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July 2020
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Ambassadors for Peace

Canadian Muslims Address Parliament of the World's Religions

Dr. Golam Dastagir and Imam Abdul Hai Patel, both Ambassadors for Peace from UPF-Canada's Central District, were speakers at the Parliament of World's Religions held in Melbourne, Australia, from December 3 to 9.

Dr. Dastagir spoke at session entitled "Sufism and Peace: A Meeting Point for All Religious Traditions." Sufis believe that the loving attitude popular in religious traditions today is not a new phenomenon, but rather a continuous unbroken movement in the annals of human history. It is a phenomenon that allows for a meeting point of all religious traditions. A diverse panel discussed how that meeting point on the path to peace and unity can be achieved through Sufism, the inner, mystical dimension of Islam.

A visiting research scholar at the University of Toronto, Dr. Dastagir holds a Ph.D. in Islamic philosophy. He has also been a Commonwealth Scholar in the United Kingdom and a Fulbright Nominee in the US. Dr. Dastagir has over 18 years of teaching and research experience in philosophy and world religions at Jahangirnagar University in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and is the former director of the Centre for Philosophical Research.

The panel discussion included an examination of the impact of Sufism on Bengal Vaisnavism. Vaisnavism is a tradition of Hinduism that is distinguished by its worship of Vishnu or his associated avatars, principally as Rama and Krishna, as the original and supreme God. The panel took a critical look at whether Sufi movements, integrated into local customs, can counter Islamic extremism in Bangladesh and maintain communal harmony and social cohesion despite enormous contemporary challenges. Speakers described Sufism as a means to achieve the peace that lies within each individual, regardless of culture, religion, or background.

Imam Patel was a presenter on the panel discussion about "Being a University Chaplain in the 21st Century." Chaplaincies in universities operate from many models and approaches and have adapted to the changing multicultural and multifaith contexts of university campuses. Panel members explored the possibilities for chaplaincy in the 21st century as a way of contributing to improved interreligious relations and dialogue.

The Muslim chaplain at the University of Toronto, Imam Patel shares an Islamic and multifaith perspective. He has a rich experience of chaplaincy in universities, police facilities, correctional facilities, hospitals, and the military. He is Chaplain of the York Regional Police, a member of the Canadian Association of Police Chaplains, and President of the Ontario Multifaith Council. He is responsible for ensuring religious and spiritual care in jails, senior homes, and hospitals in Ontario. He also sits on the Interfaith Advisory Council of Federal Jails.

The workshop explored visions for university chaplaincies in global multifaith contexts, focusing specifically on conditions for community, deepening spirituality, and encouraging personal transformation. The workshop’s interactive format included time for audience contribution and discussion.

Both participated in the session of the Parliament of the World's Religions about the UPF Founder during which Enrique Ledesma, representing UPF-Oceania, gave a PowerPoint presentation on "Rev. Moon's Vision of a Global Family." For a report about that session, click here.

To read excerpts of Dr. Dastagir's presentation on Sufism, click here.

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