The Bellwether International Symposium on Bridging the Religious Divide

World Affairs_ Religious Freedom_Utah Global Diplomacy_Bellwether InternationalFriday, 6.16.2023
9:00 AM - 3:30 PM - Registration starts at 8:30 AM

Little America - Salt Lake City
500 Main St, Salt Lake City, UT 84101

This event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Click the link below.

Utah Global Diplomacy presents The Bellwether International Symposium on Bridging the Religious Divide, which welcomes leading global experts to explore critical questions about what religious freedom means in Utah, the nation, and around the world.

This symposium aims to bring leading experts, academics, policymakers, researchers, authors, and activists together to explore the complexity and intersectionality of this topic through the following subthemes:

  • Deconstruction of the term “Religious Freedom” on a global scale
  • Preventing religious threats that lead to extremism in the United States
  • Building bridges across faiths by understanding and respecting difference

With an anticipated attendance of more than 200 individuals, the Bridging The Religious Divide Symposium will strengthen the collective impact by bringing together people who work or are interested in this topic daily. Furthermore, benefits to symposium attendees include:

  • Expanding their knowledge of the subject
  • Obtaining new tools, resources, and best practices
  • Meeting and networking with those working in or interested in this field
  • Engaging in immediate call-to-actions that funnel their passion into action

Be sure to check back soon, as we regularly update our program agenda.



9:00 AM       

World Affairs Symposium: The Bellwether International Symposium on Bridging the Religious Divide

Registration starts at 8:30 AM

Plenary Session 

Keynote Speaker: Nadine Maenza

9:50 AM Break
10:00 AM


Panel: Religious Freedom in Utah 

Panelists: Marian Edmonds-Allen, Luna Banuri

11:15 AM Break
11:30 AM


Panel:  Religious Freedom in the United States

Panelists: Aaron Sherinian, Rabbi David Saperstein

12:45 PM Networking Lunch Reception
2:00 PM


Panel: Religious Freedom in the World 

Panelists: Elizabeth Clark, Gulalai Ismail, Jannah Scott

3:15 PM Closing Remarks
   * Each session will be followed by an audience Q&A


Guest Speaker: Aaron Sherinian

Aaron Sherinian_Utah Global DiplomacyAaron Sherinian, Senior Vice President of Deseret Management Corporation-Faith and Media Initiative 

 Aaron Sherinian is a public relations and communications professional with more than two decades of service in the corporate, philanthropic and diplomatic sectors. He currently serves as the Senior Vice President - Global Reach for Deseret Management Corporation (DMC).‍Prior to his work at DMC, Aaron managed global communications transformation as Vice President at Philip Morris International. From 2011-2017, he served as Chief Communications and Marketing Officer for the United Nations Foundation. During that time he led the Foundation’s public relations efforts, media relationships, strategic outreach, and online presence.‍ Before joining the UN Foundation, Aaron served as Managing Director of Public Affairs for the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. Government development assistance agency administering $7 billion in poverty reduction grants in 40 partner countries. He oversaw the agency’s strategic communications portfolio, media relations, public relations agenda, and a global re-branding. His professional background includes a decade of service as a Foreign Service Officer for the U.S. Department of State.

Guest Speaker: Rabbi David Saperstein

David Saperstein_Utah Global DiplomacyRabbi David Saperstein, Director of Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Designated by Newsweek Magazine as the most influential rabbi in America and by the Washington Post as the “quintessential religious lobbyist on Capitol Hill,” for 40 years as Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, David Saperstein represented to Congress and the Administration, the Reform Jewish Movement, the largest segment of American Jewry. Under Rabbi Saperstein, writes J.J. Goldberg in his book Jewish Power, the Religious Action Center "has become one of the most powerful Jewish bodies in Washington, second only to AIPAC."

During the second term of the Obama administration, Rabbi Saperstein served as the United States Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, carrying out his responsibilities as the country’s chief diplomat on religious freedom issues. In this capacity, he served as a principal advisor to Secretary Kerry and President Obama on issues of international religious freedom and travelled widely as America’s advocate for religious freedom across the globe.  In 2019-20, Rabbi Saperstein served as the President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, the international arm of the Reform Jewish Movement.

Also an attorney, he taught seminars on Church–State law and on comparative Jewish and American Law for 35 years at Georgetown University Law Center and continues his academic work as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s Foreign Service School and Center for Jewish Civilization and as a Distinguished Fellow at the PM Glynn Institute at Australian Catholic University.

During his career, Rabbi Saperstein has served as the chair or co-chair of several national interreligious coalitions including the Coalition to Preserve Religious Liberty and first chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious freedom. He has served on the boards or executive committees of numerous national organizations including the NAACP, People for The American Way, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Religious Partnership on the Environment, and the World Faith Development Dialogue.

