For the fourth year, a World Religions Conference has been held in the Hay River area.

This year, the conference – with the topic ‘Universal Compassion: The Core Human Value’ – was held at the Rec Centre on Sept. 16.

The event was presented by the Calgary branch of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada as an opportunity to exchange ideas and explore issues in a spirit of mutual respect.

Father Innocent Ukaegbu, right, of Our Lady of Assumption Roman Catholic Church makes a point during a World Religions Conference held in Hay River on Sept. 16. Other members of the panel were Imam Zahid Abid of Calgary, left, and Sub-Chief Doug Lamalice of K’atlodeeche First Nation.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

The conference had three new panellists – Father Innocent Ukaegbu of Our Lady of Assumption Roman Catholic Church, Sub-Chief Doug Lamalice of K’atlodeeche First Nation and Imam Zahid Abid from a mosque in Calgary.

Ukaegbu noted that Jesus issued a “loud call” in scripture for a feeling of sympathy for the less-privileged, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate their misfortune.

“The Catholic Church over the centuries has tried to respond to this divine mandate by formulating different organizations and agencies that are specifically meeting the needs of the poor and the less privileged all over the world,” he said, adding that individual Catholics are also encouraged to be charitable and compassionate.

“The Catholic Church therefore has made compassion a focal point in our missionary activities,” Ukaegbu noted.

Pointing to teachings in the Qur’an, Abid noted that Muslims are taught to show kindness to parents and other relatives, orphans, the needy, neighbours and strangers.

“We are taught that we must show kindness to all of them,” he said. “Kindness and compassion, they go hand in hand.”

In a written question from the audience – read by moderator Mayor Kandis Jameson – Lamalice was asked if he had any reluctance in showing compassion to Caucasian people considering the assimilation they put Indigenous people through.

“We’ve been put through a lot, but at the same time we’ve grown a lot. We’re adaptable,” Lamalice replied. “What we need to learn is what we’re going to learn. What we’re going to need to succeed for our children is what we’re going to do. So our ways have changed. Other people have come in. We walk hand in hand. And no reluctance whatsoever.”

About 25 people attended the conference, although that number included a delegation of 17 from Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada.

Along with Hay River, the organization hosted a World Religions Conference in Yellowknife on Sept. 15, which was the 12th such conference in the NWT capital.

Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada is part of an international organization founded in India in 1889.


Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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