About the Four Principals and Participants
The Four Principals
In the absence of Ayatollah Dr. S. Mostafa Mohaghegh Damad, we welcome Ayatollah Dr. Ahmad Iravani, president of the Center for the Study of Islam & the Middle East and research scholar at the Columbus School of Law in Washington, D.C.
Ayatollah Dr. Seyyed Mostafa Mohaghegh Damad Ahmadabadi, who is unable to join us, is professor of law at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran. Following two courses of education, he first attended the Fayzieh School at Qom, Iran, where he received his traditional Islamic education in Arabic language and literature, Quran and hadith, Islamic philosophy, theology, and jurisprudence. From this background he achieved the status of Mujtahid (Ayatollah) in 1970. Parallel to his traditional studies he pursued a modern academic education at Tehran University where he earned his BA in Islamic Philosophy and MA in Islamic Jurisprudence. He studied in Belgium, where he earned his Ph.D. in Law at the Catholic University of Louvain-la-Neuve. He has been a fellow member of the Iranian Academy of Sciences since 1988.
Professor Dr. Ahmad Mohamed El Tayeb is president of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt. His long academic career spans more than 40 years at Al-Azhar University, as a faculty member and where he earned a Master’s of Philosophy and a Ph.D. He was dean of his department, as well as several of Al-Azhar colleges around Egypt and at the International Islamic University of Pakistan. Outside Egypt, his teaching career includes several years in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the Emirates, and Pakistan. Professor El Tayeb authored many books and textbooks in his field and published many monographs on Islamic themes and contemporary issues. He has also translated several works from French into Arabic, treating the mystical thought of the great Andalusian Sufi, Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi. His great interest in interfaith dialogue has led him to participate in many international conferences, and under his watch, Al-Azhar University hosted several international gatherings dealing with interfaith matters as well as contemporary challenges to Islam.
His Eminence Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran is president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue. He received his education for the priesthood at the Gregorian University, obtaining a license in philosophy and theology, followed by a Doctorate in Canon Law. Ordained in 1969, he served as parochial vicar in Bordeaux before entering the diplomatic service as secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature in the Dominican Republic and then in Lebanon. In 1983, he was called to the Vatican and joined the Council for Public Affairs of the Church and for many years represented the Holy See at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. In 1991, he was consecrated as titular archbishop of Thelepte, and in 2003, was appointed cardinal deacon in the consistory and received the red biretta and the deaconry of Saint Apollinare alle Terme Neroniane-Alessandrine.
The Right Reverend John Bryson Chane, D.D., was consecrated the eighth bishop of Washington in 2002. He was named by Washingtonian magazine as one of the 150 most influential leaders in the District of Columbia and was recognized by the London Telegraph as one of the 50 most prominent leaders in the worldwide Anglican Communion. A graduate of Boston University and Yale Divinity School, he has also received honorary doctorates from Virginia Theological Seminary, Yale Divinity School, and Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge. As a leader in interfaith dialogue and study he has traveled to Iran on numerous occasions as an invited guest of former President Khatami, speaking to, and studying with numerous religious leaders at seminaries and universities in the cities of Tehran and Qom.
Each of the Principals is joined by five eminent religious leaders and experts from his respective religious communities. These additional participants, called “The Twenty,” collectively represent civic, governmental, and religious organizations of unparalleled global impact and outreach.
Ayatollah Doctor Ahmad Iravani is president of the Center for the Study of Islam and the Middle East in Washington, D.C., and a research scholar at the Columbus School of Law, Catholic University of America.
Imam Abdul Latif Berry is the head of the Islamic Institute of Knowledge in Dearborn, Michigan.
Imam Seyyed Mohammad Rizvi is the Imam at the Ja’fari Islamic Centre in Thornhill, Ontario, Canada.
Imam Sayid Hassan Al-Qazwini is the religious leader of the Islamic Center of America in Detroit, Michigan.
Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi is founder and director of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn, Michigan.
Prof. Dr. Mohamed Abdel Fadil M. Abdel Aziz is vice president of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt.
S.E. Cheikh Malek Shaar is Mufti of Tripoli and North Lebanon.
Dr. Mahmoud Abdel Salam Azab is professor of Islamic Studies at Sorbonne University in Paris, France.
Ms. Maryam Ishag Muhammad Alkhalifa Sharief is a doctoral student and professor at the English Center of Islamic Studies, Al-Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt.
Ms. Sanaa Aly Marei Makhlouf is professor at American University in Cairo and at the English Center of Islamic Studies, Al-Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt.
Anglican Communion Delegation
Mrs. Clare Amos is director of theological studies in the Anglican Communion Office, London, U.K.
The Honorable Kjell Magne Bondevik is the founder and president of the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights. He is the former prime minister of Norway, and was a member of the Norwegian Parliament. Bondevik is an ordained priest in the Lutheran Church of Norway.
The Right Reverend Suheil Dawani is Anglican bishop of Jerusalem.
The Right Reverend Josiah Idowu-Fearon is Anglican bishop of Kaduna, Nigeria.
The Right Reverend Pierre W. Whalon serves as the bishop of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, based in Paris, France. A graduate of Virginia Theological Seminary, earning the Master of Divinity degree, he also holds music degrees from Boston University; Schola Cantorum in Paris, France; and Duquesne University.
Professor Dr. Christian Troll SJ, one of Germany’s leading scholars on Christian-Muslim relations, is honorary professor of the Philosophical-Theological University of Sankt Georgen, Frankfurt, Germany. He was a member of the sub-commission for Catholic-Muslim relations, which is part of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue.
Professor Lamin Sanneh is the D. Willis James Professor of Missions and World Christianity and professor of history at Yale Divinity School. Gambian born, Sanneh’s earliest education with fellow chiefs’ sons preceded his graduation from the University of London with a Ph.D. in Islamic History. The author of many books and articles, he is an editor-at-large for The Christian Century.
Reverend Father James Massa is executive director of ecumenical and inter-religious affairs at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. A priest of the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, Massa is a graduate of Fordham University, where he earned his Ph.D. in systematic theology.
Dr. Sandra T. Keating is member of the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims, and she is associate professor of Theology at Providence College, in Providence, Rhode Island.
Rabbi David Saperstein is the director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C.
Rabbi Brian Walt is co-founder of Taanit Tzedek - Jewish Fast for Gaza; rabbi emeritus of Congregation Mishkan Shalom in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and former executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights - North America.