Here is the mission statement of
Civilizations Exchange and Cooperation Foundation
The goal of CECF is to foster cooperation rather than confrontation among
different religions and cultures. It will focus on factors that led to the
rise and fall of previous civilizations and how people of this millennium
can benefit from lessons of the past in a world literally changing to a
Founder: Imam Mohamad Bashar Arafat, Ph.D.
Imam Mohamad Bashar Arafat, founder of the
Civilizations Exchange and Cooperation Foundation
and leader of the Building Bridges delegation.
He was born and raised in Damascus, Syria, attended Damascus University,
graduating with a degree in Islamic Studies and Arabic Language in 1987,
followed by a degree in Islamic Law in 1988. In 1999, he was awarded a
Ph.D. in Philosophy and Theology from Trinity College and University.
He served as Imam in Damascus, Syria from 1981 to 1989, and was then
invited to the United States to lecture in various Islamic Centers.
He served as Imam of the Islamic Society of Baltimore, Maryland from
1989 to 1993, and founded An-Nur Institute for Islamic Studies and
Arabic Language in Baltimore in 1993. He co-founded An-Nur Mosque in
Carney, Maryland where he was the Imam from 1995 to 1997.
He has taught courses on Islamic Studies and Culture at the University of
Maryland in Baltimore County (UMBC), at Johns Hopkins University, and at
Goucher College in Maryland. He is currently teaching
"Islamic Studies and Theology" at the Ecumenical Institute of Theology at
St. Mary's Seminary & University; "Comparative Religions" at
Potomac College in Washington, D.C., and "Islamic Thought and Culture" at the
College of Notre Dame of Maryland.
He has been serving as the Campus Imam at Johns Hopkins University since
1993, the Muslim Chaplain at Johns Hopkins Hospital since July 2000, the
Muslim Chaplain for the Baltimore City Police Department since August 1998,
and President of the Islamic Affairs Council of Maryland since 2001.
Since moving to Baltimore in 1989, Imam Arafat has been devoted to
interfaith work, both nationally and internationally, promoting better
understanding between Muslims and other faiths or traditions.
In January 2002, he was invited by the Cardinal Suenens Center at
John Carroll University of Ohio to be one of two Muslim representatives
at "The Second International Conference for Rectors of the
Roman Catholic Major Seminaries" held in Rome, Italy.
In 2000, Dr. Arafat founded "Civilizations Exchange and
Cooperation Foundation" as an umbrella for a critical role to
facilitate bringing people together in a unique format, where
dialogue could be exchanged more effectively to create a better world,
enjoining peace and love, and to promote greater understanding of people,
their cultures and beliefs.
Ms. Katharine Kunst
Ms. Katharine Kunst received her bachelor's degree in History from the
University of Michigan in 1965.
Present occupation: Creative Arts Coordinator at First Congregational
Church of Berkeley; curator of small art exhibits; teacher of mindful
cooking classes; and art mentor, working with individuals who want to
explore intuition, dreams, and images through painting
Previous occupations: Assistant Director of the Sanford Institute of
Public Policy, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina until December 1995;
Director of Durant House, an ecumenical program that offers opportunities
for spiritual growth, First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 1997-2001
Religious affiliation: member of First Congregational Church of
Berkeley, 1996 to present
Dr. Barbara McHugh
Dr. Barbara McHugh holds a Ph.D. in Religion and Literature from the
Graduate Theological Union of Berkeley. She is a writer and teacher,
and a serious student of Buddhism with a strong interest in
Rev. David Parks-Ramage
Born in Phoenix, Arizona, David was raised in Lexington, Kentucky.
He graduated with an undergraduate degree from Centre College of
Kentucky in Religious Studies and Psychology. He went on to attend
the Yale University Divinity School earning both the
Master of Divinity and the Master of Sacred Theology degree.
He was ordained as a minister by the United Church of Christ in 1981.
Over the last 20 years he has served churches in Pennsylvania,
Massachusetts and is now the Minister of Parish Life at the First
Congregational Church of Berkeley, California. He is a trained
spiritual director and is actively involved in the dialogue between
the world's faith communities. In 1991 David's father converted to
Islam, making the Hajj in 1996. For David this brought the interfaith
dialogue home. David and his father have made presentations to churches
and mosques about their relationship and about the impact of their
respective faiths on their lives.
Imam Aziz Abdin
Imam Aziz Abdin is originally from Damascus,
Syria where he graduated from the Islamic University in Damascus with a
degree in Arabic Language and Islamic Studies.
From 1989-1990 he was the Imam of the Islamic Center of Flint, Michigan.
He currently serves as Muslim Chaplain at the Immigration and
Naturalization Services in El Centro, California, El Centro Hospital,
and also at the Correctional Facility of Seely, California.
