MLK Day Morning Breakout Sessions


All morning breakout sessions will begin at 11:30AM!

These events will provide participants with a deeper understanding of the ways in which the religions of the world have justified their actions (both positively and negatively) when civil rights have been violated.

Gandhi and the Gita: How Nonviolence Leads to Liberation
Fred Eaker
McGlothlin Street, Room 302

The Bhagavad Gita’s philosophy of and emphasis on nonviolence leads to personal liberation, yet Mahatma Gandhi applied these teachings to liberate others. Mr. Eaker will explore this profound phenomenon and how we can implement the principles of nonviolence in our world today.

Fred Eaker (Gauravani dasa) is an ordained Hindu in the tradition of Caitanya Vaishnavism. He lived as a monk for two years while practicing devotional yoga under the direct guidance of Swami B.V. Tripurari. During his monastic tenure, Fred learned ritualistic deity worship (puja). After leaving the monastery, Fred married J. Dana Trent, an ordained Southern Baptist, and they now maintain an interfaith household in Raleigh, NC.


Israeli/Palestine – Arab Israeli conflict
E. Stephen Hunt
McGlothlin Street, Room 147

Standing at the center of the tumultuous hotbed that is the Middle East is the long running conflict between the nations of Israel and Palestine. This unrest embodies the clash between not only two different nations, but two disparate ways of life defined by two markedly different religions. Because much of Western culture has been shaped by Christianity, Westerners are often more familiar with the perspective of those in Israel whose worldview is shaped by Judaism, Christianity's parent religion. However, the other derivative religion of Judaism, Islam, which is generally not well understood in the West, forms the basis of the worldview of Palestine. Dr. Hunt will discuss distinctly Islamic perspectives on culture and turmoil, as well as the rampant injustice which arises out of conflict in an effort to help a Western audience come to better understand the oft misunderstood religion of Islam, particularly in light of contemporary political and social problems.

Steve Hunt graduated from Emory in Henry in 1971 with a B.A. in political science and history. He earned his master in arts degree from The American University School of International Service and his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia in Higher Education Administration. Dr. Hunt’s career has included senior positions in the Office of Educational Research and Improvement for the U.S. Department of Education, the National Library of Education at the DOE, and the U.S. Network for Education Information for the Office of the Secretary at the DOE. As an advisor to many federal agencies, international organizations, foreign governments, and private sector organizations, Dr. Hunt has written extensively, taught, and conducted international negotiations on behalf of the U.S. education community.


Engaged Buddhism's Place in the Struggle for Civil Rights
Marina Munjal and Debi Brewer
Wiley Auditorium

Ms. Munjal and Ms. Brewer will discuss how the teachings of Buddhism can inform Civil Rights practices, especially the practice of cultivating the Divine Abodes (Equanimity, Loving Kindness, Joy, and Compassion), Thich Nhat Hanh's description of “Interbeing,” the Four Noble Truths' search for relief from suffering, “Ahimsa (avoid doing harm), etc. They will offer examples of Buddhist activists from the past starting with the Buddha himself, and Indian Emperor Ashoka, to modern day examples Thich Nhat Hanh, Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi, and organizations such as The Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Zen Peacemakers, and International Network of Engaged Buddhists. They will include experiential opportunities to enact some of the principles described.

Marina Munjal is President of the Board of Directors of the Appalachian Dharma & Meditation Center (ADMC). She is one of the "founding mothers" of the Holston Valley Sangha, which has been meeting since 2001. In 2010 she began working to establish ADMC in Johnson City, TN, making Buddhism accessible to a wider community. She has been active in the Buddhist prison ministry since 2003 at Lee County, Virginia, Federal Prison, and continuing to the present time. In addition to facilitating several sessions at ADMC, she offers community outreach on the subject of Buddhism and Meditation at many area schools and churches.

Debi Brewer, M.Div., is a clinically-trained chaplain working in the Johnson City area.  After being exposed to mindfulness practices in a clinical setting, she developed a personal Buddhist practice and has been a member of the Appalachian Dharma and Meditation Center since July 2011.  She has particular experience with grief, trauma, addictions, and LGBT issues and leads a community-based group for mindful grieving.


The Legacy of White Privilege in the Modern World
Adam Wells
Wiley Hall, Room 202

White privilege is an uncomfortable topic for for many in the white community, but integral to understanding the causes and effects of racism.  In the context of a theological discussion of sin, this breakout session will examine the notion of white privilege and assess the role and function of privilege in the modern world.

Dr. Wells is an Assistant Professor of Religion at Emory & Henry College. He received his PhD from the University of Virginia in Comparative Scripture, Interpretation and Practice. His work focuses on philosophical traditions in Christianity, Judaism and Islam.