Participant Bios

Anila Ali

Anila Ali serves as Board Chair and President of the American Muslim & Multifaith Women’s Empowerment Council, a group of women leaders who work to strengthen communities, confront bigotry, celebrate cultural heritage, and build enduring bonds with fellow Americans of all faiths.

A native of Pakistan, Ali is a retired California public school teacher, Muslim philanthropist, author, and women's rights advocate. A centrist Democrat, she served as a delegate to the 2012 and 2016 Democratic National Conventions. She is a co-founder of the Irvine Pakistani Parents Foundation and CalPak Educational Services. In 2015 she presented at the Obama White House Summit on countering violent extremism.

Avalos Natalie

Dr. Natalie M. Avalos is an assistant professor of Native American and Indigenous Studies in the Ethnic Studies department at University of Colorado Boulder. She is an ethnographer of religion whose teaching and research examine Indigenous religious life, land-based ethics, healing, and decolonization. She received her Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara with a special focus on Native American and Indigenous Religious Traditions and Tibetan Buddhism and is currently working on her manuscript titled Decolonizing Metaphysics: Transnational Indigeneities and Religious Refusal, which explores urban Indian and Tibetan refugee religious life as decolonial praxis. She is a Chicana of Mexican Indigenous descent, born and raised in the Bay Area.

Richard Baker

Reverend Dr. Richard L. Baker, Jr. is pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Dayton, Ohio, the first church organized in that city. A native of New Jersey, he earned his BA from the College of William and Mary in Virginia and his PhD in philosophy from The University of Texas at Austin.

After teaching for 15 years as Professor of philosophy at Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina, he served as Theologian-in-Residence at Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis before taking his current position. He and his wife, Karen, share six adult children and step-children. Throughout the pandemic, his chief consolation has been teaching a class called “Bucket-List Books.”

Peter Cajka2

Dr. Peter Cajka is an Assistant Teaching Professor at Notre Dame’s Department of American Studies where he also serves as Director of Undergraduate Studies. He joined Notre Dame in 2017 as a Postdoctoral Associate with the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism and still engages with the center as a faculty affiliate. He has been teaching in the Department of American Studies since 2019. His research explores the roles of religion and ideas in modern American culture. Dr. Cajka earned a PhD in modern American history from Boston College in 2017. His book, Follow Your Conscience: The Catholic Church and the Spirit of the Sixties explores how American Catholics invoked conscience rights against Church authorities and in disputes with the modern state. It shows that a profound attention to individual conscience is at the center of the modern American Catholic imagination.

Dr. Cajka has published scholarly articles in The Journal of Church and State, US Catholic Historian, American Catholic Studies, and Ohio History. At Notre Dame, Cajka teaches classes on The Sixties, the Vietnam War, the Culture Wars, Intellectual History, and the Civil Rights Movement. His words have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the National Catholic Reporter.

Roger Childs2

Roger Childs is the Senior Production Executive and Commissioning Editor of Religious Content at Ireland's national broadcaster, RTÉ.

A graduate of Cambridge University, he has over 30 years' experience as a producer, executive producer and commissioning editor, delivering a wide variety of award-winning content across many genres and all media, for broadcasters including the BBC, Channel 4 (UK), ARTE (Europe), PBS (USA), ABC (Australia) and RTÉ (Ireland).

Kristel Clayville

Rev. Dr. Kristel Clayville holds a PhD in Religious Ethics from the University of Chicago’s Divinity School and completed Fellowship training in clinical medical ethics at the MacLean Center, where she continues as a Senior Fellow. She has served as the Acting Director of the Zygon Center for Religion and Science, and was a Fellow in the Sinai and Synapses program. She has a clinical background as a chaplain and ethicist at the University of Chicago Medical Center. She has been a church pastor and continues to teach classes on the role of religion generally and chaplains specifically in healthcare. She continues to teach at one of her denomination's institutions, Lexington Theological Seminary, and to advise students on research projects involving ethics and pastoral care.

Clayville teaches ethics in the Computer Science Department at UIC, where she also serves on the hospital ethics committee, and the medical school ethics education committee. Her research interests encompass the ethics of emerging (bio)technologies, organ transplant ethics, the role of religion in medical education, AI and religion, and the function of ethics committees in hospitals and tech companies.

Dr. Marcus Cole

G. Marcus Cole is the Joseph A. Matson Dean and Professor of Law at Notre Dame Law School. He was appointed by University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., and began his term on July 1, 2019. He is the 11th dean in the history of Notre Dame Law School.

