Board of Trustees
Nitin Ajmera is a senior management professional and practitioner of the Digambar Jain tradition. He is Chief Financial Officer at Moorhe Holdings, a Renewal by Andersen, Windows & Door Replacement Company. He has been associated with the Jain Center of America-New York and Jain Samaj of Long Island in many capacities ranging from a teacher in Jain Sunday School, committee chair, to the President. Nitin is the Chair of the Board of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.
Rev. Charline ManuelCharline has been an ordained Unity Minister for nearly thirty years. Currently serving as a board and leadership consultant to faith-based organizations throughout the US. Charline has been active in peace and community work, taking delegations to study at the University for Peace in Costa Rica, building wells for fresh water in Africa, building a school in Haiti, and in the US, working on community development to build affordable housing in urban areas. She served as Senior minister for over twenty years in a multicultural congregation in Miami, FL.
Charline is on the faculty of the Unity Urban Ministerial School located in Detroit, Michigan and serves on the Board of Directors of Unity World Headquarters in Missouri. In addition to serving as chair for the Global Ethic Committee, Charline currently serves as the Parliament’s secretary of the Board of Trustees.
After attending the 2004 Parliament in Barcelona, Spain, which Charline describes as a life-changing event, she has been dedicated to the mission of the Parliament and the pursuit of just and fair living conditions within local communities and around the globe. Charline currently makes her home outside of Orlando, FL.
James A. Lynch Jr.
James A. Lynch, Jr, is a Dharma Teacher as authorized by the lay Buddhist Organization Rissho Kosei Kai. He is an official representative for their outside affairs in the New York City area as well as an official representative for Rissho Kosei Kai to the United Nations.
James is currently the President of the Buddhist Council of New York, which represents more than 750,000 Buddhist in the Tri-State area. James further sits on the Board of Religions for Peace USA which is the largest interfaith peace organization in America today. He has also helped organize the Heiwa Peace Foundation a think tank for peace whose primary work is done in the United States and Asia on behalf of its Founder the Venerable T.K. Nakagaki.
Rev. Dr. Scott Stearman
For 3 decades Scott Stearman has served as a pastor in the Christian (Baptist) tradition. His experience includes congregations in Athens, Greece and in Paris, France. Most recently he has been pastor in New York City where he represents the Baptist global body at the United Nations (supported by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Baptist World Alliance). He is active in helping to lead NGO committees related to human rights and the freedom of religion and belief and has been active in civil societies advocacy at the High Level Political Forum around the UN’s Agenda 2030 (SDGs). Scott holds a Ph.D. in philosophy (Univ. of Oklahoma) and a Th.M. and M.Div (Princeton Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist, respectively).
Imam Saffet Catovic
Imam Saffet Abid Catovic has his MBA and is a long-time US Muslim Community Organizer/Activist and Environmental Leader. He was a national organizer of Bosnia Task Force – USA a coalition of the major National and Regional Muslim Organizations advocating for an end to the Genocide in Bosnia during the early 1990s. From 1992-2001 Served in various Senior level capacities in the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina including Minister Counselor at the Mission of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the United Nations – NYC and Deputy Federation Contract Administrator at the Embassy of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the United States in DC. Currently Chair of the Parliament of the World’s Religions Climate Action Task Force and serves on the Parliament’s, Board of Trustees; Member of the Statewide Clergy Council of Faith in New Jersey (part of the Faith in Action National Network), and Board member. GreenFaith Fellow and serves as their Senior Muslim advisor; Co-founder and Chair of the Green Muslims of New Jersey (GMNJ); a founding committee member of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) Green Initiatives; Consultant to the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change (2015); a founding member of the Global Muslim Climate Network (GMCN); Co-drafter of the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) “Fatwa” Religious ruling on fossil fuel divestment; Member of the scholars Drafting team of “Al-Mizan-Covenant for the Earth” organized under the auspices of UNEP – Faiths for Earth; Board member-Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA) Advisory group Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology; Imam and Muslim Chaplain at Drew University Madison, NJ where he also received his MA in Religion and Society, specializing in Religion and the Environment and is currently Doctorate of Ministry student. Head of ISNA’s Office for Interfaith, Community Alliances and Governmental Relations in Washington, DC.
