The third annual ceremony to present the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for the Advancement of Interreligious Understanding took place on January 8 at Government House in Winnipeg, Manitoba. This year’s award was granted to Dr. Redwan Moqbel of the Baha’i community of Winnipeg “in recognition of significant service to the citizens of Manitoba, through his advancement of the principle of the ‘oneness’ of faith and harmony between religions, his tireless volunteerism as bridge builder between peoples and between inspiration and science.”
The award was established by the Honourable Philip S. Lee in 2011 and is awarded annually to recognize an individual who best embodies and promotes understanding between all religious groups. Past recipients include Dr. Atish Chandra Maniar, a Hindu priest, Mae Louise Campbell, an Ojibway Métis elder and Zane Zalis, a composer and musician.
Redwan Moqbel is an internationally renowned authority in the field of pulmonary research and an active participant in and promoter of interreligious harmony. He received his PhD from the University of London in 1977 and is currently a professor and head of the Department of Immunology in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Manitoba. He has chaired and been a member of various interfaith groups, and lectured on the oneness of faith, unity in diversity, and the harmony between religions. He played a leading role in organizing and served as chair of the “Religious Freedom and Human Rights” segment of the World’s Religious Summit of Interfaith Leaders in conjunction with the 2010 G8 conference. He served as one of the first faculty members outside Iran for the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education, which provides post-secondary education for Baha’is denied access to education in Iran.
This year’s event attracted over 150 individuals, including Dr. David Barnard, President of the University of Manitoba, and Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, President of the University of Winnipeg and former Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Lieutenant Governor Philip S. Lee addressed the audience by noting: “It’s … fitting to start the year by focusing on interreligious understanding because at a deep level any kind of commitment to a better community or better world requires a belief in our common humanity. The good works and good citizenship that we will acknowledge during the rest of the year grow out of the belief that we all share a spark of the divine — however we may define that spark of the divine.” He further noted that this belief “is something that Dr. Moqbel has expressed throughout his years of commitment to interreligious understanding.”
In his acceptance speech, Dr. Moqbel described unity as a condition of the human spirit we are all working to attain. He emphasized that interfaith activities are not “a kumbaya moment” but a call to social action. He outlined the need to understand that whatever our religion, we all worship one God, one Creative Force, Whose attributes we know through the succession of His Messengers. The purpose and mission of these Messengers, he commented, is not to divide humanity but rather to unite and advance its progress — both materially and spiritually.
He concluded by saying that “collective action is necessary to bring about systematic and evolutionary change — one that involves our children and … youth who will look at the world with new eyes.”