Religious conference opens dialogue

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September 15, 2015 8:15 AM

The Ahmadiyya Muslim community of Lloydminster hosted a world religions conference on Sept. 11 at the Vic Juba Community Theatre, which saw representatives of four different faiths come together and discuss the commonalities of their beliefs.

Represented were the religions of Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Sikhism and the theme of this year’s event, the second of its kind in Lloydminster, was “Scriptures and Extremism.”

“The topic we have picked, Scriptures and Extremism, it relates to the date as well. It is Sept. 11 today and this is the 14th year since the incident that happened in New York where so many innocent lives were killed,” said Tariq Azeem, Imam for the Ahmadiyya Muslim community.

“So the purpose of this event is to say what happened there had nothing to do with religion. Extremism is not part of the scriptures, it is rather people manipulating the scriptures for their own benefits. This is why we believe it’s relevant considering the date today, and not just the date, but it’s relevance this day and age.”

Azeem says that if people attend the conference and see different religious leaders come together, praising each other’s commonalities, it will help bring peace and harmony to the community. Harpreet Gill, who represented Sikhism at the conference, says it was a great honour to be invited and was grateful to tell the community what he’s learned from his religion.

“Sikh culture basically tells us there is one god and all human beings are the same, so we are the creatures of one god and we believe in oneness. Doing good and being truthful is the basic message we portray to society,” he said. About the value of the event he added, “It’s a great value because it is bringing communities together, sharing on a common platform. We are sharing our values and we are basically believing that being human is the primary religion and all the faiths should be respected equally.”

Pastor Jeffrey Thomas, who was there as the Christian voice at the conference, looked forward to answering questions about his own faith and helping to clear up any misconceptions people might have.

“I know that there are people who have questions about Christianity and what Christianity teaches,” he said.

“My understanding from what I read in the media, what I read in books and what I hear from various situations, I recognize that there is a certain level of confusion and it’s something that I’m interested in doing, answering people’s questions and helping people understand Christianity better.”

Regarding the night’s theme Thomas said the question is, “Does your holy book teach extremism?” To Thomas that depends how you define the word.

“If you’re going to refer to that as religiously motivated violence, then the answer is an emphatic no. But if you understand extremism as taking the core of the religious belief and practicing it to its extent, then yes,” he said. “The centre of Christian teaching is grace and love and the teaching of our scripture is that you are to take that to its extreme end.”

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