President & CEO
James Patton assumed the leadership of ICRD in 2017, upon the retirement of its founder, Dr. Douglas Johnston. He has conducted international development, conflict transformation and social reconciliation for over two decades in more than a dozen countries, building collaborative networks and programs with the entire range of social and political actors in complex conflict environments.
Prior to 2011, when he joined ICRD as Executive Vice President, he had worked in the governmental and non-governmental sectors. His non-governmental experience included assessing the impact of drug policies and military responses in Bolivia, facilitating the role of Cambodian Buddhists in post-conflict stability, and coordinating citizen security and conflict transformation efforts in the Andean region. His governmental experience included working with the Special Envoy for Sudan, leading stability operations assessments for the US State Department in South Sudan, and enhancing the Latin America and Religion and Conflict portfolios for USAID’s Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation.
In his role as ICRD’s President, James has served as a member of a number of collaborative efforts to advance the field of peacemaking, including: the U.S. Department of State’s Working Group on Religion and Foreign Policy; the Council on Foreign Relations’ Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group, and; the public-private partnership advancing national dialogue on reconciliation in Colombia, Reconcilación Colombia. He is a Senior Visiting Fellow at Brigham Young University’s Wheatley Institution and the co-author, with Rev. David Steele, of the forthcoming (2018) U.S. Institute of Peace publication, Religion and Conflict Guides: Religion and Reconciliation. He is a Lifetime Member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
James holds a Master of Law and Diplomacy degree from The Fletcher School at Tufts University and a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School. He has taught and lectured widely, and is fluent in Spanish, with practical experience in a number of other languages. He and his wife, Andrea, have a wonderful seven-year old daughter, Gabriela, and three-year old son, Simon.
Dr. Douglas M. Johnston is President Emeritus and founder of the International Center for Religion & Diplomacy. Prior to founding ICRD, Dr. Johnston served as Executive Vice President and COO of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, where he also chaired the Preventive Diplomacy Program and the Maritime Studies program.
A distinguished graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Dr. Johnston holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and Ph.D. in Political Science from Harvard University and has served in senior positions in both the public and private sectors. His government assignments include: Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy; Director of Policy Planning and Management in the Office of the Secretary of Defense; and planning officer with the President’s Office of Emergency Preparedness. He was the founding director of Harvard University’s Executive Program in National and International Security. Dr. Johnston is a Captain in the Naval Reserve and, at the age of 27, was the youngest officer in the navy to qualify for command of a nuclear submarine.
Dr. Johnston’s publications include: Religion, the Missing Dimension of Statecraft (1994); Foreign Policy into the 21st Century: the U.S. Leadership Challenge (1996); Faith-based Diplomacy: Trumping Realpolitik (2003); Religion, Terror, and Error: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Challenge of Spiritual Engagement; and Religion and Foreign Affairs: Essential Readings (2012). Religion, Terror, and Error won the 2011 “Book of the Year Award” by Foreword Reviews, the rating agency for universities and independent publishers.
Dr. Johnston’s hands-on experience in the political-military arena, coupled with his work in preventive diplomacy, has guided ICRD’s efforts to bridge religion and politics in support of peacemaking in Sudan, Kashmir, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Colombia and Saudi Arabia. He holds an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters and in 2008 was identified in a leading Christian journal as “The Father of Faith-based Diplomacy”.
Abubaker Y. Ahmed Al-Shingieti
Vice President for Preventive Engagement
Ms. Karen B. Roberts
Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer
Amira Abouhussein is a peacebuilding and development professional with 10 years of experience focused on the MENA region. She has designed and conducted conflict resolution and negotiation training programs, facilitated faith-based peace dialogues, and has engaged members of conflicting religious groups and former extremists in community programs.
Before joining ICRD in April, 2018, Ms. Abouhussein was working with the Crown Center for Middle East studies. She has also served as a facilitator at the Drew Institute of Religion and Conflict Transformation, which included Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religious leaders and peace activists from Indonesians, Israelis, Nigerians, Pakistanis, Egyptians, and Palestinians. Amira also provided training for a UN program on capacity building and economic empowerment for refugees. She also brings significant experience in non-profit management and administration through having founded and managed a grassroots NGO in Egypt that focuses on sectarian violence prevention, early warning networks and conflict resolution
Amira holds a dual-M.A. in Conflict Resolution and Coexistence and International Sustainable Development from Brandeis University.
