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Welcoming the Trustee Class of 2026

December 19, 2023

The Parliament of the World’s Religions is honored to announce the six members of the Class of 2026 of the Board of Trustees. Tarina Ahuja, Br. Benedict Ayodi, Rev. Rich Havard, Dr. Azza Karam, Annie McKinney, and Dr. Nayana Shah are faith, spiritual, and civic leaders committed to fostering interfaith understanding and the future of the organization.

The Class of 2026 begins its term on January 1st, 2024, joining the 28 current members of the Board working to advance PoWR’s mission to cultivate a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world. Chair of the Board of Trustees of PoWR Nitin Ajmera remarks, “I am honored to welcome the six members of the Class of 2026 to the Board of Trustees of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Their unique voices and their passion for the work of PoWR are incredible assets to our Board, I look forward to working together to make our shared mission to foster interfaith understanding for a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world.”

Meet the Class of 2026

Tarina Ahuja

Tarina Ahuja is a senior at Harvard College dedicated to building just institutions grounded in empathy. She is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the nonprofit Young Khalsa Girls, a grassroots organization founded in 2012 with a mission of empowering young girls to serve their communities through selfless service and advocacy. She is also the co-founder of The Greater Good Initiative, a youth-led, youth-run, national policy think-tank working to write and advocate for policy at the local, state, and federal levels in the sectors of economy, public health, education, civil rights, and environment. She is the youth ambassador for the National Democratic Institute’s and Running Start’s DISRUPTHER program, an initiative envisioned to increase women’s political participation around the world. She is a renowned speaker: she has served as the youth keynote speaker at the Madeline Albright lunch and the Foreign Policy HerPower Summit in 2019, delivered a TEDX talk with 23K+ views, represented the Sikh community as one of the youngest plenary speakers at the 8,000 people strong World’s Parliament of Religions in 2023, and many others.

Br. Benedict Ayodi

Br. Benedict Ayodi is a Franciscan priest belonging to the order of Friars Minor Capuchins (OFMCap). He originally comes from Kenya and currently serves in the Capuchin Province of St. Mary in New York. He graduated MA in International Affairs at the New School University in New York, and he is currently a Ph.D. student in Organizational Development at a Manila University.

Franciscans International, an NGO at the United Nations, and with the Laudato Si Movement, LSM,. Previously, he worked as the international director of Justice, Peace, and Care for Creation (JPIC) for the Capuchin Franciscans in Rome for six years.

Rev. Rich Havard

Formed by his rural Mississippi childhood, the best and worst of the Christian church, and past and present justice movements, Rev. Rich Havard currently serves as a Senior Program Officer for Wayfarer Foundation (WF), a grant-making organization that partners with spiritually rooted and justice-oriented nonprofits to co-create a unified world. Prior to WF, Rich spent six years starting and leading the Inclusive Collective, a diverse spiritual community for college-aged young adults in Chicago.

Rich is currently a member of Mercer University’s School of Theology Alumni Board and the Lighthouse Foundation’s Coalition of Accomplices for Racial Equity. He has also been a University of Chicago Commons Project Fellow, a Forum for Theological Exploration Ministry Fellow, and a member of the Aspen Institute’s Diversity & Representation in Media Cohort.

Dr. Azza Karam

Dr. Azza Karam is a member of the United Nations’ Secretary General High Level Advisory Board on Multilateralism, a Professor of Religion and Development at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam (The Netherlands), and Secretary General Emerita of Religions for Peace International.

She served for nearly two decades in the United Nations (in UNDP and UNFPA), where she Coordinated the Arab Human Development Reports, co-founded and Chaired the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Religion – with over 20 UN system bodies – and founded and convened its Multi Faith Advisory Council, as part of the 750 global NGO database she coordinated.

Annie McKinney

Annie McKinney is a young professional in the International Religious Freedom (IRF) sphere with four years of experience. During that time she was the Director of Communications and Operations for the IRF Secretariat where she worked with a global coalition of over 900 organizations, businesses, governments, and religious communities to bring them together to help end religious persecution across all faiths and none. At IRF Secretariat Annie also helped the IRF Roundtable’s 13 working groups, and oversaw the parts of the Global Network of Roundtables. Additionally, Annie worked as the Assistant Director for the IRF Summit where she helped bring together over 70 organizations, 100 volunteers, and collaborated with 50 youth leaders to ensure the Summit’s success for two years. Recently she made the transition to JDA Worldwide where as the Public Relations Coordinator she co-manages clients such as universities, non-profits, and businesses to help gain exposure for them.

Dr. Nayana Shah

Dr. Nayana Shah is an international scientist –a theoretical quantum physicist– dedicated to living a conscious, compassionate and creative life illuminated by a constant inquiry of truth. Using the quantum laws of physics, her research seeks to understand how different phases and properties of matter emerge in a collection of many particles interacting with each other under different conditions. That quest is also to identify the universalities within the diversity. Taking her scientific approach and experience to exploring and uncovering truths of life has led her to a deep study and practice of spiritual principles, vipassana meditation, yoga, non-violent communication and ahimsic living (rooted in her Jain upbringing), wholistic plant-based nutrition/life-style, regenerative design, and the interconnectedness of all including earth-energy-environment. Her extensive work in different arenas has included research, teaching, mentoring, starting and leading initiatives, grassroots activism, and facilitating groups at different levels involving a range of settings and diverse backgrounds; and through all of it she is devoted to realizing her holistic vision for a harmonious world.