Plenary Speakers at the 8th World Congress for Religious Freedom

Our line-up of plenary speakers for the 8th World Congress for Religious Freedom together represent an extraordinary breadth of experience and expertise in the field of religious freedom and peace-making. These internationally renowned scholars, public officials, religious leaders, and advocates come from a broad range of faith traditions and represent some 20 different nationalities. They include:

  • Pasquale Annicchino, PhD,

    is a Research Fellow at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, and writes and speakers extensively on religious freedom issues.
    He has been adjunct professor of law at Brigham Young University Law School and a visiting professor at the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium). He received his Ph.D. in Law from the University of Siena and studied in several other universities in Europe and the United States: Charles University in Prague, the European Academy of Legal Theory, Emory Law School, and University College London, where he also served as editor in chief of the UCL Human Rights Review. He serves as book review editor for Religion and Human Rights: An International Journal and is a member of the editorial board of Quaderni di Diritto e Politica Ecclesiasticapublished by Il Mulino. He is the author of Esportare la Libertà Religiosa. Il Modello Americano nell’Arena Globale (Exporting Religious Freedom. The American Model in the Global Arena), published in 2015 by Il Mulino.
  • Andrea Bartoli, PhD,

    is the Dean of the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University, New Jersey, and he has both academic and practical perspectives to share on the role of religion in peace-making.
    Before his appointment, Bartoli served as dean of George Mason University's School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR). He has more than two decades’ experience as an international conflict resolution expert, serving in key academic and diplomatic positions around the globe. Bartoli founded and directed the Center for International Conflict Resolution (CICR) at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) where he remains a Senior Research Scholar at the Saltzman Institute on War and Peace Studies. He has served as the Permanent Representative of the Community of Sant'Egidio to the United Nations and the United States since 1992. He has been involved in numerous peacemaking processes including in Mozambique (1990–1992), Guatemala (1995), Algeria (1995), Kosovo (1998), Burundi (1999-2000), Democratic Republic of the Congo (1996-current) and Casamance (1994- current). Bartoli has also been a participant in the U.S. State Department's testimony on Religious Persecution Abroad before Congress and was a member of the Department of State’s Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group. Bartoli also oversaw the development and implementation of CICR and S-CAR's interventions in Burma/Myanmar, East Timor, Colombia, Iraq and the African Great Lakes Region.
  • Neville George Callam, PhD,

    is General Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of the Baptist World Alliance, a movement which has membership in 121 countries comprising a community of 42 million and serving a worldwide Baptist family of 110 million.
    Author or editor of seven books, the most recent being Pursuing Unity and Defending Rights: The Baptist World Alliance at Work (2010), Dr. Callam has made presentations at fora, symposia, seminars, workshops and services of worship in more than 70 countries. He was one of the electoral observers serving on behalf of the United Nations in the elections in South Africa in 1994 which saw Nelson Mandela becoming President of that country. He has served as educator and media manager, theologian and ecumenist, pastor and church administrator. He was founding director of the National Religious Media Company of Jamaica, a radio and television broadcasting company and established the community radio station, The Breath of Change, and served as its Board Chairman. He also served as chairman of the Board of Directors of the Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica, a public statutory organization. An ecumenist, Dr. Callam held several leadership positions in the Jamaica Council of Churches and was, for thirteen years, a member of the prestigious Standing Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches. The Faith and Order movement serves the churches in their effort to resolve doctrinal issues adversely affecting their unity. Dr. Callam has been conferred with honorary doctorates by Dallas Baptist University in Texas and Judson University in Illinois, USA, and by the Caribbean Graduate School of Theology in Jamaica.
  • Ana María Celis Brunet, PhD,