Dean Cole is a leading scholar of the empirical law and economics of commerce and finance. He was a faculty member at Stanford Law School from 1997 until he came to Notre Dame. At Stanford, he held two endowed chairs and taught courses in the areas of bankruptcy, banking, contracts, and venture capital. In addition, he served for five years as associate dean for curriculum and academic affairs. His research has explored questions such as why corporate bankruptcies are increasingly filed in Delaware and what drives the financial structure of firms backed by venture capital. His recent research has involved the ways in which the world’s poor are using technology to solve their own problems, often in the face of government restrictions hindering such solutions. Before joining the Stanford faculty, he was an associate with the Chicago law firm of Mayer Brown. He clerked for Judge Morris Sheppard Arnold of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Dean Cole’s extensive legal and scholarly background includes serving as a national fellow at the Hoover Institution, a fellow at the University of Amsterdam Center for Law and Economics, and a visiting professor at several institutions around the world, including the University of Amsterdam, the University of Vienna, Leiden University, Bucerius Law School in Hamburg, Germany, Northwestern University, Korea University, and Peking University School of Transnational Law in Shenzhen, China.

He has served on the editorial board of the Cato Supreme Court Review, the academic advisory board of BARBRI, the advisory board of the Independent Institute’s Center on Culture and Civil Society, and as a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s Bankruptcy Judicial Advisory Committee. He has served on the boards of several civic and charitable organizations, including those of the Central Pacific Region of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and Businesses United in Investing, Lending and Development (BUILD). He is the former president of the board of directors of Rocketship Education — a national, nonprofit charter school network operating California’s most successful charter schools for low-income children. He has also served on the board of trustees of Bellarmine College Preparatory, the oldest Jesuit secondary school on the West Coast.

Dean Cole earned his bachelor’s degree in applied economics from Cornell University and his juris doctor from Northwestern University, where he served as editor-in-chief of the Northwestern Journal of International Law and Business.

Matthew Cressler2

Dr. Matthew Cressler Matthew J. Cressler, Ph.D. is a scholar of religion, race, and culture. He is the author of Authentically Black and Truly Catholic: The Rise of Black Catholicism in the Great Migrations and numerous peer-reviewed articles on Catholic and African American religious histories, clerical sexual abuse, horror movies, comic books, and more. He has written for America, The Atlantic, National Catholic Reporter, Religion News Service, The Revealer, Slate, U.S. Catholic, and Zocalo Public Square. Together with Adelle M. Banks, he co-reported the Religion News Service series “Beyond the Most Segregated Hour,” which won a Wilbur Award from the Religion Communicators Council. He is the creator of Bad Catholics, Good Trouble, an educational webcomic series that brings to vivid life true stories of Catholic injustice and the ordinary people of faith who did extraordinary things to confront white supremacy and colonial violence in their communities.

Crews Emily

Dr. Emily D. Crews is the Executive Director of the Marty Center for the Public Understanding of Religion at the University of Chicago Divinity School. She oversees its operations and its relationship to its host institution, the University of Chicago Divinity School. In collaboration with its staff and faculty co-directors, she sets the research and programming agenda of the Marty Center. She joined the Marty Center as Assistant Director in 2022, after teaching at the University of Alabama and the University of Chicago, managing the research agenda of the Center, as well as its partnerships with media organizations. She also piloted the Center's inaugural Author Talks series, a collaboration with the Seminary Co-op Bookstore; led its Junior Fellows Program and Public Religion Residency Fellowships; and conceived and ran its capstone conference on Religion and Reproductive Politics. She is a scholar of Christianities in Africa and the United States, exploring the ways that people's religious lives are connected to their ideas about gender, race, and the body. She is the co-editor of Remembering Jonathan Z. Smith: A Career and Its Consequence (with Russell McCutcheon, 2020) and African Diaspora Religions in 5 Minutes (with Curtis J. Evans, forthcoming 2024).

Andrew Decort

Rev. Dr. Andrew DeCort is passionate about human flourishing and challenging trends that further violence. To this end, he founded the Institute for Faith and Flourishing to nurture neighbor-love culture that honors faith and elevates human flourishing, especially for the poor, hated, and forgotten. He also serves as co-director of the Neighbor-Love Movement birthed in Ethiopia and spanning the globe with thousands of signatories committing to daily practices of nonviolence.

DeCort holds a PhD in Religious and Political Ethics from the University of Chicago and has worked as a pastor, professor, and peace practitioner in the United States, Europe, and Africa. His first book Bonhoeffer’s New Beginning: Ethics After Devastation was published by Fortress Academic (2018). Andrew’s new book Flourishing on the Edge of Faith: Seven Practices for a New We is published by BitterSweet Collective (2022). His work has appeared in Foreign Policy magazine, the BBC, and other major platforms. Andrew publishes the weekly newsletter Stop & Think and currently lives in Chicago with his wife, Lily.

