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”.
Vice President for Operations
Martine is a mediator and conflict transformation specialist with over 20 years of engaged experience—with communities, governments, regional bodies (i.e. EU, AU and ASEAN), UN agencies, a range of inter/national non-governmental organizations and academic institutions. Her work has engaged her directly in fluid war to post-war reconstruction and development contexts across 70 countries in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, West to East Europe and North and South America.
Ms. Miller derives her formal education linking practical mediation and conflict transformation knowledge and skills from a Masters in International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law, a Masters in Politics Post-war Reconstruction and Development, a dual Bachelors in Political Science and International Development, coupled with specialized Certifications in Asian and African Studies, Mediation/ Negotiation in War Contexts, Religion and Mediation, Conflict Transformation, etc., as well as engagement in Harvard University’s Program on Negotiation and the International Committee for the Red Cross and Red Crescent (ICRC).
She is a guest lecturer at Georgetown, American University and a lecturer and program advisor to the Peace and Conflict Studies Center at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand.
Executive Assistant to the President
In her capacity at ICRD, Rana assists with administrative functions, financial tracking, and other program-related responsibilities. She is knowledgeable in administration, international affairs, research and research-writing, and applications and functions of information technology. Her passions include history, anthropology, art, music, literature, and languages.
Growing up as a young practicing Muslim in culturally diverse communities around Northern Virginia and briefly in Cairo, Egypt, Rana’s compassion for and understanding of people has guided her academic and career paths to focus on community-building and peaceful relations. During her secondary education, Rana was an International Baccalaureate (IB) candidate and diploma recipient. As an undergraduate student, she attended Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) where she studied Political Science with a concentration in Public Policy and Administration. This entailed a balanced education on U.S. politics and institutions, and global affairs. She held various leadership positions in student government and student-operated humanitarian aid organizations. She also interned at local, state, and federal institutions, with her highlight experience being a year-long internship with the U.S. Department of State where she assisted with research on the Arabian Gulf region for the 2019 Human Rights Report. In the penultimate semester of her undergraduate education, Rana studied in Colchester, UK, at the University of Essex, and traveled to Barcelona, Spain, where she conducted a research project on patterns of government formation. She is now a graduate student working towards her M.S. in conflict analysis and resolution at George Mason University’s (GMU) Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution.
Rana foresees an exciting future for herself where she will travel more and experience the cultures and lifestyles of different communities. Through that, her education, and her current role at ICRD, she hopes to acquire the knowledge and experience necessary to become a facilitator in peace processes in her unique way.
Program Manager (Conflict Resolution Liaison)
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 Indonesia, Israel, Nigeria, Pakistan, Egypt, and Palestine. 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.
Director of Communications and Development
Nick is a visual artist and critical theorist specializing in the intersection of religion, gender and the politics of resistance. In his capacity at ICRD, Nick oversees all of ICRD’s communications, digital marketing, and fundraising activities. He has strong background in campaign finance, graphic design, and visual art.
Prior to joining the organization, Nick worked as a research fellow at a political consulting firm and worked as a youth minister for a small cluster of parishes. He has also worked on graphic design contracts for major digital marketing firms in the US. 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.
Abubaker Y. Ahmed Al-Shingieti
Majd Al-Waheidi is a researcher and analyst with a focus on the Middle East and North Africa region. In her capacity at ICRD, she supports research, program management, and report drafting in concert with DC-based and international researchers.
Prior to ICRD, she was a contributing reporter at Rest of World, where she wrote on the intersection of global technology and culture in underrepresented communities. Before that, she worked as a research assistant with a focus on the conflict in Syria at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, and consulted for Save the Children.
In her free time, she edits audio projects for The Creative Process. Majd started her career in TV and print journalism. Before moving to the United States, she worked as a multimedia reporter and producer in Gaza, including three years with the New York Times. During this time, she reported on the first Islamic dating website and documented the human impact of the 2014 Israel-Gaza war.
She earned her M.A in Arab Studies with a graduate certificate in Diplomacy from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, and her BA in Business Administration from Al-Azhar University.
Olga Batkhan has over 10 years of accounting experience in taxation, finance, auditing, and compliance. She graduated from University of Maryland College Park, The Robert H Smith School of Business with bachelor’s in Accounting and went on to get a master’s degree in Management and Accounting, along with Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification.
Having supported multiple public accounting firms, working with various individuals, businesses, and non-profit organizations. Her work experience ranges from day-to-day accounting functions, to preparation of complex tax returns, and audits for non-profit organizations as well as for-profit companies. Prior to joining ICRD Olga was well familiar with the organization as for numerous years she led the external auditing team, learning about the mission and accounting functions in detail.
In her role as a Peace Fellow, Milica supports ICRD program by assisting in the research and drafting process, collaboration with local actors, financial tracking, and implementation of program activities. Prior to working at ICRD, Milica has experience interning and working in cultural exchange and development at the local and international level. Her academic and professional interests primarily revolve around global development, interreligious and intercultural dialogue, building community resilience and collaboration, as well as reconciliation and state-building following violent conflict. Her research is largely focused on Latin America and the Caribbean, while also working on projects relating to Eurasia and the MENA region.
