The Ahmadiyya Muslim community welcomed young people between the ages of 15 and 40 to a 3-day National Islamic Youth Camp, or Ijtima, at their property on 10 Sideroad, north of the 11th Line.
The camp addresses mind, body and spirit – three days of intellectual discussion and challenges, including poetry recitations, as well as sports activities and prayers – with the goal of building a better understanding of Qu’ran, and the role and responsibilities of the individual.
The AMJ, whose motto of “Love for all, Hatred for none” is displayed everywhere on the property, invited young Muslims from across Canada to the event, held July 22-24.
The youth played volleyball, basketball, soccer and cricket, participated in races and tug-of-war, tried canoeing and fishing on the property’s pond, sampled everything from archery to mini golf. There were professional workshops, opening the door to careers that included Home inspections, and hands-on DIY sessions, to teach youth how to be handy – going beyond video games, to fixing plumbing leaks and changing the oil in a car.
And they learned what it means to be a Muslim, a member of a community, and a contributor to society.
“That’s what the teaching of Islam is about – fostering the spirit of serving mankind. That’s the theme of what our camp is all about,” said Ahmed Sahi, communications.
Serving the community is a central principle of the AMJ. In 1994, the Ahmaddiya Muslim community launched Humanity First, a global aid organization, active in 43 countries, that responds to natural disasters ranging from earthquakes to tsunamis.
The AMJ operates a food bank in Vaughan that delivers food to shut-ins and those without transportation; and the Ahmaddiya Muslim Youth launched the Million Pounds of Food campaign, with the goal of collecting a million pounds of food donations, to feed Canada’s needy.
“It was quite a big project,” said Sahi, but the young people reached their target, within 6 months.
“We are a deeply religious people. We believe in God. We believe it is only through God that we can do this,” he said. “It’s our duty to serve mankind,” and for individuals to use their skills and advantages to benefit others.
It’s a huge effort to organize the National Camp. Volunteers are divided into teams to handle First Aid, refreshments, accommodation, transportation, sports – every aspect of welcoming and housing over 2,000 young people.
“This is where you forge those friendships, that sense of brotherhood… It surprises us all the time – the sheer brotherhood,” Sahi said. “We feel we need more youth groups like this – of all religions, all groups – to contribute to society.”
Participants continued to arrive at the AMJ property all day on Friday, to be welcomed and to settle in. Friday prayers and a flag-raising ceremony opened the Ijtima, just after 1 p.m. – raising both the AMJ and the Canadian flag, to signal the start of the National event.
“This is the place for us this weekend,” said Sahi.
There are separate National events for younger kids, older adults, and women, who have their own organization in the AMJ.