Bashir Islam of Calgary is one of the organizers for the World Religions Conference taking place once again this year in the NWT. The conference will be held online because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
NNSL file photo

A World Religions Conference – normally held in Hay River and Yellowknife – won’t be happening in person this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, it is still going ahead online.

The NWT conference is an initiative of the Calgary branch of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada.

“We are back,” said Bashir Islam, one of the co-ordinators for the conference, noting that the pandemic and restrictions in the NWT meant it couldn’t take place in person. “But it’s such an important event we couldn’t even miss it. So we’re just going virtual this year.”

Instead of a conference in Yellowknife and another in Hay River, one online conference will take place on Dec. 4 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

“This year’s topic is ‘Need for a unified response to global pandemic and role of faith communities’,” said Islam. “It has given people a totally new perspective on life. Now people have paused their daily activities and they’re actually really anxious to find out what’s really more important in life.”

Islam said people are turning to spirituality at this time.

“People are looking for comfort,” he said. “And I think it’s very natural that people are turning towards the creator.”

The panellists for the conference will include Yellowknife’s Paul Andrew, a former CBC broadcaster, who will speak on Aboriginal spirituality; Brian McCutcheon of Yellowknife, who will represent Buddhism; Rev. John Hansen, the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith; and Imam Asif Arif of Calgary, who will speak from the Muslim perspective.

The guest of honour for the conference will be Mayor Rebecca Alty of Yellowknife.

Hay River Mayor Kandis Jameson will be the moderator of the event, as she was last year when a conference was held in Hay River.

“I think she did an excellent job last year,” said Islam.

Jameson said she wasn’t sure what to expect when moderating the conference for the first time, but she enjoyed it.

“I thought it was very informative,” she said. “I think it’s great to share.”

Jameson believes the conference is even more important this year with the Covid-19 pandemic, noting that faith communities have responded in many ways.

“So I think it will be interesting to see the different opinions and takes on what people feel the role is of the faith communities,” she said. “But I know here in Hay River it’s definitely been an asset to us as we work through this.”

Islam is hopeful that the online conference will reach more people in the NWT, including in smaller communities.

The organizers are ensuring the Zoom event will be able to accommodate up to 500 participants.

A World Religions Conference has been held in Hay River in each of the past four years. Such conferences have also been held in Yellowknife for 13 years.

Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada is part of an international organization founded in India in 1889 and now with chapters in 97 countries.

The World Religions Conferences began 122 years ago in India.

They have been held across Canada for over 35 years.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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  1. Excellent report by Hay River Hub.
    I’ve attended these events in the past and am convinced that such events are helping bring communities together by educating.
    Looking forward for todays event.