Working with Local Community Groups to Combat Hate

For Immediate Release on April 24, 2019 – As the death toll in Sri Lanka continues to rise, Interfaith Partners of South Carolina (IPSC) joins the many voices around the world condemning the vicious acts of hatred committed against Christians during Easter celebrations. These violent, hate-filled attacks are becoming all too familiar, and IPSC reaffirms its commitment to build bridges across religious boundaries, fostering understanding and trust among South Carolina’s diverse residents. ​

This weekend, IPSC takes another step toward achieving peace, as we proudly partner with local community groups for an event that combats fear with education: the Irmo International Festival. Held on Sunday, April 28th from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm at Irmo Community Park, the festival is a celebration of diversity within Irmo. This local solution is an antidote to hate and one example of how IPSC is helping to build strong and peaceable community. IPSC Chair, Dr. Adrian Bird says, “We will not stay silent in the midst of our tears and our mourning. In solidarity with one another, we actively strive to make a positive difference.”  ​


FBI Recognizes IPSC With Award!

January 11, 2019
Interfaith Partners of South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina
Since 1990, each of the FBI’s 56 field offices nominates one person or group to receive the “Director’s Award for Community Leadership”. The award, given on behalf of Director Christopher A. Wray, is in recognition of outstanding service to the local community and the enduring contributions to the advancement of justice.
Special Agent in Charge, Alphonso “Jody” Norris, presented the 2018 Director’s Community Leadership Award to Interfaith Partners of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, for impacting thousands from communities representing all cultures, religions and backgrounds through their efforts; building relationships of trust; prevention of terrorism; understanding of racial and religious bias, and establishing interfaith groups in various communities across South Carolina.
The presentation convened at the FBI office, 151 Westpark Boulevard, Columbia, SC, in the conference room, second floor on Thursday, January 10, 2019 at 2:00pm.

L to R: Holli Emore, Public Information Officer; Omar Shaheed, former Vice-President; FBI Special Agent in Charge Jody Norris; Adrian Bird, President; Cheryl Glantz Nail, Vice-President.

2018 In Review by IPSC President

It’s been quite a year! At our 2017 annual meeting we gathered in remembrance of our former President, Dr. Will Moreau Goins. Since then we have regrouped and kept moving in the best tradition of IPSC. Dr. Goins would surely be proud of the year we have had since then.

We began, as has become customary, with the Governor’s Proclamation of January as Interfaith Harmony Month in South Carolina. We should take pause of just how unique such a proclamation is within the context of the US, and hope this will be a model for other States to emulate.

Interfaith Harmony Month this year featured an array of events and gatherings organized by diverse religious groups across the State, including an Interfaith Healing and Peace ceremony; a documentary on the Baha’i faith; a lecture on Anti-Semitism at the University of South Carolina; an ecumenical Christian gathering in downtown Columbia; an introduction to Nichiren Buddhism; and a gathering at the Quaker Meeting House, to name but a few. There were many other events in which we had an opportunity to showcase and celebrate religious diversity across the State.

We are convinced that as our friendships and relationships grow, we learn more about who we are as IPSC, and have many opportunities to achieve our mission goals. Together we model strong and peaceable community as we cross religious boundaries, stand together in solidarity (through both highs and lows) and celebrate our unity as well as our differences. In a world all too often divided, we offer something different.

There are several events worth mentioning as the year progressed. Interfaith Partners of South Carolina was invited by Lori Kornagay, Curator of Art at the State Museum in Columbia, to provide discussion facilitators for their community Circles of Dialogue program, entitled ‘Requiem for Mother Emmanuel’. What struck me most about this invitation was the recognition by event organizers that the conversations surrounding race and violence needed to be interfaith conversations. We are grateful for that recognition, and to those from IPSC who helped facilitate these important conversations.

Around that same theme, members of IPSC attended the ‘Evening of Remembrances, Inspiration and Music’, organized by the Unified Interfaith Community Coalition in Beaufort, SC. This gathering marked the 3-year anniversary of the shootings in Charleston. This was indeed an inspiring evening, witnessing the coming together of diverse religious voices in Beaufort to make a positive difference in the world. Once again, we are reminded of the importance of shared collaborations which together weave the mosaic of a vibrant interfaith movement across the State. Events created from IPSC’s affiliate groups in Florence, Aiken, and Coastal Carolina, have added considerably to this mosaic in enriching ways throughout the year.

One person worthy of particular mention is Rev. Ed. Kosak, who has been instrumental in organizing interfaith gatherings at the Unity congregation in Charleston. Ed, who serves on the IPSC board as faith representative for New Thought, also has the distinguished honor of sitting on board of the newly named Charleston Interreligious Council (formerly the Christian-Jewish Council). We certainly look forward to good collaboration moving ahead.

