The Board of the Parliament voted this weekend to hold the next Parliament in the United States in 2015. The next Parliament marks the fifth modern Parliament and the first American Parliament in 22 years.
“America is the home base of the interfaith movement and it’s about time the Parliament come back home. The Parliament in 2015 will strengthen the interfaith movement through our listening, sharing and networking with each other,” says Chair of the Board Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid.
The interfaith activism in North America has at least doubled in the last 10 years, whereas it is sprouting all around the world where people who have never heard of the interfaith movement are now becoming part of it. As the next generation connects to issues of peace, justice and sustainability it is time to introduce these emerging leaders to the Parliament.
Dates and location will be announced shortly.
Since 1993, more than 37,000 delegates of 80 countries have come to the Parliament representing 50 plus traditions in programs, plenaries, cultural exchanges and dialogue. Parliaments held in the USA, South Africa, Spain, and Australia have amassed a global interfaith community committed to the advancement of a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world.
We Want To Hear From You:
As the Parliament prepares to announce the next host city please kindly share with us your preferences on themes, plans and costs as we create a Parliament 2015 for you.
Please stay connected in the coming days for these important announcements:
- Parliament 2015 Host City Announcement
- Parliament 2015 Dates
- Exclusive Pre-Sale Registration Instructions for Parliament Ambassadors, Supporters, and Partners
- On-Sale Dates and Rates to attend the 2015 Parliament
- Sponsorship and Exhibition Details
- Program Proposals
- Pre-Parliament Events Planning Around the World
- Volunteer, Intern, and Professional Openings with the 2015 Parliament
Become a Parliament Ambassador!
Join a select network of global Interfaith advocates conducting listening sessions with their communities to create the next Parliament. Ambassadors extend the Parliament platform for mobilizing people of faith for social action in their local communities and play an indispensable role in the evolution of the Parliament movement. Read more…
The Board of Trustees of the Parliament of the World’s Religions has decided to convene the World Parliament every two years.
As the interfaith movement has doubled and tripled in interfaith action and services in the last decade it has become necessary that this largest summit of people of faith working together for a just, peaceful and sustainable world come together more often. The board also moved by the extraordinary desire throughout the interfaith movement to engage younger people for whom a five-year Parliament cycle is very long.
Announcing the strategic move of the Parliament the Chair of the Board Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid said that “a five-year Parliament cycle was a bit slow for the age of social media, a globalized world, and shorter attention spans. As forces of hate, anger and fear are rising in the world, we must strengthen the interfaith movement by sharing our interfaith experiences and building relationships among faiths and across interfaith networks which can be better sustained through a two-year cycle.”
Initial feedback from the Parliament Ambassador program coupled with data gleaned from the Global Listening Project shows strong support for a faster moving Parliament timetable. More frequent Parliaments will also foster relationships with a widening roster of world leaders interested in supporting and engaging the interfaith movement.
An announcement detailing the launch of this timetable will be released soon.
By Molly Horan
Parliament of the World’s Religions Staff
The brutalizing violence of hate crimes against at least three Sikh-Americans since the events of August 5, 2012 breaks my heart. And yet, every time the Sikh community speaks out, it shares with us all an unrelenting reminder that we cannot lose hope in the work to stop hate.
The Sikh community calls it Chardi Kala.
Say it with me: Chardi Kala! We can end the violence.
Chardi Kala describes the state in which a person of the Sikh faith aspires to live, in an eternal optimism. Since August 5, 2012, it’s become a kind of rallying call to any and all who wish to practice relentless optimism in the work to stop violence.
I walked in Oak Creek, WI last weekend in solidarity with my Sikh neighbors at the second annual Chardi Kala 6k. The race is organized by Sikh young adults to build community and promote goodness out of something so deeply saddening: the death of six in the Oak Creek gurdwara two years ago in a shooting carried out by white supremacist Michael Wade Page.
