Archive for the ‘Mission’ Category
Parliament Women’s Task Force Announces Tibet House Partnership Presenting Multi-Religious Speaker Series
The Parliament of the World’s Religions Women’s Task Force is excited to announce its participation in the Multi-Religious Speakers Series on the Sacred Feminine and the Vital Nexus of Religion and Women’s Issues organized in partnership with the highly esteemed Tibet House in New York City.
Program speakers featured in the series will be accessible to women around the world through the Parliament Webinar Series later in 2014.
The series will premiere with Ukranian spiritual teacher Nadia Reznikov hosting an advanced Tantric and Shamanic workshop for women at Tibet House April 4 and 11.
Nadiia Reznikova or Nabhasvati (“Shining”) is an extraordinary spiritual practitioner and teacher from the Ukraine who is making her first appearance in the United States at Tibet House. She has developed a system of tantric, shamanic, and psychotherapeutic practices for women which can produce immediate and dramatic improvements in emotional balance, joy, relationships, physical health, and inner and outer beauty. The practices are designed to naturally and powerfully elevate mood and energy state, enabling even new students to manifest desired changes within, as well as in their relationships and environment. These simple, daily practices have been proven effective tools of spiritual transformation for women of all walks of life and in all areas of life. Her shakti energy has been found to be directly transformative by many, and at the same time Nadiia teaches daily practices which may be done by students on their own.
The following is a synopsis of the Greeley lecture on peace and justice given by Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana at the Center for the Study of World Religions of Harvard University on February 3, 2014. This lecture is a precursor to SCUPE’s Congress on Urban Ministry (June 23-26, DePaul University, Chicago) which will address the theme: Together, Building a Just Economy. Rev. Dr. Premawardhana is President of the Seminary Consortium of Urban Pastoral Education (SCUPE) , and a Board Trustee of the Parliament of the World’s Religions
The unimaginable level of income inequality has become a serious public conversation and scholarly inquiry. President Obama has addressed it several times over the past couple of months, including in the recent State of the Union speech. The week before that, when some 2,500 participants from business, government, academia and civil society convened in Davos, they considered the Global Risks 2014 report which points out that this massive income gap is the risk that is most likely to cause serious damage to the global economy in the coming decade.
Immediately prior to the Davos meeting, Oxfam, the international organization that addresses issues of hunger, poverty and economic justice around the world, in its report said that the world’s richest 85 people control the same amount of wealth as half the world’s population, over 3.5 billion people. In other words, each of the wealthiest 85 has access to the same resources as do about 42 million people. These are incredible numbers. In his message, Pope Francis urged those who gathered at Davos to promote inclusive prosperity. “I ask you to ensure that humanity is served by wealth and not ruled by it,” he said.
Last November Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, or the Joy of the Gospel, where he connects evangelization with a strong critique of consumerism. In a section entitled “No to the new idolatry of money,” he points to its causality: one cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, he says, “we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The worship of the ancient golden calf,” he goes on, “has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.” Human beings are reduced to one of their needs alone, he says, and that is “consumption.”
The rise of plutocracy, where the super-rich increasingly control the political and economic processes that leave everyone else out is already a serious global problem. My concern is that in the United States we may be reaching a tipping point where laws such as Citizens United and the dismantling of the Voting Rights Act, both driven by big corporate interests, will tilt the playing field in favor of the super-rich for a long time to come. I believe that this is caused by greed, which – in both its individual and structural manifestations — is a spiritual problem.
This position was affirmed by an advisory body of the World Council of Churches, the Churches’ Commission on International Affairs (CCIA) when it met in March 2009, in Matanzas, Cuba, about six months after the global financial crisis hit. Its working group on Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation made three important affirmations.
First, they identified the cause of the crisis as unbridled greed, and declared it as a form of violence. “[T]he accumulation of wealth and the presence of poverty are not simply accidents but are often part of a strategy for some people to accumulate power and wealth at the expense of others. As such, greed is a form of violence which, on personal, community, national, regional and international levels isolates and injures us.”
