Speaker Profiles (31st WRC)

Speaker Profiles

Distinguished Scholars of the World’s Religions and Philosophies

Presided and Moderated by
Jeff Allan
K-W’s Famous Radio Host


Famous talk radio host. Jeff has years of experience on air. Started at Toronto in 1987 and then went on to work on morning radio in Owen Sound, London, Winnipeg, Regina, Ottawa and now in Kitchener. Each day, listeners to 570 News can count on Jeff to bring the news stories everyone is talking about to the table with opinion, passion and the big questions listeners want answered.

     

Representing Judaism
Dr. Allan Gould - Toronto


Outstanding speaker and scholar of Judaism. Allan has a Masters in Theatre from New York University, and a Doctorate in English from York University. Has taught at York and U. of T. for a decade, and authored 42 books, published by 16 international publishers, including the highly-regarded anthology, What Did They Think of the Jews? Lectures frequently across North America on Jewish topics.

     

Representing Hinduism
Swami Bhagwan Shanker- Hamilton


A devout disciple and lecturer of Shri Ashutosh Maharaj who is the Head of the world-wide mission, Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan with head office in India. Born in Guyana, and migrated during early secondary school to Canada. Through guidance of his Master, Ashutosh ji, he regularly engages in spiritual discourses in many parts of the world. Electrical mechanical contractor by profession while simultaneously pursuing a path in Sanathan Dharma (Hinduism).

     

Representing Sikhism
Hari Nam Singh Khalsa - Toronto


Spiritual Leader, Mentor, Author, and Teacher not only within the Sikh Faith but to all people. Hari Nam Singh Khalsa hosts a nationally aired weekly TV program, “Insight Into Sikhism”, the only regularly scheduled English-language television program about Sikhism. His mission is to uplift the truth and well-being of all people. Author of  “Wisdom Shared” & “Aquarian Consciousness”,  Mr. Khalsa teaches individuals to expand beyond their self-imposed limitations.

     

Representing Humanism
Doug Thomas - Elmira


Retired teacher, Canadian historical fiction novelist, Doug Thomas is the President of the Society of Ontario Freethinkers and founding President of Secular Connexion Séculaire, a new advocacy group for Canadian Humanists. He is publishing editor of Canadian Freethinker magazine with essays published internationally in The United States, Europe and India. A respected Agnostic Humanist, Doug actively promotes open secularism as a means of separating Church from State in Canada.

     

Representing Islam
Muhammad Afzal Mirza - Mississauga


Prolific speaker and a learned scholar of world religions. Takes keen interest in youth welfare. Regularly hosts a live phone-in radio program explaining contemporary Islamic issues. Graduated from the Ahmadiyya Islamic University in 1976. Worked as an Islamic Missionary in various cities in Pakistan, USA and now in Canada. Former Vice President of the Institute of Islamic Studies in Mississauga. Presented at numerous interfaith forums throughout Canada.

     

Representing Christianity
Pastor Rick Pryce - Kitchener


An ordained Pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, currently serving with St. Philip Lutheran Church in Kitchener. Very involved with multi-faith work, and recently appointed to the Steering Committee of Interfaith Grand River.  Represented Christianity at various multi-faith events and performed spiritual presentations at previous World Religions Conferences.  Recently published in the Lutheran Journal Consensus.  Working on his Doctor of Ministry Degree at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary.

     

Representing Aboriginal Spirituality
Gerard Sagassige - Kitchener


Aboriginal spiritual and cultural Advisor. Gerard works within Healing of the Seven Generations, a community healing strategy and support program in Kitchener-Waterloo. An Ojibwe of the Great Mississauga Nation. Raised with belief, faith and prayers and still maintains a guidance structure from a circle of Aboriginal Elders. Life's priority focus is to seed one's healing path for the legacies of residential school era and the 60's scoop of Aboriginals.

