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Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid Re-Elected as Parliament Board Chair; Rabbi Michael Balinsky and Lewis Cardinal Elected Vice-Chairs

Board Chair Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid is an award-winning author and a producer with a focus on contemporary social issues, public policy and Islam-West relations. Twice selected as one the 500 most influential Muslims in the world in 2011 and 2012, Imam Mujahid currently chairs Burma Task Force USA, a coalition of 19 major American organizations to stop the genocide in Burma. As the national coordinator of the Bosnia Task Force, USA, he successfully led efforts to declare rape as a war crime in collaboration with the National Organization of Women (NOW). Imam Mujahid, based in Chicago, is the founder of Sound Vision which also runs the nation’s only daily Radio Islam. He has authored more than 400 articles on Islamic living and public policy, and is a blogger on the Huffington Post. His book on political sociology was the winner of an Outstanding Academic Book of the Year Award by the American Library Association in 1990. He is a graduate of Darul Uloom Shah Waliullah in Pakistan, and in political science from the University of Chicago.

With a new year comes a new Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees at the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions. 2014 will be guided by Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid who has been re-elected to serve as Chair, and will work alongside Vice-Chair Rabbi Michael Balinsky of Chicago, and the first Vice-Chair from Indigenous Communities, Lewis Cardinal of Canada.

Re-elected Board Chair, Abdul Malik Mujahid, a leading imam in Chicago’s Muslim community, begins the year feeling honored by the Parliament, which he says is “moving from strength to strength.”

With goals to continue building the organization, Imam Mujahid also reflects, “as the interfaith movement has doubled in the last ten years, it is time that the interfaith organizations build their capacity to serve the interfaith movement better for a greater world of peaceful coexistence with all the God’s creation. ”

With Rabbi Michael Balinsky and communications executive Lewis Cardinal of Canada serving as Vice-Chairs, the Parliament board will be nourished by a talented interfaith collaboration (see their profiles below). Imam Mujahid is pleased to be working closely with leaders in the Jewish and Indigenous communities, saying:

As a head rabbi in Chicago, Michael brings with him a whole lot of wisdom, along with his connections with the Jewish Federation and passion for serving young people. We are fortunate to have him as our vice-chair of the board. He will also lead our development standing committee.  Lewis Cardinal uses few words to speak louder for indigenous communities. Interfaith needs to learn to communicate better… and he is the man, as president of the largest communication network in Canada for the voiceless indigenous people. He will also be leading the Parliament’s Task Force on indigenous people. “

The Executive Committee elected for 2014 is comprised of Parliament trustees from a wide range of professions and faith traditions, from Sikhism to Jainism, Baptist Christianity and Wicca, to Judaism and Islam.

Kuldeep Singh began a second trustee term this year and joins the Executive Committee as the Secretary of the Board, as well as by chairing the Human Resources committee of the board.  Kirit Daftary was elected Treasurer of the Board  and will Chair the Finance Committee.  Those also elected committee chairs are Phyllis Curott for Governance, Rabbi Michael Balinsky for Development, Dr. Mohammad Siddiqi for Communications, and Dr. Rob Sellers for Nominating.

For more information on the plans of the Parliament board, please see  Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid Chairs’ Report for year-end 2013 here. 

Rabbi Michael Balinsky, Vice-Chair 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, and serves on the executive committee of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago. 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, after two and a half years as the Associate Director of Hillel at the University of Michigan.


Lewis Cardinal, Vice-Chair is the first vice-chair of the Parliament of the World’s Religions from the indigenous communities. He is Founder and Co-Chair of the Indigenous Peoples’ Art and Culture Coalition, Board member of Little Warriors, former Chair of Edmonton Aboriginal Urban Affairs Committee, Bissell Centre Board of Governors, Chair and Founder of Global Indigenous Dialogue, Executive Vice-President of the Aboriginal Voices Radio Network, and recently appointed to the Board of Directors for the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters. Lewis is the owner of Cardinal Strategic Communications, specializing in education, governance, and communications.

