The Guibord Center Advisory Council
At The Guibord Center, our Advisors are passionate about their faith traditions and take great joy in sharing the wisdom and beauty inherent in them. Many of our Advisors have imparted teachings on their respective religions or spiritual practices at our events. They graciously answer questions, dispelling misconceptions and fostering enlightening discussions. Through their personal perspectives, they facilitate profound and heartfelt experiences of different religions.
In addition to sharing their own beliefs, our Advisors also cultivate a deep understanding of one another’s faiths. By exploring the commonalities and differences, they have forged genuine friendships that construct interfaith bridges and fortify our community.
The Guibord Center serves as the meeting ground for these invaluable exchanges, fostering a culture of curiosity, respect, and friendship among our Advisors. Their collective wisdom and dedication strengthen our mission to foster interfaith understanding and harmony.
John Ishvaradas Abdallah
John Ishvaradas Abdallah (meaning “servant of God” in Jewish, Christian, Hindu and Muslim traditions) is the preferred pen name of Syed Riyaz Mahdi. A speaker and writer and an independent activist Sufi, he is the author of A Sufi’s Ruminations On One World Under God. In addition, he is Founder and Executive Director of World Without Borders Interfaith Sufi Ashram, which is based on and draws inspiration from the book.
“Sufi John” is passionately involved in interfaith dialogue, conversation and movement promoting a theology of love, peace and freedom through active nonviolence. He currently serves on the boards of the Christian-Muslim Consultative Group, Southern California Committee for a Parliament of World’s Religions, South Coast Interfaith Council, and Muslims for Progressive Values Los Angeles chapter.
Cindi Moar Alvitre
Cindi Moar Alvitre has dedicated her life to the preservation and protection of California Indian culture. She has been a cultural and environmental educator for over three decades and currently is a PhD candidate in UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Culture and lecturer at California State University, Long Beach.
A descendant of the Tongva, the original inhabitants of Los Angeles and Orange Counties and the Southern Channel Islands, Cindi served as the first female chair of the Gabrieleno/Tongva Tribal Council. She is a task force member for the State of California and California Indian Heritage Center, and a board member of the California Council for the Humanities.
LauraSa Pele Lafoia Ava-Tesimale
Founder and President, One Global Family Foundation
Laura Lafoia Ava-Tesimale is a Pacific American businesswoman, humanitarian, community organizer, and interfaith peace activist. Since 2001, Laura has been CEO of Ava Consulting & Management. She also is Founder and President of One Global Family Foundation, which partners with organizations locally and globally to serve underprivileged and disabled children and families, homeless communities, and refugees. Currently, Laura also serves as Director of the Pacific Region for GiveLight Foundation; a Global Ambassador for the Free Wheelchair Mission; and on several interfaith council boards.
Samia Bano is the Happiness Expert and author of the book Make Change Fun And Easy: How to Create Inner Peace to World Peace In 3 Simple Steps. Her expertise is grounded in her academic training and hard-won life wisdom. A childhood sexual abuse survivor, Samia began her quest for inner peace and positive change at just 8 years old. After more than 20 years of struggle, she successfully eliminated suffering from her life and learned how to take control of her happiness. Now she is on a mission to help others do the same.
As someone who is recognizably Muslim, Samia must deal with Islamophobia on an ongoing basis. After 9/11, this motivated her to become engaged in interfaith dialogue and community building. She is active in several interfaith organizations, including NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change. There, she also served as a Muslim dialogue facilitator for several years.
In 2020, Samia was selected to serve on the Culver City Equity and Human Relations Advisory Committee (EHRAC). In this role, she recommends programs, policies, and activities that promote positive human relations and equitable outcomes and opportunities in all aspects of community life.
Maneck Bhujwala is a speaker, writer and representative of the Zoroastrian community. A volunteer priest to Parsi and Iranian communities, he speaks at schools, on radio and television, and at Zoroastrian and interfaith conferences.