     

Representing Buddhism
Sister Thich nu Tinh Quang - Hamilton


Excellent teacher. Acquired a B.A. in Philosophy, a Diploma in Human Services, majoring in Addictions and Mental Health.  Post-graduate training was at the Gestalt Institute of Toronto. Spends several months a year in Ba Ria - Vung Tau, Vietnam, with her teachers.  Her training has been in Korean and Vietnamese Zen. Sister was ordained in Vietnam by her Master, Most Venerable Thich Nhat Lien.

 

Sikh Perspective & Hymn (31st WRC)

Introduction to Sikhism (5 minute Opening Speech)

Who is God? Nature and Characteristics : Theme Speech
Sikh Perspective
by Hari Nam Singh Khalsa,
Spiritual Leader, Mentor, Author, and Teacher

Abstract of Theme Speech

Within Sikhism the nature of God is described in the Mool (Root) Mantra. The Mool Mantra is the most important concept within the Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh Holy Scriptures), and is considered the basis of Sikh theology It is said that the Mool Mantra was the first composition of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh Faith.


Mool (Root) Mantra


Ek Ong Kar , Sat Nam
Karta Purkh, Nirbao Nirvair
Akal Moorat, Ajoonee
Saibhung, Gurprasaad
Jap
Aad Suchh
Jugaad Suchh
Haibee Suchh
Nanak Hosee Bhee Suchh


The creator of all is One, Truth is the identity (name)
The creator is the doer of all, without fear or anger
And is undying, unborn and self-illumined
This is revealed through the True Guru’s grace
Meditate
True in the beginning
True through all the Ages
And is True even now
O’ Nanak, God shall ever be True


In relationship to God, Sikhism teaches three basic principles of conscious living, Kirat Karo, to work righteously as a contributor to society, Naam Japo, to meditate daily and Vand Chakkō, to share what you have with others.

In the Western World for the most part we are taught that God lives outside of us and that we have to reach out to find God. Guru Nanak, taught that God lives and breathes in the heart of every soul and that we can experience the God that lives within. His simple concept was:

“If you cannot see God in All, You cannot see God at All”

In that consciousness it is through the eyes of every human being that can see the light in each soul. When we hold that concept then life can become a joy and a celebration. That is truly seeing God in all.

There is a very popular saying that we are created in the image of God. That is easy to say and very easy to recognize, but the most difficult part is that we are created in the image of God, but do we LIVE in the image of God?

In the nature and characteristics of God we have to understand how God lives within each of us. We are born pure, but we forget to live purely. We put too much commotion and feeling into our life. One way to test something is to say: "Does this make me noble, does this make me Divine, does this elevate me to my Creator?" If the action or thought does not align with these three things, depart. And make it as a habit. First ask yourself, are you noble or not? If you are not, do anything you want—anything, it will not matter, because you are not noble, and your decision must be blessed. But if you care to decide you are noble, honorable, truthful, and pure, then whatever comes to you, filter it with one word that is very personal. "Does it make me noble, pure, truthful? Is it a love without condition or with condition?"

This is the essence of God in each of us.

We are human beings. “Hu” means "halo, light" which we all have. "Man" means "mental." "Being” means "for the time being." For the time being, you are a mental halo of light. Once you decide to be noble, Mother Nature and God will treat you so. Otherwise your life will be up, down, up, and down, left, right, and left, right, left. But you won't go anywhere. Our relationship is not what our relationship is here. It comes from many lives, and it will go on for many lives. As a human we have a breakthrough chance. We have come from Infinity to finite to merge back into Infinity. This is our temporary place. It's a motel. Do not take the pillows from the motel away with you.

Why pollute this beautiful human life with emotion and commotion, and ruin the whole thing? Why? There's a beauty in spiritual grace. That beauty is very attractive, very real. Conscious living is better than God itself. When you live consciously, you dwell in God. Then you have a very beautiful power. Wherever you cast your gaze, elevation occurs. Wherever you touch, elevation occurs. Wherever you speak, elevation occurs.

For three thousand years we have been told by every religion, "Find God." Where are you going to find God? God is everywhere—Omnipresent, Omniscient. That is the truth given by Guru Nanak In the Mool Mantra.

