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Interfaith Panel

Azim M. Khamisa

Teaching People How to Achieve Happiness, Prosperity and Peace Through the Practice of Forgiveness

An author, peace activist and international inspirational speaker, Azim M. Khamisa was born in Kenya, Africa and had early training in mathematics, economics and international finance in the United Kingdom. A successful international investment banker with over 40 years of experience, he has conducted business in Africa, Middle East, Canada, USA, Europe and Asia. (www.SovereignCapitalMarkets.com). A man always on the go, taking action for societal transformation, he is the Founder and Chairperson of the Tariq Khamisa Foundation now in its 22nd year (www.TKF.org) and Co-Founder of the Constant And Never Ending Improvement program established in 2001 and currently active in nine cities and is in its 16th year (www.azimkhamisa.com/nonprofitwork/) . He serves as Vice Chair of the Institute of Noetic Sciences (www.Noetic.org), which studies consciousness and was founded by Edgar Mitchell, the sixth astronaut to walk on the moon, some 44 years ago.

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Committing his life to halting the continuing cycle of violence among the youth, Azim became a social activist after his 20-year-old college student son Tariq was senselessly murdered while delivering pizzas in January 1995 by Tony Hicks, a 14-year-old gang member. Out of unspeakable grief and despair, Khamisa was inspired to transform his loss through the miraculous power of forgiveness. Believing that there were “victims at both ends of the gun,” Azim forgave Tony and founded the Tariq Khamisa Foundation to break the cycle of youth violence by saving lives, empowering positive choices and teaching the principles of nonviolence and peacemaking. Soon after establishing the foundation, Azim invited Ples Felix, Tony’s grandfather and guardian, to join him. Together, since November 1995, the two have brought their story and message through TKF’s Peacemaker Assemblies and other programs. The duo has reached over a million elementary and middle school children live and several million via video programs, guiding the youth to choose a peacemaker’s life of nonviolence and forgiveness.

Azim serves on the Board of Directors of various non-profit and for-profit organizations. He was inducted onto the Martin Luther King Jr. Board of Sponsors at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. Azim serves on the Board of the Institute of Noetic Sciences and is a member of the Wisdom Council of the Summer of Peace. Azim is a strong proponent of collaboration and believes that while no single nonprofit has the complete solution, collectively we do.

Because of his work in impacting social policy and norms, Azim is a highly regarded and respected leader and a sought after speaker nationally and internationally. Having given over 1000 presentations to grade schools and university students and over 550 keynote speeches at conferences worldwide – including an audience of 300,000 at the “Stand for Children” rally in Washington D.C. in 1996 – Azim has received over 63 regional, national and international awards. These include: in April 1997 the National Crime Victims Special Community Service Award presented by President Bill Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno. In December 2002, he received the prestigious “Search for Common Ground” international award for “Building Peaceful Communities” along with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Ted Koppel. Other awards include 2003’s “California Peace Prize,” 2006’s “Freedom Heroes Award,” 2008’s “Death Penalty Focus Award” and “The Spirit of Crazy Horse Award,” the latter being given alongside Muhammad Ali.

As well, in June 2004, Azim participated in the Synthesis Dialogues, with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, held at the Pope’s summer residence in Castelgandolfo, Italy. Azim also met with the Dalai Lama at the Vancouver Peace Summit in September 2009. Azim’s profound work has been featured in the likes of The New York Times, Oprah Magazine, People Magazine, Parade Magazine, Washington Post and U.S.A. Today as well as on NBC’s Today Show, NBC Nightly News, CBS’s Early Morning Show and KPBS’ Fresh Air.

A well-traveled, multi-lingual naturalized United States citizen, he resides in La Jolla, California, Azim is also the proud father of Tasreen and Tariq and a proud grandfather of Khalil, Shahin and Miya.

With various inspirational products available on his website, he is an award-winning author of the book: Azim’s Bardo – From Murder To Forgiveness – A Father’s Journey. He followed up this book in November 2007 with From Forgiveness to Fulfillment, showing the continued evolution in an unfolding story that is his path, his passion and his life. A third in the trilogy From Fulfillment to Peace was released in 2015. In February 2009 Random House published The Secrets of the Bulletproof Spirit: How to Bounce Back from Life’s Hardest Hits, which was coauthored with Jillian Quinn.

Azim’s story is featured in an upcoming feature film, as well as documentaries such as The Power of Forgiveness, Unlikely Friends, Azim Khamisa – The Tool of Forgiveness and The Truth.

