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Knox United Church has an incredible story of peace in the midst of war and they want to share it as Remembrance Day approaches.

World War II started in 1939 in Asia and Europe. The Empire of Japan was heavily involved and in December of 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. This led to a distrust for those of Japanese ancestry throughout the United States and Canada. An order was signed in Canada that ordered the removal of all those of Japanese heritage from within 100-miles of the Pacific Coast.

"The Japanese from lower mainland BC were in exile," said Bill Millar, the current pastor of Knox United Church. "They were shipped all over the place."

That included sugar beet farms in Manitoba. The Japanese Canadian's would have to show their papers to get in and out of every city and were not widely accepted in many places. 

"Somewhere in the middle of the war, there was a death [in one of the Japanese communities]," Millar said. "The Japanese Christians wanted to have a funeral service for this person."

Millar says that the group knocked on many churches and were consistently turned away. Then they knocked on the doors of Knox United.

"For whatever reason, Knox said yeah, you can have that," Millar explained.

The group had their service at Knox United, which led to a conversation where the church asked the Japanese Canadians whether they wanted to hold their church services at Knox as well.

"People would still have to show their documents to come in and take part of the services," Millar said. 

That started a long and storied history between Knox and the Japanese community in Manitoba.

"If you were Japanese in Manitoba and you were religious, you were either a part of Manitoba Japanese Buddhist, or you would have been a part of Knox Japanese language church here."

The Japanese church continues to meet once a month at Knox United and Millar believes that allowing them to hold their funeral service there changed something for Knox.

"This facility only makes sense if it's open," Millar stated. "Our whole goal is to have this space open and accessible."

Millar said that Knox United Church was once the largest Protestant church in Manitoba and it doesn't make sense to have all this space and not use it for something.

The church is now a multi-cultural, multi-generational worship space who have taken advantage of their willingness to 'do counter-intuitive and counter-cultural measures,' according to Millar.

The church leadership has evolved as well. The co-pastor when Millar started was Japanese, even though the congregation was mainly of European decent. Millar said he preached one Sunday about a family member that he lost during World War II, saying that many in the congregation probably understand the pain.

"Everybody was in that groove," Millar continued. "Then he said that his uncle was killed attacking Pearl Harbor.

"There was this wonderful moment and this realization that the tragedy and pain of war is with everyone."

Knox continues to serve the lower class people in the area, with many programs to help and use the space that they have inherited. 

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