His work has been recognized over the years from many sources, receiving numerous national organizational awards (including the inaugural recipient of the Embassy of the Netherlands’ “Anne Frank Award”) and honorary doctorates from several universities (most recently from Yale University in 2016). His articles have been published in publications ranging from the New York Times and the Washington Post to the Harvard Law Review. He has appeared on most major television news and talk shows, including Oprah, Meet the Press, ABC’s Sunday Morning, the Rachel Maddow Show, Nightline, PBS News Hour, Crossfire, Hardball, and the O’Reilly Factor. His latest book is Jewish Dimensions of Social Justice: Tough Moral Choices for our Times.

Rabbi Saperstein is married to Ellen Weiss, an award-winning journalist and has two sons, Danny (a musician) and Ari (an artist and a writer).

In his book Thunder in America, network news correspondent Bob Faw wrote of Rabbi Saperstein: "Saperstein learned from political masters... [His] energy is almost legendary - no one around him worked longer hours, no one darted in and out of more meetings... Once he'd taken on an assignment, he'd always guide it safely home to completion." 

Guest Speaker: Elizabeth Clark

Elizabeth Clark_Utah Global Diplomacy

Elizabeth Clark, Associate Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University

Professor Clark is an expert on religious freedom in Eastern Europe and comparative law and religion. She has written over 40 chapters and articles and co-written or edited several books, including Religion during the Russian-Ukrainian Conflict and Law and Religion in Post-Communist Europe.

Professor Clark has been featured on radio and public television shows in the U.S. and internationally, The National Review, and SCOTUSBlog. In her work with the Center, she has spoken at U.N. and OSCE forums at and over 100 academic conferences throughout the world. She has also testified before the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom on religious freedom issues, has taken part in drafting analyses of pending legislation affecting religious freedom in over a dozen countries, and has written amicus briefs on religious freedom issues for the U.S. Supreme Court.

In addition to her work at the BYU International Center for Law and Religion Studies, Professor Clark has taught Professional Responsibility and co-taught classes on Comparative Law, Comparative Constitutional Law, International Human Rights, and European Union law at the J. Reuben Clark School of Law at Brigham Young University. Professor Clark is fluent in Russian and Czech and has a reading knowledge of French and German.

Prior to joining the Law School, Professor Clark was an associate in the Washington, D.C., office of Mayer, Brown & Platt, where she was a member of the Appellate and Supreme Court Litigation Group. Professor Clark also clerked for Judge J. Clifford Wallace on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. She graduated summa cum laude from BYU’s law school, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the BYU Law Review.

Guest Speaker: Gulalai Ismail

Rachel Miner_Utah Global DiplomacyGulalai Ismail, Founder of Aware Girls 

Women’s rights activist Gululai Ismail is one of Pakistan’s most prominent human rights defenders and critics of the Pakistani security services. Authorities in Pakistan have falsely accused her of a litany of serious offences including sedition, financing terrorism and defaming state institutions as a result of her advocacy for a grassroots Pashtun rights movement.

Ismail was forced to go on the run in 2019, managing to escape to the U.S. despite significant efforts to capture her. Pakistani security services have since targeted Ismail’s parents, throwing her 65-year-old father into jail on charges of sedition and terrorism financing, which human rights defenders say are bogus and thinly-veiled revenge against the family for embarrassing state security services.

Ismail is well-known in the global human rights community for spotlighting the rampant abuse of women and girls in Pakistan, especially gang rapes perpetrated by government soldiers. She is the founder of a leading organization called Aware Girls, which focuses on women’s empowerment, peace-building and countering violent extremism.

Ismail has over 13 years of experience in human rights and peace work. Her work has been focused on drafting policies and implementing projects on the empowerment of young women, young women’s human rights issues, legal advocacy, gender-based violence, girls’ education, countering violent extremism, peace-building, governance, organizational strengthening, and setting up helplines to help vulnerable women across the region.

As of 2021 Ismail continues to Chair Aware Girls as well as lead the Youth Peace Network.

Guest Speaker: Jannah Scott

Rachel Miner_Utah Global DiplomacyJannah Scott, Founder and Executive Director of American Center for Religious Freedom

Dr. Jannah Scott has decades of experience with government
and civil society in the U.S. and internationally. She has a depth
and breadth of experience across governance realms, with
special emphasis on policies and programs to promote peace
and security. She serves as the CEO of the American Center for
Religious Freedom (ACRF). She most recently worked as
director of systems change initiatives for the YWCA Metropolitan Phoenix; and led engagement for the 2020 Census—engaging faith, community, governmental and philanthropic organizations to reach some of the hardest-to-reach populations.
From 2009 to 2017, Jannah served in President Obama’s administration as Deputy Director, Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In that role, Jannah led federal policy, guidance, and training with states and localities on engaging with civil society organizations. It is out of her work with the Obama Administration that the ACRF was born. In 2017 Jannah was asked to establish ACRF to continue her work in promoting dialogue and reconciliation across various sectors and people groups. She continues her work with leaders from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey, Pakistan and most recently has begun engagement with civil society in Uzbekistan.
From 2005 to 2009 she served as the Policy Advisor on Faith and Community Initiatives to former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano. In that role, Jannah represented the Governor with community leaders to establish and strengthen local initiatives aimed at serving the poorest and most vulnerable citizens.
Jannah has undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of California at Berkeley in Public Health Planning and Policy, postgraduate work at Arizona State University and Brown University, and two honorary Doctor of Theology degrees from Bible Colleges in Phoenix and Redlands, CA.