Says Azim, “We continuously confront defining moments in life. Sometimes these events are joyous; sometimes they are tragedies. At these moments it’s important to make the right choices. When we do, we’re able to manifest miracles and produce transformation in ourselves and others.” For more information on Azim or to order books, DVDs or CDs, see AzimKhamisa.com. For information on the Tariq Khamisa Foundation, see TKF.org.

Presentation Summary: What comes after tragedy? Forgiveness

Azim Khamisa’s only son, Tariq, a university student who worked a part-time job as a pizza delivery man, was killed by a 14-year-old gang member in a gang initiation ritual over 22 years ago. Tariq was only 20 years old when he died, and this tragedy brought Azim’s life to a crashing halt. Since then, Azim has authored four books and speaks worldwide to students and adults on nonviolence, forgiveness and peace-building. He is the founder of two nonprofit organizations that target youth violence. Azim will speak about his journey to becoming a passionate peace activist and a teacher of nonviolence, forgiveness, and spawning peacemakers.

 

Dr. Jessica Shryack

Dr. Jessica Shryack holds a doctorate in educational psychology and a graduate minor in public health and Master’s degree in counseling. She has worked in higher education for more than 15 years, teaching psychology, helping first-generation college students succeed in college, and supporting leaders in organizational continuous improvement. Since 2015, Jessica has been a leader in bringing Living Room Conversations to employees in higher education settings in Minnesota and to other professionals at national and regional conferences. She loves being able to facilitate meaningful, face-to-face conversations between people with differing views and experiences, especially around difficult topics like race and privilege. You can find more information about her her on LinkedIn.

Presentation Summary: Living Room Conversations: an experimental session in civil discourse

This session will provide an overview of the Living Room Conversations methodology through hands-on experience of a conversation and a debrief of key learnings. Skills participants will learn include active listening, using ground rules to set the stage for effective conversation, and determining how to structure an effective Living Room Conversations event based on the goals of your family, community, or organization.

Bawa Jain

Bawa Jain is the Founding Secretary General of the World Council of Religious Leaders (WCORL). Prior to that, Jain was Chairman of the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders which brought over 2000 of the world’s pre-eminent religious leaders to the United Nations in 2000. The Council is charged with being a strong resource and a collaborator with the United Nations and other international and national organizations whose purposes include promoting peace, harmony, tolerance, and mutual respect among human beings and the evolution of world social and economic justice. WCORL seeks to reduce religiously motivated conflicts. As founder of the World Movement of Nonviolence, Mr. Jain conceived of the Gandhi-King Award, which fosters the practices and principles of non-violence in daily life. He serves as the Chairman of the World Youth Peace Summit, which brought together young leaders from over 100 countries. He launched WCORL’s “Religion One on One,” which brought together two of the world’s oldest religions, Jewish and Hindus, resulting in a signed “Declaration of Mutual Understanding and Cooperation” and the creation of a standing committee for Hindu-Jewish relations. Mr. Jain coined the term Religious Diplomacy, actively speaks, practices and promotes it around the World as part of his broader thrust on Responsible Leadership.

David Forward

David C. Forward, born and educated in England, is a member of the Rotary Club of Medford Sunrise, New Jersey, USA. He is the author of 12 books, including A Century of Service: The Story of Rotary International, which he was commissioned to write for the 2005 centennial of Rotary International, Heroes After Hours: Extraordinary Acts of Employee Volunteerism, and The Essential Guide to the Short-Term Mission Trip. He wrote the official history of The Rotary Foundation, Doing Good in the World: The Inspiring Story of the Rotary Foundation’s First 100 Years.

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Forward has led humanitarian trips to the Dominican Republic and Lebanon and polio immunization teams to India in 1991. He founded International Children’s Aid Foundation, an all-volunteer foundation that supports an orphanage and dental and medical clinics in Romania. Forward also leads volunteer trips to Romania, a country he has visited more than 70 times.

A Rotarian since 1978, Forward has served as club president, District 7500 (New Jersey, USA) PolioPlus Chair, and District Governor. He is a Rotary Foundation Major Donor and has received The Rotary Foundation Citation for Meritorious Service.

A Realtor with Keller Williams Realty, Forward represented New Jersey for three years on the White House Conference on Small Business. He won the Good Neighbor Award from the National Association of Realtors in 2005 for his volunteer work and Realtor of the Year in 2011.

