We have been unable to achieve the number of registrations needed to make Lives in the Balance conference sustainable.
We felt it was time to cancel the event we had planned.

About the


There are too many lives in the balance these days. Whether wavering on the frantic edges of poverty, wrestling with the backlash of simply identifying one’s gender or sexuality, remaining in relationships that are toxic and abusive, or expressing one’s own thoughts within entrenched regimes, people around the world risk their lives because of where they are, who they are, who controls their lives and bodies, and what it is they believe.


Lives in the Balance was imagined as a conference that would bring people together to raise awareness of persecution related to beliefs while raising funds for refugees fleeing their own countries because their lives are imperiled for that same reason.


To make our concerns disturbingly clear, we are bringing together some of the most bracing voices for change in the work of protecting freedom of expression around the world. In one day.


The day will be moderated by Gretta Vosper, a United Church of Canada minister who claims the label “atheist” and is currently embroiled in a widely publicized heresy trial.




Gretta Vosper

Author, Minister, Humanist



In 2013, the arrest and threatened execution of Bangladeshi secular bloggers - labelled in the press as atheists - moved Gretta to publicly identify as an atheist. The label has had a profound impact on Gretta prompting an on-going heresy trial which may result in the termination of her twenty-five year ministry in the denomination. Gretta is the author of three books, the bestseller With or Without God; Amen; and Time or Too Late and several compilations of poetry.



Rafida Bonya Ahmed

Writer, Blogger, Activist



Bonya is a writer, blogger, researcher and a human rights activist. Three years ago, Bonya and her husband, Avijit Roy, were attacked by the Islamist militants, while they were visiting their home country, Bangladesh, to promote his books. Avijit died and Bonya barely survived the fatal attack. Bonya’s own book, The Path to Evolution was one of the first popular science books published in Bangladesh on this topic, and marks her too as a target for anti-secular violence.



Ensaf Haider

Human Rights Activist



Internationally renowned for her tireless campaign to free her husband, Raif Badawi, from a Saudi prison where he is serving a ten year sentence for speaking out on the importance of the freedom of expression. Raif has received fifty of the thousand lashes to which he was also sentenced, not being well enough to continue that particular form of torture. Ensaf's name means "justice". In her pursuit of justice for her husband, Ensaf lives her name out every day.





Human Rights



More popularly known as @SecularlyYours, Alishba is a Pakistani secular activist and feminist recently banned from Facebook for calling out victim-blamers after the rape and death of an eight year-old girl, the eighth victim of a pedophile, was blamed on television ads for shaving cream that displayed women's bare legs. In 2014, Alishba accepted the PEN International Award for writers who continue to promote freedom of expression in the face of persecution and danger, on behalf of her friend, Raif Badawi.




Ali Rizvi

Human Rights



Author of The Atheist Muslim: A Journey from Religion to Reason, physician Ali Rizvi challenges the divisive but prevalent belief that one is either pro-Islam or Islamophobic. He urges his readers to become intimately familiar with Islam's central text, the Quran, to critique it rationally, and to hold it to account in the world of contemporary thought. Ali's work is controversial as he walks the very fine line that exists between those on the right and those on the left, a line that, too often, becomes a chasm of misunderstanding.




Raihan Abir

Writer, Blogger,



Raihan Abir is a writer in exile living in Toronto. He is the editor for Mukto-mona (free thinker), a bilingual English Bengali website and blog dedicated to freethinking, science and reason.


Raihan is the author of two published books, including ‘The Philosophy of Disbelief” which he co-authored with murdered writer Avijit Roy. Before and after the killing of Ananta Bijoy Das, Abir was followed, threatened and extremists demanded The Philosophy of Disbelief be removed from publication. He came to Toronto for a biomedical conference in June of 2015 and extended his stay in the hopes that the situation in Bangledesh would improve. When his friend and fellow Mukto-Mona blogger Niloy Neel was attacked and killed in his own home, Abir decided to apply for refugee status for himself and his family.


In 2016, Raihan received the PEN Canada/Ken Filkow Prize, in recognition of his “courage in opposing restraint on freedom of expression and ideas.”



Aruna Papp

Human Rights



A survivor of forced marriage and domestic violence has written extensively on the plight of South Asian immigrant women in Canada. Author of The Seven of us Survived: Wife abuse in the South Asian Family and her memoir, Unworthy: A Punjabi Daughter's Memoir of Honour, Shame, and Love. She is currently working on a novel which aims to educate young teens about the ongoing practice of honour-based violence. Aruna, was born in a Christian Family, in India, she arrived in Canada with an equivalent of grade three education. Aruna earned two Masters Degree, founded three agencies to support women dealing with domestic violence and become one of the country's leading experts in honor-based violence. In 2012, Aruna represented Canada at the 57th session of the UN where she spoke on how domestic violence differs from Honour Based Violence.





Saturday 2 June 2018

Registration at 08:00 am

Factory Theatre

125 Bathurst Street,Toronto

Ontario. M5V 2R2

08:00 - 08:45 AM


08:45 AM

Opening Remarks by Gretta Vosper

09:00 AM

Speaker 1

09:45 AM

Speaker 2

10:30 AM


10:50 AM

Speaker 3

11:35 AM

Panel Discussion Speakers with the morning speakers facilitated by Gretta Vosper

12:15 PM


01:30 PM

Speaker 4

02:15 PM

Speaker 5

03:30 PM


03:50 PM

Speaker 6

04:35 PM

Panel Discussion

with the afternoon speakers facilitated by Gretta Vosper

05:15 PM

Closing Remarks

5:15 - 07:00 PM


An opportunity to Mingle and dialogue about the day’s activities


Tapas & Hors D’Oeuvres

Cash Bar

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