Trina Trotter Nussbaum
Interim Director
(540) 432-4674
Trina has a passion for forming relationships across cultures and religious experiences. She is active in the diverse Harrisonburg community in networking and building bridges where there needs to be compassion for and deeper understanding of the “other.” Professionally she worked as an Eligibility Coordinator at the Harrisonburg/Rockingham Health Department for six years before taking time off to take care of two energetic sons. She’s also worked at EMU’s Summer Peacebuilding Institute which has given her connections and friendships all over the world. She’s traveled extensively across Ireland, Northern Ireland, the Philippines, and Mexico, but calls the beautiful Shenandoah Valley home, along with her husband, Brian. Trina holds a B.A. in Theater and Psychology, with a minor in Justice, Peace and Conflict Studies from Eastern Mennonite University. Trina is currently pursuing a Master’s degree at EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding.

Rebekah “Bex” Simmerman, Research Assistant Rebekah “Bex” Simmerman
Research Assistant
(540) 432-4287
Bex’s interest in interfaith reconciliation is rooted in a strong desire to help people understand one another better. Bex grew up in United Methodist church parsonages scattered across east Tennessee and southwestern Virginia. After university, Bex lived in north Sudan for nearly six years, and had the amazing opportunity to study Arabic, live with a Muslim family, and work with a NGO in North Darfur. The experiences of living in very different religious and cultural worlds, shaped her worldview and desire to bridge divides in society. She has a B.A. from Asbury University, and completed a M.A. at EMU’s Center for Justice & Peacebuilding in 2016. Bex is part of a Sudani church congregation in Harrisonburg, and lives with one hedgehog, two cats, and three housemates.

Christine Kindler, Interfaith Practice Assistant Christine Kindler
Interfaith Practice Assistant

Christine is from Lexington, Kentucky and earned her B.A. in History from the University of Kentucky. As an undergraduate, she studied abroad in Egypt, Turkey and Palestine, an experience which deepened her interest in multi-faith contexts and the role of religion in conflict transformation. She went on to intern with the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding in New York City, and has also served with the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in Afghanistan, where she taught English as a Second Language (ESL) at an adult education and peacebuilding center. She is particularly interested in how interfaith work can increase dignity and address and prevent religiously motivated violence. As a student at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, Christine will be working as the Interfaith Practice Assistant with CIE this year.

Visiting Scholars and Fellows

Shafa Almirzanah, Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence Shafa Almirzanah
Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence

Syafaatun (Shafa) Almirzanah, Ph.D., D.Min, is a scholar, professor and interfaith expert from Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Shafa is a Visiting Muslim Scholar-in- Residence at Eastern Mennonite University for the 2016-17 school year, teaching undergraduate courses and supporting the work of the Center of Interfaith Engagement with speaking engagements on- and off-campus.

She has studied both the classical training and the contemporary experience of the Muslim world, and is familiar with all areas of the intellectual history of Islam, including, Islamic philosophy, mysticism and ethics. She has taught diverse subjects and courses, including, Classical and Modern Islam, The Quran & Hadith, Women in Islam, Islam & Politics in SE Asia, Sufism & Comparative Mysticisms, Interfaith and Intercultural Dialogue, Religious Minorities, and World Religions. Shafa has taught at both Catholic and Muslim universities in Indonesia and Chicago, (U.S.), and at the Al-Waleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University (Washington DC).

In addition to teaching, Shafa has been involved within various nonprofit organizations in interfaith engagement – including extensive travel, research, and presenting papers on interfaith relations and human rights issues. Shafa has a Ph.D. in Comparative Theology from Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, and a D.Min. in Spirituality from Catholic Theological Union. Her Ph.D. dissertation, comparing Muslim and Christian spirituality in the Middle Ages, was published as: When Mystic Masters Meet: Towards a new Matrix for Christian-Muslim Dialogue (Blue Dome Publication, U.S. September, 2011).

Shafa’s work at EMU is sponsored by the Fulbright Scholar-in- Residence Program, the Henry Luce Foundation, the William & Mary Greve Foundation, and private donors.

Bob Bersson, Visiting Jewish Scholar Bob Bersson
Visiting Jewish Scholar

Bob is Professor Emeritus of Art and Art History from James Madison University where he taught modern and contemporary art history, aesthetics, art criticism, and art appreciation between 1980 and 2004. During this period, he wrote two art appreciation/art history textbooks, Worlds of Art (Mayfield 1991) and Responding to Art (McGraw-Hill 2004). More recently, Bob has been involved with interfaith/intercultural work as a founder of the local Interfaith Initiative for Peace and Justice and creator/teacher of “The Israeli/Palestinian in Film” class at both JMU and EMU. From a liberal Jewish, New York City background, he is married to Dolores Shoup, an EMC graduate, and spent fourteen months in Egypt between 2006 and 2009 where he became more familiar with Muslim and Eastern Christian cultures. Bob has visited Israel, where he has family and friends, three times, his longest stay being for six-months on a kibbutz ulpan (work-study) program shortly after undergraduate school at Brandeis University.

Ed Martin
Director Emeritus, Interfaith Specialist

Ed was director of the CIE from 2010 to 2016. In his retirement he is still advocating for Shia/Mennonite connections and for interfaith concerns in the Lancaster PA area. Prior to being director of the CIE, Ed served with American Friends Service Committee as the Quaker International Affairs Representative for Iran, building connections between Iranian institutions and the United States, and providing resources for public education and advocacy regarding Iran in United States. Prior to that appointment Ed worked for 18 years with Mennonite Central Committee as director of programs for Central and Southern Asia, as well as the Middle East. Earlier, Ed worked at the International Irrigation Management Institute in Sri Lanka. He has a bachelor’s in engineering from Stanford University, and a master’s of public administration and PhD in agricultural economics from Cornell University.

John Fairfield, Research Fellow John Fairfield
Research Fellow

John has lived in several countries including Germany, France, the Congo, and Nepal. His interest is in language, and in how different “languages”—of faith, of theory, of culture—frame our perceptions of each other. His current work is in describing how our need for each other, as persons having different faith languages, is at the very heart of the gospel. He has recently published The Healer Messiah: turning enemies into trustworthy opponents. He is Professor Emeritus of Computer Science from James Madison University. He was cofounder of Rosetta Stone, and V.P. of Research and Development there from 1992 to his retirement in 2006. His undergraduate work was at EMU, and his Ph.D is in Computer Science from Duke University.