Migration and Border Crossings


The opening keynote address by 21st United States Poet Laureate from 2015 to 2017 Juan Felipe Herrera at Decatur Presbyterian Church on Thursday Feb. 7 at 7 pm is free and open to the public.
No prior registration required for opening keynote address.






FEBRUARY 7-9, 2019



Juan Felipe Herrera – The 21st United States Poet Laureate from 2015 to 2017. Herrera was the nation’s first Latino Poet Laureate and won the 2008 National Book Critics Award for Half the World in Light as well as numerous other awards. He is a poet, performer, writer, cartoonist, teacher, and activist. In 2011, Herrera was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. The son of migrant farm workers, Herrera has published 30 books of poetry focusing on questions of identity and migration.

Emilie Townes – American Baptist clergywoman and native of Durham, NC.  She holds a DMin from the University of Chicago Divinity School and a PhD in Religion in Society and Personality from Northwestern University. Townes is the Dean and E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, becoming the first African American to serve as its dean in 2013.  She is the former Mellon Professor of African American Religion and Theology at Yale University Divinity School where she was the first African American and first woman to serve as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.  In 2008, she was the first African American woman to serve as president of the American Academy of Religion and recently served as President of the Society for the Study of Black Religion from 2012-2016.  She taught on the faculties of Union Theological Seminary, NY and Saint Paul School of Theology. She is the editor of two collection of essays, author of four books including her groundbreaking book, Womanist Ethics and the Cultural Production of Evil.  She is a co-editor of two books. Townes was elected a Fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009.

Kwok Pui Lan – Distinguished Visiting Professor of Theology at Candler School of Theology. Kwok is a Hong Kong-born, internationally known postcolonial and feminist theologian, who has authored or edited over twenty books in English and Chinese. She has written on transnationalism and religion, diasporic theology, and border crossing. Kwok was the President of the American Academy of Religion in 2011.

Khaled Beydoun – Professor of Law at the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville) and Senior Affiliated Faculty at the University of California-Berkeley Islamophobia Research Project. Beydoun is a leading scholar on Islamophobia and civil liberties and contributes regularly to Al-Jazeera English, serves as an expert consultant for the US Census Bureau, and has featured his opinion pieces in the New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, Salon and the BBC.

M. Daniel Carroll R. (Rodas) – Danny, as he is called by his friends, is half-Guatemalan, and that background profoundly defines his personal and professional life. He was raised bilingual and bicultural, and in his youth spent many summers in Guatemala. He later taught at El Seminario Teológico Centroamericano in Guatemala City for thirteen years. The realities of Central America sparked Danny’s fascination with the Old Testament and his involvement with immigrants from Latin America stimulates his interest in immigration matters. He has been speaking and writing on the Bible and immigration for over a decade. He is the author of Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible, co-editor of Immigraton Neighbors among Us: Immigration across Theological Traditions. He also has written articles and book chapters in English and Spanish on this topic.

Todd Green – Associate Professor of Religion at Luther College. A nationally recognized expert on Islamophobia, Green served as a Franklin Fellow at the U.S. State Department in 2016-17, where he analyzed and assessed the impact of anti-Muslim prejudice in Europe on countering violent extremism initiatives, refugee and migrant policies, and human rights. He has also given lectures on Islamophobia to other federal agencies, including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. As a public scholar, Green has been interviewed by a variety of media outlets on Islamophobia, including CNN, NPR, Al Jazeera, France 24, Reuters, and The Intercept. Green is the author of two books on Islamophobia: The Fear of Islam: An Introduction to Islamophobia in the West (Fortress Press, 2015) and Presumed Guilty: Why We Shouldn’t Ask Muslims to Condemn Terrorism (Fortress Press, 2018).

Kristin Heyer – Professor of theological ethics at Boston College. Her monographs include Kinship Across Borders: A Christian Ethic of Immigration (2012) and Prophetic and Public: the Social Witness of U.S. Catholicism (2006), both published with Georgetown University Press. She has also published the co-edited volumes Public Theology and the Global Common Good: The Contribution of David Hollenbach (Orbis Press, 2016); Conscience and Catholicism: Rights, Responsibilities and Institutional Responses (Orbis Press, 2015) and Catholics and Politics: Dynamic Tensions between Faith and Power (Georgetown University Press, 2008). She co-chairs the planning committee for Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church. She received Ph.D. in theological ethics from Boston College (2003).

Claudio Carvalhaes – Associate Professor of Worship at Union Theological Seminary. A native Brazilian, Carvalhaes is a theologian, liturgist and artist whose work reimagines liturgy for liberation in a postcolonial and globalized context. He has preached and led worship at events around the world, including at the Wild Goose Festival and Festival of Homiletics.

