When Rizwan Peerzada of the Ahmidya Community of BC approached me to participate as a speaker in the World Religious Conferences in Yukon and Inuvik then I happily agreed. The Ahmidya Community has been organizing interfaith conferences, quite often, to promote peace of Islam and harmony among diverse faith communities. Their motto is –“Love for all and hatred for none”. The members of this community not only talk about peace but practice it religiously.
I was quite curious to see and meet with some new people in remote cities of the Western Canada. Most importantly, for the first time, when the Hindu message of non-violence, compassion, love and harmony was going to be promoted in Yukon and North West Territory. It was my first trip to Northwest Territories thus I prepared nicely to face the cold weather over there. To pick up the flight for Whitehorse, in the morning of 25th September, my neighbour—Baljinder dropped me at the Vancouver Airport and I reached Whitehorse at 10.27AM. A young volunteer of the Conference came to pick me up and I was placed in the same Best Western Gold Rush Inn where more eleven members of the Conference were already staying. I met the other members and was briefed about the evening Conference.
The theme of the Interfaith Symposium was –“The Role of Religion in the 21st Century”. The Councillor, Florence Roberts was the chair and moderator. The conference held in the same Inn where we were staying. Mr. R. Peerzada welcomed the guests and program commenced at 6.00PM with the opening prayer from holy Quran. Mr. Ch. Mohammad Aslam, Regional President of Ahmidya Community of BC, made the introductory remarks and focussed on the motto of our Islamic Community is —“Love for all and hatred for none”.
The following speakers spoke on the Conference’s theme based upon their religious or spiritual traditions: Mr. Rick Buchan(Buddhism) commented, “ For the better and peaceful 21st century we need to pursue the cardinal values of Buddhism – compassion, peace and non-violence and we believe in inclusiveness”. Mr. Rick Karp’s (Judaism) views were that we have to move out from ritualism. Torah is not in haven but it is meant to transform the community with moral and ethical rules. Rev.Beverly C.S. Brazier (Christianity) she boldly admitted, “ We do have historically blood in our hands. According to my belief, the role of religion is to listen the voices of Jesus Christ; and to provide food, shelter, justice, health care and love who badly need them”. Acharya S.P.Dwivedi (Hinduism) remarked , “ Hindu Dharma is the most ancient religion on earth which advocates oneness of all living beings, universal family, respect for environment and all religions, physical and well being for all. Now we have to focus on spirituality than religion and it will be a key factor to have a lasting peace and prosperity in this century”. “ Islam which stands for peace is being misused by a few extremist and ultra fundamentalist to create terror, hatred and violence. We not only talk about peace but practice it also sincerely. People have to be educated about the true spirit of Islam that what we are trying to do”, said M.Afzal Mirza (Islam). G.Singh Kotli (Sikhism) emphasised on the Sikh’s philosophy of oneness of God, oneness of human race and service to all; and to my mind it is the role of Sikh religion”. During question secession, members of the audience threw some questions which were answered by the speakers. Rizwan Peerzada thanked the speakers and audience and conference ended with honouring the speakers with a token of gifts.
After lunch, on 26th morning, all the members of organizing team including three speakers—Myself, Mr. Kotli were in one van while Mr. Mirza packed his stuffs in an other van and three vans started heading to next city of our conference— Dawson. The young and dedicated volunteers, Mr. Zafar and Athar of our van, shared the driving and took us to Dawson roughly in six hours. The whole group stayed in the Eldorado Hotel. Kotli sahib and I were the vegetarians so while placing order for dinner, at the Chinese restaurant; Peerzada took care of our foods.
Dawson city is the Heart of the Klondike Gold Rush and its community has incredibly retained the past. It’s a meeting place (Sangam) of Yukon and Klondike Rivers. We saw a cute red fox while we were on dike walkway and went to see a visitor’s attraction—Top of the World Highway and there I found the scenes were extremely fascinating. The Klondike stories that I read earlier were slowly being unfolding….live mines, deserted towns, barren grounds all reinforced my observations of old Cowboy movies.
The theme of the Conference was same as it was in Whitehorse. The Conference on 27th September was held at Danoja Zho Cultural Centre. The chair and moderator was Councillor Wayne Potoroka, Mr. Percy Henry presented his views from the Aboriginal, Pastor Ian Nyland from Christianity, Acharya Dwivedi from Hinduism, M.A.Mirza from Islam and G.S.Kotli from Sikh perspectives respectively. The Conference was over by 9.00PM and Interfaith Kafila took Dempster HW. We crossed the river by ferry and after two hours of drive reached to Macpherson and stayed overnight in a hotel. We left around 6.30 AM, on 28th September for Inuvik. Our Kafila stopped at a couple of places for photos. The weather changed and it was chilly out side but not uncomfortable. The morning mist created fantasy, the trees and bushes were blanketed with fresh snow; perhaps the swirling rivers, flowing to north-west, were going to embrace the mighty Arctic Ocean. The whole area, filled with mystic passes and majestic mountain valleys, seems to be blessed with boundless natural wealth and timeless beauty. It appeared to me that entire area carries untold history, uncovered stories and unsolved mysteries.
The next Conference was scheduled from 3.00 PM to 7.00PM on 29th Sep. at Aurora College in Inuvik. The subject was –“Is Religion Source for Unity or Reason for Conflict? Mr. Derek Lindsey was chair and moderator. Roy Goose (Native Spirituality) and Mr. Doug Robertson (Christianity), Acharya Dwivedi, G.S. Kotli and M.A. Mirza spoke on the topic from their religious perspectives. All speakers placed emphasis on one fact that religion is now being distorted, twisted and misused by some extremist people who pursue to fulfill their venomous hidden agendas, Basically, all religions of the world preach peace, brotherhood, love and harmony and if any person of faith is not subscribing to these values is not to be called as a religious person. On 30th September we travelled back to Whitehorse. The trip was quite unique because it has a terrific fusion of spiritual interaction and enlightenment.