Katherine Cunningham has pursued a life of advocacy and care, as a church educator and writer; founder and executive director of a community-based counseling non-profit; and now-retired Presbyterian minister and psychoanalyst. She has served with numerous international and US faith-based organizations committed to justice and human rights for Palestinians, as well as wider social justice initiatives. Her current project Focus: Palestine, co-authored with Noushin Darya Framke (both longtime members of the Israel/Palestine Mission Network), is a comprehensive resource that lifts up Palestinian voices while placing the situation into theological, historical, and political contexts.
Katherine A. Cunningham
She was set on this path during her freshman year at IU, when she enrolled in Steve Stein’s class on American Religion and read James Cone's Black Theology and Black Power. Graduating with a B.A. and then M.A. in Religious Studies (with a thesis on Jonathan Edwards), Katherine credits religious studies with teaching her, above all, about the ethics of scholarship, the excitement of doing comparative studies of different religious traditions, and the value of combining careful textual analysis with expansive knowledge of social contexts.
Katherine continued her studies at Yale Divinity School, where she received her M.Div., and had an unexpected opportunity to spend several months in India. Thinking of the importance of mentorship and support, Katherine notes that a professor her husband Kurt was working with, at the Yale University Economic Growth Center, encouraged her to join her husband in New Delhi. “I was concerned about taking a summer off from a job,” Katherine explains, “but the professor challenged me and said, ‘You should go. When else will you have the opportunity to spend four months living in India? What would you like to learn there?’” Meeting the challenge, she used the time to set up encounters with persons working in NGO’s and institutes, learning from leaders involved in the work she was interested in, studying in local libraries, and traveling, as she puts it, “with intentionality.” That gift, she concludes, “shaped me professionally in ways that have a direct bearing on the international advocacy work I am now engaged in.” Her trip to India was not a “planned” part of the degree curriculum, but an “opportunity afforded me by someone who was nurturing the intellectual and professional life of a graduate student.” This is precisely what Katherine hopes to enable for recipients of support from the Katherine A. Cunningham Graduate Research Fund!