Speaking of Faith: From the Left

Date(s) - May 9, 2016
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

SFU Harbour Centre (7000 Earl & Jennie Lohn Policy Room)

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Does the public sphere have a space for religious voices on the left?

Religious people are often perceived and portrayed––by the media and well-meaning individuals––to be socially and politically conservative if not dangerously reactionary. This is simply not the case. From women’s liberation to anti slavery to ending impunity and ensuring health care––many religious people have been and are at the forefront of movements for social and political change.

This forum provides the opportunity to talk about what it means to be religious and/or uphold core spiritual values in an age when such views/perspectives have been hijacked by select (and loud) voices of the religious right.

Is there space for religious and spiritual perspectives––from the left––in public discourse? And why is it important to hear and recognize such voices? This gathering is a conversation intended to provide participants––religious or not––space to explore the role of religion and religious people on the social and political left.


Hasan Alam is a lawyer, activist, and founding member of Critical Muslim Voices, which connects and affirms Muslims through inclusive social justice dialogue and community activism, and addresses pressing and challenging issues within the context of religion. Hasan did his BA at SFU in Political Science and History and was the 2006 Valedictorian for the Faculty of Arts. He went on to complete his Doctor of Law (J.D.) at the University of Calgary in 2011. Hasan is currently the Supervising Lawyer at Abbotsford Community Services Farm Worker Legal Advocacy Program

Christine Boyle is a community organizer who was raised on Coast Salish territory in Vancouver, BC. She has an BSc in Urban Agriculture and First Nations Studies from UBC, and an MA in ‘Religious Leadership for Social Change’ from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. Christine founded Spirited Social Change, an initiative aimed at engaging people across generations to explore the intersections between faith, spirituality, and our work for a better world. Through that work she initiated and co-leads The Self Care Project, and Fossil Free Faith: Canada’s Interfaith Divestment Network. She also spent five years leading Strategic Communications at the Columbia Institute and their Centre for Civic Governance, and supporting the work of GreenJobs BC. Last year she traveled to the Vatican for events around the release of Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change and the economy, and attended COP21 as a national delegate of the United Church of Canada. In January 2016 joined the team at Canadian Memorial United Church and Centre for Peace as Minister of Community Life. 

Shayna Plaut is obsessed with how people represent themselves––especially people who do not fit in well with the traditional “nation-state” model. She has the unshakable (at times idealistic) belief that realities can be challenged and power changed by the pen, the brush and the lens.  Shayna has designed and taught courses on human rights and human rights reporting to journalists and future producers of culture in the United States and Canada since 2004.   Among other things, Shayna Plaut earned her PhD at the University of British Columbia focusing on the intersections of journalism, human rights and social change with people who identify with being transnational. Her academic work focuses on how Romani (Gypsy) and Saami (the Indigenous peoples in the Nordic Arctic) journalists teach their own how to be journalists––and what we can learn as we try and develop better reporting on human rights. Since 2000, Shayna served in a variety of leadership positions with Amnesty International and Amnesty USA including the Human Rights Education Coordinator for the Midwest Region of Amnesty International USA. She  received her MA from the University of Chicago and her BA from Antioch College. Shayna has two cats and refuses to color within the lines.


Eleanor Stebner is the J.S. Woodsworth Chair in the Humanities and the Chair and Associate Professor of the Department of Humanities at SFU. She teaches courses on religion, culture, and ideas; taught at the Chicago Theological Seminary and the University of Winnipeg Faculty of Theology before coming to SFU. Publications focus on women and religion, Jane Addams, and movements for social change. She is currently pondering the texts and lives of select Nobel Peace laureates.


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