Temple of Understanding celebrating our 63rd Anniversary in 2023
Jim Antal is a denominational leader, climate activist, author and public theologian. He serves as Special Advisor on Climate Justice to the General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ. Antal’s book, CLIMATE CHURCH, CLIMATE WORLD, was featured on Earth Day in the Chicago Tribune (2018) and in Christian Century Magazine (2019). From 2006-2018, Antal led the 350 UCC churches in Massachusetts as their Conference Minister and President. Antal is a graduate of Princeton University, Andover Newton Theological School, and Yale Divinity School, which recently honored him with the William Sloane Coffin Award for Peace and Justice. In 2019 Antal was honored as recipient of the UCC’s social justice prophet award. An environmental activist from the first Earth Day in 1970, Antal wrote and championed three groundbreaking national UCC resolutions: in 2013 the UCC became the first national body to vote to divest from fossil fuel companies; in 2017 the national UCC Synod voted to declare a new moral era in opposition to President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord; in 2019, the UCC national Synod became the first Christian denomination to endorse the Green New Deal
Zanagee Artis is co-founder of the youth climate justice organization Zero Hour. Zanagee became involved in the climate movement because, having grown up on the coast of Connecticut, he was passionate about mitigating plastic pollution and climate change that endangers marine ecosystems. As director of logistics he organized the Zero Hour Youth Climate March in Washington D.C. in 2018. Zanagee has spoken at and personally organized a number of protests and rallies in Rhode Island, including the Global Climate Strikes in Providence, RI. Furthermore, alongside fellow Zero Hour organizers, he organized “This is Zero Hour: The Youth Climate Summit” in Miami, Florida which took place from July 12th to July 14th, 2019. Zanagee has also led the effort to establish Zero Hour’s international climate justice education campaign: Getting to the Roots of Climate Change, which launched in March of 2019. He is currently studying environmental studies and political science at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and plans to attend law school following his undergraduate study.
Marlow Baines is Youth Director of Earth Guardians. Born in Seattle, WA and raised in the mountains of Evergreen, CO she has an intrinsic and deep love and appreciation for wild, open spaces and places. Marlow is a lead member of the Youth Council, has authored Earth Guardian’s youth leadership curriculum, and has served as Earth Guardians Global Crew Director. She represents Earth Guardians in youth coalition building efforts worldwide and has spoken on stages across the United States.
Iconic youth leader, global influencer, environmentalist, champion of children’s rights, peace and sustainability campaigner, and passionate advocate of women’s rights, 19 year-old Kehkashan Basu is a trailblazer who has been challenging the status quo and social strictures which impede the progress of future generations. Winner of the 2016 International Children’s Peace Prize, Kehkashan is a tireless advocate for the Sustainable Development Goals. She is a United Nations Human Rights Champion, the youngest ever Global Coordinator for the UN Environment Program’s Major Group for Children & Youth, a Climate Reality Mentor, TEDx speaker and the Founder President of social innovation enterprise Green Hope Foundation, which provides young people in 16 countries a networking platform to engage in the sustainable development process. Kehkashan is the recipient of the inaugural 2020 Voices Youth Award for Peace, 2019 Innovator of the Year Award, the John Muir Conservation Award for Habitat Restoration, the Energy Globe Award and the Turner Prize for Social Change. A powerful voice for future generations, she has spoken at over 155 United Nations and other global fora across 25 countries. Youth Ambassador World Future Council Council Lead for Toronto-St.Paul's Constituency Youth Council Former Global Coordinator for Children and Youth , UNEP MGFC World Oceans Day Youth Advisory Council Climate Reality Mentor Founder President Green Hope Foundation TEDx Speaker One Young World Ambassador Canada's Top 25 Women of Influence 2018 United Nations Human Rights Champion Winner of 2016 International Children's Peace Prize
Rabbi Ellen Bernstein is a pioneer in the field of religion and ecology. She founded Shomrei Adamah, Keepers of the Earth, the first national Jewish environmental organization in 1988. An author and ecotheologian, she writes and teaches on the intersection of Judaism, Bible and ecology and is author of several books most notably The Splendor of Creation, and The Promise of the Land, an ecologically centered Passover haggadah. She created the first ecological guide for the New Year of the Trees (the Jewish holiday Tu B’Shvat) and has popularized this holiday as an ecological festival through large-scale inter-spiritual arts rituals. She is an advisory group member for the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology. To learn more, go to www.ellenbernstein.org
Rev. Dr. Braybrooke serves as Chairman of the World Congress of Faiths and Patron of the International Interfaith Centre at Oxford. He is a Co-Founder of the Three Faiths Forum and formerly served as Executive Director of the Council for Christians and Jews in Great Britain. In addition to his parish work, he has been involved as a leading organizer and scholar in interfaith work for over forty years. He is the author of several important books regarding the interreligious movement, including: Pilgrimage of Hope; Faith and Interfaith in a Global Age; 1,000 World Prayers; What We Can Learn from Islam; and What We Can Learn from Hinduism. He was awarded a Lambeth Doctorate of Divinity by the Archbishop of Canterbury in recognition of his contribution to the development of interreligious cooperation and understanding throughout the world. Rev. Dr. Marcus Braybrooke is a retired Anglican parish priest, living near Oxford, England. He has been involved in interfaith work for over fifty years, joined WCF in 1964 and has served as Hon. Secretary, Editor, Chairperson and now, as Joint President. He was Executive Director of the Council of Christians and Jews from 1984-8, and is a Co-Founder of the Faith and Belief Forum (formerly the Three Faiths Forum), Patron of the International Interfaith Centre at Oxford and a Peace Councillor. Marcus has travelled widely to attend interfaith conferences and to lecture, and studied for a time in India and in Israel. In September 2004, he was awarded a Lambeth Doctorate of Divinity by the Archbishop of Canterbury ‘...in recognition of his contribution to the development of inter-religious co-operation and understanding throughout the world.’ He is author of many books on world religions and Christianity, including Pilgrimage of Hope, Faith and Interfaith in a Global Age, Time to Meet, How to Understand Judaism, What We Can Learn from Hinduism/Islam/Sikhism, and Christian-Jewish Dialogue: the Next Steps. He has also written Learn to Pray, 365 Meditations for a Peaceful Heart and a Peaceful World and Beacons of the Light: 100 Holy People who have shaped the history of humanity. He has edited several anthologies of prayers and meditations, including 1,000 World Prayers and Life Lines. Marcus is married to Mary, who is a social worker and a magistrate. They have two children and six granddaughters
Astrid Caldas is a senior climate scientist with the Climate & Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Her research focuses on climate change adaptation with practical policy implications for ecosystems, the economy, and society. She also works on policy related to climate change, natural resources management, conservation planning, socio-environmental synthesis, and climate communication. Before joining UCS, Dr. Caldas was a Science & Technology Policy Fellow at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a climate change and wildlife science fellow at the nonprofit conservation group Defenders of Wildlife, and a research scientist at the University of Maryland. Dr. Caldas has advised or consulted on projects with organizations including the Smithsonian Institution and the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center. She has a lifelong passion for butterflies and moths, which she has studied for many years. Dr. Caldas holds a Ph.D. in ecology from the Universidade Estadual de Campinas in the state of São Paulo, Brazil. In addition to a M.S. in entomology from the Universidade Federal do Paraná, Brazil, she earned an M.S. in environmental management from the University of Maryland University College. She blogs for The Huffington Post and has been quoted widely, including in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Huffington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Daily Press, Time Science, and Mashable, and has appeared on numerous NPR stations, TRT World, CBS, NBC, Fox, Univisión, and Telemundo.
Saffet Abid Catovic is an American Muslim of Bosnian-Anglo descent. He has an MBA and worked for a major New York based U.S. Corporation as Budget Director until 1992, when he left his career to help the people of his ancestral Bosnia and Herzegovina to be free and survive the genocidal campaign wrought against them. He was one of the founding members and organizers of Bosnia-Task Force (BTF) – USA which worked at the grass roots, community, regional and national level on many fronts to put an end to the genocide. BTF was an alliance of ten organizations which included the following groups: the Ministry of Imam W Deen Mohammed, the Islamic Society of North America, the Islamic Circle of North America, the Bosnia Action Committee-Chicago, the Majlis Shura of New York, the Islamic Shura Council of Greater Los Angeles, the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan, the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, the National Community and the Balkan Muslim Association.
Isha Clarke, a co-founder and activist with Youth Vs Apocalypse, is a recent high school graduate born, raised, and educated in Oakland, CA. Isha recognizes that climate change is the consequence of fundamental systems of oppression like white supremacy, capitalism, and colonialism. Because of this, people of color, indigenous communities, and working-class people are disproportionately burdened by impacts of climate catastrophe. Knowing this, Isha’s work is focused on building a movement that follows the leadership of frontline communities, creates solidarity between other fights for justice, and works to dismantle the systems of oppression that fuel climate change. As a result of this work, Isha was awarded the 2019 Brower Youth Award, 2020 Diller Tikkun Olam Award, and has become a nationally recognized speaker, presenter, and writer. Youth Vs Apocalypse
Steve Gorn’s bansuri is featured on the 2011 Grammy winning recording, “Miho – Journey to the Mountain,” with Dhruba Ghosh and the Paul Winter Consort, as well as the Academy Award winning Documentary film, “Born into Brothels.” He has performed Indian Classical Music and new American Music on the bansuri bamboo flute in concerts and festivals throughout the world. His gurus are the late bansuri master Sri Gour Goswami, of Kolkata, and Pt. Raghunath Seth of Mumbai, who he often accompanied in concert. He also studied with the late Ustad Z. M. Dagar. He has often performed in India, appearing at Bharat Bhavan in Bhopal, Habitat Center and Triveni Hall in New Delhi, The Sangeet Research Academy in Kolkata, NCPA, and The Nehru Center in Mumbai, and numerous other venues. His performance with Pandit Ravi Shankar’s disciple, Barun Kumar Pal, at Kolkata’s Rama Krishna Mission, was televised throughout India. In 2013, he was awarded the Pandit Jasraj Rotary Club of Hyderabad Award for Cross Cultural Achievement. His numerous recordings include Luminous Ragas, Rasika, (with tabla by Samir Chatterjee,) Illuminations, (with Nepali bansuri wallah, Manose,) the landmark Indian-Jazz fusion recording, Asian Journal, and Pranam, a jugalbandi with Barun Kumar Pal playing hansaveena, and Samir Chatterjee, tabla.