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.
She has worked with Senator Cory Booker, Delegate Suhas Subramanyam, the National Democratic Institute, Amnesty International, the Harvard Refugee and Immigration Legal Clinic, and the Greater Chicago Legal Clinic. She is motivated, determined, and driven to be a person of change as demonstrated by her ability to execute international fundraisers raising upwards of $25K for protesting farmers in India and $15K to support survivors of domestic abuse and various marginalized groups in the South Asian Community through an organization entitled Ashiyaana. She helped in the planning and execution of the 10-year anniversary of the shooting at Oak Creek by running a workshop on youth empowerment with the local community. She went on to launch the Sikh American National Youth Council in August 2023 with the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund. This Council acts as a connecting organ and organizing platform for Sikh youth across the country.
She has also been internationally recognized for her work. She was named as one of the top 100 Sikhs in the world under 30, awarded the inaugural Norman Nimeta Spirit Award at the American Courage Awards. At Harvard, she has been recognized as a John Harvard Scholar representing the top 5% of her class, named a Detur Book Prize Winner, awarded the Eaton Organizing Scholarship, and chosen as a Presidential Public Service scholar. On campus, she has served as the Director of Diversity and Outreach for The Institute of Politics, the Captain of Harvard Bhangra, the President of Harvard Sikhs, and the founder of Harvard Amnesty International. Her work has been featured on CBS News, Comcast, the Milwaukee Independent, Huffington Post, Scripps News, the Associated Press, and more.
Sahar Alsahlani has been on the interfaith scene in NYC for years, in myriad roles that promote interfaith social justice. She is a member of the Community of Living Traditions, an intentional multi-faith community, and co-chair of The Fellowship of Reconciliation, the country’s oldest interfaith organization geared toward peace and non-violence. Alsahlani is also on the board of the Parliament of the World’s Religions and Religions for Peace, USA, United Nations-affiliated NGOs; a fellow at Greenfaith, an interfaith environmental network; and a board member of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). Alsahlani perceives her work as a way to encourage civic engagement with people from different backgrounds in the five boroughs. She has been involved in justice activism as a representative of CAIR and the broader Muslim community, including environmental justice causes, such as Standing Rock, and racial justice causes, such as Ferguson and Charlottesville
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.
Benedict currently works with
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. He was instrumental in initiating and promoting the Damietta Peace Initiative (DPI) across Africa. Through this project, he helped to build a strong grassroots network that continues to promote interfaith dialogue, reconciliation, and peaceful coexistence among people of diverse faiths and cultures in Africa. More recently, as the programs manager of the LSM in Africa, he worked to create a movement to mobilize the Catholic community to care for creation and achieve climate and ecological justice in collaboration with others.
Iconic youth leader, global influencer, environmentalist, champion of children’s rights, a Forbes 30 Under 30, TEDx speaker, Climate Reality Mentor, author, musician, peace and sustainability campaigner and a passionate advocate of women’s rights, Kehkashan Basu is a trail blazer who has been challenging the status quo and breaking social strictures and taboos which impede the progress and rights of future generations.
Winner of the 2016 International Children’s Peace Prize for her work on children’s rights and the environment, and the first-ever Voices Youth Gorbachev-Shultz Legacy Award for her work on nuclear disarmament, Kehkashan is a tireless advocate for the UN Sustainable Development Goals. She is a United Nations Human Rights Champion, National Geographic Young Explorer and the youngest ever Global Coordinator for the UN Environment Program’s Major Group for Children & Youth. She was named the youngest recipient of Canada’s Top25 Women of Influence, one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women and is the Council Lead of the Toronto-St. Paul’s Constituency Youth Council.
Kehkashan is the Founder President of the social innovation enterprise Green Hope Foundation, which provides young people in 16 countries a networking platform to engage in the sustainable development process and take actions to mitigate climate change. Her internationally acclaimed work on sustainability has resulted in her being named one of the Top 100 SDG Leaders in the world and one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada. She is the youngest member of Canada’s Women in Renewable Energy forum and the youngest Councillor of World Future Council.