    is Professor in the Faculty of Law of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (UC), where she teaches Canon Law and Law and Religion, as well as post graduate courses in different programs.
    She received her License and Doctoral degree in Canon Law at the Pontificia Università Gregoriana (Rome, Italy) with the dissertation La relevancia canónica del matrimonio civil a la luz de la Teoría general del Acto jurídico, contribución teórica a la experiencia jurídica chilena. Professor Celis is an ecclesiastical lawyer before the Ecclesiastical Court of Santiago. She is Director of the Center for Law and Religion at UC, which began in 2005 as Centro de Libertad Religiosa, a center for studying Church-State matters and promoting religious freedom. She was the secretary and then President (2013-2016) of the Consorcio Latinoamericano de Libertad Religiosa (Latin American Consortium for Religious Freedom). She was elected President of the International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies (ICLARS) in September 2016.
  • Blandine Chelini-Pont, PhD,

    is a professor in History, Law and Religion at Aix-Marseille Université who has researched and written extensively on historical and contemporary issues related to religion, law and society.
    Prior to her current position, she was an assistant professor in History, Law, and Religion at the Université Paul Cézanne. She is an associate member of GSRL-École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris. She also serves as a regional delegate of French Institut des Amériques (IDA), and of the Institut Européen en Sciences des Religions (IESR). She obtained a PhD in International Relations Contemporary-History from Scienc Po Paris. She is the author of The Catholic Right in the US: The Cold War to the 2000’s (2013), co-author with Rim Gtari of The Equality of Women in Tunisia: History and Uncertainty of a Legal Revolution (2015), co-author with T. Jeremy Gunn of God in France and the United States: When the Myths are Law (2005), and co-author with Jean Chelini of History of the Church: Our Roots to Understand Our Present (1993). She has many publications to her credit including editing The Directory of Law and Religion, Volume 7 (2014), contributing to Law and Architecture (BEACH, 2014), to Religion and the Secular State: National Reports (2015), and to Religious Freedom and Social Cohesion: The French Diversity (2015).
  • Ganoune Diop, PhD,

    an internationally known academic, advocate, and author, has served as Secretary General of the International Religious Liberty Association since October 2015.
    Prior to his election to this position, he served nine years as a Deputy Secretary General of the IRLA with responsibility for liaising with the United Nations in New York and Geneva, and other international institutions. Diop has a Masters in Exégèses and Theology from Collonges, France, a Masters degree in Philiology from the University of Paris, and a PhD in Old Testament Studies from Andrews University. Most recently he was honored with a Doctorate Honoris Causa, granted for his contributions to developing a global culture of human rights and respect for human dignity. Diop is also an ordained Seventh-day Adventist minister, and has served as a local church pastor, conference departmental director, and professor of Biblical Languages, Exegesis, and Theology at Saleve Adventist University in France, and later at Southern Adventist University and Oakwood University in the United States. Diop also served as director of five Global Mission Study Centers of Adventist Mission. He is director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty for the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s world headquarters, and also serves as Secretary of the Conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions, a group of leaders from diverse Christian traditions that comes together for annual dialogues.
  • Dr. James Christie, B.Th., M.Div., M.A., D.Min.,

    is Professor of Whole World Ecumenism and Dialogue Theology in the United Centre for Theological Studies and former Dean of the Faculty of Theology of The University of Winnipeg.
    He is a life-long ecumenist, a pioneer in dialogue theology, and a leading religious diplomat. Since 2010, he has served as Director of the Ridd Institute for Religion and Global Policy in the Global College of The University of Winnipeg. From 2005-2006, he was Inaugural Dean of the Global College, in addition to his duties in the Faculty of Theology. Dr. Christie is extensively engaged with various international NGOs and dialogues. He has served in many capacities, such as Secretary General of the 2010 Religious Leaders’ Summit on the sidelines of the G8 Political Summit; chair of the Council of the World Federalist Movement/Institute for Global Policy; and Chair of the Governing Council of Project Ploughshares, one of the leading peace research agencies in the world. An author in multiple genres, Dr. Christie is the recipient of the 2013 Associated Church Press Award of Excellence for: Theological Reflection, Short Format, All Media.
  • Karnik Doukmetzian

