2010 Interfaith Dialogue » List of Facilitators & Speakers

Compassion in Daily Practice: Exploring Common Ground
University of the West | Saturday, March 13, 2010 | 9:00am-5:00pm

List of Facilitators & Speakers                                                                                      


Rev. Dr. Terry Mathis

Rev. Mathis is the Campus Minister at the University of California in Riverside, where for nearly ten years he promoted interfaith activity. Current interests include the metaphysical and psychological conditions that allow for interfaith dialogue, the history and rise of secularism and the relations between science and religion. Ordained with the Church of the Brethren, his pastoral expertise includes counseling and university outreach. He will facilitate Panel One: Compassion for Youths. More about him…

Dr. Helene Slessarev-Jamir

Dr. Slessarev-Jamir is the Mildred M. Hutchinson Professor of Urban Ministries at Claremont School of Theology. She is currently a member of the Board of Directors of Sojourners and serves on the UMC's National Committee for Hispanic/Latino Ministry and its National Immigration Task Force. Dr. Slessarev-Jamir's recent work includes reports on national promising practices in community-based ministry among Asian and Hispanic immigrant religious communities. She has also written articles on congregational based community organizing and the role of public theology in an age of empire. Her current research focuses on the character of religiously inspired justice work in response to globalization and American empire. She will facilitate Panel Two: A Life of Compassion: from Birth to Death. More about her…


Dr. Richard Rose

Dr. Rose is the Professor of Religion and Philosophy at University of La Verne. He is also the Director of Christian Education at Christ our Redeemer African Methodist Episcopal Church in Irvine, CA. Dr. Rose is believer in doing things not just for the self, but for the broader community. A particular topic that interests Rose about religion is the conflicting truth claims of different religions. He will facilitate Panel Three: Compassion in Practice. More about him…


Dr. Michael Kerze

Dr. Kerze is a Professor of History and Religion at Los Angeles Valley College and Santa Monica College. He has published articles on religion and science and has given talks about the relationship of religion and science.  He used to the director of the Herrick Memorial Chapel and Interfaith Center at Occidental College where he developed an innovative interfaith program with students and the religious staff. In addition, he is the member of the Los Angeles Buddhist Catholic Dialogue. He has been the Catholic educator in the Catholic Jewish Educational Enrichment Program, a program now found in cities across the nation. More about him…



Panel 1

 10:30am ~ 12:00pm:  Compassion and Youth
Facilitated by Rev. Dr. Terry Mathis

Dr. Muhamad Ali

Assistant Professor, Religious Studies(Islam), UC Riverside. As a experts in Islam religion. Dr. Muhamad Ali has been writing and speaking on jihad, violence and peace, gender relationship, Islam and the West, interfaith dialog and global education, Islam and politics, religious pluralism, and other religio-cultural issues. As UC a professor, he taught courses such as Qur'anic studies, Islam and international relations, Muslim politics, and Orientalism. He received his B.A. in Islamic studies from the State Islamic University (Indonesia), an M.Sc. from the Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Edinburgh, and a Ph.D. in history (Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the world) from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Rev. Dr. James Feliciano

Pastor, Manna Church, Moreno Valley, CA. Rev. James Feliciano moved to the Inland Empire in 2003 from the Central Coast area where he had been senior pastor of Niblick Road Baptist Church in Paso Robles and Morro Bay First Baptist Church. Pastor Feliciano was born in Salinas, California, and has lived in this state except for a brief four year stay in Texas. After careers in legal services and publishing, he went into the ministry. He has degrees from Stanford University, Pepperdine University, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Imam Mahmoud Harmoush

Professor of 
Arabic Language and Islamic Culture, California State University, San Bernardino. Director, the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley. He earned his religious studies from private institutions in Syria and was taught by a circle of well known scholars in the Middle–East and in North America. In the past two decades, Imam Harmoush has lead and served a few Islamic Centers and Institutions in Southern California and through out the United States. Imam Harmoush  is also involved in marriage counseling, interfaith activities and public relations. Since 2007 he has joined the faculty at the California State University in San Bernardino teaching the Arabic Language, Arabic Literature and the World of Islam. Mr. Harmoush has traveled and conducted business in several parts of the world. He is highly informed on the Middle East and the Global affairs.

Rabbi Sabine Meyer, Ph. D.