Kehkashan is a 2020 L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth Honouree, and the recipient of the 2019 Innovator of the Year Award for Sustainability Education, the John Muir Conservation Award for Habitat Restoration, the Energy Globe Award, the Turner Prize for Social Change and the Women Super Achiever Award. A powerful voice for future generations, she has spoken at over 200 United Nations and other global fora across 25 countries.
Rev. Traci Blackmon
The Rev. Traci Blackmon is the Executive Minister of Justice & Witness Ministries of The United Church of Christ and Senior Pastor of Christ The King United Church of Christ in Florissant, MO. Initially ordained in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Rev. Blackmon served in various ministry capacities for nine years prior to becoming ordained in the United Church of Christ and installed as the first woman and 18th pastor in the 159-year history of Christ The King United Church of Christ. As pastor, Rev. Blackmon leads Christ The King in an expanded understanding of church as a sacred launching pad of community engagement and change.
Debra Boudreaux is a senior volunteer with the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation. She has more than 32 years of experience working on major projects related to charity, medical care, education, and humanitarian aid. Debra was previously the CEO of Tzu Chi Medical Foundation and several community advisory councils for SARS, H1N1, Ebola, and COVID-19. Debra engages with Social Work and Sustainability of Global Environmental Changes among SDG grass roots projects. She leads Buddhist and Catholic interfaith dialogues and serves as a member of the UN Multi-Faith Advisory Council. To this day, Debra has patterned her daily life on the teachings of Dharma Master Cheng Yen: “Gratitude, Respect and Love.” She carries this spirit into communities in need and all over the world.
Lewis Cardinal is a communicator and educator, he has dedicated his life’s work to creating and maintaining connections and relationships that cross-cultural divides. His work has mirrored his personal vision of a socially just and responsive society.
Lewis has received Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for Public Service, the IndSpire Award for Public Service (the highest award given to an Indigenous person by Indigenous people in Canada), the Province of Alberta’s Centennial Medal for his work in Human Rights and Diversity, the Distinguished Alumni Award from Grant MacEwan University, and was recently conferred the Honorary Degree of “Doctor of Sacred Letters” from St. Stephen’s College at the University of Alberta, Canada.
Lewis is Woodland Cree from the Sucker Creek Cree First Nation in northern Alberta, Canada. His consulting company, Cardinal Strategic Communications, specializes in Indigenous education, communications, and project development. Currently, Lewis is Project Manager for “kihciy askiy–Sacred Land” in the City of Edmonton, Canada’s first urban Indigenous ceremony grounds.
Rev. HPs. Phyllis Curott
Phyllis Curott is one of America’s first public Wiccan Priestesses, an attorney and author whose groundbreaking books, published in fourteen countries, made Wicca accessible to the world and awakened an entire generation to the Goddess. Named one of the Ten Gutsiest Women of the Year by Jane Magazine, she was inducted into the Martin Luther King, Jr. Collegium of Clergy and Scholars. New York Magazine declared Curott’s teaching the culture’s “next big idea” and her Youtube series on Wicca has more than 1,113,000 views. Widely covered in the international media, Time recently published her challenge to the world’s faiths to lead the way in the fight for the human rights and dignity of women as one of “America’s leading voices.” Curott was the Vice Chair of the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions and creator of the historic 2015 Inaugural Women’s Assembly. She is founder of the Temple of Ara, the world’s oldest shamanic Wiccan congregation. Curott received her degree in philosophy from Brown University and her Juris Doctor from New York University. She is currently working on her next book, WICCA, Awaken the Divine Magic Within, out November 2018 for Hay House.
Dr. Dolly Dastoor served as the Vice-chair of the Board of Trustees of the Parliament of World Religions from 2020-2021. She is of the Zoroastrian faith, was the President of the Federation of the Zoroastrian Associations of North America, and Co-Chair of the World Zoroastrian Congress 2000. Currently she is the editor of FEZANA Journal, the quarterly publication of the Federation, she is also a member off ZONTA International , an organization which works for advocacy and empowerment of women. Dolly is a clinical psychologist specializing in the Assessment of Dementia and is Chair of the Education Committee of the McGill University Research Centre for Studies in Aging.