The Rev. Fletcher Harper is an Episcopal priest and the Executive Director of GreenFaith, a global multi-faith climate and environmental justice network. An internationally recognized author, speaker, and pioneer of the worldwide religious environmental movement, he has been a leading voice in the faith community’s response to the climate crisis for the last two decades. He has worked with diverse faith leaders around the world, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and former United Nation’s Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. Rev. Harper is the co-founder of Shine, an international campaign that brings together bold innovators to overcome the threat of entrenched poverty and climate change, and to achieve universal access to affordable and reliable energy. He spearheads the faith-based fossil fuel divestment movement around the world, is one of the faith leaders of the People's Climate Marches, and plays a leading role in the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative, a campaign organizing religious communities to fight tropical deforestation and protect Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Rev. Harper is the author of GreenFaith: Mobilizing God’s People to Protect the Earth.
Tyrone B. Hayes, PhD, is Professor of Integrative Biology, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, Endocrinology, Molecular Toxicology, and the Energy and Resources Group Tyrone B. Hayes was born and raised in Columbia, South Carolina where he developed his love for biology. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in 1989 and his PhD from the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley in 1993. After completing his PhD, he began post-doctoral training at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health and the Cancer Research Laboratories at UC Berkeley (funded by the National Science Foundation), but this training was truncated when he was hired as an Assistant Professor at UC Berkeley in 1994. He was promoted to Associate professor with tenure in 2000 and to full Professor in 2003. Hayes’ research focuses on developmental endocrinology with an emphasis on evolution and environmental regulation of growth and development. For the last twenty years, the role of endocrine disrupting contaminants, particularly pesticides, has been a major focus. Hayes is interested in the impact of chemical contaminants on environmental health and public health, with a specific interest in the role of pesticides in global amphibian declines and environmental justice concerns associated with targeted exposure of racial and ethnic minorities to endocrine disruptors and the role that exposure plays in health care disparities.
Rev. Susan Hendershot has served as the President of Interfaith Power & Light since 2018. Prior to becoming President of The Regeneration Project and Interfaith Power & Light, Rev. Hendershot served as the Executive Director at Iowa Interfaith Power & Light for seven years. She is ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) with an M. Div. from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, a B.A. from Bethany College in Bethany, West Virginia, and a certificate in Spiritual Direction. Prior to Iowa IPL, Rev. Hendershot served as a pastor in both Disciples of Christ and United Methodist congregations, focusing on social justice ministries. She also served as the first Heartland Field Organizer for the ONE Campaign on global poverty. Currently Rev. Hendershot serves as co-chair of the Executive Committee for the RE-AMP Steering Committee, a network of over 170 climate, energy, and environmental organizations throughout the Midwest. Rev. Hendershot believes that climate change is a moral issue, disproportionately impacting those who are most vulnerable in our world. She gets her motivation and inspiration from her two sons.
Lyla June is an Indigenous musician, scholar and community organizer of Diné (Navajo), Tsétsêhéstâhese (Cheyenne) and European lineages. Her dynamic, multi-genre presentation style has engaged audiences across the globe towards personal, collective and ecological healing. She blends studies in Human Ecology at Stanford, graduate work in Indigenous Pedagogy, and the traditional worldview she grew up with to inform her music, perspectives and solutions. She is currently pursuing her doctoral degree, focusing on Indigenous food systems revitalization. www.lylajune.com
Prof. Azza Karam, PhD Prof. Dr. Azza Karam serves as the Secretary General of Religions for Peace – the largest multi-religious leadership platform with 90 national and 6 regional Interreligious Councils. She also holds a Professorship of Religion and Development at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, in The Netherlands – of which she is a citizen. She served as a Senior Advisor on Culture, at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); and as Coordinator/Chair of the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Religion and Development; where she coordinated engagement with members of a Global Interfaith Network for Population and Development with over 600 faith-based organizations from all regions of the world, representing all religions and interreligious affiliation. She is the Lead Facilitator for the United Nations’ Strategic Learning Exchanges on Religion, Development and Diplomacy, building on a legacy of serving as a trainer cum facilitator of inter-cultural leadership and management in the Arab region as well as Europe and Central Asia. Professor Karam has served in different positions in the United Nations since 2004, as well as other intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations since the early 1990s, such as International IDEA, and Religions for Peace. Simultaneously, she lectured in various academic institutions in Europe, in North America (including the United States Military Academy/West Point), Africa and the Middle East. Her Ph.D. in 1996, focused on Political Islam, and became her first book in Arabic (her mother tongue) and in English. She has since published widely, and in several languages, on international political dynamics, including democratization, human rights, peace and security, gender, religious engagement and sustainable development. She was born in Egypt, and now lives in the United States
. (Bio from website: https://rfp.org/prof-azza-karam/)
The Rev. Victor H. Kazanjian Jr. is the Executive Director of the United Religions Initiative, (URI) a global grassroots interfaith peacebuilding organization with global offices in 21 countries supporting nearly 1,000 grassroots groups working in 108 countries and at the United Nations. URI is a global network working to cultivate peace and justice by engaging people of all beliefs and cultures to bridge differences, foster understanding, build relationships and work together on humanitarian issues for the good of their communities and the world. URI’s mission is to promote enduring, daily interfaith cooperation, to end religiously motivated violence, and to create cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living beings. Defying the conventional wisdom that issues of poverty, conflict and violence are best engaged by organizations with a heavy central infrastructure, URI’s decentralized, network-based, light-framed, shared leadership organizational approach is giving people around the world the power to meet their challenges and build cohesive, connected and peaceful communities. Victor regularly leads training programs around the world on intercultural and interreligious dialogue, conflict transformation and peacebuilding, engaging diversity, social justice, community building and community organizing.