To personally witness the spirit of humanity for which Oak Creek has become a model was important to me. It’s in this success – changing the headlines from hate to healing as we say, that I know this Chardi Kala works.
From my desk at the Parliament for nearly two years I’ve tracked how this Chardi Kala has impacted our country:
1) In 2012, the Sikh Coalition led by a letter written by Rajdeep Singh and endorsed by hundreds of justice oriented groups (finally) wins a hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Domestic Extremism. As a result, the FBI began tracking hate crimes committed against South Asian, Arab-American, Hindu-American and Sikh-American. In other words, the U.S. government shuns the word “other” and acknowledges this pervasive problem.
2) Upworthy, the social sharing website responsible for millions of views of rich, humanity-saving content shares Valarie Kaur’s 9-minute film on the aftermath in Oak Creek on last year’s anniversary, and people remember. On Saturday, she told me being in Oak Creek was like being with family. As a visitor, I was treated the same from the moment I arrived; greeted with hugs, fed free curry (langar!), and departing one another again with hugs, until next time. That is hopeful, right?
3) Amar Kaleka, son of the slain President of the Gurdwara begins a candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives running on a platform exposing the broken system which created his father’s murderer showing everyone is human and everything can change.
4) Pardeep Kaleka, son of the slain President of the Gurdwara begins a campaign to empower youth against violence in partnership with Arno Michaelis, a former hate activist-turned-author-turned-peacemaker. Serve-2-Unite brings young Wisconsin teens to learn mindfulness in Chicago and bring it back to the community where they live. That is hopeful, yes?
5) Rahul Dubey, godson of the slain President of the Gurdwara, works tirelessly to advance interfaith community around the Milwaukee area and organizes a race, the Chardi Kala 6k, to ensure the community will always come together in a positive remembrance of that day.
6) Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi walks hand in hand with the Sikh community and supports Interfaith activities with all of his authority, demonstrating how all towns in America can operate.
Despite the disproportionate horrors inflicted upon their community, Oak Creek seeks to intentionally live in a way that shows it denounces hate every day. They understand there that denouncing hate is not an annual event or an occasion but a daily affirmation.
Whether we call it Faiths Against Hate here at the Parliament, or Chardi Kala in the Gurdwara, or practicing the Golden Rule in each of its beautiful articulations across faith communities: the spirit of justice is within us if we expel anger from our hearts and see the humanity in others, even if today they may hate us.
And we walk together.
Twenty international cities hailing from interfaith, municipal, and tourism institutions gathered to learn about the bidding process to host the 2017 Parliament on a webinar held July 10. Parliament Chair Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid and Executive Director Dr. Mary Nelson addressed the group on the history of the Parliament, the growth of the Interfaith movement, what happens at a Parliament, and the logistics of building a local organizing team.
10,000 activists from around the world come to share their faith at the Parliament. Mujahid explained why this is an attractive prospect for cities wishing to increase social cohesion and global tourism. It was also noted in the presentation that Nobel Laureates, Bill Gates, Tony Blair, Pope Francis and more leaders are now publicly vocalizing strong support for the interfaith movement. Endorsements from leaders as such represent a growing interdependence between secular and religious institutions in social, governmental, and humanitarian endeavor.
While presenting a multi-million dollar international gathering is a large undertaking, Dr. Nelson shared ways that corporate and faith-based sponsorships combine with civic partnerships to creatively and financially bring the Parliament to life.
An overwhelming response, half from U.S. cities as well as half from first world and developing countries indicates the demand for interfaith is growing universally. Representatives shared their desire to become a Parliament city in efforts to diminish local tensions and build harmonious relationships.
A question and answer session with Dr. Nelson and Imam Mujahid also provided attendees the opportunity to engage both Parliament leaders on ways to submit an optimal bid. Cities are currently sharing letters of intent to submit full bids for the 2017 Parliament.
