By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
The Dialogue Institute of Oklahoma City is hosting its annual Friendship Dinner and Award Ceremony on Tuesday, April 1. The event will take place at Tower Hotel, 3233 N.W. Expressway in Oklahoma City from 6:30 – 9:30 p.m.
This will be the 10th year the Dialogue Institute has held the Friendship Dinner to reward dialogue, respect, and peace in the community.
Ersin Demirci, Executive Director Dialogue Institute Oklahoma City said, “The Annual Friendship Dinner and Award Ceremony is among our signature events where we recognize outstanding achievements of those who have dedicated themselves in their profession and service to society by generously contributing their time, energy, expertise, and financial resources.”
Honorees for 2014 are Kevin Durant, NBA All Star, on behalf of Kevin Durant Charity Foundation; Kerry Pettingill, the 26th Chief of Oklahoma Highway Patrol; Janienne Bella, CEO, representing the American Red Cross Foundation; and Dr. Imad Enchassi of Oklahoma City University.
Demirci said, “On behalf of Dialogue Institute, we are delighted to honor those people who work very hard to make Oklahoma a better place.
“Durant pledged $1 million to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund for Moore Tornado Victims. Our executive board has decided to donate all proceeds of the dinner to Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund to show our appreciation to KD and his family foundation.”
The event keynote speaker is Dr. Charles Kimball, Presidential Professor and Director of Religious Studies at the University of Oklahoma.
A graduate of Oklahoma State University, Professor Kimball holds a Master of Divinity from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Th.D. from Harvard University in Comparative Religion with a specialization in Islamic studies.
Kimball taught for 12 years at Wake Forest University, where he was Professor of Comparative Religion. An ordained Baptist minister and author, Kimball is a frequent lecturer. He is an expert analyst on the Middle East, Islam, the Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations, and the relationship of religion and politics in the United States.
During the past 25 years, Professor Kimball has visited the Middle East more than 35 times and has worked with Congress, the White House, and the State Department.
The Institute’s mission is to promote mutual understanding, respect and cooperation among people of diverse faiths and cultures by creating opportunities for direct communication and meaningful shared experiences.
Dialogue Institute of the Southwest (formerly known as the Institute of Interfaith Dialogue) grew out of the need to address the question, “How can citizens of the world live in peace and harmony?”
The Institute is a 501-c-3 non-profit educational organization established in 2002. It envisions a society where every person views and treats others with dignity and shares values that promote the common good.
The Institute organizes academic and grass roots programs that include international trips, social responsibility projects, academic research and art contests.
Headquartered in Houston, TX, the Institute has branch offices in five states and representatives throughout the South-Central United States.
This year’s Friendship Dinner Host Committee includes: Governor Brad Henry & Mrs. Henry, University of Central Oklahoma President Don Betz; Oklahoma City University President Robert Henry; The Honorable Susan Savage; Chief of Police William (Bill) Citty; Tony Say, Russ Florence and Clayton Taylor.
“We believe that a true dialogue between people from different backgrounds, cultures and faiths starts with sitting around the same table,” said Demirci. “Bringing a message of coexistence, tolerance, and dialogue in a respectful atmosphere have become symbols of peace in Oklahoma City.”
All event proceeds will go to Red Cross Central Oklahoma Disaster Relief Fund. Individual tickets are $100 with five varying sponsorship levels available. For more details, visit dialogueok.org