Dr. Kimmerer is a mother, plant ecologist, writer and SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York. She serves as the founding Director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment whose mission is to create programs which draw on the wisdom of both indigenous and scientific knowledge for our shared goals of sustainability. Her research interests include the role of traditional ecological knowledge in ecological restoration and the ecology of mosses. In collaboration with tribal partners, she and her students have an active research program in the ecology and restoration of plants of cultural significance to Native people. She is active in efforts to broaden access to environmental science education for Native students, and to create new models for integration of indigenous philosophy and scientific tools on behalf of land and culture. She is engaged in programs which introduce the benefits of traditional ecological knowledge to the scientific community, in a way that respects and protects indigenous knowledge. Dr. Kimmerer has taught courses in botany, ecology, ethnobotany, indigenous environmental issues as well as a seminar in application of traditional ecological knowledge to conservation. She is the co-founder and past president of the Traditional Ecological Knowledge section of the Ecological Society of America. Dr. Kimmerer serves as a Senior Fellow for the Center for Nature and Humans. Of European and Anishinaabe ancestry, Robin is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. As a writer and a scientist, her interests in restoration include not only restoration of ecological communities, but restoration of our relationships to land. Dr. Kimmerer is the author of numerous scientific papers on the ecology of mosses and restoration ecology and on the contributions of traditional ecological knowledge to our understanding of the natural world. She is also active in literary biology. Her essays appear in Whole Terrain, Adirondack Life, Orion and several anthologies. She is the author of “Gathering Moss” which incorporates both traditional indigenous knowledge and scientific perspectives and was awarded the prestigious John Burroughs Medal for Nature Writing in 2005. Her latest book “Braiding Sweetgrass: indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teachings of plants” was released in 2013 and was awarded the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award. She has served as writer in residence at the Andrews Experimental Forest, Blue Mountain Center, the Sitka Center and the Mesa Refuge. She holds a BS in Botany from SUNY ESF, an MS and PhD in Botany from the University of Wisconsin and is the author of numerous scientific papers on plant ecology, bryophyte ecology, traditional knowledge and restoration ecology. As a writer and a scientist, her interests in restoration include not only restoration of ecological communities, but restoration of our relationships to land. She lives on an old farm in upstate New York, tending gardens both cultivated and wild.
Audrey E. Kitagawa, JD, is the Chair of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, President of the Light of Awareness International Spiritual Family, and the former Advisor to the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict at the United Nations. She wrote the chapter, Crossing World Views, The Power of Perspective in the Hawaii Japanese American Experience, which was published in a book about multiculturalism, communication and Asian women entitled, Learning In The Light. Her chapter, Globalization As The Fuel For Religious And Ethnic Conflict has been published in the book, Globalization And Identity, Cultural Diversity, Religion and Citizenship. Her article, The Role Of Identity In The Rise And Decline of Buddhism In Hawaii, The 50th State Of The United States Of America, has been published in Sambhodi, a Buddhist Journal. She published articles in World Affairs The Journal Of International Issues, entitled, The Power of Om: Transformation of Consciousness, and Practical Spirituality. She wrote the chapter, The US In Foreign Affairs: Source of Global Security, Or Source of Global Fear? in the book, America & The World The Double Bind. She has been listed in Who's Who Of American Law, Who's Who Of American Women, Who's Who In America, Who's Who In The World, and Prominent People of Hawaii.
Arvol Looking Horse was born on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota. At the age of 12, he was given the responsibility of becoming the 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe, the youngest ever. He is widely recognized as a chief and the spiritual leader of all three branches of the Sioux tribe. He is the author of White Buffalo Teachings and a guest columnist for Indian Country Today. A tireless advocate of maintaining traditional spiritual practices, Chief Looking Horse is the founder of Big Foot Riders which memorializes the massacre of Big Foot's band at Wounded Knee. Cheif Looking Horse's prayers have opened numerous sessions of the United Nations and his many awards include the Juliet Hollister Award from the Temple of Understanding, a Non-Governmental Organization with Consultation Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. He lives on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota. Film interviews with Arol Looking Horse on spirituality, tribal history, and advice for American Indian youth are a featured part of the documentary film and DVD on the Crow Shoshone Sun Dance entitled Native Spirit: The Sun Dance Way. An illustrated book, Native Spirit: The Sun Dance Way, by Thomas Yellowtail (recorded and edited by Michael Fitzgerald), also features his counsel.