In June this year, an opportunity presented itself for IPSC to mobilize in the midst of a local controversy. The Mayor of Irmo, Hardy King, had posted controversial comments about Islam on his Facebook page, prompting calls of both support and protest within the local community. IPSC wrote to the Mayor, offering to facilitate a meeting with local Muslims in Columbia. Mayor King informed us that he had already been approached by Chaudhry Sadiq, friend of IPSC and president of the ‘Peace and Integration Council of North America’ (PICNA) to visit the Masjid Noor Ul Huda. Members of IPSC joined the Mayor at the Masjid, and through those all-important encounters, we witnessed a remarkable transformation. Following the visit, the Mayor apologized for his original postings, acknowledging he had been received at the Mosque better than his own family reunion! Wanting to build on this initial step, IPSC worked in partnership with the Mayor and PICNA, to host a public forum entitled ‘Demystifying Islam’ in the heart of Irmo. This was a valuable opportunity for people to come and learn about Islam, and to engage with panelists from the Muslim, Jewish and Christian community. This was an opportunity to ask questions and work together towards deconstructing harmful stereotypes, building in their place something far more enduring for strong and peaceable community.

A significant highlight of the IPSC year was our second ‘Peace in the Park’ festival, which brought all IPSC faith traditions together for a grand festival in which we celebrated our unity, as well as our differences. Partnering with Interfaith Initiatives at USC, the festival showcased arts and crafts, music and dance, as well as information tables from each tradition. Davis field, in the heart of the USC campus, was the perfect location for the festival. A significant feature of the festival was the art gallery, displaying artwork from the 2018 IPSC art competition. These images, imaginatively created by student artists (preK through college) around the State, brought our competition themes ‘Peace in our community’ and ‘Interfaith Harmony’ to life. These incredible images are now featured in the 2019 IPSC Calendar, which is available for purchase through the IPSC website. I cannot thank the Peace in the Park planning team enough, in particular the extraordinary work of our dynamic leader Cheryl Nail, and our calendar design guru, Sarah Kurlowich.

In 2019, the art gallery will go mobile, as we display the artwork in various venues around the State.

Throughout the year, the greater Columbia community has increasingly recognized IPSC as a trusted resource. We have had a more visible presence, educating the community about our mission through various opportunities, such as presenting to the FBI’s Multicultural Advisory Council, meeting with members of the Lt. Governor’s Office, and appearing several times on WIS’s show, ‘Awareness’. As a result, IPSC has been called upon multiple times throughout the year to provide perspective on complicated issues and consultation on building interfaith relations. Members of government agencies have been attending IPSC events more and more this year, looking to better understand their diverse employees and learn from our successes so that they can facilitate interfaith dialogue in their offices. With each appearance, presentation, and conversation, we are spreading seeds throughout the community, demonstrating the importance of interfaith harmony.

The recent tragic events at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh prompted a rallying of the faith communities within IPSC. Once again, we collectively mobilized to show our support to our brothers and sisters in the Jewish communities. Statements of support were sent from many of our faith communities. During an interfaith service at the Beth Shalom synagogue, Columbia, October 30, over 1200 people from the surrounding community gathered to show their support, offering a profound glimpse of one powerful antidote to the poison of Anti-Semitism. Present were many members of IPSC, embracing one another on a night of both mourning and shared hope. One lasting personal memory occurred as I spoke on behalf of IPSC at the Shabbat service at the Tree of Life synagogue, Columbia, later that week. As I looked out among the faces of new friends in the synagogue, there were also many friends from IPSC, present to boldly say, ‘We love you! We are here for you today! We will be here for you tomorrow.’ That is the beauty and the profound power of IPSC.

Finally, a word of thanks to all of those who continue to offer their many gifts, time and talents on behalf of the important work of IPSC. In particular we want to acknowledge the considerable work of Missie Walker, who will be stepping down as secretary of IPSC. Missie’s work has saved us on many occasions, and we are most grateful for who she is, and all she has done for us over the last several years. And we welcome two new members to the IPSC board. The new religious representative of Islam is Dr. Ghazala Javed. Cat Nelson will serve as the new religious representative of Native American Spirituality. Welcome, indeed.

It’s been quite a year. Roll on 2019!

Better together, certainly!

Adrian Bird

Chair: IPSC

The Last Pagan Emperor: Julian, Jerusalem & Ancient Interfaith

Emperor Julian (331/2 -363) ruled the Roman Empire from 361 to 363. Although his reign was brief, it was significant. He became emperor after Constantine declared Christianity religio licita (a permitted religion), but before 380, when Theodosius I made it the empire’s sole authorized religion.

Julian lived at a time that Christianity was gaining influence in the empire, but nonetheless, he took a stand as a proud Pagan. He began a policy of restoration of the Pagan Temples which had been confiscated in Constantine’s time. He also proclaimed an Edict of Tolerance in 362, stating that all religions were equal before the law. In a letter to the Jewish Patriarch, Julian express imperial support for a project of rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem! (This project did not reach fruition, as it was discontinued upon the death of Julian.)

