About the writer

Originally from Indianapolis, Indiana, I graduated in May 2013 from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where I majored in Culture and Politics in the School of Foreign Service. In the fall of 2013, I moved to Amman, Jordan, where I am living for nine months while conductingJED-1 copy research through the State Department’s Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

At Georgetown, my academic and extra-curricular activities focused on interreligious dialogue, specifically between Christians and Muslims. I received a certificate from the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding and served as the president of the Interfaith Student Council. Thanks to my engagement with the Muslim community, and the strong Catholic nightly Mass community at Georgetown, my once-dwindling Catholic faith was renewed. My passion for dialogue—and desire to use writing and the media as a medium for forging better understanding—was sharpened through internship experiences with the communications department of an Islamic advocacy organization; the interreligious affairs office of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; and a research fellowship with Harvard University’s Pluralism Project, surveying Catholic bookstores in Washington, D.C.

My experiences at Brebeuf Jesuit, my high school in Indianapolis, and my years reporting for Y-Press, a youth media organization in Indianapolis, were the foundation for my interest in dialogue and storytelling. A World Religions class set me on a track of spiritual exploration and experiences interviewing everyone from Burmese refugees to then-Senator Barack Obama helped me discover my own

My interview with Obama in Indianapolis in Spring 2008.

My interview with Obama in Indianapolis in Spring 2008.

voice—and the responsibility I had to use my voice to speak out for those whose voices are marginalized.

During my junior year of high school, a hateful and Islamophobic email forwarded from a family friend became the impetus for me to work towards better understanding between people of faith (and no faith.) In order to foster a better understanding of Islam and Muslims in the West, I foresee a career in writing, advocacy, and pastoral work facilitating interreligious engagement and dialogue.

My curiosity about the media’s role in shaping perceptions about the religious Other drives my Fulbright research. During the 2013-2014 school year, I am examining the portrayal of Islam in Arabic-language Christian television channels and the impact of this messaging on Muslim-Christian relations in Jordan. This research will not only involve watching these channels, but also interviewing scholars, religious leaders, and ordinary Jordanian Christians about their perceptions of interreligious coexistence in Jordan.

High school graduation

High school graduation

My parents are Maggie, a parent educator, and Tom, the president of Young & Laramore advertising agency. My younger brother, Nick, is a sophomore at Boston College where he is a Presidential Scholar, a math major, and varsity cross-country and track runner.

My boyfriend, Chris Duffner, is a first year law student at the Georgetown University Law Center. His time spent engaging with undocumented migrants on the U.S.-Mexico border (and closer to his home on the East coast) motivates him to pursue a field of law in which he can work with and represent vulnerable and marginalized populations. Chris and I began dating during the December of our senior year at Georgetown, having both found a home in the Catholic community. Having initially connected during theology class study sessions and conversations about our own spiritual journeys, we hope to pursue eventual graduate degrees in theology or divinity.

Chris and I, Summer 2013

Chris and I, Summer 2013

I’ve published articles in America magazine, the Washington Post’s On Faith blog, Ignatian Spirituality’s People for Others blog, and the Indianapolis Star. For the next few months, I will be blogging for the lay Catholic magazine, Commonweal. My efforts to improve Muslim-Christian relations have been featured on an interview with American Catholic Radio and the Georgetown University website. I have presented about my journey into Islam and back into Catholicism at the 2012 Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice and at the Center for Interfaith Cooperation in Indianapolis.

13 Responses to About the writer

  1. Jim and Jan Sammer says:

    ……and you said you have been doing nothing since you came home for summer vacation. Well done, once again ~~~~ G and G

  2. Omar says:

    I think you are one of the coolest people I have met. I am so glad that you decided to go to Georgetown and I have no doubt that you will do amazing things. I am excited to see all the good you are going to do!

  3. Gilbert Satchell says:

    I just stumbled in here. I hope you find the mp3, I’d like to hear it as well. You will go far.

  4. Brandon says:

    Thanks so much for your contribution on my blog this afternoon, Jordan. I’m pretty sure you’re the first Hoosier to ever leave a comment! :-)

    It’s a small world. I grew up northwest of Indianapolis: Noblesville – Carmel areas.

  5. sakina08 says:

    Thanks for your post on my blog earlier! It sounds like you’re off to a bright future, with all the many amazing accomplishments and focused determination you have already (mashAllah)!

    I was working in Indy for the past few years actually – small world! I just moved to a different state to take a new job though; too bad! :)

    Keep up the great work!

  6. Amanda says:

    Hi Jordan. Thanks for stopping by the blog. I’m glad you liked the piece. It looks like you are doing very good work to help relations between Islam and the West. Bravo to You!

    Be Well,

  7. Shabbir Akhtar says:

    Hello Jordan

    Thank you for your insightful and balanced piece on Rushdie. You quoted from my book on that topic and I am grateful for that.
    I live and work in the USA now and would like to speak to you about your interests. You can email me also. I am in Norfolk, Virginia and teach philosophy here. I am at 757 683 3864 and sakhtar@odu.edu


  8. Jordan:

    You can be assured of how proud you make your Saint Matthew Catholic Elementary School teachers here in Indy. You were a model student, well-informed, and an attitude of grace. We are so happy to see you so successful … of which your teachers and I already knew you were headed for greatness.

    Keep up the good work … and it is Social Justice that we all must support … for all religions, for all people.

    Martin Erlenbaugh, Your Elementary School Principal

    Peace – Shalom – שלום – السلام

  9. johnphayes says:

    Interesting that I discovered your site. I’m an American and Catholic . . . living in Kuwait. So while I found you because I’m helping my wife (who plays the piano at our local “church”) discover what she’s supposed to play for the “new” Mass . . . it’s interesting that you write about the Arab culture. . . . Meanwhile, I’ve not had any success finding out how the Mass is changing for the musicians or where they are to find the music that they’re expected to play. Do you know of any sites where she can get specific information? Thanks.

    John Hayes

    • jdenari says:

      Hi John,
      I’m glad you found my site! I’m not sure of any places for you to look, but if you already haven’t, I’d check the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) website. Hope this helps! I’d be really interested to hear more about your experience in Kuwait. What do you do there?

  10. I recently returned from my fourth trip to occupied Palestine. Based In [occupied] Bethlehem, I am a volunteer journalist for IMEMC and have come to know Palestinians – Christians and Muslims – as well as Jewish supporters and settlers. A complex problem few Americans understand, I try to describe what life is like for people living under occupation by telling their stories I trust in this way, we can look beyond prejudice and misconception and see the humanity shared by all. I feel you will carry on your good work, which ultiately must lead to peace w/ justice for all.

  11. Ghaith Balawneh says:

    i found your blog by coincidence and really loved it, best wishes for you
    غيث البلاونة من الاردن

  12. Sharon Sperry says:

    Jordan, just read your Washington Post essay…well done! I am so proud of you!!! …Sharon Sperry

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