Migration and Border Crossings



FEBRUARY 7-9, 2019

The conference will bring together theologians, legal scholars, artists and leaders of faith communities to explore the causes, processes and effects of global migration. It will feature keynote addresses by former Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera, and Dean of Vanderbilt Divinity School, Emilie Townes, as well as several plenary addresses and workshops that will offer insights and tools for addressing immigration related issues.

Program Fee: $175 prior to 12/15/18; $200 after 12/15/18 (includes breakfasts, lunches, and coffee breaks). Limited spots available to students at $50.


Juan Felipe Herrera – U.S. Poet Laureate from 2015-17. Herrera was the nation’s first Latino Poet Laureate and won the 2008 National Book Critics Award for Half the World in Light. The son of migrant farm workers, Herrera has published 30 books of poetry focusing on questions of identity and migration.

Emilie Townes – Dean and E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society at the Vanderbilt University Divinity School. A pioneer in Womanist theology, Townes has published and lectured widely on Christian ethics, cultural theory, and postmodern thought. She was the first Black woman to serve as president of the American Academy of Religion in 2008.

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.

Daniel Carroll– Blanchard Professor of Old Testament in the Graduate School of Wheaton College. Carroll has written extensively on Hispanic theology and migration. His books include: Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible and Immigrant Neighbors among Us: Immigration across Theological Traditions.

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 and has given lectures on Islamophobia to federal agencies, including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. Green has contributed to The Huffington Post and has been interviewed by media outlets such as CNN, NPR, Al Jazeera, France 24, Reuters, and The Intercept.

Kristin Heyer – Professor of Theological Ethics at Boston College. A scholar of social ethics and Catholic social thought, Heyer has written and lectured extensively on the ethics of migration, including in her book Kinship across Borders: A Christian Ethic of Immigration and in dozens of chapters and articles.

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. and Ruth Brooks Associate Professor of World Christianity at Candler School of Theology. Hanciles has lived and worked in Sierra Leone, Scotland, Zimbabwe and the United States. Hanciles’ current research surveys the history of global Christian expansion through the lens of migration. His books include: Euthanasia of a Mission: African Church Autonomy in a Colonial Context (2002) and Beyond Christendom: Globalization, African Migration and the Transformation of the West (2009).

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.

“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