Eda Zavala Lopez is a Peruvian shaman-curandera, sociologist and environmental-social activist working and living deep in the Amazon Rainforest in Peru. She is a direct descendant of Wari and Ashaninka People from the Amazon. In December 2014 she was awarded by the Ministry of Environment in Peru for her profound commitment to Indigenous People from the Amazon Jungle to protect their sacred territories and pristine forests. Eda is a Cultural Ambassador on behalf of Impact A Village that funds her projects in Peru. She is also working with the Rainforest Amazon Network, an American NGO, that supports her work with the Indigenous Shawi People. Eda is a healer that connects with the spirits of the plants and she is an activist that works to preserve Indigenous knowledge and empower Indigenous People. In the last 10 years Eda has participated in several venues around the US and participated in 2010, 2017 and 2018 at the United Nations Permanent Forum of Indigenous Issues. She also collaborated on Stephan Martin’s book “Cosmic Visions: Dialogues on the Nature of the Universe and the Search for Reality” (2010) www.edazavalalopez.com www.theshawiproject.com
Erin Lothes, PhD is a theologian at Saint Elizabeth University, Morristown, NJ., a researcher in the field of energy ethics, and a scholar of the faith-based environmental movement. Dr. Lothes served as an Earth Institute Fellow at Columbia University; her research during this interdisciplinary postdoctorate analyzed environmental advocacy at diverse American congregations for her book Inspired Sustainability: Planting Seeds for Action (Orbis 2016). She is also author of The Paradox of Christian Sacrifice: The Loss of Self, the Gift of Self (Herder and Herder, 2007). As an advocate for an interdisciplinary energy ethic within Catholic and interfaith circles, Dr. Lothes is lead author of the co-authored “Catholic Moral Traditions and Energy Ethics for the Twenty-First Century,” Journal of Moral Theology and author of other energy ethics essays. Accessible summaries are available at https://catholicenergyethics21century.wordpress.com/ Dr. Lothes is also author of “Catholic Energy Ethics: Commitments and Criteria,” editor of “Light for a New Day: Interfaith Essays on Energy Ethics,” and author of other articles on energy ethics and faith-based environmentalism. Dr. Lothes has advocated for research regarding the moral dimensions of fossil fuel divestment within the Catholic community in the United States, and has participated in the activism and scholarship of the interfaith environmental movement since 2003 through collaborations with groups such as GreenFaith, the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale, the Catholic Climate Covenant, and the Global Catholic Climate Movement. Dr. Lothes holds a Ph.D. in systematic Theology from Fordham University, a Master's in Theology from Boston College, and an A.B. in English from Princeton University. Her teaching focuses on systematic theology, as well as understanding climate change and faith responses to this moral challenge. Dr. Lothes regularly addresses faith groups on faith-based environmental leadership and is a sought-after speaker on Laudato Si', Pope Francis's encyclical on care for our common home, the earth.
Oren Lyons is a Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan and serves as a Member Chief of the Onondaga Council of Chiefs and the Grand Council of the Iroquois Confederacy, the Haudenosaunee Peoples. Oren holds the title of Professor Emeritus at SUNY Buffalo, has a Doctor of Law Degree from his Alma Mater, Syracuse University and Lyons Hall at SU is named in his honor. Chief Lyons is an All-American Lacrosse Hall of Famer and Honorary Chairman of the Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse Team. He is an accomplished artist, environmentalist, and author. Oren is also a founder and Principal Partner in One Bowl Productions, a purpose driven film and Television Production Company, located in Los Angeles California. Oren is a leading voice at the UN Permanent Forum on Human Rights for Indigenous Peoples, serves on the Executive Committee of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders for Human Survival, acts as Chairman of the Board for both the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development and Plantagon, a world leader in GreenHouse Innovation. Recipient of several prestigious awards including; The United Nations NGO World Peace Prize, the Ellis Island Congressional Medal of Honor, The Rosa Parks and George Arent Award for environmental and social activism and recently receiving Sweden’s prestigious Friends of the Children Award with his colleague the late Nelson Mandela. Recipient of Green Cross International Environmental Icon Award 2019.
September 11, 2020
Dr. Charles Ian McNeill serves as the Senior Advisor on Forests & Climate for the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) where he oversees the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative and forest and climate policy. Previously he served in UNDP for 25 years with responsibility for environmental policy and programs and empowering indigenous peoples and civil society. In 2014 he led the establishment of the New York Declaration on Forests, in 2008 he co-founded the UN-REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) Programme, and in 2002 he founded the Equator Initiative. Previously, Dr. McNeill was responsible for UNDP GEF’s global policy and programming and before that he managed UNDP’s Global Environment Facility (GEF) work in Africa. Before joining UNDP, he worked in the NGO sector on hunger eradication and sustainable development in South Asia and Africa. After receiving his Ph.D. in Genetics, with a focus on conservation biology, from the University of California at Davis, Charles held several academic posts addressing a range of environmental and development issues.