Presentation Summary

David Forward will discuss his latest book A String of Pearls: Inspiring Stories of How Rotary Peace Fellows Are Serving Humanity and Saving the World. A String of Pearls is a book to honor Rotary Peace Fellows by telling their stories.  Whether they are on the front lines in areas of conflict or in policy-making roles in agencies where they can be peace-influencers, they are Rotary’s “army.” And like a pearl, which starts out as a minute grain of sand and over time develops through many crystalline layers into a precious jewel, they are a force for good in the world that is rare, valuable, and prized. The Rotary Peace Fellows are a string of pearls.

 

D. F. Pace, Esq.

An attorney and captain in the fourth largest police department in the United States, D. F. Pace focuses on balancing constitutional law and civil rights with public safety. He currently serves as the Commanding Officer of the Department’s Police Board of Inquiry.

Captain Pace is an 18-year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department, having served in patrol as an officer, sergeant and shift commander.  In addition to his patrol experience, Pace has also held positions in the Law Department, as Judge Advocate, Police Academy Instructor, Public Information Officer and Commanding Officer of the Court Evidence Unit.

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Prior to embarking on a career in law enforcement, D.F. spent eight years as a corporate trainer for one of the nation’s largest financial institutions, PNC. Travelling across the country, his primary mission was to train the organization’s front line supervisors in leadership skills, human resource management, and delivering world-class service to clients.

D.F.  is no stranger to the lectern.  An active and veteran adjunct professor, he has taught dozens of graduate and undergraduate courses at several universities.  In addition to logging thousands of hours in front of college students and police personnel, Pace is a three time champion of the Pennsylvania Bankers Association Annual Public Speaking Contest.  He has traveled extensively, speaking before many community and professional groups on topics including policing, leadership, customer service, conflict resolution, environmental challenges, the law, ethics, white collar crime, human trafficking, and business principles.

Pace holds a Juris Doctorate from the James E. Beasley School of Law at Temple University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resource Management from Rosemont College. He is a member of the Bar in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He is a graduate of the 256th session of the FBI National Academy and was the class’s commencement speaker.  D.F. also serves on the Human Resource Committee of the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association.

Among his most memorable and meaningful experiences, Pace spent three months at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand where he earned a professional certificate in Peace and Conflict Studies.  From there, he traveled extensively studying firsthand the impact of corporate globalization, labor exploitation, and the international & transnational crimes of terrorism, drug distribution, and human trafficking.

D.F.’s interests include physical fitness, animal welfare, and sustainability issues.  He is an avid supporter of Rotary International and a member of several other fraternal organizations.  He is a voracious reader of history and enjoys collecting and appraising art and historical memorabilia.  A fully licensed auctioneer, you’ll find him in an auction house from time to time calling bids and selling anything from estates to fine art.

Presentation Summary

D. F. Pace’s presentation will focus on personal observations and experiences in the Rotary Peace Scholar program; how he came to be awarded the Rotary Peace Fellowship; and how the training has influenced and been applied throughout his career in law enforcement.

Vikas P. Srivastava

Vikas P. Srivastava specializes in educational design (culture and curriculum) with an emphasis on non-violence, creative confidence, growth mindset and sustainability. He holds a BA in Sociology from UCSD and MA in Education from Harvard. His formal training and research is focused on poverty, construction of knowledge, politics of identity, educational philosophy, arts integration and school design. A shorter version of his master’s thesis on Gandhian School Design was published by Penguin Books in “The Living Gandhi” (2013).

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Over the last 20 plus years, he has worked in public, charter and private schools, as well as, nonprofits and businesses. He has worked as a counselor, teacher, program coordinator, administrator, trainer, speaker and consultant. He has worked with the very poor and very wealthy communities, with disabled students, low-achieving students and high-achieving students. He began integrating mindfulness in the classroom after being initiated into the the Mindfulness practice by the respected Thich Nhat Han in 2003. Upon completing the Ahimsa fellowship at Cal State Pomona in 2007 (centered around integrating non-violence in k-12 education) he initiated the “project of change” that utilized arts and technology for nonviolent social change. In 2013, he founded “The Mindful School” project and began developing protocol for integrating schoolwide mindfulness. His presentations and published work include Gandhian School Design, Deconstructing Diversity, Gandhian Growth Mindset and Transforming Violence.

“I’ve always thrived by empowering others. Empowerment is the ability to control your life’s destiny. The degree to which you can do this is defined as privilege. Control of one’s destiny is the result of knowledge, resources, discipline, ambition and vision. Few people have all these qualities, but most people have one or more of these qualities. I believe one can lead to another, and two can manifest the rest.”