Rose Cuison Villazor – Professor of Law and Chancellor’s Social Justice Scholar at Rutgers University Law School.  Villazor is an expert in immigration, citizenship, property law and race and the law. She is a nationally-regarded scholar with an active record in social justice issues and is the founder of the Rutgers Center for Immigration Law, Policy and Justice. Her books include The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965: Legislating a New America (2015) (with Gabriel “Jack” Chin).

Jehu J. Hanciles –

D.W. Ruth Brooks – Associate Professor of World Christianity and director of the World Christianity Program at Candler School of Theology (Emory University). Originally from Sierra Leone, he studied in Scotland and taught in Zimbabwe before coming to the U.S. He is author of Euthanasia of a Mission: African Church Autonomy in a Colonial Context (Praeger, 2002) and Beyond Christendom: Globalization, African Migration and the Transformation of the West (Orbis, 2008). He has written and published mainly in issues related to the history of Christianity (notably the African experience) and globalization. His current research studies the history of global Christian expansion through the lens of migration.

Heval Mohamed Kelli – Cardiology fellow at Emory University School of Medicine. He came to the U.S. as a Syrian Kurdish refugee at the age of 17 and washed dishes at a Decatur restaurant before fulfilling his dream of becoming a cardiology fellow. He is a co-founder of several non-profit organizations focused on medical education and the co-founder and president of the Kurdish American Medical Association, an organization focused connecting Kurdish American doctors with medical and college students. His story and work have been featured in several national and international media outlets, including CNN, Emory University magazine, Associated Press, TEDx, NPR, The Economist, The Guardian, VICE, New Yorker, Huffington Post, Reuters, and The New York Times.

Azadeh N. Shahshahani is an American human rights attorney based in Atlanta. She is Legal & Advocacy Director for Project South. She previously served as president of the National Lawyers Guild and director of the National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Georgia. Shahshahani was born in Tehran, a few days after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. She has worked for a number of years in the US South to protect the human rights of immigrants and Muslim, Middle Eastern, and South Asian communities. She is the author or editor of several human rights reports, including a 2017 report, Imprisoned Justice: Inside Two Immigrant Detention Centers in Georgia, co-produced by Project South and the Penn State Law Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic. Shahshahani has appeared on Democracy Now! and BBC, and has been quoted by the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, the Guardian, Atlanta Journal Constitution, and other outlets. She writes frequently for national and international publications such as the Nation, the Guardian, Al-Jazeera, the Huffington Post, Salon, and JURIST on a range of issues pertaining to immigrants’ rights, discrimination and state surveillance targeting Muslim communities, and foreign policy.  Shahshahani is the recipient of the 2017 US Human Rights Network Human Rights Movement Builder Award, the American Immigration Lawyers Association 2012 Advocacy Award, among others.

Michele R. Pistone is a professor of law at Villanova University School of Law, where she has taught since 1999. At Villanova, she founded the school’s in-house clinical program, which she directed for nine years, as well as the Clinic for Asylum, Refugee and Emigrant Services (CARES). Through CARES, Professor Pistone works with law students to provide free legal representation to asylum seekers and others fleeing persecution and violence. Pistone has written extensively on immigration and refugee protection, including on issues related to detention of asylum seekers, the one-year deadline for asylum applications, expedited removal, overseas refugee resettlement, as well as on the migration of skilled and educated migrants. She is interested in social media and its role in creating networks and facilitating movements. She blogs on Best Practices in Legal Education and the Legal Technology Blog.

M. Jan Holton is Associate Professor of the Practice of Pastoral Theology and Care at Duke University Divinity School in Durham, NC. She previously served on the faculty of Yale University Divinity School from 2006 to 2015. Dr. Holton has served under extension ministry appointment with Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS) in New Haven, CT. Her work focuses on the psychodynamic implications of trauma and forced displacement, the intercultural dynamics within traditional pastoral care, and pastoral care to marginalized populations. In her latest book, Longing for Home (Yale University Press, 2016), Professor Holton examines the psychological, social, and theological impact of forced displacement on communities in the Congo and South Sudan, indigenous persons in Uganda, as well as on homeless U.S. citizens and U.S. soldiers returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. She is an ordained elder in the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church. BA, Randolph Macon College, M.Div., Union Presbyterian Seminary, PhD, Vanderbilt University.

Ulrich Schmiedel is Lecturer in the School of Divinity, specializing in theology, politics and ethics. He also serves as Deputy Director of the Centre for Theology and Public Issues. Prior to his appointment at Edinburgh, he was a lecturer in systematic theology at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München in Munich, Germany. He completed his doctorate in theology at the University of Oxford, after studying theology, sociology and hermeneutics. In 2018, he was awarded a membership at the Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton, where he participated in the interdisciplinary inquiry on religion and migration.

