Syed Mukarram Nazeer, Canada Correspondent
Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya British Columbia has been hosting the “World Religions Conference” in the city of Victoria since 2006.
Victoria is the capital of British Columbia and is located on the southern end of Vancouver Island. Victoria is known for its abundant parkland and outdoor activities. Its British colonial past shows in its Victorian architecture, including the stately Craigdarroch Castle mansion and Butchart Gardens, with 55 acres of vivid floral displays, water features and a carousel – one of many formal gardens in the city. Victoria is located approximately 100 kilometres south of the Baitur Rahman mosque, Vancouver.
In 2006, the first World Religions Conference, Victoria was held at the University of Victoria, with 310 participants.
On 2 February 2021, the 15th World Religions Conference was held virtually. The Chief of Cheam First Nation, Mr Andrew Victor acted as the moderator of the event.
The event started at 6 pm with a recitation of the Holy Quran, followed by welcome remarks presented by regional co-ordinator outreach British Columbia, Rizwan Peerzada Sahib.
A missionary, Umair Khan Sahib delivered a presentation on the topic of “Religion in the time of adversity: Help or hindrance”.
The following represented their faiths and delivered speeches:
Hinduism – Mr Vinod Bhardwaj
Catholicism – Bishop Gary Gordon
Sikhism – Mr Gurdeep Singh
Judaism – Rabbi Louis Setker
Bahai Faith – Mr Don Brown
The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints – Mr John Barrows
Metaphysical – Dr Anneli Driessen
Islam – Mr Umair Khan
Many dignitaries of Victoria, including councillor Sandy Blue of the City of Abbotsford, joined the conference. The Jamaat was appreciated for organising this event. Over 453 individual connections were made throughout the programme with a projected audience of over 900.
The goals and objectives of the conference included:
To explore teachings and practices of different religious and philosophical traditions, with the hope that such mutual exploration will encourage better understanding and promote harmonious co-existence among members of Canada’s cultural mosaic
To shorten the gap between diverse communities and to demonstrate that we can live together in spirit of acceptance, harmony and compassion
To promote interfaith respect, harmony, inclusiveness and diversity by inculcating mutual understanding and respect between different faith traditions and philosophies of world
To promote respect, harmony and cohesion among all people
Khuddam and Lajna of Abbotsford and Victoria jamaats assisted with online promotion. Multiple teams were organised with different tasks – these teams started promoting the conference one month in advance. The print media campaign had 72,277 impressions, while the radio campaign reached 75,000 listeners on the local radio station.
Some feedback from attendees is as follows:
Mr Trevor William said:
“It was nice to hear about different religions virtually; however, we miss being under one roof and delicious [South] Indian dinner. The hard work of everyone was obvious. Thank you for organising.”
Mr Sarbjit Singh said:
“We really enjoyed the unique conference virtually. I like the idea that it is unique to gather all faiths and hear positive sides of the picture.”