Communities across British Columbia celebrated World Interfaith Harmony Week (WIHW) in a variety of ways. Encouraged by official proclamations issued by the Province of British Columbia as well as several cities and municipalities, individuals and groups from a wide variety of faith traditions joined in a week of dialogue, music, food and service to one another.
A number of interfaith organizations — including the Surrey Interfaith Council, Global Clergy Association, Multifaith Action Society and the United Religions Initiative — joined with individual congregations from the Muslim, Sikh, Baha’i, Jewish, Hare Krishna, Hindu and numerous Christian faiths and communities to celebrate.
Dr. John Borrows, professor of law at the University of Victoria, addresses nearly 200 people at the 12th Annual World Religions Conference. Borrows was one of three Christian presenters discussing how their faith helps them find God.
1 / 4One Billion and Rising volunteers in Surrey, B.C., listened to speakers address violence against women and children prior to assembling care packages for displaced women and children living in shelters across the Vancouver Lower Mainland.
2 / 4Completed care packages were distributed to shelters across the Vancouver Lower Mainland.
3 / 4A women’s choir from the South Fraser Unitarian congregation sings for the 3rd Annual Music and Spoken Word Concert organized by the Surrey Interfaith Council and hosted at the Surrey British Columbia Stake Centre of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in February 2019.
For the third year in a row, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hosted the Surrey Interfaith Council’s Music and Spoken Word Concert. The evening featured performances by individuals and groups from different ethnic and religious backgrounds.
At a time of growing intolerance and violence against religious minorities around the world, the concert displayed love, acceptance and harmony among people of various faith traditions. Rabbi Laura Kaplan, who performed in the program, stated, “Music is a universal language that speaks straight to the heart and moves us to a place beyond the dogmas and theological discussions, helping all present to feel the Spirit of God together.”
Reverend Samaya Oakley of the South Fraser Unitarian Congregation added, “We need not think alike to love alike.”
Other WIHW events included pilgrimages, devotionals, dinners and service projects. One service project, One Billion Rising, was organized to prepare and deliver care packages for women and children in shelters and low-income housing. Organizers were from a variety of faiths, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Community members were invited to participate through a variety of means, including the service website JustServe.org, sponsored by the Church.
Prior to preparing the care packages, volunteers heard from guest speakers, including one of the organizers, Sukhvinder Kaur Vinning of Worldwide Shift Disturbers. Vinning noted, “In a world of intolerance and hate, now, more than ever, we need to reach out to the poor and underprivileged. … Service to our fellow beings is something we can all do, regardless of our ethnic, religious or political backgrounds.”
Tonya Engen, British Columbia co-director of public affairs for the Church, also spoke and thanked those in attendance. Engen quoted a familiar Latter-day Saint scripture: “When [we] are in the service of [our] fellow beings [we] are only in the service of [our] God” (Mosiah 2:17)
On Vancouver Island, community members were invited to hear representatives from several faiths at the 12th Annual World Religions Conference. A panel of speakers addressed the topic of “How Do I Find God?” Dr. John Borrows, a professor of law at the University of Victoria and a member of the Church, was one of three panellists representing Christianity. Borrows spoke about his personal spiritual journey and declared that “truth can be found in all faith traditions” and that “we should welcome and cherish truth from whatever source.”
Ecclesiastical leaders from multiple faiths were present, including Frank Hitchmough, president of the Victoria British Columbia Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When asked about his thoughts on the afternoon’s discussion, he commented, “It was an outstanding display of dialogue and a much needed opportunity for community members to learn from one another.”
In addition to local ecclesiastical leaders, community leaders were also in attendance at the WIHW events. Attendees represented a wide range of faith traditions and ethnic backgrounds, all of whom came despite heavy snowfall and winter storm warnings.
The United Nations has declared: “At the core of all the faith systems and traditions is the recognition that we are all in this together and that we need to love and support one another to live in harmony and peace in an environmentally sustainable world” (http://www.un.org/en/events/interfaithharmonyweek). The events of World Interfaith Harmony Week encouraged Canadians to love and support one another in just this way.