Hosting the Symposium
Dr. Scott Appleby, a professor of history at Notre Dame, is a scholar of global religion who has been a member of Notre Dame’s faculty since 1994. He graduated from Notre Dame in 1978 and received master’s and PhD degrees in history from the University of Chicago. From 2000-2014, he served as the Regan Director of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. Appleby co-directs, with Ebrahim Moosa and Atalia Omer, Contending Modernities, a major multi-year project to examine the interaction among Catholic, Muslim, and secular forces in the modern world.
Appleby’s research examines the various ways in which religious movements and organizations shape, and are shaped by national, regional and global dynamics of governance, deadly conflict, international relations and economic development. He co-chaired the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ Task Force on Religion and the Making of U.S. Foreign Policy, which released the influential report, “Engaging Religious Communities Abroad: A New Imperative for U.S. Foreign Policy.” From 1988 to 1993 Appleby was co-director of the Fundamentalism Project, an international public policy study conducted by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Appleby is the author or editor of 15 books, including the widely cited volumes of The Fundamentalism Project (co-edited with Martin E. Marty and published by the University of Chicago Press); and The Ambivalence of the Sacred: Religion, Violence and Reconciliation. Most recently, Appleby co-edited (with Atalia Omer) The Oxford Handbook on Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding.
Dr. Alexander Hsu is 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.
Dr. Mahan Mirza is 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, Mirza previously served as lead faculty member for the Madrasa Discourses, a project to advance scientific and theological literacy at the University of Notre Dame's Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. He also served as Dean of Faculty at Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California, America’s first accredited Muslim liberal arts college. Mirza 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.
He 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.
Mirza has edited two special issues of The Muslim World and served as assistant editor of the Princeton Encyclopaedia of Islamic Political Thought. His most recent article appeared in The Routledge Handbook of Religious Literacy, Pluralism, and Global Engagement (2021), titled “Deed over idea: Toward a shared caliphate.”
Dr. Charles W. Powell, a practical theologian, earned his Ecumenical Doctor of Ministry degree at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. He specializes in interreligious dialogue between Christians and Muslims and multifaith engagement. Powell travels extensively throughout the Levant and Gulf States and Europe engaging in conversations with Muslim scholars and practitioners of Islam in order to have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Islamic milieu. He is a Visiting Academic Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, University of Oxford, UK. Additionally, Powell serves as an adjunct professor of Muslim-Christian relations at Holy Cross College.
Prior to joining the Notre Dame community, Powell pastored churches in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi for nearly two decades. In his early years of ministry, he was a radio announcer and preacher for Southern Gospel radio out of Dothan, Alabama. He is an experienced speaker, administrator, and church planter. Powell holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theology from the Florida Baptist Theological College in Graceville, Florida and a Master of Divinity degree from Luther Rice Seminary in Lithonia, Georgia. He completed most of his master's degree at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, prior to relocating to Georgia to plant a new church.
His recent book project, Southern Baptists and Muslims: A Path to Dialogue through Narrative Empathy, tackles the issues of religious literacy and narrative empathy for Islam and Muslims that are often lacking in the Southern Baptist denomination.
Dr. Sousan Abadian has an independent practice, teaching, speaking and consulting internationally on leadership, innovation, and culture change. She helps her clients cultivate adaptive leadership skills and inner exponential technologies to enhance their well-being, creativity, resilience, and performance.
She was an associate at Cambridge Leadership Associates facilitating workshops and giving keynotes on Adaptive Leadership. Most recently, she served as a Franklin Fellow at the U.S. State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (2017-2019). Her portfolio included preventing violent extremism, rights of religious minorities in the Middle East and South Asia, gender issues, atrocity prevention, and cultural restoration. She has also been a Fellow at MIT’s Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values as well as at Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership.
Abadian has delivered talks and facilitated leadership trainings for international audiences from the business and nonprofit worlds, for government and religious leaders, tribal chiefs, conflict resolution experts, as well as civil society actors, both independently and as an Associate at Cambridge Leadership Associates. She is equally comfortable facilitating meaningful conversations and processes in mud huts, in religious sanctuaries, as she is in corporate settings.
Dr. Jacques Berlinerblau is the Rabbi Harold White Professor of Jewish Civilization at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Berlinerblau has published on a wide variety of issues ranging from secularism, to religion and politics, to Jewish-American fiction, to African-American and Jewish-American relations, to American higher education.
