Our Team

Imam Mohamad Bashar Arafat
Founder & President

Imam Mohamad Bashar Arafat was born and raised in Damascus, Syria. He received a degree in Islamic Studies, Arabic Language, Islamic Law from Damascus University. Under the guidance and mentorship of the late Grand Mufti of Syria, Sheikh Ahmad Kuftaro, he studied Qur’anic interpretation, wisdom of the “Shari’ah” and the Islamic spiritual teachings for 15 years. He accompanied the Grand Mufti during most of his international programs and conferences from 1989-97.

He served as Imam in Damascus from 1981-89 and was then invited to the U.S. to lecture in various Islamic Centers. He was Imam of the Islamic Society of Baltimore from 1989-93, founded An-Nur Institute for Islamic Studies and Arabic Language in Baltimore in 1993, co-founded An-Nur Mosque in Carney and was the Imam from 1995-97. Currently he is President of the Islamic Affairs Council of Maryland.

He taught courses on Islamic Studies and Comparative Religions at several prominent universities in MD and DC. Currently he is teaching at Notre Dame of Maryland University.

He served as Campus Imam at John Hopkins University from 1993 to October 2003, Adjunct Chaplain at John Hopkins Hospital from 2000 to October 2003, and Muslim Chaplain for Baltimore City Police Department from 1998 to 2006.

Since moving to Baltimore in 1989, he has been heavily involved with interfaith work, both nationally and internationally, promoting better understanding between Muslims and other Faith Traditions.
Imam Bashar is the Founder and President of Civilizations Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (CECF). This non-profit organization functions as an umbrella to bring people together for exchanges aimed at creating a better world that promotes peace and cooperation.

He has provided religious and cultural training, consultation, and orientation services for the international exchange students and staff of the U.S. Department of State’s sponsored Youth Exchange Study Program (YES) in the USA since 2004. He is also the convener of our three, annual youth leadership and interfaith conferences, “Better Understanding for a Better World” (BUBW) in Orlando, San Diego, and Baltimore. The BUBW International was held in the Philippines, Indonesia, Pakistan and most recently in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. In 2019, a BUBW International will be conducted in Uganda for East Africa.

Additionally, Imam Bashar is the Founder of Al Basheer Seminary, Interfaith Center & Institute based in Baltimore.

In 2011, Al Basheer & CECF began conducting training for Imams, scholars and community leaders in the U.S. and internationally called the International Observer Program (IOP), in partnership with U.S. Embassies in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia, Belgium, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

As of January 2005, Imam Arafat began conducting International Speaker Programs on “Islam in America” through the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Information Programs in more than 40 countries.

Email: marafat@cecf-net.org

Kimberly King
Programs Director

Full Bio

Kimberly King, a native of Ohio, enlisted in the U.S. Army and traveled during her 4-years of service throughout the United States and abroad. After completing her time in the service, she moved to Maryland to pursue her degree in Business Administration and Management

She has worked in various levels of management for the last 25 years, the most recent being Programs Director of Civilizations Exchange and Cooperation Foundation.

Since becoming Muslim in 1989, she continued studying Qur’an, Arabic, and Islamic Studies in Islamic Centers throughout Maryland, D.C., and Virginia before traveling to Damascus, Syria to advance her studies. She coordinated and led a study circle for Muslim Women in the Washington, D.C. area and has been a guest speaker for courses on Islam at various colleges, universities, mosques, churches, and other institutions.

Peter Kovach
Faculty Member & Advisor

Full Bio

Peter Kovach in 2010 retired from the Senior Foreign Service of the United States. At the
Department of State, he most recently led the Office of International Religious Freedom and has
been a pioneer incorporating religious actors, values and civil society into America’s diplomacy.
Kovach for two years was a Visiting Professor as the Department’s Diplomat in Residence at
UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs. In his diplomatic career, he served overseas in
Pakistan, Japan, Jordan, Morocco, Bahrain and Yemen and did his thesis work on the
Palestinians who are citizens of Israel. Peter is a ‘recovering’ religion major who is advising or
has in recent time advised Al Basheer Islamic Seminary, the Civilization and Cooperation
Foundation, George Mason University’s Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict
Resolution, and the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington.
As a religion major in college, he spent his junior year in college at Banaras Hindu University in
India. There, his spiritualist leanings were reinforced by the loving tutelage of the late Swami
Abhishiktananda—a French Benedictine who lived fully in both the Catholic and Hindu traditions
while aspiring to transcend them both in the universally recognized state of ‘non duality’. There
he was first introduced to the practice of ‘vipassana’ meditation in 1967. Peter has taught
meditation in academic settings as an adjunct to university courses he led on world or Eastern
religions. In addition he has taught colleagues and cross-cultural groups. He was designated
the Department of State’s meditation teacher in an effort to reduce stress in the work force–a
task he took on voluntarily in addition to his ‘daytime job’. Kovach was a founding teacher and
continues to teach prisoners in the Insight Meditation Community of Washington’s “Insight on
the Inside” prison meditation teaching project. Kovach has taught world religions and public
diplomacy at George Mason University, UCLA, UMass Boston, Japan’s ‘Gaimusho’ (Foreign
Service Institute), Seikei University and his alma mater, Wesleyan University.