In offering the provocative comment “greed is a form of violence,” the CCIA is connecting a word—violence— which it knows evokes a sense of strong condemnation, with a word that it believes is equally condemnable –greed, and advocating as robust a reflection on greed as the churches have had on violence. Indeed, churches, like other institutions caught up in systems of structural greed, find its reflection on greed muted, and its advocacy on behalf of economic justice compromised. A “greed is good” doctrine, popularized by the fictional character Gordon Gekko in the 1987 movie Wall Street, and daily and forcefully asserted by some Fox News and CNBC commentators, as well as proponents of prosperity theologies, therefore goes largely unchallenged.
While many religions address greed, it is important to recognize that today’s structural greed is almost unprecedented. A new robust and self-critical reflection that pertains to today’s realities, by all religious authorities, I suggest, is therefore urgent.
The WCC has engaged such a process over the past several years. Its program Poverty, Wealth and Ecology has engaged economists and theologians in dialogues that have now resulted in a proposal for a new financial architecture released in Sao Paulo, in October 2012. One interesting feature of this is the inclusion of a “Greed Line.” If there’s a poverty line below which a person can be said to be in poverty, there must be greed line, above which a person can be said to be greedy!
Second, they recognized greed as a spiritual problem requiring spiritual interventions. Christianity alone does not have the resources to address this problem, they said, and affirmed that religions over centuries have deeply reflected on the question of greed and have significant wisdom to offer. They specifically identified Buddhism as having a sophisticated reflection on greed and its disastrous consequences, about the value of simplicity for the lay community of disciples, and renunciation and voluntary poverty for the monastic community.
Affirming the value of having its internal reflections lead to interreligious engagement, the WCC together with the Lutheran World Federation convened a Buddhist-Christian consultation in Chiang Mai, Thailand in 2010. Buddhists from several countries and a variety of traditions engaged with Christians from a variety of traditions in a consultation entitled “Buddhists and Christians engaging structural greed.” The resulting statement, “A Buddhist-Christian Common Word on Structural Greed” has helped to move Christian and Buddhist communities to deeper common reflection and action.
Third, it identifies the need to listen to the voices of the poor. “We acknowledge that in our various positions of leadership we are not always well-placed to hear the voice of the oppressed, of indigenous people, of women, of the disabled, of refugees and displaced people, of the poor and of the most silenced among us.” We who gather around theological tables, religious leaders and scholars, because of our social standing as educated, middle class elite, do not have access to the conversations that are going on among those who are poor in our communities.
This is a difficult but critical question. Prof. Harvey Cox of Harvard University, in a 1980 Christian Century article entitled “Theology: What Is It? Who Does It? How Is It Done?” addressed this question. The elitism is understandable, says Cox, given that the minimal conditions for doing theology include the ability to read and write, familiarity with the received tradition of concepts and categories, sufficient leisure to reflect on these, and the power to get one’s ideas published or otherwise heard. Are theologians prepared to take the next step, he asks, beyond the self-critical awareness we now have, for example, of how the rhetorical conventions and cultural symbols of any period shape even its most original theology, to a recognition of how the pervasive ideology of the dominant class influences the theology it produces?
So, how do you dialogue with those who are poor? One of my mentors, Aloysius Pieris, offers us an insight from his Sri Lankan context. In Asian Theology of Liberation  he insists that an authentic Sri Lankan theology must undergo a double baptism, in the Jordan of its religious diversity, and the cross of its grinding poverty. These two axes of religious diversity and poverty are basic facts of the Sri Lankan context. Dialogue, he says, is more than an academic exercise done in religious seminars organized and financed by western agencies, by people who do not have their feet on the ground. It is not an abstract concern, but a daily existential experience; never merely an intellectual exercise, it is a moral commitment. Pieris’ analysis suggests that if we want to engage in dialogue we need to incarnate ourselves in the context. Not only does it require a double baptism of immersion, it requires us to engage core-to-core with the other religious partners.