Grandmother Mona Polacca is a Hopi/Havasupai/Tewa elder. She is the Chair of the International Council of the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers. The elders of this Council come from the Amazon rainforest, the Alaskan Tundra, the great forests of the American North West, the vast plains of North America, the highlands of Central America, the Black Hills of South Dakota, the mountain ranges of Tibet and Nepal, the mountains of Oaxaca in Mexico the desert of the American South West, and from the rain forest of Central Africa. Mona is representative of the Indigenous World Forum on Water and Peace, a coalition of Indigenous leaders and organizations and others who wish to protect water for future generations. This is a vision from the elders and has the support of 60 organizations globally at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. She is the President/CEO of the Turtle Island Project, a non-profit program founded in 1986 by Western practitioners and Native American healers to blend the science of psychoneuroimmunology (mind/body/spirit medicine) with indigenous wisdom and practices. Mona also serves as a member of the World Council of Religious and Spiritual Leaders due to her international justice work.
Roman Guaraguaorix (Redhawk) Perez was born in the mountains of Kiskeya, Dominican Republic and presently resides in Brooklyn, New York. He is a respected community/spiritual leader and accomplished indigenous Taino artist, lecturer, storyteller, drummer and singer. He is the Kacike (chief) for Maisiti Yukayeke Taino; a tribe of the Taino Nation. Since 1990 Redhawk has participated in Vision Quest, Sundance, Sweat Lodges and Taino ceremonies. Roman Guaraguaorix comes from a long linage of farmers and healers in his family. Roman works with the sacred tobacco to help people with there own healing physical , emotional, spiritual and mental, helping open their own consciousness to various sacred plant medicines. Roman Redhawk facilitates and leads such ceremonies as; Vision Quest, Lodges ,Taino ceremonies as well as healing Retreats , he continues to use his indigenous teachings to help the people. Redhawk has done presentations on Northern and Taino native teachings at notable institutions, including major universities, public schools, The Peabody Museum, Brooklyn Museum of Art, and The Smithsonian Native American Museum and a certified fire starter for the White Bison recovery program, a program to help Native people deal with the grips of addiction. Inspired by the beautiful sounds of Taino instruments (log drums, shell, gourd rattles and conch shells) he also does presentations through song and dance. Roman is also an End of Life counselor and doula . He enjoys doing art work such as; working with feathers and painting with acrylics and other mediums, creating Taino and other Native works. Roman Redhawk is a curator and artist .
Chief Rabbi David Rosen, KSG, CBE, former Chief Rabbi of Ireland, is the International Director of Interreligious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee and Director of AJC's Heilbrunn Institute for International Interreligious Understanding. Rabbi Rosen is a member of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel's commission for Interreligious Dialogue; and serves on the Steering Committee of the Council of Heads of Religious in Israel. He is International President of the World Conference of Religion for Peace (WCRP), and a member of the Board of Directors of the King Abdullah International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, established by the King of Saudi Arabia and the governments of Austria and Spain together with the Holy See. He is also Honorary President of the International Council of Christians and Jews (ICCJ); serves on the Executive of the World Council of Religious Leaders and the Elijah Interfaith Institute’s Board of World Religious Leaders, and has served as a member of the Executive Committee of the World Congress of Imams and Rabbis and on the World Economic Forum's Council 100 for promoting relations and cooperation between the Muslim and Western worlds. Rabbi Rosen was a member of the Bilateral Commission of the State of Israel and the Holy See that negotiated the Fundamental Agreement between the two, leading to the establishment of full bilateral relations in 1994. In November 2005, Pope Benedict XVI made Rabbi Rosen a Knight of the Order of St Gregory the Great for his contribution to promoting Catholic-Jewish reconciliation; in 2010 he was made a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II for his contributions to interfaith relations; and in March 2016 he was awarded the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Hubert Walter Award for Reconciliation and Interfaith Cooperation From 1975 to 1979, Rabbi Rosen was the Senior Rabbi of the largest Jewish congregation in South Africa and rabbinic judge on the Ecclesiastical Court (Beth Din). He was also founder/chairman of the Inter-Faith Forum, the Council of Jews, Christians and Muslims. From 1979 to 1985, Rabbi Rosen was Chief Rabbi of Ireland where he founded, together with the Christian Primates of Ireland, the Irish Council of Christians and Jews. He was a member of the Academic Council as well as lecturer at the Irish School of Ecumenics. He returned to Israel in 1985 to take up the appointment of Dean at the Sapir Center for Jewish Education and Culture in the Old City of Jerusalem and subsequently became Professor of Jewish Studies at the Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies. He is a Founder of Rabbis for Human Rights, the Israel Jewish Council for Interreligious Relations, and the Rossing Centre for Jewish Christian Muslim relations.
Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati was raised in an American family in Hollywood, California, and graduated from Stanford University. She was completing her Ph.D. in Psychology when she left America in 1996 to live at Parmarth Niketan Ashram in Rishikesh, India. She has been living there for the past 24 years, engaged in spiritual practice and service. Sadhviji was officially initiated into the order of Sanyas (monastic renunciation) in the year 2000, by her Guru, His Holiness Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, one of India’s most revered spiritual leaders and the President of Parmarth Niketan. At Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh, where Sadhviji lives most of the year, she gives daily spiritual discourses and satsang, teaches meditation, provides counseling and oversees a myriad of charitable and humanitarian projects.
