Gian Singh Kotli Vancouver
It was a highly rewarding and inspiring experience for me to attend the World Religions Conference at a city like Tuktoyaktuk gracefully adoring its lone presence with the grandeur of awesome natural beauty of the shores of Arctic Ocean in the farthest Northwest Territories of Canada. Such a venture becomes all the more thrilling and memorable when it is inspired by religious fervor and community service.
I was full of enthusiasm to present the Sikh perspective of love for all and seeking well being of the entire mankind as enshrined in the Sikh scripture Sri Guru Granth Sahib at this interfaith event on September 17, 2011. Tuktoyaktuk or Tuktoyaaqtuuq or simply Tuk means ‘resembling a caribou’. Tuk is a hamlet with a population of about 1,000. It is about 500 KM to the north of Arctic Circle and 200 KM to the north of Inuvik. It is accessible only by plane or by ice roads in winter. Its location is 69` 27` North Latitude.
The credit of organizing such humanitarian conferences goes to Mr. Rizwan Peerzada president, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of British Columbia and his entire team of dedicated volunteers who are frequently organizing such conferences to spread the Islamic message of peace and harmony and also invite learned speakers of other religions to do the same as ordained by their faiths. Their present schedule contained first conference at Tuktoyaktuk on September 17, Inuvik on 18, Dawson City on 19 and on September 21 in Whitehorse, the Capital city of Yukon province. I think myself fortunate to offer my humble services in all these conferences.
The Chairman and Moderator of event at Kitti Hall, Tuktoyaktuk was His Worship Mayor Mervin Gruben. But during his absence Jean Gruben Pastoral Leader of the local Catholic Church acted as the Chairperson and moderator. Aboriginal leader Gruben presented Aboriginal perspective, Roman Catholic missionary and Science professor Sister Fay Trombley: Christianity, Philosophy teacher and scholar Dan Heilbrunn: Judaism and Islamic missionary Muhammad Afzal Mirza presented Islam.
The program was quite inspiring as the speakers presented their religious perspective on the topic of, “Role of women in building a healthy society” besides seeking harmony and peace in the world according to their faiths providing soothing knowledge to the local attendees who deem such rare events a heavenly bliss.
I feel doubly blessed. Because besides conveying the Sikh message of seeking well being of the entire human race, I also presented handy books on Sikhism by Dr. Saroop Singh Alag and Dr. Surinder Singh Kohli which I had taken from the library of Canadian Singh Sabha Gurdwara Surrey, B.C. to Aboriginal leader Jean Gruben, Roman Catholic missionary Sister Fay Trombley, Judaism scholar Dan Heilbrunn and Islamic missionary Muhammad Afzal Mirza of Toronto.
Coordinator Rizwan Peerzada gladly expressed his desire that if I like I can also display Gurmat books on tables as they always display Islamic books at such conferences because their mission is to affirm the value of interfaith interaction for educating people regarding other faiths and philosophical traditions.
Apart from this the most significant thing which gives me immense satisfaction is that I was the first Sikh with turban and beard to reach there on such an occasion, speak on Sikhism, distribute books on Sikhism, freely move about on the streets, talk to curious people and children, and walk in the waters of Arctic Ocean. It was very cold. I had moved few yards after walking around in the ocean when some kids came running to me along with their little bouncy dog. Jeanie, a girl of about 11 and her sister Cameron handed over me a plastic bag, saying mom has sent this special fish for you, this is from Rice coast. I was extremely wonderstruck with this loveliest thing. I hugged and blessed them and their family. Their dog Nano also seemed eager for a hug. I picked him up and got myself photographed by my friend Dan Heilbrunn. The whole caravan of these beautiful souls left for their mom saying me bye bye. I handed over the fish bag to Heilbrunn.
I believe the message of spreading of good will for all at such far off places of the globe is quite in accordance with Guru Nanak’s widely known story of, “Vasde Raho, Ujjarh Jaao.” (Stay here, be scattered). This story has its inherent message to spread goodness all over the globe.