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.