17th World Religions Conference on question of suffering held in Victoria, Canada

Syed Mukarram Nazeer, Canada Correspondent

British Columbia is the westernmost province of Canada, bordering the Pacific Ocean on its west. The Baitur Rahman Mosque, Vancouver, is located in the city of Delta, part of the Greater Vancouver Area. The capital of British Columbia is Victoria, which is about 103 kilometres southwest of the Baitur Rahman Mosque on Vancouver Island. One has to take a ferry to get there, with a travel time of 2 hours and 43 minutes. Victoria is a medium-sized city with a population of less than 100,000.  It is famous for its relatively mild weather (for Canada), and outdoor activities due to the abundance of parkland.

Every year, Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya Canada hosts a number of World Religions Conferences across the country. The aim is to provide a platform for people of various faiths to come together and share their teachings and practices on a single topic.

Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya British Columbia region hosted the first World Religions Conference in Victoria in 2006, reported regional Amir British Columbia Rizwan Peerzada Sahib. The event has been held regularly since then. This year was no exception.

The event was promoted across all media. The social media campaign garnered 11,000 views and 12 comments. The radio campaign promoted the event on local radio stations. Print media were also engaged. Conference posters were posted across Vancouver Island. In Victoria alone, close to 150 posters were put up. 500 invitation cards were mailed, while 4,000 invitational emails were sent. Various local groups also joined hands in promoting the events, including the Victoria Multifaith Society and the Victoria Community Foundation.

This year, Victoria Jamaat held the 17th World Religions Conference on 5 February 2023. The venue was the David Lam Auditorium, University of Victoria. The theme of the conference this year was, “The Timeless Question of Suffering”.  Councillor Karen Harper of the District of Saanich served as the moderator of the event.

The event started at 6pm with the recitation from the Holy Quran with its English translation, followed by introductory remarks by the regional Amir of British Columbia.

An indigenous ceremony was carried out by Joan Morris of the Songhees First Nation.

Many guests and dignitaries were in attendance. Some were invited to say a few words. These included the president of The Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day Saints Mr Gary Anderson, board member of the Victoria Multifaith Society, Ms May Shihadeh, and the mayor of the District of Saanich, His Worship Dean Murdock.

The speakers from nine faiths presented their respective views on the theme. They included Ms Gita Badiyan from Baha’ism, Reverend Leslie Flynn from Christianity (Anglican), Umran ul Haq Bhatti Sahib from Islam, Mr Gian Singh Kotli from Sikhism, Mr Dale Ruttan from Christianity (LDS), Mrs Shoshana Litman from Judaism, Mr Shrikant Shenwai from Hinduism, Ms Lesia Kohut from New Thought, and Mr Wayne Codling from Buddhism.

The participants were positively impacted. Some shared their thoughts as well.

Sheila Flood, executive director of the Victoria Multifaith Society, said:

“Over half the board members were there, and everyone was very happy with the conference.”

Lesia Kohut, AcsB, RScP, and INHC, said:

“It was such a great event, and I’m so honoured to have been able to participate.”

In total, the event’s attendance was 345. Complimentary refreshments and dinner were offered to attendees.

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