Archive for the ‘CPWR’ Category
It is a warm reunion with Kusumita P. Pederson of New York who has now returned to the Parliament Board of Trustees following re-election after the mandatory time-off period required after a previous completed terms has completed.
Reaction from the Parliament Board Chair is bright. Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid describes, “she is a walking interfaith dictionary of America. I have never found Kusumita refusing anything which strengthens interfaith. I am pleased to welcome her back to the board. As the co-chair of the Interfaith Center of New York, she brings strength to our board, as well as much needed connectivity between the local realities and the global scene.”
IFNCY has been gracious to the Parliament as a co-host of the Long Island Faith Against Hate Day of Learning and Relationship held this past June, and through co-sponsoring and cross-promoting an upcoming webinar.
With Pederson returned to the Board, this solidifies a blossoming practice of global-local organizational partnerships which are helping strengthen the interfaith movement.
Dr. Kusumita P. Pedersen was Professor of Religious Studies at St. Francis College in New York. She received her Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies from Columbia University. She was previously Executive Director of the Project on Religion and Human Rights; Joint Secretary for Religious Affairs of the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders on Human Survival; and Executive Director of the Temple of Understanding. She is currently Co-Chair of the Interfaith Center of New York.
A Preface by Imam Dr. Abdul Malik Mujahid, Chair of the Board of Trustees
Human interconnectedness has been transformed dramatically by technology. However, our hearts and our minds are yet to be aligned with the God-given ideals of sharing more and consuming less to achieve better results for the humanity.
In a world where more than a billion people live under two dollars a day; where 45 million people are fleeing conflict and persecution; where fear, hate, and anger are rising, we have a responsibility to be good neighbors, to be compassionate, and to live by the Golden Rule.
The Parliament of the World’s Religions has been ahead of its time in envisioning a better future. Almost a century before the word “global village” was introduced in 1962, the Parliament literally invented the gift of interfaith for our world.
It was also well ahead of its time when the Declaration Toward a Global Ethic was issued at the 1993 Parliament. For the first time in history, representatives of all of the world’s religions agreed on the shared ethics that are grounded in their own religions and traditions:
• The principle of shared humanity
• The Golden Rule of reciprocity
• A commitment to peace and justice
In the last 20 years since the signing of this declaration, people have collected more than 700,000 pieces of content on this topic. There are organizations that have been established based on its theme. Some of these include the Global Ethic Foundation, the Institute for Global Ethics, and the Global Ethics Network. We have also seen the development of campaigns based on topics we advanced, such as the Charter of Compassion, a Charter of Forgiveness, A Common Word Between Us and You, and campaigns to promote the Golden Rule.
So at this juncture, on the 20th anniversary of the 1993 Parliament, we at the Parliament reaffirm our commitment to interfaith harmony by reissuing the Global Ethics and by reasserting our mission: to cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities, and to foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions in order to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world.
We must learn the forgotten lesson that “None of you has faith until you love for your neighbor what you love for yourself.”
Let us, then, friends, share more and consume less!
Let us work hand in hand to change ourselves while saving the only planet we have.
May God open our hearts toward our neighbors. May our Creator open the hearts of our neighbors toward us. Amen.
This preface leads the 2013 reaffirmation of the vision of the Global Ethic penned by Parliament Chair, Imam Dr. Abdul Malik Mujahid on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the document. Join Imam Mujahid, the Parliament, and this generation’s voices for peace by signing the 2013 Call to Live Out the Vision Toward a Global Ethic!
Thinking on the future of interfaith, the Parliament of the World’s Religions invited several interns to share on the topic of the next generation of the movement and living out the vision of those pioneers celebrated this important anniversary year. On November 16, 2013, four young adults spoke their hearts and minds to a welcoming crowd of 180 Parliament supporters.
The following interview reflects the vision of Parliament intern in communications and outreach, Maryem Abdullah, a student in the Honors College at University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) and premier student leader of the UIC Model United Nations.
What do you consider to be your identity as an young adult joining the Interfaith movement?
