Column honoured with 2010 Giraffe of the Year award

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, January 5, 2011


At its annual State of the World forum on Dec. 28, the Four Worlds Centre for Development Learning presented its Giraffe of the Year award to Coffee With Warren in recognition of the column’s “courage in sticking its neck out on controversial human rights issues.”
Photo by Warren Harbeck

Congratulations to all our coffee companions.

Thanks to your dialogue with me through this column, I’m pleased to report that Coffee With Warren is the recipient of an award that stands head and shoulders above all others in its field.

At its annual State of the World forum held northwest of Cochrane on Dec. 28, the Four Worlds Centre for Development Learning presented us with the Giraffe of the Year award for 2010.

Michael Bopp, co-director of Four Worlds, told the 70 community leaders gathered at his home that the foot-high wooden figurine was given in recognition of this column’s “courage in sticking its neck out on controversial human rights issues.”

Among the issues he noted were this column’s opposition to anti-blasphemy regulations proposed before the United Nations, a Florida pastor’s planned burning of the Qur’an, the imprisonment of seven Iranian Baha’i elders on religious grounds, and the persecution of Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan.

On the positive side, he cited my all-embracing coffee chats in Cochrane cafés, my participation on interfaith panels, and this column’s call for people to play nice together in a dangerously xenophobic global sandbox.

The award was a pleasant surprise. But I must emphasize that the ideas behind those columns came from you, our readers, who have shared with me your concerns over human rights abuses.

This was the 11th annual State of the World forum hosted by Michael and his wife, Judie. The goal of the relatively informal gatherings is to review world events of the past year and discuss how we can make a difference for the future.

In addition to human rights, topics have typically included health, wealth, communication, and resource management.

Reflecting on the enormity of the task, Judie asked her guests, “Who is doing all of this work?

“For the most part, it is us,” she said, “civil society – sometimes with the help of governments, but more often despite the absence of that help.”

She referred to the citizen philanthropy movement as an example.

“The movement consists of tens of thousands of people – some wealthy, some not – who either made their money and now want to do some good with it, or who are just doing what they can with what they have,” she said.

From the perspective of our small contribution through this column, I’m hoping that 2011 will see us address even more meaningfully many of the human rights issues you’ve raised.

One of those issues is the continued imprisonment of the seven Baha’i elders in Iran.

Another I hope to address is that of a Christian woman in Pakistan accused by Islamic radicals of making derogatory remarks about Muhammad and sentenced to death under that country’s strict blasphemy laws.

(As this column is going to press, it is reported that the governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province was just assassinated over his opposition to the blasphemy laws.)

Meanwhile, back to the Giraffe of the Year award.

It is with profound respect that I raise our Giraffe in a special toast to Cochrane’s “Marathon Man.” Twelve months ago Martin Parnell stuck his neck out to make a difference in the world.

He vowed to run 250 marathons in 2010 to raise funds for the global charity, Right to Play. Congratulations, Martin. You did it!

© 2011 Warren Harbeck

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