Guest Speakers

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Archbishop Kevin McDonald, Catholic Church

Archbishop Kevin McDonald was Archbishop of Southwark from 2003 – 2009.

In 1968 he was accepted as a student for the Archdiocese of Birmingham and went to the English College in Rome from 1968-1975. He was ordained priest in 1974 and completed his licentiate in Moral Theology in 1975. His first appointment was to All Saints, Stourbridge, in Worcestershire. From 1976 until 1985 he taught Moral Theology at Oscott College.

From 1985 until 1993, he worked as an official at the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity in Rome, where he had special responsibility for Anglican and Methodist relations. During that time he also completed a doctorate. In 1993 he returned to England and was parish priest of English Martyrs, Sparkhill from 1993-1998.This is a mostly Muslim area and it was here that he developed his interest in inter-religious dialogue

From 1998-2001 Monsignor McDonald was Rector of Oscott College and he was ordained Bishop of Northampton on 2nd May 2001. He is Chairman of the Bishops’ Conference Office for Relations with other Religions and of the Committee for Catholic-Jewish relations. He oversaw the production of Meeting God in Friend and Stranger, a document on inter-religious relations of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

He leads the UK Catholic Church’s work on interfaith relations. 

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Rabbi Professor Daniel Sperber, Representing Chief Rabbi of Israel

Rabbi Professor Daniel Sperber is the author of the 8-volume Minhagei Yisrael on the history of Jewish customs, as well as tens of books and hundreds of monographs in Hebrew and English dealing with a wide range of halakhic, linguistic and historical subject.

Most recently he published two books in Hebrew on Jewish legal thinking: The Path of Halacha: Women Reading the Torah: A Case of Pesikah Policy, 2007, and Ways of Pesika: Methods and Approaches for Proper Halakhic Decision Making, 2008. He was awarded the prestigious Israel Prize in 1992 and has taught at Bar-Ilan University in the Departments of Jewish History and Talmud since 1968. He serves as president of the Jesselson Institute of Advanced Torah Studies at Bar-Ilan University.

He is also the rabbi of Congregation Menachem Tzion in the Old City of Jerusalem. He studied at Yeshivat Kol-Torah in Israel (1958-59) and Hevron (1959-62). Prof. Sperber received his doctorate from University College London in the Departments of Ancient History and Hebrew Studies, studying under Prof. A. Momigliano and S. Stein. He served as dean of the faculty of Jewish Studies, and headed the Basic Jewish Studies Program.

From 1994 ’til 2005 he served as Chairman of the Committee on Zionist Religious Education at the Ministry of Education. Daniel and his wife Chana are parents of ten children. He is a regular representative of the Israeli Rabbinate at inter-religious conventions and has been involved in interfaith dialogue for several decades.

Tibetan monk

Geshe Tashi Tsering, Representing His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Geshe Tashi Tsering was born in Purang in West Tibet. In 1970 Geshe Tashi become the first young man to join Sera May monastery since the flight into exile in 1959.  He studied there until he gained the Geshe Lharampa degree, equivalent to a Doctor of Philosophy.  He then went to Gyuto monastery to pursue his study of Buddhist Tantra for a year.
In 1991 Geshe Tashi Tsering came to Europe, teaching first at Nalanda monastery in France.  In 1994 he moved to London to become the resident teacher at Jamyang Buddhist Centre London.  Since then he has taught widely in the UK, Europe and America. 
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Sheikh Moafaq Tarif, Spiritual Head of The Druze Community in Israel

Sheikh Moafaq Tarif was born in Julis in 1963. He is a descendent of the Tarif family which has been leading the Druze community in Israel since 1753. The Druze faith was founded in Egypt in the 11th Century. The Druze people reside primarily in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel. The community has 125,300 followers in Israel as of 2010.

Sheikh Moafaq Tarif inherited his role as the leader of the Druze community in Israel from his late grandfather Sheikh Amin Tarif in October 1993. Sheikh Amin Tarif  was held among the Druze community internationally as the preeminent spiritual authority in the Druze world. In 2003, whilst inheriting the Spirtual leadership, Sheikh Moafaq took responsibility for the community’s holy sites in Israel.

In 2010, the University of Haifa  awarded him the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, honoris causa for recognition of his contribution to strengthening equality and his commitment to his country.

Shaykh Moafaq Tarif graduated the Al-Baida post-secondary school for Druze studies in Lebanon and has a B.A. in Law.

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Umesh Chander Sharma, Chairman of the Hindu Council UK

Mr Sharma has been actively involved in the community through various leadership roles and been instrumental in advancing the social, cultural and religious interests of the Indian and Hindu Community living in the UK.

Mr Sharma is a well known member of the Hindu faith community and has served in numerous public capacities including Mayor of London Borough of Ealing.

He is also Chairman of the Hindu Temple Trust/Shree Ram Mandir Southall and Chairman of the largest Hindu umbrella body in the UK – Hindu Council UK and has worked with interfaith organisations and government authorities at local, national and international levels.

Under his leadership the council has been an powerful voice for social cohesion and interfaith harmony.

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Dr Katrina Lantos Swett, Vice-Chair United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (UCSIRF)

Dr. Lantos Swett established the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice in 2008 and serves as its President and Chief Executive Officer. The Lantos Foundation is a distinguished and respected voice on many key human rights concerns ranging from rule of law in Russia and Internet freedom in closed societies to the on-going threat of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial

Dr. Lantos Swett also teaches human rights and American foreign policy at Tufts University. She also taught at the University of Southern Denmark while her husband, former Congressman Richard Swett, was serving as the U.S. Ambassador in Copenhagen.

