Surrey, Vancouver, July 03, 2010
President, Punjabi Language Education Association
Canada is well known the world over as a truly multicultural, inclusive and welcoming country. More than 200 different communities representing nearly every culture call it their home. During the past fifty years, the face of this nation has undergone a major demographic shift. Cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal have become truly international cities.
In keeping with the rest of Canada, British Columbia in general and Metro Vancouver in particular, has also undergone a major change. The so-called visible minorities have now become majorities. As such, the word visible minorities has become rather obsolete. The ever-changing human landscape also offers some unique challenges. Organizations like Richmond Multicultural Concerns Society (RMCS) are in the forefront in responding to these challenges.
For over twenty five years, RMCS has been working hard in promoting intercultural harmony. Also, it has been doing a commendable job in empowering new immigrants integrate well into the Canadian society. In this context RMCS, in co-operation with Embrace B.C., held a very successful Inter-Faith Bridging Forum in Richmond on June 10, 2010.
To start with, RMCS decided to focus on three of the major religions of the world- Hinduism, Islam and Sikhism. Like every other religion, these are also great religions. However, due to one reason or other every religion becomes the victim of misunderstandings, misconceptions and myths. Hinduism, Islam and Sikhism are no exception to this. Consequently, the forum was designed to create more awareness and understanding about these three religions.
Azhar Syed, a prominent member of the Muslim community gave a very impressive description of Islam, its basic principles and some of the misconceptions. He emphasized that the best way to learn more about Islam is to study it in detail. Mr. Syed, in addition to explaining the pillars of the religion, highlighted some of Islams major planks such as fasting, charity and the Hajj to Mecca.
Azhar Syed was followed by prominent Sikh scholar Gian Singh Kotli. Mr. Kotli gave a brief description of the Sikh religion, its basic principles and articles of faith. He highlighted the generosity and the accomplishments of the Sikh community. Mr. Kotli was followed by Pandit Pramod Sharma, a scholar on the Hindu religion.
Mr. Sharma emphasized that Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life. He stated that ultimate reality is one but different sages call it by different names. Like Mr. Syed and Mr. Kotli, Mr. Sharma stressed the connection between humans and God. He emphasized the respect for nature which is a common thread through all religions.
The formal presentations were followed by a very stimulating questions and answer session. The feedback from the participants was very positive. RMCS plans to follow-up with more on this subject in the near future. Forums like these go a long way in bringing people of different faiths and cultures together.
(Balwant Sanghera is a retired School Psychologist and