Dallas, Kelsey
Kelsey Dallas is the national religion reporter for the Deseret News in Salt Lake City. She also serves as an assistant managing editor for the publication, overseeing sports and trending news coverage. Kelsey's own writing focuses on religion's relationship to sports, politics and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Kelsey's work has been recognized by Religion News Association, the American Academy of Religion, the Society for Features Journalism and other journalistic organizations. She is part of RNA's membership committee.
Kelsey has a master's degree in religion from Yale Divinity School and bachelor's degrees in English, economics and religious studies from the University of Iowa. She lives in the Madison, Wisconsin, area with her husband, two sons and several pets.

Fahmy Dalia

Dr. Dalia Fahmy is Director of the Program in International Relations and Diplomacy and Associate Professor of Political Science at Long Island University. She is a Nonresident Fellow at the DAWN i and a Visiting Scholar at the Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights and UNESCO Chair at Rutgers University. Her books include Egypt and the Contradictions of Liberalism: Illiberal Intelligentsia and the Future of Egyptian Democracy; Arab Spring: Modernity, Identity and Change; and International Religions: Introductory Readings. Her newest work The Rise and Fall of The Muslim Brotherhood and the Future of Political Islam is forthcoming. She has also published several articles on democracy and democratization and most recently on the effects of Islamophobia on US politics and US foreign policy.

Dr. Fahmy has given several DC briefings on the future of democracy in the Middle East, and has been interviewed by and written editorials in various media outlets including ABC, CBS, CBC, CNBC, CNN, CTV, MSNBC, PBS, The Huffington Post, The Immanent Frame, The Washington Post, and appears often on Aljazeera. In 2014, Dr. Fahmy was one of the recipients of the prestigious Kleigman Prize in Political Science, was the 2016 recipient of the Newton Prize for Excellence in Teaching, and in 2017 was named NPR’s "Source if the Week."

Favale Abigail

Dr. Abigail Favale is a writer and professor whose work lies at the intersection of Catholic theology, literature, and women’s studies. Her abiding interest as a writer and scholar is the meaning and dignity of woman, and her work explores sexual difference and embodiment in the Catholic imagination.

Abigail supports McGrath Institute for Church Life programming by writing and teaching on women, feminism, and gender from a Catholic perspective. She holds a concurrent appointment in the Department of Theology, where she teaches on topics like Edith Stein’s Theology of Woman and Religion & Literature.

Abigail has a bachelor's degree in philosophy from George Fox University, as well as a master's degree in Women, Writing and Gender and a PhD in English Literature from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Her first book, Irigaray, Incarnation, and Contemporary Women's Fiction (Palgrave, 2013) was awarded the 2014 Feminist and Women's Studies Association Book Award. Her second book is Into the Deep: An Unlikely Catholic Conversion (Cascade, 2018), a spiritual memoir that traces her journey from birthright evangelicalism to postmodern feminism and, finally, to the Catholic Church. Abigail's most recent book, The Genesis of Gender: A Christian Theory, was published in 2022 by Ignatius Press and has already been translated into multiple languages. Her numerous essays have appeared in MICL's Church Life Journal, The Atlantic, First Things, Public Discourse, and elsewhere. Abigail is also a fiction writer and was awarded the J.F. Powers Prize for Short Fiction in 2017.

She lives with her husband, Michael, and their four children in South Bend, Indiana. She loves a good IPA.

Nichole Flores

Dr. Nichole M. Flores is associate professor of religious studies and director of the health, ethics, and society program at the University of Virginia. She researches the contributions of Catholic and Latiné theologies to notions of justice and aesthetics in pluralistic and democratic political contexts. Her research in practical ethics addresses issues of politics, migration, labor, family, gender, bioethics, race and ethnicity, and ecology. She teaches courses on Catholic theology and ethics, religion and democracy, bioethics, and Latiné theology & religion.

Dr. Flores is author of The Aesthetics of Solidarity: Our Lady of Guadalupe and American Democracy (Georgetown University Press, 2021). She has also published essays in the Journal of Religious Ethics, the Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics, and Modern Theology among other academic journals and edited book volumes. She is a contributing author on the masthead at America: The Jesuit Review of Faith & Culture.

In 2015, Dr. Flores was honored with the Catherine Mowry LaCugna Award for best essay in academic theology by a junior scholar from the Catholic Theological Society of America. Dr. Flores earned an A.B. in government from Smith College, an M.Div. from Yale University, and a Ph.D. in theological ethics from Boston College.

Dr. Flores's academic vocation is sustained by involvement in her local parish and church communities (St. Thomas Aquinas University Parish and All Souls Charlottesville), her love of activity and exercise (especially running, rowing, and swimming), her delight in good food, good wine, good books, and good art, and the joy of life together with her husband Daryn and their two sons.