Imam Abdin serves as the Imam and Director of
Imperial Valley Islamic Center, El Centro, California.
He also owns an athletic wear business, Rainbow Sport, Inc.
William Coffin is Chairman of the Board of Directors of Durant Center,
an interfaith educational ministry of the First Congregational Church of
Berkeley, California. In addition to his active participation in the church,
he is also a serious practitioner of Buddhist meditation.
Mr. Coffin spent twenty-two years in the computer software industry,
first as a programmer and then as a manager. He and his wife like to
chase solar eclipses, and have traveled to Mexico, Indonesia, Bolivia, Peru,
Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Australia,
Trinidad, Turkey, South Africa, and Wisconsin.
Dr. Sam Keen
Sam Keen, in his words, is "overeducated at Harvard and Princeton" and
was a professor of philosophy and religion "at various legitimate
institutions." He was a contributing editor of Psychology Today for
20 years before pursuing his work as a "free-lance" thinker, lecturer,
seminar leader, and consultant. He is the author of a dozen books, and
co-producer of an award-winning PBS documentary, "Faces of the Enemy."
His work was the subject of a 60-minute PBS special,
"Bill Moyers--Your Mythic Journey with Sam Keen."
Sam is the author of "Faces of the Enemy", "To a Dancing God",
"Fire in the Belly",
"To Love and be Loved", "Hymns to an Unknown God", and many other
When not writing, or traveling around the world lecturing and presenting
seminars on a wide range of topics (about which he claims he is
"not necessarily an expert, but a skilled explorer"). He enjoys his
horses and gardening on his farm in the hills above Sonoma, CA.
Mrs. Judith Elaine Tunkle
Mrs. Judith Tunkle (Judy), the wife of Rev. Tunkle, is originally from
Boston and graduated from High School in upstate New York.
She attended college in Boston for two years and then moved to Boulder,
Colorado for three years. She and Paul were married in Boulder,
and then moved back to New England and settled in Maine.
When their youngest child was three years old they moved to New York City.
Paul attended the General Theological Seminary.
Judy completed her Bachelor of Science degree from Thomas
Edison College in New Jersey in 1993. That same year Paul,
Judy and their youngest child, Elizabeth moved to Louisiana,
while the two older children, Sam and Lea were in college at the
University of New Hampshire, and Rutgers University School of Engineering,
respectively. Judy earned her Masters of Education in
Counseling from the University of Louisiana in Monroe, Louisiana in 1999.
She is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in Maryland and has a
private practice under the umbrella of Pastoral Counseling Services of
Rev. Paul Dennis Tunkle
Rev. Tunkle is a native of New York City. He was raised as a secular
Jew who attended City College of New York for two years majoring in
Theoretical Mathematics. From New York he moved to Colorado, where he
met and married his wife, Judy. They then moved to Massachusetts for a
brief time and eventually settled in mid-coast Maine. At age 24 he
converted to Christianity and was baptized in the Episcopal Church.
He continued his education at the University of Maine where he earned
a bachelor's degree in Business Administration. From Maine, he and
his family moved back to New York City where he attended the General
Theological Seminary in Manhattan. After seminary he served Episcopal
churches in North Carolina, New Jersey, and Louisiana before coming to
Baltimore as Rector of the Church of the Redeemer. He holds a
Doctor of Ministry degree from the Drew University's School of Theology.
Mr. Tunkle has three children including a son, Sam, age 30,
who is a third year surgery resident at the University of
Florida Medical Center. A daughter, Elizabeth, age 25, lives in
San Francisco and studies music. Another daughter, Lea,
died in 1997 at age 22.
Rev. Tunkle's interest in interfaith studies and dialogue has led him to
meet and become friends with Imam Arafat. Imam Arafat has been invited
by Rev. Tunkle to preach at the Church of the Redeemer, and Rev.
Tunkle has spoken at the mosque in Silver Spring, Maryland.
The two leaders are planning a statewide conference for Muslims,
Jews and Christians in 2004.
Mr. Morris R. Wright
Morris Wright was born in New London Connecticut, Brooks School,
North Andover, Massachusetts, graduated University of California, Berkeley.
Moe Wright is a businessman and lay leader of a local church in Berkeley,
California. Construction and development are his business focus.
He has served as Moderator and President, and other officer positions
of the First Congregational Church of Berkeley.
He is active in organizations that assist and advocate for
immigrants and the poor. He currently serves on the boards of
Goodwill Industries of the Greater East Bay, and
The Ecumenical Chaplaincy for the Homeless.
Mr. Wright has participated in interfaith activities with a variety of
organizations including the Islamic Cultural Center in Oakland.
He joins this journey to learn more about the Cradle of Civilizations and
share his understanding of the bonds between people of faith.