Community. Unity. Identity.
These were the themes for the Generation Muslim Conference in Edmonton this year. It’s interesting because all three of these concepts are unique but also intricately linked. A community is built upon a shared sense of unity and a collective identity, and the importance of these values was what we wanted to develop through the event. These themes set the tone this year in all respects, from the planning, process and execution stages of the event.
It started with the timing of the event: GenM is a long-running conference that has taken place all over Western Canada and has been an annual event in both Vancouver and Edmonton. This shared experience was more apparent than ever, with both events taking place within a week of each other in September. It brought an extra excitement to our respective teams who were able to clearly see that the work and effort they put in for their community was mirrored over 1100 km away.
A major focus of each and every single NYM event is on the organizers and volunteers, the events we plan and bring to our communities are done to develop them, but each person involved in putting on the event should have seen that same growth within themselves. That was the understanding and perspective that we communicated to the volunteers joining us this year. It is important for us to renew the confidence in our Muslim identity and we started by empowering our most involved and eager youth.
Identity is something that intimately belongs to you, it is an understanding and view of what you value and what defines you. As a Muslim we should look at the world around us and take steps towards making it a better place. When we see the political climate, the fear and injustice that is rampant today and the hopelessness that comes with it, that is when we turn to the One who is All-Powerful.
Allah (swt) tells us in the Qur’an, in Surah Al-Haj Ayah 78, that He has “named [us] Muslims” and that “He is your protector – an excellent protector” and He (swt) commands us to strive for His sake and that “striving [is[ due to Him.” With that understanding our team and our volunteers began to work hard to put on an amazing and beneficial conference for our fellow Muslims and our own communities.
Now what makes an identity stronger than to connect and strengthen the bonds with those who share that identity with you. That desire and that drive to surround yourself with goodness was something we saw take place with our volunteers and members all over Western Canada. We found out a few weeks into our volunteer training that we were going to be joined by our brothers and sisters from both Saskatchewan and British Columbia.
When we got to a week before our own conference, the messages, pictures and clips started rolling in. The last week before an event is usually the most intense, it’s the moment when the team kicks it into overdrive and the final push takes place. Being able to see the reassuring and exciting things happening in Vancouver became an extra source of energy to take that step.
Then the day before we opened our doors to the community, some weary travelers with smiling faces joined us for dinner in Edmonton. They brought a light to the room and an extra spring to our step as we sat down to appreciate the work and the vision that each and every single one of us was working towards. In that room we had Muslims from all over Western Canada, with learned speakers who came from the US and the UK, who carried the same desire and drive to build an Ummah that strengthens and supports one another to face all the challenges and hardships that living in the West comes with.
That was the environment and atmosphere which we took with us into the conference weekend. In our efforts to “Know our Identity, Believe in Unity and Build Community”, the event was already, in only it’s starting moments, a resounding success.