The question, however, is even more complex. There is plenty of dialogue that goes on in poor communities. Poor Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and those of other religions often live in the same communities, share each other’s concerns and needs, and reflect with each other about their fortunes and misfortunes and the ultimate meanings of day to day events. The difficulty for us middle class theologians and dialogicians is that we have no access to that conversation. Many difficulties, including those of communication and building trust become serious obstacles when we try to listen to that dialogue.
So, is there any hope for theology or interreligious dialogue? According to Pieris, there is no alternative but to engage in voluntary poverty, which for religious people, he reminds us, is a positive value. We must struggle against forced poverty, but voluntary poverty is a spiritual calling we must embrace. Some of the greatest saints and revered gurus in religious traditions, he reminds us, were people who renounced worldly comforts and pleasures. Some entered the monastic life, others such as Gandhi, became engaged in issues of social justice.
For those of us in religious leadership or theological academia, who assumed that theology can be done in the comfort of the seminary and its library, this is a problem. Indeed, for most of us, whose perceptions are colored by the dominant economic ethos, and where the desire to reach higher in the economic ladder is the positive value, voluntary poverty does not make sense. Therefore, Pieris asserts that it is simply not possible for people with such a middle class mindset to really understand and appreciate those who are poor, and recommends that those who engage in the disciplines of theology and of interreligious dialogue undergo a conversion, and undertake the baptism of voluntary poverty themselves.
This is what SCUPE does. We put our students into the streets of the city, to its local communities, to areas of concentrated poverty, where we teach our students to listen to the questions, struggles and stories of pain and laughter. We bring those questions together, subject them to deeper analysis, and then ask what scripture and tradition have to say about these questions. Indeed, in the margins our students have seen dialogue burst into argument, controversy and creativity. There, it never stays a mere dialogue, but moves quickly to action. At the margins people are conscientized, they strategize, organize and move in to light a fire under their leaders. Indeed, when religious or political leaders do not have the courage to do the right thing, it is the organized people at the grassroots who are able to hold them accountable.
A useful hermeneutical key to this conundrum was offered in November 2013, at the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches. It’s Commission on World Mission and Evangelism issued a new statement on mission entitled Together Towards Life, which turned all previous understandings of mission on its head. “Mission from the margins invites the church to reimagine mission as a vocation from God’s Spirit who works for a world where fullness of life is available to all,” it declared. In other words, mission is not to those who are a poor as we always thought, rather, mission is from those who are poor and marginalized to those at the
This is a profound statement. Those of us at the privileged center, the theologians, the religious leaders, the pastors and teachers, the middle class elite, are the very ones that need to be missionized. It says to us powerfully that those who are hungry today have something important to teach us about economic justice, about life and its meaning, and about the importance of sharing and community. Those who are working two or three jobs at minimum wage and have kids to take care of at home also have something important to teach us about faith, because at the end of the day they still have strength left to say their evening prayers with the kids. Those who are suffering climate catastrophes, such as the recent one in the Philippines have something important to teach us about climate justice and about life’s fragility and resilience. When we are able to deeply comprehend that, we will discover that our questions are different, our answers are different, and more than anything else, our attitude towards life and our lifestyle will be different.
What happened in 2008 was a result of unbridled structural greed. It was violence that was perpetrated against massive numbers of people around the world. But the religious communities’ voice was muted. We were conflicted because we too participate in that structural greed. Given today’s context it is critical that the religious communities’ voices be powerful and resilient. But in order for that to be so, we must allow those in the margins to teach us, missionize us, and indeed, convert us.
The Rev. Dr. Shanta D. Premawardhana is President of the Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education in Chicago. Originally from Sri Lanka, he was most recently the director for the Program Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation at the World Council of Churches (WCC), a worldwide fellowship of 349 Protestant and Orthodox churches based in Geneva, Switzerland. Prior to moving to Geneva, Premawardhana served as the Associate General Secretary for Interfaith Relations at the National Council of Churches of Christ, based in New York.
