Fellows

Juliana Taimoorazy

Senior Fellow

Providing humanitarian support to Iraqi Christian Refugees, and helping Christian families return to their homes and rebuild in Iraq’s Nineveh region.

Who is Juliana?

An Assyrian Christian born and raised in Iran, Juliana Taimoorazy is the founder and president of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, an organization that raises awareness about the persecuted church in Iraq and helps Assyrian refugees resettle in the United States. Smuggled out of Iran in 1989 to avoid religious persecution, she sought asylum in America and obtained her master’s degree in instructional design from Northeastern Illinois University. Since then she has held numerous positions in media and the nonprofit world, and has advocated on human rights everywhere from television and radio to the halls of Capitol Hill. She enjoys reading nonfiction, listening to opera and classical music, and disrupting polite conversation with talk of religion and politics. She is fluent in Farsi and Assyrian.

Juliana’s work

Assyrian Christians are some of the oldest christian communities in the world, tracing their heritage to the Prophet Jonah’s ministry in Nineveh (modern-day Mosul, Iraq). Facing discrimination, persecution, and in recent years, genocide, Christianity in Iraq is in a state of crisis. Ancient communities of Christians were forced to flee for their lives when the Islamic State took control of northern Iraq in 2014. Since then, many of these Christians have been living in refugee caravans, or have set up temporary residences in Jordan and Lebanon. They have not been granted refugee status by the UN, and are therefore unable to work, go to the hospital, or attend school.

Juliana Taimoorazy works to raise funds and coordinate delivery of humanitarian aid such as food, medicine, blankets, mattresses and other necessities to these refugee families in urgent need. Her efforts have benefitted refugees in Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon. She has also organized a program to help families returning to their homes in Iraq rebuild. She has coordinated supplies for cleanup of communities in the Nineveh region, organized the drilling of several wells to provide clean water, and provided construction supplies to rebuild homes for returning families.

Why it’s important

Christians of Iraq didn’t ask to be refugees, and many simply want to return to their homes, rebuild, and continue living their Christian heritage in their ancestral homeland. Juliana’s work empowers these families to do just that.

Shadi Khalloul

Fellow

Building bridges between Christian and Jewish communities in Israel, reviving the Aramean identity, heritage, and language, and rebuilding the first Christian Aramaic town, Kafr Bir’im, in Northern Israel.

Who is Shadi?

An Aramean Christian Maronite Israeli, Shadi Khalloul is chairman and founder of the Israeli Christian Aramaic Association, and acts as a spokesperson for the Christian Israel Defense Forces Officers Forum. Shadi served as a lieutenant in a paratrooper division of the IDF, and today is a captain in the IDF reserves. He is founder of the first Christian-Jewish youth pre-military preparatory program. Shadi was the first native Christian Aramean candidate for Knesset with the Jewish Zionist party in the 2015 elections. He is an entrepreneur and a community leader working to revive Aramaic-Syriac as a spoken language among Maronites and other Christians in Israel. He is a staunch believer in the importance of nurturing a close relationship between Christian and Jews in Israel. He holds a degree in international business and finance from the University of Las Vegas.

Shadi’s work

Arameans, a Semitic people originating in northern Israel and the Levant, form some of the most ancient Christian communities in the world. Speaking Syriac-Aramaic, the language Jesus Christ spoke while on earth, they have continuously lived in the region which is now northern Israel and southern Lebanon since the first days of Christianity. Shadi Khalloul helps to preserve the Aramean Christian heritage. He obtained permission from the Israeli government to have Syriac-Aramaic taught in his Galilean village elementary school in Gush Halav, and organizes an Aramaic summer intensive program in his home village, Kfar Bar’am. On September 16, 2014, after seven years of lobbying from Shadi, the Israeli government approved a measure to allow Christians in Israel to register as “Arameans” on their identity cards, instead of being forced to erroneously register as Arabs.     

Beyond his work reviving Aramean identity, Shadi works to build bridges between Christians and Jews in Israel. A paratrooper in the IDF, Shadi attributes many of his professional opportunities and relationships to connections he made while serving. He describes service in the IDF as the “melting pot” for Israeli culture, and encourages his fellow Christians to serve. In 2017, Shadi launched the first-ever interfaith pre-military training program. For seven months prior to the beginning of their IDF service, twenty Christians and twenty Jews will train together, and become familiar with their respective religions and heritage. Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman attended the program’s launch. Shadi’s next project is to build the first Christian Aramaic town in Galilee. This will promote positive Jewish-Christian relations in Israel and worldwide, and achieve equal rights for his minority Aramean Christian ethnic group.

Why it’s important

In a region surrounded by conflict, Shadi is an agent of hope and coexistence for Christians, Jews and other communities. He works to build bridges of understanding and friendship while preserving ancient Christian heritage in the land of its birth.

Faydra Shapiro

Associate Fellow

Cultivating deep interfaith relationships and true understanding between Christians and Jews in Israel.

