Friday, February 23, 2018

World Religions Conference celebrates collaboration in community service

February 12, 2018 by Elias Orrego, contributing writer

Representatives from six different faiths spoke before a diverse audience at the eleventh annual World Religions Conference at UVic on Sunday night to discuss one thing: how do we work together to perform good works? The panelists included a speaker from each of the following faiths: Islam, Christianity, Baha’i, Metaphysical, Hinduism, and Sikhism.

Rizwan Pirzada, the president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’ in Abbotsford and organizer of this conference, said at the event that “we want to promote religious balance by expressing the values of the faiths in peace.”

Representatives from different faiths spoke at the World Religions Conference at UVic this weekend (photo by Elias Orrego/Nexus).

A quote from the Holy Quran, “Vying with one another in good works,” was used as the theme for the conference. Competition is a natural human urge, said Tariq Azeem, the event’s speaker on Islam, but the Quran teaches men and women to harness that energy to compete in the betterment of the world.

“In doing good deeds, who wants to be number two?” asked Suresh Basrur, who shared the Hindu perspective with the audience. He gave the example of the miraculous collaboration the Napoli community experienced with the people of Greater Victoria in raising funds for victims of the 1995 earthquake in Nepal: a $5,000 goal was set and $20,000 was raised in a few days.

“Lots of folks want to make a difference in the world,” said Coralyn Kornatz, speaker for the Baha’i faith, “Baha’is do, but can’t do it on their own.”

The consensus among the speakers is that collaboration, along with healthy competition, is the way to accomplish the most good.

Metaphysics—the study of the mind, energy, and matter—welcomes opportunities to give and serve, Anneli Driessen explained. The faith’s goal is to purify souls, Driessen said, to create a “world of peace and harmony, governed by love and intelligence.”

Representing Christianity, Evelyn Thompson-Smith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints described both purity and connection to be paramount in facing current struggles, such as the opioid crisis, in society. She said people in need must feel they are loved and accepted. Then, “like the Saviour,” Smith said, “you, yourself, will be the best gift you can give.”

A question-and-answer period allowed a further exploration of each faith’s perspective on addressing today’s problems through good works. The forum created a spirit of mutual understanding and respect.

The conference ended with unstructured mingling; information was exchanged and new connections were made. Diversity was celebrated and unity was fostered. As one female Sikh audience member said about the conference, “it makes us feel that we are all one; that you are no different than I am.”

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