I believe that God is perfect, and I believe God, created as perfect and cannot create imperfection. It’s a science. Action has a reaction, equal and opposite. It’s Newton’s Third Law. It’s a law of life. Action has a reaction equal and opposite. Polarity has reality in the base of all Infinity. Finite is a part of Infinity and merger is possible when reality becomes pure in clarity. It’s a simple law and there’s no nonsense about it.

Sikh religion and it's concept is very realistic. It belives not in One God. It believes in the TOTALITY of One God. It does not have a guilt of good and bad: "Aval allah, noor upaayaa...." There is ONE light which created the whole universe and everybody is created by One God, the same God for all.

Ek Ong Kar – this is the fundamental universal truth of the Sikh Faith. There is One God who is the God for everyone regardless of religion, faith, cast, colour, creed, gender or preference.

In this God consciousness we can find peace, prosperity and happiness.


Sikh Spiritual Hymn Presentation

Jewish Perspective & Hymn (31st WRC)

Introduction to Judaism (5 minute Opening Speech)

 

Who is God? Nature and Characteristics (Theme Speech)
Jewish Perspective by Dr. Allan Gould - Toronto
Author, Lecturer, Humourist, Speechwriter

 

Abstract of Theme Speech

A very famous anecdote found in the Jewish Talmud--which consists of over five dozen massive volumes of inspired rabbinical commentary and interpretations of verses from the Hebrew ("Old") Testament, or the Five Books of Moses (a/k/a the Torah), describes Hillel being approached by a man who wishes to mock the brilliant rabbi/scholar. "Teach me the entire meaning of God's Law while I stand on one foot," he insists. How insulting. Yet this giant of learning smiles and states, "Do not do to others what you would not wish them to do to you." He then continues, inspirationally, "All the rest is commentary. GO AND STUDY."

In the impossibly brief few minutes I have this morning, let me share just two tiny passages from our Talmud, which I shall comment on in depth on October 1st. When put together, these brief three selections from rabbinical commentaries, written down about two millennia ago, help capture what I admire and love about the Jewish faith.

a) "It was taught in the name of Rabbi Yehoshua: The poor person (at the door) does more for the householder than the householder does for the poor person." (I shall study this and the others with our esteemed attendees).

b) Rabbi Joshua ben Levi taught his son, "Be mindful of the honour of an old man who has forgotten his learning under duress. For it is said, 'both the whole tablets and the shattered tablets lie in the Ark of the Covenant.'"

And that is it! Here I am, hardly an Orthodox Jew, or I would not have driven here on our Jewish Day of Rest, to this impressive conference. But I shall try--the Yiddish word is "chutzpah" or "outrageous nerve"--to match the revered Rabbi Hillel of 2,000 years ago, to capture this extraordinary faith of mine--which gave birth to the two other magnificent Abrahamic religions, Christianity and Islam--while all of you out there are essentially "standing on one foot"while I do so!

Look at the beauty of the first of these two brief rabbinic anecdotes from our Talmud: now, why on earth should a beggar at one's door do more for us middle-class or wealthy homeowners than we do for him? He took us away from our family dinner and bugged us, like a telemarketer--and we may be giving him our hard-earned cash! The rabbis left the answer open, but with study, it soon becomes clear: All we comparatively rich people have done is handed over a few bucks to the poor guy, so we have a good feeling of being generous. Big deal! But what has the beggar done? He has given us the chance to help out another of God's creatures; possibly saving him or his family from starvation or eviction from their hovel. He has given us the opportunity to fulfill one of the greatest "mitzvot"--the Hebrew word for "commandments from God"--that "good deed" being, to perform TZEDAKAH. Think about this, please: that Hebrew word means "RIGHTEOUSNESS," and it is NOT to be confused with "CHARITY." The problem with "charity" is that it comes from the Latin, meaning "LOVE." But what if I do not love this beggar, or even like him? What if he has AIDS or lung cancer, which I feel strongly he brought on himself, through unprotected sex or by smoking himself into deadly lung cancer? The concept of CHARITY, dear students of world religions, contains a risk of letting us off the hook! "I don't like this guy; I won't give him a penny!" I may think. But the Jewish concept of Tzedakah means that I HAVE NO CHOICE IN THIS MATTER! I CANNOT BE RIGHTEOUS, IN THE EYES OF GOD, IF I DO NOT GIVE MONEY TO THIS PERSON! As you see, the poor person at our door, or on that downtown street with his or her hand outstretched toward us, is doing FAR more for us than we could ever do for him! I may give him a few bucks, which hardly puts a dent in my financial well-being. But he just gave ME the chance to fulfill the holy act of Tzedakah--of being a righteous person; of fulfilling God's expectations of me--one of the most important of the 613 Commandments found in the Hebrew Testament. Islam, with its obsession with giving alms to the poor, borrowed this from Judaism, and we were proud to share the holy concept with them, and thrilled that they chose it as one of the pillars of their faith, as well.

