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”.
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.
Program Director (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.
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 Director
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 Director, 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; leads educational programming in Uganda; 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 currently a member 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.
Program Development Consultant
Ray Kim is a Ph.D. candidate at Georgetown University in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies. He is a sociologist of religion specializing in contemporary Islam and Christianity, spending the last few years conducting ethnographic fieldwork in Korea tracking developments in the halal market and the spread of Islamophobic discourse throughout the country. His research interests have also led him to collaborate on projects concerning the religious soft-power influences of Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey in Africa, the Balkans, and Central Asia, as well as the flight of non-Muslim minorities from the Levantine region. As the Program Development Consultant, Ray coordinates the development of proposals and the production of deliverables at their conclusion. Adept in various qualitative research methods and analysis, he applies these skills and the knowledge he gains from conducting fieldwork in the research leading up to a proposal’s design, ensuring that the program’s design is directly informed by the contexts in which they will be implemented.
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.
Development and Program Assistant
As a Development and Program Assistant at ICRD, Saras coordinates donor engagement, assists with the fundraising portfolio, maintains communications activities, and supports proposal development, project design, research, and reporting for programs in the Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia portfolio. Her research and professional interests are anchored around decoloniality in development and peacebuilding, asset-based community development for conflict prevention, and post-structuralist approaches to advance social justice and equity. She is passionate about creating spaces that embrace local wisdom and are attuned to the lived experiences of affected populations to ensure more inclusive processes in development and peacebuilding.
Saras was born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia in a multi-ethnic multi-faith family. In 2021, she graduated summa cum laude from George Washington University with a BA in International Affairs with a concentration in Conflict Resolution and a minor in Peace Studies. During her academic career, she conducted a research seminar on the role of diasporas in post-conflict peacebuilding with a focus on Chinese-Indonesians in Australia post-1998. Her research looked into the role of diasporas in conflict transformation and post-conflict management as a transnational actor and identify ways to address barriers for diaspora contribution to policymaking and larger political processes.
Outside of her work at ICRD, Saras is the Director of Networking at In-Sight Collaborative, a humanitarian NGO working in Turkey and Greece, where she facilitates creative design solutions for growing In-Sight’s humanitarian education and network building initiatives for students, aid workers, and donors. She is also an Advisor and Co-Founder of Simplex Livings, a sustainable housing company based in Bandung, Indonesia, in support of affordable housing and community development projects benefiting low-income families.
Prior to her work at ICRD, she held a number of programmatic and research roles working on making human-centered social entrepreneurship accessible to historically marginalized communities, youth-centered climate action, grassroots interventions to prevent and counter violent extremism, accountable governance, rule of law, and access to justice.
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.
Interim Executive Assistant to the President
Maëlys supports ICRD as Interim Executive Assistant to the President with administrative functions, financial tracking, and coordinating the Center’s seasonal internships. In addition to her administrative duties, Maëlys assists with Program work by employing her language skills in French, Spanish, and Arabic as well as her research experience. She supports proposal writing, research, and translations with a focus on the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Sahel region.
As a current graduate candidate at King’s College London, her research experience has spanned the subjects of peace agreements in deeply divided societies, the theories of state failure and state building, and a specialization in the role of international law in peace and security. With this, she hopes to finish her thesis on the role of NGOs in the creation and implementation of international law as it concerns development practices. She graduated Cum Laude from George Washington University with a BA in International Affairs.
Prior to her role at ICRD, Maëlys interned for Congress, the Near East Foundation’s Jordan Office, and ICRD. These experiences allowed her to work in Amman for 6 months at Al Jidara Management Consulting, gaining experience in proposal writing, business development, and outreach with civil societies. She hopes to expand her technical capabilities by working in other regions of the world and learning new languages.