Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions
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Board of Trustees

Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid
Chair of the Board of Trustees

Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid is an Imam in the Chicago Muslim community. He is president of Sound Vision Foundation, which runs the daily radio Islam, and former Chairperson of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago. He has written extensively on religion, public policy and applied aspects of Islamic living. Imam Mujahid has initiated a joint campaign between American Muslims and the National Organization of Women (NOW) to declare rape a war crime. 

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Rev. Andras Corban Arthen

Rev. Andras Corban Arthen is the spiritual director of the EarthSpirit Community, a religious and educational organization dedicated to the preservation of Earth-centered spirituality, particularly the indigenous European traditions; he is also president of the European Congress of Ethnic Religions, and serves on the board of advisors of the Ecospirituality Foundation. He has been a presenter at many interfaith events, including the 1993, 2004, and 2009 Parliaments, and the 2007 World Interreligious Encounter. Of Hispanic origin, Rev. Arthen teaches and lectures on the indigenous European pagan religions throughout the U.S. and abroad.

Rabbi Michael Balinsky

Rabbi Michael Balinsky is the Executive Vice President of the Chicago Board of Rabbis, an organization representing two hundred rabbis of all denominations. He is a member of the Jewish Catholic Scholars Dialogue in Chicago, serves on the executive of the Council of Religious leaders of Metropolitan Chicago and is on the Advisory Board of the Bernadin Center at Catholic Theological Union. He is also an active participant in a number of Jewish, Christian and Moslem interfaith initiatives. Rabbi Balinsky was a Hillel director for twenty-two years, over nineteen of those as the director of the Louis and Saerree Fiedler Hillel Center at Northwestern University. He is a graduate of Yeshiva University and the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary.

Rev. Dr. Anne Benvenuti

Anne Benvenuti is a professor of psychology and philosophy, an integrative scholar, a licensed clinical psychologist, a priest of the Episcopal Church, a spiritual director, and a published poet, writer, and photographer. Her research interests include developing models for scientific investigation of qualia; explication of religious epistemology, especially with reference to the potential for neuro-scientific models of integrative knowing, policy implications of religious epistemology, and the clinical integration of spirituality, health, and ecology.

Dr. Brian Birch

Brian D. Birch is Director of the Religious Studies Program and Center for the Study of Ethics at Utah Valley University. He received his Ph.D. in Philosophy of Religion and Theology at Claremont Graduate University and specializes in comparative theology and the ethical dimensions of religious diversity. He is a member of the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable and active in the development of student interfaith leadership through partnerships with the Interfaith Youth Core and related organizations. He currently serves as Senior Research Fellow at the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy and his latest book projects are entitled Radical Pluralism: Essays on Religious Practice and Mormonism Among Christian Theologies for Oxford University Press.

Dr. Tarunjit Singh Butalia

Dr. Tarunjit S. Butalia is a Special Advisor with Religions for Peace – USA and is its former Moderator. He is also a Board member of the North American Interfaith Network. He has served on the board of the National Religious Coalition Against Torture as well as the World Sikh Council – America Region. He was a member of the Religious Experience Advisory Council of the Ohio Bicentennial Commission and has co-edited a book Religion in Ohio: Profiles of Faith Communities, 2004. He has also been a past President of the Interfaith Association of Central Ohio.

Mr. Lewis Cardinal

Lewis Cardinal has spent most of his professional life in public service. As a communicator and educator, he has dedicated his work to creating and maintaining connections and relationships that cross cultural divides. His long track record of public service includes his involvement with many, many, Human Rights and Social Advocacy Boards. Lewis is also the owner of Cardinal Strategic Communications, a consulting company that specializes in Education, Governance, and Communications. He recently received Canada’s highest Aboriginal recognition award the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Public Service, as well as receiving the Distinguished Alumni Award from Grant Mac Ewan University, the Anti-Racism Award from the Centre for Race and Culture, and the Alberta Centennial Medal for his work in Human Rights and Diversity.

