World Religions Conference 2024

The Garry Oak gymnasium was full to the brim for the World Religions Conference, with 390 people attending. Ten speakers gave short presentations on the theme of Kindness and Kinship, each introduced by MC Saanich Councillor Karen Harper, following a blessing by First Nations Elder Joan Morris.

Just the few thoughts chosen in the selection below serve to illustrate the beauty and complementarity of the perspectives expressed, although much more was said.

Cat Vallance of the Bahá’í Faith spoke of carrying forward an ever-advancing civilization and the teaching to “let your heart burn with loving-kindness for every soul who crosses your path”. Rev. Allan Doerksen of St Phillips Anglican church told a memorable story of the restoration of a relationship through a thousand small acts of kindness, illustrating its immense power to heal.

Maulana Umran Bhatti of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community spoke of kindness as a universal language embedded in the teachings of Islam. Gurdeep Singh of the Sikh tradition emphasized the power of One in contrast to the suffering of duality caused by spiritual separation from each other.

Richard Rush, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, recalled one of the most profound spiritual teachings, to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbour as yourself. Rabbi Matthew Ponak reminded us of the kindness foundational to Judaism, quoting Hillel: “That which is hateful unto you, do not do to your neighbour. This is the whole of the Torah; the rest is commentary.”

Rev. Lesia Kohut spoke of the New Thought teaching that we create our own reality and therefore need to love everyone without exception, including our enemies. Dr Anneli Driessen of the Metaphysical Academy remarked on the universality of human emotion and the ability of kindness to make our connection stronger, drawing us together.

Wayne Codling, a Buddhist, offered that kindness is stronger than fear, and meditation a potent tool for creating greater openness and receptivity to that reality. Onkar Hans of the Hindu community explained the symbolism of the great wheel of life with the universal intelligence of God at the hub, and all humanity, all life, as the spokes connected to that centre. He reiterated the common sentiment, repeated by many that day, that we are all one, in kinship with the Creator.

As one participant said, it was like watching the light grow brighter in the room as each speaker added the unique perspective of their own wisdom tradition to all the others.

Thanks go out to all the volunteers, organizers, speakers, MC, and especially to the Ahmadiyya community for their generosity in offering the event and the delicious East Indian meal that followed.

Postponement, Prayers for Peace

We regret that we’ve been informed of a threat of disruption to our Prayers for Peace sessions (announced below for 28-Jan-24 and 4-Feb-24). Since we do not have the capacity to ensure the safety and comfort of those coming for prayer, we’re forced to postpone them until further notice. We apologize for any inconvenience and hope that similar meetings can be held at a later date.

Join us for Prayers for Peace

With ongoing conflict and suffering continuing to cause enormous pain, the Victoria Multifaith Society is planning with members of the Muslim and Jewish communities and VICCIR (Vancouver Island Centre for Immigrants & Refugees) to hold a multi-faith Prayers for Peace in the meeting room adjoining VICCIR, at Quality Inn, 850 Blanshard St., corner of Courtney. (Directions below.)

There will be 2 sessions to accommodate different schedules:
1. Sunday, January 28th, 3:00 to 5:00 pm
2. Sunday, February 4th, 1:30 to 3:30 pm

This is a beautiful and profound invitation for everyone to set aside political differences and come together in prayer and intention to know the greatest and highest good for all involved.

People from many backgrounds will each recite, sing, or chant a prayer for peace, followed by light refreshments. Time will be given at the beginning for people to socialize and seat themselves before the program begins.

Please enter through the Quality Inn courtyard to access the meeting room, which is at street level. Parking is available on the street as well as underground at the Central Library.

There will be no slogans, banners or political messaging. All are welcome as we gather peacefully in a prayerful atmosphere, to begin the process of healing with the words “Shalom” and “Salaam”.

World Religions Conference February 4

Saanich Commonwealth Centre – All welcome!

The World Religions Conference for 2024 will be held on Sunday, February 4th, from 4:30 to 6:30 pm. Please register (free) at

The venue will be the same as last year’s very successful event, in the Garry Oak Room of Saanich Commonwealth Place. The event is spearheaded by the Ahmadiyyah Muslim Community, which hosts similar events across the country. Victoria’s conference is co-sponsored by the Victoria Multifaith Society for the 2nd year in a row. The theme this year is Kindness and Kinship, two qualities sorely needed in the world as we begin 2024.

Saanich Councillor Karen Harper will moderate a wonderful panel of speakers from 9 faith traditions (see poster) presenting diverse perspectives on this important topic. As always, the wisdom within these beautiful teachings will inspire as well as inform. The audience will be treated to an East Indian dinner following the presentations. The dinner and event are free of charge, courtesy of the Ahmadiyya community.

2024 Multifaith Calendar

The beautiful new 2024 Multifaith Calendar is available here from the Multifaith Action Society in print and electronic versions. Featuring 23 pieces of stunning original art from visual artists across North America and Internationally, the 10″x13″ calendar can be used as a gift or to become more aware of the various commemorations and special days of each spiritual tradition.

• An inclusive and comprehensive source of information for those wanting to learn more about world religions.

• A unique and comprehensive resource for organizations wishing to demonstrate inclusivity and a welcoming environment for customers and co-workers. 

AGM Report 2023

VMS held its Annual General Meeting on Sunday Oct. 29, 2023 at the Multifaith Centre at the University of Victoria. Thanks go out to our Chair John Borrows as MC, Rev. Lesia Kohut for her inspiring keynote presentation on Cultivating Harmony in a Polarized World, and to all those who reported and participated.

Warm appreciation was expressed to outgoing board members Janine Theobald (Buddhist Seat), Jagir Virk (Sikh Seat), Ora Stefanic (Jewish Seat) and David Batterham (Bahá’í Seat) for their dedicated service on the VMS Board.

