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SOCIAL SHAPERS / Incendiary Devices and Helping Hands of the Faithful

PUSH 2008: The Fertile Delta, Session 3


Because religion integrates personal, public and political identities so seamlessly, it is a powerful influence on how societies create, reject or adapt to change. Where civic structures are immature or insufficient, religious groups often fill in the gaps with resources that would otherwise be impossible to access. As the quest for and experience of truth unifies believers and non–believers alike, it also separates them in conflicting agendas of “right, might and fight.” How are we to accommodate such irreconcilable differences in our view of the future? And how deeply are religious movements driving politics, immigration and urbanization – and a new middle class – in the 21st century?


Patel is the founder and executive director of Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago-based international organization that brings young people from different faith communities together to build understanding and cooperation. He earned his doctorate in the sociology of religion from Oxford University, where he studied on a Rhodes scholarship. During his tenure at Oxford, he spent much of his time traveling and running interfaith youth service programs in Africa, Asia, and Europe, gathering the methods and information that have proven key to his organization. Today, Patel is a regular guest on Chicago Public Radio and a frequent contributor to the op-ed pages of the Chicago Tribune. He also has written for The Harvard Divinity School Bulletin, Utne Magazine, The Journal of Muslim Law. He also serves on the boards of the International Interfaith Center, CrossCurrents Magazine and Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center. Patel is currently writing a book on the role of religious youth in the 21st century for Beacon Press


Cellist Michelle Kinney is a composer, performer, collaborator and recording artist whose talent is called on by new music innovators and pop artists alike. In addition to performing in her own bands (Jelloslave), Michelle has played with a range of musicians, including Gearoge Cartwright, Sheryl Crow, Steve Tibbets, Natalie Merchant, John Cale, Richie Havens, Lou Reed in studio, on tour, television (Tonight Show, Letterman), and stages around the world.


Nirmala Rajasekar is an accomplished veena player and vocalist. She performs Carnatic Music, a classical music system which has its origins in South India. A performing artist for more than 25 years, Nirmala believes in the connective power of music. In this way, she enjoys collaborating and performing with artists of other genres, such as the work she and cellist Michelle Kinney are bringing to the PUSH stage.


Anthea Butler is Assistant Professor of Religion at the University of Rochester and teaches in the areas of African American religious history, American religious history, and women and gender studies. She also serves as a steering committee member of the Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African American Studies and as a faculty associate of the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women’s Studies. Her recent book, Women in the Church of God in Christ: Making a Sanctified World (University of North Carolina Press, 2007) is a history of the Women’s Department of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), focusing on COGIC women’s appropriation of the church mother as an avenue for spiritual and civic leadership in the twentieth century.