For more information on becoming a Parliament city, please contact Office Manager Stephen Avino at email@example.com
By Janaan Hashim, Esq.
Trustee, Parliament of the World’s Religions
My 22-year-old daughter stopped off at a nearby store to grab some groceries on her way home from work. She has frequented this store and its Kosher section since moving closer to work, happy to find a place that sells food that she can eat, since food from “ahalal kitab” or “people of the book” is considered halal, or permissible for Muslims to eat.
At first she thought it was her post-work appearance that caused the looks and, with one woman in particular, the glares.
Zaineb carries her grandmother’s Scotts-Irish complexion, and, but for her hijab, no one would know she is Muslim. But she has chosen to wear her hijab since her younger days, proud to be Muslim and happy to practice her faith without inhibition.
In the store, Zaineb told me, the glaring woman kept crossing her path. And then, out of nowhere, she approached Zaineb and, with a scowl on her face, said straight to Zaineb, “Yikh,” then turned and left. Zaienb was stunned. And then it clicked. The realities of the Holy Land have seeped across our borders and onto our land.
I listened to Zaineb, reflected, and prayed. What emboldened this woman to do such an ugly act toward my daughter? Would she have the fortitude and gall to do this to a Black woman, a Hispanic, a White? Doubtful.
I then realized that if people can feel so empowered as to approach a complete stranger and strew their hate toward her, then America hasn’t matured over the decades; in fact, it’s more of an illusive maturity we have, more superficial than substantive. To me, this woman’s action is the continuation of an ugly, downward spiral for Muslim Americans. But, I truly believe, it can be stopped, and it can be stopped now.
I call upon faith leaders to remind their congregants of the importance of always seeing the human in the other. My daughter did nothing wrong. And yet, a strange woman decided that my daughter was less than she. Faith leaders, remind your worshipers to love the other simply because of who created the other and out of love for that creator. Remind your congregants that we are all God’s children and not to let political differences abroad interfere with the human dignity afforded here at home.
Our laws are in place to bring civility to an otherwise chaotic society. And while we may have two rights directly opposing each other – freedom of expression and freedom of religion – I urge our faith leaders to take charge and remind their members of the importance of doing unto others as they would have done unto themselves.
Faith leaders: I charge you with maintaining the civility that our faiths call upon. I charge you with sending a message of peace and harmony between your congregants and the strangers they meet. I charge you with guiding your people toward not judging a “woman by her clothing” but to, rather, judge others by their actions, and not the actions of people in a land far away.
My daughter was in a store shopping in America of the 21st Century. Let’s make sure that years from now, such judgmental and degrading treatment is seen only as an isolated incident and not something so endemic that those on the wayside were too blind to see it, too blind to stop it. Faith leaders and people of faith: let’s stop this hate before it winds into an uncontrollable, spiral downturn that our country has seen in the past.
Janaan Hashim, Esq. is a Trustee of the Parliament, partner at Amal Law Group, LLC and adjunct professor at McCormick Theological Seminary.
Fifty peacemakers joining from Israel and Palestine have just completed a five-day “Vision Camp” the organizers say responded to the violence “exploding through the Middle East.” The West Bank-based camp reported through Facebook (and supported by a vocal campaign on Causes.com) sharing a culmination statement declaring “We refuse to be enemies.”
Over the week the activities captivating a mass following on social media inspired countless shares, likes, and comments to stand against a growing vitriol polarizing Jews and Muslims by stating #JewsandArabsRefuseToBeEnemies. Like organizations connected promoting moving images of demonstrations held in other Israeli locations.
The 50 campers speaking boldly for peace were moved to assemble stating, “today, in this turbulence, peace workers from Israel, Palestine and other countries are beginning a five-day vision camp in the West Bank. In the middle of the war they hold a peace vigil and create a frequency of calmness in which mutual perception, sharing, deep listening, clear thinking and vision building is possible. They say, “We refuse to be enemies.” And, “Together we can give a clear sign to end the war.”
