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Archive for the ‘Mission’ Category

Parliament Ambassador Launches Spirituality and Medicine Interest Group at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine

During my first few months in medical school, I noticed that religion was rarely discussed. As a Theology minor in college, I knew that religion was an important part of life for many Americans; indeed, nearly 9 in 10 Americans report a belief in some divine or spiritual power, and several studies have shown that organized faith communities can play important roles in promoting healthy behaviors. Topics related to spirituality and religious beliefs arose during the Healthcare Disparities course, but the discussions were only tangential. I had a feeling that students felt uncomfortable discussing such personal topics in the academic setting.

For this reason, I proposed a new student organization for the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago: the Spirituality and Medicine (SAM) Interest Group. This group aims to create a safe space for discussion of how spirituality/religion affect healthcare. I thought that this idea fit in perfectly with Pritzker’s commitment to all forms of diversity. Last month, SAM was approved for funding by the Dean’s Council, and I was awarded Germanacos Fellowship, a $5000 grant to develop a medical discussion series focused on the intersections between spirituality/religion and medicine. These seminars will be partially based on a well-known religious literacy curriculum for healthcare workers developed by the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding. The Germanacos Fellowship was awarded by the Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago-based nonprofit that aims to make interfaith cooperation a social norm in the United States by promoting inter-religious dialogue and community service.

I am interested in the intersections between spirituality and healthcare because my own religious beliefs inform my choice of career. My passion for medicine stems from a declaration in Islam and various other traditions that saving one person’s life is equivalent to saving all of mankind. Through my work with the Interfaith Youth Core during my undergraduate years at Georgetown University and as an Ambassador for the Parliament of the World’s Religions, I have come to realize that religious communities—like all social structures—can be divisive or, when harnessed correctly, can be powerful catalysts for social improvement. Fortunately, the medical field is especially conducive to interfaith engagement because the concepts of service and human dignity are always implicit. In addition, physicians are one of the most religiously-diverse populations in the United States, and providers are increasingly recognizing the importance of religious literacy in medical education.

Over the next several months, I hope to introduce other students to religious diversity in the healthcare world, and to provide opportunities for my classmates to reflect on their personal motivations and values (whether or not those they come from a religious background) for pursuing medicine. I also look forward to finding connections between existing student organizations and facilitating dialogues on important topics such as mental health, reproductive health, and organ donation.

While becoming a physician, I also want to be at the forefront of the interfaith movement’s expansion into the healthcare world. I would be interested in collaborating with similar proposals that bridge the areas of religion and medicine, and presenting our work at the upcoming Parliament of the World’s Religions in 2015. I intend to demonstrate that religion and science can work together rather than in opposition. I am guided by one of my favorite verses from the Quran: “Had God willed, He would have made mankind as a single religion [or community], but [He intended] to test you in what He has given you; so strive with each other for virtue (5:48).

Aamir Hussain is a first-year medical student at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. . A recent graduate of Georgetown University, Aamir became an interfaith programs facilitator through leadership training introduced by the Interfaith Youth Core and now serves as an Ambassador of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. 

Connect with Aamir on Twitter at @AamirNHussain and stay up to date on his blog on the Huffington Post.

Compassion Week Cultivates Empathy and Compassion in All Areas of Life


Compassion Week is a joint initiative of the Tenzin Gyatso Institute, Stanford University’s CCARE, The Charter for Compassion, and Dignity Health, and it coming to San Francisco in a few weeks time. It will include 5 days of events featuring conferences on The Science of Compassion and Compassion and Healthcare, and will a feature an all day event highlighting The Charter for Compassion.

Compassion Week brings together doctors, civic leaders, scholars, mindfulness practitioners, and society at large to address how holistically and economically practical an investment practicing compassion can be in all institutions and areas of living.

Speakers include: Arturo Bejar, lead engineer at Facebook, The Honorable Mayor Greg Fischer, Louisville, KY and other Mayors, Dr. Dan Siegel, Dr. Rick Hanson, Julia Kim, M.D., Karen Armstrong, Dr. Paul Gilbert, Michael Imperioli, Dr. Paul Ekman, Angelica Berrie, Tom William, Esq, Dr. Eve Ekman, Dr. Yotam Heineberg.

The Parliament of World Religions is a proud Sponsoring Partner of  Compassion Week.

Empathy and Compassion in Society is a forum for anyone wishing to explore what compassion is, how to cultivate and enhance it, and what benefits it can bring to individuals, and modern society as a whole.

The conference will present well researched methods for cultivating empathy and compassion, show the benefits these methods have to enhance ones personal and professional life, and share concrete examples of organizations and public institutions that have effectively employed them.