Educating Religious Leaders for a Multi-Religious World

by CPWR Trustee Anantanand Rambachan

Participants of the first meeting of the Task Force on Phase II of Educating Religious Leaders for a      Multi-religious World.

The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions was pleased to facilitate an interfaith gathering of 17 key leaders, representing 10 different faith traditions to explore the preparation and role of religious leaders in an increasingly interreligious world. The meeting was held on October 7-8, 2012 in California at the Claremont School of Theology of Claremont Lincoln University.

Little attention has been given to the nature of leadership or leadership education across religious and spiritual traditions. Still less is known about the role of multi-religious considerations in the preparation of religious leaders in most religious and spiritual communities.

This group will gather again in the spring 2013 in New York to continue its study of the nature of leadership and leadership education across religious and spiritual traditions.  Specifically, the Task Force focuses on the role of multi-religious considerations in the preparation of religious leaders in various religious and spiritual communities.

Educating Religious Leaders for a Multi-Religious World is a project of The Council for a Parliament of the World Religions and funded by The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.

Attached is a photo of Participants of the first meeting of the Task Force on Phase II of Educating Religious Leaders for a Multi-religious World.

Their names and titles are:

Back Row, left to right: 
Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer, Director, Department of Multifaith Studies and Initiatives; Associate Professor of Religious Studies Reconstructionist Rabbinical College; Mr. Jeff Albert, Bahai Representative; Dr. Anantanand Rambachan, CPWR Board Member and Department Chair and Professor or Religion, Philosophy and Asian Studies, Saint Olaf College; DrDonald Swearer, Phase I Project Task Force Member and Harvard Divinity School Director of the Center for the Study of World Religions; Dr. William Lesher, Former CPWR Chair; Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi, Director of Community Outreach, Islamic Society of North America

Front Row, left to right:

Mr. Varun Soni, Dean of Religious Life, University of Southern California; Dr. Heidi Hadsell, President, Hartford Seminary; Dr. Azizah al-Hibri, Professor of Law, T. C. Williams School of Law, University of Richmond and Founder and President, KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights; Mr. Kuldeep Singh, President, Sikh Youth Alliance of North America (SYANA).

Council Welcomes New Trustees

In a commitment to extending its reach to diverse religious and spiritual communities, the Board of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, at its October 24-25, 2010 meeting, elected seven new Trustees for a three-year term:

Ms. Anju Bhargava (Hindu)
Mr. Kirit Daftary (Jain)
Dr. Robert Henderson (Baha’i)
Ms. Mary Nelson (Christian)
Mr. Christopher Peters (Native American)
Dr. Anantanand Rambachan (Hindu)
Mr. Kuldeep Singh (Sikh)

The Council also welcomed to their inaugural meeting four Trustees who were elected in April 2010:

Mrs. Ginny K. Jolly (Sikh)
Dr. Leo D. Lefebure (Catholic)
Rabbi Brant Rosen (Jewish)
Dr. Robert P. Sellers (Christian)

(For more detailed bios, please see below)

The roots of the Council go back to the historic 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions, hosted in conjunction with the World Columbian Exhibition in Chicago, marking the first time in history the traditions of East and West met for formal interreligious dialogue.

Chicago was the site for the centennial celebration of this event with the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions, held in August of that year. Subsequent Parliament events have been held in Cape Town, South Africa in 1999, Barcelona, Spain in 2004, and most recently, Melbourne, Australia in 2009.

Parliaments of the World’s Religions are the largest and most diverse interreligious gatherings in the world. 6,500 participants from over 80 countries representing over 200 religious, spiritual and traditional communities attended the most recent Parliament in Melbourne.

The Council is also establishing a network of locally based interreligious movements in over 70 cities worldwide.

The Council is governed by a board of 35 Trustees, with persons of Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Jain, Jewish, Hindu, Indigenous, Pagan, Sikh, Zoroastrian, and humanistic traditions.