The second little gem from the tens of thousands of pages of rabbinic insights and challenges to us humans, is my favourite, and I love to joke when I have taught this particular Talmudic passage in lectures I have had the honour of giving across North America, that an entire religion, or way of life, could be based on this handful of words alone.

Here are some of the questions I shall throw at you, and try to answer for you, and preferably with you, this morning: What is this ageing rabbi requesting here? Does he have Alzheimer's? What do you think he means when he talks about his "forgetting his learning." What does the rabbi mean by the phrase "under duress"? Why is he making this request to one of his sons? And what ARE these "tablets" he is referring to? Think back to what every Western child, whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or any other major faith, has been taught, when they hear "Bible Stories"!

And what are these "shattered tablets"? What are the rabbis teaching us in this brief, two-line story? And what does it say about the Ancient Greeks, who arguably had the greatest of civilizations--and about us, or NOT about us, in the 21st century?

The Greeks, as historians have discovered, used to leave their sickly children and elderly, dying grandparents, on the sides of mountains, where they were often devoured by wolves. And how many of you are aware that the Nazis, during the 1930s, coined an expression, "LIFE UNWORTHY OF LIFE"-- using it as the reason for dragging blind children, crippled children, mentally-disturbed children--and adults--from their beds, and then threw them into crowded trucks, which had gasoline piped into their exhaust systems, killing them off by the dozens, every hour--in major hospitals across Germany. After all, these obviously useless men, women and children were taking up valuable beds, which would soon be needed by wounded soldiers coming home. That is right, dear people: German doctors--"do no harm" was their motto, please recall--saw themselves as doing the State's work, if not God's--by getting rid of all these expensive cripples. Who needs them? What a waste of money they were. The gassing of several million Jews, Poles, homosexuals and gypsies had been practised for a full decade like this, before the first state-organized gassing at the death camps began in the early 1940s. Life unworthy of life? Hardly a Jewish concept, as we see in this deeply moving, inspiring little exchange from the Jewish Talmud.


Jewish Spiritual Hymn Presentation

 

Program (31st WRC)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Humanities Theatre, J.G. Hagey Hall, Ontario, Canada

Presided and Moderated by

Jeff Allan
KW's Famous Radio Host

Opening Session : 10:00a — 12:20p

10:00a    Doors Open (Registration and Social Time)

10:30a    Opening Multi-Media Presentation

10:40a    Welcome by the Presiding Chair - Jeff Allan

10:45a    Reading from the Holy Scriptures — Representatives of all Faiths

11:01a    Opening Ceremony - Introduction of Speakers and Dignitaries

— Introduction of Speakers and Dignitaries
— Unveiling of the World Religions Conference Plaque
— Singing of O'Canada - National Anthem of Canada by Cecile Monique

11:08a    Introducing the Conference

— Mr. Lal Khan Malik, National President, AMJ Canada

11:14a    Introduction to World Faiths & Philosphies — All speakers *

11:15a — Judaism: Dr. Allan Gould - Toronto
11:20a — Hinduism: Swami Bhagwan Shanker - Hamilton
11:25a — Sikhism: Hari Nam Singh Khalsa - Toronto
11:30a — Humanism: Doug Thomas - Elmira
11:35a — Islam: Muhammad Afzal Mirza - Mississauga
11:40a — Christianity: Pastor Rick Pryce - Kitchener
11:45a — Aboriginals: Gerard Sagassige - Kitchener
11:50a — Buddhism: Sister Thich Quang - Hamilton

