Pluralism Week 2015

On Saturday, March 28, 2015, current University of Calgary students are encouraged to attend an all-day summit exploring the broad question: What does a pluralistic campus look like?

The day will begin with a panel from key stakeholders sharing their perspective on what a pluralistic campus may look like.  We will then have lunch together and then begin the afternoon with a series of activities and working groups.  At the end of the day, we hope to have ideas, stories, feedback and input from students to create a report to give to key campus leadership for action.

The day will be facilitated by Danny Richmond, Manager, National Campus Network with Inspirit Foundation, a national grant-making organization that supports young people (aged 18 to 30) in building a more inclusive and pluralistic Canada. 

The deadline to register to attend is Wednesday, March 25th.

10:00am - 10:30am - Registration 10:30am - 12:00pm - Panel 12:00 - 1:00pm - Lunch 1:00 - 4:30pm - Activities/Working Groups
Activity: Putting it into practice: How to have difficult conversations
Activity: Indicators of a pluralistic campus mapping

Dr. Valerie Pruegger, Director, Office of Diversity, Equity and Protected Disclosure, University of Calgary

Valerie Pruegger holds a M.Sc. in Psychology from the University of Calgary and a Ph.D. from Queen’s University, Kingston, ON Canada. Her areas of specialization are Cross-Cultural and Organizational Psychology. She has been an Adjunct Professor in Psychology at the University of Calgary for nearly 20 years and worked as a Research Social Planner for The City of Calgary for 15 years, conducting research and framing policy in a number of areas related to immigration and diversity. She has published a number of papers and presented numerous workshops on intercultural communication, diversity and inclusion among other topics, and has consulted in systems including justice, policing, social service, education and health. She serves on the Alberta Hate Crime Committee and is Past President of the Alberta Association for Multicultural Education. Dr. Pruegger is currently the Director of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Protected Disclosure at the University of Calgary. In 2005, the Legislative Assembly of Alberta presented Dr. Pruegger with the Alberta Centennial Recognition award for contribution and service to the people, communities and province of Alberta for her social justice work around systemic discrimination and anti-racism.

Rev. Paul Verhoef, Chaplain, Faith & Spirituality Centre, University of Calgary

Paul Verhoef has served as a chaplain at the University of Calgary since the summer of 2004. He comes to that position with a B.S. in Engineering, a Masters in both Divinity and Theology, and serves on behalf of a Christian community that values thoughtful engagement with culture.

Coming to be one of the chaplains at the University of Calgary was an experience with a lot of new opportunities to learn. Paul is a US citizen who moved into a Canadian environment. Paul attended a small Christian university and seminary for his studies, and found himself present on a large, public university. He grew up the son of a Christian pastor and went to the local Christian day-schools, and in his first year at the UofC, he was overwhelmed by the wide diversity of people, of backgrounds, of pursuits, of religious and ethnic heritages. The past decade has been an experiment for him in meeting and engaging with the wideness of the world – and Paul has found deep joy in pursuing mutual engagement through curiosity and respect. One of his pursuits, along with the rest of the chaplains at the Faith & Spirituality Centre, is to help the University be a hospitable place for the fullness of each person that is a part of this place.

Jonathan Napier, Ph.D. student, Department of Classics and Religion, University of Calgary

Jonathan Napier is a PhD candidate in Religious Studies at the University of Calgary. His research focuses on diversity in the Canadian public sphere.

Jonathan has published “Does Quebec’s Desire to Remain “French” Exclude Religious Minorities?” In Sightings (January 23), and has written a chapter for the upcoming Power Dynamics within Identity-Building: Revisiting Concepts and Paradigms. Edited by Jan Grzymski (Inter-Disciplinary Press). He has taught and spoken at various conferences in North America and abroad on religion. He is interested in multiculturalism, philosophy, and intercultural communication.

As Jonathan nears completion of his doctorate he is pursuing the successful incorporation of diversity and ethics in the workplace.

Sabrina Afroz-Islam, student

Sabrina Islam is a fifth year student majoring in Psychology with double minors in Health & Society and Fine Arts and a concentration in Nanoscience. This interdisciplinary approach to learning has given her the opportunity to equally explore the Arts and Sciences and she is currently pursuing research surrounding women’s formation of self-identity in the South Asian diaspora. This interest in cross cultural examinations of identity formation stems from her realization of her own feminist identity. Along with her academic pursuits, she is very active in the local and campus community in volunteering at various organizations such as the Women’s Resource Centre (WRC).

Sabrina is also devoted to service and creating spaces of people who are marginalized and oppressed by the mainstream community. Sabrina is about having safe spaces, about pluralism, about building community, and was recently selected as one of four Canadian delegates to attend the Interreligious Youth Forum in Stuttgart, Germany. She is actively involved in organizing the Friday prayers on campus, as part of a non-denominational Islamic group, the El-Tawheed Jumma Circle.