    is the director of the Office of General Counsel at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Silver Spring, Maryland, and has extensive experience in religious freedom law in North America, especially in relation to religious institutions.
    Prior to his appointment in 2009, Mr. Doukmetzian worked for Adventist Risk Management (ARM) for 12 years as Claims Counsel, and as Vice President responsible for the Legal Services, Claims, Captive Underwriting and Risk Placement Departments. Before joining ARM, he was General Counsel, and Trust Services and Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Director for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada. Mr. Doukmetzian graduated from York University in Toronto, Ontario with an honors bachelor's degree in Strategic Studies. In 1982 he earned his law degree from the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada. He is licensed to practice law in both the United States and Canada, and is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada and the State Bars of the District of Columbia and the State of Tennessee. He is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court. He is also a member of the American Bar Association, Association of Corporate Counsel, Canadian Bar Association and the Defense Research Institute.
  • W. Cole Durham, Jr., PhD,

    a prolific author, editor, and internationally renowned scholar, is the Susa Young Gates University Professor of Law at Brigham Young University and Founding Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies.
    He has served in many different advisory capacities to governments and institutions around the world on issues of religious freedom. He holds an AB degree in Philosophy magna cum laude from Harvard College, and a juris doctor degree from Harvard Law School. He is currently the President of the International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies (ICLARS), based in Milan, Italy, and a Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Journal of Law and Religion. Professor Durham has taught at the Brigham Young University Law School since 1976. Since 1994, he has also been a Recurring Visiting Professor of Law at Central European University in Budapest. Professor Durham has been involved in constitutional drafting projects in Nepal (2011 and 2009), Thailand (2007), and Iraq (2005-06). He has worked on constitutional and statutory drafting projects throughout Eastern Europe and in most former Soviet bloc countries. He served from 1997-2013 as a member of the Advisory Council on Freedom of Religion or Belief of the OSCE’s Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. He is a Vice President of the International Academy for Freedom of Religion and Belief and serves as a board member of church-state centers at DePaul and Baylor Universities, of the International Religious Liberty Association, and of the International Advisory Board of the Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief. Professor Durham has been involved in consultations on constitutional issues and laws in almost 50 countries, from Argentina, to Iraq, to Vietnam.
  • John Esposito, PhD,

    a leading American scholar, is Professor of Religion and International Affairs and of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University and Founding Director of the Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.
    Previously, he was Loyola Professor of Middle East Studies, College of the Holy Cross. Dr. Esposito is Past President of the American Academy of Religion and Middle East Studies Association of North America. He has served as consultant to the U.S. Department of State and other agencies, European and Asian governments, corporations, universities, and media worldwide and ambassador for the UN Alliance of Civilizations and was a member of the World Economic Forum’s Council of 100 Leaders and E. C. European Network of Experts on De-Radicalisation. He has received honorary doctorates from St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto, the University of Sarajevo, University of Florida and Immaculata University as well as the American Academy of Religion’s Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion, Pakistan’s Quaid-i-Azzam Award for Outstanding Contributions in Islamic Studies, Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service Outstanding Teacher Award and Georgetown’s Career Research Achievement Award. Dr. Esposito’s more than 45 books include: The Future of Islam, Islamophobia and the Challenge of Pluralism in the 21st Century; Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think (with Dalia Mogahed); Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam; The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality?; and, World Religions Today and Religion and Globalization (with D. Fasching & T. Lewis). He is Editor-in-Chief of Oxford Islamic Studies Online and Series Editor of The Oxford Library of Islamic Studies.
  • César García

    is General Secretary of the Mennonite World Conference (MWC), an organization that serves some 1.4 million members around the world, and which plays a leading role globally in modeling religion-led peacemaking.
    Rev. García is from Bogotá, Colombia, and his election in 2012 marked the first time a leader from the global South has served in this role. Prior to his election, García, was chair of the Iglesias Hermanos Menonitas de Colombia (Mennonite Brethren Churches of Colombia), secretary of the MWC Mission Commission and as a member of MWC’s task force on the creation of a new network of service ministries. In addition, he has been active in inter-Anabaptist and ecumenical endeavors in Colombia. He has also been a church planter, pastor, and professor of Bible and Theology. Mennonite World Conference (MWC) represents a majority of the global family of Christian churches rooted in the 16th century Radical Reformation in Europe, particularly in the Anabaptist movement. MWC membership includes one international association and 102 Mennonite and Brethren in Christ national churches from 56 countries.
  • John Graz, PhD