Internationally renowned neuroscientists, psychologists, decision-makers, leaders and researchers will share their insights, methodology, and benefits observed from cultivating compassion. Innovators are also invited to submit case studies demonstrating how the implementation of a focus on compassion has been a force for change in their area of work.

Highlights this year include talks, Q&A, workshops, networking and panel discussions with Karen Armstrong, Dr Dan Siegel, Dr Paul Ekman, Arturo Bejar, Michael Imperioli, Dr Julia Kim, mayors who are leading the way with ‘Compassionate Cities’ initiatives, and other innovators in the field.

The conference is aimed at professionals from all walks of life, including management, policy, law, health and social care, business, the arts and philanthropy.

Empathy and Compassion in Society is a non-profit event sponsored by a partnership of charities. A free youth gathering for schools will take place November 12th, the day preceding the opening of the conference.

Learn more about Compassion Week or click here to register!

 

October 23rd, 2014 at 9:36 am

Peacefully Resolving Conflicts, Thinking Creatively of Non-Violent Options

Rev. Robert V. Thompson, Former 
Chair of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, considers alternative methods of bringing about peace using creative thinking and being attentive to conflicts at their earliest stages.

This op-ed was originally published in Chicago Tribune on December 5, 2001 

Because we Americans are suckers for the quick fix we want to believe the war on terrorism will be won through military action, improved intelligence, stemming the flow of terrorist money and stepped-up national security.

While most of us believe these policies will solve the problem, many of us are plagued by a palpable uneasiness and persistent ambivalence. We are, after all, an intensely empathic people. We care very much about the plight of the Afghan people and it is not OK with us that one more time, innocent people are being offered as a sacrifice on the altar of a just cause. Equally unsettling is the gnawing awareness that terrorism is the face rather than the heart of the problem. If we destroy terrorists in Afghanistan, where do we go next? Is it back to Iraq or on to Indonesia? And it is common knowledge that our war in Afghanistan will likely create hundreds or perhaps thousands of new terrorists. Where will it end?

Bill Ury, author of “The Third Side,” has extensive experience in creative non-violent conflict resolution. Ury says terrorism, for that matter any form of violence, is comparable to a virus. He says terrorism, like a virus, lies sleeping, spreads throughout the body and attacks, as if from out of nowhere. It flourishes when the world’s immune system is weak.

I asked Ury what might have been different had we had a strong global immune system prior to Sept. 11. He said, “Witnesses might have informed us of the terrorists’ plans. Peacekeepers the world over might have frustrated the terrorists and taken them into custody. Healers would have been healing the wounds of the Islamic world. Mediators would have been working hard to resolve the obvious conflicts like that of Israel-Palestine. Teachers would have been at work teaching other ways of dealing with differences and about the tragic futility of violence. Providers would have been addressing the conditions of poverty and oppression that often breed terrorism. Bridge-builders would have been building bridges between the Islamic and Western world. Arbiters, equalizers, referees would all have been at work.”

peaceful resolution

Every person has a role to play in strengthening the global immune system. Every human being can become a peace keeper, healer, mediator and teacher of non-violent conflict resolution. We can do this in our homes, schools, neighborhoods, religious communities, nation, and around the world. This is an infinitely greater challenge than flying a flag or singing the national anthem on key. We are now being called to this greater patriotism. One like that envisioned by Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “No nation can live alone . . . we are tied together in a single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.”

This wisdom, this greater patriotism is the awareness that a healed and renewed America cannot exist apart from a healed and renewed world. And history has taught us that if the people will lead, the leaders will follow. 

Copyright © 2001, Chicago Tribune

 

Robert Thompson Rev. Robert V. Thompson – Parliament Chair Emeritus. A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Bob Thompson graduated from Berkeley Baptist Divinity School (Graduate Theological Union) and was ordained an American Baptist minister in 1973. He served American Baptist Churches in Kansas, Ohio, and for 30 years, as Senior Minister of the Lake Street Church in Evanston, Illinois. During the 1980′s Thompson became an activist pastor focusing on issues such as homelessness, racial reconciliation and advocacy for LGBT rights. He is the author of A Voluptuous God: A Christian Heretic Speaks (CopperHouse, 2007) and a contributor to the book for preachers, Feasting On the Word, Westminster John Knox Press.

THE 2015 PARLIAMENT OF THE WORLD’S RELIGIONS WILL BE IN SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH IN OCTOBER 2015

THE 2015 PARLIAMENT WILL BE IN SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH IN OCTOBER 2015

Salt Lake City, USA – Sept 9, 2014 – The Parliament of the World’s Religions announced today that it will bring the world’s largest and most historic interfaith gathering to Salt Lake City in October 2015, marking its return to the United States for the first time in 22 years.