 Martin Sinaga (ed.) A Common Word: Buddhists and Christians Engage Structural Greed (Lutheran University Press, 2012)
 Aloysius Pieris, Asian Theology of Liberation (T&T Clark, 1988, 86)
It is Winter; the wind howls and Mother Nature lies sleeping, deep under a blanket of snow. Bare branches, stark against the slate gray sky, crack against each other like knucklebones, and when the winds really howl they snap, hitting the snow covered ground with a hushed thump.
On the Great Wheel of the Year, this is the time of Imbolc. In the Celtic seasonal calendar, Imbolc marked the beginning of the lambing season. The ewes came into their milk and the first stirrings of Spring began.
This is the ‘quickening of the year’; there is a spark hidden below the surface, like a new pregnancy, barely perceptible and yet urgently anticipated and holding great promise. The seed stirs in the belly of the Earth.
Traditionally, Imbolc was the great festival in honor of Brigid (Brighid, Brigit, Bride), so beloved as a Pagan Goddess that her worship was woven into the Christian church and she became St. Bridget. Brigid is a Triple Goddess, of poetry, smithing, and healing arts. She is also a Goddess of fire, and of the hearth; she brings fertility to the land and its people.
Other archetypes and characters that might be honored at this time are the Cailleach, the old woman in the stone; Lucia with her crown of candles, and of course the Ground Hog, whose story bears surprising similarities to the Pagan mythologies of Kore or Persephone.
Most Pagans, the People of the Earth, are (naturally or through training) consciously attuned to and aware of the differences in the energies of the land as we move through the seasons. We find certainty in the concept of mirroring — “as above so below; as without so within.” The light, which is mature and at its full height at the Summer Solstice, is now in the belly of Mother Earth at the time of Imbolc.
The original word ‘Imbolc’ means ‘in the belly’, which aptly identifies the underlying energy of this time of year. We do not feel the same vibrant vitality and enthusiasm that we feel in June, at the time of Imbolc.
We use this Imbolc time to finish the season of spiraling inward, of reflection, and dreaming. We hold tightly to the promise of renewal, and awakening, and with the returning light we have hope.
With Imbolc we also begin to experience some sense of relief in another way. The lengthening daylight, which began at the Winter Solstice, can alleviate the struggle so many of us may have with Seasonal Affective Disorder. (S.A.D.)
Denmark, given its geographical location endures particularly long, dark winters. One would think there would be a high number of people affected with seasonal depression in that country. Interestingly, Denmark lays claim to being the happiest place on Earth.
According to Mother Nature Network, the Danish word that embodies this particular kind of happiness is ‘hygge’ (pronounced hYOOgah). Blogger Russell McLenden says, “ ‘Hygge’ may sound alien outside Denmark, but its general ethos of enduring wintry gloom with coziness and camaraderie could help raise spirits almost anywhere.”
My community embraces this concept. Through the Winter months while Persephone reigns in the Underworld, and her mother, Demeter expresses her grief through a barren landscape, we make a point of gathering together in each other’s homes, sharing food and stories, and small comforts that sooth worried hearts.
At Imbolc, we acknowledge and feel gratitude for the good fortune of having made it through the cold dark Winter — something our ancestors may not have so easily taken for granted. We feel the first stirrings and anticipate the return of Persephone, the maiden of Spring.
We weave solar wheels (Brighid’s crosses), which pre-date Christianity, and which are said to protect the house from fire. We bake; we braid bread and churn butter. We dip candles, to remind us of the fire that burns in the belly, and the spark that ignites deep in the Earth. With each dip of our new candles we are reminded that just as the snow hides the Earth, the layers of wax hide the promise of light within — within the candle and within ourselves.
We gather in a circle on a quiet hillside. Standing together on the hard packed snow we feel the quickening beneath our feet. Hand to hand, we allow the rhythm of our breath and the drumbeat of our hearts to synchronize with Her rhythm and with each other. As our flames burn bravely in their little glass jars, we experience the connection to the Earth. We are blessed by the fullness of heart and Spirit that comes from spending time on the land with loved ones, as we contemplate our own hidden fires and await the return of Spring.