Dr. Lawrence Carter

In 1958, Martin Luther King Jr. privately recruited Lawrence Edward Carter as a 10th grader to come to Morehouse College. Twenty-one years later, Dr. Lawrence Edward Carter became the first Dean of the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel in 1979. Today, he is a tenured Professor of Religion and College Curator at Morehouse College. He holds the Ph.D. degree in Pastoral Psychology and Counseling from Boston University. He is also a licensed and ordained American Baptist minister. He was a 1994 Fulbright-Hayes Scholar in Brazil, and twice a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow, in 1993 and 1996. He is preparing to publish his fourth book, Nonviolent Coexistence in the WorldHouse: Building Interfaith Bridges in the Tradition of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr and Daisaku Ikeda.

Ms. Phyllis Curott

Phyllis Curott is an attorney, author and Wiccan priestess. An interfaith activist and advocate of religious liberties for minority faiths in the courts and media, Jane Magazine honored her as one of the Ten Gutsiest Women of the Year, New York Magazine described her as one of the "culture's most intellectually cutting-edge thinkers," and Beliefnet has featured her in their video series Preachers and Teachers. Curott is founder and president of the international Temple of Ara and president emerita of the Covenant of the Goddess.

Mr. Kirit Daftary

Kirit Daftary has been President of several religious and social groups including JAINA and has led the local Jain Center in North Texas. Currently, he is the President of Anuvibha of North America, which is an UN/NGO organization based in India and spiritually guided by Acharya Mahapragya Ji, the disciple of Acharya Tulsi, whose goal is awareness of non-violence to help achieve peace in the world through working with the United Nations.

Dr. Rahul Deepankar

Rahul Deepankar is the President of the Indian Buddhist Association and of New Republic India International, and is a part of the Buddhist Council of the Midwest. In addition to obtaining his MD, he is also a graduate of the University of Chicago’s Graham School of General Studies. He is a champion against India’s oppressive caste system, and has led gatherings on the “Global Day of Action on Caste,” with Indians from many religious backgrounds.

Dr. Paul Eppinger

Dr. Paul Eppinger is a graduate of William Jewell College, Princeton Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity and a Master of Theology degree, and San Francisco Theological Seminary where he received a Doctor of Ministry degree. He has served as a missionary in Japan, the pastor of four different American Baptist Churches, as adjunct professor at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Kansas. He has served on numerous boards and committees for his denomination and in the communities in which he pastored. His last pastorate was at the First Baptist Church in Phoenix, which he served for seven-and-a-half years. He served as the Statewide Director of the successful “Victory Together” campaign in 1992 to establish a state Martin Luther King holiday. From 1993 to 2002, he served as the Executive Director of the Arizona Ecumenical Council, an organization uniting programs of 13 mainline and Roman Catholic denominations involving 700 churches and one million people. He then became the Executive Director of the Arizona Interfaith Movement in 2002. The Arizona Interfaith Movement is composed of 25 different major religious groups and seeks to bring understanding and respect of each other to all the major religions of the state and, thereby, to bring unity to all of the state of Arizona, the nation, and the world.

Dr. Arun Manilal Gandhi

Born 1934 in Durban South Africa, Arun was sent by his parents to India when he was 12 years old so that he could live with and learn from his grandfather, Mohandas Gandhi. It was then that young Gandhi learned the principles of non-violence that he continues to espouse until today. Dr. Gandhi spent much of his adult life in India working as a journalist and promoting social and economic changes for the poor and the oppressed classes. Along with his wife Sunanda he rescued about 128 orphaned and abandoned children from the streets and placed them in loving homes around the world. They also began a Center for Social Change which transformed the lives of millions in villages in the western state of Maharashtra. In 1987 Arun came to the United States and in 1991 he started the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence at the Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tennessee. In 2007, the Institute was moved to the University of Rochester, New York. In 2008 Arun resigned from the Institute to begin the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute, with its mission to build basic education schools for the very poor children of the world. The first school will open shortly in a depressed village in western India ( Arun Gandhi has taken the message of nonviolence and peace-making to hundreds of thousands of high school and university youth around the United States and much of the Western world. His publications include The Legacy of Love; The Forgotten Woman: The Life of Kastur, wife of Gandhi, and several others.

