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On January 25th, 2017, IDI hosted its first public forum of the year at St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto. The focus was religion and politics, and how these two forces can interact in harmony and dissonance to shape public life and societies, as well as the need to acknowledge that interfaith dialogues, in the area of politics, do not always happen on equal footing within sometimes racialized contexts.

The speakers for the day were:

Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl, Anne and Max Tanenbaum Senior Rabbi at the Beth Tzedec Congregation, who spoke of the responsibility for human dignity in the intersection of religion and politics. He expanded on the idea of religion as an alternative voice to the government’s and cited Isaiah Berlin’s warning of a single defining idea of society.

Azeezah Kanji, Director of Programming at the Noor Cultural Centre, spoke on the trend of being suspicious of Muslims, regardless of party affiliations. She noted that religion to advance identity politics reduces religion to a sort of political party. Ms. Kanji explained that religion can exist as a source of justice in politics. For example, in the realm of animal rights, the Qur’an provides a basis for animals to have spiritual personhood which could provide a basis for stronger animal abuse laws. Within the context of environmental objectives, Islam doesn’t have the same capitalist view of nature as a resource and would be a force for more concerted environmental efforts.

Joe Mihevc, Councillor for the City of Toronto, spoke about the separation between religions and government, explaining that it was possible for things to be justified in a twisted way when this happened. However, he said, it is important to figure out how to come together, like in the instance where five hundred leaders of diverse faiths came together to oppose the construction of a casino in downtown Toronto. He explained that faith communities have had both success and failure in terms of political involvement.

Mark G. Toulouse, Principal at Emmanuel College, spoke about the different ways in which politicians can approach religion. He cited Sharon Johnson’s message to former US President Barack Obama about the two wolves battling within ourselves and the necessity for us to set the tone. Whereas Trump’s pastor chose a very different tone when he said that God had chosen him for something (Robert Jeffries). Professor Toulouse explained that religion and politics will always mix, but the question is how to mix them well. He also described the difference between civil religion (in the US), which served the nation and not god with overt nationalistic tones. When compared to Canada, this strong civil religion is not really found in the public institutions. This strong aversion to religion though, has an impact on newcomers who are used to more overt religious practices and community foundations.


Luncheon and Panel Discussion

You are cordially invited to attend a panel discussion on

Religion and Politics: Convergence or Divergence in the Age of Conflict


As we all see with an increasing intensity, religion and politics converge, clash, and shape public life. These intersections happen everywhere, from our homes to our courts, from the businesses to the schools. In this regard, we would like to present a broader perspective on these interactions, especially in the light of the recent developments.

Date and Time:

Wed, 25 January 2017

12:00 PM – 2:00 PM


St. Michael’s College, Charbonnel Hall

81 St. Mary Street, Toronto, ON M5S 1J4


Reid Locklin, Assoc. Professor, University of Toronto


Azeezah Kanji, Director of Programming, Noor Cultural Centre

Joe Mihevc, Councillor, City of Toronto

Mark G. Toulouse, Principal, Emmanuel College

Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl, Anne and Max Tanenbaum Senior Rabbi, Beth Tzedec Congregation


12:00 pm – Introductions and Lunch

12:30 pm – Panel Discussion and Q&A

02:00 pm – Closing

Tickets($15) sold at: Eventbrite

Luncheon: RELIGION and POLITICS: Convergence or Divergence in the Age of Conflict