Nigel Savage founded Hazon, the Jewish lab for sustainability, in 2000. We have grown steadily each year since then. Today we have a wide range of programs, all focused on turning Jewish life outwards to create a more sustainable world for all – and strengthening Jewish life in the process in vital and innovative ways. Hazon is one of only two groups to have been recognized in every single Slingshot guide. We have been recognized by the Sierra Club as one of 50 leading faith-based environmental organizations. In 2015 Nigel was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Jewish Theological Seminary. He has twice been named a member of the Forward 50, the annual list of the 50 most influential Jewish people in the United States. He is a recipient of the Bernard Reisman Award, and has given Commencement speeches at Wagner (NYU, in 2011), at Hornstein (Brandeis, in 2014) and at Spertus (in Chicago, in 2018). Before founding Hazon, Nigel was a professional fund manager in London, where he worked for NM Rothschild and was co-head of UK Equities at Govett. He has an MA in History from Georgetown, and has learned at Pardes, Yakar, and the Hebrew University. He was a founder of Limmud NY, and serves on the board of Romemu. Nigel executive produced the British independent movies Solitaire For 2 and Stiff Upper Lips and had an acclaimed cameo appearance in the cult Anglo-Jewish comic movie, Leon The Pig Farmer. He is believed to be the first English Jew to have cycled across South Dakota on a recumbent bike.
Dr. Vandana Shiva is trained as a Physicist and did her Ph.D. on the subject “Hidden Variables and Non-locality in Quantum Theory” from the University of Western Ontario in Canada. She later shifted to inter-disciplinary research in science, technology and environmental policy, which she carried out at the Indian Institute of Science and the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore. In 1982, she founded an independent institute, the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology in Dehra Dun dedicated to high quality and independent research to address the most significant ecological and social issues of our times, in close partnership with local communities and social movements. In 1991, she founded Navdanya, a national movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources, especially native seed, the promotion of organic farming and fair trade. In 2004 she started Bija Vidyapeeth, an international college for sustainable living in Doon Valley in collaboration with Schumacher College, U.K.Dr. Shiva combines the sharp intellectual enquiry with courageous activism..Time Magazine identified Dr. Shiva as an environmental “hero” in 2003 and Asia Week has called her one of the five most powerful communicators of Asia.Forbes magazine in November 2010 has identified Dr. Vandana Shiva as one of the top Seven most Powerful Women on the Globe. Dr. Shiva has received honorary Doctorates from University of Paris, University of Western Ontario, University of Oslo and Connecticut College, University of Guelph. Among her many awards are the Alternative Nobel Prize (Right Livelihood Award, 1993), Order of the Golden Ark, Global 500 Award of UN and Earth Day International Award. Lennon ONO grant for peace award by Yoko Ono in 2009, Sydney Peace Prize in 2010, Doshi Bridgebuilder Award, Calgary Peace Prize and Thomas Merton Award in the year 2011,the Fukuoka Award and The Prism of Reason Award in 2012, the Grifone d’Argento prize 2016 and The MIDORI Prize for Biodiversity 2016, Veerangana Award 2018, The Sanctuary Wildlife Award 2018 and International Environment Summit & Award 2018.
Visionary Indian Statesman, Cultural Ambassador, Educationalist, Philanthropist, Author, Poet, Musician and Champion of Interfaith Dialogue and Understanding. INTRODUCTION You will find that I have been privileged to enjoy a rather unique spectrum of experiences. Indeed my life seems to fall into 18-year modules. I was born into the ruling family of the State of Jammu & Kashmir, one of the largest of the hundreds of Indian States within the British empire. My father was Maharaja, and as the only son, I would have succeeded him in due course. The first phase of my life therefore was as a Crown Prince, although in public school I got no privileged treatment. Then began a prolonged medical problem which had me on my back for 18 months... Please see extensive bio here: http://www.karansingh.com/bio/
Jyotsna Singh, PhD Delhi University (Philosophy) is Director of The Dara Shikoh Centre and The Amar Mahal Museum and Library, Jammu and Kashmir, India. Jyotsna Singh is also Trustee of the Temple of Understanding, India. Jyotsna Singh founded the Dara Shikoh Centre in Srinagar, Kashmir in 2008 to engage young people at various levels and to present experts in different fields including environmentalists to share their special interest in the Himalayan region's natural and cultural diversity. They present several festivals, workshops, seminars and performances, the last was held in Leh, Ladakh in 2018. They have also supported the international youth mentorship program, Dara Shikoh Fellowship, for artists scholars and researchers. Jyotsna Singh is director of a private museum in Jammu, India, where outreach programs are conducted, particularly in the area of miniature art, by supporting a teacher-apprentice deep learning model. They have held several seminars and performances highlighting the rich spiritual traditions of the region as well as inviting speakers on built and natural heritage. Singh works as a potter and enamelist, working on sculptural forms in metal and fired enamels.