We are the People of the Earth and these are the Earth Traditions.
Rev. Angie Buchanan
Rev. Angie Buchanan is a Family Tradition Pagan. She is a founder and director of Gaia’s Womb, an interfaith spirituality group for women, and Earth Traditions, a Pagan Church that also offers a Training Program for Pagan Ministry. Angie has a background in law enforcement and politics. She consults with multiple religious and interreligious groups, encouraging dialogue and understanding. She is a former instructor at Cherry Hill Seminary, having taught Introduction to Interfaith there for four years. Angie travels, speaking to groups at churches and schools about Paganism, religious freedom, the Global Ethic, the separation of church and state, and the First Amendment. She has been a presenter at a number of interfaith events, including the 2004 Parliament and the Buddhist Council of the Midwest Women’s Conference. She has worked with CPWR as a Board Member since 2002.
A unique experience for social entrepreneurs and leaders is opportune in the announcement of the fifth edition of the Ariane de Rothschild Fellowship to be held this August at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom (UK). This initiative is sponsored by the Edmond de Rothschild Foundation in New York.
Those from a Jewish and/or Muslim cultural background are encouraged to apply, though the fellowship is open to qualified candidates interested in cross-cultural dialogue from all backgrounds. Deadline for completing applications is February 9, 2014 (midnight, CET).
To apply, click here.
The Board of Trustees of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions is announcing the election of all ten new trustees. Ushering a new era for the Parliament, this year’s board comprises 19 denominations of 11 global religious, faith, and spiritual traditions, constituting a more robust 27-member body.
News is spreading about the elections of returning trustee emeriti, including Dr. Kusumita Pederson who is currently co-chair of the Interfaith Center of New York, Andras Corban Arthen, founding and spiritual director of the EarthSpirit community, and Swami Varadananda of the Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago, who was among the three incorporating trustees of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.
The seven new faces on the Board are teeming with expertise, a group comprised of both elders of and dynamic up-and-comers in the Interfaith movement. These trustees are experienced leaders of religion, business, and scholarship. Get to know:
- Grandson of Mohandas Gandhi: International Peace Activist and Author Arun Gandhi. , who founded the MK Gandhi Center for Non-Violence and publishes gripping books.
- One of the first trustees to identify explicitly as a pluralist: author Tom Lemberg, a Boston-based attorney.
- Executive Director of Arizona Interfaith Movement who created the”Golden Rule” license plate Dr. Paul Eppinger.
- Veteran Leader in the World Sikh and Interfaith Community, Scientist: Dr. Manohar Singh Grewal
- Journalist, preservationist, published author, and playwright, Dr. Gianfranco Grande who serves as a Senior Vice President of Partners for Sacred Places.
- Executive minister of the American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago, a regional judicatory of the American Baptist Churches U.S.A, and the theologian-in-residence for the Community Renewal Society, a progressive, faith-based organization in Chicago that works to eliminate race and class barriers and advocates for social and economic justice, Dr. Larry Greenfield
- The Deputy Executive Director of the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia, past Parliament of the World’s Religions panelist Rev. Nicole Diroff.
As the Parliament continues to profile the newest trustees, they are taking places on newly formed standing committees for the year 2014 and busy in their personal endeavors. Just this week Arun Gandhi delivered a keynote speech on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Georgia, while Dr. Paul Eppinger was being honored by Arizona State University for his successful campaign to see Arizona declare MLK Jr. Day a state holiday in 1992.
Keep your eyes on this Class of 2016, and look for deep-reaching features with each of them in the months ahead.
The Parliament traces back its origins to the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago. It was created to cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities and foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions in order to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world.
Our society has whitewashed the civil rights leader’s life and deeds. On Monday, we should remember his dream of beloved community and his commitment to activism.
By Jay Youngdahl, President and columnist of EastBayExpress in Oakland, California. Published with permission.