Guest Speaker: Luna Banuri

Rachel Miner_Utah Global DiplomacyLuna Banuri, Executive Director of Utah Muslim Civic League

Luna is a seasoned consultant with 25 years of experience in non-profit and for-profit sectors in strategy, community and organizational development. She is an articulate communicator, recognized for advocating and fostering social justice policies based on diversity and inclusion. Luna evolved her legal education background and expertise into a distinguished consulting practice. She has held leadership roles managing corporate multi-cultural/inclusion initiatives, complemented by experience as an entrepreneur. She is founder and director of TeleTaleem, a non-profit enterprise focusing on helping leverage the power of technology, innovative approaches, and partnerships to solve the toughest global development challenges in Education.

Guest Speaker: Marian Edmons-Allen

Marian Edmonds-Allen_Utah Global DiplomacyMarian Edmonds-Allen, Executive Director of Parity

Rev. Marian Edmonds-Allen is the executive director of Parity, an NYC-based national nonprofit that works at the intersection of faith and LGBT concerns, director of Blessed by Difference, and author at Family Christian

Marian has worked with youth and families in various denominations and settings throughout the country for more than 20 years, focusing on strengths-based interventions and supports to affirm beliefs and faith practices for LGBT persons. In 2013, Marian was named Person of the Year by Q Salt Lake for her visionary leadership, and in 2015 was named a Petra Fellow for her work with LGBT homeless youth.  

Previous positions include Executive Director of OUTreach Resource Centers, the National Program Director of the Family Acceptance Project, Executive Director of the Utah Pride Center, Justice Ministry Supervisor at Auburn Seminary.

Marian attended Western Theological Seminary and Eden Theological Seminary and has served in many pastoral capacities, including church planting, parish ministry, and chaplaincy.  She is a Doctor of Ministry candidate at Eden Theological Seminary (2023) with the topic Covenantal Pluralism, Religious Freedom and Mission: Evidence for Healing the LGBT and Faith Divide.  Marian is married, has four children, and is a passionate skier and outdoor enthusiast.

Guest Speaker: Nadine Maenza

Marian Edmonds-Allen_Utah Global DiplomacyNadine Maenza, President of the International Religious Freedom (IRF) Secretariat

  • Nadine Maenza is a noted speaker, writer, and policy expert with more than two decades of experience as an advocate for working families and a champion for international religious freedom.

Nadine is the President of Patriot Voices, where she provides her expertise to shape the organization’s special emphasis on public policies that support working families. Drawing on her extensive network and coalition-building experiences, she has helped build unique coalitions on issues such as paid family leave, health care, tax reform, and international religious freedom.
In May of 2020, she was re-appointed by the White House to a second two-year term on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, serving as its Vice Chair in 2019. She has represented USCIRF in delegations to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, Bahrain, Indonesia, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Thailand, Taiwan, and Uzbekistan. She has traveled in her own personal capacity to better understand religious freedom conditions in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and Bangladesh as well as recently spending a month in northeast Syria. She is most honored to have met with persecuted communities of various faiths from around the world.
She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Institute for Global Engagement as well as Freedom Research Foundation. Previously, she was Chairman of Hardwired Global, an organization working to stop religious oppression around the world. Nadine has advised several major organizations on faith engagement, policy development, and strategic partnerships through The Clapham Group including The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The College Board, and The Anne E. Casey Foundation.
She has served as a senior advisor to presidential and Senate campaigns. She has decades of experience in fundraising and coalition building, having worked with presidential and Senate super PACs, served as the finance director for the Pennsylvania Republican Party, and as a consultant to the Republican National Committee. She worked on Capitol Hill in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Nadine’s writings on various policy topics have been published in numerous publications domestically and internationally. She is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University.

Guest Speaker: Rachel Miner

Rachel Miner_Utah Global DiplomacyRachel Miner, Founder and CEO of Bellwether International

In 2019, after working with the Yazidis in Iraq, Rachel observed the humanitarian gap for religious minority groups that have experienced genocide, particularly in communities where freedom of religion or belief is violated, ignored, or deemed unimportant. Rachel founded Bellwether International in London, UK to respond to pre- and post-genocide communities who have experienced severe violations of freedom of religion or belief. 

Our model is to recruit locally and implement sustainably. As such, we rely on local partners and community project leaders to collaborate on holistic solutions that ensure peace and stability

for years to come. Protecting freedom of religion or belief for one is protecting human rights for all. 


Tabling Opportunities

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This symposium was funded in part by Utah Humanities through the United We Stand: Connecting through Culture initiative from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Event Information

Event Date Jun 16, 2023 9:00 am
Event End Date Jun 16, 2023 3:30 pm
Capacity 300
Individual Price Free & open to the public
Location The Little America Hotel
Categories World Affairs Symposium Series

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