May 6, 2013

EDMONTON – The Phoenix Multi-Faith Society for Harmony has won the Edmonton City Police's first annual award for contributions in combating hate in Edmonton and Alberta.

The Alberta Hate Crimes Committee of the police service was formed in 2002. On Awareness Day it invites communities, governments and police to unite to send the message that hate crimes will not be tolerated.

On Halloween night 2000, two Jewish synagogues were firebombed. On another occasion, three college-aged youth threw a rock through the plate glass of the Muslim Community of Edmonton Mosque.

Edmonton's Jewish and Muslim community leaders stood side-by-side and condemned these attacks.

In the years that followed, leaders from both the Jewish and Muslim communities continued to work closely with the Edmonton Police Service Hate and Bias Crime Unit to identify ways to foster harmony.

Through facilitated meetings from 2002 to 2004, common ground was identified leading to the creation of by-laws for a society to promote harmony and dialogue.

In 2005 the participation of the Christian community was invited, bringing the three Abrahamic faiths together.

The incorporating documents of the Phoenix Multi-Faith Society for Harmony were signed in 2006 by Sol Rolingher, Larry Shaben, Archbishop Thomas Collins, Howard Starkman, Nashir Karmali and EPS Chief Mike Boyd.

As one of the founders said, "We need a way to illustrate that Edmonton is about multi-faith cooperation rather than conflict. We need to inform people.

"We need to tell the stories, from Edmonton's inception to the present day, about how these faith groups cooperated to help build an even stronger and more vibrant city,"

The result was Our Stories, published in 2009. This book contains 33 stories of Abrahamic multi-faith cooperation told by those who lived this kind of interaction in Edmonton.

In December, The Phoenix Society, in cooperation with the Edmonton Interfaith Centre, celebrates the festivals of Hanukkah, Christmas and Eid Al Adha at City Hall. With the public and media present, the three Abrahamic faiths share stories, music and food to celebrate together.

In accepting this award from the Alberta Hate Crimes Committee, the Phoenix Multi-Faith Society for Harmony remains committed to fostering a spirit of harmony and cooperation in our province and city.

Phoenix looks forward to working more closely with the Edmonton City Police and the Alberta Hate Crimes Committee and others in the city of Edmonton to achieve this goal.

That the citizens of this province and city may never live in fear because of who they are or where they are from is the guiding principle of the Phoenix Multi-Faith Society for Harmony.

(Rosaleen Zdunich is a board member of the Phoenix Multi-faith Society.)