Saturday, October 6, 2012

Waterloo record Story: Oct 6, 2012: Conference to examine role of religion and state


Conference to examine role of religion and state

Participants from several faiths to share ideas on governance

Joseph Ho, Record Staff

Waterloo - Representative of various religions and philosophies will discuss the role of religion in governance at what is called the largest multi-faith event in Canada.

The 32nd World Religions Conference will be held on Saturday, Oct. 13, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the University of Waterloo in J.G. Hagey Hall. Admission is free.

This year's theme is "Idea of an Ideal Government." The conference will examine issues such as the separation of religion from the state and whether it provides any insight into good governance.

The conference will also people of different beliefs to share their views of how a country should be governed, said Nabeel Rana, chief planning and co-ordinating officer.

This year's conference includes seven speakers from aboriginal, Jewish, Islamic, Sikh, Hindu, Christian and Buddhist faiths.

Also included is Doug Thomas, president of the Society of Ontario Freethinker and founder of Secular Connexion Seculaire, representing humanism.

Thomas will discuss government reforms at the federal level he says are needed in a multicultural society.

Some changes he proposes include reforming income tax laws regarding religious charities and severing ties with the Queen, who also heads the Church of England.

"If we're going to get an ideal government in a multicultural society, we need to make sure everybody can get the table equally," he said.

Thomas doesn't expect politicians to abandon thier beliefs once they enter Parliament.

But Thomas said the Constitution needs to clearly define the role of church and state if fair laws are to be enacted.

The conference is also intended to foster dialogue between people different beliefs and to learn about each others' values and traditions.

"One of the main objectives of the event is to build relationships between the different faith groups," Rana said.

Thomas said people should visit the conference bazaar, where people can pick upi literature from each group and discuss what they've heard.

Following the event will be a question-and-answer session with the audience.

The organizer of the event are Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama`at of Canada, and the Ahmadiyya Mulslim Students' Association at Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo.

A year ago, controversy arose when Interfaith Grand River stopped endorsing the conference.

Rana said the interfaith group withdrew its support after Sunni and Shia Muslim groups claimed they were excluded from the event.

Those denominations were offered roles in Scripture reading, opening speeches, musical presentation and the bazaar, but they declined, he said.

Speakers at the conference are asked to represent the general religious group, not a specific sect, Rana said.

To register for the event, visit www.worldreligionsconference.org


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