He is currently working as Director of Mindfulness at Legacy Early College Charter School (Greenville, SC). He has served and/or serves on the board of Kids For Peace, The Tariq Khamisa Foundation, The Sean O’Shea foundation, Encinitas Friends of the Arts, You Make A Difference foundation and Good Neighbor Gardens. He is also the father of two, the husband of one and a professional musician. As a previous restaurant owner and chef, he continues to share his passion for healthy vegan cuisine.

Presentation Summary: Transforming Violence

Rarely, if ever, have we found an instance of violence without a previous history. We can, therefore, assume a majority of future violence will also be the continuation of past violence. The question is, “If we can’t change the past, how can we change the future?” The answer is to transform the present. Our attempts to simply “stop the violence” is a careless slogan that has resulted in more harm than protection. Healing past trauma is an effective process, but it is not available to all communities, requires long-term dedication, and may not be a realistic resource allocation for all degrees of violence. This presentation offers a suggestion to effectively transform the past into an non-violent future by redefining the essence of violence — including a strategy to end the cycle of violence while healing the past and preventing similar violence from reigniting.

 

Carol E. Burdette

Carol is a Pendleton native who has lived in Anderson County her entire life, attending Anderson County public schools and receiving a bachelor’s of arts degree from Southern Wesleyan University in 1982.  She has been involved with community organizations as a volunteer or staff member for 31 years.  For 22 of those 31 years, Carol served in elected office in the Town of Pendleton as a council member from 1987 – 1997 and mayor from 1997 – 2009.  Burdette has been the Chief Executive Officer of United Way of Anderson County since 2002 after serving as a volunteer with the organization for 13 years.

Among many of her volunteer positions, Carol served as Board Chair of the Anderson Area YMCA, United Way of Anderson County, the Anderson Area Chamber of Commerce, and the South Carolina Association of Non-Profit Organizations.  She is a past president of the Rotary Club of Anderson and a Rotary Past District Governor.  Burdette was also president of Advance SC and the Municipal Association of South Carolina.

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Currently Carol is serving her second time as Rotary Governor for Rotary District 7750, ( she is a Major Donor, Bequest Society Member, a Paul Harris Society Member and served as the chair of her Rotary Club’s Centennial in 2017-18) and she serves on the Board of Visitors of Anderson University, the Anderson, Oconee, Pickens Mental Health Board, and on the Board of Trustees of Spartanburg Methodist College and is a past chair of Ten At The Top, the Anderson Area Sister Cities Association and the Pendleton Historic Foundation.  Carol also chaired the Town of Pendleton’s 225th Anniversary Committee and a six year term on the board of Sister Cities International.

Carol is a member of Pendleton United Methodist Church where she has served as Lay Leader, member of the Council of Stewards and Board of Trustees.  She also serves as a Lay Speaker and has served on district committees and Lay Delegate to the SC United Methodist Conference.

Burdette has been honored with the Pointing The Way Award, the Athena award, the Leadership Anderson Alumni Award, presidential citation from her alma mater Southern Wesleyan University, 2014 Economic Development Ambassador for Anderson County by Governor Nikki Haley and was named as one of the 15 over 50 by the Independent Mail and named Non-Profit Director of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce.

This bio is just a snapshot of Carol’s involvement in her community, region and state.  Serving is a way of life and she does it with enthusiasm and is passionate about making the lives of others better through her efforts.

Rev. Deb Richardson-Moore

The Rev. Deb Richardson-Moore has been pastor and director of the non-denominational Triune Mercy Center for 13 years, and currently chairs the steering committee of the Greenville Homeless Alliance. Triune is a church that brings homeless, working poor, middle-class and wealthy parishioners into community.

Deb worked for 27 years as a writer for The Greenville News, covering art, theater, general features and religion. She is author of a memoir, The Weight of Mercy, about her first three years as a pastor, and three mystery novels, The Cantaloupe Thief, The Cover Story, and Death of a Jester. All use a homeless encampment as a partial backdrop, and are published by Lion Hudson of Oxford, England.

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Since the publication of her memoir, Deb has spoken at Memorial Church at Harvard University, Union Presbyterian Seminary in Charlotte, NC, Duke Divinity Pastors’ Conference in Durham, NC, and has taught at churches and ministries across the Carolinas and Georgia. The Weight of Mercy was on the 2016 reading list of United Methodist Women. The Cantaloupe Thief was an Okra Pick of the Southeastern Independent Booksellers’ Alliance.

