Debate on Religion and Sexuality [17th Nov 2016, Uni of Westminster, UK]


This discussion will bring together a diverse panel to consider these questions:

What happens when we experience friction between our sexuality and our beliefs?

How do feelings of shame impact upon our freedom to express our beliefs, sexuality, identity and politics?

What role does love play in our tolerance and respect for others who hold different views on faith and sexuality?

As part of Interfaith Week 2016, and the ‘Challenging Prejudices, Celebrating Diversity’ event series, this roundtable discussion has been organised by the University’s Faith and Spirituality team and is co-sponsored by the Department of Politics and International Relations.

Event Date, Time and Location

6.30pm, Thursday 17th November 2016

Room UG05, Regent Street Campus, University of Westminster, UK

NOTE: If you are not a student or member of staff at the University of Westminster please sign up to the guest via this Eventbrite link by Wednesday November 16th to ensure access to the event:


Professor Dibyesh Anand, Head of Department of Politics and International Relations.


Orhun Cercel is an Acharya or senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition. He has been meditating since 1990 and is a student of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. He is mostly Turkish and lives in London. He was brought up in Taiwan, Turkey, Italy and Argentina, and went to nine different schools. He went on to study Cambridge University, where he did a BA in Economics and a Masters in International Relations. He worked for several years in investment banking in London, eventually giving up this work when he became interested in Chinese medicine and psychotherapy. He did several years of voluntary work as a psychotherapist with young carers and people affected with anxiety, depression and addiction issues. In 2008-2009 he did an 8-month retreat focused on the Six Yogas at Gampo Abbey. In 2010 he was made a Shastri, which is a senior teaching position in the Shambhala organisation, and in 2012 he was made an Acharya.

Chine McDonald is director of communications & membership at the Evangelical Alliance which includes overseeing – an online collective of millennials exploring faith and life. She regularly speaks and writes on gender, faith and race. She read theology at Cambridge University, where she was also news editor of the university newspaper Varsity. Since then, she has written for several regional and national newspapers and magazines. Chine is the author of ‘Am I Beautiful?’ – a book exploring body image among Christian women. She is a former trustee of the Bible Society and the Christian Enquiry Agency and currently sits on the boards of the Church & Media Network and the Sophia Network, which equips women in leadership across the Church.

Abdullah al Andalusi is an international speaker, thinker and intellectual activist for Islam and Muslim affairs. His work involves explaining and demonstrating, by rational argument, the intellectual proofs for the Islamic belief system, and promoting the Islamic way of life and Islamic solutions for contemporary problems. He has spoken in community centres, universities, colleges and numerous appearances on various programmes on TV channels including the BBC, ITV, BBC Arabic, BBC Radio 4, Al Jazeera, Press TV, Islam Channel and IQRA TV. He also has engaged in a number of debates, with Atheists, Secularists, Agnostics, Liberals and Christians on a variety of topics from theology to political philosophy. In 2009, he co-founded the public discussion forum: The Muslim Debate Initiative, a forum that promotes open dialogue and critical debate between thinkers, academics, politicians and public speakers of all backgrounds.

Dr Sian Hawthorne is a lecturer in Critical Theory and the Study of Religions at SOAS University of London. She convenes the MA Religion in Global Politics and is co-founder and convenor of the BA World Philosophies. Her research interests lie in the areas of religion and gender, intellectual history in the study of religions, and its intersections with post- and decolonial theory thought.


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