Welcome and unanimous affirmation were given to Fletcher Bennett (Bahá’í Seat), Rabbi Harry Brechner (Jewish Seat), and Bhavin-Singh Nihang (Sikh Seat). It was noted that the Buddhist seat remains vacant and the board is seeking candidates.

VMS Board 2023 – 2024:
Sheila Flood, Executive Director
John Borrows – Chair, Indigenous Spirituality
Henri Lock – Secretary, Christian seat
Fletcher Bennett – Treasurer, Bahá’í seat
Rabbi Harry Brechner – Jewish seat
Shrikant Shenwai – Hindu seat
Rev. Lesia Kohut – New Thought
May Shihadeh – Muslim seat
Bhavin-Singh Nihang – Sikh seat
Vacant – Buddhist seat

Cultivating Harmony in a Polarized World VMS AGM 29 October 2023

Our AGM is scheduled from 3 to 5 pm, Sunday, October 29, 2023 at the UVic Multifaith Centre at the entrance to Finnerty Gardens. (Map here.)

VMS board member, New Thought Minister, author and speaker Rev. Lesia Kohut will present “Cultivating Harmony in a Polarized World“. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on this important topic and on our plans for the upcoming year.

Our MC will be VMS Chair Dr John Borrows, Loveland Chair in Indigenous Law.

All are welcome to attend. Those wishing to support VMS by becoming a member can do so in person at the AGM or at Donate/Join on the upper navigation bar. Membership is by a donation of any amount.

A true community event!

10 minute video collage by Jim Flood

The One Spirit event in the Hindu Parishad & Cultural Centre in Saanichton was a great success! The video above gives the highlights of the evening, which had everyone humming, singing or dancing at different points in the program.

A huge thank you to the Hindu community for welcoming us and serving a wonderful meal, to our MCs Shrikant Shenwai and Lesia Kohut, and to the many volunteers and participants!

Special thanks to our wonderful presenters: Scott Sam and Our Culture Matters drummers (right); Rabbi Matthew Ponak (above); Bita Kamalian of the Baha’i community; Sharron MacLeod of New Thought in Nanaimo; Bob Gilbert and Amy Nold of the United Church; Prashant Pednekar and Vinod & Robina Bhardwaj, Hindu community; Carol Ann Sokoloff of the Sufi community; John Borrows, VMS Chair.

Roughly 70 people attended the event, organized by VMS in collaboration with the Hindu community. Several others viewed the live stream from the FB event page, where the entire program can be seen, including the ending dance with multifaith lyrics (at 1:25).

One Spirit, 1 October 2023

The Hindu Parishad and Cultural Centre and VMS will again host one of our favourite events, the arts devotional One Spirit, at 4:00 pm, Sunday 1 October at 1934 Cultra Ave. in Saanichton. One Spirit celebrates all faiths through song, poetry, chanting, drumming and other joyful forms of expression. The program includes presentations from many different traditions, followed by a Southeast Asian vegetarian meal in the adjoining hall. Payment is by donation. Please register in advance using this Google Form. (A gmail address isn’t needed to register.) Hall capacity is 100. Live Streaming will be available at this Event page.


Our Shared Future, our 17 September event with Clare Attwell and Trevor Hancock was attended by 37 people who were inspired by the vision expressed. Colleague Joe Brewer from the Design School for Regenerating Earth will be visiting Victoria October 21-24. There will be a public forum Tuesday Oct 24, 7.30 PM in the C103 Lecture Theatre, David Strong Building, UVic. More details to follow or check the website One Planet Conversations. To receive updates please register at the Our Shared Future google form.

Our Shared Future

Dr Trevor Hancock and Clare Attwell will be presenting “Our Shared Future as a Bioregion: Re-forging the Connections” at 2:30 on Sunday, September 17th at the Multifaith Centre, at the gateway to Finnerty Gardens, University of Victoria. (Map here) The organizations they’re involved in are at the cutting edge of progress in this area, and an inspiration to do all we can to further the cause of living in harmony with nature and each other.  

What would it take to live within the limits of the places we call home – while also living responsibly as citizens of this planet?

All life on Earth shares only one planet.  Yet, as the dominant species, we have weakened our connections to the rest of life and each other.  We now face cascading global and local challenges that will require levels of cooperation unlike anything humans have done before. What will it take to rekindle those connections? How do we weave the knowledge from the work already happening on the ground throughout our bioregion?  How do we honour ‘story of place’ along with the indigenous and spiritual dimensions of this work? Shouldn’t we be talking about this?
Please indicate your interest by signing up on this Google form.

Those who express an interest will be invited to a follow up meeting in October with Joe Brewer and colleagues from the Design School for Regenerating Earth. For related information on social and ecological sustainability in Victoria and the Cascadia bioregion, you might also like to see One Planet Conversations and Regenerating Cascadia.

Dr. Trevor Hancock is public health physician, retired Professor and Senior Scholar at the School of Public Health and Social Policy, University of Victoria. In the 1980s he helped to create the global healthy cities movement and has been an internationally recognised leader in this area. In recent years he has focused on the concept of a ‘One Planet’ community/region as a way to integrate the concepts of healthy and sustainable communities, and has started a new NGO, Conversations for a One Planet Region. 

Clare Attwell has worked in community cultural development from the local to provincial level, and as a textile and multi-media artist. She currently works with several local and global communities engaged in Earth Regeneration. These include the Design School For Regenerating Earth, Regenerate Cascadia, and Conversations for a One Planet Region Society, a local, Victoria based non-profit helping to catalyze a Bioregional conversation across the region.