Ann Gleig

Dr. Ann Gleig is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Central Florida. She is co-editor of Homegrown Gurus: From Hinduism in America to American Hinduism and has published widely on contemporary Buddhism.

Gleig is the author of American Dharma: Buddhism Beyond Modernity from Yale University Press. She received her doctorate in religious studies from Rice University, her master’s in religious studies from Lancaster University, and her bachelor’s in theology and religious studies from Bristol University. She joined UCF in 2012. Her research interests include Asian religions, Asian religions in America, Religion and Psychoanalysis, Religion, Gender, and Sexuality.

Megan Goodwin

Dr. Megan Goodwin is a scholar of American religions, race, gender, and politics. She is the media consultant and technologist for the Crossroads Project, an inter-institutional collaboration hosted by Princeton University and sponsored by the Henry Luce Foundation. Her first book, Abusing Religion: Literary Persecution, Sex Scandals, and American Minority Religions, is now available through Rutgers (2020). Her next research project is tentatively titled Cults Inc.: The Business of Bad Religion.

With Dr. Ilyse Morgenstein Fuerst, Goodwin cohosts Keeping It 101: A Killjoy's Introduction to Religion Podcast. Goodwin and Morgenstein Fuerst are currently at work on Religion Is Not Done with You (Beacon 2024).

Hasan Abla

Dr. Abla Hasan has a PhD in Philosophy of Language from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2013; MA in Philosophy as a Fulbright grantee from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2009. Dr. Hasan obtained her BA in Philosophy from Damascus University/Syria in 2000, followed by a Diploma of High Studies from Damascus University in 2001. She is a native speaker of Arabic. She teaches Arabic language and culture at UNL and she is the Program's Founder and Coordinator. Her teaching and research focus on Qur'anic Studies, Qur’anic Hermeneutics, Islamic feminism, and Arabic studies. She has published with Brill, Analize, Ar-Raniry, JIL, Disputatio, Al-Manarah, E-logos and other peer- review international journals. She is the author of Decoding the Egalitarianism of the Qur'an: Retrieving Lost Voices on Gender (Lexington: 2019);  On Pain and Suffering: a Qur’anic Perspective (Lexington: 2022); and of The Qur’anic Dilemma: A Hermeneutical Investigation of al-Khidr (Routledge: 2022).

Dr. Hasan is the recipient of the College of Arts and Sciences Engagement Award for 2021, the recipient of the College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Teaching Award for 2022, the recipient of the 2023 Rev. Dr. Michael Combs Award for Scholars of Equality and Justice, and the recipient of UNL's first annual Women’s and Gender Justice Award 2023. A teacher, a researcher, and a public speaker. In addition to teaching for Nebraska University, Hasan’s course “Women in the Qur’an” was offered to Maryland University, Rutgers University, Penn State University (Though DISC) and to Nizwa University in Oman (through Nebraska’s Global Virtual Project). Dr. Hasan’s scholar engagement includes numerous national and international paper presentations including 50 invited talks and more than 40 media interviews and citations.

Belynn Hollers

BeLynn Hollers is a PR professional and religion journalist from Dallas. Her experience includes a two-year stint at Dallas Morning News, first as a reporter covering religion and politics as it intersected with women's health, and later as an editorial fellow for the paper's Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial board. Her work has appeared in Religion News Services, Religion Unplugged and FemCatholic. She obtained her bachelor's degree in Politics from the University of Dallas in 2021, where she fell into journalism as a student editor. As an undergraduate, she co-founded the university's First Generation Student Association. She is also an alumna of Collin College, where she received her associate of arts in 2018. Hollers joined Androvett Legal Media and Marketing in June as a public relations manager. 

Anita Houck2

Dr. Anita Houck is Professor of Religious Studies and Theology at Saint Mary’s College (Notre Dame, Indiana), where she holds the Joyce McMahon Hank Aquinas Chair in Catholic Theology. She received her EdM from Harvard Graduate School of Education and MA and PhD from the University of Chicago Divinity School and has served on the Board of the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality and as Vice President of the College Theology Society, from which she received the Monika Hellwig Award for Teaching Excellence in 2017.

Her articles and talks cover a range of topics, especially religion and humor, vocation, single life, and pedagogy; and she is co-editor, with Mary Doak, of Translating Religion (Orbis, 2013).

Alexander Hsu 2

Dr. Alexander Hsu serves as Adjunct Assistant Teaching Professor for the Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion and the Liu Institute for Asia and Asian Studies. He is also the Ansari Institute’s academic advisor and program manager. His research focuses on early Buddhist scriptures in medieval China and employs perspectives from manuscript studies, genre theory, and cultural history in order to examine how the use of texts reflects transformations in religious reading practices.