Maneck has co-founded Zoroastrian associations in Southern and Northern California and is also active in the interfaith community. He serves on the boards of the South Coast Interfaith Council, the North American Interfaith Network, and World Zoroastrian Organization, and Co-Chair of the Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America’s Interfaith Activities and Research/Preservation committees. Previously, he was a Stanford University Associated Religions board member and president of the Greater Huntington Beach Interfaith Council. Born in India, Maneck holds an MS in electrical engineering, an MBA, and a master’s in Interfaith Action.
Rev. Angie Buchanan
Rev. Angie Buchanan is a founder and the spiritual director of Earth Traditions, a Pagan church, and of Gaia’s Womb, an interfaith spirituality group that has produced women’s spiritual retreats for over 20 years. A certified death midwife, she developed and teaches a certification course that provides hands-on, intensive training for compassionate end-of-life care and information on ecologically sensitive funerals (www.deathmidwife.org). She currently serves as the pagan student spiritual advisor at the University of Chicago.
Rev. Angie has been involved with numerous organizations that promote interfaith dialog and peace. In addition, she is a longtime activist for religious freedom, women’s rights, and First Amendment protections. In 2014, she was inducted into the Martin Luther King Jr., International College of Ministers and Laity, at Morehouse College.
Venerable Bhante Chao Chu
Bhante Chao Chu is Abbot of Rosemead Buddhist Monastery and president of the Los Angeles Buddhist Union (LABU). Born in Sri Lanka, he was ordained in the Buddhist monastic order in 1964, graduating from the Buddhist College in 1970. Since coming to the United States in 1981, Bhante Chao Chu has been involved in numerous Los Angeles interfaith and inter-Buddhist activities. He has served as president of the Center for Buddhist Development, executive committee member of the World Fellowship of Buddhists and World Buddhist Sangha Council, and vice president of the Buddhist Sangha Council of Southern California. In addition, he founded the Bosath Children’s Education Foundation, which offers computer and English learning to underserved children .
Bhante Chao Chu received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from California State University Los Angeles and a master’s degree in Buddhist studies from the University of Kelaniya. Fluent in Mandarin, he lectures extensively throughout Asia.
Steven Charleston is currently Visiting Professor of Native American Theology at the Saint Paul School of Theology, Oklahoma City University. He previously served in the Episcopal Church as Bishop of Alaska, President and Dean of Episcopal Divinity School, and National Director for Native American Ministries.
A citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Steven comes from a family with a long history of Native American community service. Following in the footsteps of his great-grandfather and grandfather, ordained pastors who preached in their native language throughout the state, Steven was ordained on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation at Wakpala, South Dakota. He is an internationally known author and advocate for indigenous people’s rights, spiritual renewal and reconciliation, and environmental justice.
Sister Joan Chittister, OSB
Joan Chittister is a Benedictine sister, an internationally known speaker and spiritual leader and an award-winning author of over 40 books. She is founder and executive director of Benetvision, a center for contemporary spirituality in Erie, PA.
Sister Joan currently serves as co-chair of the Global Peace Initiative of Women, a partner organization of the UN. The recipient of numerous awards for her work for justice, peace and equality, especially for women in the Church and in society, and 12 honorary degrees from US colleges and universities.
Sister Joan received her master’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and her doctorate from Penn State University in Speech Communications Theory.
Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels
Neil Comess-Daniels retired as rabbi of Temple Beth Shir Shalom in 2020. For almost 40 years, he brought a passionate expression of Judaism and strong sense of social justice to the temple. With his congregation, Rabbi Neil facilitated Jewish community and spiritual discovery, working toward Tikkun Olam – “healing the world.”
A founding member of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), he has chaired the Martin Luther King, Jr. Westside Coalition and the Interfaith Holocaust Service. With his musical and writing talent, Rabbi Neil communicates the Jewish tradition’s riches and composes for people of all spiritualities. He recently released an album for children, “On This Day and All the Time,” and published “I Miss You,” a book of poems, prayers, songs and guidance for adults helping grieving children. A graduate of UCLA, he was ordained in 1979 at the Hebrew Union College.
