Special Events


On October 6, 2019, we hosted a conversation with Kelly James Clark, Aziz Abu Sarah, and Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer, the authors of Strangers, Neighbors, Friends: Muslim-Christian-Jewish Reflections on Compassion and Peace. 

The book is an informed and robust defense of compassion toward neighbors, strangers and even enemies. It aims to show that Judaism, Christianity and Islam have the resources to motivate respect and love for those of very different faith traditions.

Kelly James Clark is Senior Research Fellow at GVSU’s Kaufman Interfaith Institute. He is editor of Abraham’s Children: Liberty and Tolerance in an Age of Religious Conflict (2012), and author of Religion and the Sciences of Origins (2014), among others.

Aziz Abu Sarah is an entrepreneur, speaker, peace builder, and author. He is the recipient of the Goldberg Prize for Peace in the Middle East, the Eliav-Sartawi Award, and was named one of the 500 most influential muslims in the world by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre.

Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and the founding Director of the Department of Multifaith Studies and Initiatives at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College where she was ordained in 1982. She co-edited Chapters of the Heart: Jewish Women Sharing the Torah of Our Lives (Wipf and Stock, 2013).


Strangers, Neighbors, Friends: A Conversation with the Authors Event video

Event Video


A Conversation with Nicholas Wolterstorff

On the occasion of the publication of Nicholas Wolterstorff's autobiography, In This World of Wonders, we hosted a conversation between Nick and Kelly James Clark covering wide swaths of his life in academia as well as his pursuit of justice worldwide.

Nicholas Wolterstorff is an American philosopher and a liturgical theologian. A prolific writer with wide-ranging philosophical and theological interests, he has written books on aesthetics, epistemology, political philosophy, philosophy of religion, metaphysics, and philosophy of education. In Faith and Rationality, Wolterstorff, Alvin Plantinga, and William Alston developed and expanded upon a view of religious epistemology that has come to be known as Reformed epistemology. He also helped to establish the journal Faith and Philosophy and the Society of Christian Philosophers.

A Conversation with Nicholas Wolterstorff

Event Video. This event took place in GVSU's Eberhard Center on June 3, 2019.


A Symposium in Honor of Richard Kaufman

On Thursday, May 16, 2019, we hosted a two part symposium in honor of Kaufman's co-founder Richard Kaufman in GVSU's DeVos Center. 

While at age 91 physically and intellectually most vigorous, an injury from a fall brought his sudden death in late November of last year. Having completed his master’s degree at age 86 from the University of Chicago Divinity School, at the time of his death he was just a couple months from defending his dissertation for a doctorate at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. His position was that human dignity is the meta-ethic for Reform Judaism and should be the basis for a more open approach to conversion to Judaism.   

Richard Kaufman

Richard Kaufman

Afternoon session

Afternoon Session: Remembering Richard Kaufman and His Interfaith Pursuits

Our afternoon seminar remembered Richard Kaufman and his religious pursuits through the voices of many who worked with him through the years. 

Speakers included: Rabbi Donniel Hartman, President of Shalom Hartman Institute, Paul Mendes-Flohr, Professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School, Don Lubbers, President Emeritus of Grand Valley State University, Tom Haas, President of Grand Valley State University, and Doug Kindschi, Director of the Kaufman Interfaith Institute.

Evening session video

Evening Session: Jewish and Christian Perspectives on Conversion

Donniel Hartmann

Donniel Hartman

Rachel Sabath

Rachel Sabath

Richard Mouw

Richard Mouw

The evening session explored Jewish and Christian perspectives on Conversion.

Offering a Jewish perspective were Rabbi Donniel Hartman and Rabbi Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi, scholar, Jewish institutional leader and author. Presenting the Christian perspective was Dr. Richard Mouw, President Emeritus of the evangelical Fuller Theological Seminary.


Mustafa Akyol

On April 25, 2019, we welcomed Mustafa Akyol to speak on Jesus in Islam. Mustafa is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, where he focuses on the intersection of public policy, Islam, and modernity. A Turkish journalist and author, he is a regular contributing opinion writer for the New York Times since 2013, and has been a regular opinion columnist for Turkish publications such as Hurriyet Daily News, and for the Middle-East focused Al-Monitor.com.

Akyol is the author of Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty, praised by The Financial Times as “a forthright and elegant Muslim defense of freedom” and The Islamic Jesus: How the King of the Jews Became a Prophet of the Muslims. Akyol’s articles have appeared in a wide range of other publications such as The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy,Newsweek, First Things, The Weekly Standard, The Financial Times, The London Times, The Guardian, The Washington Times, and The Forward. He has appeared frequently on CNN, BBC, NPR, and Al-Jazeera English. His TED talk on “Faith vs. Tradition in Islam” has been watched by more than a million viewers.

