Faith leaders share perspectives on combating racism in local conference 

The 40th World Religions Conference, hosted by Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at Canada, was held at the Baitul Kareem Mosque in Cambridge, however the audience tuned in virtually. 

Leaders gathered for 40th World Religions Conference

The Baitul Kareem Mosque is located in the Galt area of Cambridge. The sign on the outside the building reads, 'Love for all, hatred for none.' The Sunday event was hosted at the mosque. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

Faith leaders of all backgrounds gathered on Sunday to address the root causes of racism and how society can combat the issue. 

The 40th World Religions Conference, hosted by Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at Canada, was held at the Baitul Kareem Mosque in Cambridge, however the audience tuned in virtually. 

The issue was discussed from the point of view of several perspectives including Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism and Indigenous Spirituality. 

"In a very difficult moment in history, in the midst of a global pandemic, coupled with economic and social anxiety and precarity, events like this remind us of our shared humanity and what can be accomplished together by embracing and celebrating differences in a spirit of open dialogue and togetherness," said event moderator Scott Hamilton, Cambridge city councillor.

The program was described as Canada's largest multi-faith event. 

Fatir Ahmad is the Imam of the Baitul Kareem Mosque in Cambridge. The Imam shared opening remarks at the conference on Sunday. ( World Religions Conference/YouTube)

Faith perspectives 

Several experts spoke about where the issue stemmed from and offered solutions. 

Guelph's Praveen Saxena, who represented the Hindu perspective, said it starts with educating children while they're young. 

"Teaching our children the value of dignity, the value of shared responsibilities, the values of understanding people's religions and really emphasizing that the colour, the language, the cultures do not make a difference. We all have the same DNA," said Saxena at the event.

Kathleen Johnson, who represented the Humanist perspective, tuned in from Alberta to share important steps toward healing.

"People of colour need to have honest dialogue about how we participate in upholding the status quo to establish our own advantages and comforts. Power brokers have to educate themselves on how to interact without imposing Eurocentric standards of what this healing journey looks like, especially when it comes to our spiritual journeys," said Johnson.

Other speakers included:

  • Buddhism: Rev. Horana Anuruddah Thero, from Cambridge
  • Islam: Imam Nabil Mirza, from Montreal
  • Christianity: Rev. Dr. Das Sydney, from Kitchener
  • Judaism: Rabbi Lori Cohen, from Waterloo
  • Indigenous Spirituality: Brenda Jacobs, from Hamilton
  • Sikhism: Dr. Parminder Singh, from Toronto

Rise in discrimination

The event comes amid a dark time for many communities in Canada experiencing an increase in racially-motivated attacks.

In June, four members of a Muslim family in London Ont., were struck and killed by a vehicle while on an evening walk. Police said the targeted attack was premeditated and motivated by hate.

A month later, the Cambridge mosque itself was vandalised in what officials initially thought to be a hate-motivated incident. A police investigation later discovered hate was not a factor. However, throughout the year, there were various incidents involving mosques across the country being vandalized, as well as Muslim women being attacked.

A recent survey suggested more than half of Asian Canadians have suffered discrimination over the past year. According to the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto chapter, there were more than 1,000 cases of both verbal and physical attacks against Asians across Canada from March 2020 to February 2021. 

Last summer, thousands of Black Lives Matter activists rallied across the country and the rest of the world against system racism and police brutality. 

A video recording of the conference available online to watch here