Muslim and Indigenous communities from across the country came together Saturday to build connections at a convention in Calgary.
The annual Jalsa Salana Convention is the largest and longest-running Muslim convention in Western Canada. Held at the Genesis Centre in Calgary, this year's event marked the return of the convention after two years of cancellations due to the pandemic.
Lal Khan Malik, national president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at of Canada, who flew in from Toronto, was happy to be back at the event.
"It's really [a] delightful feeling to be together again after three years," he said.
Malik said one of the main focuses of Saturday's conference was to build connections between Muslim and Indigenous communities. Members of several First Nations communities were invited to the event.
Communities coming together
Malik said the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Canada has been reaching out to First Nations communities over the last few years.
"We feel that we need to know more about them and make ourselves available to them if we can help them in any areas," he said.
Chief James Snakeskin of Thunderchild First Nation in Saskatchewan, who attended Saturday's convention, said events like these are important to him.
"We're here because there are different peoples from different countries here in Canada with us, and we have to learn how to get along, live in harmony, love one another," he said.
Savana Walkingbear, a Thunderchild First Nation councillor, agrees that the convention was an important celebration of unity between different communities.
"Our tradition comes from the grassroots of working together, understanding that we're stronger collectively working together," he said.
'We recognize the sacredness of their land'
Walkingbear said he finds Ahmadiyya Muslim culture similar to his own community's.
"We're very similar when it comes to values and beliefs, and I think that is what really unites us."
Usman Mahmood, a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, has been attending the Jalsa Salana Convention since he was a child. He said it is important for his community to recognize the Indigenous lands they live on.
"We are here for peace and … we recognize the sacredness of their land," Mahmood said.
In the future, Snakeskin said he hopes conventions like this will continue with Muslim and Indigenous groups inviting each other to events and respecting each other's customs.
"We're here for the long haul," said Snakeskin. "By going to conventions like this, learning each other's ways, our youth will be better served in the future."