    is founding director of the International Center for Religious Freedom and Public Affairs at the Adventist Campus in Collonges-sous-Salève, France, and is an internationally renowned advocate for religious freedom.
    For more than two decades, he was Secretary General of the International Religious Liberty Association and director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty for the Seventh-day Adventist world church. He received his Bachelor of Theology from the Adventist Faculty of Theology in 1971 and his Bachelor's and Master's degree in History from Paul Valery University in Montpellier. In 1986, he received his PhD from Sorbonne University, Paris IV, under Direction of Professor Jean Bauberot. In 2015, Dr. Graz also received the Doctorate Honoris Causa from the University of Wallachia in Targoviste, Romania. From 2003 to 2014, he was Secretary of the Conference of Secretaries of the World Christians Communions, a group of leaders from each of the major Christian denominations that meets yearly for dialogue. His work on behalf of religious freedom and interfaith relations has earned Dr. Graz recognition from governments and international associations. Among them: The First Freedom Center 2011 Religious Freedom National Award, Richmond, Virginia; The 2014 International Religious Freedom Award of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society; and, The International Center for Law and Religious Studies in Washington, DC. Dr. Graz organized the 1997 IRLA World Congress for Religious Freedom in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; the 2002 World Congress in Manila, Philippines; 2007 Congress in Cape Town, South Africa; and the 2012 Congress in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. One his signature achievements was the creation of the International Religious Freedom Festivals to celebrate religious freedom. These large-scale events took place on six continents, including the 1st Religious Freedom Festivals in 2009 in Lima, Peru, and the 2 nd festival in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2013. As an international lecturer and author, his articles and books have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
  • Amal Idrissi, PhD,

    is Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Moulay Ismail in Meknès, Morocco, with an expertise in the role of women within contemporary Islamic cultures.
    She was previously a professor in the law faculty of the Université Hassan I in Settat, Morocco. Her studies leading to a doctorate at the Université Hassan II in Casablanca were in law and political science. She previously taught at the Université Hassan II in Mohammedia. Her expertise is in public law and environmental law and she received a National Doctorate in Public Law from Hassan II University in Casablanca. In addition to teaching public law and constitutional law, her research interests and publications focus on women and law in the Muslim world. She co-wrote, with T. Jeremy Gunn, the article on Morocco for the Brill Encyclopedia of Law and Religion.
  • Elizabeta Kitanović, PhD,

    is Executive Secretary for Human Rights and Communication of the Church and Society Commission of the Council of European Churches in Brussels and is a senior human rights advocate liaison with international organizations.
    She is editor of the Human Rights Training Manuel for European Churches and is editor and founder of the first European Churches Human Rights Library and the Church and Society Commission Annual Report. She has twice been nominated for membership of the Advisory Panel of the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency. Ms. Kitanovic completed her studies in Theology and post-graduate studies in International Affairs of the Political Science Faculty in Belgrade. She graduated from the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Serbian Government. Prior to her current position, she worked for the Serbian Orthodox Church and then for the Ministry of Religious Affairs of the Serbian Government as Adviser for Interreligious Affairs. Ms. Kitanovic regularly gives lectures and presentations in the area of human rights and communications. She speaks English, French, Greek and Serbian.
  • Erton Köhler

    is president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in South America, a region that encompasses more than 2 million church members, 10,600 congregations, and many health care and educational institutions, including 15 universities.
    Prior to his election as president in 2007, he served as Youth Ministry leader for the division, and before that, Executive Secretary of the South-Riograndense Association of Seventh-day Adventists, União Sul Brasileira. He holds a degree in Theology from the Adventist University Center of São Paulo (UNASP) (1989) and holds a Masters Degree in Pastoral Theology from the same institution. He was a district pastor in São Paulo from 1990 to 1994. He led the Youth Ministry in the South-Riograndense Association, União Sul Brasileira from 1995 to 1998. From 1998 to 2002 he was a youth ministry leader in the Brazilian Northeast Union.
  • David Little, PhD,