Dr. Mary Doak
Fr. Robert Flannery
Fr. Bob Flannery, a native of Lawrence, Kansas, is a Catholic priest of the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois. He is presently pastor at Saint Francis Xavier Parish in Carbondale, chaplain at the Newman Center at Southern Illinois University, and diocesan ecumenical and interreligious officer for twenty-four years. He is a past president of the Carbondale Interfaith Council, a leader with its Interfaith Dialogues, and a ember of the Metro-East Interfaith Partnership steering committee which collaborates with the Interfaith Partnership of Greater St. Louis.
A past-president of the Catholic Association of Ecumenical and Interreligious Officers (CADEIO), he serves on their Board as well as on the Faiths in the World and Care for Creation committees. He is past co-chair of the Illinois Conference of Churches and co-authored the booklet entitled “An Ecumenical Study of Baptism: Similarities, Differences, and Practices.” He serves as a Regent for the School of Theology and Seminary at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota.
A past member of the National Workshop for Christian Unity planning committee, Father Flannery was national chair of the gathering in Oklahoma City, local co-chair in St. Louis, and workshop presenter in Chicago. He was a consultor at the meetings of the Catholic bishops’ Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, and the president of the USCCB named him to the Catholic delegation of Christian Churches Together. Over the years, Father Flannery has participated in numerous ecumenical and interreligious formation opportunities in the United States and around the world.
He has also served as president of the National Association of Diaconate Directors chairing their conference in Teaneck, New Jersey. The summer of 2022, he will be keynote speaker coordinating the presenters for the National Diaconate Institute of Continuing Education conference focusing on ecumenical and interreligious awareness.
Father Flannery holds a B.A. and an M.A. from Saint John’s University, and an M.A. from Saint Louis University. Part of his seminary education included studies at The American College Seminary at The Catholic University of Louvain in Leuven, Belgium where he was later asked to serve as spiritual director. He is past president of their alumni association and has been named reunion coordinator for their next meeting in Belgium. Several past reunion speakers have addressed matters regarding ecumenism and
David Hales served as President of the College of the Atlantic, Chair and President of Second Nature, the managing organization of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, and as Director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. He led environmental policy and sustainability programs for the US Agency for International Development. As a diplomat, he has represented the USA in numerous negotiations on climate change, urban affairs and policy, and biodiversity. He served in the Carter administration as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior. He was the first American to serve as Chair of the World Heritage Convention.
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.
Rich frequently speaks on the future of spirituality and religion, LGBTQ inclusion, and philanthropy. He has presented at such venues as the Children’s Defense Fund’s Great Preacher Series, the Forum for Theological Exploration, the University of Chicago, DePaul University, Outspoken LGBTQ Storytelling, Lee Arrendale State Prison, and Hopa Mountain’s Strengthening the Circle Conference for Native American nonprofit leaders. He is also a contributor to the book True Colors: Stories of Baptist Inclusion.
Rich is a graduate of Samford and Mercer Universities. He calls the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago home along with his partner, is an amateur mystic, and believes that we all have the capacity to co-create a better world.
Rabbi Sidney Helbraun
For over two decades Rabbi Sidney Helbraun has provided his vision to Temple Beth-El, creating a community where opportunities for study, worship and action continue to grow. He is proud that TBE members participate in a wide range of activities and are active leaders in the Chicagoland Jewish community.
Rabbi Helbraun is accessible and engaged in the life of his congregation. He is a caring and compassionate man, who reaches out in times of sickness and health, sorrow and joy. He is a gifted teacher and speaker, who finds fulfillment in bringing the values of Judaism to life, and an active leader, who takes on responsibilities within the Chicagoland Rabbinic community, as well as in Northbrook.
Rabbi Helbraun’s love for Israel has played a central role in his rabbinate, exemplified by Beth-El’s involvement and investment in Israel, through trips, programs, classes, and support.