Elected October 2010

Ms. Anju Bhargava (Hindu)

Anju Bhargava is a Strategic Business Transformation and Risk Management professional and management consultant. She has provided thought leadership in the public and private sectors, published papers and received many awards.  She is the only Hindu American appointed to President Obama’s Inaugural Advisory Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and was the only Indian-American to serve in the Community Builder Fellowship, President Clinton’s White House initiative.  She is the Founder of Hindu American Seva Charities, which is now a national movement for Hindu faith-based community service programs addressing social issues.  For more than twenty years she has been a Hindu representative to the Interfaith Clergy Association of Livingston, New Jersey.  An ordained pujari, she strives to combine philosophy and practice from a contemporary view and is active in Hindu education. She blogs “On Faith” for the Washington Post.  She was a founding member of the New Jersey Corporate Diversity Network and is the President of Asian Indian Women in America (AIWA).

Mr. Kirit Daftary (Jain)

Kirit C. Daftary is a leader in the North American Jain community and is active in a number of organizations including the Jain Association of North America (JAINA) which he has served as president and the local Jain Center of North Texas of which he has also been the head.  Currently, he is the President of Anuvibha of North America, a UN/NGO organization based in India and spiritually guided by Acharya Mahapragya Ji, the disciple of Acharya Tulsi. Kirit has a passion for the message of non-violence and the promotion of peace and harmony and is a frequent speaker including at universities. Since 2006, he has been associated with Parliament activities and was an Ambassador of the 2009 Parliament as well as active in the site selection process for 2009. He is a metallurgical engineer and received and M.B.A. and an M.A. from Wayne State University. He currently owns a successful import company dealing with India, China and Korea.

Dr. Robert C. Henderson (Bahá’i)

Robert C. Henderson is a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, the national governing body of the American Bahá’í community. He has extensive experience in the fields of business, government, and education. He co-founded Henderson Zorich Consulting, which specializes in management consulting and leadership and diversity training, with his daughter, Dr. Camille Henderson. His clients have included such Fortune 100 companies as Amoco, AT&T, General Electric, Hallmark, Mobil, United Technologies, and Xerox, as well as the Chicago White Sox. Dr. Henderson served as a Federal Commissioner of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Commission and designed and led meetings of California Supreme Court members, judges and lawyers to establish a California State Supreme Court Commission on Race and Ethnic Bias.  Dr. Henderson’s public speaking engagements are numerous; highlights include a plenary address given at the invitation of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to the international conference, “Educating Girls: A Development Imperative,” and an address to an “Education Against Hatred” Seminar at Haifa University sponsored by the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.  He was invited by President Clinton’s Advisory Board on Race to participate in the religious forum held in Louisville, Kentucky. Robert Henderson holds a doctorate in Education from the University of Massachusetts (1976).  He has published several articles and books on management systems and in-service training programs.

Ms. Mary Nelson (Christian – Lutheran)

Mary Nelson has spent the last forty years working in faith-based community development on the west side of Chicago, seeking to carry out the asset based community development principles in concrete ways through her leadership of Bethel New Life, Inc.  She received an MAT from Brown University and a PhD from Union Graduate School.  Her focus has been community based planning and development, and Bethel New Life, under her leadership, grew from an all-volunteer organization to a nationally recognized community development corporation. Mary transitioned in 2006 from the leadership of Bethel New Life into a senior associate/President Emeritus position. She is former chair of the Board of Mid American Leadership Foundation, Woodstock Institute and National Congress for Community Economic Development. She is on the national Boards of Sojourners (currently as Chair) and Christian Community Development Association.  She has also had a number of government appointments.  Mary has been teaching graduate university courses for over fifteen years and does workshops on community development and faith based community development all over the world.  She is currently the coordinator of the Loyola University (Chicago) Institute of Pastoral Studies (IPS) Masters in Social Justice and Community Development.