Personally, I identify as a Muslim-American. I was born and raised in Chicago, and so the United States is all I know, and which is why I identify as such. I do hold my Arab heritage close and it will always be a part of me. While I love the fact that I am Arab, I have a hard time [personally] identifying as such because of where I grew up and what surrounded me as a child and young adult. Above all that, however, Islam is near and dear to my heart. No matter where I am, how long I’ve lived there, and with whom I surround myself, I will always have my Muslim identity.
What are some common misconceptions of young Muslim and Arab women you encounter- having grown up in the United States?
Something I face often is the misconception that all Arabs are Muslims and all Muslims are Arab. However, they are not the same or, in my opinion, even similar. Being Arab or from the Middle East is a culture and Islam is a religion. While the two can coincide, they do not have much of a relation to one another.
What is the role of religion in your life?
Having a sense of religion helps me with difficulties I face on a day-to-day basis, and I am thankful to my parents who raised me in a household that incorporated religion in most aspects of my life. While I will be the first to admit that I am no model Muslim, my relationship with the God I believe in is the most important thing to me. I don’t think that the black and white version of a faith is what defines a person—their spirituality and connection with their God is what matters. It is a shame that these misconceptions and prejudices leads people to commit hateful crimes against those who look, speak, or dress a certain way. While it saddens me to see such hate in the world, it lifts my spirits to know that the interfaith movement is widespread and that there is hope to end hate and intolerance.
How does being both Muslim and American inform your perspective of the Interfaith movement?
I think the combination of being American and Muslim has helped me become more optimistic about the interfaith movement. I think the interfaith movement will have more of an impact because this generation is more inclusive. Generations only become more tolerant, so it fosters a positive place for the coming together of various faiths, religions, and cultures. In my opinion, we are less clingy to traditional views, and more open to new people, traditions, and ideas. I believe the younger generation sees the world through a different lens than those who raised us. Our previous generation paved the pathway for change, and with the current generation’s open-mindedness, I think greatness can happen.
What evidence of change and greatness do you see happening?
I have my mother to largely thank for my understanding of how much a group of people can impact a community. She was one of the five founding partners of an all female Muslim law firm. At the time I was in 9th grade and I couldn’t care less about anyone’s accomplishments but mine, but now that I’m older and my professional dreams have evolved from an actress to a lawyer, I have come to realize and appreciate all that she has done to further the tolerance of the Muslim community, and for women around the world.
What is your hope for the future of the interfaith movement?
As a member of a generation that is incredibly open and honest, I am happy to see a strong stance against hate and intolerance.
Who embodies the hope of a stronger interfaith movement to you?
I think Malala Yousafzai, a 15-year-old who stood up for the educational rights of women and was consequently shot by the Taliban, is an amazing example of sticking up for what you believe in, despite the hurdles that may come your way. Malala, along with countless other young women working towards common goals, teaches us what we’re up against- and how strong we can be if we come together for a common cause. We have a long way to go with countless bumps ahead of us, but I’m confident that the interfaith movement will lead to a hate-free and more tolerant world.
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The Women’s Task Force of CPWR will partner with Women of Spirit and Faith and numerous other faith and interfaith organizations to host a dynamic event this fall. Alchemy: Occupy Your Sacred Self will bring together 240 women November 7-10 at the San Francisco Bay Sofitel. This intergenerational gathering of women from all spiritual and faith perspectives will explore the intersection of women’s transformative leadership and authentic feminine spirituality.
“Alchemy is rooted in a process of listening deeply to women for the past three years , “ says Kathe Schaaf, a co-founder of Women of Spirit and Faith and a member of the Women’s Task Force. “We’ve learned so much about what women are longing for, about the passions that guide their service to something larger than themselves. We’re excited about the potential synergy of bringing this remarkable community together to connect, co-create and cross-pollinate.”
Alchemy will offer a unique opportunity for women to both nourish their personal spiritual connections and explore emerging issues at the heart of faith and feminism. Multiple partner organizations will also be invited to explore the potent opportunities as they move beyond networking to collective transformative impact.