11:56a    Messages and Greetings from Guest Dignitaries

— Representative of the University of Waterloo
— Local and Regional Leaders
— Provincial and National leaders

12:20p    Banquet LUNCH and SOCIAL Break

Theme Session "Who is God" * - 1:20p — 4:45p

Seven World Faith representatives and a Humanists philosopher (Representing Atheists and Agnostics) presented his/her view of their respective faith on the theme "Who is God, Nature and Characteristics" (15 minutes each). Each speech was followed by a spiritual presentation of a poem or hymn reinforcing the concept presented by the respective faiths religious group (5 minutes).

1:20p Introduction to the Theme Session Moderator


1:24p Jewish Perspective — Dr. Allan Gould - Toronto
1:39p Judaic Spiritual Poem or Song — Local Jewish Community


1:45p Hindu Perspective — Swami Bhagwan Shanker - Hamilton
2:00p Hindu Spiritual Poem or Song — Local Hindu Community


2:06p Sikh Perspective — Hari Nam Singh Khalsa - Toronto
2:21p Sikh Spiritual Poem or Song — Sikh Student's Association, UW


2:27p Humanist Perspective — Doug Thomas - Elmira
2:42p Secular Poem or Song — Society of Ontario FreeThinkers


2:48p Islamic Perspective — Muhammad Afzal Mirza - Mississauga
3:03p Islamic Spiritual Poem or Song — Ahmadiyya Muslim Childrens


3:09p Coffee Break — Complimentary Refreshments and Social


3:40p Announcing rules of the Q/A Session — Moderator


3:43p Christian Perspective — Pastor Rick Pryce - Kitchener
3:58p Christian Spiritual Poem or Song — Local Christian Community


4:04p Aboriginal Spiritual Perspective — Gerard Sagassige - Kitchener
4:19p Aboriginal Spiritual Poem or Song — Aboriginal Community of KW


4:25p Buddhist Perspective — Sister Thich nu Tinh Quang - Hamilton
4:40p Buddhist Spiritual Poem or Song — Local Buddhist Community

Concluding & Interactive Session : 4:46p — 5:45p

4:46p    Recognition of Speakers and Volunteers

— Vote of Thanks — M. Amir Sheikh
Regional President, Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama`at

4:52p    Open Questions Session with Speakers of the event

5:40p    Closing Remarks — Event Moderator, Jeff Allan

5:43p    Silent Prayers — Multi Faith

5:45p    DINNER and SOCIAL

(* The order of speakers presenting various religious perspectives was determined via random draw at the last conference held on October 16, 2010)

 

Islamic Perspective & Hymn (31st WRC)

Introduction to Islam (5 minute Opening Speech)

Who is God? Nature and Characteristics
Islamic Perspective
Muhammad Afzal Mirza
by Islamic Missionary
Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama`at Canada

Abstract of Theme Speech

Say `He is ALLAH, the One! ALLAH the Independent and Besought of all. HE begets not, nor, is HE begotten, and there is none like unto HIM (Holy Qur’an 112:1-5)

He is Allah, the Originator, the Creator, the Designer. His are the most beautiful names. All that is in the Heavens and the earth glorifies Him. And He is the Mighty, the Wise. (Holy Qur’an 59:25)

HIS is the Kingdom of the heavens and the earth; HE gives life and HE causes death, and HE has power over all things, He is Compassionate and Merciful. He is Kind, Loving, and Wise. He is the Creator, the Sustainer, and the Healer. He is the One who Guides, the One who Protects, the One who Forgives. (Holy Qur’an 57: 3)

The founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian said: “It is His work to bring a thing into existence from nothingness.For example, in the visions of dream you see how He creates a world without matter and shows you every mortal and nonexistent being as having existence. Thus are all His Powers.” (The Will, p.12-15)