Rabbi Helbraun was ordained from Hebrew Union College in 1990, and received his Doctor of Divinity in 2015. He is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute and currently serves as Vice President of the Chicago Board of Rabbis. He is past co-chair of the Rabbinic Action Committee of the Jewish Federation of Chicago, past President of the Chicago Region of the CCAR, and served on the Board of Directors of the CCAR. He is a past President of the Northbrook Clergy Association and has served on the National Council of AIPAC. He is married to Rabbi Deborah Gardner Helbraun and has two children, Rebecca and Jonah.
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. During her tenure at the United Nations, Azza was a Lead Facilitator for the peer to peer “Strategic Learning Exchanges” on religion, development and diplomacy. Apart from the work in the United States, she has worked with other intergovernmental and international organisations such as the OSCE, the EU, and International IDEA in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and East and Central Asia, where she created and managed global programmes on Women and Politics, Democracy and/In the Middle East, and Applied Research on Democracy.
She has lectured and taught in various universities, including West Point Military Academy (from 2002 to 2018). She has published widely, and was translated into several languages (on political Islam, gender and women’s rights, Human Rights, democracy, conflict, peacemaking, and education).
She has received multiple awards, including for her work on/in the United Nations, as well as in/on Interfaith work and Culture. She was awarded an honorary Degree by John Cabot University in 2022. Born in Egypt, Azza is also a citizen of the Netherlands.
Dr. Laurel Kearns
Dr. Laurel Kearns co-founded the Green Seminary Initiative, and is Professor of Ecology, Society and Religion at Drew Theological School in New Jersey, where she has taught religion, ecology and social justice since 1994. Her research is focused on religious involvement in ecological issues and movements, with a particular interest in environmental justice, climate change, and food. In addition to co-editing and contributing chapters to EcoSpirit: Religions and Philosophies for the Earth, and the Bloomsbury Handbook on Religion and Nature, she has contributed chapters to volumes such as Quakers, Creation Care, and Sustainability, The Oxford Handbook on Climate Change and Society, and Grassroots to Global: Broader Impacts of Civic Ecology. She has served on the board of GreenFaith and the Noyes Foundation. Her decades-long involvement in religious environmentalism has roots in the island where she was born, Sanibel, Florida, which recently bore the brunt of Hurricane Ian.
Mahrukh Motafram is a first generation immigrant from India who arrived in the US to pursue higher education. She graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1984 with a Master’s degree in Bio-Organic Chemistry. Further education included an Associate degree in Business and Marketing from the Waukesha County Technical College, Pewaukee, WI in 2002. She is currently pursuing a certification in Nonprofit Leadership at Seattle University, WA.
Carl Murrell is the Representative to the United Nations for the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States. He engages in discourses that focus on the advancement of women, race unity and human rights. Mr. Murrell currently serves as Interim President of the Committee of Religious NGOs at the United Nations. In addition, he serves on the Executive Committee of the Council of Organizations of the United Nations Association of the United States of America. Mr. Murrell also has served as Co-Chair of the Values Caucus at the United Nations.
Annie McKinneyAnnie 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. In her personal time she is a member of Young Professionals in Foreign Policy, a reviewer for the State Department’s Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Program and works with a wide array of organizations.
Dr. Kusumita Pedersen
Maharat Rori Picker Neiss
Maharat Rori Picker Neiss serves as the Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St Louis. Prior to that she was the Director of Programming, Education and Community Engagement at Bais Abraham Congregation, a Modern Orthodox Jewish synagogue in University City, MO. She is one of the first graduates of Yeshivat Maharat, a pioneering institution training Orthodox Jewish women to be spiritual leaders and halakhic (Jewish legal) authorities. She previously served as Acting Executive Director for Religions for Peace-USA, Program Coordinator for the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, Assistant Director of Interreligious Affairs for the American Jewish Committee, and Secretariat for the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations, the formal Jewish representative in international, interreligious dialogue. Rori is the co-chair of the North American Interfaith Youth Network of Religions for Peace, a CLAL Rabbis Without Borders fellow, and co-editor of “InterActive Faith: The Essential Interreligious Community-Building Handbook.” She is married to Russel Neiss, a Software Engineer for Sefaria, and they have three wonderful children.