What: 10,000 attendees from 80 countries and 50 religious and spiritual traditions

When: October 15 – 19, 2015

Where: Salt Palace Convention Center, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

“The Parliament is the largest summit of interfaith activists around the globe which provides listening, learning and sharing opportunities,” says Imam Malik Mujahid, Chair of the Parliament Board of Trustees.

Imam Mujahid further stated that, “at this juncture in human history when hate, fear and anger is rising in America and across the globe, It is important that faith communities, rise with a loving, caring relationships, even if we do not agree on some issues.”

Global Interfaith Leaders Joined Us in Sharing Today’s Momentous News

Dr. Arun Gandhi, Grandson of Mohandas Gandhi and Parliament Trustee

Recalling the vision of his grandfather said, “’A friendly study,’ Gandhi believed,’ of all the scriptures is the sacred duty of every individual.’ He made the friendly study and found that none of the religions of the world had the whole Truth. The Truth can only be realized when one has an open mind and a willingness to learn from all different religions the bits of Truth they have. This essentially is what the Parliament is encouraging on a mass scale.”

 

Creating Compassion with the Parliament 

Andrew Himes, Executive Director of the Charter for Compassion

In his comments today, Andrew Himes, Executive Director of the Charter for Compassion, highlights that “The Charter for Compassion, a vision of Karen Armstrong when she accepted the TED Prize in 2008, has today inspired a global compassion movement aimed at focusing the world’s attention on how to bring the principle of the Golden Rule to life in concrete, practical, measurable ways in our communities, institutions, and relationships worldwide. A central thought motivating the Charter from the beginning was that communities of faith can play a significant leadership role in creating a thriving, sustainable, peaceful world. Today, we join with our friends and partners in the Parliament of the World’s Religions in calling for a gathering of people from many different religions to declare that compassion is at the center of our common dream for a world of peace and justice.”

Connecting Our Interfaith Communities

Chair of the North American Region of the United Religions Initiative Sande Hart

Chair of the North American Region of the United Religions Initiative Sande Hart says her experiences serving as an Ambassador to the Melbourne Parliament were invigorating to her leadership in multiple peace initiatives. Envisioning the 2015 Parliament summit today, Hart drew upon the shared values linking those across the interfaith communities, stating, “Today more than ever, it is critical that we know one another and come together, united shoulder to shoulder to heal all that threatens justice, our homes, our communities, our countries, Earth and all living beings.”

A Warm Welcoming from Salt Lake City 

Scott Beck, President and CEO of Visit Salt Lake 

The opportunity to host the world’s faiths in Salt Lake is a prospect Scott Beck, President and CEO of Visit Salt Lake, says he is glad to support. “The world is no stranger to Salt Lake, and we are no stranger to the world. Salt Lake has hosted various international gatherings, including the 2002 Olympic Games and Rotary International. We are excited to again welcome a national and international audience to experience what Salt Lake has to offer, both physically and spiritually,” said Beck.

“Here, Parliament attendees will find a welcoming and religiously diverse community. And they may just feel a little bit at home as they explore a region where more than 100 languages are spoken in our schools and businesses.”

Previous Parliament guests have included the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, President Jimmy Carter, Nobel Peace Prize Winner Dr. Shirin Ebadi, Queen Noor of Jordan, Dr. Jane Goodall, Dr. Karen Armstrong, Swami Vivekananda, Rabbi David Saperstein, Dr. Hans Kung, Deepak Chopra, and Amma the Hugging Saint.

Learn more about the 2015 Parliament here.

Register Now for Super Saver Rates with 60 Percent Savings for all and 70 Percent Savings for Students!

 

The World of Interfaith, Parliament 2015 Coming to America

The Parliament Board voted to hold the next Parliament of the World’s Religions in the United States in 2015. Dates and city will be announced shortly.

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.

Open Short Questionnaire…

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…

Parliament Leaders Address Cities Interested to Host 2017 Parliament Event

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 stephen@parliamentofreligions.org

Imam Mujahid Congratulates Rabbi Saperstein

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, preaches at a Washington, D.C., service in 2002. He says the Ten Commandments continue to be featured artistically in synagogues. Photo courtesy of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

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.

 

 

 

Remembering Margot Adler: a Loving Tribute by Parliament Trustee Phyllis Curott

Wiccan Priestess, NPR Journalist and Author Dies at 68 

Pagan Elders (l – r): Dennis Carpenter ,Selena Fox, Raymond Buckland, Margot Adler, Phyllis Curott, Andras Corban-Arthen

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.

