News Release

Canadian Delegates Discuss Religion’s Roles in Peacebuilding at BYU Symposium

After two years of online conferences due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Center for Law and Religion Studies (ICLRS) at Brigham Young University (BYU) resumed its 29th Annual International Law and Religion Symposium (ILRS) in person. BYU is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is situated in Provo, Utah.

The three-day symposium held October 2–4, 2022, included 77 delegates from 37 countries and was translated simultaneously into seven languages. Delegates were composed of scholars, government and intergovernmental leaders, civil society activists and religious leaders.

Canada’s distinguished delegates were Rev. Dr. James Christie, ambassador-at-large, Canadian Multifaith Federation; Bruce Clemenger, president, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada; and Derek Ross, executive director and general counsel, Christian Legal Fellowship. Each has contributed significantly to peacebuilding in Canada.

The 2022 ILRS theme was “Religion’s Roles in Peacebuilding,” acknowledging that peacebuilding is broader than just ending conflict; it also includes building a just society that is able to remain at peace. Conference discussions centred on the role religions and religious organizations play in establishing lasting peace and justice throughout the world, the extent to which religiously motivated individuals and groups help build peace in our communities, and what remains to be done.

Christie contributed to the plenary session with his speech “Life in the Cracks,” inspired by the late Leonard Cohen, who penned: “Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” He shared three Canadian case studies where religious tradition was able to shine through cracks to illuminate opportunities for peacebuilding in law. He summarized: “Religion calls law to uphold empathy and human dignity. … Religion reminds law that it is best discerned, not dictated; best inclusive, not imposed.”

Clemenger’s presentation was titled “Disclosing the Religious Dimensions of Statecraft: Debunking Neutrality and Modeling Irenic Political Engagement.” He purported that faith is a dimension of all life, including the political, and that faith and politics cannot be separated to create a neutral state. He offered the idea that religious leaders, as advocates and advisors, can contribute to peacebuilding by (1) entering negotiations in the spirit of respect and constructive engagement and (2) building and strengthening relationships and reputations. He used examples from the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada as support.

Ross gave perspective on Quebec’s Law 21, which bans public sector employees in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols on the job. He explained that Law 21 violates a foundational right of any free and democratic society, the right to openly and publicly identify as religious. While the law purports to be advancing religious neutrality, it is promoting the exact opposite, a public square that is hostile toward religion. Christian Legal Fellowship is an intervenor in the upcoming legal challenge to Law 21.

Video recordings of symposium presentations will be available soon at

Elder John N. Craig, Area Seventy, who is responsible for issues of freedom of religion or belief in Canada, explains why these issues are especially important to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: “We believe that agency, the right to choose for ourselves, is the underlying principle that must be protected in a free and democratic society. That includes the agency or freedom to choose differently from one another. We respect and appreciate the choices and good works of our associates in this quest and stand unitedly with those who believe we can promote peace and live respectfully and peacefully, despite our different beliefs and choices.”

Senior Church leaders have spoken extensively on this theme in more than 10 talks around the world in the past year (see links below). The Church also maintains the webpage Religious Freedom with resources for understanding the importance of religious liberty.

Recent articles featuring addresses given by senior Church leaders about religious freedom:

President Dallin H. Oaks, July 2022:

“At a Catholic Conference in Rome, President Oaks Offers Four Ways to Strengthen Religious Freedom”

“Pursuing Religious Liberty Worldwide”

Elder David A. Bednar, June 2022:

“COVID-19 Crisis — A Wake-Up Call for Religious Freedom”

President Camille N. Johnson, April 2022:

“President Camille Johnson Addresses Religious Freedom Symposium in Iowa”

Elder Ulisses Soares, March 2022:

“Elder Soares and Other Religious Leaders in Brazil Defend Religious Freedom”

Summary article, January 2022:

“What 3 Apostles Said About Religious Freedom for National Religious Freedom Day”

President Dallin H. Oaks, December 2021:

“President Oaks Tells Students in Rome Why Religious Freedom Matters”

President Dallin H. Oaks, November 2021:

“President Oaks Urges a ‘Better Way’ to Resolve Our Differences ‘Without Compromising Core Values’”

Elder D. Todd Christoffersen, November 2021:

“Elder Christofferson Gives 6 Reasons Societies Should Protect Religious Freedom”

Elder Ronald A. Rasband, September 2021:

“This is the 4th year in a row an Apostle has addressed the G20 Interfaith Forum.”

Read the article in French.

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