Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


Dare to Overcome Women’s Media Strategy & Film Festival – July 15 – Washington DC

8 Jul, 2019
– WHEN: July 15, 2019 @ 2:30 pm – 5:30 pm
– WHERE: Newseum’s Documentary Theater, 555 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Washington D.C. 20001
– COST: Free and open to the public. Registration is required.
REGISTER (Full – register for wait list only)

Former US Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom, Suzan Johnson Cook, spoke today at the Dare to Overcome film festival. A Different Way, a film by Ambassador “Sujay” and Lauren Merkley, is the 2019 Dare to Overcome Film Competition Grand Prize winner. Rev. Dr. Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook shares her experience as the first female chaplain for the NYPD and how interfaith relationships were essential in fostering hope and rebuilding a city after the events of 9/11.

Ambassador Sujay says that “having women’s voices in film making, about such important matters, makes all the difference in the world, literally and figuratively. As I traveled all across the globe as US Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom, women would hold me after our meetings, and ask for ways their messages and voices could be amplified. Film making is one of those ways, and Dr Brian Grim, along with Shirin Taber and the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, have helped that to happen. Placing Lauren Merkley and myself together as a team has been so awesome and wonderful. I encourage other women to enter future competitions, especially the multicultural women leaders I work with through Pro Voice, Inc and Women on the Worldstage ( WOW). Finally, as a result, this film, A Different Way, has opened the door for my story around 9/11 to be told, and we are in discussions right now for a larger feature film/documentary, CHAPLAIN. This is not only a life changer but a game changer”.

Amb. ‘Sujay’ served as the United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom from April 2011 to October 2013. She has served as a policy advisor to President Bill Clinton and was the first female senior pastor in the 200-year history of the American Baptist Churches USA and a close friend of Coretta Scott King. Lauren Merkley is a documentary filmmaker and photographer passionate about capturing the beauty of people and stories in their own environment. She seeks to share the good in the world and believes in the power of film to touch audiences across the world.

The world is increasingly visual, story-driven and mobile dominated. It’s urgent we identify, equip and mobilize leaders to create short films to share empowering messages

The Dare to Overcome film competition challenged women filmmakers from around the world to produce short films that showcase inclusivity and multi-faith living in the workplace and community.

In partnership with the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation and Empower Women Media, the Religious Freedom Center  will showcase women’s short films that are compelling explorations of the impact of freedom of belief and how this helps empower women, religious minorities and the displaced. The screening will include a panel discussion with film makers and a reception.


Iranian-American Shirin Taber directs the Middle East Women’s Leadership Network and Empower Women Media. She is passionate about helping leaders produce media for their missions.

Brian Grim, Ph.D., is president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation and a leading scholar on international religious demography and the socio-economic impact of religious freedom.

The Hon. Suzan Johnson Cook (Ambassador Sujay) is a distinguished lecturer at the Freedom Forum Institute’s Religious Freedom Center. Nominated by Secretary Hillary Clinton and appointed by President Barack Obama, she was the third U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, becoming the first woman, first African American and first faith leader to hold this post.

DARE TO OVERCOME! from Aldous Photo on Vimeo.