“By partnering with Women of Spirit and Faith for this exciting gathering, the Women’s Task Force continues its commitment to new models of mutual support and accomplishment,” said Phyllis Curott. “This kind of collaborative relationship expands organizational resources and impact and generates an inspiring spirit. These were among the wisdom gifts we received at our inaugural event in 2012, attended by over 500 people because of the generous sponsorship of University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Chapel and its Dean, Dr. Elizabeth Davenport, and we are delighted to have yet another opportunity to serve the community that is growing at the nexus of women and interfaith work.”
The innovative design for Alchemy grows from commitment to shared leadership and a profound belief that every woman in the room is equally valued as a leader. Rather than the usual conference structure built around keynote speakers and panels of experts, Alchemy will unfold through a series of circle dialogues designed to invite, harvest and illuminate the wisdom emerging in the room. These generative conversations will be interspersed with breakout sessions and open space designed to invite women to “occupy their sacred selves” – through movement, music, poetry, journaling, meditation, nature walks, rituals and focused discussions on topics of interest to the group.
Like the first Alchemy gathering held in April 2011, this event will actively invite the participation and nurture the leadership of young women leaders. Special events, activities and focused conversations will offer young women an opportunity to explore the issues that matter to them.
Women of Spirit and Faith was born at the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne. Over the past three years, the organization has been working to support and nurture women’s spiritual leadership in North America. They have convened a number of retreats and gatherings bringing together women from diverse faith traditions and have expanded the interfaith invitation to include women who are spiritual but not religions, a fast-growing demographic often identified in the media as ‘unaffiliated’ or ‘the Nones’. The co-founders of Women of Spirit and Faith also edited an anthology of women’s spiritual wisdom, Women, Spirituality and Transformative Leadership: Where Grace Meets Power published by SkyLight Paths. The book, which features reflections from more than 30 women including CPWR Vice-Chair Phyllis Curott, was honored as one of the Top Ten Religion/ Spirituality books of 2012 by the American Library Association.
Anne Benvenuti, a Trustee of CPWR says, “’If women ran the world, what would it be like?’ a wondering, a longing, a frustration that I have often heard. There is a challenge in it, too. A challenge to move beyond feelings of exclusion and frustration with obstacles, a challenge to be the change we want to see in the world. Can women claim power and voice while being true to their religious and spiritual paths? Yes! Can they find their voices as women, and not just imitate men in order to break into the circles of power? Yes! Women of Spirit and Faith doesn’t just talk about women’s voices, but is a place for women’s voices, for expression of the deepest spiritual longings of women’s hearts, and for the transformation of those longings into creative action. The Women’s Task Force of the Parliament is delighted to join in the journey of Alchemy with Women of Spirit and Faith. “
To learn more about Alchemy: Occupy Your Sacred Self and to register, visit www.womenofspiritandfaith.org/alchemy .
A true friend of the Parliament and a member of the International Advisory Committee, a profound humanitarian, philanthropist, and legendry Mahendrabhai Gafurchand Mehta passed away on Monday August 26, 2013, in Mumbai, India. He is survived by his wife Ashaben Mehta, sons Rajiv and Sanjiv, and their families.
Mahendra Mehta was born in Antwerp, Belgium, in 1933. He was a diamond and jewelry businessman who inherited the seeds of compassion from his mother who had encouraged him to give his first earnings to the less fortunate. The majority of his time was devoted to humanitarian work. Asha Mehta, his wife, a deeply religious person by nature, brought the feeling of warmth and compassion to their humanitarian work. She worked side-by-side with Mahendra Mehta on all welfare projects.
Besides being engaged in several charitable projects, he was very interested in world peace through interfaith programs. The legacy of the First Parliament of 1893 had made a deep impression on him. He appreciated the visionary work of Swami Vivekananda and Virchand Raghvjee Gandhi in bringing the teachings of Hinduism and Jainism to the west for the first time. He also felt that the Parliament is the most important organization to promote the world peace and harmony in this terror stricken world. He felt that India, a home of four major world’s religions should also host a future Parliament. He made several trips to Chicago to make his case.
Under his leadership, India for the first time took part in the bidding process in May 2006 in collaboration with the World Jain Confederation, Mumbai. He brought leaders from various religions practiced in India to come together and make the proposal for hosting the 2009 Parliament in New Delhi, India. However, Melbourne was awarded the Parliament, the third city in the proposals being Singapore.