Deb is a Greenville native and a graduate of Wade Hampton High School, Wake Forest University (Winston-Salem, NC) and Erskine Theological Seminary (Due West, SC).  She is married to Vince Moore, who is director of media relations for Furman University. They have three grown children – Dustin, Taylor and Madison.

 

Fareeha Qazi

Fareeha Qazi is a mother of three, middle school Social Studies teacher, an activist and a social justice advocate. Fareeha has spoken at various conferences, seminars, panels and rallies promoting the peaceful nature of Islam and Muslims. She has a passion for community service and less fortunate. She has organized fundraising campaigns for Syria and Somalia. She has also written several editorials in the local paper on racial equality. Fareeha’s efforts have also been focused on bringing to the public eye the issues of the refugee crisis, Muslim Travel Ban, Islamophobia, discrimination against Muslims in general and Muslim women in particular.   Fareeha is Pakistani native, US citizen and a Greenville resident for past 13 years. She can be reached atfareehamunawar@gmail.com

Dr. Jim Dant

Dr. Dant began his long pastoral career in 1980 as a staff minister at Parkwood Hills Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia and then at Mt. Olivet Baptist Church in Willisburg, Kentucky in 1981. He was the associate pastor at First Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia from 1987-1991. He served as pastor at First Baptist Church in Baxley, Georgia from 1991-1997 and at Highland Hills Baptist Church in Macon, Georgia from 1997-2012.

In 2012, he co-founded Faithlab, a creative services firm that assists churches with their organizational and communications needs. Jim has served as an adjunct professor at Brewton Parker College, Mercer University and Mercers’ McAfee School of Theology and is a well-respected conference and retreat leader throughout the country.

Dr. Dant is a graduate of Georgia State University, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Columbia Theological Seminary. He has enjoyed post-graduate studies at Princeton Theological Seminary, Hebrew College, Macon State College, and the Mercy Center.

Dr. Dant’s diverse background and personal experiences have created in him a unique ability to identify and understand people from all walks of life. From playing classical guitar and studying Hebrew, to running triathlons and even enjoying a good card came, he uses his many talents to teach, mentor, and nurture individuals, groups, and congregations.

Fr. Patrick Tuttle

Fr. Patrick Tuttle, a Franciscan priest of 30 years, is pastor of St. Anthony Church and School in the West End of Greenville with chaplaincy to German University, the City of Greenville Police Department, the monastery of St. Clare and Perry Prison. A native of Hartford Connecticut he has lives in the Carolina’s his adult life.

Dr. Uma G. Gupta

Dr. Gupta is a keynote and motivational speaker and coach on work-life balance, leadership development, and well-being. She helps individuals understand the subtle nuances of happiness by looking at it through the lens of neuroscience. She says that if we understand how our brains work, then we can understand what it takes to be happy.

She is a Fulbright Scholar and Professor of Business at the State University of New York at Buffalo State, New York. Dr. Gupta is a highly-sought after speaker and consultant who consistently receives rave reviews for her insightful, thought-provoking, authentic and highly-engaging presentations. You can read more about her work at www.umagupta.com

She has won many prestigious awards for her work. She was chosen as the Top Ten Influential Women in Technology in Houston and was nominated again for the award in Rochester, New York. She was awarded the Women of Distinction Award from the Girl Scouts of Western New York, in addition to other awards and recognitions. She serves on the National Liaison Task Force for STEM for the American Association of University Women.

Dr. Gupta brings more than two decades of distinguished leadership experience in business and higher education as President of the State University of New York at Alfred, New York and Senior Advisor to the SUNY Chancellor for Women in STEM, Dean of the College of Technology at the University of Houston, Texas, and Endowed Chair of Information Technology at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.

She holds a PhD in industrial engineering and an MBA from the University of Central Florida, Florida, a graduate degree in mathematics from Stella Maris College, India, and is a certified Project Management Professional.

She has been quoted in Forbes.com, Reuters, and NPR. She has published two major text books on technology management, edited a book on Artificial Intelligence, and published more than sixty research papers.

She can be reached at (585) 489-4606 or at guptaspeaker@gmail.com

Dr. Melinda Menzer

Dr. Melinda Menzer is a professor of English at Furman University. She has a B.A. in English from Williams College and a M.A. and Ph.D. in English from the University of Texas in Austin. Dr. Menzer is a congregant at the Temple of Israel where she tutors b’nai mitzvot students and serves as the congregation’s Social Action committee chair. She is also a member of the South Carolina Council on the Holocaust.