Religious Freedom Center > Events
In December 2015, Larycia Hawkins, Ph.D., posted a photo of herself wearing a hijab. A caption for the photo, quoting Pope Francis, stated that Christians and Muslims worship the same god. Hawkins made the decision to wear a hijab as an act of embodied solidarity with Muslims, who increasingly experienced threats and acts of violence during the 2016 election cycle.
At the time, Dr. Hawkins was a political science professor at Wheaton College (Illinois), a private Christian school. She was the first African-American woman to receive tenure there. She lost her position within two months.
The Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute invites you to a film screening of the award-winning documentary, “Same God.” The film explores issues of Islamophobia, religious freedom, academic freedom, race, theology, white evangelicalism and politics.
The controversy about Dr. Hawkins’s post and the college’s response raged for two months in every major news outlet in the country. During that period, Linda Midgett, an Emmy award-winning filmmaker, began filming with Dr. Hawkins. She continued filming with Hawkins for several years, documenting how one moment on social media shattered Hawkins’s entire life.
“Same God,” which premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival in September 2018, recently won the Jury Award for Best Documentary at the Bentonville (Arkansas) Film Festival.
Linda Midgett, an independent documentary filmmaker, TV producer, showrunner and screenwriter with more than 600 hours of writing, producing and directing credits on many major networks, including NBC-Universal, The History Channel, A&E, Discovery, PBS, National Geographic and LMN (Lifetime Movie Network). Midgett’s showrunning credits include History Channel’s iconic series “Gangland,” Investigation Discovery’s “FBI: Criminal Pursuit” and NBC’s daytime syndicated reality series, “Starting Over.” “Starting Over” won an Emmy in 2005 and was nominated for several more.
Midgett’s documentary credits includes “Hometown Stories: The Greek-Americans of Charlotte” for PBS, which won a regional Emmy for best cultural documentary, “Through My Eyes,” a documentary about teens struggling with thoughts of suicide, depression and eating disorders. “Through My Eyes” was nominated for a regional Emmy and awarded the national Voice Award for excellence in mental health programming. Additional credits include “The Line,” a film about people living below the poverty line, commissioned by social justice organization Sojourners, and “The Stranger,” a film on immigration reform commissioned by the Evangelical Immigration Table.
Larycia Hawkins, PhD., is a scholar, a political science professor and activist. Her efforts to embody solidarity with Muslim sisters throughout the season of Advent initiated a national and international conversation about the nature of God and the possibilities for multi-faith solidarity in a time where Islamophobia, xenophobia, religiously-motivated hate crimes and racism are more prolific than any time in history.
Today, Hawkins is general faculty in the departments of Politics and Religious Studies at the University of Virginia, serves as faculty in the Religion, Race and Democracy lab, is a co-convener of the Religion and its Publics Project of the Henry Luce Foundation and is a faculty fellow on the Race, Faith and Culture Project at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture.
Lisa Sharon Harper, From Ferguson, to New York, and from Germany to South Africa to Australia, Lisa Sharon Harper leads trainings that increase clergy and community leaders’ capacity to organize people of faith toward a just world. A prolific speaker, writer and activist, Ms. Harper is the founder and president of FreedomRoad.us, a consulting group dedicated to shrinking the narrative gap in our nation by designing forums and experiences that bring common understanding, common commitment and common action.
Asma Uddin is the author of “When Islam Is Not a Religion,” senior scholar at the Freedom Forum Institute, visiting scholar at Brigham Young University Law School and a nonresident fellow at Georgetown and UCLA. She previously served as counsel at Becket and is currently an expert adviser on freedom of religion or belief for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Rev. Steven D. Martin, is the Director of Communications and Development for the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. He has served United Methodist Churches as pastor for twenty years and is a graduate of Candler School of Theology. He brings his expertise in theology, the intersection of faith and politics, and media production to hear upon today’s most challenging problems. He has produced several films for public television, including “Muslims in Appalachia,” “Islam in America After September 11th,” “Theologians Under Hitler,” “God With US: Baptism and the Jews in the Third Reich,” “Elisabeth of Berlin,” and most recently, “Islam in America: The Christian Truth.” His writing has appeared in America’s top national media outlets including the Washington Post and USA Today.
This program was made possible by the generous support from Team Humans.
How shall American Jews and Muslims interact to reduce tensions between their two communities? Inter Jewish Muslim Alliance (IJMA) members, comprised of 35 leaders of the U.S. Muslim and Jewish communities, will gather with invitees from the Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute and a German Muslim-Jewish delegation for a public conversation on intercommunal relations between Muslims and Jews.
