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.


Comments ( 6 )

Have Something To Say ?

  1. Jen Schmits Thomas March 20, 2018 Reply

    Faith & Action Poverty Conference April 26
    Come be inspired and meet others who care about pushing back poverty in Indy.

    Individuals and groups from Central Indiana’s nonprofit, faith and government sectors are invited to a day of workshops, networking and inspiring community action. The conference will include insights from national experts and more than 20 local leaders to highlight the impact of collaborative efforts to reduce poverty in Indianapolis.

    The keynote address will be from by Elizabeth Hinton, award-winning author of From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America. Hinton notes that one in every 31 American adults is under some form of penal control, including 1 in 11 African-American men. “How did the ‘land of the free’ become the home of the world’s largest prison system?” she asks.

    Closing the conference will be Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-director of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, and Willie Baptist, a long-time educator, organizer and co-coordinator of the Poverty Scholarship and Leadership Development for the Kairos Center.

    Tickets are $20 to cover lunch and snacks. In an effort to make the event accessible for all, a number of subsidized tickets are available and can be requested by emailing lrabinowitch@cts.edu.

    Details at https://fasc2018.eventbrite.com

  2. Mike Griswold February 4, 2018 Reply

    Charlie, I read your article in the Sunday Star. I too am a Catholic Christian, though I am not a Trump lover, your article seemed very narrow and short sighted. You seemed to dismiss the impact abortion has on this society, murdering the innocent is no small matter it creates a culture where human life is devalued in all forms. The abortion culture leads to politicians like Trump who can win votes by devaluing other humans.
    Why do you think UNIVERSAL health care is such a panacea? Sure everybody gets to be equal, but that is what Marxism teaches too. Our society has been infected with Marxist philosophies in hundreds of ways. So when I disagree with you about many of the points you hold, it is because I don’t think the gospel teaches me to try to create a political environment where everyone is equal, no rich and no poor. It does teach the rich that in order for them to become perfect (Mt 5:48) they must give to the poor. (and possibly get to heaven) But to TAKE from the rich (universal health care) is wrong! The 1st and last year I was on Obama Care, I spent $35,000 a yr for health care for my family of 4. After that I stopped carrying insurance taking the chance that we would not get sick. I hate not having insurance but your so called Marxist UNIVERSAL health care has left me with no other option. I now pay for all my health care out of pocket, and hope no one gets seriously injured or sick. Putting the needs of others before the needs of yourself is great until you are faced with real life issues that force you to decide if you can live under a Marxist government system that supports murdering the innocent, socialism economic policies, religious beliefs that make all religions equal (Muslims believe they must spread their religion by violence) Christians do not believe that. At the root of Islam, not that all Muslims believe this, is the ideology that it is the one true religion and it must be forced upon the ignorant. If you do not believe me read the Koran. (then look at all the violence perpetrated by Muslims in the last 10 years globally) seriously do a google search or better read some books written by more objective authors than what you normally are exposed to in mainstream media.
    I hope you can expand your world view, but if not peace and I hope your interfaith work brings you great joy!

  3. Richard K. Egan October 8, 2017 Reply

    Is an Interfaith Religious Service being held before the start of
    the Festival of Faith gathering on Sunday October 15?
    If not, can one be scheduled.

    Richard K. Egan
    8076 Talliho Drive
    Indianapolis, IN 46256
    317.585.4889

  4. Jim Hummer February 23, 2017 Reply

    Hello, I am interested in seeing if and how we can be a part of your organization. Our hospital is Neuropsychiatric Hospital of Indianapolis and we are an acute adult psychiatric hospital. I came across your name and researched a little about your organization and it is clearly a worthwhile organization that seems to help many people in the community.

    Thank you for any help you can give me with learning more about Interfaith Mental Health Coalition.

  5. Michael Bell June 20, 2016 Reply

    I am a singer/songwriter/solo acoustic performer who lives here in Indy and would like to perform on the music & arts stage at the Festival of Faiths 2016. Can you direct me to an e-mail in order that I can send you an EPK, an album download and more info about my music? Love what you are doing and would like to give of my gifts to further the cause.

  6. Natasha Polak July 12, 2015 Reply

    Hello Mr. Wiles,

    I came across this website after watching a sermon series from Lifechurch.tv entitled “At the Movies” where the movie “The Good Lie” was shown. Perhaps you are familiar with that movie? Since it was about the lost boys of Sudan, I felt led to see what resources exist in Indy for refugees from other countries worldwide, so that I might volunteer or donate items to those who could use them. Ironically, I have to say, your profile stood out because I was SDA for many years before becoming non-denominational! What a small world. These days, I am a member with Lifechurch.tv, and watch sermons online as I feel it fits more with a global focus that way. We welcome people from all countries on a regular basis to our chat room, almost like a multi-time zoned Sunday school!

    I am interested to know what I can do to help. Currently, I work part time as an administrative assistant but am looking for a new job with a few more hours. I’m also a freelance writer, but definitely need to work on top of that in order to earn a living! Does your organization hire? Or is it only made up of volunteers? Nevertheless, I am also interested in donating, as I mentioned. I enjoy knitting and cooking in my spare time, and traveling with my husband and daughter. The issues surrounding refugees and immigrants hits close to home for me, as both of my parents came to this country from India many years ago in order to make a better life for themselves. In many ways, I have been aware of the challenges and pitfalls such families face, and I empathize. God bless!

    Natasha

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