Hakeem Buuza
Public Diplomacy / Outreach Programs Coordinator

Full Bio

Hakeem A. Buuza is a Public Affairs and Strategic Communications specialist with over 15 years of experience. He is currently the Public Diplomacy/Outreach Programs Coordinator at Civilizations Exchange & Cooperation Foundation (CECF). Prior to that, he was the Social media and Outreach Programs Coordinator at the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, Uganda in East Africa. He managed the Embassy’s CVE programs.

At the U.S. Embassy Kampala, he also worked with the U.S. Africa Command, headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany and doubled as the Security Cooperation Program Assistant. He oversaw public affairs outreach on U.S. military assistance & Security Cooperation programs. He was also a member of the U.S. Ambassador’s advisory team on regional political, economic, and social developments.

Mr. Buuza has social and multimedia training from the Foreign Service Institutes (FSI) in Vienna-Austria and Washington DC. He holds a B.A. in Mass Communication. He has extensive communications experience as a former Journalist and Political Radio Talk-show Host. He also has several years of Marketing and Public Relations experience in the telecommunications industry. His other work has been in social media and security and data management with Triple Canopy Inc.

Robert Stucky
Interfaith Faculty, Al Basheer Program Officer, CECF

Full Bio

Rob Stucky earned both a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art and a Master of Divinity degree from Yale University, as well as a Master of Anglican Studies degree from Berkeley Episcopal Divinity School. He studied Indian Philosophy, Yoga, and Meditation intensively under the direct tutelage of Swami Muktananda Paramahamsa of Ganeshpuri, India, for nine and a half years, and served as an Episcopal priest for sixteen years.

He left the priesthood in 2002 to dedicate himself to the promotion of trans-cultural spirituality and intercultural understanding.

For the past fifteen years, he has collaborated with a devout Muslim friend, scholar, and Saudi diplomat, Sadig A. Malki, in promoting Faith in Diversity- FID. At the invitation of Imam Mohamad Bashar Arafat, Rob has recently joined the faculty of Al Basheer Seminary, Interfaith Center and Institute, and the Civilizations Exchange and Cooperation Foundation, fostering mutual understanding between religions, and promoting the positive spiritual values and practices common to all traditions.

As a writer, he has authored several articles and books that challenge and explore our preconceptions and encourage us to embrace the divine presence in all of life. These include: Reductionism, Globalization, and Faith; The Tantric Jesus- Christ as God, Guru, and Self; and Paradigms- Why We Believe, What We Believe, and How It Can Change.

Rob has also been an adjunct faculty member at Goucher College, The University of Maryland Baltimore County (U.M.B.C.), Notre Dame University of Maryland, and an educator at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, (one of the world’s premier medical facilities and teaching hospitals). There he also worked for decade as a Medical Interpreter, an advocate for cultural competence in health care delivery, and a mentor of interpreters, medical and nursing students in the art and science of medical interpretation as a matter of patient safety and medical necessity. He is multi-lingual- speaking English, Spanish, French, Italian, Catalan, and elementary Hindi.

A popular and dynamic speaker, he has lectured and run workshops and retreats on Comparative Religion and spiritual practices on five continents and in several languages, including at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Barcelona, Expo Ser (Latin America’s largest Holistic Health Conference) in Mexico City, and the European Parliament in Brussels. 

Rob has also recently been named as a retreat leader at the Simple Peace Retreat Center in Assisi Italy, one of the top-rated retreat centers of the world. Rob stresses the value of what he calls “applied spirituality” to enhance the quality of every-day living and to open our perception to new perspectives. He draws on the riches of all the world’s traditions to help others discover the common experiences underlying all of them, and most importantly, to help open people to experience our interconnectedness with each other and the universe we inhabit- a key to both our individual and collective well-being.

The Reverend William A. Au III, Ph.D.
Interfaith Faculty, Al Basheer Seminary Advisory Board

Full Bio

Fr. William A. Au, Ph.D. is a priest of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. He was ordained in 1975 and is a graduate of St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, where he received a BA. In Philosophy and an STM. in Theology. In 1983, he received a Ph.D. in Church History from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He has published a book and several articles on the American Catholic debate on issues of war and peace.

He currently serves as pastor of The Shrine of the Sacred Heart Church in the Mt. Washington section of Baltimore. Prior to this he has served as associate pastor in two other Baltimore parishes and as Pastor of SS. Philip and James Church in Baltimore, and as Assistant Chancellor and Director of Public Relations for the Archdiocese of Baltimore. He also served on the Clergy Personnel Board and Priests Senate of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. He has been very involved in ecumenical and interfaith work.

