On Sept. 17, a World Religions Conference returned to the Hay River area for the third time.
The conference on the Hay River Reserve was organized by the Calgary branch of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada, which presents such gatherings across the country.
As in previous years, a panel of three – representing different religious traditions – discussed a topic, which this year was Fundamentals of Establishing Lasting Peace.
K’atlodeeche First Nation Chief Roy Fabian, speaking from the native spirituality perspective, talked about the Dene’s strong relationship with the land as the basis for their language, culture, integrity and capacity.
“The way the elders talk about the relationship was a relationship with God,” he said. “So when we had relationship with the land, it was synonymous to a relationship with God. So everything was about God.”
Fabian said the elders explained that the Dene are people of God.
“To a Dene, God is already in us,” he said. “It’s just like God is in the land.”
Fabian added that, through a relationship with the land, Dene develop their divine relationship with God.
Rev. Francis Delaplain of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Hay River spoke from the Christian viewpoint.
“I wish I could say that in order to build a lasting peace just think like a Christian, but truthfully I have to stand here and recognize that a lot of people who have subscribed to the Christian ideal have done a lot of terrible things,” he said. “In fact, maybe as much as anyone or maybe more than many, the church first has to take a posture of repentance and apology because it’s not enough just to think a certain thing to develop lasting peace.”
Still, Delaplain said Jesus outlined the right path to peace in the Sermon on the Mount.
“It’s that it is a hard path and very few want to take it,” he said, adding that the point is to act right, have the courage of our convictions and live our lives with integrity.
Calgary’s Bashir Islam of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada represented the Islamic perspective.
It is easy just to talk about peace, he said. “But we actually need to do it and that I think is the most difficult aspect of it. But a good start, we believe, is recognizing the Creator.”
Islam said, without that, people won’t be able to establish peace.
“Not in our own personal life, not in our domestic lives, not at a community level,” he added.
Islam also called for nuclear disarmament and the elimination of weapons profiteering, which he noted prolongs conflicts.
About 20 people attended the conference, almost half of them representatives of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada.
The purpose of such conferences is to allow members of all faith communities to meet and remove any misunderstandings between them.
Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada is part of an international organization founded in India in 1889 and now with chapters in over a hundred countries.
The World Religions Conferences began 122 years ago in India and they have been held in Canada for 35 years.