Dr. Diana Eck
Founder and Director, Pluralism Project at Harvard University
Dr. Diana L. Eck is Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies and Frederic Wertham Professor of Law and Psychiatry in Society at Harvard University. She founded and directs the Pluralism Project, which documents the growing presence of Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Pagan, Sikh, Jain, and Zoroastrian communities in the US. The project grew out of her 1991 class “World Religions in New England” – a result of her interest in America’s changing religious landscape as seen in Harvard students.
Dr. Eck serves on the Committee on the Study of Religion in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. A member of the Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies and the Faculty of Divinity, she is also Master of Lowell House, an undergraduate residence. Among many honors, Dr. Eck has served on a State Department Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad, received the National Humanities Medal from President Clinton, and received the National Endowment for the Humanities for her work on American religious pluralism. She holds an MA in South Asian history from the University of London and a PhD in comparative religion from Harvard University.
Executive Director, NewGround: A Muslim Jewish Partnership For Change
Aziza Hasan, named an influencer by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, is the executive director of NewGround: A Muslim Jewish Partnership For Change. She has extensive experience in program management and coalition building. An experienced mediator and conflict transformation practitioner, she has co-facilitated with multiple groups.
Aziza’s work has been featured on Ozy, Yahoo News, MSN, Public Radio’s “Speaking of Faith” with Krista Tippett, the United States Institute for Peace, Arabic Radio and Television, and the LA Times. Her two years of AmeriCorps service gave her hands-on experience in community organizing and group problem-solving. She earned the “President’s Volunteer Service Award” in 2006 under President George W. Bush.
Aziza served on President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships from 2015 to 2016, and the Executive Service Corps recognized her with the “Megan G. Cooper Leadership Award” in 2017. Aziza currently serves on Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Interfaith Advisory Council and is a commissioner of Los Angeles City Civil and Human Rights Commission.
Associate Director, NewGround: A Muslim Jewish Partnership For Change
After five years as program co-director at NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change, Andrea Hodos recently became associate director. She co-facilitates NewGround’s MAJIC high school leadership council as well as its Professional Fellowship. Andrea has trained as a facilitator with Resetting the Table and is a member of the Jews of Color & Allies Leadership cohort of Dimensions Education Consulting. Andrea is also the creator of Moving Torah, a method for exploring Jewish text and Jewish story using movement, theater, and writing. Her creative project, Sinai and Sunna: Women Covering, Uncovering and Recovering, initially brought her into the realm of Muslim-Jewish engagement.
Andrea has a BA in English Literature from Yale University and a MEd from Temple University in Dance Education. She is married to Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Cohen, and they have raised their two children, Shachar and Oryah, in Los Angeles. She is grateful to live in the City of Angels where her family can be part of vibrant Jewish community-building and strong multi-faith coalitions.
Founder and Artistic Director, Flying Limbs Productions
Jennifer Jessum, MFA, is Founder and Artistic Director of Flying Limbs Inc., Productions. An award-winning director, choreographer, producer and cinematographer, she has held numerous commissions, presented and taught throughout the U.S. and abroad. Jennifer’s two award-winning feature documentaries, Holy Man: The USA vs. Douglas White, narrated by Martin Sheen, and Finding God in the City of Angels, have received critical acclaim.
A founding member of the Off Center Dance Collective, she has performed with choreographers nationally. Teaching credits include Princeton, New York University, City University of New York Queens College, and the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Jennifer holds an MFA in film production from USC and an MFA in dance from New York University.
Nirinjan Kaur Khalsa-Baker
Nirinjan Kaur Khalsa-Baker, Ph.D., is a multifaceted teacher and scholar. She is a senior instructor of theological studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She also serves as clinical professor of Jain and Sikh studies and acting director of graduate yoga studies, and she serves as co-chair of the Sikh studies at the American Academy of Religion.