Mustafa Akyol

What Do Muslims Think About Jesus?

Event Video


As part of the Year of Interfaith Friendship, we hosted Interfaith Photovoice. In an era when people of faith carry cameras in their smartphones wherever they go, photography represents a new opportunity for interfaith dialogue. Photovoice brings together groups of people from different religious backgrounds to explore faith in everyday life through amateur photography and small group conversations.

Two dozen Muslims and Christians met over the course of several weeks at the At-Tawheed Islamic Center in Grand Rapids. Participants used their photographs to discuss faith in everyday life, challenges they face and changes they would like to see in their community. At the end of the project, they worked together to select photographs for a public exhibition and in this way, extend their conversations and engage the broader community with their experiences, insights, and concerns.

The Photovoice exhibition was on display during the month of February at First United Methodist Church and will be continuing at our other cosponsors: Westminster Presbyterian Church, Trinity Lutheran Church, Masjid At-Tawheed, & the Calvin College Center for Social Research.

The Photovoice Initiative is international and unfolding in five sites: Grand Rapids; Richmond, Virginia; New York City; Fredericton, New Brunswick; and Muscat, Oman. The project is based at Calvin College, funded by the Louisville Institute, and conducted in partnership with The Kaufman Interfaith Institute in Grand Rapids, with funding help from the Issachar Foundation. For more on the Photovoice project, read project director Roman Williams' Grand Rapids Press article. 

View the exhibit.

Choosing Photos
Photovoice group shot
Photovoice 2


Same God Poster

On December 5, 2018, Kaufman Interfaith Institute co-hosted the sold out West Michigan premiere of Same God at Celebration Cinema North. The event was co-sponsored by Studio C, Kaufman Interfaith Institute, The Colossian Forum, the Paul B. Henry Institute, Kickasspirational Podcast and the Calvin College Center for Social Research.

After the screening, Shannon Jammal-Hollemans moderated a panel discussion with Dr. Larycia Hawkins, director Linda Midgett, Dr. Michael Mangis, and Lynn Smith. 

The film tells the story of Dr. Larycia Hawkins, an African-American political science professor at Wheaton College who wanted to show support for Muslim women as the political rhetoric against Muslims was escalating. In December 2015, she posted a photo of herself in a hijab on Facebook. “I love my Muslim neighbor,” she wrote, “because s/he deserves love by virtue of her/his human dignity….we worship the Same God.”

Within days, Wheaton’s Provost suspended Dr. Hawkins, eventually moving to terminate her tenure. Were the school’s actions a move to protect its Christian theological purity, as it insisted? Or was it, as some suggested, the result of racism and Islamophobia? “Same God,” directed by Wheaton alumna Linda Midgett, follows the journey of Dr. Hawkins while exploring the polarization taking place within the evangelical community over issues of race, Islam, and religious freedom.

Learn more about this film.

Same God Premiere audience
Dr. Larycia Hawkins
Same God panel discussion


On October 28, 2018, we co-sponsored "The Hidden Holocaust" with Father Patrick Desbois. He has made it his life's mission to uncover horrific, yet little-known atrocities made against Jews throughout Europe, outside the concentration camps, shedding light on what has been called the "Hidden Holocaust." Father Patrick Desbois has devoted his life to researching the Holocaust, fighting anti-Semitism, and furthering relations between Catholics and Jews. Father Desbois is a Catholic priest and President of Yahad-In Unum, a global humanitarian organization he founded in 2004 dedicated to identifying and commemorating the sites of Jewish and Roma mass executions in Eastern Europe during World War II.

Father Desbois is the grandson of a WWII French prisoner held in the Rawa Ruska camp on the Poland-Ukraine border. In 2004, he began to research the story of the Jews, Roma and other victims murdered in Eastern Europe during WWII by the Nazi mobile killing units, the Einsatzgruppen. His work through Yahad has been recognized through numerous awards and public commentary in France and throughout the world. Father Desbois is also the author of “The Holocaust by Bullets: A Priest’s Journey to Uncover the Truth Behind the Murder of 1.5 Million Jews“, Winner of the National Jewish Book Award, and the recently released “The Fabric of Terrorists: Into the Secrets of Daesh”, based on his investigation of the Yazidi genocide in Iraq.