On January 20, our nation will celebrate the American hero Martin Luther King Jr. Schools and post offices will be closed, giving many of us a three-day weekend — a welcome respite from our busy lives. But what will we be celebrating?
If we are to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. the man, we need a return to the real King, not to the tissue-paper-thin image of him devoid of meaning or historical accuracy. Tributes and celebrations are all too often marked by false remembrance, in which radical and transformational leaders and movements are cynically turned into bland narratives of fairness and justice. When applied to King, this process does a disservice to his work and the issues he held dear.
King was an activist and an intellectual whose courage shone during one of our nation’s most important moments. He was moved by religious faith and earthly fire. He was a believer in divine miracles and in progress through human endeavor. He was a religious figure and scholar who understood how the ills of society interconnect. He was a complicated man in a time in which the fundamental question upon which his activism began — justice for black Americans — was a simple binary. In the town where I grew up, Little Rock, Arkansas, there was one question with only two possible answers: Do you believe in segregation of the races — yes or no?
It is in King’s extraordinary writings that we can find the man today. His “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” written to a hostile white southern clergy, is a classic of American prose. It should be read by kids and adults everywhere this week. King argued for the sacredness of the inclusive “beloved community” of our human species and the importance of all of us. He stressed notions of love, power, and justice and their relationship to the nature of social existence — a message echoed in progressive strains of Buddhism and Catholicism.
It was through his conception of beloved community that King led the Civil Rights Movement, maybe the most important movement in our country’s history. In this struggle, he also inspired a generation of activists. In response to the Vietnam War, he called our government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” The elite howled and The New York Timesexcoriated him for this “reckless” connection of racism and militarism. King died in 1968 while in Memphis supporting striking sanitation workers, yet many believed his decision to link war with racism led to his murder.
The realization of beloved communities of human joy, plenty, and safety, King preached, is frustrated by three things: poverty, racism, and war. On January 20, we should remember that these three evils still exist today. Last week, the US Census Bureau reported that nearly one in three Americans experienced an episode of poverty between 2009 and 2011, a scandalous proportion. As to racism, the legacy of the death of Oscar Grant remains with us, and the educational opportunities for black Americans continue to deteriorate, as our privileged starve the public education system in the guise of standing up to teachers unions. As to war, our culture of endless conflict continues to cost us dearly in lives and money. King fretted about the diversion of resources from human improvement to war. Last year, a Harvard researcher calculated that the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will eventually hit $6 trillion.
This Martin Luther King Jr. Day also comes on the heels of the death of Nelson Mandela, another hero who is being sanitized by contemporary culture. Mandela was praised by all the world’s leaders, yet, in his struggle against apartheid in South Africa, he was no pacifist. Despite tremendous pressure, he refused to condemn the actions of apartheid’s opponents — even when those actions included violence. Yet at his funeral, world leaders tried to remake him in the image of their sanitized version of Martin Luther King. Mandela’s funeral was surreal, as he was joyfully praised by leaders of nations who had branded him a terrorist and funded the apartheid system that kept black South Africans in slave-like conditions. Luminaries such as British Prime Minister David Cameron, a supporter of apartheid in his college days, and one of our American princes of impoverishment, Texas GOP Senator Ted Cruz, made the pilgrimage.
Whitewashing the misdeeds of the elite — and the responses of historical heroes — is nothing new, of course. It’s worth revisiting Tom Paxton’s satirical ballad “What Did You Learn in School Today,” which Pete Seeger sang at a historic Carnegie Hall concert fifty years ago. Paxton’s lyrics described what kids were being taught at the time.
I learned that Washington never told a lie. I learned that soldiers seldom die. …
I learned that war is not so bad. I learned about the great ones we have had. …
I learned that policemen are my friends. I learned that justice never ends. …
I learned our government must be strong. It’s always right and never wrong. …
An understanding of history and what to honor and what to remember is not an empty intellectual enterprise. As Guardian columnist Gary Younge wrote from the Mandela funeral, “The past has a legacy and the present has consequences: our understanding of how we got here and why is crucial to our decision about where we go from here next and how.” Understanding who our heroes really were and what they actually did is, indeed, critical.