Director, Introduction to Judaism, Union for Reform Judaism, West District Rabbi Sabine Meyer, Ph.D. was ordained from Hebrew Union College Los Angeles, the Reform movement’s seminary.  In addition to a Ph.D. in German Studies from the University of Southern California, Rabbi Meyer received M.A. degrees in Jewish Studies and Hebrew Letters from Hebrew Union College.  She has held teaching positions in the Jewish Studies department and the German department at the University of Southern California, and served various Reform congregations in Southern California. In 2007, Rabbi Meyer was invited to join the faculty of the International Peace School in Cologne, Germany, the first international inter-religious school in the country.  At that time, she also developed and helped to implement the first progressive Jewish curriculum for elementary schools in Germany.  Intrigued by the shifting religious landscape of Germany and a desire to put her interest in interfaith dialogue into action, Rabbi Meyer joined clergy, academics, teachers and theologians from Christian and Muslim backgrounds to found the non-profit organization, Network Religion and Education.  Based in Cologne, Germany, the organization’s mission is, “to work toward deepening understanding and respect among people, religions and cultures in the one world that we inhabit together.  Network Religion and Education advocates a holistic educational philosophy that encourages our children to grow into morally, spiritually and intellectually grounded citizens of the world.

Lawrence Slusser

Larry is currently serving as the 2nd Counselor in the Temecula Stake Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon) where for the past 7 years this presidency has given spiritual guidance to the 4,000 members in Temecula Valley.  Previous church service includes Bishop, youth leader, seminary teacher and as a missionary for 2 years in Illinois and Wisconsin.  Active in Interfaith Council of Murrieta Temecula Valley and currently serving as Secretary.  Happily married for 35 years with 4 children and 7 grandchildren (2 more on the way).  He has been a builder-developer for 36 years and a Physician Assistant (part time) for 10 years.  He earned a BS degree from Brigham Young University and PA-C degree from Western University of Health Sciences.

John Shin Jin Byrne

The arc of Mr. Byrne's life journey has been defined by his relationships as a husband, father, grandfather and friend; his various occupations as antique store owner, manufacturing executive, certified developer for Apple computers, systems analysis consultant, retirement financial planner for educators and, his various experiences, among them: as a U.S. Army Vietnam veteran, actor, musician, composer, published poet and traveler to many countries. Pulled by the cross currents of a Roman Catholic upbringing and an intensive life long look at the world’s religions, he has been a Buddhist since 1993, oriented toward a Soto Zen practice.  In some ways, becoming a Buddhist was a generalized statement of principle, rather than a rejection of any other particular religion.  Mr. Byrne’s experience found more similarities in the world’s religions, more continuity in the spiritual threads that weave among them, than the divisions of partisan, doctrinal literalism that is available in all religions that tends to stunt the range of humankind’s spiritual expression.

 Panel 2 
 10:30am ~ 12:00 pm: A Life of Compassion:
 from Birth to Death
Facilitated by Dr. Helene Slessarev-Jamir
Bryan Ferry

Chaplain Ferry is an interfaith chaplain at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, where he also help train seminarians and lay practitioners to become chaplains. Bryan was ordained in Thich Nhat Han's Order of Interbeing in 2005. He graduated with an M.Div from Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Co after having spent a foundational year in Naropa University's Engaged Buddhism Program. Currently, his primary focus is in Clinical Pastoral Education, but he have been in the field of hospital and hospice chaplaincy since 2000.
Rev. Dr. David Jamir

Senior pastor, United Methodist Church. Dr. Rev. David M. Jamir was born and raised in a tribal state of Nagaland in north east India. He was commissioned as Missionary at Large to the Himalayas and then to the United States by the Naga Church. He did his undergraduate work in Kolkata, India and later pursued theological education in the United States. He earned his MA in theology from the Bethany Theological Seminary and M.Div and D. Min from the Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is an Ordained Elder of the United Methodist Church in the California Pacific Annual Conference. He is currently a senior pastor of two urban congregations in Santa Ana, CA where he ministers to Caucasians, Tongans, Cambodians and Filipinos.
Tahara Akmal

Tahara Akmal is an interfaith Chaplain Resident (Muslim) at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.  She completed her initial Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) training at Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio and worked as a chaplain intern at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, California.  Prior to joining UCLA, she was the bereavement coordinator for Odyssey Healthcare (hospice) Los Angeles, where she offered grief support for terminally ill patients and their loved ones.  She has been involved in interfaith work for over a decade.  She has spoken across the United States on Islam and interfaith relations, Islamic chaplaincy, and end-of life care in Islam.  Internationally, Chaplain Tahara Akmal has addressed audiences in Tokyo, Jerusalem and Castel Gondolfo, Italy.  Chaplain Tahara Akmal holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, with a minor in religion, from Vanguard University of Southern California.  She also holds a master’s degree in pastoral care and Islamic studies from the Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, California.
DJur. Varun Soni

Dean of Religious Life, USC. DJur. Varun Soni holds a bachelor’s degree in religion from Tufts University, a master’s degree in theological studies from Harvard University, a master’s degree in comparative religion from UC Santa Barbara and a juris doctor degree from UCLA. He is currently completing a Ph.D. in religious studies from the University of Cape Town and is a member of the State Bar of California. Varun Soni’s interest in world religions is long-standing: As an undergraduate, he spent a semester living as a Buddhist monk in a Burmese monastery in Bodh Gaya, India, through the Buddhist Studies Program at Antioch University. As a graduate student, he spent months doing field research in South Asia through UC Santa Barbara’s Center for Sikh and Punjab Studies. A native of India, he was raised in Southern California.

