Ranya Idliby grew up with a foot in the East--Dubai-- and a foot in the West--Mclean-- Virginia. She takes personal issue with Rudyard Kipling's The Ballad of East and West, for she feels that she is living proof that, though East is East and West is West, the twain shall and must meet. Her maiden name, Tabari, derives its roots from Tiberias, a Palestinian town by the Sea of Galilee. She likes to think that her interfaith experience harkens back to her family roots, and that as a Palestinian Muslim she embraces Jesus as a Palestinian Jew who walked on water by her ancestral home, near the Sea of Galilee. At Georgetown University, where she was introduced, to the art of pulling all-nighters, NoDoz, Bazooka gum, and dorm keg parties, she graduated from the School of Foreign Service. She then continued her post-graduate degree at the London School of Economics, where she learned to appreciate milk delivered to her doorstep in glass bottles as well as the English preoccupation with the weather. When she enrolled for the PhD program at the LSE, her hitherto supportive father dubbed her a "student for life." When love and marriage found her in New York City, she decided to shelf her thesis on Iraq, for Saddam was no match for the delighted squeals of her daughter's first taste of applesauce. Ranya continued her journey of faith with the book Burqas, Baseball, and Apple Pie in which she wrestled with the most difficult issues facing Muslims in America, holding her hyphenated identity accountable to its higher ideals.
Suzanne Oliver always hoped to write a book, but never dreamed that it would be about religion. She graduated from Texas Christian University in 1987 with a degree in English Literature then moved to New York City and began a career in financial journalism. After working at Financial World magazine, Forbes magazine (where she became a senior editor) and SmartMoney.com (where she was managing editor), she could write confidently about mutual funds, after-tax returns and asset allocation. But concepts like the atonement, salvation, jihad, Zionism and religious equality just weren’t on her mind until she met Ranya Idliby at their daughters’ kindergarten school bus stop in September of 2001. Oliver thinks of herself as the American “Everyman” in The Faith Club. She grew up in the suburban Midwest where she spent twelve years in Catholic schools and made her first communion at St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church in Kansas City, Missouri. In New York, she and her husband converted to the Episcopal Church. In 2009 Oliver entered Union Theological Seminary and in 2012 received a Master of Arts degree with a focus on interfaith studies and ecumenical theology. Her thesis, "The Chosen People, The Savior of the World and The Final Prophet: Addressing Absolute Claims by the Abrahamic Religions in the Context of The Faith Club" can be read here.
Priscilla Warner began her interfaith education in Providence, Rhode Island, where she attended a Hebrew Day School as a child and then a Quaker high school. She spent many years in Boston and New York as an advertising art director and wrote fiction and children's books before meeting up with Ranya and Suzanne to discuss fear, religion and faith in the aftermath of 9/11. After touring the country for several years with The Faith Club, Priscilla decided to address the panic attacks that had plagued her for decades. She learned to meditate her way from panic to peace and wrote a bestselling memoir about the mystics, monks, Buddhist teachers and therapists she met along the way, called Learning to Breathe - My Yearlong Quest to Bring Calm to My Life. You can read more about her writing at www.PriscillaWarnerBooks.com.