    is a research fellow at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center and is a leading authority on the history of religious freedom, ethics and human rights, and religion and conflict resolution.
    Little retired in 2009 as T.J. Dermot Dunphy Professor of the Practice in Religion, Ethnicity, and International Conflict at Harvard Divinity School and as an associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. Until summer 1999, he was senior scholar in religion, ethics, and human rights at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). From 1996 to 1998, he was member of the Advisory Committee to the State Department on Religious Freedom Abroad. Little’s publications include several volumes in the USIP series on religion, nationalism, and intolerance, as well Religion and Nationalism in Iraq: A Comparative Perspective (2007, with Donald K. Swearer), and Peacemakers in Action: Profiles of Religion in Conflict Resolution (2007). Little was also a part of the Christianity and Freedom Project headed by the Berkley Center's Religious Freedom Project.
  • Rosa María Martínez de Codes, PhD,

    is Professor of History of America at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain, and a vice president of the International Religious Liberty Association.
    From 1998 to 2003, she served as vice president of the European Association of Latin American Historians, and she also headed the General Subdirectorate of Religious Affairs at the Spanish Ministry of Justice from 1996 to 2002. She has given seminars and courses at the European University of Florence; Free School of Law of Mexico; National University of Southern Bahia Blanca; National University of Temuco Chile; Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island. Her main area of research is related to relations between the state and religious denominations; religious culture in Latin America; immigration and religion; and, international relations. Among her many published works are, “Reflections on the contribution of the religious confessions to the Constitution on Europe,” Conscience and Freedom , nº 15, 2003-2004; “The religious factor within the framework of the European Union of the twenty-seven Member States,” Law and Religion, vol. IV, 2009, Madrid; and Trends of Secularism in a Pluralistic World, (co-editor) Ed. Iberoamericana / Vervuert, 2013.
  • Erastus Mwencha

    is the recently retired Deputy Chairperson of the Africa Union Commission with over thirty years of experience in policy formulation and institutional transformation at national, regional and continental levels in Africa.
    Throughout his career, he has been an ardent advocate of regional integration as a leading principle for Africa’s development and he has worked to empower others to cultivate the capacity required to achieve economic, social and cultural development. Mr. Mwencha was elected in January 2008 as Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission by the Heads of State and Government of the 54 Member States of the African Union and re-elected to the same position in July 2012. He led the design and implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural and Development Program (CAADP), the Campaign for Accelerated Action for Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CAARMA) and the control and eradication of HIV/AIDS and Malaria, with a view to raising living standards of people in Africa. Prior to his election at the AUC, Mr. Mwencha worked at Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) for over 25 years and served as Secretary General for ten years.
  • Ambassador John R. Nay

    is President of the International Religious Liberty Association and formerly served as the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Suriname.
    As Ambassador he particularly emphasized the importance of human rights, freedom of the press, and the value of protecting the environment. Throughout his career in the United States Foreign Service, Ambassador Nay sought to advance human rights and religious liberty. While in Suriname he noted that the diverse religious communities there and their mutual respect for the religious freedom of all people was an outstanding example for all. Ambassador Nay served tours of duty on four continents – Africa, Asia, North America, and South America – and temporary assignments on two others. Ambassador Nay holds Masters Degrees from Andrews University and from the National Defense University, and is language qualified in Chinese (Mandarin).
  • Carol Palmer

    is Permanent Secretary at the Jamaican Ministry of Justice and Chairperson for the National Task Force Against Trafficking in Persons (NATFATIP).
    She has served in her capacity as Permanent Secretary from 2002 to 2009, and from 2012 to the present. Her focus is the formulation of public policy, justice reform, and restorative Justice. As Chairperson of the NATFATIP, Ms. Palmer’s mandate is to improve Jamaica’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) ranking—an effort that was recognized in the 2016 US Department of State TIP report, which upgraded Jamaica’s status and acknowledged that the country is making strides in its compliance with international human trafficking laws and standards. Ms. Palmer holds degrees in Physical Therapy and Public Sector Management. She has previously served as University Registrar at the University College of the Caribbean.
  • Reinaldo Pared Pérez, PhD,