He has published thirty-five scholarly articles and ten books. The latter include: How to Be Secular: A Call to Arms for Religious Freedom (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt); Secularism on the Edge (Palgrave; co-edited with Sarah Fainberg and Aurora Nou); Thumpin' It: The Use and Abuse of the Bible in Today's Presidential Politics (Westminster John Knox); The Secular Bible: Why Nonbelievers Must Take Religion Seriously (Cambridge University Press); Heresy in the University: The Black Athena Controversy and the Responsibility of American Intellectuals (Rutgers University Press). His 2017 book was Campus Confidential: How College Works, or Doesn't, for Professors, Parents, and Students (Melville House).
Berlinerblau has written for, appeared on, or had his work discussed in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, Salon, The Guardian, The New Republic, The Nation, NPR, Tablet, Commentary, The Forward, The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, Canadian Broadcast Network, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Al-Jazeera, PBS, MSNBC, CBS, CBC, TF1, AFP, and CNN.
Dr. Ashlee Bird is a Native American game designer and PhD in Native American Studies. She is Western Abenaki and originally hails from the Champlain Valley of Vermont. Her dissertation, “Representation and Reclamation: The History and Future of Natives in Gaming,” theorizes digital sovereignty, drawing on Native American studies, media studies, and game studies to address representations of Native American characters in video games. The work analyzes specific colonial methodologies being replicated within game spaces in order to then replace these with decolonial methods of game design being undertaken by herself and fellow Native game designers with a focus on what she terms “synthetic Indigenous identity,” oriented around promoting Indigenous futures.
Bird is currently working on a book manuscript tentatively titled Red Dead Redemption: Finding My Place in the Digital West that explores the complex relationships that different players have with games and undertakes an exploration of the Red Dead Redemption series and what the games have offered (or not offered) to their player bases. Beyond her academic writing, she has created three artworks, publicly exhibited seven times in group and solo exhibitions, and has curated one show.
Bird serves as Moreau Post Doctoral Fellow for the University of Notre Dame's Department of American Studies.
Dr. Lara E. Braitstein is Associate Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism for McGill University. Her areas of research interest include South Asian and Tibetan/Himalayan Buddhist literature and historiography and her current research revolves around the life of the 10th Shamarpa Chödrup Gyatso (1742-1792), a Tibetan Lama who played a complex role in the fraught relations between Tibet, Nepal and China during the late 18th century.
Braitstein’s published work includes Saraha’s Adamantine Songs (2014), a translation and literary analysis of a set of three long esoteric poems composed in the 9th century, and she was also the translator and editor of Shamar Rinpoche’s book Path to Awakening (2009 and 2011).
In addition to introductory courses on Buddhism, Buddhist thought, and Buddhist Studies, she offers courses on Tibetan Buddhism, Buddhist poetry, and Indian and Tibetan Buddhist tantric traditions.
Her research has been supported by SSHRC (2008-11) and Bukkyō Dendō Kyōkai (2009), and she is a member of the research group Groupe de recherche interuniversitaire sur le Tibet et l’Himalaya (GRITH), an initiative that brings together academics in Québec carrying out research about the greater Himalayan region.
Dr. Carolyn Thompson Brown serves as Board Chair of the Fetzer Institute. She is also the former director of the Office of Scholarly Programs and the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress. In that capacity she provided vision and direction to programs that fund the world’s most accomplished and most promising scholars for periods of residency to conduct research in the Library’s collections. She also organized conferences, seminars, and other scholarly events. The Poetry and Literature Program, which hosts the Poet Laureate of the United States, was also under her direction.
Previously, she led the Collections and Services Directorate, overseeing collections development, collections management, reference, and public outreach for the general, special, and area studies collections. This followed several years leading the area studies collections and the Federal Research Division.
Brown’s professional writings examine the interrelationship of literature, culture, and psychology with special focus on modern Chinese literature. She is the author of Reading Lu Xun through Carl Jung, a book on spiritual healing in the short stories of 20th Century China's most famous writer.
Dr. David Cloutier is Associate Professor of Theology at The Catholic University of America. Previously, he spent ten years at Mount St. Mary’s University (MD), where he held the Knott Professorship of Catholic Theology. He is the author of four books, including the award-winning The Vice of Luxury: Economic Excess in a Consumer Age, which received an honorable mention in the 2015 PROSE Awards for academic press and a third place in the 2016 Catholic Press Association awards. His previous book, Walking God’s Earth: The Environment and Catholic Faith, took second place in the 2015 CPA awards for Best Popular Presentation of the Catholic Faith. He is particularly interested in connecting Catholic moral theology to the best research about human behavior from the social sciences.