The question is not whether to praise King; the question is what we commemorate. For me, it was his commitment to direct action with his eye always on the prize of a beloved community, a place where joy and a healthy life for all can be created. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” he wrote in his Birmingham letter. This is the message to be celebrated and taught to our kids.
The registration for World Interfaith Harmony Week 2014 is on, and the winning organizer will be awarded a $25,000 prize. Why do it?
To inspire harmony across the world through any event, from a community-focused gathering, to internationally reaching campaign, with the United Nations official World Interfaith Harmony Week, February 1 – 7 2014.
Suggested Events include organized meals, seminars, meetings, workshops, film or sporting events, fairs, and more.
In Atlanta, a grassroots coalition will begin their involvement with the Parliament’s Faiths Against Hate campaign through a kick-off of a metro-wide campaign to establish Atlanta an official Compassionate City. In Halifax, a multi-day Sacred Spaces Sharing program will bring diverse faiths into each other’s houses of worship to learn about each other, and in many universities, learnings for peace through interfaith understanding will be held all over the world.
If organizing an event is out of reach, observe the week through participating and promoting interfaith harmony. Events are listed here.
The Parliament of the World’s Religions, an official member NGO of the United Nations Department of Public Information (UN-DPI), will observe World Interfaith Harmony Week, the official United Nations week held annually over February 1 – 7.
- On the local front, Parliament staff will participate the Niagara Foundation’s Chicago Interfaith Gathering over the week of February 3 – 6 in Chicago, IL, with sponsorship and attendance.
- Nationally, the Faiths Against Hate campaign of the Parliament of the World’s Religions salutes our partner, the Compassionate Atlanta movement at the inaugural Compassionate Atlanta (details below) event at the Carter Center organized in a collaboration across city sectors with leadership from Rev. Bob Thompson, a former Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.
In Georgia, Join Metro Atlanta neighbors at the Carter Center (chapel) on Sunday, February 2, 2014 from 2-5 pm for an important and engaging conversation about how we can work together to make all of Atlanta a more compassionate community. Solutions to racism, violence, hunger and other big problems begin with compassionate awareness in everyday situations — that grows into action.
Using a World Café format, (small group conversations) we will talk together about what compassion means to each of us, and what we can do to help our families, neighborhoods, schools, businesses and our city foster a compassionate heart. This event is free but our space is limited. An RSVP is required for each person attending. Go to Eventbrite (link here) to register and get your ticket. Please print and bring your ticket with you.
For more information, visit our website at www.compassionateatl.com. This global movement is rooted in the Charter for Compassion. Read it at www.charterforcompassion.org. Sponsored by the Faith Alliance of Metro Atlanta (FAMA), Interfaith Community Initiatives (ICI), Neshama Interfaith Center, and the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions (CPWR).
The Man of the Year and a Champion of Interfaith – Thoughts on Evangelii Gaudium of Pope Francis (Part II – On Interreligious Relations)
This synopsis of the Evangelii Gaudium of Pope Francis was composed by Trustee of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, Dr. Leo D. Lefebure. Part 1 (full paper publication) emphasizes the mission of the Catholic Church in the world, and Lefebure explores Pope Francis’ stance on Interreligious Relations here in in part 2.
This week, Time Magazine announced its selection of Pope Francis as the Man of the Year for 2013, commenting: “Rarely has a new player on the world stage captured so much attention so quickly—young and old, faithful and cynical—as has Pope Francis.
In his nine months in office, he has placed himself at the very center of the central conversations of our time: about wealth and poverty, fairness and justice, transparency, modernity, globalization, the role of women, the nature of marriage, the temptations of power.” (Read more: The Choice: Nancy Gibbs on Why Pope Francis Is TIME’s Person of the Year 2013 | TIME.com)
Earlier, on Nov. 24, 2013, Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Exhortation, the first of his Pontificate, and the first major statement of his program. The great theme of Pope Francis is expressed in the title: Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel. For Francis, this is the central Christian response to God’s coming into our lives. In the Catholic tradition, popes regularly promulgate an Apostolic Exhortation in the wake of a particular Synod of Bishops; but rarely if ever has an Apostolic Exhortation aroused the type of interest, both positive and negative, that The Joy of the Gospel has evoked.