In addition to her leading academic roles, for the past 20 years, Dr. Khalsa-Baker has learned from a 13th-generation memory bearer of Sikh devotional music (Gurbani Kirtan), who honored her as the first female exponent of the Sikh drumming tradition (Amritsari baaj).
Nirinjan Singh Khalsa
Nirinjan Singh Khalsa has served as a Commissioner on the City of Los Angeles Human Relations Commission for more than fifteen years. He was President of the Commission for more than six years. He is also an activist for, and has publicly represented the Sikh Community for more than 30 years. He is the Executive Director of the California Sikh Council and a cultural intelligence educator and advisor to the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles and Orange County Sheriff’s Departments, and many other public and private organizations.
Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos
Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos is Associate General Secretary at the National Council of Churches USA, where, as director of both Faith & Order and Interreligious Relations & Collaboration, he is responsible for theological dialogue among both ecumenical and interfaith partners. This includes intra-Christian dialogue, as well as Jewish-Christian, Muslim-Christian, Buddhist-Christian, Hindu-Christian, and Sikh-Christian dialogue. An Orthodox Christian theologian, he previously directed, and continues to contribute to, the Council’s work in international affairs and its advocacy on US foreign policy issues.
Formerly, Dr. Kireopoulos was the Executive Director of Religions for Peace – USA, where he promoted interfaith collaboration to address common domestic social concerns. Before that he was Special Assistant to the Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, in the area of external affairs, and Assistant to the Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America, in communications.
Among his affiliations, Dr. Kireopoulos is on the executive committee of Shoulder-to-Shoulder, an organization dedicated to fighting Islamophobia in the US, and Churches for Middle East Peace, and he has served as chair of United to End Genocide and as a founding board member of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and its Religious Advisory Committee, as well as a member of the American Academy of Religion and the Orthodox Theological Society in America. He formerly served as a member of both the US State Department’s Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad and its Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group, and as president of the United Nations NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
Dr. Kireopoulos holds degrees from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, Thunderbird School of Global Management, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, and Fordham University. He is a published author, guest lecturer, and media spokesperson on issues in theology, social justice, and religion and the public square. He has particular expertise in the areas of religious freedom and genocide.
Rev. Dr. Cecil “Chip” Murray
Rev. Dr. Cecil “Chip” Murray is John R. Tansey Chair of Christian Ethics at the School of Religion, University of Southern California and a senior fellow at USC’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture. He has lectured and served as adjunct professor at Iliff University, Seattle University, Claremont School of Theology, Fuller Seminary and Northwest Theological Seminary.
From 1977 to 2004, Dr. Murray was pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal, the oldest Black church in Los Angeles. During that time, he led the church’s growth from 300 active members to more than 17,000. First AME also launched major programs that have brought jobs, housing, social services and community development to many South Los Angeles neighborhoods.
Dr. Murray holds a doctorate in religion from the School of Theology at Claremont and a Doctor of Humane Letters from Hebrew Union College. He served 10 years of active duty with the U.S. Air Force, receiving the Soldier’s Medal of Valor in 1958.
B.K. Sister Gita Patel
Sister Gita Patel is the lead coordinator of Brahma Kumaris Meditation Center in Los Angeles and travels extensively to promote the work of Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University. Having been exposed to spiritual truths from an early age, Sister Gita found her calling and decided to focus on what mattered most in life – the development of her soul journey.
For the past 37 years, she has studied the gentle art of Raja Yoga meditation and continues to promote a peaceful, natural and satvic vegetarian lifestyle. Many of Sister Gita’s thoughts are inspired by Brahma Kumaris teachings.
Sister Gita feels fortunate to have a blend of both Eastern and Western cultures. Born in Tanzania, East Africa, she earned her bachelor’s degree in India, has worked in London and has lived in various parts of the world. She travels regularly to India.