Animating Epics: an evening with Nina Paley Nina Paley gained notoriety for her 2009 feature film Sita Sings the Blues, an animated musical based on the Hindu epic Ramayana. Today she turns to Abrahamic religion for her feature-in-progress, Seder-Masochism. Nina will show clips and discuss interpreting religious texts, her solo animation process, and whether culture/religion can be owned. Bio: Nina Paley is the creator of the animated musical feature film Sita Sings the Blues. More recently she made This Land Is Mine, a short about Israel/Palestine/Canaan/the Levant intended for a larger project, Seder-Masochism. Her adventures in our broken copyright system led her to join as Artist-in-Residence in 2008. Prior to becoming an animator Nina was a syndicated cartoonist. A 2006 Guggenheim Fellow, she also produced a series of animated shorts about intellectual freedom called Minute Memes. As half of PaleGray Labs, she is developing techniques to combine animation with her other passions of quilting and embroidery.   Date Time Location Thursday, March 26th 6:00 - 8:00pm Senate Room, 7th floor, Hotel Alma  View Images from Sita Sings the Blues View Images from Seder-Masochism

Join us for the following film screenings. All are welcome. No registration required.

Monday Date Time Location Monday, March 23rd 5:30-8:00pm ST 143 Title of Film Life of Pi (2012) 
Facilitated by Dr. Tinu Ruparell, Department Head, Department of Classics and Religion, University of Calgary Description A young man who survives a disaster at sea is hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery. While cast away, he forms an unexpected connection with another survivor: a fearsome Bengal tiger. View Trailer View Source Discussion Topics The issue Life of Pi brings up is the notion of interpretation — the world is religiously ambiguous, so much of what separates religious traditions is interpretation of indeterminate evidence. Join Dr. Ruparell as he leads a discussion of the role of the interpreter in religious diversity. Tuesday Date Time Location Tuesday, March 24th 5:30-8:00pm ST 143 Title of Film Of Gods and Men (2010) 
Facilitated by Dr. Anne Moore, Associate Professor, Department of Classics and Religion, University of Calgary Description Under threat by fundamentalist terrorists, a group of Trappist monks stationed with an impoverished Algerian community must decide whether to leave or stay. View Trailer View Source Discussion Topics

Religion is often cited as a source of conflict; however, according to David Nowelsmitth (reviewer for Film Quarterly), in Of Gods and Men, “theology is presented as a form of dialogue that transcends political and cultural divisions, an alternative to violence.” How does director Xavier Beauvoir present theology as an alternative to violence?  What is this theology?

Similarly to the science fiction movie, Children of Men, the background in Of God and Men is pivotal to the film’s narrative and impact. In Of Gods and Men, the context of colonial Algeria is part of the struggle expressed by many of the films’ characters, and it is in the context of colonial oppression that both Christians and Muslims seek an alternative path.

Etienne Comar, producer for Of Gods and Men, in researching the story of the Trappist Monks came to the conclusion that “The problem is never the faith, it is always the politics behind the faith.” In other words, in contrast to the simplistic ideas of the clash of civilizations or religions, this film shows that religion or faith may provide an alternative to political violence.

Join Dr. Moore as she guides us through a discussion related to these themes. 

Wednesday Date Time Location Wednesday, March 25th 5:30-8:00pm ST 143 Title of Film Sita Sings the Blues (2008) 
Facilitated by Dr. Elizabeth Rohlman, Associate Professor, Department of Classics and Religion, University of Calgary Description An animated version of the epic Indian tale of Ramayana set to the 1920s jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw. Learn more about Nina Paley
View Clip about Nina Paley View Source Discussion Topics

To what extent is the Ramayana a religious text? Why has the Ramayana come to have such a prominent role in religion?

Why has the Ramayana been re-told so often and so widely? What is the value of retelling a story, particularly in the form of film?

What is the importance of religious and cultural identity in storytelling? How does the film address this issue?

What is the importance of gender in storytelling? What is gained by reframing the Ramayana from Sita's perspective?

Join Dr. Rohlman as she guides the discussion around these questions and ideas. 

Join us for the following presentations and discussions. All are welcome. No registration required.

Monday, March 23 Date Time Location Monday, March 23rd 3:00-4:30pm SA 245

Bridging Communities through Religious Literacy: A Presentation of the Lil Faider Interfaith Scholar-in-Residence Program

Through the generosity of Lil Faider, a tireless Calgarian advocate for interfaith understanding and cooperation, Calgary’s Beth Tzedec Congregation offers a unique opportunity to explore the fundamental values, teachings, and observances of one major religious tradition each year over a five year period. A scholar from the selected religion will present a program of learning and experiences that will allow for a deeper appreciation of that faith and will encourage relationships and activities of mutual interest to be built between that religious community and the Jewish community. Dr. Harjot K. Singh, the inaugural Lil Faider Interfaith Scholar-in-Residence for 2014, and Maxine Fischbein, president of Beth Tzedec Congregation, invite you to join them as they discuss their views on the importance of religious literacy and the impact the Lil Faider Scholar-in-Residence Program has had on their communities. Lil Faider will also be present to answer any questions about the program.

