Syed Mukarram Nazir, Canada Correspondent
Hundreds of people gathered in Waterloo, Ontario for the 39th Annual World Religions Conference which was held on 22 September 2019. Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya Canada hosted this event as it has been doing for nearly four decades.
The conference venue was a very familiar one, the University of Waterloo located 114 km south west of Baitul Islam mosque, Toronto. The very important theme of this year’s event was, “How to establish a just society”, which was addressed by many faith group representatives. Each speaker presented their personal experience with God and their scriptural perspective on the topic of justice.
This conference has the dual distinction of being Canada’s largest and longest running multi-faith event. Its purpose is to explore the teachings of various religious and philosophical traditions of society. This event has the noble theme of encouraging a respectful discussion of faith and personal understanding to promote a harmonious society for all Canadians.
This year’s event was moderated by Ms Angela Vieth, councillor City of Waterloo. The conference officially started with recitation of Holy Quran followed by an English translation. The honourable moderator welcomed everyone to the program and introduced each faith representative. Every year, the conference begins with the unveiling of the world religions conference plaque which was conducted by Naib Amir Jamaat Canada, Farhan Khokhar Sahib. Everyone stood up for the Canadian National Anthem to show their mutual respect and unity for the nation.
Farhan Khokhar Sahib gave a warm welcome to the all attendees and speakers and briefly introduced Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya. The Moderator, Ms Vieth, briefly reminded everyone about the objectives of the conference and introduced various prominent guests who are normally in attendance each year. These guests included members of parliament, members of the provincial parliament, and local councillors.
Each of the scholars from the seven faiths, presented their personal perspective on “How to establish a just society”. Each presentation was followed by a brief religious piece based on recitation of the Holy Scriptures by members of their respective faiths. The list of speakers at this year’s conference follows;
Hinduism, Swami Chaitanya Jyoti, Christianity, Reverend Preston Parsons, Judaism, Dr Michael Grand, Indigenous Religions, Malcolm Saulis, Islam, Imam Imtiaz Ahmed, Humanism, Doug Thomas, Sikhism, Navdeep Singh.
Each year, a very engaging question and answer is held with all the speakers of the conference. This gives the audience a chance to present many questions for different speakers to address before the event concludes.
The President of the WRC Organising Committee, Nomaan Mubashir Sahib, wrapped up the event by expressing his sincere gratitude to all the participants who helped to make this year’s event a success. Naib Amir Jamaat Canada, Farhan Khokhar Sahib presented commemorative plaques to all the speakers as well as to the moderator. As per Jamaat tradition, the World Religions Conference concluded with a multi-faith silent prayer which most people participated in.
The annual conference has grown significantly in the past 4 decades since it started and each year it attracts several hundred delegates, nearly a dozen speakers, and many distinguished members of society. By the grace of Allah, this year’s event was attended by over 600 attendees with the entire conference broadcast live to the internet on worldreligionsconference.org website. For everyone’s convenience, the video of the program is also available on YouTube for replay on the World Religions Conference channel. Two local TV channels also covered the event.