As peaceworkers from Israel, Palestine and various other parts of the world, we have been holding a peace vigil in the middle of a war in the West Bank over the last several days. We are gathering here under very simple conditions, creating community life, sharing from our hearts, in silence and in tears, in the midst of shootings and bombings. We are bearing witness and trying to stay in Grace. We have been faced with this senseless killing every day. There have been more than 1000 human victims during the last three weeks. In the last days three Palestinians were shot in the village near the place where we are staying. In these days, we have been faced with untold pain, suffering, desperation and speechlessness; we are also coming face to face with many different opinions and inner and outer struggles.
What we all agree on is: Enough! Stop this killing. No solution can come from war! Each innocent victim of this war is one too many! We refuse to be enemies. We are calling out to all parties: Stop this war! Our feelings are beyond words, but we can no longer be silent. The civil population is being lied to on both sides, and the world is mostly silent and misled by the media. It does not take much political education to recognise the injustice of this war. Many countries are delivering weapons and enriching themselves through the war. But who sits next to the beds of the injured children and crying mothers? Who feels empathy with their bleak destiny? Who heals the wounds, dries the tears and eases the pain of all those who have lost family members or beloved friends?
We, as members of humanity during this vision camp in the midst of the war zone, are striving to convert trust, peace, justice and compassion into realities rather than mere words. This makes us feel like new children from a new earth where war does not exist.
One of our Palestinian participants said, „In 2001, I decided to stop being a victim. We are not two sides; we are one side. We have one common enemy: hatred.” How many more innocent people have to be killed, how many more generations will have to carry guns so their people can feel safe? Are we aware that every killing creates new hatred, new fear and more revenge?
We have decided not to stay silent! We have decided to step out of powerlessness. We have decided to step out of the hypnosis of fear and raise our voices. We have decided to step out of our personal identification and look beyond all the different worldviews towards the fundamental healing of trauma. Compassion is not a question of worldview! Compassion is the emergency call of planet earth and the heart of humanity.
Together, we wish to create a clear and resonant voice, a voice for transformation! Killing cannot lead us to a free or protected land. We are shedding our tears and transforming our pain into a powerful NO! NO to this killing – no tolerance for the violation of human rights, regardless of its source. Israelis will never feel safe, and Palestinians will never be free, unless they begin building mutual relationships of trust and respect. And this land will never be holy while we keep watering it with blood.
Thousands of people are already taking to the streets and demonstrating that they, “refuse to be enemies.” May we grow in numbers and presence! The global system of domination thrives through our powerlessness. We can change this feeling of desperation and powerlessness into readiness for transformation. A true nonviolent revolution starts within ourselves.
We envision breaking the cycle of victimisation, occupation, hatred and revenge. We envision the awakening of the humane heart. We envision millions of people, all over the world, who no longer allow the economically motivated globalisation of war to be carried out on the backs of uncounted innocent women, men and children.
Now, it is our task to demonstrate credible alternatives: stepping out of the system of complicity and stepping into a network of solidarity and compassion. For years now, many of us have been working on new models for living. We are aware that those who are against war need a vision for peace.
This peace vigil is only the beginning. We are committing ourselves. We will dedicate our lives to finding solutions wherever we are.
We love our countries, our homes, and this earth. We declare ourselves to be global citizens for peace! Let us raise our voices: Another life is possible.
We are calling out to specialists from all areas – doctors, water experts, ecologists, technologists, peace activists, decision-makers, spiritual leaders, peace journalists, film-makers, politicians and each and everyone of you: Let us come together and put our wisdom to work! Let us overcome the walls of separation. Together, we will create completely new ways of sharing this planet.
Connect, like, and share: https://www.facebook.com/aVisionCampinIsraelPalestine
Download the statement of the 50 participants of the Vision Camp here:
By Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño of The United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, and Bishop J. Jon Bruno, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and President of the Los Angeles Council of Religious Leaders. Via Huffington Post.