Mahendarabhai along with his wife Ashaben made their vision of establishing the art of paintings as a powerful media to enhance the cause of the world peace by showcasing the Jain Sacred Art Exhibit at 2009 Parliament of World’s Religion held in Melbourne Australia. The exhibition of 38 rare painting from India was personally funded by the Mehta family. It became one of the most visited displays at the six day Parliament. His exemplary work came to international attention and earned him an important seat on the International Advisory Committee for the furtherance of interreligious harmony around the world.
Mahendrabhai was so impressed with the Parliament’s work that he wanted to see the Parliament open an office in India for interfaith activities in the eastern hemisphere. He offered office space and the use of his staff until the Parliament office would become self-supportive in India.
Mahendrabhai formed Ratna Niddhi Charitable trust (www.rnct.org) about 25 years ago from his own family funds which helped the drought hit population of rural Gujarat at that time, especially the children with food and blankets to help them survive a severe winter.
He set up an NGO Project ‘Mainstream’ in the 1990s, whose objective was to empower children to use their own potential and take charge of their own lives. It focused mainly on deserted street children. The unique feature of this project was the “night squad” – a duo made up of a social worker and trained street child who would visit the street children “hangouts” where they stay at night under the bridges and on streets. They would meet these children, find their needs and refer them to various government and NGO to fulfill their needs. Till this date, under guidance of Mr. Mehta, the Project Mainstream has touched the lives of over 55,000 children. They have either settled into businesses of their choice or have been meaningfully employed.
An ongoing food Program set up by Mahendra Mehta in Mumbai feeds over 6000 children daily through networking with other NGOs. Daily free meals to the school-attending children foster education and reduce the drop out rate in their schools
During the disastrous earthquakes in Gujarat he worked with many government agencies and through his Ratna Niddhi Trust provided necessities to the victims within days of the disasters. Under his leadership an orphanage for girls was completed along with a series of 145 primary classrooms in 42 schools spread over 40 villages.
The Mobility projects in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Honduras, Columbia, Afghanistan, Myanmar and several African countries through his Ratna Nidhi Charitable Trust have made more than 150,000 physically challenged persons lead a near normal life through fitting of the Jaipur foot artificial limbs for amputees and calipers for the polio affected. They have distributed thousands of tricycles, wheelchairs, crutches and walkers to the handicapped. They have also conducted audio tests and distributed hearing aids to the needy school children.
Mahendra Mehta was instrumental in changing the lives of cleft lip children. He set up several camps for surgeries of cleft lips and palettes to help overcome hundreds of children’s miseries. Additionally, a mobile hospital provides facilities to children and persons living in remote areas of India where no regular health facilities are available. He also arranged for several eye camps in African countries to perform over 1,000 surgeries.
Under the Garments project, Mr. Mehta has distributed over 4,000,000 garments and blankets to the most needy children and elders. Mumbai is well known for its heavy downpours and the worst sufferers are poor people who cannot afford several essential items. Nearly 20,000 raincoats were distributed to children during 2003, about 3 weeks prior to the monsoon.
Mahendra Mehta has been honored for humanitarian work with several awards including the prestigious Humanitarian Rose Award given by the late Princess Diana’s Trust at the Kensington Palace, London; Cardinal Health Award of World of Children in the USA; Humanitarian Award by the Federation of Jain Associations in North America; Award of Excellence by the International Jain Sangh; John Connor Award for Humanitarian Work by Operation Smile, USA; and an Award for Humanitarian Projects Worldwide by the Rubin Museum of Art, New York.
A community prayer meeting was held on Wednesday, August 28, 2013, at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Chowpatty, Mumbai, in his honor.
The sympathy of the Parliament accompanies this tribute from CPWR Board Trustee Kirit Daftary.
On the 25th anniversary of the North American Interfaith Network (NAIN), more than 150 friends came together in Toronto over August 11 through 14 to convene the annual Connect conference. Leaders of religious, faith, and spiritual communities from across the continent gathered for workshops, plenaries and inspirational tours of sacred sites to learn and celebrate interfaith relationships some regarded “like family.”