Cloutier teaches moral theology, with particular interests in economic ethics, sexual ethics, and the environment, and received the College Theology Society’s 2018 Monika Hellwig award for teaching excellence. He is active in traditional and web-based media and was elected to the Board of Directors of the Society of Christian Ethics in 2019.
Ms. Nana Firman worked with the World Wildlife Fund in her native country of Indonesia, directing the Green Recovery efforts in the wake of 2004 earthquake and tsunami, and later developed a Sustainable City Initiative as part of urban climate change adaptation and mitigation. Upon moving to California in 2012, she has been involved in developing a community garden in San Diego, and educating the American Muslim community to practice eco-friendly lifestyles, which then prompted her to become a member of the Green Mosque Committee for the Islamic Society of North America.
Recently, she organized the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change and co-founded the Global Muslim Climate Network, which calls to all Muslim nations to transition from fossil-fuel to clean-energy based development. In 2015, she was named as the White House Champion of Change for Climate Faith Leaders.
Firman believes that environmental degradation and the collective climate crisis can unite the world community to face the challenges together with a deep commitment to sustainability and environmental justice for people across the globe.
Dr. Christine Gross-Loh is a journalist and author. Her most recent book is The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About the Good Life, coauthored with Professor Michael Puett. The Path, a New York Times and international bestseller, is being published in more than 25 countries, including the US (Simon & Schuster) and the UK (Viking).
Gross-Loh is also the author of Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Things Parents Around the World Can Teach Us. She writes on history, education, philosophy, and global parenting and has been published in the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and Vox. She has a BA from Bryn Mawr College and a PhD from Harvard University in East Asian history.
Dr. Nirinjan Khalsa-Baker serves as Senior Instructor of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University’s Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts. She received her BA in Sociology in 2000 from the University of Arizona and in 2014, a PhD in Asian Languages and Cultures from the University of Michigan. Her work examines both historic and modern Sikh devotional music with particular attention paid to the mystical and embodied realms of performative practice as well as the ideological debates and identity politics surrounding its pedagogy and history.
Khalsa-Baker’s ongoing research investigates how the diversity of lived devotional practices and musical styles in the Sikh Diaspora question gendered and religious norms. She has conducted ethnographic research throughout Northern India for more than a decade, during which time she also became the first female exponent of the Amritsari tradition of Sikh drumming (jori-pakhawaj).
Dr. Anantanand Rambachan is Professor of Religion at Saint Olaf College in Minnesota. He was also Visiting Professor at the Academy for the Study of World Religions at the University of Hamburg in Germany (2013-2017). His books include: Accomplishing the Accomplished: The Vedas as a Source of Valid Knowledge in Shankara, The Limits of Scripture: Vivekananda's Reinterpretation of the Authority of the Vedas, The Advaita Worldview: God, World and Humanity, A Hindu Theology of Liberation, and Essays in Hindu Theology. His scholarly interests include: the Advaita (Non-dual) Vedanta tradition, Hindu ethics, liberation theology, and interreligous dialogue.
Rambachan has been involved in interreligious relations and dialogue for over 25 years, as a Hindu contributor and analyst. He is active in the dialogue programs of the World Council of Churches, and was a Hindu guest and presenter in four General Assemblies of the World Council of Churches. He is also involved in the consultations of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue at the Vatican and currently participates as a Hindu theologian in the Ethics in Action dialogues at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. He was recently elected as Co-President of Religions for Peace, the largest global interfaith network.
Rabbi Dr. Or Rose is the Founding Director of the Betty Ann Greenbaum Miller Center for Interreligious Learning & Leadership of Hebrew College.
Before assuming this position in 2016, he worked in various administrative and teaching capacities at Hebrew College for over a decade, including serving as a founding faculty member and Associate Dean of the Rabbinical School. Rabbi Rose was also one of the creators of CIRCLE, The Center for Interreligious & Community Leadership Education, cosponsored by Hebrew College and Andover Newton Theological School (2007-2017).
