Faith leaders joined with the Delta Police Department last week to offer their thoughts on the role religion plays in drug addiction.
The second annual interfaith symposium held at the Baitur Rahman Mosque in Delta brought together panelists representing Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism, Judaism and Christianity. The faith leaders each had a chance to present what their faith offers in terms of support to those who might be addicted to drugs and alcohol and the importance faith plays in kicking the addiction or how accepting religion into your life might stop you from turning to drugs.
Delta police Chief Neil Dubord kicked off the discussion by saying the first step in any journey is always the first step and how those starting a journey towards recovery struggled by taking that first step.
“Whenever I have spoken to anyone who is making the journey, faith is a major part in what they believe in,” said Dubord. “Consider these statistics from people who accepted a religious faith into their lives: two times more likely not to smoke, three times more likely not to binge drink, four times more likely not to use illicit drugs and six times more likely not to smoke weed or pot. Without faith nothing is possible and nothing is impossible, so it is clear that faith plays a most important role in drugs and drug addiction.”
Bishop Shane Faganello representing Christianity (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) said having faith-based beliefs is important, but seeking appropriate medical and counselling treatment are also important when kicking a drug addiction.
“Just like someone who has broken their arm, they might turn to prayer for healing, but they also seek proper medical care,” he said. “It’s the same with drug addiction. Seek out appropriate medical programs and treatments, prayers, blessings and counselling services, and you can receive and seek improvement in your lives.”
Delta police Sgt. Dave Vaughan-Smith gave a presentation on the fentanyl crisis, why it is dangerous and how the public can protect communities.
“The problem with fentanyl in the use of street drugs is that is it very unpredictable. Users have no idea what they are taking, how strong it could be. It really is a game of Russian roulette,” Vaughan-Smith said. “Drug dealers are turning to fentanyl because it is cheap, its potency, it’s easier to get into the country and drug dealers are all about money. It’s much more profitable to cut their drugs with fentanyl.”
Vaughan-Smith encouraged parents to engage with their children about the dangers of drug abuse and in turn encouraged the youth in the audience to also talk about drugs and never be afraid to ask questions.
“It starts at home. It really is just say no,” he said. “Especially now with the introduction of fentanyl in street drugs. One time could be the last time, so why do you want to take the risk? It’s just not worth it.”
One of the more powerful speakers of the evening was Danial Akram, who shared his personal journey of drug addiction and recovery.
Akram was a pretty normal kid growing up. He had lots of friends, was good in school, played sports and was from a good family in Edmonton. At a young age his father passed away and as his mom, who struggled with several jobs to keep the family afloat, thought it would be better to have Danial move back to Pakistan.
It was there, without a lot of guidance, mentors or structure, that he began to experiment with drugs, specifically heroin, beginning a downward spiral of addiction, recovery, relapse and addiction again that almost killed him.
Finally, his family brought him back to Canada in his late teens to get him the help he needed. Akram is now 24 months clean and sober and is just about to graduate from a two-year recovery program in Surrey.
“Faith, self-love, confidence was what brought me back,” he said. “My turning point is when I had the conversation with my mom and my sisters and I knew that if I didn’t get better, I would lose them forever. That killed me inside. I knew then that I needed to do something and change my life.”
Dubord closed out the evening by asking all in attendance to make a pledge to keep the conversation going.
“Our community is so blessed to have so many great community partners and it’s important that everyone works together to keep talking,” said Dubord. “You have to take this conversation back to your families, your friends. If we leave this room and let the conversation die, then it serves no purpose.”