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Local 'humble agent of change' honoured by Lt.-Gov. Lee

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In his acceptance speech upon receiving the 2013 Lieutenant Governor's Award for the Advancement of Interreligious Understanding, Dr. Redwan Moqbel, an internationally acclaimed scientist and member of the Baha'i faith, said he was merely "a humble agent of change because, that is our life's purpose."

Working towards advancing civilization is something he's been committed to both as a scientist and a person with deep spiritual and humanitarian convictions.

The event, which took place earlier this month at Government House before more than 100 people representing numerous faiths and ethnic backgrounds, and including both university presidents and the dean of medicine, was the third such award presentation. Winnipeg teacher/composer Zane Zalis was the 2011 recipient, while Pundit Atish Maniar and Elder Mae Louise Campbell were both 2012 recipients.

During his opening remarks, Lt.-Gov. Philip Lee said Dr. Moqbel, who is professor and head of the University of Manitoba department of immunology, faculty of medicine, was being honoured because of his advancement of the principle of the "oneness" of faith and harmony between religions, his tireless volunteerism as a bridge-builder between peoples and between inspiration and science.

"It's also 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," Lee said.

"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.

"That belief is something that Dr. Moqbel has expressed throughout his years of commitment to interreligious understanding. Whether speaking on dying with dignity or on religion freedom and human rights or on the role of religious inspiration in science, Dr. Moqbel invites us to come together."

Meanwhile, Belle Jarniewski Millo, chairwoman of the Freeman Family Foundation Holocaust Education Centre Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada, called Dr. Moqbel, who is a renowned authority in the field of pulmonary research, an inspiration to all of us.

"His faith, wisdom and belief in the goodness of people seem to transcend any one individual faith," she said in an interview.

The Bahá' faith is the youngest of the world's independent religions, according to information from the Bahá' Community in Canada.

Bahá's live in 235 countries and territories throughout the world. They come from more than 2,100 ethnic, racial and tribal groups and number some five million worldwide.

Founded in Iran in 1844, the Bahá' faith was introduced to Canada in 1898. There are now about 30,000 Canadian Bahá's.

"Throughout the past century, the Bahá's of Iran have been persecuted. Following the Islamic revolution in 1979, the persecution of Bahá's has been systematized," says information on the BCC website, http://www.ca.bahai.org/.

More than 200 Bahá's have been executed or killed since 1979, hundreds more have been imprisoned, and tens of thousands have been deprived of jobs, pensions, businesses and educational opportunities.

When the Bahá's in Iran were banned from higher education, Dr. Moqbel, and professors worldwide, supported the creation of tutoring students online through the Bahá' Institute of Higher Education, a volunteer-run, home-based program that allows Bahá' students to receive a modicum of education.

For more than a century, Bahá's in Canada and around the world have been working to eliminate prejudice of all kinds, contributing to a new model of global society that is characterized by unity and harmony, justice and peace, said Dr. Moqbel in an interview.

"The world is dark and full of contention," he said.

"Anything we can do to bring light into it is to be encouraged."

Dr. Moqbel, along with his wife, Shar Mitchell, hold devotional gatherings in their home in south Winnipeg.

Among other neighbourhood programs, the Bahá' community worldwide is translating words into actions by engaging Bahá' and non-Bahá' youth (ages 11 to 14) in a curriculum that develops their innate capacity to become positive agents of change, said Dr. Mobel.

Martin Zeilig is a Winnipeg writer.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 19, 2013 J13

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