Executive Director, Art of Living Foundation
Rajshree Patel is executive director of the Art of Living Foundation (AOLF) in Los Angeles and South America. A nonprofit educational and humanitarian organization founded in 1981 by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, AOLF is guided by his philosophy: “Unless we have a stress-free mind and a violence-free society, we cannot achieve world peace.”
One of the first AOLF instructors, Rajshree has traveled extensively for the past 25 years, speaking to hundreds of thousands of people about faith, human values, purpose and fulfillment. She popularized the Art of Living course and Sudarshan Kriya (a breathing technique that calms and energizes the body, mind and emotions) in over 35 countries and has trained hundreds of instructors. Prior to joining AOLF, Rajshree worked as a prosecutor for the federal government and the Los Angeles district attorney’s office.
Marium F. Mohiuddin
Marium F. Mohiuddin is Regional Communications Director for the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region. In this role, she works on disaster response, biomed relations and preparedness.
Marium has worked in communications for 25 years. She has been a newspaper features editor, editor in chief and managing editor at magazines, and owner of a consulting business. Her nonprofit work includes serving with the American Heart Association and Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). She holds an MBA in nonprofit management from American Jewish University and a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University.
Active in the interfaith scene, Marium serves on four boards and has volunteered with Meals on Wheels and Big Brothers Big Sisters. She has spoken widely on interfaith relations and civic engagement, appearing in media including CNN, NPR, and The Hollywood Reporter.
Tasneem Noor is Program Co-Director for NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership For Change. Raised in Pakistan, India, and Dubai, she is an Interfaith Minister in Residence with the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, an award-winning author, and founder of Noor Enterprises: SOULful Transformations, offering personal development and opportunities for meaningful dialogue.
Swami Sarvadevananda has been a monk of the worldwide Ramakrishna Order of India since 1965. This monastic organization is dedicated to the teaching of Vedanta and humanity’s worship of God, and respects all religions as paths leading to the truth.
Swami promotes this message of harmony through spiritual ministry, social service and interfaith dialogue. After completing monastic training, he served for 20 years at the Saradapitha education and technical training institute, Kolkata, imparting Vedantic spiritual values to high school and university students. As head of the Ramakrishna Mission at Sikra, West Bengal, Swami served underprivileged and homeless residents. In 1993, he joined the Vedanta Society of Southern California as minister. Swami represents the Society on the Inter-Religious Council of Southern California and Hindu-Catholic Dialogue of Los Angeles. He also travels widely, promoting the Vedantic way of life and encouraging the formation of new Vedanta centers.
Swami Mahayogananda is a monk of the Ramakrishna Order. He joined the order in 1997, and has been serving at its Hollywood branch, the Vedanta Society of Southern California, since 2013. He had the opportunity to serve the order in India from 2002–2008.
Tahil Sharma is an interfaith activist who was born to a Hindu father and a Sikh mother. He is the North American Coordinator for the United Religions Initiative, the world’s largest grassroots interfaith network, and a Guibord Center Advisor. Tahil also serves with a range of other organizations promoting interfaith cooperation and pluralism.
Suhag Shukla, Esq., is Managing Director, Legal Counsel and a co-founder of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) in Washington, DC. As Managing Director, Suhag builds strategic inter- and intra-faith relations. In her Legal Counsel role, she provides analysis on key issues such as separation of church and state, equal protection, religious discrimination and immigration reform.
Suhag also focuses on improving public portrayals of Hinduism, such as in school textbooks. She is a board member of the Nirvana Center, a Bhutanese resettlement center, and the YWCA of Minneapolis. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations Religious Advisory Committee, she is also involved with Chinmaya Mission. Suhag holds a BA in religion and a JD from the University of Florida.
