Pair worthy winners for inclusiveness contributions

Local leaders and organizations have made inclusiveness a priority, taking important steps to ensure that residents feel part of the community.

Engage Columbus, an initiative of Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, launched in early 2015 in order to help residents connect with organizations, resources and people to help them get involved.

In September, the city approved amending its human rights ordinance to add age, sexual orientation, gender identity and veteran status as protected classes.

Steps such as these illustrate why Marwan Wafa and his daughter Ala’a Wafa were good selections as this year’s William R. Laws Human Rights Award winners.

Marwan Wafa, the former IUPUC vice chancellor and dean, and his daughter Ala’a Wafa, an attorney for Cummins Inc., were chosen by the Columbus Human Rights Commission for their work in creating dialogue among community residents about inclusiveness and acceptance for Muslims.

Marwan Wafa used interfaith and learning activities to help residents of different faiths meet and learn about Muslims and their faith. For example, he worked with a Christian-Muslim dialogue group that began in January 2015, taught a Partners in Education Class at the Islamic Center of Columbus, led local Martin Luther King Jr. Day events and spoke about diversity as the keynote speaker at the Columbus Area Multi-Ethnic Organization’s meeting in 2014. He and his wife, Sahar al-Masri, also created diversity circles at IUPUC to foster dialogue about diversity and inclusiveness.

Their daughter, Ala’a Wafa, has used community settings such as IUPUC classes, churches and roundtable events to discuss and explain the importance of diversity and inclusiveness. For example, she had a book reading at the Bartholomew County Public Library in 2011 to discuss her essay that had been included in the book “I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim.”

Marwan and Ala’a Wafa have contributed to a greater understanding of Muslims, and have created new friendships and forged stronger bonds. That’s significant, and helpful on top of other steps taken in the community to foster inclusiveness.

Their Wafas’ efforts are greatly appreciated and the community is better because of them.