Susan Krehbiel is the Associate for Refugees and Asylum for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, an office of the Presbyterian Church (USA). She directs support to refugee-related ministries through PC(USA) regional offices and ecumenical partners and represents PC(USA) with national ecumenical partners and working groups. Susan frequently leads workshops and is a regular contributor to Presbyterian articles and social media posts.

Susan has 30 years of experience promoting refugee rights and providing social and legal services. She has worked with national coalitions and the UN High Commission for Refugees to promote national and international policies to protect these vulnerable populations and provide appropriate services for their recovery and success. Susan also serves part-time with the Presbytery of Baltimore (in MD). She is an ordained ruling elder and an active member of Catonsville Presbyterian Church. She has an MA in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin and a BA in Spanish from the College of Wooster.

Amilcar Valencia‘s passion for justice led him to the immigrant movement supporting people affected by the immigration policies in the US. He was born in El Salvador and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology from the University of Central America. He has been involved in the immigrants’ rights movement in Georgia for many years, including through working for the Georgia Latino Alliance for Humans Rights (GLAHR). In 2010, Amilcar along with his wife Katie Beno-Valencia and a group of compassionate people, was a founding member of El Refugio, a ministry of hospitality and visitation at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA. In 2015, he was named El Refugio’s first executive director. Amilcar is a member of the steering committee of Georgia Detention Watch and new board member for Detention Watch Network (DWN), a national organization coalition building power through collective advocacy, grassroots organizing, and strategic communications to abolish immigration detention in the United States.

Gad Mpoyo was born and raised in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is the pastor and founder of Shalom International Ministry, a new worshiping community under the New Church Development Presbytery of Greater Atlanta. The church is based in Clarkston, perhaps the most ethnically diverse city in the United States. He holds Masters of Divinity and Theology from Candler School of Theology, Emory University.

Teresa Waggener advises Presbyterian mid-councils and congregations who are calling immigrant pastors. She also strives to help Presbyterians understand and engage the injustices within this country’s complex system by taking immigration law and policy and breaking it down into resources that tell the stories of those affected. Teresa has a Juris Doctor from the Brandeis School of Law and a Masters in Spirituality from Bellarmine University. Before her work at the Office of Immigration Issues, Teresa worked as a public defender, attorney for child protective services, and an immigration attorney for Kentucky Refugee Ministries.

Amanda Craft supports the growth and activity of Presbyterians for Just Immigration, a campaign to mobilize congregations, mid councils, and Presbyterian-related organizations to affirm and promote the civil and human rights of immigrants. She also helps with the coordination of network training opportunities for leaders in immigration advocacy work in their regions, consistent with the mandates of the General Assembly. Previously she served as a mission co-worker in Guatemala, Mexico and along the U.S.-Mexico border. Prior to that call, she worked for the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program. She has a BA in Environmental Studies from Denison University, has studied gender studies at the Protestant Center for Theological Studies in Central America (CEDEPCA). Amanda is the mother of two sons, and, along with her husband, reside in Louisville, KY.

Rev. Jack Amick is Director of Sustainable Development and Global Migration, United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).  He directs UMCOR’s actions globally in the areas of Sustainable Agriculture, Livelihoods, Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene, Creation Care, and Global Migration.  He is also responsible for oversight of the Material Resources program for the US and UMCOR’s three field offices in Sudan, South Sudan, and Zimbabwe,  .  Before joining the staff of UMCOR, Amick served as pastor at local United Methodist Churches for seven years. Prior to being ordained as a United Methodist elder, Amick served two years with the Refugee Admissions Office of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration at the U.S. Department of State and two years as Vice-Consul for Economic Affairs at the US Consulate in Mumbai, India.  As Desk Officer for Eastern Europe at the Peace Corps, Amick designed crisis responses to flooding in Central Europe and post-war recovery in Bosnia and Herzegovina Amick has a Bachelor of Arts in International Service and Economics from The American University in Washington, DC, a Master of International Management from the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona, and a Master of Divinity from the Boston University School of Theology.

“The conference will also feature an art exhibit on the theme of migration and Emory University’s Staibdance production of “Moat,” an evening length exploration of human migration from Iran to a small Pennsylvania town during the Iran hostage crisis.

This conference is supported by the World Council of Churches’s Interfaith Wing and the Council on American Islamic Relations.

Conference co-organizers:
Raj Nadella, Columbia Theological Seminary (email: NadellaR@CTSnet.edu)
Silas Allard, Emory University Center for the Study of Law and Religion