Tuesday, March 24 Date Time Location Tuesday, March 24th 12:00-2:00pm MFH 2370

The Impact of Bill C-51 Anti-Terrorism Act and its impact on
Racialized Groups in Canada

Join the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre, the Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association and the Faith & Spirituality Centre as we present a panel and discussion regarding the impact of Bill C-51 on racialized groups in Canada.  This event is a recognition of March 21 International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The questions that will be raised to panelists include:

  • What is the impact of Bill C-51 on racialized minorities?
  • What are the flaws in the Bill?
  • What are alternative ways we could address radicalization and terrorism in our society?
  • How do we address the seemingly strong acceptance of Canadians of this bill?
  • How can Canadians learn about the bill and its impact on all Canadians?
  • How can we have a constructive dialogue around this bill without feeling fearful or unpatriotic?

The panelists are:

  • Linda Mckay-Panos, Director, Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre
  • Mahdi Qasqas, Faculty of Social Work
  • Dr. Ryan Williams, Department of Classics and Religion
Date Time Location Tuesday, March 24th 3:00-4:30pm SA 245 Should a secular campus have multi-faith prayer spaces?

As secular campuses explore pluralism and issues of religion in the public sphere, should secular campuses have multi-faith prayer spaces?  Join us for a discussion where we will hear from religious, community, legal and secular-humanist perspectives.


  • Linda McKay-Panos, Director, Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre
  • Imam Fayaz Tilly, Muslim Chaplain at the Faith & Spirituality Centre
  • Christine Shellska, Calgary Centre for Inquiry 
  • Adam Kinney, BA Religious Studies & History (UBC), MEDes (UCalgary) 
Wednesday, March 25 Date Time Location Wednesday, March 25th 3:00-4:30pm SA 245 Judgment, imperialism, and competition:  aren't religious people supposed to LOVE their neighbors? with Rev. Dr. Dave Holmes

Come join in a fairly wide-ranging conversation about interfaith relationships -- why they're difficult and why they're tremendously important to religious health.  We'll talk about religion and politics (going all the way back to Emperor Constantine), our own faith stories, and what religion is in the first place.  Do we really have to choose between loving God and loving our neighbors (of other faiths)?  I sure don't think so!  

(Rev. Dr.) Dave Holmes is a minister in the United Church of Canada, and active in the Inter-faith Council here in Calgary.  He has a doctoral degree in Gospel and Culture from Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta, and counts various Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and atheists among his key teachers.  

Thursday, March 26 Date Time Location Thursday, March 26th 3:00-4:30pm SA 245 Cutting edge research on religion and radicalization: a teach-in with Dr. Ryan Williams

Radicalization is considered the greatest source of national and international insecurity today, with the tragedy in Paris being the latest in a string of terrorist attacks since 9/11. This teach-in takes a broad look at the problem of radicalization. What is radicalization? What relationship, if any, does it have to religion? How can we understand radicalization “scientifically”? Moreover, what is the best way to respond to the threat of radicalization? The consequences are felt more widely than in the tragedy of specific acts of terrorism as new legislation and security practices are reshaping the societies in which we live in subtle ways. Drawing on the instructor’s research with religious communities and his research in UK maximum-security prisons, this teach-in explores current theoretical and practical problems related to radicalization, aiming to challenge and inform current views on radicalization.  

Friday, March 27 Date Time Location Friday, March 27th 2:30-4:30pm SA 106

Put Racism, Islamophobia & Discrimination to an End

Incidents of Islamophobia are on the rise worldwide.  Join panelists and experts in the community to learn how to respond to incidents of discrimination, how to help yourself and others and learn what resources are available.  Presented in partnership with OWNIT and Pluralism & Religious Diversity Week. 

Speakers include:

* Susan Barker: Vice-Provost (Student Experience), University of Calgary
* Sohaib Abbas, Muslim Students' Association, University of Calgary
* Jim Foster: Acting Senior Legal Counsel to the Director Alberta Human Rights Commission - South
* Sabrina Afroz: Events and Education/Male Allies Co-Team Lead, Women's Resource Centre
* Constable Jerry Shannon, Calgary Police Services
* Chris Culhane, RCMP
* Madhi Qasqas, PhD Candidate in the Faculty of Social Work and Founder of 3OWN Muslim Youth and Family Services

Date Time Location Friday, March 27th 3:00-4:30pm SA 245

Sustaining Vibrant Communities: Addressing Hate Crimes with Sgt. Levesque, Hate Crimes Coordinator, Calgary Police Services

The presentation defines hate crimes and how they differ from hate incidents; provides a basic understanding of Canadian law in relation to hate crimes; and discusses the reasons why hate crimes are dealt with differently by the justice system – primarily because of the impacts on individuals and communities.  Presented in partnership with the Alberta Hate Crimes Committee and Pluralism & Religious Diversity Week.