Dr. Gianfranco Grande

Gianfranco Grande was born and reared in Rome, Italy. He was educated at the Vatican Seminary and at the University of Rome. A journalist, preservationist, published author, and playwright, Dr. Grande also brings over 20 years of experience in development and management of nonprofit organizations. Today, he serves as a Senior Vice President of Partners for Sacred Places. Since it opened its doors in 2008, the Chicago Office of Partners for Sacred Places has worked with more than 500 community-serving congregations representing the religious, racial, ethnic and socio-economic diversity of the City. It has build strategic relationships with local faith leaders, lay leaders, community leaders, universities, seminaries, public officials, foundations and philanthropists. These collaborations have been instrumental in the successful local rollouts of Partners’ trainings, programs, research and consulting services, helping to bring sacred places and art together in a way that preserves the history and enhances the beauty of the city’s architectural treasures. In 2012, he was awarded the Richard Nickel Award from the Institute of Architects (AIA) Illinois, recognizing his dedication to the principles of livable communities through grassroots initiatives. The ten principles that are criteria for being considered for the award emphasize urban and environmental preservation, transportation and building variety, human use, and design flexibility and excellence. As a Roman Catholic, Gianfranco has particularly close relationships in his local archdiocese, and still maintains friendships at the Vatican.

Dr. Larry Greenfield

Larry Greenfield is the executive minister of the American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago, a regional judicatory of the American Baptist Churches U.S.A, and the theologian-in-residence for the Community Renewal Society, a progressive, faith-based organization in Chicago that works to eliminate race and class barriers and advocates for social and economic justice. Born and raised in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, he received his B.A. degree from Sioux Falls College. He received his B.D., M.A., and Ph.D. (in theology) from the University of Chicago Divinity School, where he subsequently taught and served as dean of students. Later he served as president of Colgate Rochester Divinity School/Bexley Hall/Crozer Theological Seminary in Rochester, New York, where he also brought the Roman Catholic St. Bernard’s Institute to the campus. He served as vice president for research at the Park Ridge Center for the Study of Health, Faith, and Ethics in Chicago, where his own research, funded by foundation grants, focused on multi-faith understandings of sexuality, science, and civil discourse. He has served pastorates and campus ministries in Chicago and Ann Arbor. He is also the co-founder (and currently chairperson of the board of directors) of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing. His continuing concentration on religion and justice receives expression in his bi-weekly essays (published locally and nationally) entitled “Thinking Theologically about the Common Good.” He is an ordained clergyperson in the American Baptist Churches U.S.A. He is the past president of the American Theological Society/Midwest. He serves on the boards of numerous ecumenical and interfaith organizations and chairs the board of trustees of the Baptist Theological Union at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

Dr. Manohar Singh Grewal

Manohar Grewal was born in 1935 In India and immigrated to the United States in 1963. He obtained his ScD in material science from MIT in 1971, and then worked for the Gillette Corporation from 1971 until 1998. He has several scientific publications and US patents to his credit. Manohar is the founder, former president, and former chairperson of the New England Sikh Study Circle, Inc., of Boston, where he has also held various other positions from 1968 to 2006. He was president of the World Sikh Organization, USA Region, 1985-86, chairperson of World Sikh Council, American Region (WSC-AR) in 2006 and 2011, and a member of the Regional Council of WSC-AR from 2006 – 2008 and 2010 -2012. He was also the co-president of the World Council (Governing Board) of the World Conference of Religions for Peace, 2006 -2008, and the WSC-AR National Sikh Convention chair person in 2012. He has participated in Various Interfaith activities in Massachusetts, New York, Vermont, and Washington, DC, on behalf of WSC-AR. Currently, he is the chair person of Sikh Sabha of Upper Valley, New Hampshire, and chair person of Ompompanoosuc Community Trust, Inc., a non-profit organization. In his city, he has been a member of the Thetford Senior and Affordable Housing Committee from 2010 to the present, and of the Thetford Energy Committee from 2010 to the present.

