A contemporary look at faith| Tue Oct 12 2010
WATERLOO — We are all guilty of it.
Being so busy with everyday life — be it work, getting dinner on the table, driving the kids to swimming or hockey practice and going to bed at a decent time so you can do it all over again the next day.
Today’s technology keeps you connected 24/7.
So what about time to reflect, to ponder, to think about something other than one’s day-to-day distractions?
“I haven’t met a single person who doesn’t ask for a greater sense of meaning in their lives,’’ said Kulvir Singh Gill, a practicing Sikh from Brampton who will speak in Waterloo at an upcoming conference.
“If something is important to you, you make time for it,’’ said Gill, who tries to pray three times a day. “Life is about choices.’’
Having faith plays an important part in his life and doesn’t mean sacrificing what others consider living, he said.
Gill watches television on his cellphone, keeps track of world events through tweets on Twitter and talks regularly with family in India on Facebook.
As a management consultant, the 33-year-old has a busy work schedule and also volunteers with Sikh youth, the Sikh arts council, a food bank and Habitat for Humanity.
Gill said keeping faith in his daily life is part of his routine and being a Sikh means a daily routine is at the heart of his faith.
“If you don’t have a routine, you are left to your own devices,’’ he said.
Gill said when he talks about his faith with others who share his beliefs or those who don’t, he feels closer to his religious roots. Born in Calgary to Sikh parents, Gill has practiced Sikhism since he was a child.
He is one of eight speakers at the World Religions Conference to be held at the Humanities Theatre at the University of Waterloo Oct. 16.
The conference, organized by Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, is celebrating its 30th anniversary. It’s a multi-faith event that brings together speakers of various faiths. This year’s theme is keeping faith alive in contemporary society.
The faiths represented include aboriginal, atheist, Buddhist, Christian, Hinduism, Islamic, Jewish and Sikhism.
The conference, which is free, will offer a complimentary lunch and dinner for participants.
Conference co-ordinator Nabeel Rana said the conference is an opportunity to build friendships with groups who might not interact with each other.
“It’s an opportunity to understand the other perspective, not to call any perspective or view weird,’’ said Rana, a software engineer at RIM.
He said the theme is chosen after consultation with conference faith partners which include K-W Council of Churches, Interfaith Grand River and other religious groups.
In the past, subjects discussed have ranged from the existence of God, the concept of salvation, the relevancy of God and how religion can protect the environment.
Rana said a similar conference might have attracted several thousand people 100 years ago because faith was more relevant to people.
“There seems to be a decline in terms of popularity, excitement of faith,’’ he said.
Rana, takes time out for Friday prayers by joining other Ahmadiyya Muslims in a rented room at the University of Waterloo.
Stuart Bechman, a humanist from California who runs the Atheist Alliance International, said he relies on reason, purpose and science as a way to achieving a fulfilled life and a better future.
He said there isn’t necessarily a higher purpose but a broader one.
“For me, it’s education, learning about the world around me. The reflection part is really important,’’ Bechman said.
Raised in the United Methodist Church in Arizona, he said he “appreciates the awe and wonder” of other religions.
Bechman believes all conference participants are talking about the same issues.
“Some describe it in mystical terms. We keep it to a human level. It’s not so mysterious,’’ he said.
Christopher Ross, a religion and culture professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said one shouldn’t worry about keeping faith alive because it meets a human need.
Buddhism and Buddhist mediation is an antidote to the daily distraction in people’s lives, said Ross, a practicing Buddhist for the past 13 years.
He said most people are distracted, multi-tasking and juggling their day with various activities. He sees it in the hallways of the university where students walk to class as they are talking on the phone or texting.
“This underscores the need for a spiritual practice,’’ said Ross, who meditates twice a day.
Ross, who’s been meditating for 30 years, said it is a “positive addiction” that gets him through the day.
For Buddhists, the focus is on the present, providing an inner peace and steering away from the “incessant judgment people face each day — am I good person, am I good parent, am I meeting my target.’’
When one meditates, one becomes aware of the distractions, “creating a framework in which it’s easier to let go of evaluation,’’ Ross said.
Other speakers for the daylong event are:
Chandar Khanna of Toronto — representing Hinduism
Daniel Maoz of Kitchener — representing Judaism
Charles Van Alphen of Waterloo — speaking about Christianity
Walter Cooke of Hamilton — on Aboriginal Spirituality
Mubarak A. Nazir of Toronto — representing Islam
For more information on the conference and registration, go to the website: www.worldreligionsconference.org