Hsu's current book project examines why and how medieval Chinese Buddhists used anthologies to “economize” their gigantic scriptural canon.

Ali Hussain

Dr. Ali Hussain is an Assistant Professor in the College of Communication at the University of Sharjah, UAE. His research concerns health communication, intercultural communication, and persuasion. Hussain's qualifications include a master’s degree (Fulbright), and a Ph.D. (2018) from Michigan State University (MSU). Hussain’s Ph.D. research was funded by USAID, National Science Foundation, and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Hussain graduated with an outstanding doctoral student award. Hussain also has international work experience with USAID (2008-2010) and Save the Children (2010-2012) on public health communication projects in the earthquake and flood-hit communities of Pakistan. Hussain's research includes quantitative and qualitative methodologies including psychophysiological studies, visual communication, and linguistic analysis. His scholarship is published in book chapters and journals including Health Communication, Journal of Intercultural Communication Research, Communication Research Reports, Journal of International and Intercultural Communication, Visual Studies, BMC Public Health, and Journal of Medical & Internet Research, among others.

Ibrahim Celene

Dr. Celene Ibrahim is scholar of religious studies with a focus on Islamic social and intellectual history and applied ethics. She is the author of the monograph Women and Gender in the Qur'an published by Oxford University Press (2020). The book won the Association of Middle East Women's Studies Book Award (2021) and was a featured title for Women's History Month by the American Academy of Religion (2022). She is the author of Islam and Monotheism (2022), published in the Elements series by Cambridge University Press.

Ibrahim also specializes in chaplaincy, spiritual care, interreligious engagement, and religious leadership in the public sphere. She is the editor of the book One Nation, Indivisible: Seeking Liberty and Justice from the Pulpit to the Streets (Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2019). She previously served as the Muslim Counselor affiliated with the Office of Ministry Studies at Harvard Divinity School and as the Muslim Chaplain at Tufts University.

Ibrahim's articles on Islamic theology, Islamic family law, women's spiritual care, and pedagogies for interreligious studies have appeared in dozens of academic publications and she regularly serves as a reviewer for university presses and leading academic journals.

Ibrahim regularly offers courses and lectures at institutions around the world, leads global study trips, and is a trusted voice on Islamic history and religion in contemporary public life. She currently serves as a faculty member in the Department of Religious Studies and Philosophy at Groton School.

Ibrahim has studied traditional Islamic sciences, was a Mellon Fellow and earned a doctorate in Arabic and Islamic Civilizations in the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University, received a degree in divinity from Harvard University as a Presidential Scholar, and was a Davis Scholar at Princeton University where she received a bachelor's degree with highest honors in Near Eastern Studies.

Jack Jenkins

Jack Jenkins is an award-winning journalist and national reporter for Religion News Service, where he covers religion and politics. He is also the author of the book American Prophets: The Religious Roots of Progressive Politics and the Ongoing Fight for the Soul of the Country, published by HarperOne.

In addition to ThinkProgress — where he served as Senior Religion Reporter for more than three years before starting at RNS — his stories and analysis from all over the globe have been published in the Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Atlantic, Associated Press, Daily Beast, National Catholic Reporter, and others. His work has also been cited or featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New Yorker, CNN, MSNBC, and a Netflix docu-series, among others.

Jenkins earned his BA from Presbyterian College and his Master of Divinity from Harvard University.

Russell Johnson 2

Dr. Russell P. Johnson is a professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School where he teaches religious ethics and the philosophy of communication. His research focuses on disagreement, antagonism, and how groups imagine and treat their enemies. His work draws from rhetorical theory, Christian theology, peace and conflict studies, and dialogical philosophy to explore how the "good guys versus bad guys" mindset distorts people's perceptions of themselves and their opponents. His teaching includes courses on nonviolent direct action, argumentation and epistemology, and religion and film, and he is also a columnist and editor for Sightings, the Divinity School's digital magazine.


Kathryn Joyce

Kathryn Joyce is the investigative editor at In These Times magazine and the author of two books: The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking and the New Gospel of Adoption and Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement.

Formerly an investigative reporter with Salon and Type Investigations, a contributing editor at The New Republic and a contributing writer at Highline, her work has also appeared in Mother Jones, Vanity Fair, The Marshall Project, Longreads, The New York Times Magazine, Pacific Standard, Wired, Vox, Outside, Slate, The American Prospect, The Intercept, The New York Times Sunday Review, The Nation, Fusion, Cosmopolitan, Adirondack Life, Bright, The Atlantic, Newsweek, The Arkansas Times, Religion Dispatches, The Public Eye, The Daily Beast, Ms., The Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Rewire and others.

