In Search of a Better World – 4 Part Series

This event was offered in-person and livestream
October 4, 11, 18 and 25th

Be inspired by this call to action for a better world. This is a rare opportunity to hear four renowned speakers reflect on the resilience of the human spirit in dealing with the grim realities of human rights abuses and suffering around the world.

Enjoy some pictures from the series:

photo credit: Andre Beneteau

October 4, 2022: In Search of a Better World

Presenter: Professor Payam Akhavan

Professor Akhavan will reflect on his decades of experience as an advisor and advocate on human rights and global justice. His lecture will describe his own wide experiences in the making of a better world. Prof. Akhavan not only talks the talk of a better world.  He walks the walk on a daily basis. Audiences will find themselves inside a world of international law, human rights and genocide that they will not have met before.

October 11, 2022: Canary in the Coal Mine: Why the Rights of Women and Girls in Afghanistan Should Matter to us All

Presenter: Dr. Lauryn Oates

The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban in August 2021 shocked the world. But it was not without warning: the change in government was preceded by two years of an attempted “peace negotiation” with the Taliban by the US Government, which succeeded in emboldening and legitimizing the Taliban. Ultimately, the Taliban seized power through violence rather than a negotiated settlement, and today, it is Afghan women paying the price, while the world largely turns the other cheek. But the consequences for the women and girls of Afghanistan will have reverberating effects that will have significant security and foreign policy implications for the world at large. We will explore these implications in this presentation, as well as get an update on the current situation for Afghan women and girls, and discuss how it came to this.

October 18, 2022: I Shall not Hate: One Man’s Journey Towards Justice

Presenter: Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish

Through his work and his 2010 book, Dr Abuelaish has experienced firsthand the impacts of conflict in countries like Palestine, Egypt, Israel, Uganda, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia. His experience working as both an insider and outsider to conflict has led him to believe that doctors are particularly well-positioned to serve as peacemakers, based on the moral doctrine of their profession. His work as both a healthcare practitioner and a peace advocate builds on this philosophy and mobilizes health as a tool for peace. He promises his presentation will be “inspiring, hopeful, human and enlightening”.

October 25, 2022: Will Truth (Debwewin) Set us Free?

Presenter: Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux

In a better world “Truth” becomes a global beacon of hope, a joining of humanity in mutual celebration of life and everything it can mean for everyone. We have become a divided and competitive world of “othered” peoples. In the Anishinaabek world we strive to live by 7 values: TRUTH is one of them and we work to embrace the connectedness of everything and believe “All My Relations” is the foundation of right relations and respect. We honour the need to slow down the human drive to develop, eat, and conquer all. These teachings tell us to slow down and enjoy the right to be a human being rather than a harried and scattered human “doing”.


Distance and Virtual Education for Afghans

Suggested reading list from Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux

Films About Afghanistan


October 04 - 25, 2022


4 Tuesday Afternoons
1:30 pm - 3:30 pm




Grace United Church & Livestream


  • 1. Professor Payam Akhavan, October 4
    1. Professor Payam Akhavan, October 4

    Professor Payam Akhavan is an Iranian Canadian, a prominent international human rights lawyer and a Member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague. A member of the Law Society of Ontario (2012) and the Bar of the State of New York, he is recognized by his peers as an outstanding academic and exceptional advocate. Professor Akhavan’s distinguished academic career has included appointments at McGill, Oxford, Yale, and Massey College at University of Toronto.

    In parallel with his scholarly work, he is engaged in the practice of international law at the highest levels on behalf of victims of crimes against humanity and genocide. He began his career as a UN human rights officer in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia during the Yugoslav war in the 1990s. He has also served as Special Advisor on various investigations in Rwanda, East Timor, Cambodia, Peru and Kurdistan.

    Professor Akhavan has also served as legal counsel in notable cases before the International Court of Justice, including the landmark 2019 Rohingya genocide case against Myanmar, as well as the International Criminal Court, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Supreme Courts of Canada and the United States.

    In 2017, he was selected to deliver the CBC Massey Lectures and his companion book: “In Search of a Better World: A Human Rights Odyssey” – which Professor Akhavan describes as a memoir and meditation on empathy and the struggle for justice – became the top non-fiction bestseller in Canada (2017). He was the 2021 recipient of the Law Society of Ontario’s Human Rights Award.

  • 2. Dr. Lauryn Oates, October 11
    2. Dr. Lauryn Oates, October 11

    Dr. Lauryn Oates advocates for equitable access to quality education in conflict zones. She is Executive Director of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, a charity that has helped make the human right to education real for Afghan women and girls through teacher training, village libraries, literacy classes, schools and by creating the first online library for teachers in Afghanistan, Darakht-e Danesh (‘knowledge tree’), which was awarded a Presidential Citation by the American Library Association. These projects have ensured access to learning for thousands of Afghan girls and women.

    Lauryn has also worked in consulting and advisory roles with UNICEF, USAID, the World University Service of Canada, Global Rights, the Nike Foundation, Action Aid, medica mondiale, the Afghan Research and Evaluation Unit, the Women and Children’s Legal Research Foundation, and Womankind Worldwide, among others. She did her doctoral research in northern Uganda, working with teachers there to create local language educational materials for their classrooms through digital technology. Lauryn is the recipient of a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal awarded by the province of BC and has twice been awarded a Social Science & Humanities Research Council award for her scholarship. She is Adjunct Faculty at the Faculty of Education at UBC, and also teaches graduate students in the School of Humanitarian Studies at Royal Roads University.

  • 3. Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, October 18
    3. Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, October 18

    Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish is a Palestinian Canadian physician and an internationally recognized peace and human rights activist. He is devoted to advancing health and education opportunities for women and girls in the Middle East, through both his research and his charitable organization, The Daughters for Life Foundation. Born and raised in Jabalia Refugee Camp in the Gaza Strip, Dr Abuelaish is the first Palestinian doctor to receive an appointment at the Israeli Soroka Medical Centre.

    Described by an Israeli colleague as a “magical, secret bridge between Israelis and Palestinians”, Dr. Abuelaish wrote “I Shall not Hate,” the 2010 internationally acclaimed bestseller describing the tragic loss of his three daughters and their cousin in the Gaza War.

    Dr. Abuelaish has received countless international awards and honours, has been nominated five times for the Nobel Peace Prize. He currently lives in Toronto where he is a full professor at the Dala Lama School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

  • 4. Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, October 25
    4. Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, October 25

    Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux served as Vice Provost for Indigenous Initiatives at Lakehead University for three years. Effective September2016 she was appointed the first Indigenous Chair for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada for Lakehead University, and continues to develop pathways forward to reconciliation across Canada.

    Cynthia was inducted as a “Honourary Witness” by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in 2014, and is Chair of the Governing Circle for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba.

    She is a member and resident of the Chippewa of Georgina Island First Nation in Ontario and has dedicated her life to building bridges of understanding. She sees endless merit in bringing people from diverse cultures, ages, and backgrounds together to engage in practical dialogue and applied research initiatives.