Congressman Bobby Rush
Congressman Bobby Rush is a legendary figure in modern African American politics and an extraordinary leader who served as the U.S. House Representative for Illinois’ First Congressional District from 1993-2023. In 1963, at the age of seventeen, Rush enlisted in the U. S. Army and served honorably until 1968. Later, Rush made history when he formed the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party after having been inspired by the activism of Stokely Carmichael and others. Rush served as an alderman from 1983- 1992 until he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
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.
Dr. Harpreet Singh
Dr. Harpreet Singh is a scholar of South Asian traditions and languages at Harvard University. His scholarly interests range from studying the formation of religious identities in the premodern South Asia to the nationalization of religious communities in the modern era. He works with a wide range of sources in Persian, Sanskrit, Classical Panjabi, Brajbhasha, Awadhi and Urdu. His teaching responsibilities at Harvard have ranged from introductory courses on South Asian religions to advanced courses on religious nationalism and literary cultures. He co-founded the Sikh Coalition—the largest Sikh civil rights organization in North America—in the wake of hate crimes against Sikh-Americans after the September 11, 2001 attacks. He received a PhD degree in South Asian Religions from Harvard’s Committee on the Study of Religion and a MTS degree from Harvard Divinity School. Singh currently serves on the Board of Religious, Spiritual, and Ethical Life at Harvard; the Board of Trustees of Parliament the of the World’s Religions; the Board of Trustees at the Sikh Coalition and Sikh Scholarship Foundation; and the Advisory Boards of the Pluralism Project at Harvard, and the Institute for Asian American Studies. As a member of the Harvard Chaplains, he serves the Sikh community through the Harvard Sikh Center that he founded. His HarvardX online course, Sikhism Through Its Scriptures, is open to the public.
Sharan Kaur Singh is the Midwest Deputy Director for the Anti-Defamation League, a nonprofit that fights hate to protect democracy and ensure a just and inclusive society for all. She also consults with SALDEF (the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund) a national Sikh organization based in Washington DC. She is part of SALDEF’s National Speakers Bureau and develops and facilitates cultural awareness trainings. She also develops programs that help to educate, inspire and empower the Sikh community. She led the SikhLEAD program for 3 years, an internship and Leadership Development Program that partners Sikh American high school, college students and young professionals with congressional offices, federal agencies, and Washington, DC-based organizations to provide students with enriching experiences. Sharan is also a learning and development professional who previously worked at Deloitte, Inc. She is an active member of her community and is a board member of Camp Sikh Virsa, a local Sikh Youth organization that trains future Sikh leaders. Sharan’s strongest passion is in working with interfaith communities, advocating for the rights of religious, immigrant and marginalized communities and partnering with congressional offices, federal and state agencies, and coalition partners to address and counter hate-related issues. As a member of the Parliament and many other community relation groups/organizations, she works with government officials and community leaders/members to counter our nation’s problems while building bridges across communities.
Ann Smith is Co-Founder and Convener of Green Tent Circle, Co-Convener of Millionth Circle and serves on the Women’s Task Force of PoWR. She is past Director of Women’s Ministries of the National Episcopal Church and Global Education Associates, and Co-Chair of National Council of Churches Justice for Women Working Group. Working as UNNGO ECOSOC observer for the Anglican Consultative Council, International Public Policy Institute and Earth Child Institute, she has attended 54 international events. She brings the voices of marginalized women and girls to the PoWR.
Rev. Dr. Michael Trice
Rev. Dr. Michael Reid Trice is Associate Professor of Constructive Theology and Theological Ethics and the Director of the Center for Ecumenical and Interreligious Engagement at Seattle University. The Center is committed to convening substantial discourses and providing educational opportunities with partners from local to international venues.
Dr. Trice is also the founder of Religica, a popular virtual platform that highlights religious traditions, spiritual pathways and indigenous wisdom as virtuous to public life.
Trice studied at Loyola Jesuit University, Duke University, the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, and Ludwig Maximillian Universitaet in Munich, Germany. He served as Executive Associate for Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and on the Board of Directors for Church World Service; he currently serves on the Board of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.
Trice is an Associate Editor for the Journal in Interreligious Studies and Intercultural Theology, served as a liaison to the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and presents in local, national and international venues.