Alan Levinovitz2

Dr. Alan Levinovitz is an Associate Professor of Religion at James Madison University. He received his BA in philosophy and religion from Stanford University, and his PhD in Religion and Literature from the University of Chicago. Dr. Levinovitz focuses primarily on the relationship between religion, literature, and science, with particular attention to classical Chinese thought, comparative ethics and the intersection of religion and literature. His most recent book, Natural: How Faith in Nature's Goodness Leads to Harmful Fads, Unjust Laws, and Flawed Science, examines the meaning of "natural" and argues that modern Western culture has divinized nature. He is currently working on another book project, The Gentleman and the Jester, which develops a binary typology of ethical education. In addition, he writes journalism that explores the relationship between religion, philosophy, science and medicine. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Vox, Slate, Wired, Aeon, The LA Review of Books, The Believer, The Millions, and other outlets.

Bilal Malik

Imam Bilal Malik leads the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida, which has served residents of Jacksonville since 1978. Previously, he served as the primary religious leader for the Islamic Society of Frederick, Maryland.

Malik’s interest in studying Islam began in childhood, and he memorized the Qur’an at age 10. His desire to earn the highly respected honor of Hafiz—the Arabic term for someone who has committed the sacred text to memory—stemmed from a healthy sibling rivalry. His older brother achieved the same honor when he was 12 years old.

Nikhil Mandalaparthy

Nikhil Mandalaparthy is a writer, organizer, and curator who serves as Deputy Executive Director of Hindus for Human Rights and Executive Board Member of Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus. He also curates Voices of Bhakti, a digital archive showcasing translations of South Asian poetry on religion, caste, and gender.

Mandalaparthy’s work reflects a commitment to promoting religious pluralism and social justice both in South Asia and North America. With the Aspen Institute’s Religion & Society Program, he helped launch a national network of civic and faith leaders advancing religious pluralism. He has presented at national and international forums including the 2018 and 2021 Parliament of World's Religions.

His writing and reporting has been published in several outlets, such as Foreign Policy magazine and Religion Dispatches, and has been supported by the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting. He has been quoted and interviewed by publications including BBC World Service, Al Jazeera, and the Huffington Post. Nikhil completed undergraduate and master's degrees in public policy at the University of Chicago, and lives in Washington, DC.

Jessica Mesman

Jessica Mesman is Associate Editor of the Christian Century and a widely published writer whose work has been noted in Best American Essays. Her first book, Love and Salt: A Spiritual Friendship in Letters, co-authored with Amy Andrews Alznauer, won the 2014 Christopher Award for “literature that affirms the highest values of the human spirit.” Currently, her work is taking her deeper into ecology, horror, and folk religion.

Her articles and essays have appeared in LitHub, Elle, Vox, America, and Christianity Today. She has served as online editor and host of the Image Podcast and as managing editor of the literary magazine Creative Nonfiction, where she occasionally teaches spiritual memoir. She is an affiliate faculty member at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis.

Mahan Mirza 2

Dr. Mahan Mirza is a Teaching Professor of Islam & Science in the Keough School of Global Affairs and Executive Director of the Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion at the University of Notre Dame. An Islamic studies scholar and expert on religious literacy, Dr. Mirza previously served as lead faculty in a project to advance scientific and theological literacy in madrasa discourses in Notre Dame's Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and Dean of Faculty at Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California, America’s first accredited Muslim liberal arts college. He holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from University of Texas Austin, MA from Hartford Seminary in Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations, and PhD in Religious Studies from Yale University.

Dr. Mirza has taught a range of courses in Arabic-Islamic studies, western religions, and history of science, along with foundational subjects in the liberal arts including logic, rhetoric, ethics, and politics. His doctoral research was on the intellectual world of al-Biruni, an 11th-century scientist from Central Asia. Dr. Mirza has edited two special issues of The Muslim World and served as assistant editor of the Princeton Encyclopaedia of Islamic Political Thought.

Michael Nabors

Reverend Dr. Michael C. R. Nabors is senior pastor of the historic Second Baptist Church in Evanston, Illinois, where he has continued to lead the church in its role as a trumpeter for Christ and as a social justice advocate in Evanston and Metro Chicago. Recently, Second Baptist Church has become a leading faith center in America in facilitating Race Talk Solidarity Circles in local communities. Dr. Nabors teaches Homiletics and Qualitative Research and Theological Writing at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL. He served as Director of the Master of Divinity and Student Life Programs at Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Detroit where he was professor of Homiletics and African American Religious History. He has taught at Ashland Theological Seminary, Calvin Theological Seminary, and Marygrove College. Dr. Nabors earned an undergraduate degree in English and Creative Writing at Western Michigan University, a Master of Divinity and Master of Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Ministry from the United Theological Seminary. He has been both a Samuel DeWitt Proctor and Benjamin E. Mays Fellow. He was also a Fellow in the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence- Lily Endowment Program as well as a Fellow in the Pastor-Theologian Lilly Endowment Program. He has received over 100 community, church and ministry awards for leadership and service in New Jersey, Michigan and Illinois. Before leaving Princeton, New Jersey, the Mayor and City Council commemorated his leadership by naming October 12th, “Dr. Michael Nabors Day.”

