Trina Nussbaum Trina Trotter Nussbaum
Interim Director
(540) 432-4674
Trina is passionate about understanding and strengthening the intricate web of relationship and connections that exist across difference as well as similarity. As a faith-based peacebuilder, she works at building the spaces and facilitating the connections that enable authentic inter-religious and inter-cultural engagement. Trina holds a B.A. in Theater and Psychology, with a minor in Justice, Peace and Conflict Studies from Eastern Mennonite University. She will graduate this spring with an M.A. in Conflict Transformation from the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP) at EMU and is also pursuing a Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship, which is a collaborative effort between the Master of Business Administration (MBA) and CJP programs. Along with interfaith engagement, her research and practice areas of interest are: organizational behavior and strategic planning, secondary traumatic stress and how it affects workers within nonprofits, transforming conflicts through appreciative inquiry processes, and working for narrative change using speculative fiction and storytelling. She is also committed to working for racial justice and sees the racialization of Muslims as the next sector of Islamophobia and racism that must be confronted.

Trina’s previous work experience includes a wide variety of nonprofits and government agencies, including being the Associate Director at CIE for three years before assuming the Interim Director position in July 2016.

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.

Jennifer Perry Jennifer Perry
Program Coordinator, Interfaith Peace Camp
(540) 432-4687
Jennifer grew up in Broadway, Virginia and has recently returned to the Harrisonburg area after living and working in many parts of the U.S. and abroad. She holds an M.A. in Theatre from Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, VA and has completed postgraduate work at the New School in New York, NY. She is an avid traveler, a passion cemented by undergraduate studies in Ghana and her first job, which saw her crisscrossing the country on a bus for four months with the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble. More recently, she’s had the privilege of studying at various Sikh, Hindu, and Buddhist holy sites in India, Nepal, and Bhutan. Jennifer’s work in nonprofit theatre and dance has allowed her the chance to meet and connect with people all over the world, leading to her interest in exploring how the arts and social justice intersect. She believes the arts can help children learn how to grow into adults who are comfortable with differences, be they physical, religious, political, or cultural.

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
Retired Director, Interfaith Specialist

Ed was director of 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 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.