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Panel of Religious Leaders to Discuss Role of Faith Groups in Civil Rights Issues

(Posted January 12, 2009)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- The role of religious groups has historically played a crucial role in forwarding the cause of civil rights, not only in the United States, but also across the globe. Juniata College, as part of its Martin Luther King Jr. commemorative week, will host four panelists to discuss the role of religious organizations in civil rights issues at 4 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 22, in Rosenberger Auditorium.

The event is free and open to the public.

The panel will be moderated by Rev. Stanley Bhasker, pastor of the Huntingdon Presbyterian Church. Born in India, Bhasker has served congregations in India and the United States since his ordination in 1988. He has been involved in interfaith projects for many years and has taught world religions in Huntingdon. He also represented the Presbyterian Church in the National Council of Churches of Christ.

Bhasker earned a bachelor's degree in India and went on to earn a master's degree in economics from Sri Venkateswara University in India. He earned his divinity degree at New York Theological Seminary in New York City.

Bhasker will pose questions to the four panelists and also field questions from the audience.

The four panelists are:

Imam Yahya Hendi is the Muslim chaplain at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and is the founder of the group Clergy Beyond Borders. He serves on the Islamic Jurisprudence Council of North America and is president of the organization Imams for Universe, Dignity, Human Rights and Dialogue.

Michael Penn, professor of psychology at Franklin & Marshall College, serves on the boards of the Tahirih Justice Center in Washington, D.C. and the Baha'i Association of Mental Health Professionals. He has consulted or spoken at United Nations-related conferences in Europe, North America and Caribbean nations.

Rabbi Serena Fujita is the Jewish chaplain at Bucknell University. She earned her ordination from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the seminary for the Reform Movement. She specialized in interfaith communication and worked as an intern for the Reform Movements Commission on Interreligious Affairs.

Phil Jones, director of the Church of the Brethren Witness/Washington Office, works as an advocate for change in U.S. policies for peace and justice. He has worked at a variety of advocacy posts, including grassroots community organizer, prison chaplain, pastoral ministry, and as a consultant for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty.
He also was student director of the peace studies program at the Bethany Theological Seminary. He serves on the board of directors for Churches for Middle East Peace, the Center on Conscience and War and Religions for Peace.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.