Dialogue Knowledge Hub

A Faith-Based Perspective on Human Rights and Racial Justice

Online Zoom Application
03:00 pm
17 Mar, 2021
Masud Ashley Olufani
Dr. Leah Gunning Francis 
Dr. Ganoune Diop
Uzair Ben Ebrahim

Although past civil rights movements and decades of activism have led to important gains in legal, political, social and educational sectors around the world, many marginalised groups still face deep seated systemic racism and inequalities woven into the fabric of their communities.

These include limited access to quality education, health services, housing and social security and a low degree of political participation. In addition, people facing racial injustices can suffer from multiple forms of discrimination and violation of their human rights based on age, sex, language, religion, political opinion, social origin, property, disability, birth, or other status.

Tensions reached a boiling point in May last year, as the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer in the United States ignited public outrage around the world. For many, Floyd’s death marked the culmination of centuries of racial injustice at a time when COVID-19 was laying bare vast systemic inequalities and hitting black and minority communities at disproportionate rates. In response, many faith communities around the world have joined movements calling for equality, human rights and dignity.

Ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, KACIID will host renowned speakers including: Uzair Ben Ebrahim, social justice advocate, performance poet and writer; Dr. Ganoune Diop, Director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty at the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Maryland; Dr. Leah Gunning Francis, author of Ferguson and Faith: Sparking Leadership and Awakening Community; and Masud Olufani, actor, mixed media artist, writer and regular speaker on racial justice.

Speakers will discuss the importance of faith in upholding human rights and what role religious institutions can play in combatting racial discrimination. Speakers will also offer guidance on how interreligious dialogue and collaboration between faith groups can provide joint solutions to injustice.

Masud Ashley Olufani

Masud Ashley Olufani is an Atlanta based actor, mixed media artist, and writer whose studio practice is rooted in the discipline of sculpture. He is a graduate of Morehouse College, and The Savannah College of Art and Design where he earned an M.F.A. in sculpture in 2013. Masud has exhibited his work in group and solo shows nationally and internationally. The artist has completed residencies at The Vermont Studio Center; The Hambidge Center for Arts and Sciences; and Creative Currents in Portobello, Panama. He is a 2017 Southern Arts Prize State Fellow; a recipient of a 2015 and 2018 Idea Capital Grant; a Southwest Airlines Art and Social Engagement grant; and a recipient of 2015-16’ MOCA GA Working Artist Project Grant. He is the creative director of Blocked: A Global Healing Project, an multimedia performance created to memorialize spaces marked by the trauma of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. As an actor, he had a reoccurring role on the BET series The Quad, and has appeared in numerous television shows including Greenleaf; Being Mary Jane, Devious Maids, Satisfaction, and, Nashville. He is a featured actor in the film biopic All Eyez on Me. He was the co-host of the PBS news based investigative journalism show Retroreport, which premiered nationally in the fall of 2019. As a writer, Masud has published articles for Burnaway; Baha'i Teachings; and is a featured contributor for the Jacob Lawrence Struggle Series catalog, produced to coincide with a major exhibition of the Struggle Series paintings.

Dr. Leah Gunning Francis 

Dr. Leah Gunning Francis is the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, Indiana. In 2012, Dr. Gunning Francis was awarded the prestigious Engaged Scholars Fellowship to study issues of risk among middle-class African American young men. She argues that the meta-narrative about young black men puts all of them “at risk,” regardless of socioeconomic class, and utilizes the narrated experiences of black mothers to construct a new narrative about young black men that honors their humanity and is concerned for their well-being. Dr. Gunning Francis’ additional research interests focus on transformative education as reflected in her doctoral dissertation, Beyond “Band-Aids” and Bootstraps: Toward a Womanist Vision of Christian Education as Social Transformation. Her writing reflects her commitment to the spiritual, emotional and physical well-being of women, men and children; and highlights her particular interest in underserved and minority communities. Dr. Gunning Francis has served as an adjunct professor for the Methodist Theological School in Ohio, and has provided pastoral leadership for congregations in Georgia, Illinois and Ohio. She has received numerous awards to include the Candler School of Theology’s G. Ray Jordan award for excellence in integrating academic study with constructive leadership and service, and the Fund for Theological Education’s Doctoral Fellow Award. Dr. Gunning Francis earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing from Hampton University; a Master of Divinity degree from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University; and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois.For her book Ferguson and Faith: Sparking Leadership and Awakening Community (Chalice Press, 2015), Dr. Gunning Francis interviewed more than two dozen clergy and young activists who were actively involved in the movement for racial justice in Ferguson and beyond. She researched and wrote Ferguson and Faith while serving as the Associate Dean for Contextual Education and Assistant Professor of Christian Education at Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri.