Communications and Development Officer
Nick is a critical theorist specializing in the intersection of religion, gender and the politics of resistance. In his capacity at ICRD, Nick provides research support as well as managing ICRD’s communications, digital marketing, and development activities.
Prior to joining the organization, Nick was a research fellow at a political consulting firm and worked as a youth minister for a small cluster of parishes. He holds masters degrees from both Yale and Georgetown University with a focus in theology, Muslim-Christian relations and gender studies.
Mohammed serves as a fellow for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region at ICRD, where he has provided a wide range of support for the Center’s community engagement and research programs in Yemen, including conducting program evaluation, communicating with local partners and undertaking translations.
Hailing from Sana’a, he has experienced the impacts of the civil war and conflict in Yemen first-hand, both in a professional capacity and as a civilian. He has authored more than 30 studies and reports about Yemen and reported extensively on Sudan, including Darfur. He is currently writing his memoir for HarperCollins Publishers.
Henry “Duke” Burbridge
Senior Research Associate
For the past decade, Duke has served as a researcher and program developer for ICRD, providing support to several of ICRD’s major programs, including the Pakistan Madrasa Project, Education and Curricular Reform in Saudi Arabia, and most recently, Countering Jihadi Salafism in Pakistan, Tunisia, Morocco, and Yemen.
His publications with ICRD include Countering Violent Religious Extremism in Pakistan: Strategies for Engaging Conservative Muslims (2016), Global Distribution of Saudi Arabian Textbooks (2013), and The Sectarian Dimensions of Madrasa Reform in Pakistan (2010).
Senior Program Officer
Rebecca is a conflict resolution specialist and trainer, and serves as ICRD’s Senior Program Officer, where her work has focused on facilitating conflict resolution and countering violent extremism (CVE) initiatives in Yemen, engaging madrasa and interfaith leaders in Pakistan, supporting reconciliation efforts among Syrians, furthering CVE initiatives in Morocco and Kenya, and developing peacebuilding and CVE curricular materials.
Rebecca is a summa cum-laude graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and holds an M.S. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, where she is now Vice-Chair of the Advisory Board.
Driven by a vocational commitment to a Middle East in which peace engenders prosperity for all, Matthew supports ICRD’s programming in Yemen and the region with a host of programmatic support activities, including Arabic-English translation, financial oversight support, grant and report drafting, and monitoring and evaluation (M&E) tracking. Prior to joining ICRD, Matthew served with the International Institute of New England’s Data & Research Team, helping advance M&E and research capacities in the refugee resettlement field. He moonlights as a programmer and is currently leading an open-source project to develop a comprehensive M&E tool for non-profit organizations. An Arabic speaker with several years’ experience living in Lebanon, Jordan, and Morocco, Matthew holds an M.A. in Political Studies from the American University of Beirut and is a summa cum laude alumnus of Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Studies.
Executive Assistant to the President
Aeryka is an international affairs professional with a Middle East concentration who worked in Jordan and has supported ICRD’s program research for Pakistani sectarian violence, conflict resolution in Colombia, and religious identities in Yemen. Previously at Denver’s African Community Center, she facilitated career placement for resettled refugees from Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan. She is an alumna of the University of Colorado.
Annas provides research and programming support for ICRD’s ongoing projects in Saudi Arabia and Yemen and assists in translating between Arabic and English in support of the organization’s broader programs. Prior to joining ICRD, Annas worked as a customer relations engineer for more than five years in North Carolina. He received his MA in Global Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he focused on human rights, international social justice and migration in the Middle East. He also holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from North Carolina State University.
C. Eduardo Vargas
Before joining ICRD in January, 2017, Eduardo served as the Deputy Director at the Center for Faith Based & Community Initiatives at the U.S. Agency for International Development engaging faith-based organizations and civil society to further USAID’s mission. There he led public diplomacy and partnership engagements to support USAID’s humanitarian and development priorities, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge. Eduardo has led interreligious forums and delegations in Oman, Pakistan, and Syria to bridge divides between Islam and the West. Recognized by Huffington Post’s 40 Under 40 in Foreign Policy, Eduardo is an MA alumnus of Seton Hall University.