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Marriage and Family

UPF-Canada Annual Conference: Making Families Work

Ottawa, Canada - Ambassadors for Peace from across Canada gathered in Ottawa, the nation’s capital, on June 3, 2010 for the third annual Canadian conference of the Universal Peace Federation.

The theme of the conference was Making Canada’s Families Work: An Inter-Religious and Inter-Cultural Discussion.

Canada, originally inhabited by the native aboriginal peoples, has experienced wave after wave of immigrants since the first Europeans appeared on its soil in the fifteenth century. Since the French and English established their settlements, waves of immigration have made this country the most multi-cultural country on earth.

Forecasts are that Canada’s major cities will soon have a majority of “visible” minorities. There has been a strong influx of people from Asia, South Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean in the past 30 years that has strongly changed the complexion of the country. Each group has brought with them their language, culture, religious, traditions and values.

Canada is seen as a cultural mosaic, a concept that is encouraged to maintain social peace among its wide variety of citizens. The one-day conference consisted of three panels with a guest speaker and panelists from different backgrounds and persuasions reflecting the multi-cultural and multi-religious nature of Canada.

The first panel had as its focus: "What the Multi-Cultural Family has to offer Canada." Ottawa educator and activist in the Muslim community, Ms. Khadija Haffajee served as guest speaker. Panelists included Mr. John Linden of Montreal’s Anglo community, who has served as a motivational speaker and currently sees himself as a peace patriot. Judy Csillag, an interfaith diversity expert from Toronto, shared her experience growing up in the Jewish community.

Raheel Raza, an award-winning author who penned “Not My Jihad,” provided insightful anecdotes about her experience as an immigrant from Pakistan in Canada. Willie Nabus, a community leader in the Filipino community in the Greater Toronto area, offered his perspective as a member of one of the fastest-growing ethnic groups in Canada.

Rev. Darryl Gray served as Master of Ceremonies throughout the conference and also doubled as a moderator for each of the sessions. As a Christian minister for almost 30 years and strong activist in Montreal’s multi-cultural environment, he brought valuable insights to each of the sessions.

The second session addressed the Future of the Black Canadian Family. The guest speaker was writer, radio host, and community advocate, Mr. Fred Sherman. Mr. Sherman served for many years as the executive assistant to a Federal Cabinet Minister. He reminded the audience that the Black family is not a monolithic entity. Who is black and what is a black Canadian? he asked. Is it someone from the Caribbean, from Haiti, from Africa, or someone whose ancestors escaped slavery in the United States during the nineteenth century to find freedom in Canada?

Her Excellency Edda Mukabagwiza, High Commissioner of Rwanda to Canada caused everyone to pause when she expressed with much emotion that “it is not easy give what one does not have.” Canada has received many people from Rwanda during the past decade. Ambassador Mukabagwiza shared about the experience of recent immigrants from Africa.

Different perspectives on the future of the black family were conveyed by June Girvan, Founder of “Every Child Is Sacred”; Christopher Infantry, the 21-year-old president of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity of Ottawa; and Oni Joseph, an artist and poet who has made a name for herself as “Oni, the Haitian Sensation” through her poetry and performances. As a single mother of three children, she provided insights that many single mothers experience in this day and age.

The two sessions were followed by very lively question and answer sessions, and it was clear that the audience did not come to simply observe. This caused the program to be extended by almost two hours. Amazingly, everyone remained glued to their seats as the conference moved to the third session on “Would an Inter-Religious Council Help the United Nations?”

Guest speaker for the final session was Ms. Joy Pople of UPF-International’s Office of Communications. Pople provided an overview of the efforts toward realizing the vision proclaimed at the United Nations in August 2000 by the founder of UPF, the Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon.

Imam Dr. Zijad Delic, Executive Director of the Canadian Islamic Congress, provided his insights on why an interreligious council is an idea whose time has come. As a native of Bosnia, he has deep personal experience as to the need for interreligious dialogue at the highest level.

Dr. Ahmed Qadri, a specialist on terrorism and political science who now makes his home in Vancouver, referred to his experience in his native Pakistan. Both Delic and Qadri agreed that it was not religion that caused the many evil acts that have been perpetrated in the name of religion.

Hon. David Kilgour, former Canadian Secretary of State to Africa, Asia, and Latin America, offered his support for the establishment of an interreligious council.

The conference concluded with a Question and Answer session where a motion was made to develop an action plan to advance the agenda of promoting an interreligious council at the United Nations and a similar council in Canada at the Federal, Provincial and Municipal levels.

Special thanks to regional co-chairs, Dr. and Mrs. Chae Hee Lee, for their wisdom and guidance; Mr. Robert Duffy, President of UPF-Canada; Mr. Daniel Stringer, Chair of the National Capital Peace Council in Ottawa; Mrs. Lilly Tadin, President of Women’s Federation for World Peace-Canada; and Dr. Peter Stockdale, Dr. Hoossen Auckbaraullee, Sulaiman Khan, and Yourie Pankratz, Ambassadors for Peace who provided their support to make the conference a success.

An additional consultation on the proposal to establish and interreligious council at the United Nations is scheduled for August 26 in Ottawa.

Read presentations by:
Hon. David Kilgour: An Interreligious Council at the UN Could Help Build a More Sustainable World Peace
Joy Pople: Proposal for an Interreligious Council at the United Nations - English | French
Fred Sherman: The Future of the Black Canadian Family
Her Excellency Edda Mukabagwiza, High Commissioner of Rwanda to Canada: The Future of the Black Canadian Family

Conference reflections:
Farook Aman

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