Center for Interfaith Cooperation

Hoosiers of Many Faiths in Community

Staff

Charlie Wiles -- Executive Director

Why Interfaith?

For me, authentic interfaith engagement affirms my faith in humanity. If we approach interfaith community building with curiosity and humility, it can be transformative. I believe that it is an essential tool to help overcome many of the challenges we face in the modern era. It is also fun and very enriching!

Biography:

I was born and raised in a loving Catholic home and community in Indianapolis, Indiana. However my extended family includes Seventh Day Adventists and a Lebanese grandfather whose parents were Orthodox and Maronite Christians.

I have a political science degree from Indiana University and spent several years working at the Indiana State Legislature. I have also spent several years in construction, managing a not-for-profit focused on peace education, and served as a combat medic in the United States Army Reserves.

My wife is from Tokyo, Japan. We are attempting to raise our three daughters with an appreciation of their diverse religious and cultural traditions. However, I admit that it is a work in progress, and we are learning all of the time.

I love traveling, playing and listening to music, and being in the outdoors.

Favorite quote (sacred text, story, poem, other):

I have many favorite verses from the Bible that inspire me to be humble and serve others while being vigilant in the pursuit of justice. A favorite poem that has guided my interfaith journey comes from Langston Hughes (I first read this poem as a third grader in an all-white elementary school on the east side of Indianapolis and immediately committed it to memory):

My Motto

I stay cool and dig all jive
That’s the way I stay alive
My motto, as I live and learn,
is dig and be dug in return

Ben Leslie -- Director of Programs

Why Interfaith?

I think the health of our community depends on our willingness to engage the most potent and charged identities of our neighbor, to value the variation we perceive in that identity, and to see the human beyond the labels of that identity.

Background:

Ben graduated from Butler University with an Arts Administration major and Religious Studies minor. He teaches piano lessons and performs music with his friends. He also took a vow of refuge in the Kagyu/ Nyingma lineage of Buddhism.

Alfan Abdulahad -- Office Manager

Why Interfaith?

Cooperative and positive dialogue between people of different religious and spiritual beliefs.

Background:

My name is Alfan Abdulahad and my husband Suhell Dawood, lived a good life in Baghdad, Iraq before 2003. As medical professionals, we owned a good home, and our two boys went to one of the best schools in Baghdad. After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003, we thought things in Iraq would get better. In June 11th 2006, my sons Sarmed and Samer were exposed to an explosion, injuring them both. That is when my husband Suhell decided to take us away from our home country to a safer environment. We fled to Syria, where stayed for two years before coming to the United States as refugees. We lived in Indianapolis, and we faced several challenges since the day of our arrival, November 4th 2008 and tried to adjust to a new culture in a new country.

I started to work in 2009, as an Arabic interpreter in different hospitals and clinics for Arabic patients and clients. In addition, in 2010, I started to work at Center for Interfaith Cooperation as an office manager – I keep things running around the office, perform administrative tasks, and support programs, events, and partners. Sarmed, my oldest son, graduated in 2013 from IUPUI with Bachelors degree in Biology, and he started in July 2013 at the Dentistry School of Indiana University. Samer, my youngest son, started at Ivy-tech.

We completed our naturalization ceremony on December 19th 2013, becoming full US citizens.

Finally, I wish that we can live all together in peaceful and safe place.

Favorite quote (sacred text, story, poem, other):

Matthew 5:43-44

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

John Clark -- Director of Communications

John Clark, the creator of Provocate, is recognized as one of Central Indiana’s leading experts on international affairs. Until 2005 he was a senior fellow at Hudson Institute and Director of the Center for Central European and Eurasian Studies. In 2005 he helped establish the Sagamore Institute for Policy Research. He is the author of more than a hundred books, articles and reports about topics such as the collapse of communism, environmental policy, welfare reform in the United Kingdom, economic development in Central Asia and immigration in Indiana. He is currently an adjunct professor at Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs. The Indianapolis Star has called him “the foremost public intellectual in Indiana.” Clark is the only person to receive NUVO’s Cultural Vision Award and commendations from the FBI and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for contributions on counter-terrorism.

Rainie Grant -- Interfaith Enrichment Corps

Says CIC’s newest AmeriCorps member, Rainie Grant:

I am an AmeriCorps Member serving within the Interfaith Enrichment Corps, and my placement site is COIN, Coalition for Our Immigrant Neighbors. We connect low-income immigrants and refugees to legal services through partnerships with other organizations. My purpose is to build and strengthen sustainable relationships with current and potential partners as well as to help incorporate an integral mental health aspect, which is often overlooked in favor of crisis response, into the COIN mission in order to better serve immigrants and refugees in the long term.

As a recent college graduate, I faced the age-old dilemma of figuring out what I wanted to do after graduation, and so, I decided to take a gap year before attending law school. During my four years at Butler University, I participated continuously in interfaith activities as part of my religion major, my internship with the Center for Faith and Vocation, and personal interest in Islam and the Muslim community. I also spent a year studying in the United Arab Emirates, a Muslim country that is increasingly international, which exposed me to a variety of cultural communities. My other personal commitment is to human rights, and my career goal is to become a human rights attorney. Although I have education in this area due to my political science background, real-life application has not been obtainable until recently. Fortunately, the Interfaith Enrichment Corps just made complete sense for me, considering my experience in and passion for interfaith work and serving immigrants and refugees. I look forward to not only serving others, but to enriching my own knowledge and experiences.

Kayla Behforouz -- Interfaith Enrichment Corps

My AmeriCorps position at Center for Interfaith Cooperation (CIC) entails working with Coalition for our Immigrant Neighbors (COIN) and Interfaith Coalition for Mental Health (ICMH). Partnering with many faith communities, we seek to address hardships faced by immigrants, refugees, and people facing mental health challenges in the Indianapolis community. I chose to serve as an AmeriCorps member for the year because I wanted to learn about faith communities, the Indianapolis immigrant population, and the work and structure of nonprofit organizations. Most importantly, I wanted to be on the front lines of a community’s progression towards inclusion.


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