It is interesting to note that a majority of world’s population are believers in the Existence of God and that approximately three fourths of world’s population believe In some form of deity. From amongst those who are unsure about this issue or even Those who do not believe, there appears to be an ongoing expression of a quest for a Better understanding of this issue. All this may not be conclusive in its own right but Neither is it insignificant in any manner and puts the debate in some context. We can Also infer from this that proof of non-existence of God should at least be as much Required if not more than the proof of existence of God. The non-believer is after all Claiming what is at odds with the belief of majority of world population. One of the primary arguments given by a non-believer is that since God cannot be seen, heard or touched, this is strong enough a reason to believe in non-existence.

However, we have definite scientific evidence about many things that exist but we cannot perceive them with our primary senses. For example an empty room is not actually devoid of any existence. In fact it is filled with air along with the composing mixture of gases, although we cannot see, hear, smell, taste or touch any of this. We also know that certain birds and animals communicate with each other at frequencies that they can well perceive but which are beyond our perception. Thus inability to perceive something by basic human senses is hardly a proof for its non-existence.

REVELATION

God says: "I was a hidden treasure; I loved to be known. Hence I created Adam so that I could be known. It has always been God's practice to communicate to people of every age.

Why should we try to find out about God?

Let us answer the question as to whether we need to inquire into the existence of God. If it is proven that God does exist, then: (1) Is there any benefit for us to believe in Him? (2) Do we disadvantage ourselves in any way by denying Him? Now, the answer to these questions would depend on how the question is put before us. If it is presented to us in such a way that it makes little difference to us whether we believe in God or not, then it would merely be a hypothetical question, and everyone, with the exception of those who are interested in such hypothesis would be justified in refusing to go into this research.

When we return to the question of God, we find that that there are three sources which put the question before us:

1. Human Nature;    2. Reason;    3. Religion

I shall first of all take up human nature. Everyone who has a mind prone to analysis and whose true nature is not covered by veils of darkness and ignorance, does occasionally feel in his heart of hearts that there is likely to be a God Who has created him and Who governs this universe.

The same is true of human reason, which, even though it might eventually come to the conclusion that there is no God, poses these questions to us very forcefully. In fact, it presents these questions much more clearly and elaborately than human nature does. It warns us to reflect and consider lest there be a God Who has sent us to this world for a particular purpose and lest we should die without knowing Him and being unaware of the purpose of our creation. We must therefore wake up and try to find Him!

Our Last, but not least, this question is also raised by religion. All religions in the world invariably raise the question of God Almighty before us. God and His attributes form the very core of the teachings of every religion and billions of their followers believe their religions to have originated from God and to be based upon the Divine Word which has been revealed throughout the ages and has kept the world illuminated. Though some teachings of these religions have been interpolated and corrupted, they were originally based on Divine Revelation. Hence, religions provide much more detailed, clear, and definite descriptions of the Being of God, than human nature or human reason.

In other words, the brief message contained in human nature and reason has been elaborated by revelation. Human nature and reason only hint at the possibility of the existence of God, but religion tells us as a matter of absolute certainty that we do have a God, Who is our Creator and Master and Who has sent us to this world for a special purpose. The different religions may differ on many of their teachings, but they are in total agreement on the basic points.

Hence we conclude that the search for God is so important that no sensible person can afford to ignore it for an instant. After discussing the unanimous testimony of religions, I would like to say something in particular about the teachings of Islam. Islam tells us that we have One God, Who is our Creator and Master, and that He has brought us into existence from nothingness and it is He Who controls our lives. He wants us to achieve a higher status. He has made all kinds of provisions for our welfare Islam says that we have One God Who is Gracious.

All I say is that these are the attributes of our God as proclaimed by Islam. Islam goes further and proclaims that we can find this God if we seek and strive for Him. Do you now consider this search and investigation to be useless and irrelevant? If you have a mind that ponders and a sensitive heart, you will never consider this quest futile.


Islamic Spiritual Hymn Presentation