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Conference links religion and progressive politics

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Religious Symbols

Religion meets progressive politics at the University of Saskatchewan’s first Religious Left Conference.

Louis’ Loft will host the inaugural event from Oct. 18 to 20. The conference is free to attend for anyone interested.

The focus of the conference is on the intersection of religion and politics and how they have affected each other throughout history. Discussions will also examine on how religion can have a progressive impact on politics, such as how the Bahá’i faith emphasizes environmental sustainability.

The Religious Left Conference will include a number of panel discussion and presentations by members of Saskatoon’s religious and secular communities.

Conference organizer and law student at the U of S Dan LeBlanc said the discussions are meant to challenge accepted notions of how politics and religion interact.

“When we say the intersection of faith and politics always looks like mean-spirited, conservative policies that are against equality, we as the left are giving up a very cogent place for us to exist and to have social change to bring about our policies,” LeBlanc said.

The conference begins with a panel discussion on the appropriateness of defining a “religious left” and the ways in which religion can inform humane politics. Other topics include Christianity and anti-imperialism, notions of aboriginal sacredness and a defence of secular socialism.

LeBlanc said he is particularly excited for local psychologist and social activist Nayyar Javed’s presentation on Islam and feminism.

“Part of the cause of feminism is to do away with religious discourse which furthers oppression,” said Leblanc, “But there are ways in which [Islam] and its history has some positive element to teach us.”

LeBlanc added that because there is such a large religious population in Canada building a progressive movement based on secular values alone isolates a large portion of potential supporters.

The conference will also serve as a way of bringing together people from different faiths to work towards a common political goal.

“There have been attempts to bring people together for inter-religious dialogue and to greater understand each others texts and traditions, but not to take that groups towards collective action for humane politics,” LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc was raised as a Mennonite and now attends a Lutheran church. He credits his religious upbringing as the root of many of his progressive social values.

“If you think that religion always leads to negative things, come and say so and have that discussion with us,” LeBlanc said.

The conference is co-hosted by the U of S Socialist Students Association and the Religion and Culture Students’ Society.

Graphic: Cody Schumacher/Graphics Editor

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