Imam Khalid Griggs

Imam Khalid Griggs is the Imam of the Community Mosque of Winston-Salem in North Carolina and Associate Chaplain for Muslim Life at Wake Forest University. He is a member of the Board of Guidance of Interfaith Academy/Virtual University, Chairman of Board of ICNA Council for Social Justice, an advocacy branch of Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) that aims to keep the American Muslim community and broader public informed and involved in civil and social issues in the US, member of Central Shura (Board) of ICNA, member of Strategy Team (Board) of Communities Helping All Neighbors Gain Empowerment (CHANGE) , a grassroots, multi-faith, multi-ethnic community organization designed to promote civic engagment and public advocacy, national and international lecturer, and human rights and prison reform advocate

Ms. Janaan Hashim

Janaan Hashim is a founding partner of Amal Law Group, the nation’s first law firm founded by six Muslim women and practices criminal defense. She is also sits on the Board of Directors of both Sound Vision Foundation and the International Union of Muslim Women, and serves on the steering committee of the Religion Communication Congress 2010. You can hear Janaan on the radio every Tuesday evening where she hosts WCEV’s Radio Islam program, a daily call-in talk show designed for a non-Muslim market.

Dr. Robert C. Henderson

Robert C. Henderson is an elected member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States, the Baha'i Faith's senior national administrative institution. Dr. Henderson also serves as a Developer and President of the Philanthropic Division of Baharicom Development Company, co-builder of the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE)/Uhurunet submarine cable system. In its planned configuration, the 17,000 km-long fiber optic cable will stretch from France to South Africa and will be operational in the first half of 2012, connecting 23 countries and providing broadband capacity grants to thousands of schools, hospitals and social development projects.

Mr. Thomas Lemberg

Tom Lemberg is an attorney and author. He has been general counsel of several technology-oriented companies, including Lotus Development, Polaroid and UGS Software. At Lotus, he led the creation and growth of the Business Software Alliance, the principal trade association of the software industry. Before that work, he was partner in two Washington law firms. He is now an author and is about to publish Difficult Times: A Fresh Look at Democracy in Modern America, a book on why America is so distressed, angry and divided and why our politics are so badly broken. A Jew by tradition and upbringing, Tom now identifies himself as a religious pluralist who greatly appreciates and seeks to learn from multiple faith traditions.

Ms. Crystal Silva-McCormick

Crystal Silva-McCormick is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and currently serves as Associate Pastor at St. Andrews Presbyterian in Austin, Texas. She is a doctoral student in Interfaith Relations at the LSTC. Crystal is a scholar with the Hispanic Theological Initiative; a program designed to nurture and advance the work of Latina/o scholars in the field of religion. Crystal has taught in the university setting in the areas of Women’s Studies and Religious studies. She has worked with people of various religious backgrounds in order to foster interreligious dialogue and service and has worked for advocacy for immigrant and immigration reform. Crystal’s work within and outside the academy focuses on building bridges across race and religion and advocacy for women and women’s rights.

Rev. Dr. John Pawlikowski

Rev. Dr. John Pawlikowski has studied the Nazi Holocaust extensively. His scholarly interests include the theological and ethical aspects of the Christian-Jewish relationship and public ethics. A leading figure in the Christian-Jewish dialogue, he is president of the International Council of Christians and Jews and author of Christ in the Light of the Christian Jewish Dialogue and co-editor of Ethics in the Shadow of the Holocaust. 

Dr. Kusumita P. Pedersen

Dr. Kusumita P. Pedersen is Professor of Religious Studies at St. Francis College in New York. She received her Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies from Columbia University. She was previously Executive Director of the Project on Religion and Human Rights; Joint Secretary for Religious Affairs of the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders on Human Survival; and Executive Director of the Temple of Understanding. She is currently Co-Chair of the Interfaith Center of New York. 

