Special Events


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 US 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. Doug Kindschi & Dr. Mohammed Said Al Mamari

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 US 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.

Aquinas College Lecture

Eboo Patel dinner conversation

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 US 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 or not 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

Event Part One


Event Part Two

Full event summary in The Rapidian


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.

Video of event

Dr. Praveen Sethupathy

Dr. Praveen Sethupathy


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 June 28, 2018