 Panel 3
  1:00pm ~ 2:30pm:  Compassion in Practice
– Sing, Chant, Dance, Other

Facilitated by Dr. Richard A. Rose
Maharaj Nithya Bhaktapriyananda

Disciple of Paramahamsa Nithyananda, Nithyananda Vedic Temple.
Mr. Maharaj Nithya Bhaktapriyananda is the Department Head of Rituals and Worship in International Vedic Hindu University. He trains and oversees Puja Acharyas nation wide in US and Canada.He has a extensive knowledge in Vedic and Hindu rituals, pujas, festivals of Eastern traditions. He has writes and has released Bhajan songs and CDs in International market. He constantly represents the Vedic Temple as Special Guess Speaker national level. He also serves at Dhyanapeetam Temple &Cultural Center, Brahmachari of the Nithyananda Order formally initiated by Paramahamsa Sri Nithyananda, in Duarte, CA in where he is the Chief Puja Acharya. He conducts special pujas, Homas, and all the Vedic ceremonies from birth to last rights, Dasa Karmas. He also manages and coordinate temple ceremonies and celebrations base on Hindu tradition and leads the standards team for global standardization of temple rituals and activities. He also provides chanting services such as Sahasranama, Ashtotram, Trisathis, Suktams, upanishads etc.
Rev. Shawn Kindorf

Reverend Shawn Kindorf is one of the most progressive ministers in Religious Science today. Heart-centered, wisdom based, enthusiastic and vivacious, her vision is that “all people know they are included in God’s perfect expression of Life, regardless of race, color, creed, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, or any other labels with which we tend to identify”. The Divine nature of each person is nourished and allowed to evolve through creativity, classes, playful events, meditation and prayer. Rev. Shawn began living her passion of seeing God expressed through the arts early in life. As a former professional dancer, dance teacher, and studio owner, she has brought that passion of self-expression and transformation into people’s lives.  Rev. Shawn graduated from Holmes Institute School of Ministry in 1999 and began serving Harmony Center for Spiritual Living. She was Ordained in February 2002. She has been invited to speak at United Centers for Spiritual Living annual conference and has served on the organizations planning committee for 3 years.  She has also participated in local interfaith events.  Rev. Shawn has developed a broad repertoire and an uncanny ability to relate Spirituality in meaningful, and often playful ways. Her deep heart-centered nature helps her to teach Spirituality to many people on many different levels. Rev. Shawn adds, “Many people who consider themselves spiritual, but not religious (including myself), have found a home in this philosophy and in this spiritual community.” 

Dr. Deborah Roberts &
Steve Kinzie

Dr. Deborah Roberts
Campus Minister, University of La Verne
where she directs the Peace Studies Minor an the Campus Mediation Center. A member of the Church of the Brethren, she received a Master’s Degree in Theology from Bethany Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in Women’s Studies in Religion from Claremont Graduate University. She has a special interest in the study of conflict engagement as spiritual practice, incorporating feminist and non-Western visions for and critiques of common U.S. mediation practice.

Steve Kinzie                                                                                                                           Steve Kinzie currently serves as the Interim Director of the Learning Enhancement Center at the University of La Verne, where he is also Adjunct Professor of Peace Studies and Writing. He earned a B.A. in Philosophy from the American University of Beirut and an M.A. in Classics from the University of Washington. A singer song-writer, he has been playing guitar and five-string banjo since 1960, and for many years has drawn inspiration for lyrics from the writings and spirituality of various world religions.