Since 2009 he has participated in interfaith international programs sponsored by the Civilization Exchange and Cooperation Foundation in Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco. Following the program in Jordan, he authored a Christian response to The Amman Message and The Common Word statements by major Muslim leaders entitled A Common Effort, which seeks to provide a philosophical framework for ongoing Muslim-Christian efforts in Maryland and around the world. H has been a member of the Advisory Board of the Civilizations Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (CECF) since 2012 and a member of the Interfaith faculty of Al Basheer Seminary, Interfaith Center, and Institute. He has been an active supporter of both the Better Understanding for a Better World (BUBW) youth conferences since 2008 and the International Observer Program (IOP) since 2011.

Julian Norman
BUBW Program Coordinator

Full Bio

Julianne’s passion for cultural diversity and inter-religious dialogue began as a teenager when she and mother took a trip to central Africa. She was able to further develop these interests during her undergraduate career where she combined a French and religion major to study the separation of church and state in France; also known as laïcité. Studying the ban on the burqa and the rise of Islam in France, pulled her eyes towards North Africa. She produced several papers regarding North African immigrants in France, and Islamic expression of faith in France. Simultaneously she continued to pursue her interest in religion through several courses and an independent study trip. In the summer of 2009, Julianne won a grant that funded her independent self-initiated research project in India. While conducting her research at a think-tank in Delhi, Julianne studied Hindu Nationalism and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). She also participated in several religious studies courses that led her through Egypt, Israel, Greece, and Turkey. After completing her undergraduate degree, she spent a year in France teaching English.

Julianne also holds a Masters of Public and International Affairs from the University of Pittsburgh. While completing her degree, she received funding through the Ruth Crawford Mitchell Award, to spend a summer in South Africa leading a monitoring and evaluation project as a volunteer for a small non-profit. She then continued to provide pro bono consulting services on monitoring and Evaluation for NGOs in Iraq, Haiti, and Cameroon. Her active involvement with the non-profit sector during her graduate career led her to receive the Sergeant James Taylor Award for Public Service.

After completing her degree, Julianne spent a summer in a rural Moroccan village interviewing school administrators, conducting a microfinance project for local women, and assisting with a camp for kids that promoted environmental awareness. She is the newest member of CECF’s BUBW Team and serves as a BUBW Program Coordinator. She is also currently working in the International Education Division of RTI International, a nonprofit federal contractor that offers international development assistance.

Dominic Dorse
Program Assistant

Full Bio

Dominic received his Associates Degree in Earth Sciences from Keystone College in Pennsylvania and his BA in History from Rutgers University-Camden in New Jersey. While attending Rutgers Camden, he studied Middle Eastern History in Jordan with AMIDEAST for six months and gained a deep appreciation for the people and culture. He has worked in Inventory Management for the last five years and as a Project Manager Field Inspector for nine years prior to that.
His strong belief in promoting understanding among people of different backgrounds lead him to volunteer with Civilizations Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (CECF) in the Better Understanding for a Better World (BUBW) Conferences for high school youth and in the exchange and training programs for Imams, clergy, scholars, and community leaders called International Observer Programs (IOP). In 2017, he was hired as a Program Assistant.

Amanda Hauck
Program Assistant

Full Bio

Amanda was born and raised in Missouri, but moved to Minnesota in 1999, where she continues to live with her husband and two children. Vocationally, she has worked in many different roles – customer service, retail and restaurant management, helping people with disabilities, and serving as community representative to host families and exchange students just to name a few.
Throughout her life she has always had a volunteer spirit and found ways to give back to her community. From delivering meals to senior adults, to serving as her neighborhood block leader, or as a member on the Board of her community theater, she constantly looks for ways to help.
She believes that our strength lies within our diversity. We all bring unique gifts, talents and perspectives that when combined can truly be a force for good in this world.

Sarah Arafat
Program Coordinator

Full Bio

Sarah Arafat graduated from Notre Dame of Maryland University with a bachelor’s degree in biology to pursue a career in dentistry. While attending NDMU, she was the president of the Muslim Student Association and the Biology Honor Society. She will begin her first year of dental school in the fall of 2018 at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry.

Professionally, Sarah has been serving as a long-term intern for Civilizations Exchange and Cooperation Foundation as a Youth Programs Coordinator. In 2017, upon graduation from NDMU, she became a Program Coordinator for CECF’s International Observer Programs and Better Understanding for a Better World (BUBW) Conferences. Sarah has also been serving as a private Qur’an tutor for young children over the past four years. She values diversity, cultural competency, the concept of global citizenship and believes we can all contribute to improving our world.

CECF Country Representatives

Samr Airout

Zineb Semmar

Amira Salama

Dr. Mohammad Mufty

Jamilla Njeri Wahome   

Shakirah Ampaire

Imane Bakkioui

Kinana Dawamneh