Inter-faith event discussing gender in Abbotsford Jan. 31

Participants to share views on gender roles and more

The largest inter-faith event to date is coming to Abbotsford on Friday.

More than 100 guests are expected to gather at the Ramada Plaza to talk about gender.

The event includes keynote speaker Walter Paetkau. He pioneered inter-faith meetings in the 1970s and 1980s after being inspired by his march with Martin Luther King, Jr. He also founded Abbotsford Community Services in 1969. The organization is a large social services provider in the Fraser Valley.

Abbotsford is known as the Bible Belt of B.C., with a Christian-affiliated population of about 61 per cent. However, the community has become much more diverse in recent years. It has a Sikh population of about 15 per cent and is host to the oldest Gurdwara (Sikh temple) in North America. There are also other growing affiliations, such as the Baha’i, humanist and atheist, Buddhist, and Islamic.

Paetkau is opening the event by sharing his insight about the history of the Fraser Valley’s inter-faith relations. Following will be a panel discussion with prominent leaders sharing diverse perspectives from different faith communities. The event also includes dinner and small group discussions.

Gender is the main topic of discussion. Participants will be sharing their views with each other on gender roles, issues of exclusion, and on what’s being done in the community. The hosts, Bridges of Faith, also hope to address a contentious issue in Abbotsford – how people can deeply live their own faith while respecting differences.

This event is part of a larger project – World Interfaith Harmony Week – funded by the provincial and federal governments. Cities all over the globe are working on and celebrating inter-faith harmony during the first week of February.

The event is free. Register by emailing or calling 604-859-7681, extension 270. Check-in is from 3 to 4 p.m., and the dialogue is from 4 to 9:30 p.m. Child-minding is available.