Nirinjan Singh Khalsa – Executive Director of the California Sikh Council
Nirinjan Singh Khalsa has publicly represented the Sikh Community for more than 30 years. He is the executive director of the California Sikh Council, the Vice-President of the City of Los Angeles Human Relations Commission, a cultural diversity educator and advisor to the Department of Homeland Security, Los Angeles and Orange County Sheriff’s Departments, and many other public and private organizations. He is the Vice President of the Inter-Religious Council of Southern California and involved in interfaith understanding projects and education nationwide.
Sophia Pandya– Associate Professor at Cal State Long Beach Religious Studies Department
Sophia Pandya is the winner of the 2016 Advancement of Women Award at CSULB from the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, she received her BA from UC Berkeley in Near Eastern Studies/Arabic, and her MA and PhD from UC Santa Barbara in Religious Studies. A Fulbright Scholar, she specializes in women and Islam, and more broadly in contemporary movements within Islam. Dr. Pandya has authored a book (2012), Muslim Women and Islamic Resurgence: Religion, Education, and Identity Politics in Bahrain. Having carried out research in Turkey on several occasions, she is also the co-editor of a second published volume (2012), The Gülen Hizmet Movement and its Transnational Activities: Case Studies on Charitable Activism. Dr. Pandya traveled to Ethiopia three times as a fellow of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, to study Yemenis living in diaspora in Ethiopia. As a result, she recently published “Yemenis and Muwalladin in Addis Ababa: Blood Purity and the Opportunities of Hybridity.”
Rt. Rev. Alexei Smith – Interreligious Officer of Los Angeles Catholic Diocese
Father Alexei served as an elected member of the Council of Priests of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for six years, serving as Vice President of the Council and Chair of the Priestly Life and Ministry Committee for the last two years of his service on the Council. He is currently a member of the Spirituality Commission of the Archdiocese, and has been invested as a Knight Commander of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. He also served as president of the Interreligious Council of Southern California for five years and is the recipient of numerous commendations and awards: in 2007 he was awarded the prestigious Religious Leadership Award of the Valley Interfaith Council. . In 2011, Father Alexei was elected President of the Southern California Ecumenical Council, the first Catholic to hold that position.