Who is Faydra?

Faydra Shapiro is an Orthodox Jew with a lifelong interest in Christianity. She is the founding director of the Israel Center for Jewish-Christian Relations, and holds a Ph.D. in Religious Studies. Faydra began her career as a university professor in Canada in a department of Religion and Culture, where she worked for 13 years. Her first book won a National Jewish Book Award in 2006. Faydra also writes regular academic articles and popular op-eds on Jewish-Christian relations, and is passionate about her mission of creating greater understanding between Jews and Christians. She has a special heart for growing greater consciousness in Israel of the region’s persecuted minorities. Her most recent book is Christian Zionism: Navigating the Jewish-Christian Border. Faydra was born in Canada, and proudly returned her family to their ancestral homeland of Israel in 2008. She lives happily with her husband and many children in a tiny hilltop community in the Galilee.

Faydra’s work

Most Christians don’t understand Judaism, and most Jews don’t understand Christianity. Faydra Shapiro founded the Israel Center for Jewish-Christian Relations to foster understanding and exchange between the two religions within the Holy Land. She routinely speaks to groups visiting Israel, and teaches classes on what the religions share and how they differ. She regularly writes both for the Philos Project blog, and for various outlets in Israel. 

One aspect of Faydra’s work at the Israel Center for Jewish-Christian Relations is the Israel Engagement Program, a joint project of the Center and the Philos Project. The program brings Christian college students to Israel for semester to teach English in local Jewish and Arab Christian high schools, learn Hebrew, engage with Israel’s culture, and receive rigorous training in Jewish-Christian relations. 

Why it’s important

Christianity and Judaism have common roots and shared scripture, yet historical experience has led us to a place of separation, suspicion and misunderstanding. Education and mutual understanding are key to building positive engagement in the region. 

Uzay Bulut

Associate Fellow

Alerting the world to discrimination and persecution of ethnic and religious minorities in Turkey.

Who is Uzay?

Uzay Bulut is a Turkish journalist and political analyst formerly based in Ankara. She

graduated from Istanbul’s Bogazici University in 2007 with a BA in Translation and Interpreting Studies. She holds a master’s degree in Media and Cultural Studies at Ankara’s Middle East Technical University. She is a fellow at the Middle East Forum (MEF) and her writings have appeared in a variety of publications including Gatestone Institute, the Clarion Project, the Armenian Weekly, PJ Media, CBN News, the Algemeiner, the Kurdish newspaper Rudaw, International Business Times UK and the Voice of America. She has also contributed to several Israeli media outlets including the Jerusalem Post, Arutz Sheva (Israel National News), Israel Hayom and Jerusalem Online. Bulut’s journalistic work focuses mainly on Turkey’s ethnic and religious minorities, anti-Semitism, political Islam and the history of Turkey. She is currently based in Washington, D.C.

Uzay’s work

Turkey has a long history of intolerance and discrimination toward minority communities, most notably during the Christian Genocide of 1915-17. In recent years the Turkish government has also been increasingly intolerant of press freedoms. As a journalist, Uzay Bulut researches, reports, and writes articles documenting persecutions, intolerances, and episodes of discrimination against minorities in Turkey, including Christians, Jews, and others.

Why it’s important

A prolific voice on Turkish ethnic and religious minority issues, Uzay draws attention to issues and events otherwise undocumented or undiscussed in the West.

Khalil Sayegh

Associate Fellow

Speaking truth and advocating reconciliation and friendship in the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Who is Khalil?

Khalil is a Palestinian Christian, born in the Gaza strip. Growing up, Khalil was taught that Israel and the West were responsible for the suffering of all Palestinians, and he grew to hate both. After the 2008 Gaza war, Khalil decided to move to the West Bank, where he was exposed to the true Christian faith. His life changed dramatically when he accepted Christ and start following His teaching. As result of his conversion, Khalil started working to love the people who he’d grown up seeing as enemies: Israel and West. As he succeed in loving them, Khalil recognized how much bitterness and hate had made him blind toward reality. Today, Khalil expresses a great love for his people, and believes that turning from bitterness and hate is the only way forward. Khalil is working to change the perception of Israel and the West, fighting anti-Semitism, and educating his neighbors about good things their so-called “enemies” are doing.

Why it’s important

In the midst of such an emotionally charged, eternal clash as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Khalil is a patient advocate of truth, love, and reconciliation within the West Bank.

Mina Abdelmalak

Associate Fellow

Advocating for pluralism in Egypt and solidarity with the Coptic community.

Who is Mina?

Mina Abdelmalak is Arab World Outreach Specialist at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Born and raised in Egypt, he received a law degree from Ain Shams University in Egypt. He worked as a legal researcher for the Egyptian Union of Liberal Youth (EULY), a Cairo-based, non-profit organization, which promotes classical liberalism among Egyptian youth. He supervised a program within EULY on the status of Coptic Christians in Egypt.