    a lawyer, author, and advocate, is one of the Dominican Republic’s leading political figures, currently serving as president of the National Senate.
    He has a Doctor of Law degree from the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, and for many years was a professor of Law at this university, as well as at the Universidad Tecnológica de Santiago (UTESA). Among his publications are the French to Spanish translation of Four Conferences on the Rights and Duties of Married Women in France, issued by the Judge of the French Supreme Court of Justice Jean Leonet, and the Life and Work of the Poet Rubén Suro. Previously, Dr. Pérez worked as an associate lawyer in the firm of Dr. Ramón Tapia Espinal and is currently practicing independently as a lawyer. His political career began in 1975 and he has served in many different appointed and elected positions. He was elected to the lower house of the National Congress as a Deputy in 1998, and in 2006 he was elected to the Senate. As Deputy he participated in the drafting of many laws, including: "Illicit Enrichment and Trafficking in Influences"; "Territorial Division"; the "Monetary and Financial Code"; and the "Organic Law of the Supreme Court of Justice”; as well as other bills on a wide range of legal, social and political topics.
  • Dudley C. Rose

    is Associate Dean for Ministry Studies and a Lecturer on Ministry at Harvard Divinity School.
    He has administered programs and taught in ministry studies at Harvard Divinity School since 1987. His teaching and research interests include ministry studies; life, thought, and ministry of Dietrich Bonhoeffer; congregational and institutional leadership; and, the use and effect of digital technology and social networking in society, churches, and ministry. Rev. Rose also served more than 30 years as senior pastor at North Prospect Union United Church of Christ, a congregation in Medford, Massachusetts.
  • Jaime Rossell, PhD

    in Law from the Complutense University of Madrid, is Deputy Director General of Relations with Confessions for Spain’s Ministry of Justice, and Professor of Ecclesiastical Law at the University of Extremadura.
    He was Dean of the Faculty of Law from November 2007 to May 2015. He is a member of the Commission Adviser of Religious Freedom of the Ministry of Justice and is a member of the Board of Experts of the International Religious Liberty Association and the International Association for the Defense of Religious Liberty (IADRL) based in Bern, Switzerland. He has participated in numerous national and European research projects related to the development and promotion of the right to religious liberty and the protection of religious minorities, especially Muslims, and has authored several monographs and numerous articles devoted to the study of the phenomenon of religious immigration in Europe, the legal position of religious confessions in Spanish and European order and the defense and promotion of the fundamental right of religious freedom.
  • Ibrahim Salama, PhD,

    is Director of the Human Rights Treaties Division of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, a position in which he has served since 2007.
    The Human Rights Treaties Division is responsible for supporting and overseeing the work of 10 U.N. treaty bodies—independent committees that monitor the implementation of international human rights treaties. The ten U.N. committees that Dr. Salama’s Division currently supports are: The Human Rights Committee, The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; The Committee on the Elimination of Racial; The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women; The Committee against Torture; The Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture; The Committee on the Rights of the Child; The Committee on the Protection of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and, The Committee on Enforced Disappearances.
  • Brett G. Scharffs, PhD,

    a leading scholar and author, is the Francis R. Kirkham Professor of Law at Brigham Young University Law School and Director of the Law School's International Center for Law and Religion Studies.
    He had served the Center as Associate Director and Regional Advisor for Asia since 2009 and served the Law School as both Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Associate Dean for Faculty and Curriculum. He is a graduate of Georgetown University, where he received a BSBA in international business and an MA in philosophy. He was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, where he earned a BPhil in philosophy. He received his JD from Yale Law School, where he was Senior Editor of the Yale Law Journal. Professor Scharffs was a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, and worked as a legal assistant at the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal in The Hague. Before teaching at BYU, he worked as an attorney for the New York law firm, Sullivan & Cromwell. He has previously taught at Yale University and the George Washington University Law School. In his 19-year academic career, Professor Scharffs has written more than 100 articles and book chapters, and has made over 300 scholarly presentations in 30 countries. He has served as Chair of the Law and Religion Section of the Association of American Law Schools, and is immediate past Chair of the Law and Interpretation Section of the AALS.
  • Christine Schirrmacher, PhD,