Dr. Ganoune Diop

Ganoune Diop, PhD, is the Secretary General of the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA). He is the Director of the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department (PARL) at the Seventh-day Adventist Church world headquarters in Washington D.C. USA. He is Secretary of the Conference of Secretary of Christian World Communions.

Dr. Diop is graced with a fascinating combination of gifts and expertise in Biblical Exegesis and Theology, Philology with an emphasis on Ancient Near East languages and civilizations, Comparative World Religions and World Philosophies. He earned a master’s degree in Philology at the School of Languages and Civilizations of the Ancient Near East in Paris. He earned a diploma in New Testament In-depth Studies with a focus on Apocalyptic Literature at the Catholic University of Paris. He completed postgraduate studies in Semiotics Studies and applied Linguistics at the University of Paris Sorbonne. He graduated from Andrews University, Michigan with a PhD in Old Testament Studies in 1995. At a diplomatic level, Dr. Diop was the Permanent Representative of the SDA Church at the United Nations in New York and Geneva, until 2015. Since 2015, Dr. Diop holds the position of Secretary of the Conference of General Secretaries of the Christian World Communions, an organization that sums over 2 billion Christians. He is board member of the Global Christian Forum. Dr. Diop extensively works to foster mutual understanding between Christian faith traditions and other world religions and philosophies. He regularly trains leaders in capacity building in reference to peace, justice, and human rights: the pillars of the United Nations. He was granted a doctorate Honoris Causa for his work in helping promote a culture of human rights grounded on human dignity. He is executive editor of Religious Freedom World Report and executive editor of Fides et Libertas. In 2017, he was the recipient of the Thomas Kane Religious Freedom Award, from the well-known J. Rueben Clark Law Society in Philadelphia, United States of America. In 2019, he received the Award of Excellence: Ambassador for Liberty and Peace - Jean Nussbaum & Eleanor Roosevelt at the United Nations in Geneva


In 2020, Dr. Diop has been honored with the Charles Elliott Weniger Award for Excellence. Dr. Diop has been a key presenter at the yearly symposium entitled “The Role of Religion and faith-based groups in International Affairs. One of his highly valued contributions was entitled: Human Dignity as Foundation for Human Rights: A Normative Overlapping Consensus. Key of the issues he contributes to are justice and peace, the other pillars the international community has identified as necessary to peaceful coexistence. Right from the beginning of his work, Dr. Ganoune Diop has promoted a human rights culture based on universal values, emphasizing the importance of human rights in all aspects of public life, and in particular the importance of freedom and the involvement of religious communities in the development of social welfare. Through an interdisciplinary approach, he offers a unique perspective to the concept of human rights bringing together the theological, philosophical and economic and legal approaches to current challenges to the whole human family.


Uzair Ben Ebrahim

Uzair Ben Ebrahim is an educator, linguist, facilitator, social justice advocate, decolonialist, performance poet and writer.
He holds a B.A. (2014) in linguistics, arabic language and literature, and Hebrew language and literature; a post-graduate certificate (2016) in education; and a B.A. honours (2017) in Hebrew language and literature with his thesis focusing on the development of modern Hebrew through analysing Aramaic texts in the Old Testament, all from the University of Cape Town.

Uzair was an assistant lecturer at the global citizenship programme at the University of Cape Town, a programme designed to develop critical thinking and active citizenry in young graduates. He currently teaches English literature, Arabic language and literature and religion studies at high schools in Cape Town. Uzair also consults both locally and internationally on topics of education, curriculum development, social justice advocacy and interreligious dialogue.

Uzair is a member of the United Religions Initiative Southern African Cooperation Circle, GOAL (Giving Opportunities to Aspiring Leaders) as well as a board member of the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative, through which he facilitates interfaith programmes for high schoolers; creating spaces of trust, dialogue and learning across religious and cultural divides. Uzair has also worked for the  Muslim Jewish Interfaith Coalition, an international organization creating spaces for understanding between Muslims and Jews, and is a Common Word among the Youth Fellow, a youth-led global interfaith movement. He has also facilitated interreligious dialogues for the Taize community, an ecumenical Christian monastic fraternity, and for Habonim Dror Southern Africa, a Jewish labour Zionist youth movement.

Uzair has always been interested in minority identity (re-)construction, the idea of ‘the other,’ the complexities of trans-language in social and academic spaces, and how we come into being/existence. He holds that it is important for the voices of marginalised peoples to be represented in processes of civic engagement and that there needs to be alternative brave spaces not only as a refuge, but also for critical issues to be debated, and dismantled (and potentially reconstructed).

Christine Luby

Christine Luby is a freelance journalist and communications consultant. Formerly, she was a Public Affairs Officer at the International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID) in Vienna, Austria and holds a Masters in Advanced International Studies from the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna. Christine has worked in the field of public affairs and media since her graduation from Washington and Lee University in Virginia, USA in 2013. She also worked for several years in Government and Public Affairs in the American maritime and defense industries.