Monday, February 20, 2012


The Conference on Religion and Spirituality in Society begins this morning with a welcome address and opening prayer by Elder Tiyatalut Rivers, Squamish People of the First Nations of British Columbia, Canada, followed by a Plenary Session by Paul Bramadat from the University of Victoria, British Columbia.

The location is Robson Square of the University of British Columbia, a five-minute walk from our hotel. This seems to be the city campus of the University, beside the main campus we visited on the second day of our stay at Vancouver.

Some of the interesting observations at this Conference are as follows:

1. After the opening session and coffee break, before concurrent sessions, there was Talking Circles where participants are freely gathered separately in rooms according to their specialisations. The aim was to get to know each other and discuss common topics to be later on continued on another Talking Circles on the last day of the Conference. This allowed the participants not only to get to know what one is working on, but also to establish networking, etc. To widen the networking, there was also a Welcome Reception held at the end of the first day where all participants got together and know more people. This is a new experience for us. Our ISDEV conferences usually held with tight programmes, with almost no time to get to know each other except during coffee break and lunches. We could probably change this accordingly, InshaAllah.

2. All sessions were relaxed with no formal ceremonial gestures. However, unlike many other conferences, at national and international levels, lap tops for presentation are not provided by the organiser. The paper presenter has to bring and use their own laptops. Some time was taken to prepare for this at each time a presenter is going to present his/her paper. This ISDEV must not imitate this.

3. A few of the paper presenters were the graduate students of the University of British Columbia themselves. They have just read their papers, no power point, and seemed to be very nervous. ISDEV graduate students, I observed, are much more confident of their presentations at conferences than these students at this conference.

4. The organisers were not really friendly. They did not show their interest in getting to know the participants, although some of us from abroad, came with various kinds of attires and appearances. We have to have our own initiatives in knowing them, and in fact, also in knowing some of the participants. This is quite different from the friendly atmosphere we have at our hotel.

5. There was a stall at the Conference by the name of Share International, whose members believe in the coming back of world great `teachers', led by Matreya (or by  the name of Imamul- Mahdi to Muslims). The `teachers' aim is to help saving this chaotic world. The founder, based in London, is Benjamin Creme. He is believed amongst his followers of having the ability to have continuous spiritual relationship with Matreya. They believed that there are already 14 `great teachers' reappearing now. Some of the members are believed to have met some of them face to face, either in the form of beggars, flute players, etc.

A friendly atmosphere from Phillipino waiter at our hotel
The welcome and opening session of the conference
With Shuva Langker (left), a young Bangladeshi Buddhist monk from a Sri Lankan monastry
With Dr Ali Hussain Algahtani, an Assistant Professor of Political Sciences from King Saud University, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
With Professor Dr Mohammad Yusuf Siddiq, the Higher Education Commision Professor of the Department of Islamic Studies, University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan
The Talking Circles
Talking to Ms. Diana Holland of the Share International
In front of the Robson Square, University of British Columbia at Howe Street, Vancouver
Vancouver Art Gallery, beside the Robson Square
Ms. Diana Holland explaining about her Share International
The University's Bookstore at the Robson Square
Dr Fadzila Azni Ahmad with Assistant Professor of Social Work Dr Guia Calicdan-Apostle from The Richard Stockon College, New Jersey, USA

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