Virtual interfaith seminar in Canada


Syed Mukarram Nazeer, Canada Correspondent

Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya Canada has been hosting interfaith seminars of various types for many years. Even a global pandemic has not stopped it from doing so. Fostering better understanding and building bridges across a diverse Canadian society are some of the many notable achievements of these events.

Naseer Maharaj Sahib reports that on 3 January 2021, Majlis Ansarullah Canada hosted the first interfaith seminar of the year. The topic of this seminar was “Natural disasters and the role of God in light of Holy Scriptures.”

Scholars and faith leaders from five of the world’s leading religions, from across Canada, participated in this online interfaith seminar.

The event was organised by the tabligh department of Majlis Ansarullah Canada.

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The following five speakers represented their respective faiths:

1. Buddhism: Dr Eleanor Pontoriero, PhD of the Department for the Study of Religion at University of Toronto

2. Christianity: Mr Warren Larson, a senior research fellow and professor, Zwemer Center for Muslim-Christian relations, Columbia International University, USA. He has served as a Christian missionary in Pakistan and is fluent in Urdu

3. Hinduism: Mr Krsnadasa Kaviraja Dasa was initiated into the Brahma Madhva Gaudiya Sampradaya in 1974. He has been practicing Bhakti Yoga since his initiation. He is a semi-retired respiratory therapist at the Ross Memorial Hospital, Lindsay, Canada

4. Islam: Mr Adam Abid Alexander is currently serving as a missionary of Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya Canada. Adam Sahib has been a student of comparative religions and has received his missionary training over the past three years. A very engaging and influential speaker, Adam Sahib continues to teach Islam as a serving missionary

5. Judaism: Rabbi Steven Schwarzman is the Rabbi of Beth Shalom Synagogue in Edmonton, Canada and was ordained by The Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York. He has degrees in Jewish Studies from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Pennsylvania. He is also the author of four books and numerous articles.

Mr Krsnadasa Kaviraja Dasa characterised the seminar as an enlightening experience:

“Sharing of our faiths will definitely help the world to be a better place. Unfortunately, it is the material world where death and unhappiness are constant. However, as people of faith, we understand that these are reminders of the necessity to re-establish our love for God. Love for God outweighs every happiness available in the material world. We only cheat ourselves if we do not constantly seek out love for God.”

Dr Eleanor Pontoriero commented:

“It is truly a blessing that we can have a respectful, friendly and insightful discussion on these very important ethical issues during these difficult times.”

An excerpt from Adam Abid Alexander Sahib’s presentation is as follows:

“Recently in his Friday Sermon, His Holiness Khalifatul Masih Vaa said that for the past year, we have been enduring a grave pandemic, from which no place in the world is safe. His Holinessaa said that despite this, many do not seem to want to consider the fact that this pandemic may have come about as a warning for us to start fulfilling the rights we owe to God and one another.”

The Seminar was administered on Zoom and streamed live on YouTube with more than 500 viewers simultaneously. An engaging question and answer session followed the presentations.

With the grace of Allah the Almighty, this seminar was successful and conducted in peace and harmony among all participants.

11 housekeeping rules were carefully adhered to and an atmosphere of mutual respect and friendship prevailed. All guest speakers showed a keen interest in working with Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya on future projects, alhamdulillah.

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