By Darryl Plecas, MLA Abbotsford South
Early in February I had the pleasure of attending the 9th World Religions Conference in Abbotsford. It was organized by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’ and Columbia Bible College, and provided an opportunity to hear from an impressive panel of speakers representing the Baha ‘i, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Islam and Sikh faiths – all perfectly moderated by local Councillor, Sandy Blue. The objective of this interfaith conference was to create awareness and to promote religious respect, harmony, and mutual understanding among various faiths and beliefs. And wow, did it ever do that.
To be one of the lucky ones attending, you could not have left without being touched by the effort of each speakers to call attention to how their own faith shared such important common ground with that of other speakers. If you are of the Sikh faith you would have been especially proud of the presentation made by Giani Singh Kotli. He came across as beacon of great wisdom, kindness, and inclusiveness. It was a reminder about appreciating that despite differences across faiths, most all are founded on core values about kindness, selfless giving, helpfulness, and respectfulness that we should all be guided by. And it was also a reminder, that there will be differences that evolve (even within faiths) as a consequence of the way books of faith have been written and read, the way culture interfaces with faith, and the road different people around the world travel on their journey towards their faith. Still, it is the commonness across religions that can be drawn on to appreciate each other more, and to bring us more together. All in all, it really drove home the point that we would all be so much richer in both spirit and practice if we learned more about each religion.
I wished everyone in Abbotsford could have been there to hear what each speaker had to say. It really added to my own belief that we should take a lead from Columbia Bible College on the matter of teaching about the world’s great religions. In fact, if it were up to me, I would require that students in our high schools and universities take a course in world religions as part of the requirement for graduation. Importantly, the point is not to promote one religion over another, but to promote an objective understanding of each, and the value and significance of faith in people’s lives. Meanwhile, plan to attend the 10th World Religions Conference – you will walk away inspired.