Rev. Dr. Shanta D. Premawardhana

The Rev. Dr. Shanta D. Premawardhana is President of the Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education in Chicago. Originally from Sri Lanka, he was most recently the director for the Program Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation at the World Council of Churches (WCC), a worldwide fellowship of 349 Protestant and Orthodox churches based in Geneva, Switzerland. Prior to moving to Geneva, Premawardhana served as the Associate General Secretary for Interfaith Relations at the National Council of Churches of Christ, based in New York.

Dr. Robert P. Sellers

Dr. Robert P. Sellers is Connally Professor of Missions at Hardin-Simmons University in Texas. In the graduate seminary program, his classes emphasize cross-cultural living, the Global Church, Two-Thirds World and liberation theologies, world religions, and interreligious dialogue. He's taught in Canada and Mexico, Great Britain, Eastern and Western Europe, Eastern and Southern Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America. Along with Muslim and Baptist partners, Rob plans periodic national conferences. He also is active nationally as a member of the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches and internationally through the Baptist-Muslim Relations Commission of the Baptist World Alliance.

Rev. Donald Senior, C.P.

Rev. Donald Senior, C.P., is President Emeritus of Catholic Theological Union in Chicago (CTU) where he is also a member of the faculty as Professor of New Testament. He was ordained a priest in 1967. He received his doctorate in New Testament studies from the University of Louvain in Belgium in 1972, with advanced studies at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati and Harvard University. He served as president of CTU for 23 years. He is a frequent lecturer and speaker throughout the United States and abroad, serves on numerous boards and commissions; and is actively involved in the interreligious dialogue, particularly with the Jewish and Muslim communities. Fr. Senior has published extensively on biblical topics, with numerous books and articles for both scholarly and popular audiences. In 2013 he received the O’Connell-Douglas Award for contribution to interreligious and ecumenical harmony and the Gutenberg Award for biblical scholarship. In 2014 he was awarded the Order of Lincoln Award, the State of Illinois’ highest honor for public service. He is past President of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago (2012-14). In 2001, Pope John Paul II appointed him as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and he was reappointed in 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI.

Dr. Mohammad A. Siddiqi

Dr. Mohammad A. Siddiqi is Professor of Journalism and Public Relations at Western Illinois University where he has been teaching since 1987. He is also the Journalism Program Director and Interim Chair of the Department of English & Journalism. Dr. Siddiqi is among the founding members of the World Council of Muslims for Interfaith Relations (WCMIR). He has served as Secretary General of WCMIR for four years and is currently its Executive Board member and Treasurer. He has authored several books and published more than two dozen articles in refereed publications. His most recent book is Islam, Muslims and Media: Myths and Realities. Dr. Siddiqi has served, for eight years, chair of the Islam and media Working Group of the International Association of Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) and is its life member. He has been a member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and serves on the international editorial advisory boards of the Journal of Arab and Muslim Media Research (UK) and Journal of Media Studies (Pakistan). He has also served as President of the Islamic Center of Macomb for five years and is currently its senior religious adviser and Imam. Born in India, Dr. Siddiqi has travelled more than 30 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. He actively participates in Macomb Area Interfaith Alliance and is a member of Macomb Area Alliance for Peace and Justice.

Sardar Kuldeep Singh

Sardar Kuldeep Singh, a recognized author, speaker and leader within North America on Sikh related topics, is a Clinical Chemist by training and an Administrator of Reynolds Clinic. He is the Chairperson of the Membership and Organizational Affairs Committee of World Sikh Council - America Region (WSC-AR) and served as the founding Chairperson of the Organization from 1998-2001. He also serves as the President of the Sikh Youth Federation, USA, which he founded in 1968 to educate the Sikh youth about their heritage. He was one of the distinguished speakers at the 1993 Parliament in Chicago.

Swami Varadananda

Swami Varadananda is a Hindu monk of the Ramakrishna Order, which has its headquarters at Belur Math in India. Swami Varadananda joined the Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago in 1973, was ordained in 1982, and is now the manager of the center. He has been involved with the Council for the Parliament of the World's Religions since the beginning.