The 25-year-old network currently led by Rob Hankinson of Edmonton, CA, energized participants across programs themed “In Diversity Is Our Strength.” The message was enhanced with a plenary on best practices gleaned from Canada’s legal history of human rights, a gripping panel delving into the importance of understanding diverse traditions within the indigenous communities, and the overarching agenda of most workshops focusing on cross-community development for all participating interfaith institutions. Youth engagement commanded a broad interest over the days of reflecting on what new talents come into the movement with several next generation of interfaith leaders in attendance.
Reconnecting to some of the first and brightest leaders on the North American Interfaith scene, the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions attendees Chair Imam Dr. Abdul Malik Mujahid, Senior Ambassador for Sacred Spaces Suzanne Morgan, and CPWR Staff Molly Horan were greeted by this spirit of partnership and collaboration. The Parliament was also represented by some of NAIN’s longest advocates including CPWR Board Chair Emeritus Bob Thompson, Ambassador Advisory Committee persons Kay Lindahl and Paul Eppinger, Parliament Ambassadors Sande Hart and Simran Jeet Singh, and past CPWR staff Ruth Broyde Sharone, each leading regional interfaith efforts.
As the legacy of NAIN leaders were heard over video and live speeches, one by former NAIN Chair Kay Lindahl reminded that interfaith is rooted in the beauty of conversation, relationship, and collective action in an original poem in tribute to NAIN penned by Lindahl’s husband, Frank Hotchkiss.
NAIN’s next annual conference will be held in Detroit in 2014 with interim fundraising efforts working to increase youth scholarships. A goal of $25,000 over the 25th year was announced and kick-started with a generous $2,000 donation from the global action network, United Religions Initiative.
“Gathered As One” was graciously shared with CPWR for publication.
GATHERED AS ONE
We, gathered as one,
Here, now, in this place,
Seeking a holy harmony,
Can we let these walls recede,
Dissolve, and be replaced
By visions of historic landscapes -
Where tribes of peoples long ago
Created stories, rituals and beliefs
That now form our differing faiths -
Those landscapes of earliest times:
Mighty rivers, plains, mountain valleys,
Desert oases, steep cliffs, shores by the sea,
Great forests; all visible
In a swirl of differing colors
With differing sounds and song?
Then, can we envision differing structures
Made to honor Gods or God:
Rings of stone, great mounds, kivas,
Pyramids, stone sundials in stone cities
High in the clouds, fine temples,
Great cathedrals, all of diverse design
In differing lands, with differing chants
And differing songs of worship?
Let these also recede, dissolve –
All the magnificence
Created over many centuries,
And now return to a vast
Far-reaching, interweaving expanse
Of those early native landscapes
All the people of our global family
Marching from the four directions,
As we create, here, now,
A new magic space for all who seek
To heal and be strong stewards
For our global home,
all who seek peace,
Who know of the transformative power
Of love and of those mysterious,
Blessed, spiritual connections
With the sacred.
Frank Hotchkiss 8/8/13 firstname.lastname@example.org
With sadness the Parliament of the World’s Religions shares a heartfelt reflection on the sudden July 4 passing of South Africa’s Father John Oliver, who founded the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative in South Africa. The organization built out of the 1999 Parliament remains the heart of interfaith in the city so many cherish for its legacy of interfaith triumph.
Chair Gordon Oliver says the loss of the city’s “interfaith guru” leaves a gaping hole in the entire community. Remembered for a smile CPWR Chair Emeritus Jim Kenney will never forget, Father John Oliver’s relationship to the Parliament inspired a complete trust so persuasive, it would be his influence in securing District Six the site of a Parliament staged to celebrate Interfaith’s greatest success at the turn of a millennium.
Kenney, “Fr. John was one of my closest colleagues and very best friends during the three years that my wife, Cetta, and I spent in Cape Town, Jo-burg, and Durban, planning the 1999 Parliament of the World’s Religions. John was an “early adopter” of the philosophy/theology of pluralism. He was brilliant, compassionate, and so very well versed in the religions of the world, and the religions of southern Africa. He was a passionate advocate, often against the will of his own Archdiocese, of African Traditional Religion.”