In the morning, we will hold two seminars led by prominent intellectual leaders from these two communities, in which members of each community will have the opportunity to educate the others about themselves. After lunch, our guest speaker, Wade Henderson, former president and chief executive officer of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, will speak about “Coalition Building Among Diverse Groups.” An IJMA panel will follow discussing Muslim-Jewish relations in the U.S, including problematic speech and other reasons for tension between the two communities.
There will be noon prayers for those who wish to pray.
Wa’el Alzayat is chief executive officer of Emgage, a national grassroots organization that advocates for the Muslim-American community. As the leader of Emgage’s not-for-profit and political divisions, he oversees initiatives that promote civic education and political engagement among Muslim Americans. Alzayat is also a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute and adjunct professor at Georgetown University, teaching courses on security, political and humanitarian issues in Iraq and Syria. He also serves on the Syria Study Group at the Middle East Institute.
Majid Alsayegh, born and raised in Mosul, Iraq, is the founder of Alta Management, LLC. Alta oversees design and construction of major capital projects in the public and private sectors, such as the Judicial Center in Harrisburg, Pa., the Pittsburgh Penguins arena and the Family Court in Philadelphia. Alsayegh chairs the board of Delaware Valley University and chairs the board of the Dialogue Institute, a non-profit that teaches the skills of dialogue and critical thinking, empowering leaders from around the world to sustain transformative relationships across lines of religion and culture. He is co-founder and chairman emeritus of Intercultural Journeys, a non-profit that fosters peace amongst diverse cultures through the universal language of music and the arts.
Dr. Georgette Bennett is an active philanthropist focusing on conflict resolution and intergroup relations. In 2013, Bennett founded the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees and has since worked to mobilize awareness and support on behalf of this cause. In 1992, she founded the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding to carry on the work of her late husband, Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum, about whom a biography was recently published. A widely published author, popular lecturer and broadcast journalist, she is an innovative and entrepreneurial leader. Bennett served in the U.S. State Department Religion and Foreign Policy Initiative’s working group on conflict mitigation, tasked with developing recommendations for the U.S. Secretary of State on countering religion-based violence.
Elana Stein Hain, Ph.D., is scholar in residence and director of faculty at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, where she serves as lead faculty and oversees the content of lay and professional leadership programs. Hain also co-leads the Created Equal research team with Joshua Ladon. Hain also served for eight years as a clergy member on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, at both Lincoln Square Synagogue and the Jewish Center, and taught at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University.
Wade Henderson is the former president and chief executive officer of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the Leadership Conference Education Fund. During his tenure, Henderson led the nation’s social justice coalition in forging consensus and developing strategy on major policy priorities regarding civil and human rights. Under his guidance, the Leadership Conference steered successful campaigns to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act, pass the Help America Vote Act, the Fair Sentencing Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. During Henderson’s tenure, the nation’s premier civil and human rights coalition grew from 170 to more than 200 member organizations, including the first Muslim and Sikh civil rights groups. He has greatly expanded the footprint of domestic civil and human rights organizations in the global discourse on social justice.
Imam Mohamed Magid is the executive imam of All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center in Sterling, Va. He is the chairman of International Interfaith Peace Corps and former president of the Islamic Society of North America. He is also chairman of Muflehun, a think tank which focuses on confronting violent extremist thought through research-driven preventative programs within a religious paradigm. Imam Magid works with various think tank Atlantic such as Council, the Aspen Institute, Brookings Institution and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Imam Magid also has a long history of commitment to public service through organizations such as the Peaceful Families Project.
Rabbi David Saperstein currently serves as president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. For more than two years (2015-2017), Rabbi Saperstein served as the U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, carrying out his responsibilities as his country’s chief diplomat on religious freedom issues. Prior to that, for 40 years, he served as director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, representing the Reform Jewish Movement to the U.S. Congress and administration. Also an attorney, he taught seminars on church-state law and Jewish law for 35 years at Georgetown University Law Center.
George Selim is senior vice president of Programs at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). In this role, Selim leads ADL’s education, law enforcement and community security programs and oversees the work of ADL’s Center on Extremism. Prior to his appointment at ADL, Selim served in the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations. He most recently served as the Department of Homeland Security’s Director of the Office for Community Partnerships and was concurrently selected to lead a newly created Countering Violent Extremism Task Force to coordinate government efforts and partnerships to prevent violent extremism in the United States.
Wajahat Ali— a New York Times contributing op-ed writer, TED speaker, CNN commentator and playwright —is a new kind of public intellectual: young, exuberant, and optimistic. He speaks on the multifaceted American experience, covering our growing need for cultural unity, racial diversity, and inclusion to combat forces of hate and division. In hilarious, politically up-to-the-minute talks, Ali shows how to learn from, and join with what he calls “the multicultural coalition of the willing”—the emergent generation poised for social change.
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