Orthodox author Jim Forest and Canadian rapper Shad K will share the podium at Voices for Peace, an ecumenical conference on peacemaking on the University of Toronto’s main campus. 


Four organizations sharing a commitment to contemplative faith and social justice have come together in creative collaboration to co-host Voices For Peace:

The Church of the Redeemer is an Anglican parish where worship and an appreciation of scripture and theology have continually fueled a passion for justice. Redeemer has been actively involved in the Truth and Reconciliation process with First Nations people, sponsored refugees, and hosts a drop-in program five days a week that provides food, nursing, counselling, and community-building activities like music lessons and book discussions for those who are homeless or at risk.

The Henri Nouwen Society promotes the works and spirituality of author and theologian, Henri Nouwen. Many are familiar with Nouwen’s writings on the spiritual life and God’s unconditional love. Few are aware of his insightful works on peace and non-violence, his participation in the Alabama marches with Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights activists, or his participation in campus anti-war protests.

Citizens for Public Justice has a vision that seeks human flourishing and the integrity of creation as a faithful response to God’s call for love and justice. They try to shape public policy debate through research and analysis, and encourage respectful dialogue in the public sphere. CPJ works with individuals, communities, and leaders in society to bring justice to the forefront.

The Basilian Centre for Peace and Justice supports the efforts of Christian peacemaker teams around the world, and provides resources and programs for education on peace and justice in schools.

These four groups have pooled their time and resources to point towards a new vision of unity, creating a program that includes insights as diverse as Orthodox Christian and lifelong peace activist, Jim Forest, and Canadian alternative hip-hop artist and broadcaster, Shad K.


pjimageJim Forest has been a member of the Orthodox Church since 1988. Through peace work and friendship he has connections to Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Daniel Ellsberg, Thich Nhat Hahn, Henri Nouwen, and Daniel Berrigan. Jim was arrested, along with thirteen others, and spent a year in jail for taking draft cards from government offices during the Vietnam War and publicly burning the cards while reciting prayers. He was a founding member of the Catholic Peace Fellowship and is currently the International Secretary for the Orthodox Peace Fellowship. Jim brings fifty years of wisdom and reflection on Christ’s call to peace. He has lived out that call through protest, writing, teaching, and immersion in the Christian contemplative tradition. (See our Archives by Author for the articles that he has written for Orthodoxy in Dialogue.)

Shad K is a former host of CBCs “Q,” Juno Award-winning songwriter, and alternative hip-hop performer. In 2016 he hosted the Emmy Award-winning series, Hip-Hop Evolution. He was born in Kenya to Rwandan parents and grew up in London, Ontario. His songwriting is known for personal, honest lyrics and a focus on social justice. He has addressed Rwandan genocide and immigration is his music, showing a willingness to merge the personal and the political. Many of his songs emphasize human dignity, our essential unity in the midst of diversity, and building community. He is bilingual in English and French, and holds a business degree from Wilfrid Laurier University and a master’s degree in liberal studies from Simon Fraser University.


On April 28 the aim is to create a day that speaks to the whole person.

Jim Forest will speak on the spirituality of peacemaking and the framework for non-violent resistance to evil.

Shad K will speak on the intersection of peacemaking and the arts, with an emphasis on bringing joy to our activism.

Activists often suffer burnout. Those who want to be involved in social justice issues often don’t know where to start. So small group sessions have been specifically crafted to address these issues:

  • The first sessions will focus on the contemplative resources and practices that sustain Christian activism.
  • The second set will connect us to people currently doing creative on-the-ground peace work in Canada and around the world.

There will be music, poetry, film, and prayer throughout the day to insure both imagination and mind are engaged.


The physical will not be neglected. There will be coffee, tea, and muffins to start the day, lunch provided at the mid-point, and more coffee and tea to get through the afternoon lull.

  • Tickets available at Eventbrite
  • General admission $25
  • Students $15
  • For more information contact Colette Halferty at or 416-925-3745
  • See poster above for location and time

ISIS attacks Syria. At the same time the Syrian government fights rebels. Russia lends support and bombs ISIS strongholds, as does the USA. The ancient city of Aleppo is reduced to rubble and thousands flee for their lives. Many are turned away from the countries where they seek sanctuary.

Russia invades Ukraine. Tension grows as the nuclear rhetoric between the USA and North Korea escalates. People starve in Yemen as internal conflict is augmented by Saudi and Iranian involvement. Even moderate, “peace-keeping” Canada boasts job-creating deals to sell military equipment to Saudi Arabia and Ukraine.

Has the world gone mad on war?

I felt powerless and voiceless as I watched what was happening, depressed to think of my new granddaughter growing up under the shadow of the bomb. Alone with my thoughts, I wondered if Thomas Merton’s reference to “conjectures of a guilty bystander” might apply to me.

We know that in the early centuries Christians refused to take up weapons or participate in war. They were martyred for refusing to bow to the emperor, claiming allegiance to a different kingdom. The 20th century saw a prophetic witness for peace, based on the incarnational visions of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Thomas Merton.

How has the Church maintained a just war theory and the blessing of bombs?

How should Christians respond to the violence of war?

How do we understand Christ’s call to be peacemakers?

How might we give voice and action to our vocation to peace?

Is it possible to develop an alternative vision, a vision of Christ’s kingdom of justice and peace, to offer those whose default position is nuclear deterrence?

Canadian involvement in international military conflict, and my granddaughter’s birth, mean that these questions are no longer theoretical for me. They are entirely concrete. They are my reality.

Voices for Peace is part of my personal journey to wrestle with the issues of war and peace and to find my voice. My questions led me to the works of Thomas Merton, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1967 Massey Lectures, and the writings of Henri Nouwen. Frequent references to Jim Forest in Merton’s writings motivated me to connect with him on Facebook, and then to visit with him and his wife, Nancy, at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Amsterdam. I was impressed by Jim’s knowledge and humility, but most of all by the depth of his commitment to peace. While speaking with Jim, I posed the question: “Aren’t you discouraged, after seeing the end of the Vietnam War and a move towards nuclear disarmament, to see wars everywhere and hear more talk of increasing the nuclear arsenal?”

His response: I never expected to be encouraged.

No concern for reputation or results. Just a commitment to the vocation to which he feels called.

The encounter moved me from thinking to doing. I came home from Amsterdam convinced of the necessity for Christians to gather and work out how best to articulate the Gospel of Christ’s peace and give voice to peace in the public square.

These questions can no longer be theoretical for us. They are entirely concrete. They are our new reality. But we cannot answer them on our own. We must, like Gandhi and King, gather the beloved community. And then we must learn together. And speak. And act.

Paul Pynkoski is a retired civil servant and the facilitator for literature and film discussions at the Anglican Church of the Redeemer’s drop-in program. He resides in Toronto with his wife, Tania Natale. 





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