In June, 2023 Dr. Nabors and a colleague Dr. Michael Woolf, were awarded the Edwin T. Dahlberg Peace and Justice Awardees by the American Baptist Churches in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The award was given for their work and partnership on race, reparations and reconciliation. Former Dahlberg recipients have been Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., William Sloan Coffin (Riverside Church in New York City) President Jimmy Carter, Marian Wright Edelman and Congressman John Lewis.

Team Shannon Rivers

Shannon Rivers is a member of the Akimel O’otham (River People) Nation. He was born and raised on the Gila River Indian Community located in the southern state of Arizona and is an Indigenous Peoples human rights activist who focuses on the immigration and migration of Indigenous Peoples into the state of Arizona and throughout the United States.

Rivers served as a delegate and participant at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues for nearly a decade, and from 2008 to 2010, served as co-chair for the Global Indigenous Peoples Caucus at the UN. He has conducted and hosted lectures on the United Nation Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) at the State Capital of Arizona and for numerous universities, and colleges nationally and internationally.

Rivers is a Native American spiritual leader and cultural advisor to the Indigenous inmate population in the state, federal, tribal, and private prisons in Arizona and California, and a co-chair for the Underserved Cultural Committee (UsCC) for the Dept. of Mental Health Los Angeles. He received his BS from Northern Arizona University and his MA from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Joshua Rubin

Rabbi Joshua Rubin serves as Director of the Liberal Jewish Fellowship of South Bend. He is also a Senior Lecturer of English at Indiana University South Bend, where he has taught and supervised writing tutoring for 10 years, as well as where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. His thesis in Creative Nonfiction was titled, Circumcision and Its Discontents: Constructions of Jewish Identity in Literary Memoir.

On returning to South Bend in 2002, following stints as varied as actor, union organizer, and line cook, Rubin became involved in the local Jewish community first as singer and religious school teacher at Temple Beth-El and Sinai Synagogue, then as chazan for the autumn festivals at Temple Israel of Porter County, and most recently, as Jewish spiritual leader at Culver Academies, where he has served for 13 years.

Rubin was ordained by an independent beit din in Manhattan, July 2021, after more than a decade of study. He lives with his son, Joseph, a high school freshman.

Bob Smietana

Bob Smietana is an award-winning religion journalist who has spent two decades producing breaking news, data journalism, investigative reporting, profiles, and features for magazines, newspapers, trade publications, and websites. He serves as national religion writer for Religion News Service.

Smietana has also served as senior writer for Facts & Trends, senior editor of Christianity Today, religion writer at The Tennessean, and contributor to OnFaith, USA Today, and The Washington Post.

He is known for his coverage of Islam and Islamophobia, including his comprehensive reporting on the Murfreesboro mosque conflict, and on evangelical Christianity.

Chrissy Stroop
A senior correspondent for Religion Dispatches and a weekly opinion columnist for openDemocracy, Chrissy Stroop comes to Faith in the Story as a media professional. She's also a trained academic, holding a PhD in modern Russian history and humanities from Stanford University, and having taught at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration in Moscow, Russia from 2012-2015 and at the University of South Florida in Tampa from 2015-2018. Stroop was also a senior research associate with Kristina Stoeckl's Postsecular Conflicts project based at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. Both Stroop's academic and popular media work focus on the intersections of religion, politics, and society, and specifically on the influences of Christian ideology. A transgender woman who was raised evangelical Protestant and is now an outspoken atheist and social justice advocate, Stroop has been instrumental in building and raising awareness of the "exvangelical" movement and is (with Lauren O'Neal) coeditor of the anthology of personal essays Empty the Pews: Stories of Leaving the Church. Stroop, who resides in Portland, Oregon, publishes weekly essays on her Substack, The Bugbear Dispatch, and is proud of her record of working with both religious and secular organizations and individuals as an advocate for reproductive justice, racial equality, LGBTQ rights, and the inclusion of secular voices in interfaith dialogue and the broader American public sphere.

Nate Tinner Williams

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger and a Master of Theology student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana. A frequent analytical commentator on Black Catholicism and the arts, Tinner-Williams also enjoys singing in a variety of genres, especially jazz and gospel. He is the 2023 recipient of a Catholic Media Award, as well as a California Ethnic Media Award. His writing can be found in BCM, the Boston Globe, and Where Peter Is.


