World Religions Conference sees justice as way to peace

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
Speakers at the second World Religions Conference for Hay River and the Hay River Reserve on Sept. 25 were, left to right, Rev. Francis Delaplain of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, Chief Roy Fabian of K’atlodeeche First Nation, and Imam Shahrukh Abid of the Baitun Nur Mosque in Calgary.

Representatives of three religious traditions shared their thoughts on Global Conflict and the Need for Justice at a recent conference on the Hay River Reserve.

The Sept. 25 World Religions Conference – the second such event in Hay River and the Hay River Reserve – brought together representatives of several religions.

This year, Rev. Francis Delaplain of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church spoke from the Christian perspective, Chief Roy Fabian of K’atlodeeche First Nation (KFN) spoke on native spirituality, and Imam Shahrukh Abid of the Baitun Nur Mosque in Calgary represented the Islamic perspective.

Fabian said it was an honour for KFN to host the conference, which was organized by Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada.

“I think it’s something that’s really important and we need to communicate more amongst each other to begin to understand each other a little bit better,” Fabian said. “There’s so much controversy over who we are and what we are and what we’re doing in this world that makes it really difficult for us to live in peace.”

The chief said the biggest conflict in today’s world is between human beings and Mother Earth.

“We’re changing things in such a big way that climate change is the biggest threat to mankind,” he said.

Fabian noted Indigenous people have lived off the land since time immemorial, and that relationship created what he called “spiritual integrity” and the language, culture and capacity of Dene people.

“The relationship is with the land and the land is the creator,” he said. “The spirit and creator is in the land. So in that way Dene people had a relationship not only with the land, but with the creator. So there was a spiritual relationship.”

However, the chief said that integrity has been eroded and weakened since the coming of Europeans.

Delaplain said, from a Christian perspective, human nature has been bent by sin.

The Anglican minister said Fabian’s term “spiritual integrity” can be used in describing that process, since people lost integrity in relating to one another and the world around them.

“So the Christian story says that our nature has been bent, and in many ways bent inward, so that we now act primarily selfishly,” said Delaplain.

That has created a hunger for money and for power, and acts of violence, both against one another and against the Earth, he added. “So the Christian perspective is the source of global conflict is this bentness, if you will, within human nature. That something has distorted us and removed our integrity, to borrow the word. So conflict will arise because of this.”

Delaplain said out of that brokenness comes the need for justice, which in the Judeo-Christian perspective means equitable treatment of all people regardless of race, religion or social status.

The minister also noted that, when injustice happens, Christians have a moral responsibility to act.

Abid said it seems events are moving at an unprecedented pace towards a third world war.

“The fact of the matter is that the world sits on the brink of destruction,” he said. “In such circumstances, one can only think of world peace.”

That peace cannot exist without justice, he explained. “And if there is no justice, then we would just head toward destruction.”

From an Islamic perspective, the imam said justice means truthfulness, fairness, righteousness, equity, integrity and honesty, along with brotherhood and sisterhood.

“Peace and security can only be guaranteed in the world when the false and oppressive notion of supremacy for some nations is eradicated,” he added.

In written questions from the audience of about 25 people, Abid was bluntly asked why Muslim extremists are killing innocent people around the world.

The imam noted there are 1.4 billion Muslims in the world, and only a minuscule percentage is involved in terrorist organizations.

“When we analyse their lies, we see that they don’t read the scripture,” he said. “They are not educated about what Islam actually teaches and they’re cherry picking certain verses of The Holy Qur’an to aid their political agendas. It’s a political game for them. It’s not about spirituality or following Islam. For them, it’s a power struggle. For that, they hijack our religion and they’re using it as a tool.”

For the past 35 years, Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada has presented World Religions Conferences across the country.

On Sept. 24, there was also an 11th-annual conference in Yellowknife.

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

The World Religions Conferences began more than 100 years ago in India.