In addition to his work at Hebrew College, Rabbi Rose has taught for the Bronfman Youth Fellowships, The Wexner Graduate Fellowship, Hebrew College Me’ah community eduction program, and in a variety of other academic, religious, and civic contexts throughout North America and in Israel.
A prolific author and editor, his recent publications include: Words To Live By: Sacred Sources for Interreligious Engagement (co-editor, Orbis) and Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi: Essential Teachings (co-editor, Orbis). Rose is also the creator of the weekly scriptural commentary series 70 Faces of Torah, curator of the web-based project PsalmSeason, and co-publisher of the Journal of Interreligious Studies. He is working on two edited volumes: The Book of Psalms Here & Now: Multifaith Voices (Paraclete Press, 2023), and With the Best of Intentions: Interreligious Mistakes & Unexpected Learnings (Orbis 2023, with Lucinda Allen Mosher and Elinore J. Pierce).
Mr. Khushwant Singh was born in Panjab, India and raised in Germany. He studied ethnology, education and social anthropology, and completed his MA at Heidelberg University and his MRes at Goldsmiths College, University of London, both with distinction. After his studies, he worked as a social worker and took care of migrants and unaccompanied refugee minors. Since 2006, he has been working in the field of international development cooperation on migration, diaspora collaboration, trade barriers, and religion.
Singh is the Head of Secretariat of the International Partnership on Religion and Sustainable Development (PaRD). He is is a founding member of the Interfaith Council Frankfurt (Rat der Religionen) and served as its president from 2014 to 2017. He is also the founder of the Council of the Sikh religion and publishes articles in German and English with a focus on Gurmat/Sikhi, spirituality, ethics, behavioral change, sustainability, and the global challenges facing humanity.
Dr. Robert Stockman serves as Director of the Wilmette Institute. He has had a passion for researching and teaching about the Bahá’í Faith for more than half of his life. His fascination with American Bahá’í history and with the first American Bahá’í, Thornton Chase, led him, in 1980, to switch his academic field from planetary science to history of religion in the United States.
As Stockman was finishing his doctorate in that field at Harvard University in 1990, he drew up plans to create a Bahá’í Studies institute that would offer courses, encourage research, and publish. Instead, he was hired by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States to start a research office at the national Bahá’í headquarters in Wilmette, Illinois. Some of the responsibilities of the research office led to the creation of the Wilmette Institute, which focuses on most of the tasks of the institute he had originally conceived.
Meanwhile, Stockman also remained involved in academia, teaching religious studies part time at DePaul University in Chicago and currently at Indiana University South Bend. He has also published four books on aspects of Bahá’í history (including a biography of Thornton Chase) and one introductory textbook on the faith.
Dr. Mugdha Yeolekar is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at California State University at Fullerton. She grew up in Pune in western India. She received a bachelor’s degree in Sanskrit and Indology from Tilak Maharashtra University and a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Pune. She earned a master’s degree in Political Science from the University of Pune and, then, a master's degree in Political Science from the University of British Columbia. From there, she pursued her doctoral studies at Arizona State University and completed her PhD in Religious Studies in 2014.
Yeolekar’s dissertation, “Gurucaritra Pārāyaṇ: Social Praxis of Religious Reading,” considers the practices of ritual readings of the Gurucaritra, an important medieval Hindu text, by contemporary devotees of the god Dattatreya. She teaches the following courses: Introduction to the Religions of the World, Introduction to Scientific Study of Religion, Religion and (non) Violence, Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Women and Religion.
Her research interests include agency, gender, materiality, and technology in Indian religions. Yeolekar has published articles on sex and gender, devotional reading practices, teaching about diversity, and ecologies in Hinduism. She is currently preparing a monograph on devotional reading practices.
Dr. Tyson Yunkaporta is an academic, an art critic, and a researcher who is a member of the Apalech Clan in far north Queensland, Australia. Yunkaporta is the author of of Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World. He is the recipient of the Ansari Institute’s Nasr Book Prize, which highlights the work of scholars who reimagine the connection of religion and global affairs.
His book, which has earned widespread acclaim, raises important questions and brings Indigenous ways of knowing to the critical examination of global systems. In so doing, it enriches the larger public conversation. Yunkaporta shows how Indigenous traditions can inform sustainable approaches to global problems: “I’m not reporting on Indigenous Knowledge systems for a global audience’s perspective,” he says. “I’m examining global systems from an Indigenous Knowledge perspective.”
