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John Longhurst, Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Canada communications coordinator, is receiving the Manitoba Lieutenant Governor’s Award for the Advancement of Interreligious Understanding.

“In this province where we so proudly embrace multiculturalism, Mr. Longhurst’s vision, passion and commitment to bring voices from our diverse religious and cultural communities together, truly exemplifies the spirit of this award,” said Manitoba Lt. Gov. Janice C. Filmon. “It will be my pleasure to formally recognize Mr. Longhurst for his work in building harmony and understanding in our province, our country, our world.”

Longhurst will receive his award during a virtual event hosted by the Manitoba Multifaith Council on Feb. 16.

Ross Penner, director of Canadian Operations for MDS Canada, congratulated Longhurst and reflected that MDS is honored to have such a talented and compassionate communicator on its staff. “John is respected by his peers, by policymakers, and by all of us at MDS,” said Penner. “We feel fortunate to have someone so highly regarded helping to tell the MDS story.”

In addition to his responsibilities with MDS, Longhurst is also a journalist with the Winnipeg Free Press.

He has been a Winnipeg Free Press Faith Page columnist since 2003; today the paper is the only remaining daily in Canada with reporters dedicated to the religion beat. Much of the credit for that can be attributed to an initiative by Longhurst and the Winnipeg Free Press. In March 2019, Longhurst reached out to faith groups across Winnipeg in a bid to help provide financial support in order to preserve news reporting on faith communities. Some 17 faith-based groups have now lent their support to the project.

Through this initiative, Winnipeg Free Press readers have learned more about the activities and contributions of faith groups. As well, it has increased attendance at events presented by these communities.

As a result,  the diverse audiences at these events fostered dialogue and understanding.

As COVID-19 spread across the world, Longhurst wrote extensively on the response of faith groups and the “pivot” that so many have had to make in these challenging times, as well as noting the COVID-19 stories that have shone a light on the generosity of Winnipeg faith communities without shying away from writing about the thankfully rare examples where groups have behaved in ways that have endangered others.

The award ceremony, which will take place on Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. (Central Time), can be viewed by registering at this link https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZAqdOurpjMvHNfoH_J9cQ8v52Argt9-Sf7a.

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