Last week, we, alongside Dr. Robert K. Ross, President and CEO of the California Endowment and Fred Ali of Weingart Foundation, visited some of the hundreds of children temporarily being housed at the Port Hueneme Naval Base. The stories of these children, the dangerous conditions under which they were forced to leave their homes, and their arduous journeys to travel to the United States touched us all. These children are just a few among the 52,000 children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras who are currently being held in a variety of temporary shelters.
The ongoing and highly politicized public debate about immigration has quickly and incorrectly come to engulf this latest humanitarian situation. The fact that these are young, frightened children who have risked their lives and fled extreme violence to come here, often on their own, has been forgotten. This is in fact an international emergency that calls upon all of us to put the health and well-being of these children before any political grandstanding.
Like so many of our own ancestors, these children are fleeing incredible social crises, which have inspired them to make the difficult choice to leave home solely in hopes of survival. Currently, many Central American nations are struggling with extreme violence connected to drug trafficking and gangs. As we learned in a recent Reuters article, a young immigrant named Jeffrey fled his home of La Ceiba, Honduras because a local gang charged him the equivalent of $24,000 not to kill him. Like Jeffrey, many children are sent away from their homes and families to avoid being drafted into local gangs and cartels with the certain future of incarceration or death. In response, desperate parents with few alternatives have opted to send their unaccompanied children north in hopes of their finding refuge in the United States. But, instead of finding safe harbor, tens of thousands of children, have struggled on long journeys fleeing danger only to get caught in a political limbo while our nation tarries over their fates.
The status of these children poses a humanitarian dilemma. As children await a possible future of deportation, violence and possibly death, it is time for us to cast aside partisan differences and seek solutions to ensure their long-term health and safety. We can choose to use this moment to find the best in ourselves and have compassion for these children. If people from every faith and every community work together, we can live up to our shared values and take care of the most vulnerable among us. As we met these children, we learned that they are children of prayer, prayers that sustain them and give them hope.
We all know that where a child is born shouldn’t determine how long she lives, but it does. However, we must remember that under God, there is a universal citizenship — a status that makes us all equal under His eyes and worthy of love, dignity and respect, regardless of what side of the man-made border you are from. All children have basic human rights, no matter what they look like or where they come from. From universal citizenship springs unconditional love that goes beyond skin color, language and race. Around the world families desire for their children to be safe, content and healthy and if they are not able to provide such privileges, the most desperate go as far as sending their children to distant shores. As communities of faith and philanthropy, we have a responsibility to step up during this time of massive suffering among innocent children. If we don’t help the children in our society, the most defenseless among us, who will?
In 2004, Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño became the first Hispanic woman to be elected to the episcopacy of The United Methodist Church, the second-largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. Today, she is one of 50 bishops leading more than eight million members of her denomination. Bishop Carcaño serves as the official spokesperson for the United Methodist Council of Bishops on the issue of immigration. After serving for a term as Bishop of the Phoenix Area giving oversight to United Methodist work in Arizona, southern Nevada, and southeastern California, she was assigned in 2012 to the Los Angeles Area where she now leads United Methodist work in southern California, Hawaii and other islands in the Pacific Ocean. The Bishop is also a participant in FaithSource, a resource for journalists looking for diverse voices of faith to speak to key issues, sponsored by Auburn Seminary.
The Parliament of the World’s Religions Board Chair Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid extends congratulations to Rabbi David Saperstein on his nomination by President Obama to lead the United States Department of State Office of International Religious Freedom. Saperstein who serves as Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism would become the first non-Christian to take the office now vacant for nine months.
Board Chair Mujahid welcomes the unprecedented move of the Obama Administration to advance a Jewish Rabbi to lead the office first established by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.
Mujahid’s congratulatory letter highlights Saperstein’s “admirable record of touching humanity through faith-based justice,” and commends his expert leadership as an example of how progress can be achieved through engaging the guiding institutions.