    an internationally known scholar of Islamic studies, currently teaches at the Evangelisch-Theologische Faculteit (ETF) at Leuven, Belgium, and at the department of Islamic Studies of the State University of Bonn, Germany.
    She studied Islamic Studies, comparative religions, history and German literature and holds an M. A. and a PhD in Islamic Studies. She regularly lectures on Islam and security issues at different government institutions of security policy in Germany. She also teaches at the Academy of Foreign Affairs of the Foreign Office in Berlin, and is a consultant to different advisory bodies of society and politics, such as the Human Rights Committee of the German federal parliament.She is director of the International Institute of Islamic Studies (IIIS) of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) and its regional counterpart, the “Institut für Islamfragen“ (Institute of Islamic Studies) of the German, Swiss and Austrian Evangelical Alliance, as well as speaker and advisor on Islam for WEA. She is member of the "Gesprächskreis Nachrichtendienste, Berlin" (Intelligence Discussion group), of the International Society for Human Rights, of the “Deutsch-Jordanische Gesellschaft” (German-Jordanian Society) and curatorium member of the "Evangelische Zentralstelle für Weltanschauungsfragen" (Protestant Centre for World View Questions), an academic documentation and advisory centre of the Protestant Church of Germany. Dr. Schirrmacher has widely published—both scholarly articles and some 15 books—on the subjects of Islamic theology, political Islam and jihadism, on Islam and democracy, on women in Islamic societies, on sharia law, on human rights in Islam and on integration and radicalization of Muslims in Europe.
  • Thomas Schirrmacher, PhD, DD,

    is President of the International Council of the International Society for Human Rights and Ambassador for Human Rights of the World Evangelical Alliance, which represents some 600 million conservative Protestant Christians.
    He also serves as chair of its theological commission and director of the International Institute for Religious Freedom. Dr. Schirrmacher is also professor of the sociology of religion at the state University of the West in Timisoara (Romania) and Distinguished Professor of Global Ethics and International Development at William Carey University in Shillong (Meghalaya, India). He is also president of ‘Martin Bucer European Theological Seminary and Research Institutes’ with campuses in Bonn, Berlin, Zurich, Innsbruck, Prague and Istanbul. Dr. Schirrmacher holds degrees in Theology, Cultural Anthropology, and Comparative Religions and PhDs in Theology in Missiology and Ecumenics, Missiology and Ecumenics, and Cultural Anthropology. He also earned a Doctor of Philosophy in Comparative Religions / Sociology of Religion at State University of Bonn in 2007. Dr. Schirrmacher is the author of some 90 books, which address, among other topics, corruption (2014), suppressed women (2013), human rights (2012), human trafficking (2011), fundamentalism (2010), racism (2009), persecution of Christians in Iraq (2009), HIV/AIDS as Christian challenge (2008), internet pornography (2008), Hitler’s religion of war (2007), and multiculturalism (2007). He regularly testifies in the German parliament and other parliaments in Europe; the European Parliament in Brussels; the OSCE in Vienna; and, the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
  • Charles Schultz

    is a former Senator of the National Congress of the Republic of Colombia, and is director of the Colombian Confederation of Religious Freedom, Conscience and Worship (CONFELIREC).
    He is a Doctor of Law and Social Sciences, specializing in public administration, senior management, public law, procedural law, political and religious sciences. He is also an ordained clergyman of the Peniel Christian Church. While serving in the National Congress, Senator Schultz was one of the prime movers behind the historic constitutional reform of 1991, which removed the Roman Catholicism as the “official” state religion of Colombia and which required equal treatment for all religions under the law. Under his direction, CONFELIREC continues to work for inter-religious cooperation for peace in Colombia, and to explore ways to strengthen legal protection for religious minorities.
  • Marian Gh. Simion, PhD,

