The Peace through the Arts Festival runs November 9&10 at Peace Mennonite Church, 11571 Daniels Road, in Richmond. For times and details visit mccbc.ca or contact Fontaine at 604 612 5577 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Abbotsford, BC – The song Amazing Grace has a special place in Mary Fontaine’s life. Fontaine is from the Mistawasis First Nation and is the executive director and founder of Hummingbird Ministries, a ministry of the Presbyterian church. When she sings Amazing Grace, she often thinks of her mother who was a Cree and a “strong Presbyterian.”
“She had a lot of respect for the church but she never understood why the church she loved did not share the love and respect she had for her Cree culture,” Fontaine says.
Fontaine is one of the artists who will be performing at third annual Peace through the Arts Festival, which will be held at Peace Mennonite Church in Richmond. This multi-cultural arts festival is intended to build and heal relationships between First Nations people and the multi-cultural community in which we all live. The idea came to Fontaine through her own experience of healing via music.
“People have an easier time coping and dealing with difficult things in life when it’s cushioned somehow through music, drama, stories and dance,” she says, adding that since there is often little opportunity for First Nations people and Canadians to interact and share life, there is also little opportunity to share their culture, express regret and forgiveness and to heal. “Inviting people to be part of (this festival) is a way to provide an outlet for healing.”
Darryl Klassen, the Aboriginal Neighbours program coordinator for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) BC, is excited to be part of this festival which brings together many cultures.
“MCC has worked in partnership with Mary Fontaine and Hummingbird Ministries for a long time. We are so pleased to be partnering on Peace through the Arts, which provide a genuine and profound window into the heart of a people and their culture,” Klassen says. “As we share through the mediums of song, story, dance and the visual arts, we learn from and about each other. As we do so we develop authentic understanding and empathy for those who are different than us.”
The weekend will include music, dance and drama performances as well as visual art by a variety of artists from different cultures. Fontaine is particularly excited by the Grand Entry of Nations – a dance procession that will open the festival on Friday night and serves as a symbol of peace that the festival is trying to promote. She hopes that those who attend will come away with a better understanding of each other and in particular of First Nations people who are often perceived as people living in poverty and dealing with addictions.
“We are not just a great field ripe for missions. We have been hearing the Gospel for hundreds of years and we hope people will begin to see how God has been working in our lives and in and through our cultures,” she says. “Yes, some of these social ailments are rampant among us but that is not our identity. I hope people will begin to listen and care and walk with us as God’s people, respecting us and accepting us. We can’t heal ourselves if we cannot claim our own indigenous identities and our cultures.”