Mr. Christopher Peters (Native American)

Christopher Peters (Pohlik-lah/Karuk) was born and raised on his people’s territories in northwestern California. He is President and CEO of the Seventh Generation Fund for Indian Development, a Native led Indigenous Peoples public Foundation which supports grassroots Indigenous communities in the Americas and beyond. For more than thirty-five years his work has focused on grassroots social justice organizing, protecting sacred sites, working for holistic community renewal, rebuilding traditional economies, and supporting cultural revitalization efforts. Chris is a well-known and leading advocate for the protection of Native American prayer places and ceremonial life with long experience and expertise on the legal aspects of these issues. He has fought on the frontlines of environmental justice struggles to protect aboriginal ecosystems from the devastating effects of clear-cut logging, dam development, mining, recreational development and the negative impacts that the nuclear industry and globalization has inflicted upon Indigenous Peoples and homelands. Chris has a B.S. degree from the University of California, Davis, and an M.A. degree from Stanford University.

Dr. Anantanand Rambachan (Hindu)

Anant Rambachan, an internationally known scholar of Hinduism, is Professor of Religion and Chair of the Department of Religion at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, where he has taught since 1985. A native of Trinidad, he received the M.A. and Ph. D. from the University of Leeds, England. He is the author of many books including The Hindu Vision (1992), Gitamrtam: The Essential Teaching of the Bhagavadgita [Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1993), and The Advaita Worldview: God, World and Humanity (2006). He has been active in interfaith programs with the World Council of Churches as well as the Vatican for twenty-five years as well as in the local setting in Minnesota. He is widely respected as a spokesperson for Hinduism and a bridge-builder between Hindus and other religious communities.

Mr. Kuldeep Singh (Sikh)

Mr. Kuldeep Singh has lived in the US since 1971 and “is probably known to and respected by nearly every Sikh in the United States,” according to Tarunjit Singh Butalia. He is currently President of Sikh Youth Federation-USA, established in 1968. He was Chairperson (1998 -2001 and 2003 -2004) of the World Sikh Council-America Region, which is the representative body of Sikh Gurdwaras and other Sikh institutions in the USA. He actively participated in the formation of the World Sikh Council and in 1996 was unanimously selected as the founder-coordinator of the World Sikh Council-America Region. He has organized Sikh youth camps in the summer for the last thirty-seven years for Sikh youth from across the US and Canada. He is an able fundraiser within the Sikh community. He is a sought-after speaker and has spoken at nearly every national and international Sikh conference and seminars and also organizes many such events.  He helped organize the Sikh presence at the Chicago 1993 Parliament and provided assistance in encouraging Sikhs from across the world to attend the Melbourne 2009 Parliament, at which he was a major speaker.

Elected March 2010

Mrs. Ginny K. Jolly (Sikh)

Ginny K. Jolly is on the board of FATEH (Fellowship for Activists To Embrace Humanity) a nonprofit organization involved in service projects for the community.  She has been instrumental in aligning with other organizations like Habitat for Humanity, March of Dimes, and Make a Wish Foundation to arrange many service projects in the Chicago community. To give something back to the community, which she strongly promotes, she has adopted a special needs child from Vietnam.  She is using her Masters of Nutrition education in effectively managing two GNC stores and helping clients in their health needs. An aspiring Sikh, and proud mother of three, Jolly was on the PTO for Willow Creek School for four years in charge of the school’s cultural programs.

Dr. Leo D. Lefebure (Catholic)

Leo D. Lefebure is the Matteo Ricci, S.J., Professor of Theology at Georgetown University and a priest of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago. He is the author of four books, including Revelation, the Religions, and Violence and The Buddha and the Christ. His next book will be Following the Path of Wisdom: a Christian Commentary on the Dhammapada, which is co-authored with Peter Feldmeier. He is an honorary research fellow of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Rabbi Brant Rosen (Jewish)

Rabbi Brant Rosen has served as rabbi of Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation (JRC) in Evanston, IL, since 1998. A long-time activist for peace, social justice and human rights, Rabbi Rosen is the co-founder of Ta’anit Tzedek – Jewish Fast for Gaza serves as the co-chair of the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbnical Council. Rabbi Rosen’s writings appear regularly in his blog, Shalom Rav, and he has published articles for the Huffington Post, the Chicago Tribune and the New York Jewish Week. In 2008, Rabbi Rosen was honored by Newsweek magazine as one of the Top 25 Pulpit Rabbis in America.

Dr. Robert P. Sellers (Christian – Baptist)

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.