William E. Swing, 7th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California (1980-2006), was born in Huntington, West Virginia. He graduated from Kenyon College and Virginia Theological Seminary, and holds six honorary degrees. Bishop Swing served as a priest in Wheeling, Weirton, and Chester, West Virginia. He also started a church at Waterford Park Race Track in Chester, pioneered homeless work in San Francisco, and played a critical role in saving St. Luke’s Hospital. He served on the Board of the American Foundation for AIDS research for 20 years and has spoken throughout the world. He was instrumental in starting a capital development bank in Oakland. He is known as an outspoken leader about the standing of gays and lesbians in the church. He led the radical expansion of the Bishop’s Ranch in Healdsburg, California. Bishop Swing is the Founder and President of the United Religions Initiative. He is married to Mary Taylor Swing and has two children and three grandchildren. Bishop Swing is an inspirational speaker and an author, most recently of A Bishop's Quest: Founding a United Religions and The Sacred and the Silly: A Bishop's Playful and Eventful Life. Both books are available on Amazon.com; the proceeds of book sales will benefit URI. https://uri.org/rt-rev-william-e-swing
Heather McTeer Toney was the first African-American, first female and the youngest to serve as Mayor of Greenville, Mississippi from 2004-2012. In 2014, she was appointed by President Barack Obama as Regional Administrator for Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Southeast Region. Known for her energetic and genuine commitment to people, her work has made her a national figure in the area of public service, environmental justice and community engagement. She currently serves as the National Field Director for Moms Clean Air Force, an organization of over 1 million moms and dads committed to fighting climate change and protecting children from the dangers of air pollution. Heather is also a sought-after speaker and writer. The daughter of a civil rights attorney and public school teacher, Heather was born and raised in Greenville, Mississippi. In 2003, she was elected Mayor of the City of Greenville and reelected for a second term in 2007. Under her leadership, the city thrived, emerged from significant debt, and received millions of dollars in grants and federal assistance. At EPA, Mrs. Toney was responsible for protecting public health and the environment in eight southeastern states, as well as six federally recognized tribes; making Region 4 the most populated and diverse of ten regions. In addition, she led efforts to maintain and enhance the quality of work life for Region 4’s approximately 1,000 employees while effectively managing a budget of more than $500 million. Heather has served in several roles throughout her career including one of the National Spokeswomen for She Should Run!, a National Organization that encourages women to run for office. She is an expert on environmental and climate justice with SheSource, a publication of the Women’s Media Center and has worked around the world. She is known for advocating and training diverse officials on leadership and climate in over 15 countries including Kenya, France, Portugal, Nigeria and Senegal. She has appeared on news outlets such as CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and Democracy Now! She has written for and been featured in numerous papers including the New York Times and the Washington Post. McTeer Toney was featured in the May 2005 issue of Essence Magazine as one of the “50 Most Remarkable Women in the World. She is also one of the winners of Marie Claire Magazine’s “Women on Top” awards. Heather is often a guest on various Sirux/XM radio shows and was included in the PBS/AOL documentary entitled “MAKERS”, where she appears alongside noted women such as Hilary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice. Mrs. Toney earned a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Spelman College in Atlanta. She earned her law degree from the Tulane University School of Law. Heather is a member of numerous organizations, is an avid athlete that loves triathlons. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and an active member of Oxford University United Methodist Church. She is married to Dexter Toney and they have three children.
Trungram Gyalwa Rinpoche, PhD Trungram Gyalwa Rinpoche, PhD, has rare access to the ancient wisdom of Buddhist teachings—and a rare ability make them easily accessible to westerners. A prominent incarnate lama, Rinpoche has the distinction of having been taught by the heads of Tibetan Buddhism’s four major lineages. Yet, even as a young boy, Rinpoche was aware that the great benefits of Buddhism would be limited if practitioners were restricted to traditional forms of study. First, he mastered multiple languages in order to more effectively reach people in different areas of the world. Then, after completing his eastern training, he realized that to teach western audiences, he needed a western education. When he graduated from Harvard University in 2004, he was the first incarnate lama to earn a PhD in the West.
Mary Evelyn Tucker is a Senior Lecturer and Research Scholar at Yale University where she has appointments in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies as well as the Divinity School and the Department of Religious Studies. She teaches in the joint MA program in religion and ecology and directs the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale with her husband, John Grim.
Venerable Dr. Yifa is Founder of Woodenfish Foundation. She became a nun at Fo Guang Shan Monastery in Taiwan in 1979. She received a law degree from National Taiwan University, a MA in comparative philosophy from University of Hawaii and her Ph.D. in religious studies from Yale University in 1996. She has been the Dean at Fo Guang Shan Buddhist College and the Provost at Hsi Lai University, a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley and Harvard University, a lecturer at Boston University and a faculty member at National Sun Yat-Sen University in Taiwan. She taught at McGill University and served as the chair of Department of Religious Studies at the University of the West in Los Angeles. She has been granted numerous awards including “the Ten Outstanding Young Persons” in Taiwan in 1997, “Outstanding Women in Buddhism Award” in 2003 bestowed by the UN in Bangkok, and “Juliet Hollister Award” in 2006, for her contribution to Peace and Interfaith Education. Yifa is currently based in Beijing, and travels often to meet scholars and members of the global Buddhist community.
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