In addressing the interfaith movement at the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia, Saperstein hosted an engagement session entitled “The State and Religious Freedom,” and was featured prolifically on panels including:
- Poverty Must No Longer Be With Us with Huruhisa Handa, Jim Wallis, Katherine Marshall, Dr. A T Ariyaratne, Tim Costello, Sulak Sivaraksa and Sr. Joan Chittister
- Democracy and Diversity in Global Perspective with Anwar Ibrahim, Pal Ahluwalia, Bishop Peter Elliott, Dr. M Din Syamsuddin, and Dr. Barabara McGraw
- The Role of Religion and Spirituality in the Public Discourse with Archbishop Philip Freier
Designated in Newsweek’s 2009 list as the most influential rabbi in the country and described in a Washington Post profile as “the quintessential religious lobbyist on Capitol Hill,” Rabbi David Saperstein represents the national Reform Jewish Movement to Congress and the Administration as the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. The Center not only advocates on a broad range of social justice issues but provides extensive legislative and programmatic materials to synagogues nationwide, and coordinates social action education programs that train nearly 3,000 Jewish adults, youth, rabbinic and lay leaders each year.
Read more about Rabbi David Saperstein.
Wiccan Priestess, NPR Journalist and Author Dies at 68
An interview on NPR’s Interfaith Voices with Phyllis Curott and historian Ronald Hutton about Margot Adler’s influence on contemporary Paganism will air Aug. 1-7 on NPR’s 74 stations across N. America; here’s the full list of when and where.
By Phyllis Curott
Parliament Trustee, Women’s Task Force Co-Chair
Margot Adler, one of America’s first public Wiccan Priestesses and author of the groundbreaking study of contemporary American Paganism, Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today” (1979), passed away at her home in Manhattan on Monday, July 28th. She was 68.
Margot was also a reporter for NPR, working since 1979 as a journalist, political and cultural correspondent, host of “Justice Talking,” and New York bureau chief. She preferred stories about everyday people and her series on life in New York after 9/11 was often cited for its compassionate and salutary effect on the city’s recovery. Central Park, where she spent countless hours as a “birder,” was a favorite subject for stories, and like all of her features, were imbued with warmth, intimacy and wise appreciation.
These qualities, and an impish sense of humor, also made Margot Adler one of modern Paganism’s most beloved figures, a welcoming presence to the thousands of newcomers who found the movement because of her thoughtful book or because of her early willingness to publicly identify herself as a Witch when that word still provoked distorted stereotypes of Satan worshippers or wacky spinsters. Her courage and capacious intellect challenged and helped transform these misconceptions, and the media and its audience reconsidered their biases when confronted by Margot’s sophisticated New York sensibility which integrated a bachelor’s degree in political science from Berkeley, a master’s from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and in 1982, a Nieman fellowship at Harvard, as well as a family background which included her grandfather, noted psychiatrist Alfred Adler.
Margot’s death is a great personal loss for those who knew and loved her as a friend, three of whom have served as Parliament Trustees – myself, Angie Buchanan and Andras Arthen.
Margot and I met 35 years ago, both members of what was then a small, hidden community of Wiccan practitioners in New York City. We shared similar educational and cultural backgrounds, an interest in the return of the Goddess and the role of women as spiritual leaders, which appealed to our feminism, and an appreciation for the ecstatic and joyful practices that revealed the Divine embodied in the natural world. We worked together over the years, in public and private, teaching and celebrating and I treasure every moment shared, every memory created. Most precious of all is Margot’s immortal enthusiasm which was so deeply rooted in the term’s Greek origin, entheos: “to be inspired or possessed by a god, to rapt, to be in ecstasy.”