Yunkaporta carves traditional tools and weapons and also works as a senior lecturer in Indigenous Knowledges at Deakin University in Melbourne.
Religions for Peace Awards Luncheon
Dr. Azza Karam serves as the Secretary General of Religions for Peace. She holds a Professorship of Religion and Development at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, of which she is a citizen.
Karam currently is a member of the United Nations Secretary General’s High Level Advisory Board on Effective Multilateralism.
Prior to joining Religions for Peace, she served for nearly two decades in the United Nations (UNDP and UNFPA), including as a Coordinator of the Arab Human Development Reports, a Senior Advisor on Culture, and Lead Facilitator/Trainer for the UN Strategic Learning Exchanges on Religion, Development and Diplomacy. During her time in the UN, she founded and was Convenor of the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Religion and Development as well as the Multi-Faith Advisory Council of that Task Force.
She has worked internationally since 1980s, including with the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IIDEA), the OECD and the EU, and has taught and lectured in various academic institutions in Europe, North America (including the United States Military Academy/West Point), and in the Arab region.
Her PhD (in 1996) focused on Political Islam and became her first book in Arabic and English. She has since published widely, in several languages, on international political dynamics, including democratization, human rights, peace and security, gender, religious engagement, and sustainable development.
Karam has received many awards over the years, including an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from John Cabot University (Rome, Italy). She was born in Egypt, lived and worked in many continents, and now resides in the United States.
Mr. Abdul Ilah Rafie Marafie serves as international trustee for Religions for Peace and chief patron trustee for the Marafie Foundation.
He was born into the Marafie family, one of Kuwait’s ancient merchant families. After secondary school education, he completed studies in business management. In 1975, he joined the family-run business and found time to assist with Marafie Foundation activities. Since his father’s passing in 1976, he has been actively involved in managing the foundation as its chief patron trustee. The foundation has completed approximately 1,000 projects in the Baltistan area of northeast Pakistan consisting of schools, clinics, community centers, and has another 300 projects planned.
Marafie also associates with many NGOs in Kuwait, including Kuwait Transparency Society, an organization fighting against corruption. Currently, he is the chair of the First Hotels Co. (the owning Company of Radisson SAS Hotel Kuwait) and he also serves as a member of the board of directors of the Marafie Group.
Rev. Kosho Niwano serves as co-Moderator and executive committee member of Religions for Peace and president-designate of Rissho Kosei-Kai, a lay Buddhist movement.
She was born in Tokyo as the first daughter of Rissho Kosei-Kai President Nichiko Niwano. After receiving a law degree from Gakushuin University, she studied at Rissho Kosei-kai’s Gakurin seminary. She studies the teachings of the Lotus Sutra and shares them with members who visit the Great Sacred Hall for worship services and special events.
Niwano also promotes interreligious cooperation domestically and internationally in her capacity as president-designate of Rissho Kosei-kai by attending interfaith congresses. She is a councilor of Shinshuren (Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan), a member of the board of directors of Religions for Peace-Japan, and member of the board of directors for The King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue.
Niwango is the author of a book titled, Kaiso-sama ni naraite (The Buddha in Everyone’s Heart).
Dr. Aruna Oswal is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and social activist.
She serves as co-president and international trustee of Religions for Peace and has served in a variety of other leadership roles, including: chair of the Abhey Oswal Group & Aruna Abhey Oswal Trust; vice president for the World Jain Confederation; and past international Director and trustee for the Lions Clubs International.
Oswal has received honors from former Indian President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam and former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who presented her with the Jain Ratna Award. She has also received numerous honors from Lions Club International. As a leader in that organization, she has overseen numerous fellowship and service projects, including the distribution of more than 1,000 sewing machines for women entrepreneurs.
Stephen Avino serves as the Executive Director of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, the world’s premier interfaith convening non-profit organization. Rev. Avino became a member of the Staff at the Parliament in 2012 and has remained deeply committed to the success of the global interfaith movement, serving as a key organizer for the 2015 Parliament Convening in Salt Lake City, the 2018 Parliament Convening in Toronto, and the 2021 Virtual Parliament Convening.
An avid seeker of knowledge and a dedicated person of faith, Avino earned a Master of Arts in Religious Studies at the Chicago Theological Seminary in 2015 and became ordained through the Independent Catholic Movement in 2019. He lives in Chicago, where he remains deeply committed to advocating for the legacy of the Parliament and a more inclusive interreligious movement.