Dr. Ahmad H Sakr

Dr. Sakr obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois in 1966. While studying in America, he was a founding member and president of the Muslim Students’ Association of the U.S.A and Canada, currently known as the Islamic Society of North America (or ISNA), a mother organization in North America. Dr. Sakr was also a founding member of the World Council of Mosques whose headquarters is in Makkah. He was the first director and representative of the Muslim World League to the U.N. Furthermore, Dr. Sakr is an educator and has taught in several universities. In 1973, he was selected as an Outstanding Educator of America. He is also an administrator and has served in numerous capabilities at various American universities, the last of which was as the Acting President of the American Islamic College in Chicago. In 1976/1977 he was selected as a Community Leader and a Noteworthy American. Currently, he is the president of the Foundation for Islamic Knowledge. Director of the Islamic Education Center in Walnut, California, a member of Operation Safe Community, a member of the Walnut Interfaith Council in California, and a board member of the Islamic food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA).Dr. Sakr has appeared on ABC’s “Nightline” as well as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). In addition, he has made numerous radio and television appearances. He has also organized and coordinated many national and international conferences. Additionally, he is a well known writer and has written a series of books and booklets on Islam, food, health, behavior, terrorism, fundamentalism, Khutab, and orations. At last count, he had written over forty five (45) books (in English and Arabic) and booklets not counting the innumerable articles he has authored. Dr. Sakr’s approach is to build a bridge of understanding through commonalities with Muslims and non-Muslims. He visited Vatican in Rome, Italy where he participated in a Dialogue with the Bishops, Cardinals and the Pope.

Venerable Miao Hsi Shih

Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Temple, Hacienda Heights, California. A Buddhist nun with the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order, she has served for four years as the Editor-in-Chief of the English pages of the Merit Times (America) daily newspaper, and the director of both the Fo Guang Shan International Translation Center and Buddha’s Light Publishing in America for three years. Responsible for translating the works of Venerable Master Hsing Yun into English, her translated works include seven volumes of the series, Between Ignorance and Enlightenment, and the two volumes of Dharma Words. Currently, she is one of the directors of Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights, California, in charge of cultural and educational activities, community outreach, and the planner and one of the teachers of the temple’s English Buddhism classes.
Panel 4

  3:00pm ~ 4:30pm:  Compassion in Charity & Social Work - Exhibits/Projects
Facilitated by Dr. Michael Kerze
Mike Kennedy
& Richard Garcia's team and project.

Mike Kennedy is a Jesuit priest and the former pastor of Dolores Mission. He and his co-worker Richard Garcia has been coordinating social justice work for the California Province of the Society of Jesus.

Alex Wu and BLIA's project

The Buddha's Light International Association (BLIA, Chinese: 國際佛光會), is a Buddhist monastic and lay organization with millions of members in which Humanistic Buddhism is practiced. BLIA was established by Venerable Master Hsing Yun in 1992. The organization is associated with the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order, the largest Buddhist organization in Taiwan. In 2003, BLIA was granted the NGO association status by The Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC) and Department of Public Information (DPI) under UN. The world headquarters is located on the Hsi Lai Temple, in Hacienda Heights, California.

Alex Wu is the founder of private WISEMICRO International. He has been doing business in the industries of computers, electronics, and now security products in US for more than twenty years. As his religious practice, he has been learning and practicing Humanistic Buddhism advocated by Venerable Master Hsing Yun since early 1990s. He currently serves as the Vice President of BLIA LA chapter where he has consistently promoting Humanistic Buddhism through charity and social works. Some projects that he has evolved are: computer donations program to many schools in different districts, food release program with FAME church, community food release service, and Hsi Lai Temple’s Winter Love Joy scholarship program, etc.

Glen Peterson and the project of "Job Quest Ministry,"
Whittier Area Community Church.

Glen has developed training and mentoring programs to help families improve their economic wellbeing through work. Glen is a consultant doing community and economic development work including program design, organizational assessment and development and resource development with Capacity Partnership Group. 
Steve Kemp and the project from Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Pasadena Stake).

Mary Helen Monarrez and
Whittier Area First Day Coalition's "Keeping Families Together" project.
Veronica Hernandez and Interfaith Food Center's “Food Pantry” project.

  Pastor Jim Ortiz and My Friends House Assembly of God's project.

Pastor Jim Ortiz finds homes in need of repairs from HUD and deploys a team of recovering addicts and men released from prison to complete the repairs. The men learn to show up for work on time and acquire marketable skills as carpenters or electricians
Dottie Andersen and St. Matthias Episcopal Church(Whittier)'s "Soup Hour Project.
Mike Wong and Buddhist Chaplaincy Program, University of the West

The Buddhist Chaplaincy program in UWest provides students with the necessary knowledge and skills to excel as Buddhist practitioners working in the field of professional chaplaincy. The program is designed to meet the needs of those who wish to engage in spiritual care and counseling work and become properly trained and certified professionals. The exhibition will show how compassion is infused into its classroom courses and practicum trainings. 
Ms. Irem Choksy and the
exhibition from University of the West Student Association.
Rex Qing Song  Goh and the exhibition from BudaWest (Buddhist Association of University of the West).  

Buddhist Association of University of the West (BudaWest) is one of the organizers of this conference. They are proud to present the charitable activities they have conducted to the conference audience.

Home | About Us | Blog | Activities | Study | Gallery | FAQ | Links

Home || Email Us || Mailing List & Comments