Father Patrick Desbois

Father Patrick Desbois

Hidden Holocaust

Jewish leaders in Grand Rapids praised Desbois for his commitment as a Catholic to uncovering Jewish history. "It shows that good, caring people outside of Judaism are also deeply concerned about the Holocaust," said Rabbi Albert Lewis, who led the congregation at Temple Emanuel from 1972-2000. 

This program would not have been possible without the generous support of the Ravitz Foundation, the Henry Pestka Charitable Fund, and the Joseph Stevens Freedom Endowment of Grand Valley State University.  Our co-sponsors were the Jewish Federation of Grand Rapids, the Catholic Information Center, the Diocese of Grand Rapids, and the Cathedral of Saint Andrew.


Reception highlights

Opening Reception Highlights

The Sultanate of Oman has been sharing its peaceful philosophy at home and abroad for centuries. For many years the government of Oman has been promoting interfaith dialogue to foster religious tolerance, mutual understanding, and peaceful coexistence on a global scale. The activities include regular international meetings and conferences, exhibitions, lectures, publications and support to interfaith institutions and activities.

From April 2010 through November 2016, the Oman's Message of Islam exhibition toured the world, promoting religious tolerance, mutual understanding and peaceful coexistence. The exhibition offers insights into the practice of Islam in daily life, an examination of contemporary Omani society and the role of women in society.

The Kaufman Interfaith Institute was the host of Oman's third exhibition opening in the USA, held in the Pew Idema Library of Grand Valley State University, adjacent to the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, the U.S. state with the second largest Arab population after California. Attending the opening reception were Dr. Thomas Haas, President of Grand Valley State University, Dr. Douglas Kindschi, Director of the Kaufman Interfaith Institute; Dr. Lee Van Orsdel, Dean of University Libraries; Mohammed Said Al-Mamari, From Oman's Ministry of Religious Endowments and Religious Affairs, and representatives from the Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman in Washington DC.

Doug Kindschi Mohammed Said Al Mamari

Dr. Mohammed Said Al Mamari & Dr. Doug Kindschi

Religious Tolerance in Oman documentary

In addition to this exhibition, GVSU commissioned a series of events to explore the world of Islam, highlighting religion, politics, and culture in the modern Arab society of Oman. Following the opening reception and film screening on October 13, 2014, the exhibition hall was used in the days following as a backdrop for a lecture on modern-day Oman by Prof. Sebastian Maisel; a presentation entitled "Interfaith in the Middle East: Rays of Light in Darkness;" an open panel discussion; video conversations with overseas alumni; and other events. The Grand Rapids Public Library hosted an exhibition in conjunction with ours. 

"We have three population groups on earth: the first, consisting of Christians, Jews and Muslims, who believe in one God and a holy book; the second, atheists, who have lost all confidence in religion; and the third group, representing a variety of religious and spiritual ideas. We endeavor to maintain a constructive and genuine dialogue with scholars and representatives of all these groups. The aim of exchange is to reflect on the foundations of our thinking, a common morality and a common sense of justice. For only when we are aware of these similarities and they form a basis for our actions, while accepting cultural differences, will we and our children enjoy a peaceful future."

Sheikh Abdullah al-Salimi
Minister of Endowments and Religious Affairs

Check out a virtual version of the exhibition here.

Islamic Art in Oman documentary


On October 8th and 9th, 2015, the Kaufman Interfaith Institute hosted Eboo Patel, Founder and President of Interfaith Youth Core, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His visit included two lectures – one at Aquinas College and one at Grand Valley State University. Both were packed houses, filled with both campus and community members. Eboo’s sessions spoke to the importance of interfaith leadership in our increasingly diverse communities, and he provided personal insights on everything from his experiences as a Muslim to Pope Francis’ recent U.S. visit. During his visit he met with student leaders, Aquinas and GVSU Presidents, and staff and faculty from both of the institutions. Themes of those conversations included not only interfaith leadership development, but also inclusion, intersectionality, and rooting interfaith engagement in our college & university missions.

Eboo highlighted not only Interfaith Youth Core as the national leader in interfaith cooperation, but also the Kaufman Interfaith Institute’s efforts in promoting this work in our own West Michigan context. He pointed to the Kaufman Institute, as well as Director Doug Kindschi and Program Manager Katie Gordon, as resources for not only GVSU, but all area colleges & universities interested in this conversation.

