focussing on other religions and cultures in the area.

“We have lots of sacred spaces,” he says.

The tour is set for Saturday, March 11, starting at 9 a.m. at the Vernon Mosque. A full schedule is shown below. All ages and faiths are welcome to attend.

Vernon Interfaith Bridging began in 2010 as a project with the Vernon and District Immigrant and Community Services Society and was funded by Embrace B.C. The vision for the group is to live in a community where people of different faiths and cultures live in relationships of peace and understanding. The tour is funded by the provincial government, through the B.C. Refugee Fund.

Image Credit: Vernon Interfaith Bridging

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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
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