With gratitude,

Phyllis Curott,

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

Children of Orange County, California participate in the First Drops program, the first of its kind in California created by Parliament Ambassador Farrah Khan after her son posed questions about other faiths.

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.

As the World Prays for Peace, Milwaukee Interfaith Clergy Offer Strong Spiritual Leadership

Widely shared image of two boys united by interfaith harmony and friendship symbolizing a groundswell cry for peace as violence and war batter the Gaza strip in July 2014.

Originally appeared in Milwaukee Journal Sentinal July 17, 2014, as reported by Annysa Johnson. 

More than 100 faithful from a variety of religious traditions gathered at Milwaukee’s All Saints Cathedral on Wednesday to pray for peace in the Middle East, a response to the escalating hostilities in Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

“Worshippers sang “Donna Nobis Pacem,” or “Grant us Peace” in Latin, Hebrew and Arabic. And Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Unitarian clergy offered their prayers and insights into what it means to work for and live in peace.

“It was very touching and profound,” said an emotional Mary Kelly of Milwaukee, who is Catholic. “There is just such a feeling of helplessness,” around the issues in the Middle East, she said.

“We have such a long way to go — in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Milwaukee. I’m just happy that this congregation saw the need to pull us all together.

The service was organized by the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, which works to find common ground among religious traditions. Like other flashpoints in the Middle East, the Gaza crisis has heightened tensions in Milwaukee’s Jewish and Muslim communities, which tend to view the conflict from different perspectives.

Here are excerpts from the prayers offered Wednesday, in the order they were spoken:

The Very Rev. Kevin Carroll, dean of All Saints Cathedral: “We can pray for peace in far off lands. But our prayers will ring hollow if we ourselves fail to model what peace looks like — in our homes, in our families, in our relationships and in our communities. …Peace starts with prayer. But it also starts right here, right now, with all of us sitting in this room.

Auxiliary Bishop Donald Hying, Archdiocese of Milwaukee: Loving and peaceful God, help us to see ourselves and each other as you see us, beautiful; created in your image; open to love; hearts that are made for peace and good will, sacrifice and generosity. … Help us to love as you love, to forgive as you forgive, to be an extension of your mercy and your peace in this world, and to be signs of your kingdom in our midst.

The Rev. Craig M. Howard, Presbytery of Milwaukee: Deliver us from the hardness of heart that keeps us locked in violent confrontation with one another. Give to us your spirit of love so that we may show compassion. Teach us to walk in humility so we might live in peace with our sisters and brothers. And most of all, God, change our hearts.

Zulfiqar Ali ShahIslamic Society of Milwaukee: Almighty God …we are ruthlessly subjugating, terrorizing and killing each other based upon narrow identities. Guide us to stop this needless violence, terror, aggression, cold blooded murders and destruction. … We beseech you to bring an end to this needless bloodbath and wanton destruction.

Rabbi Ronald Shapiro, Congregation Shalom: Teach us to work for the welfare of all people, to diminish the evil and pains that beset us. And to enlarge those virtues we know will bring dignity and peace to all the peoples of the earth. So bless our striving to make real the dream of peace among all humankind. May we put an end to the suffering we inflict upon one another and cherish the dignity of the soul that abides in each human being.

The Rev. Linda HansenUnitarian Universalists: We pray for the power to see that we are all connected … and that we ultimately help or harm ourselves in helping or harming one another. Out of this vision, may we have the will and the courage to work for a just and peaceful world in which every individual is treated with dignity.

The Rev. Stephen J. PolsterWisconsin Conference United Methodist Church: And so we pray as we gather here … that you will strengthen our resolve to give witness to the truths by the way we live. Give to us understanding that puts an end to strife, mercy that quenches hatred, forgiveness that overcomes vengeance. Impart all of us here and everywhere to live in your law of love.

Swarnjit Aroraof the Sikh community: We are children of one God. … Then how can we say one child is better than the other child. All children in your eyes Lord are sacred. … We pray for peace in the Middle East. Oh God … Give us strength to stand up for peace and non-violence in our world. … We pray for chardi kala, the well-being of each and every human being.

The Rev. Jean Dow, pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church: Though we come from different places and express our faith in different ways, give us a common concern, that we may share our deep convictions as people of faith and continue to pray and work together side by side, hand in hand. And Let us pray without ceasing for peace first within our own minds hearts and spirits, so that each of us might also be instruments of your peace and bearers of reconciliation in this city, in our neighborhoods, in our families and in our faith communities.