This marriage to the Parliament thrived over a decade and a half. Only weeks before his passing, Father Oliver delighted CPWR’s Ambassador Advisory Committee through an applying to become an Ambassador of the Parliament, renewing a long-term commitment to keep CPWR alive in South Africa.
Under a year ago, the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative hosted CPWR Trustee Emeritus Yogacharya Ellen Grace O’Brian. Her words describe a man whose name will become synonymous with Interfaith in the movement.
Fr. John Oliver was a passionate man—on fire for truth, justice and real peace. He dedicated his life to those efforts as an Anglican priest and tireless supporter of interreligious harmony. Last fall, as a representative of CPWR, I visited the offices of the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative and had the privilege of spending time with him, his colleagues in interfaith work, and his beloved family. I came away transformed by his presence. He was tireless in his work for peace and relentless in his deep soul-search for truth, which included the willingness to explore beyond the boundaries of his own tradition. He was profoundly interested in the inter-spiritual dimension of interfaith work. He yearned to go beyond interfaith dialog to discover an even deeper place to connect to others. He loved South Africa and the community he served at St. Mark’s in District Six. When I asked him if he would come to the US, he replied, “Why would I do that?” The heart and soul of South Africa spoke deeply to him. His life and legacy speaks deeply to us about many important things, not the least of which is what becomes possible when a person catches an interfaith vision for peace and has the courage to pursue it.
Further accomplishments of the recently retired champion include his work as the primary organizer to bring Cape Town into the worldwide network of Compassionate Cities through the Charter for Compassion.
The Parliament of the World’s Religions shares our love and support to the city of Cape Town and the wider Western Cape, the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative, with prayers for the countless friends mourning Father Oliver. Official memorial action in honor of his achievements and gifts to the Parliament will be undertaken by our full board and emeriti in the coming months.
Join us for a Webinar on August 7
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When a comment becomes dangerous, Interfaith activists must respond.From closed groups to public forums, the power of the social internet is feeding a new kind of potentially fatal disease, Viral Hate. From behind screens, social media users are becoming complacent to hate-borne comments and those who are posting them lack concern for the real life repercussions. It is not only, as Abraham H. Foxman and Christopher Wolf explore in their book Viral Hate, the fact that “words of hate can easily turn into acts of hate” but that internet users frighteningly consider hate a natural biproduct of the immense internet sphere. Join the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions in discussion with co-author Christopher Wolf on how these assaults on human dignity cannot simply be censored by law but need, and are in fact an obligation of, companies, internet users themselves and society to counteract this viral problem.
You will learn the state of hate on the internet now, how it affects us all, and how to effectively respond.
Christopher Wolf is widely recognized as one of the leading American practitioners in the fields of privacy and Internet law and serves as the director of Hogan Lovells LLP’s Privacy and Information Management practice. He is the national chair of the ADL Civil Rights Committee as well as the founder and co-chair of the Future of Privacy Forum think tank.
Title: Learning To Stop Viral Hate: The Social Internet and the Interfaith Response
Date: Wednesday, August 7, 2013Time:1:00 PM – 2:00 PM CDT
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One year after a hate-motivated gun massacre August 5, 2012, at the Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, WI., took the lives of six and critically wounded four more, a profound faith is working in mysterious ways. Devastating is a word falling short to fully describe that assault on the dignity of life. Through heartache and victimization of the worst kind, the Sikh community survives, heals, and empathizes with unity through their sacred practice of Chardhi Khala, maintaining eternal optimism no matter what strikes. In that spirit, the community invites all to act on their solidarity and join a 6k walk and run on August 3, 2013, to practice Chardhi Kala in memorial.
Trying to grasp this in text might be difficult. This isn’t easy either, but important, to honor those lost and those still healing, to watch the short film “One Year Later” and understand the social consequences when hate running rampant meets a violence-plagued country. Join the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions in identifying what interfaith can do to empower us all to transform hate into loving neighborly relationships From online to on the ground: Chicago, Long Island, New York, and soon to this very gurdwara.
In honor of the six lives lost on August 5, 2012, and the millions of “others” who died for their differences.