Sarah Ventre

Sarah Ventre is a Peabody-nominated audio journalist best known for her work as host of Unfinished: Short Creek, a podcast about a fundamentalist Mormon community on the Utah-Arizona border. It was named the #3 best podcast of 2020 by The New Yorker, one of the best podcasts of 2020 by The Atlantic, and made the Bello Collective’s year-end list as well. Her reporting in this community has won an Edward R. Murrow Award, a Wilbur Award, multiple Religion News Association Awards, a Communal Studies Association Award, and nominations from the Association of Mormon Letters and the Ambie Awards. As part of her reporting for Unfinished, she embedded in Short Creek and lived in former FLDS prophet Rulon Jeffs’ house.

Ventre was the reporter, writer, and managing producer for the show Witnessed: Mystic Mother, about a tantric temple that was considered a spiritual home by some, and an illegal brothel by others. She was also the senior producer for the Peabody Award-nominated second season of This Land (an investigation into the concerted effort to dismantle the Indian Child Welfare Act), and Damages (a series about legal battles at the heart of the climate crisis). She has produced for NPR, PBS, Gimlet, Vox, Critical Frequency, Crooked Media, Campside Media, The African American Policy Forum, Center for Science and the Imagination, Jewish Women’s Archive, and The Moth.

Ventre is one of the founders of Girls Rock! Phoenix, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering girls, trans, and gender nonconforming youth through music. She is also a journalism fellow in the Recovering Truth project from the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict at Arizona State University, and was formerly a fellow with the Religion and Environment Story Project at Boston University and a resident at UnionDocs’ “Pod-Pod” in Brooklyn. She was once told by an artist with synesthesia that her voice is mauve.

Tiauna Boyd Webb 2

Rev. Tiauna Boyd Webb is the Director of Missions and Programs at Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference (SDPC) in Evanston, Illinois. The organization helps to nurture, sustain, and mobilize the African American faith community in collaboration with civic, corporate, and philanthropic leaders to address critical needs of human and social justice within local, national, and global communities.

In her role with the SDPC, she seeks to strengthen the individual and collective capacity of thought leaders and activists in the church, academy, and community through education, advocacy, and activism for human rights and social justice. Rev. Webb holds a Masters in International Development from the University of Pittsburgh and a Master of Divinity from the Chicago Theological Seminary.

Justin Whitaker

Dr. Justin Whitaker is the Senior Correspondent for Buddhistdoor Global (BDG), a non-profit online platform dedicated to progressive Buddhist views from around the world.

Previously, he was a visiting instructor at Hong Kong University's Centre for Buddhist Studies. He holds a PhD from the University of London, where his work on comparative philosophy focused on early Buddhist ideas and the ethics of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). He is the author of "Reflecting on Meditation’s Ethics: Ignatian ‘Spiritual Exercises’ and Buddhist ‘Mettā-Bhāvanā’,” (Journal of Inter-Religious Studies, 2014) and co-author with Douglass Smith of "Reading the Buddha as a Philosopher" (Philosophy East and West, 2016) and "Ethics, Meditation, and Wisdom" in the Oxford Handbook of Buddhist Ethics, 2018.

Prior to joining BDG, he had a popular blog called American Buddhist Perspectives, which was listed as one of the 100 “most influential blogs that contribute to an online discussion about religion in the public sphere and the academy” by the non-profit Social Science Research Council. He taught Buddhist philosophy on the Antioch Buddhist Studies Abroad program in Bodh Gaya, India in 2010 and 2014 and became a core faculty member of the Woodenfish Buddhist Life in China program in 2016.


Dr. Olivia Wilkinson is the Director of Research for the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities (JLI), an international collaboration on evidence for faith actors’ roles in the humanitarian and development sectors. She directs JLI’s research work, collaborating with partners from UN agencies and governments, such as UNICEF and UNHCR, to faith-based organizations and NGOs, including Islamic Relief and World Vision, and in collaboration with universities such as the University of Leeds and University College London.

Dr. Wilkinson is a sociologist, working at the intersection of sociology of religion and humanitarian/development studies. She published her book, Secular and Religious Dynamics in Humanitarian Response with Routledge in early 2020, which unpacks how secularity is one of many privileges and biases in the humanitarian system that makes aid irrelevant and inappropriate. She co-edited a new volume also with Routledge called International Development and Local Faith Actors: Ideological and Cultural Encounters, which was recently released.

She has a PhD and master’s degree in humanitarian action from Trinity College Dublin and Université Catholique de Louvain respectively. Her PhD research focused on the response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, and she has since conducted collaborative research work around the world, most recently on local faith actors in South Sudan. Her undergraduate degree in Theology and Religious Studies is from the University of Cambridge.