Building Bridges; First Delegation

Civilizations Exchange and Cooperation Foundation

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 global village.

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 interfaith communication

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

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 best-sellers.

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 Maryland.

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.

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