Countless homages posted on numerous social media sites affirm her impact on the personal lives of fans and followers, and her unique contribution to modern Paganism as one of the fastest growing spiritual movements in the United States. Margot Adler played an essential role in the rebirth of ancestral religious traditions as a vital new spirituality and that inspiration will continue, for what we remember, and those whom we remember, live.
New Suffolk, NY July 30, 2014
Phyllis Curott is an attorney, author and Wiccan priestess. An interfaith activist and advocate of religious liberties for minority faiths in the courts and media, Jane Magazinehonored her as one of the Ten Gutsiest Women of the Year, New York Magazine described her as one of the “culture’s most intellectually cutting-edge thinkers,” and Beliefnet has featured her in their video series Preachers and Teachers. Curott is founder and president of the international Temple of Ara and president emerita of the Covenant of the Goddess.Phyllis Curott
New Parliament Ambassador on Creating California-Based Children’s Interfaith Organization First Drops
Orange County, California area interfaith program First Drops teaches children about a variety of religions through fostering relationships and taking different religious sites and experience it for themselves. The curiosity of children and their eagerness to learn about religion fuels the organization. Parents and community members provide children resources as a means of learning about many religions. They also participate in monthly community service projects including feeding hungry families, as well as many more projects and activities. Recently the children’s filming of “An Interfaith Carol” submitted to the World Interfaith Harmony Week Film competition won in its category.
Farrah Khan, a new Ambassador of the Parliament and founder of First Drops shares the following reflection on how this kind of active interfaith community cultivates respect for everyone.
First Drops was founded in the Spring of 2011. The idea came from the need to answer various questions my son who was in 5th grade had about religions. Even with my knowledge, I knew that it would be best for him to get his information from the source, so I took him to my friend’s church. He enjoyed the experience of attending mass, that’s when I knew I had to do more. I called up a few friends whose kids were the same age as mine and asked them if they would be interested in joining up for small discussions. The group of six kids and parents developed into an organization in less than two months.
Currently, First Drops educates children and their families about the many religions that surround them through site visits. Each site visit is a unique experience. The host facility usually gives an over view of their religion, provides a tour of the facility, and an opportunity to observe or engage in their religious service followed by a Q & A session. Then we usually are invited to a more casual setting where members of the congregation and our First Drops families have a chance to mingle and munch on snacks. This is a great learning experience because the child has an opportunity to experience the religion rather than reading about it in a book. The children have visited during Christmas Mass, Easter Mass, Purim, Celebration of Nirvana (Buddhism), Celebration of Ridvan (Baha’i) and much more. These experiences are what will become a lasting memory.
Our children also engage in community service. Every 2nd Sunday of the month, the children serve 100-150 homeless people in the Santa Ana downtown district. The families prepare the food and the children serve each guest. This has taught the children that respect for humanity comes first. After the first few feedings, the children began looking into ways to help our brothers and sisters living on the streets. So each month, the children come up with ways to help even more. During the rainy season, the children collected 200 rain ponchos and passed them out. These ponchos were either bought by the children’s own money or by asking friends, family and neighbors to purchase them. On Mother’s Day, the children passed out flower bouquets to every woman. The flowers were contributed by Trader Joe’s. We have held several clothing, toy and book drives throughout the year.
The children are welcome to use their own ideas to help foster a more compassionate world. They have produced an interfaith film called “An Interfaith Carol” which won the World Interfaith Harmony Film Festival first place for Youth Film. They are regular participants at the Irvine Global Village Festival and The Newport-Mesa-Irvine Interfaith Council’s Celebration of Thanksgiving where they sing interfaith related songs.
We are teaching the children that in today’s world, it is important to work with others to improve. We partner with CROP Hunger Walk and collect money to help feed the needy around the world.
First Drops was recently asked to come under the Orange County Interfaith Network’s umbrella. This opportunity will give us access to over 12 interfaith councils and grow the organization.
My personal desire is to bridge the gap between those of us who are currently working in the interfaith arena and our next generation. One day, we will all be on the same page and the world will see peace.