Exploring AAPI Experiences of Religious Identity and Diversity:

A Report from Interfaith America in Partnership with The Asian American Foundation

With support from The Asian American Foundation, Interfaith America has embarked on a research endeavor to increase awareness and understanding of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Specifically, our work examines their complex religious, spiritual, and secular identities; explores the role of religion in fostering AAPI solidarity and belonging in the United States; and identifies promising practices for engaging AAPI communities in bridgebuilding work across racial and religious lines. This initiative also provides a unique opportunity to showcase as-yet-untold stories of AAPI leaders in different religious, civic, and professional sectors.

Featured Research Participants

Suraj Arshanapally

Suraj Arshanapally, MPH is a Health Communication Specialist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He is Agnostic and Culturally Hindu. Suraj holds an MPH in Social and Behavioral Sciences from Yale University and a BS in Public Health from Saint Louis University.

Lisa Doi

Lisa Doi (she/her) is a PhD candidate in American Studies at Indiana University and a community organizer with Tsuru for Solidarity, a Japanese American abolitionist organization. Lisa grew up in a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist community--a place where her faith and ethnic identities combine.

Natasha Akery

Natasha Akery is a secondary language arts teacher in North Charleston, South Carolina. She is a biracial Korean-American woman.

Anu Gorukanti

Anu Gorukanti, MD (she/hers) is a public health practitioner, pediatric hospitalist, and co-founder of Introspective Spaces, a social venture committed to building reflective space and community for women in healthcare. She is also a member of the Sacred Journeys and Witness fellowships.

Yanan Rahim Melo

Yanan Rahim Melo (he/him) is a writer from Cagayan de Oro, Philippines, currently pursuing his M.Div. at Princeton Theological Seminary, where he studies race, ecology, Asian American theology, and American religious history. His research has been featured on Christianity Today, Sojourners, Inheritance Magazine, the Institute for Studies in Asian Church and Culture, and more.

Tahil Sharma

Tahil Sharma is the Regional Coordinator for North America at the United Religions Initiative (URI), the world's largest interfaith network of grassroots communities, dedicated to establishing cultures of peace, justice, and healing in the world. Tahil's Hindu and Sikh background inspires his work for education, pluralism, and justice, working in local, regional, and international spaces for over a decade.

Derek Wu

Derek Wu is a PhD student in the Department of Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley (Designated Emphasis in Global Metropolitan Studies). Derek researches religion, race, displacement, and residential segregation in the S.F. Bay Area, where he grew up as a second-generation Taiwanese American. Derek received his B.A. in Bible and Theology from Biola University and M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, earning a certificate in Black Church Studies and the Asian American Ministry Award.

Eishna Ranganathan

Eishna Ranganathan is a graduate of Swarthmore College and an incoming student at MIT Sloan, where she will pursue a Master of Business Analytics. As an undergraduate student, Eishna was an interfaith intern on Swarthmore’s campus and participated in many of IFYC’s events, such as the annual ILI in Chicago and a keynote address by Eboo Patel at the College.

Aroona Toor

Aroona Toor is a DrPH student at the George Washington University and an Office of Minority Health Fellow at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Aroona’s professional experiences have included leading the Health Policy and Advocacy work of American Muslim Health Professionals, serving as a Project Manager for Health Equity at the American Cancer Society, and serving new Americans at CG Immigration Law.

Devon Matsumoto

Devon Matsumoto (he/him) is a settler on Muwekma-Ohlone Land, also known as the South Bay Area California. Matsumoto is the Senior Program Coordinator for the Asian Law Caucus’ Criminal Justice Reform Program. Matsumoto’s work focuses on supporting low-income and immigrant AAPI communities navigate their options in response to harm. He also is working on supporting the development of Restorative Justice programs in API communities.

Lawrence Lin

Lawrence Lin is a Humanist who grew up in Texas and currently lives in Columbus, Ohio. He was born and raised in a Taiwanese-Buddhist immigrant family. Now as a resident surgeon in plastic and reconstructive surgery, Lawrence continues to seek opportunities to study how religion and spirituality intersect with his patients’ reconstructive journeys.

Read the Series

Stories published as part of this initiative offer key findings from the research and spotlight AAPI changemakers across different religious, civic, and professional sectors.