In the shadow of recent deaths in Ottawa and Quebec, about 550 people of several faiths on Monday night raised their hands in a show of support against terrorism in the name of religion.
The audience at the 9th annual World Religions Conference came to hear speakers representing Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and atheism discuss if religion was a source of conflict or peace.
But the crowd that almost filled the RDC Art Centre didn’t just listen — they took a stand.
“We the participants of the World Religion Conference in Red Deer, which represents faith-based and non faith-based communities, hereby declare that there is absolutely no room for violence and terrorism committed in the name of ideology. We categorically oppose and reject cowardly and heinous acts against humanity committed by terrorists in the last weeks in Montreal and Ottawa,” said moderator Dr. Guillermo Baron, reading the conference’s resolution that garnered unanimous support.
The World Religions Conference is presented by the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at RDC and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Calgary.
When asked if the recent violence was due terrorism or mental illness, Dr. Mohyuddin Mirza, representing Islam, said “mental illness is the root cause and terrorism is the consequence.”
Mirza explained how the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community rejects all forms of extremism and that their motto is “Love For All – Hatred For None.”
“We are on the forefront, as the Ahmadiyya community. That’s the reason we organize these symposiums, for understanding and sending a message to those terrorists, . . . , that you are wrong and we are confronting them. We are gaining ground,” Mirza said.
Pastor Paul Vallee, who represented Christianity on the panel, called such violence “demonic in nature” and the perpetrators were looking for a way to express their anger in legitimate ways in their minds.
Karen Lumley Kerr, representing Atheism, said education was key when dealing with extreme religious interpretations that lead to violence.
She said history shows religion is both a source of conflict and peace.
“Can religion and a peaceful world co-exist? Of course it can. But only when we strive to have variations of religion that are tolerant of others and do not fall into the fundamental or extremist viewpoints.”