Jefferson Ballew serves as Bear Clan Potawatomi Traditional Life Ways Coordinator.
Sonja Ballew serves as Indigenous Language Instructor for the Loon Clan Ojibwe.
Emily D. Crews serves as Assistant Director of the Martin Marty Center for the Public Understanding of Religion at the University of Chicago. She contributes to advancing the research agenda of the center, assisting faculty and graduate students with translating their work to public audiences as well as managing the center’s community and academic partnerships and its engagement with the media.
Her research and teaching investigate the ways that women’s religious lives are bound up with issues of race, gender, and reproduction. A current project focuses on the significance of alternative reproductive health practices to the construction of certain forms of white femininity in evangelical Christian communities in the American South. Crews is currently at work on a digital humanities site, supported by a grant from the Center for Lived Religion in the Digital Age, that explores the landscape of African immigrant religions in Chicago. She is also 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 2023).
Renee Hattar serves as Director of the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies in Amman, Jordan. She is passionate about spreading a culture of peace and dialogue among young people, particularly through music.
Hatter holds a PhD in Peace Studies from the University of Granada-Spain (specialty: Music and Peace) and a BA in French and German languages from the University of Jordan. She worked as Coordinator of the Middle East Department at the International Center for the Study of Christian Orient in Granada-Spain and taught Arabic Language and Culture at the Institute of Theology “Lumen Gentium,” which is affiliated with the Faculty of Theology at the San Damaso Ecclesiastical University/Spain from 2006 to 2016. She also served as consultant of interfaith relations (Christianity-Islam) for the Spanish Episcopal Conference, 2012 to 2016.
Through her work at the work at the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies, she has participated in, designed, and supervised many conferences, workshops, research projects and studies.
Thomas Albert (Tal) Howard is Professor of Humanities and History and holder of the Duesenberg Chair in Christian Ethics at Valparaiso University, where he is affiliated with Christ College, Valparaiso’s interdisciplinary honors college. He also serves as Senior Fellow for the Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts.
Howard is the author or editor of several books, including The Pope and the Professor: Pius IX, Ignaz von Döllinger, and the Quandary of the Modern Age (Oxford, 2017) and The Faiths of Others: Modern History and the Rise of Interreligious Dialogue (Yale University Press, 2020). His writings have appeared in peer-reviewed journals, such as the Journal of the History of Ideas and the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, and in more general venues such as the Wall Street Journal, Hedgehog Review, Inside Higher Ed, Christian Century, First Things, and Commonweal. He is currently working on a book entitled Modern Christian Theology: An Intellectual History (Princeton University Press).
Mehmet Saracoglu is a community organizer with academic experience, who brings passion and leadership together. Previously, he served as the Executive Director of Rumi Forum in Maryland and the Government, Media, and Community Affairs Director at the Rumi Forum in Washington, DC. During his graduate studies at the University of Kentucky, he served as the founding president of the Interfaith/Intercultural Dialogue Organization. Mehmet is an alumnus of Leadership Montgomery’s 2019 Class of Emerging Leaders. He is currently the co-advocacy officer on the Young Professionals Board of United Nations Association-National Capital Area, a communicator member of the National Press Club, and a member of the Public Diplomacy Council’s Citizen Diplomacy Research Group.
Saracoglu holds Mining Engineering degrees from Istanbul Technical University (BS), and the University of Kentucky (MS and PhD). He received Religious and Civic Leaders certificate from the Religious Freedom Center at the Freedom Forum Institute and a Training of the Trainers certificate from Freedom of Religion or Belief Learning Platform.
Pamela K. Sari serves as director of the Asian American and Asian Resource and Cultural Center at Purdue University. She is an American Studies scholar specializes in the intersection of religion and transnational Asian/immigrant communities.
Sari earned her PhD in American Studies and graduate minors in Anthropology and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Purdue University. As a graduate student, she was involved in Asian Pacific American Caucus and Student Steering Committee to propose the AAARCC. She was a 2019 Summer Research Associate at The Pluralism Project at Harvard University.
Her favorite parts of working at the AAARCC are the faculty/staff-facing and student-facing opportunities to weave Asian American and Asian experiences into Purdue’s campus through research and programming. Her other favorite parts are late afternoons at the AAARCC when students gather with their communities: listening to music, doing homework, talking with each other. She finds that the cultivation of community that takes place is real, contagious, and energizing.