Visiting scholar Avi Gold will speak about Emperor Julian’s writings and the significance of his policies for Jewish-Pagan interfaith relations. Professor Gold lives in the south of Israel and teaches Yiddish Literature, Greek Philosophy, and a variety of other subjects. His first visit to South Carolina was in 2001, as a result of several years’ correspondence with a Baptist on matters of scripture. Since then, he has been back to South Carolina several times, and greatly appreciates the warm weather and warm welcome in the Palmetto State.

Jewish Federation of Columbia furthers the welfare of the Jewish community in Columbia, South Carolina, and throughout the world. Visit the Federation at

Cherry Hill Seminary provides education for ministry, leadership and personal growth in Pagan and other earth-based religions. Visit the Seminary at

Interfaith Partners of South Carolina is a statewide partnership of local groups fostering understanding and cooperation among the religious groups of our community, our state, and our world. Visit IPSC at

President’s Remarks at State House Event

Remarks by our president, Dr. Adrian Bird, on December 28, 2017, at a media conference at the S.C. State House

On behalf of Interfaith partners of South Carolina, it is a delight to welcome you all this morning for this rather unique gathering here at the State House, announcing the Governor’s proclamation of January 2018 as Interfaith Harmony Month. We surely appreciate you coming out for this special occasion.

Scholar Diana Eck informs us that the United States is the most religiously diverse nation in the world. South Carolina is both historically and today no exception to the reality of religious diversity. We cross religious boundaries through our everyday encounters in schools, colleges, coffee shops, work spaces, sports field sidelines and social media sites.

But Eck adds that religious diversity is merely a fact – it doesn’t inform us how well we get along with one another – and surely that’s a more interesting and more important challenge to address. So, I would ask, how do we get along with one another here in South Carolina? Well, though there is still a long way to go, we do have cause to celebrate. Interfaith Partners of South Carolina represents many vibrant and diverse religious traditions across this State. We are in many ways the ‘ultimate group of diversity’ – holding to fundamental differences in religious belief and expression.

And yet, we at IPSC strive diligently to educate, encourage and empower people from diverse religious traditions to build bridges of understanding, dignity and respect.

It is precisely because of our diversity that we can celebrate the transformative potential that emerges when we work together, building those essential bridges across boundaries of division, as evidenced by the many initiatives, discussions and events generated through local IPSC groups across the State over the last several years. This work continues into 2018, beginning with a wonderful range of events taking place for Interfaith harmony month this coming January. We do this work because it is too important for us to neglect.

At a time when much of the global and local rhetoric drives the idea that we, as human beings, need ‘protecting’ from one another, Interfaith partners of South Carolina and local chapters across the State instead encourage us to ‘know’ one another, building relationships of trust, helping to overcome walls of ignorance that divide us. IPSC will speak the language of protection if and when religious voices are excluded or prejudice drives destruction. But ultimately it is only in knowing one another that we truly learn to see and relate to each other as dignified human beings.

Community building cannot thrive when we judge the worst of another’s tradition in comparison to the best of our own. Instead, IPSC urges that we ‘get to know the best in one another’, raising awareness of our community needs; connecting with one another; and celebrating one another in our religious differences. This is key to building and maintaining strong, enriching and peaceable communities. Local needs, local collaborations, local progress.

And so, we gather this morning, to celebrate the Governor’s proclamation of January, 2018, as Interfaith Harmony Month right here in South Carolina. We invite you to check out the IPSC website to discover an event in your local area and to celebrate religious diversity close to home – and to check out the many other exciting plans we have in store for 2018.

Now, without further ado, it gives me great pleasure to call upon Cheryl Nail, newly elected Vice President of Interfaith Partners of South Carolina, to read the Governor’s proclamation.

Mourning the Loss of Our President

Interfaith Partners of S.C. mourns the loss of our 2016-2017 President, Dr. Will Moreau Goins, who also served as Faith Representative for Native American spirituality on our board of directors.

Dr. Goins brought many gifts to his role in IPSC, including his understanding of the American Indian deep connection with the earth. His enthusiasm for creative ways of engaging others resulted in a 2016 children’s interfaith art contest. He was closely involved with the creation of South Carolina’s first printed interfaith calendar, delivered just days ago. (A copy of this beautiful educational calendar will be mailed to every school district in the state.) Many have been inspired by Dr. Goins’ singing, his beautiful beading and other Native crafts, and his knowledge of First Peoples history and struggle to survive following the European migrations.

Dr. Goins’ passion for preserving his Native heritage, spirituality, and social justice will be sorely missed. His mark on Interfaith Partners of S.C. remains a tribute to his life of service.

You are invited to post your memories of Will on our Facebook page.

And here are some articles about Will:

Native American activist Dr. Will Goins dies at 57

‘Voice’ of the marginalized: SC Native American leader passes away

Will Moreau Goins, Native American Activist, Dies