    a Romanian theologian, academic, and advocate, is the Assistant Director of the Boston Theological Institute and founder of The Institute for Peace Studies in Eastern Christianity (IPSEC).
    He is also affiliated staff with the Boston College Theology Department and Boston College School of Theology and Ministry and he serves as Field Education Supervisor at Harvard Divinity School. In 2006, Dr. Simion was appointed Lecturer in Orthodox Peace Studies. Prior to immigrating to the United States in 1995, Dr. Simion completed six years of theological education in Orthodox theology at the Theological Seminaries of Craiova and Bucharest, and at the University of Bucharest Faculty of Orthodox Theology. In the United States, Dr. Simion has focused his research on international security, comparative politics, political theology, religious phenomenology, and collective violence, with a special focus on Eastern and Oriental Christianity. In 2008 he founded The Institute for Peace Studies in Eastern Christianity (IPSEC) for the purpose of advancing research and curricula development for peace studies. He is the founding editor of the BTI Magazine, and a member of the Editorial Board of Studii Teologice. Dr. Simion is the author of the Double-Competition Theory in conflict resolution, and is the author of numerous scholarly articles. He is a member of the American Academy of Religion, the American Political Science Association, and of several think-tanks including The Club of Rome (USA), Oxford Round Table, and others.
  • Knox Thames, JD,

    Special Advisor for Religious Minorities in the Near East and South/Central Asia at the U.S. Department of State, has extensive expertise in the fields of human rights, religious freedom, counter extremism, and international organizations.
    Before joining the State Department, he was the Director of Policy and Research at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Prior to that, he served in the Office of International Religious Freedom at the State Department and was Counsel for six years at the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the Helsinki Commission). In addition, the U.S. Army War College appointed him as an Adjunct Professor from 2013-2016 and the State Department appointed him from 2004-2012 to the OSCE Panel of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief. Mr. Thames holds a Bachelors of Arts from Georgetown College, a Juris Doctorate from American University’s Washington College of Law, and a Masters in International Affairs from American University’s School of International Service. He also studied at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. An author of numerous articles, his writing has been featured in the Yale Journal of International Affairs,, and Small Wars Journal.
  • Asma T. Uddin

    is the Director of Strategy for the Center on Islam and Religious Freedom (CIRF), a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit engaging and connecting domestic and international religious freedom matters concerning Muslims.
    She is a graduate of The University of Chicago Law School, where she was a staff editor at The University of Chicago Law Review. Before taking on her role at CIRF, she was Counsel for over six years at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. At The Becket Fund, she helped protect the religious expression of people of all different faiths, in both the U.S. and abroad, and worked with local partners around the world to train advocates, lawyers, judges, religious leaders, journalists and students in religious freedom law and principles. In this capacity, she helped litigate against Indonesia’s Blasphemy Act. In 2013, She has been involved in advocacy and litigation related to religious land use, prisoner rights, religious garb, Blaine Amendments, and more. Ms. Uddin is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of, a web magazine dedicated to issues on gender and Islam. Ms. Uddin speaks and publishes widely on issues of national and international religious freedom, as well as gender and faith. She guest-edited a special issue of The Review of Faith & International Affairs and is co-editing a forthcoming book of essays by women who have faced religious persecution. She also serves on the Advisory Council for The Institute for Global Engagement’s Center for Women, Faith & Leadership.
  • Ted N.C. Wilson, PhD,

    has served since 2010 as president of the Seventh-day Adventist world church, a Protestant Christian denomination with a global membership of more than 18 million.
    He began his church career as a pastor in 1974 in New York, and has held administrative positions in the church’s then Africa-Indian Ocean Division, based in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire and the Euro-Asia Division in Moscow, Russia, where he served as president. On his return to the United States in 1996, he was appointed president of the Review and Herald Publishing Association in Hagerstown, Maryland, where he served until his election as an Adventist world church vice president in 2000. An ordained minister, Pastor Wilson holds a doctor of philosophy degree in religious education from New York University, a master of divinity degree from Andrews University, and a master of science degree in public health from the Loma Linda University School of Public Health.