Norm Nelson is President of
Compassion Ventures, Inc. and host of Compassion Radio, a unique
faith-based, boots-on-the-ground activist media ministry based in Lake
Forest, California. The program is heard daily in most major markets
across the United States, and in Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East.
Its humanitarian projects have been carried out in 30 countries.
Norm’s pioneering vision is to
move beyond the traditionally passive “I talk, you listen” broadcasting
formula, to involve listeners in responsible servant outreach to the
neediest people in the toughest places on earth. In keeping with this
vision, Compassion Radio has mobilized its partners to launch and support
dozens of Compassion projects, including: restoring schools in
Afghanistan; providing shelter and care for abandoned infants in South
Africa; supporting “safe houses” for North Korean and Eritrean refugees;
ministering to the victims of human trafficking in Cambodia; funding
blindness-curing eye clinics in Ghana; and delivering emergency food and
medical provisions in Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Darfur, Pakistan, Sri Lanka,
Gaza and the West Bank. The ministry has been instrumental in the founding
and maintenance of three orphanages in Asia and Africa. New projects are
presently being initiated in Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Cambodia.
Compassion Radio has also
partnered with leading human rights organizations in the cause of
religious freedom around the world. Norm, and his wife, Cher, keep
listeners informed and involved through programs devoted to the issue, and
they work to encourage and strengthen victims of religious persecution
through travel to sites where such suffering occurs. Their advocacy has
addressed situations in China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea,
Pakistan, Sudan and Vietnam.
on the adventurous front-line character of Compassion Radio, Dr. Luis
Bush, International Director of A.D. 2000 and Beyond, called it “one of
the most exciting and promising developments in ministry of the early 21st
century!” Dr. Lloyd Ogilvie, former Chaplain to the United States Senate,
has described the ministry as “power-packed!”
Nelson has been well prepared for
such an activist ministry. He holds a B.A. from Westmont College, an M.
Div. from San Francisco Theological Seminary, a Th. M. from Princeton
Theological Seminary, and is completing doctoral studies in Religion,
Diplomacy, and Conflict Resolution at the Graduate Theological Foundation.
He has done graduate study in Islamics at Oxford University and holds
post-graduate certificates in Human Rights and International Law from the
International Institute of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, and from
American University in Washington, D.C. In 2005, he participated with
political scientists, policy advisors, Foreign Service personnel and
United Nations staff in the International Conflict Research Program at the
University of Ulster in Northern Ireland.
Norm has a long history of
involvement in compassion-oriented ministry. While in seminary at
Princeton, he established an inner-city youth mission in Trenton, N.J. In
the 1960’s, he taught Religion and Social Ethics at Middlebury College in
Vermont. In the 1970’s he created a summer service program called Youth
Experience in Service (Y.E.S.), which involved students in compassion
projects in Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico. In later years he served on
NGO disaster response teams that ministered to victims of hurricanes,
floods, earthquakes and war in Central America, South America and Eastern
Europe. In the summer of 2002, Norm and his wife, Cher, taught English at
Balkh University in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan
He also served as a regional board
member for such organizations as the American Red Cross, the Heifer
Project, and Partners of the Americas. He is currently a trustee of
several Christian human rights organizations, including Evangelicals for
Middle East Understanding (EMEU), and a Board of Advisors member of
service organizations in India and Egypt. He was recently named to the
national Mission Network Task Force on Iraq of the Presbyterian Church
On the journalistic front, Norm
and Cher have traveled to over 150 countries, including in recent years
such “hot spots” as Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan, Sudan, Pakistan,
Kosovo, Bosnia, Lebanon, Syria and Colombia. Together they record and
broadcast informative on-site reports from locations of conflict and
suffering. Examples include program series from Kosovo (during the war),
Pakistan (in 2001), the Palestinian Territories (during the second
Intifada), Afghanistan (in 2002) and Iraq (in February and April, 2003).
Norm has also interviewed leaders of such diverse organizations as Hamas
and the European Union, and government officials in such countries as Iraq
He has been interviewed on dozens
of radio talk shows and by other international media for his insights into
world events. He has appeared on television in Iraq, Iran, Australia and
New Zealand, and recently on Marrakesh Regional Radio in Morocco. The
Nelsons’ work has been noted by CNN, NBC, CBS, FOX television and other
Norm is a published author, a
contributor to numerous books, magazines and journals. He is also a
frequent speaker at churches, colleges, universities, schools and
In the post-9/11 era, Norm,
through Compassion Radio, has become a unique and effective advocate
within the evangelical community for the peaceful resolution of conflict
between Christians and Muslims. He has dialogued with Muslim clerics in
the U.S., England, Palestine, Syria, Jordan and at the historic shrine at
Najaf, Iraq. He has taken aid to Palestinian refugees in the camps at Ein
el Hilweh in Lebanon, Rafah in Gaza, Dheisheh in Palestine and to the
Afghan refugee camp at Akora Kattakh in western Pakistan. Compassion
Ventures has helped create conflict resolution projects with the World
Evangelical Alliance and works with the Arab World Evangelical Ministers
In 2004, acting on a firm
commitment to the ministry of reconciliation, Norm accepted an invitation
to be a panel member in a Muslim/Christian symposium at the Institute of
Interreligious Dialogue in Tehran, Iran. He was invited back to Iran in
2005. Building on that experience, he is working with Sudanese academics
to establish a peace institute in Khartoum. He has initiated interfaith
dialogue events as part of a grass-roots peace movement in that country.
At the request of Jaafar al-Nimeiri, former President of Sudan, he has
founded the development of a new transformational comprehensive university
in Khartoum. The project has, to date, elicited the cooperation of Sudan’s
political and religious leadership.
Most recently he engaged in
discussions with clerics at the Khan Theological College in Shiraz, Iran.
On the horizon is a Kuwait-initiated proposal to Compassion Ventures to
produce a television series, “Under Abraham’s Tent”, which will bring
together Christian, Muslim and Jewish scholars for dialogue on inter-faith
issues. The series will be telecast regionally from Kuwait.
Norm is a member of the
President’s Council of the National Religious Broadcasters. Compassion
Radio has won both the NRB’s Award of Merit and Milestone Award.
Norm and Cher have 6 married
children and 12 grandchildren.