Growing up in the religiously and ethnically diverse post-conflict Balkans, Milica has quickly come to recognize and appreciate diversity, as well as the importance of intercommunity dialogue and the need to proactively seek and engage in peace and community building, which inspired her to do her part in contributing to this sentiment worldwide through her career. She is currently studying International Studies at American University, and has completed her secondary education as a class valedictorian and International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma recipient. Milica holds certificates in Community-Based Action Research and Peace Corps Prep Program.
Senior Program Manager
Rebecca is a specialist and trainer in conflict resolution and preventing/countering violent extremism (P/CVE) with experience in nearly 60 countries. She currently serves as ICRD’s Senior Program Manager, where she directs ICRD’s Yemen programs on conflict resolution and P/CVE; engages madrasa and other religious leaders in Pakistan; conducts/oversees P/CVE training programs in places like Kenya, the Philippines, and Morocco; and has supported reconciliation programs in Syria.
In addition to her work at ICRD, she has conducted conflict resolution training within the US prison system, led community interfaith engagement programs, and facilitated Western-Muslim World dialogues with the Soliya Connect Program as well as political dialogue among Americans, in addition to teaching English as a Foreign Language in Japan. She is also a Consultant on Preventing Violent Extremism to the UN Peacebuilding Fund.
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 (now Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution), where she is now Vice-Chair of the Advisory Board and Advisor to the Political Leadership Academy.
Juncal Fernandez-Garayzabal has spent the last years researching the parallels between recruitment for human trafficking networks and those employed by jihadist groups. She now researches and develops appropriate programming for those who once embraced jihadism, particularly foreign fighters.
Juncal has experience researching conflicts, forced migrations, organized crime and security. Her research has developed through collaboration in projects with research institutes, both in Spain and internationally. She has worked with institutions like Georgetown University, Comillas ICADE (Madrid), the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies and UNICEF, with peacebuilding experience in Latin America and Equatorial Guinea.
Junior Program Officer
As Junior Program Officer, Loujain is providing assistance to the ICRD’s Yemen program, and conducting research to support senior staff on analyzing interreligious dynamics in the MENA region, including determining drivers of religious conflicts, mapping peacebuilding activities, and assessing of religious minority rights.
Loujain holds a BA in Business Administration and a post-graduate diploma in marketing from Damascus University. After graduating, Loujain started her carrier as a researcher at the Central Bank of Syria, where she expanded her research and analytical skills. She continued to work in the economic research as she moved to Saudi Arabia.
Growing up in a diverse community from various religions and backgrounds where people used to live in harmony inspired Ms. Kiki to pursue a career that encourages religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue. She is also working towards a master’s degree in communication in the DC Area.
Lindsey Parnas supports proposal drafting, research, financial tracking, and translation, with particular attention to ICRD’s work in sub-Saharan Africa and South/Southeast Asia. Her academic and professional interests center in research on sectarianism, child protection, countering violent extremism, transnational critical theory, and reconciliation in the aftermath of ethnic conflict and civil wars, especially in the Middle East and North Africa.
Lindsey graduated summa cum laude from the Dual B.A. Program between Sciences Po Paris and UC Berkeley, where she studied Political Science, Peace and Conflict Studies, and Middle Eastern Studies. Her experience studying on the Franco-Italian border for two years as well as briefly living in Lebanon and Morocco inspired her to analyze essentialization of Islam in the United States and France as well as the barriers and bottom-up solutions to institutional violence in the Middle East. Lindsey plans to start a Masters in Arab Studies at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service with a focus in inter-religious conflict resolution in Fall 2021.
Before beginning at ICRD, she interned with a variety of state, federal, and international organizations, including the Smithsonian Institution Center for Cultural Heritage, the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and the United Nations Reliefs and Works Agency in Lebanon. Since graduation, she has focused on honing her Arabic written and oral skills through advanced immersive programs based in Beirut and Amman.
C. Eduardo Vargas
As Senior Associate at ICRD, C. Eduardo Vargas serves as special advisor to the president and government liaison. He joined ICRD after serving in President Barack Obama’s Administration as Deputy Director of the Center for Faith Based & Community Initiatives (CFBCI) at the US Agency for International Development (USAID). At CFBCI, Mr. Vargas led external engagement efforts, public diplomacy, and partnerships to build support for USAID’s humanitarian and development priorities, including, among others: the surge of unaccompanied children related to the 2014 Central American Migration; ensuring the safety, security and freedom from persecution of religious minorities in the Middle East; countering violent extremism; and advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Before joining the Obama Administration, Mr. Vargas served as Director to the United Nations DPI/NGO Executive Committee in New York, representing over 1,300 NGOs worldwide at the UN while championing greater civil society representation, access and inclusion in various UN agencies. Prior to that, he directed a variety of global refugee programs, development and humanitarian assistance projects, and advocacy campaigns for Caritas Internationalis, Intersections International, and Aya Worldwide.
Mr. Vargas earned his MA in Diplomacy & International Relations at Seton Hall University. He has published articles and speaks publicly on a variety of globalization, humanitarian, and public policy issues. He has been featured by Al Jazeera, CNN, Foreign Affairs, FOX News, and Telemundo, among other outlets. For his work in diplomacy and peacemaking he has been recognized by the Huffington Post’s 40 Under 40 in Foreign Policy, awarded the USAID Administrator’s Letter of Commendation, and received the Many Are One Alumni Servant Leadership Award from Seton Hall University.