Dr. Lantos Swett has also worked on Capitol Hill as Deputy Counsel to the Criminal Justice Sub-Committee of the Senate Judiciary Committee for then Senator Joe Biden and as a consultant to businesses, charitable foundations, and political campaigns.

Dr. Lantos Swett graduated from Yale University in 1974 at the age of 18 and earned her Juris Doctor at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 1976. She received her Ph.D. in History from the University of Southern Denmark in 2001.

Dr Lantos Swett serves as Vice Chair of USCIRF which is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission, the first of its kind in the world, dedicated to defending the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad. USCIRF reviews the facts and circumstances of religious freedom violations and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress.  USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the Congressional leadership of both political parties.

 

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HE President John Kufuor, Ghana

His Excellency President John Agyekum Kufuor was the President of Ghana from 2001to 2009. Prior to this, he had twice being elected Member of Parliament (1969–72 and 1979–81) and had also served as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1969-1972  representing Ghana’s delegation to the United Nations. During his presidency, he was elected Chairperson of the African Union from 2007-2008 and also served two terms as Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States  in 2003 and 2007.

During the Presidency of J. A. Kufuor, Ghana witnessed the fastest growth in its history attaining a middle-income status by 2006 much earlier than the projected year of 2015. His personal commitment to religious freedom ensured that during his tenure Ghana remained a leading light in Africa in social and religious peace.

He has been instrumental in the peaceful resolution of conflicts around the continent including those in Kenya, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and Liberia.

In 2011 he was named joint winner of the World Food Prize for Food and Agriculture with former Brazilian President Lula da Silva. He is currently a Global Ambassador against Hunger for the UN World Food Programme; chairman of the UN Inter-peace Program; Chairman of the Sanitation and Water for All Partnership; Global Envoy for the Neglected Tropical Diseases Alliance; Lead Advocate for the Partnership for Child Development.

In June 2013, President Kufuor was appointed the Co-Chair of Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition.

Baroness Warsi

The Rt Hon Baroness Warsi, Senior Minister of State, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth office and Minister of State for Faith and Communities

Baroness Warsi is a conservative member of the House of Lords. Prior to her ministerial appointment she was Co-Chair of Conservative party (2010-2012) and Minister without Portfolio. She is the first Muslim to serve in a British Cabinet and is probably the foremost Muslim politician in the Western world.

Baroness Warsi is passionate about the positive role religion can play within societies and in an address to Anglican Bishops’ Conference in 2010, she famously declared that governments should “do God”. In 2012 she led the UK’s largest ever ministerial delegation to the Vatican, gaining global coverage for a speech which called on Europe to strengthen its Christian identity.

Baroness Warsi remains a keen advocate for interfaith peace and has spoken regularly in favour of religion as a powerful driver for social cohesion.

 

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Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities

Rt Hon Eric Pickles is the Conservative MP for Brentwood and Ongar  and in May 2010  he was appointed Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, that also holds the portfolio for faith communities in the UK

Rt Hon Eric Pickles was educated at Greenhead Grammar School and Leeds Polytechnic and  was Leader of Bradford City Council from 1988 to 1990. He held a number of positions while in opposition, including Shadow Minister for Transport  (2001-02) and Shadow Minister for London.

(1998).  He was also Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government from 2007 to 2009 and Chairman of the Conservative Party from 2009 to 2010.

Rt Hon Eric Pickles worked as a consultant in employment practice and as Local Government Editor for Conservative Newsline before becoming an MP in 1992. He is a trustee of 2 local charities Brentwood Foyer and Brentwood Theatre.

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Baroness Berridge, Chair of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on International Religious Freedom or Belief

Baroness Berridge of the Vale of Catmose in the County of Rutland joined the House of Lords in 2011 and has a keen interest in prisons, foreign affairs and multi-culturalism.

She studied law at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and undertook barrister’s training at the Inns of Court School of Law in London.

Baroness Berridge was a trustee of the Conservative Christian Fellowship (CCF) before becoming CCF Executive Director in 2005. She is also a trustee of the Kainos Community (a charity that runs rehabilitative communities in three prisons in England), More than Gold (the UK church response to the London 2012 Olympics) and is a patron of the Conservative Christian Fellowship.

She is also part of the Advisory Council of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, which works to support the work of Canon Andrew White, vicar of Baghdad.

In July 2013 Baroness Berridge was elected as the Chair of the new All Party Parliamentary Group on International Religious Freedom or Belief that works to awareness and profile of international religious freedom as a human right amongst parliamentarians, media, government and the general public in the UK. It also seeks to increase effectiveness and awareness of the UK’s contribution to international institutions charged with enforcing this human right.

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Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP, The Attorney General

Dominic was educated at Westminster School and went on to Magdalen College Oxford, where he studied Modern History. He was called to the Bar in 1980 and became a Member of Parliament for Beaconsfield in 1997.

In the UK Government Dominic Grieve is the Attorney General for England and Wales thereby serving as the chief legal adviser of the Crown and its government. He also acts as principal legal adviser on questions of EU and international law, human rights and devolution issues and holds the office of Advocate General for Northern Ireland.

Dominic Grieve is currently president of the Franco-British Society, vice-chairman of the Franco-British Council and Honorary Recorder of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames. He is also a deputy Church Warden.

Dominic Grieve’s areas of political interest include Law and Order, Constitution, European Union, Defence, Environment and Foreign Affairs.