Eboo Patel Kaufman lecture

Aquinas College Lecture

Eboo Patel dinner conversation

Eboo Patel Calvin Lecture

January Series Lecture video


On March 8, 2016, our Welcoming Refugees: Do Unto Others event brought together everyone from churches and mosques to businesses and schools, to learn from, engage with and support our local refugee and immigrant communities. The event was sponsored by over 50 religious organizations and civic institutions, which have signed on to strengthen our message of hospitality over hatred. Inspired by the golden rule found in all traditions, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” we hope to motivate congregations and communities to put this value into action by welcoming our new neighbors.

In addition to inspiring shared values toward a common good, we want to continue to shift the narrative around refugees. To help us articulate this more inclusive narrative, our program featured representatives from the local city, from the Michigan Office for New Americans, the local refugee agencies Bethany Christian Services and Lutheran Social Services, as well as refugees who have come to call Grand Rapids their new home. We heard the stories of Mustafa, an Iraqi refugee who worked alongside the U.S. army in the Gulf War and recently resettled here in Grand Rapids, as well as Flory, Elodie, Abigael and Benedicte, a family that fled from violence in Congo only to be separated due to more conflict in Uganda, and then reunited after four years apart in Grand Rapids just a few months before the event. 

Mustafa's story

Stories like these two are found in the experiences of nearly all refugees in our own community, refugees that come from all around the world to escape violence and find security and safety in our country. Regarding the Syrian refugees that have become a “political issue,” those that we often conflate with ISIS are suffering from such violence even more than us, and many of whom were driven out of their homes from the same terrorism that created anti-refugee sentiment here in the United States. Whether to welcome refugees isn’t a political debate, it’s a moral concern- and a humanitarian imperative. If we truly “do unto others” like many of our traditions tell us to, then we will welcome refugees as our new neighbors, colleagues, community leaders and friends.

Flory, Elodie, Abigael, and Benedicte's story

Welcoming Refugees Part One

Event Part One


Welcoming Refugees Part Two

Event Part Two

Full event summary in The Rapidian


Israel Palestine lecture

Lecture video

Even in this era of intense political polarization, few topics of debate elicit feelings as strong, or opinions as rigid, as the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict. Defined by complex histories and clouded by an array of misunderstandings, it is a conflict in which shared understanding is elusive but certainly not impossible. In partnership with the Kaufman Interfaith Institute, the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies was proud to host a respectful conversation on one of the most challenging questions facing the international community: can we find common ground between Israel and Palestine? Abdullah Antepli, imam and Chief Representative of Muslim Affairs at Duke University, joined Orthodox Rabbi Donniel Hartman, President of the Shalom Hartman Institute, for an evening of dialogue between two internationally renowned interfaith leaders.  The event took place on September 8, 2016.



On June 14, 2016, BioLogos board member and assistant professor in the Department of Genetics at UNC Chapel Hill, Dr. Praveen Sethupathy, gave a lecture entitled "What does it mean to be human?: Am I more than my genes?" After his talk there will be responses by Dr. Shel Kopperl, professor of Biomedical Sciences and Liberal Studies at GVSU, and by Dr. Aly Abdel-Mageed, Pediatric Hematologist-Oncologist at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital. The event was co-sponsored by BioLogos and the Kaufman Interfaith Institute.

Praveen Sethupathy is an assistant professor in the Department of Genetics at UNC Chapel Hill, where he directs a research laboratory focused on human genomics and complex diseases. Praveen received his B.A. in Computer Science from Cornell University, his Ph.D. in Genomics and Computational Biology from the University of Pennsylvania, and he continued his training as a post-doctoral fellow with Dr. Francis S. Collins at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Praveen Sethupathy is on the board of directors at BioLogos and was recently selected by Genome Technology as one of the nation’s top 25 rising young investigators in genomics. Dr. Sethupathy has been an invited speaker for the Veritas Forum, has contributed opinion pieces for BioLogos, and serves on the advisory board for AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion as well as the Board of Directors for BioLogos.

Praveen Sethupathy lecture

Video of event

Dr. Praveen Sethupathy

Dr. Praveen Sethupathy


Religion Business Dinner 2012

Video of event

A joint effort with Seidman College of Business, the Religion and Business panel discussion and dinner invited three distinguished community business leaders and professionals to comment on the role and influence of religious values and beliefs on business practices.  Each panelist - Fred Keller of Cascade Engineering (Christianity), Jeff Padnos of Padnos Iron and Metal (Judaism), and Dr. Mohammad Saleh (Islam) – spoke for about 25 minutes before the floor was opened to questions and comments.

The goal was to engage in a good, quality interfaith dialogue about how each of the panelists understood what the demands of his or her religion meant in his or her working life, and on the life of the business or profession which they were engaged.

Page last modified May 11, 2021