What Do Faith Communities Need to Know?


Dr. Jihad Alharash

Dr. Jihad AlharashJihad Alharash, MD, graduated from Tishreen University, Syria, in 2009 and came to the United States in 2010. He obtained his Master's degree in Public Health from Wayne State University in Michigan and is currently in medical residency program at Brookdale University Hospital in Brooklyn. Since 2011 Jihad has been active in multiple non-governmental organizations and relief organizations serving the Syrian cause. He served on a variety of committees and local chapter boards at the Syrian American Medical Society, and is a co-founder and board member at Syrian American Rescue Committee serving Syrian refugees in Michigan.

The Very Rev. Michael Battle, Ph.D.

The Very Rev. Michael Battle, Ph.D.Currently appointed as Herbert Thompson Professor of Church and Society and Director of the Desmond Tutu Center at General Theological Seminary in New York, the Very Rev. Michael Battle, Ph.D. has an undergraduate degree from Duke University, received his master’s of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, a master’s of Sacred Theology from Yale University, and a PhD in theology and ethics, also from Duke University. He was ordained a priest by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 1993.

Battle is familiar with diversity’s symbiotic relationship with the modern church. Twice he moved into churches located in ethnically changing neighborhoods (to Asian in one and to Hispanic in the other) and helped both to adapt and grow. In his PeaceBattle Institute he works on subjects of diversity, spirituality, prayer, race and reconciliation.

Battle has published nine books, including Reconciliation: the Ubuntu Theology of Desmond Tutu, the book for the Episcopal Church’s General Convention, Ubuntu: I in You and You in Me, and most recently, Heaven on Earth: God’s Call to Community in the Book of Revelation.

The Rev. Dr. Chloe Breyer, Executive Director, Interfaith Center of New York

The Rev. Dr. Chloe BreyerJoining the Interfaith Center in 2007, Chloe is an Episcopal Priest in the Diocese of New York. From 2000-2003, she founded and directed the Cathedral Forums on Religion and Public Life at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Following 9/11/2001, she worked on an interfaith initiative to rebuild a mosque in Afghanistan destroyed by U.S. bombs. Chloe is the author of The Close: A Young Woman’s First Year at Seminary with chapter contributions to What Can One Person Do? Faith to Heal a Broken World and Challenging the Christian Right From the Heart of the Gospel. She received her Ph.D. in Christian Ethics from Union Theological Seminary. Her dissertation on Interfaith activism, Christian peacemaking, and Islamophobia is forthcoming from Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing in 2018.

Lacy Broemel, The Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations

Lacy BroemelLacy Broemel serves as the Refugee and Immigration Policy Analyst for The Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations in Washington, D.C. In this role, she advocates for just and humane migration policies, and equips Episcopalians to speak out in support of refugee resettlement and just immigration policies. Prior to this role, Ms. Broemel served as the Manager for Communications and Operations in the Office of Government Relations. Ms. Broemel is from Nashville, Tennessee, and graduated with a BA in History and Women and Gender Studies from The University of the South in Sewanee, TN in May 2013.

Jose Chapa, Justice for Farmworkers Legislative Campaign Coordinator, Rural & Migrant Ministries

Jose ChapaJose is originally from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas and as a youth worked and traveled with his family as a migrant farmworker in the fields of the panhandles of Texas and Iowa. He graduated from Wesleyan University in Connecticut where he majored in American Studies with a concentration in Ethnic Studies. Jose worked as a paralegal and accredited representative focusing on immigration in South Texas as well as in New York City, and also has experience as an organizer and in public relations.

Amaha Kassa, Executive Director, African Communities Together

Amaha KassaAmaha Kassa is the founder and Executive Director of African Communities Together (ACT). Amaha is an Ethiopian immigrant with 22 years of professional experience as a labor and community organizer, nonprofit director, and social entrepreneur. For nine years, Amaha directed East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, a workers’ rights nonprofit in Oakland, California, growing it from a startup to one of the leading organizations in its field. Prior to launching ACT, Amaha earned his law degree from the University of California, Berkeley and a Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard Kennedy School. In 2012, Amaha launched ACT with the support of a Black Male Achievement Fellowship from Echoing Green and Open Society Foundations. Since then, ACT has grown into a membership organization with chapters in New York and D.C., run several successful policy campaigns, and emerged as a key voice on African immigrant issues.

Laura Lemus

Laura LemusSeeking better economic opportunities, Laura Lemus’s parents brought her to the United States when she was six months old. Laura grew up aware that she was undocumented, but didn’t understand the impact of her undocumented status until she turned 16 and learned she couldn't obtain a driver’s permit, or later access financial aid, scholarships, or loans to go to college. Because of her experience, she began getting involved with immigration advocacy organizations to empower other youth who were facing the same challenges.

In her senior year of college, President Obama signed DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), which alleviated Laura’s biggest concern about what she was going to do after graduation if she couldn’t work legally. Laura graduated magna cum laude from SUNY Old Westbury and later became the Special Projects Coordinator at Long Island Wins, a non-profit communications organization that advocates for immigrants on Long Island and beyond.

Today Laura is a National Urban Fellow in the prestigious 14-month program comprised of a full-time graduate MPA (Masters Public Administration) program at Baruch University and a full-time nine-month mentorship with Andrus Family Fund in New York City. She is the first DACA recipient accepted into the program. After graduation, she plans to continue her advocacy work in the public sector working for her community.

The Rev. Juan Carlos Ruiz, New Sanctuary Coalition

The Rev. Juan Carlos RuizJuan Carlos Ruiz came to the United States more than twenty years ago as an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. The crossing of the border and being undocumented radicalized him.

He has had extensive organizing experience in different capacities and in a variety of settings. During his summers off from school, Juan Carlos interned in different parish, hospital and school settings which took him from Puerto Rico to California and from Miami to Boston. Also, while in seminary, he was influenced and shaped by the Catholic Worker Movement and the close mentoring of the Berrigan brothers, Philip and Daniel. They taught him the ways of non-violent resistance and love. Juan Carlos was ordained as a Roman Catholic Priest in 1995.

In the years since, he has co-founded the Migrant Ministry for Diocese of Paterson, the floating parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe, that moved according to the needs and demands of the migrant population. He established two clinics for the uninsured and undocumented, and a social network that offered hospitality services to the neglected communities in northern and western Sparta, New Jersey.

In 2002, Juan Carlos became a U.S. citizen and was able to sponsor his parents, who after being undocumented for 18 years, were finally able to apply for legal residency.

Since 2002, he has opened a community center in the South Bronx, co-founded the National New Sanctuary, served as senior organizer at Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, organized the alternative forum and advocated for the Cochabamba accords in the talks of Climate Change, worked as the National Director for Colors Restaurant, served as community organizer for St. Jacobi Lutheran Church, and in November 2012, the second day after hurricane Sandy, opened the doors to some of his friends of Occupy Wall Street and began articulating a response to the affected communities and what later on came to be known as Occupy Sandy.

In February 2013, he was hired to be the Director for Disaster Response for the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island and was assigned to St. Mark´s Episcopal Church in Jackson Heights, Queens. In 2015, he took a part time job at St. Peter´s/Zion Lutheran Church in midtown Manhattan where he still volunteers. Juan Carlos was hired as an organizer for the New Sanctuary Coalition to expand the Legal Orientation Clinics, the Accompaniment Sanctuary Program, and Sanctuary Hood. He lives in Sunset Park at St. Jacobi Church as he, and his wife, Cinthya, build up the community by coordinating the space of the church’s cultural center.