Sunday, July 16, 2017 – 1:00 PM
Members of all faiths and ethnic groups are invited to participate in the annual Genocide Memorial Service to be held at 1 p.m. July 16 at 9916-154 Street, Edmonton, Alberta. This event is sponsored by the Unitarian Church of Edmonton and the Edmonton Interfaith Centre for Education and Action. Rev. Audrey Brooks of the Unitarian Church is the facilitator.
Each year, individuals from different faiths and cultures, are invited to place a large stone in a memorial garden, inscribed with the name of a person, place, or event that involved the death of an individual or group caused by violence of any kind. During the service those who place the stones are invited to tell the audience why it is essential to honour those whose names are inscribed on the stones. Members of many faith groups give brief comments, with prayer, music and reflection as part of the service.
In particular, the Memorial Garden and ceremony is dedicated to honor those who were murdered in the Holocaust and other instances where groups of people were eliminated by planned attacks on them. Groups that placed memorial stones in previous years are invited to the service every year, in order to continue to bring honour to their dead.
Time for conversation and refreshments follow the service.
The annual Genocide Memorial Service began as a witness to planned violence committed against human beings because of wars, greed, ethnic cleansing, slavery, gender bias, colonial appropriation of people and their lands, instances of neglect and political oppression, that resulted in mass extinction of helpless men, women and children.
We, the people, must speak out, must stand as witnesses to genocide, and never let the world forget that humanity stands in a pool of its own blood; this is unacceptable. It is hoped that we grow into a collective voice so powerful that our witness and protest is heard throughout the world, and others take up this cause against the horrible barbarity of genocide.
The stones in the Memorial Garden cry out against the murder of innocent people. There are ways to resolve conflict other than mass destruction of human beings, in the name of politics, greed and exploitation of resources.
Albert Einstein said, “Peace cannot be kept by force, it can only be kept by understanding…all my life I have hated war; it is the greatest curse of man’s history. It comes from absolute ignorance, absolute greed, and absolute cruelty…some paths a man takes cannot be retraced. Some acts can not be undone.”
To give you an overview of the event:
Each year the service begins with a smudge and prayer by an aboriginal elder. Brian Kiely and I facilitate the service. Gordon Ritchie plays the harp as the stones are dedicated. In the past we have had the Rwanda Children’s Choir; Raging Grannies singing “Circle Round for freedom.” Other participants were: Notre Dame De Bananas; Martin Kerr; Anthony Burbidge and Sebastian Berrara performed; as well as a former student played the Japanese flute on behalf of Kita no Taiko drummers who were touring at the time. Kris Wells and Mickey Wilson placed stones on behalf of LBTQT persons; Ricardo Acuna and Leo Campos represented the South American people; Emmanuel Guitara from Rwanda; Dr. Junaid Jahangir, Muslim GLBTQ advocate has been a keynote; others from the Edmonton Interfaith Centre, representing diverse faith groups have spoken . There are presently 40 stones in the garden. Often, passers-by stop and read the inscription on the large stone at the front of the yard: Catholics will cross themselves and kneel; Muslims usually come into the yard to look at the stones – some people leave flowers; some will have conversation with me if I go out to greet them. Last year 98 persons attended, including members of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Muslims community who placed a large stone on behalf of the Muslim men and boys who were murdered; I spoke with the Adams family today, about representing the Syrian people at the service, but they are leaving for Windsor at the beginning of July, and will miss the service. If anyone knows of another Syrian contact, please share that information with me, so I may invite them to participate.
Rev. Audrey Brooks, Unitarian Chaplain (retired)
University of Alberta Interfaith Chaplains Association
& Member of the Edmonton Interfaith Centre for Education and Advocacy
audbrook at telusplanet.net Phone Audrey at 780-489-8842 for more information about placing your stone or other details. Plastic, weather proof plaques for the stones can be obtained from any engraving firm, such as Elite Sportswear located at 14703- 118 Avenue, or Alberta Stamp & Marking on 10435-79 Avenue.