Interfaith Conference Coming to Fresno Pacific University November 4-6

The Intercultural and Religious Studies program and OSFD are excited to let you know about the Interfaith Conference we are hosting at FPU next week, November 4-6. Our primary host organization, Neighborly Faith, has provided generous funding and organizational assistance to help make this happen. We are also partnering with the FPU TAK honors society, Fresno State InterVarsity and Fresno State Muslim Student Association. Here is an overview of the events we have lined up, along with the speaker bios at the end in case you’re interested.


Please contact Darren Duerksen, Ph.D, associate professor and program director of intercultural studies, with any questions at


Conference Theme: 2020 Election: What the Results Mean for America’s Faith Groups


Wednesday Nov. 4, 10:00-11:00 a.m. Session with Residential Life Staff

Title: Creating Space for People of All Faiths on Christian Campuses

Speaker: Meghan Lechner.


Wednesday Nov. 4, 12:00-12:50 p.m. Class for Social Work and Cultural Geography

Title: How Can Christians Better Understand and Support Muslims?

Speaker: Marwa Abdalla


Wednesday Nov. 4, 2:00-2:30 p.m. Session with FPU Staff Caucus

Title: A Muslim Perspective on Working in Christian Environments

Speaker: Petra Alsoofy


Thursday Nov. 5, 12:30-1:30 p.m. College Hour

Title: Why Can’t We Be Friends?: A plea for civility in a politically and religiously fractured world

Speaker: Micah Fries



Friday Nov. 6, 9:00-9:50 a.m. and 11:00-11:50 a.m. Class session for Book of Acts

Title: Muslim-Christian Friendship in Age of Fear

Speaker: Matt Kaemingk


Friday Nov. 6, 9:00-9:50 a.m. CHIRP

Title: 2020 Election: What the results mean for America’s faith communities. A Dialogue.

Speakers: Micah Fries, Imam John Ederer, Kiran Kaur Gill and Rabbi Laura Novak Winer, Ed.D.

Registration link:


Speaker Bios


Meghan Lechner was a resident director at Whitworth University from 2016-2020, where she did trailblazing work to improve accommodations, services and policies for religious minority students. This earned her a Student Life Impact Award for contributing to the growth and development of the Student Life Office, demonstrating exceptional leadership, participation, advocacy and a commitment to cultivating an environment conducive to campus collaboration.


Marwa Abdalla is a researcher and community educator in the fields of communication, culture and religion. Abdalla has received numerous awards for her work, including the President’s Award for Research, the Outstanding Graduate Student Award and ISPU’s Young Scholar Award for Outstanding Research on American Muslims. She co-authored Covering American Muslims Objectively and Creatively: A Guide for Media Professionals, published by ISPU. She has been invited to speak on the diverse experiences of American Muslims and the challenges of xenophobia and Islamophobia in various contexts throughout the nation.


Petra Alsoofy is the outreach & partnerships manager at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), where she strengthens valued partnerships and forges new ones with organizations who share ISPU’s goal of strengthening Muslim communities and building understanding. Alsoofy’s work includes working with ISPU’s large network of scholars and sharing research with policymakers, community leaders, faith leaders, educators and the general public to equip them to make informed decisions about American Muslims.


Matthew Kaemingk is associate dean for Fuller Texas and Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics. He is author of the highly acclaimed book, Christian Hospitality and Muslim Immigration in an Age of Fear (2018).


Micah Fries is an influential evangelical leader and speaker who has done trailblazing work to promote friendships between Christians, Muslims and Jews. He is co-author of Islam in North America: Loving our Muslim Neighbors (2018) and recently served as a senior pastor in Tennessee & Missouri and as director of ministry development at Lifeway Christian Resources. He helped organize a terrific multifaith forum last year, The Global Collective, which drew thousands. He truly understands the tension between staying true to one's faith while being a compassionate and generous neighbor.


Imam Ederer is religious director of the Muslim Community Center in Charlotte, NC. Ederer embraced Islam in 1998 in Tulsa, OK, after reading a translation of the Quran. He studied formally at Islamic American University in Michigan and the Diwan center in Egypt, where he attained a degree of mastery in Arabic. He loves partnering with Christians, Jews and others to promote the common good and solve common problems.


Kiran Kaur Gill is the executive director of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, which is building dialogue, deepening understanding and promoting civic & political participation for Sikh Americans.


Rabbi Laura Novak Winer, Ed.D., is director of clinical education at the Hebrew Union-College Jewish Institute of Religion, where she mentors Jewish students training to be rabbis. She lives in Fresno with her husband Rabbi Rick Winer, who serves Temple Beth Israel in Fresno.