Bishop Mary Ann Swenson
Bishop Mary Ann McDonald Swenson is a retired bishop of the United Methodist Church (UMC). Having recently completed a 9-year term as vice moderator for the central committee of the World Council of Churches, Bishop Swenson has served as ecumenical officer for the United Methodist Council of Bishops (2012-2016), bishop of the California Pacific Conference and supervisor of the Western Jurisdiction Korean Mission (2000-2012), and bishop of Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain Conferences (1992-2000). During those years she served as president of the church’s Board of Discipleship (1996-2000), president of the General Council on Finance and Administration (2004-2008), and president of the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Relationships (2009-2012).
In her retirement, she has served on the board of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice and the advisory council for the Guibord Center. Currently, she is President of the International Foundation for Ewha Women’s University in Seoul, Korea. She is also a board member of the Ecumenical Trust.
Born in Arkansas and educated in Mississippi with a BA from Millsaps College (1969) (which also awarded her an honorary doctorate years later) and D.Min. from the School of Theology at Claremont, California (1975), she served as a pastor in the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Methodist Church for 25 years before being elected bishop in 1992.
She and her husband Jeff were married for 53 years. He died in 2021. In their retirement years, they worshiped at Hollywood United Methodist Church where Bishop Swenson serves as bishop in residence. She has led the church with passion toward becoming a more inclusive community, filled with grace, compassion, and justice, growing in more perfect love of God and neighbor.
Bishop John Harvey Taylor
The Rt. Rev. John Harvey Taylor began ministry as seventh bishop of the six-county Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles on Dec. 1, 2017. He invites the diocese’s 65,000 parishioners, 400 clergy, 130 congregations, 30 schools, and affiliated social-service agencies to join him in the mission of “feeding hungry hearts.” Previously, Bishop Taylor had served since 2004 as vicar of St. John Chrysostom Church and School in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.
Chief of staff to former President Richard M. Nixon from 1984 to 1990, he was thereafter executive director of the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, Calif. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California, San Diego, and a master of divinity from the Claremont School of Theology and Bloy House. He is a graduate of Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts.
A lifelong Episcopalian, Bishop Taylor was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1954, the son of journalists. He married Kathleen Hannigan O’Connor in 2002. They reside in Pasadena, and their family includes four adult children and two grandchildren.
Jihad Turk is the founding president of Bayan Islamic Graduate School in Claremont, California, and a nationally known leader and public speaker. Previously, Jihad served for many years as Religious Director of the Islamic Center of Southern California, the oldest and largest mosque in the Los Angeles area.
Born to a Palestinian Muslim father and an American Christian mother, Jihad spent his college years exploring his Islamic roots. He studied at the Islamic University of Madinah, Saudi Arabia, and the University of Tehran, earning his BA in history and Arabic at the University of California, Berkeley. In addition, Jihad holds an MA in Arabic and Islamic law and jurisprudence from the University of Texas, Austin. Currently earning his doctorate, he is focusing on Islamic law with an emphasis on usul al-fiqh (jurisprudence) and theology.
Venerable Hui Dong
Ven. Hui Dong is the Abbot of Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Temple. Founded in 1988 in Hacienda Heights of Southern California, Hsi Lai Temple is the largest Buddhist temple in the United States, and the headquarters of Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order in North America.
Ven. Hui Dong also serves as the Deputy Secretary of the Buddha’s Light International Association (B.L.I.A.) in the Western Regions of North America. B.L.I.A. is a non-governmental organization (NGO) of the United Nations, and one of the largest lay Buddhist organizations in the world.
Ven. Hui Dong is on the board of trustees of the University of the West, a private university in Rosemead, California.
Venerable Hui Ze
Ven. Hui Ze is a Buddhist monastic from Hsi Lai Temple, he’s currently in charge of Interfaith as well as Outreach programs in the temple.
Following the footsteps of the founder of Hsi Lai Temple, Venerable Master Hsing Yun, Ven. Hui Ze aims to propagate Humanistic Buddhism through interfaith dialogues, promoting tolerance and understanding among different faiths. The Venerable Master teaches: “Find common ground in differences, and not necessarily seek uniformity, but celebrate each other’s uniqueness.”