II. Interreligious Relations
Pope Francis situates the mission of the Church in the context of fostering respectful and friendly relations with other religious traditions. He affirms the special bond between Christians and the Jewish people because of our common heritage: “We hold the Jewish people in special regard because their covenant has never been revoked, for ‘the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable’” (Rom. 11:29; #247). He deplores the past hostility in this relationship: “The friendship which has grown between us makes us bitterly and sincerely regret the terrible persecutions which they have endured, and continue to endure, especially those that have involved Christians” (#248).
Pope Francis strongly supports interreligious initiatives in the context of seeking peace and the flourishing of life for all: “An attitude of openness in truth and in love must characterize the dialogue with the followers of non-Christian religions. . . . Interreligious dialogue is a necessary condition for peace in the world, and so it is a duty for Christians as well as other religious communities” (250). Francis endorses the interreligious attitude commended by the Catholic bishops of India of “being open to them, sharing their joys and sorrows” (#250). Francis explains the hoped-for result of such an attitude of openness: “In this way we learn to accept others and their different ways of living, thinking and speaking. We can then join one another in taking up the duty of serving justice and peace, which should become a basic principle of all our exchanges. A dialogue which seeks social peace and justice is in itself, beyond all merely practical considerations, an ethical commitment which brings about a new social situation” (#250).
Francis stresses the importance and the transformative power of listening: “Efforts made in dealing with a specific theme can become a process in which, by mutual listening, both parts can be purified and enriched. These efforts, therefore, can also express love for truth” (#250). Francis is aware of the important differences among various religious traditions and does not wish to ignore or minimize them: “A facile syncretism would ultimately be a totalitarian gesture on the part of those who would ignore greater values of which they are not the masters. True openness involves remaining steadfast in one’s deepest convictions, clear and joyful in one’s own identity, while at the same time being ‘open to understanding those of the other party’ and ‘knowing that dialogue can enrich each side’” (#250; quoting Pope John Paul II). Regarding how to handle the disagreements among different religious traditions, Francis stresses honesty, mutual respect, and trust.
Pope Francis emphasizes the importance of good relationships between Christians and Muslims: “We Christians should embrace with affection and respect Muslim immigrants to our countries in the same way that we hope and ask to be received and respected in countries of Islamic tradition” (#253). Francis acknowledges the difficulties in relations in many settings and advises: “Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalizations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence” (#253).
According to Pope Francis, the grace of God that Christians experience in Jesus Christ can nurture and shape the lives of followers of other religious paths as well. Christians do not have a monopoly on grace and can learn from other traditions: “The same Spirit everywhere brings forth various forms of practical wisdom which help people to bear suffering and to live in greater peace and harmony. As Christians, we can also benefit from these treasures built up over many centuries, which can help us better to live our own beliefs” (#254).
Francis also reaches out to those who do not belong to any particular religious tradition: “As believers, we also feel close to those who do not consider themselves part of any religious tradition, yet sincerely seek the truth, goodness and beauty which we “believe have their highest expression and source in God. We consider them as precious allies in the commitment to defending human dignity, in building peaceful coexistence between peoples and in protecting creation” (#257). Francis trusts that reflection on ethics, art, and science and about the human search for transcendence can serve as “a path to peace in our troubled world” (257).
Despite all the difficulties facing the global community, Francis encourages us:
“Challenges exist to be overcome! Let us be realists, but without losing our joy, our boldness and our hope-filled commitment” (#109).
He closes the Apostolic Exhortation with a prayer to Mary:
“Give us a holy courage to seek new paths,
That the gift of unfading beauty
May reach every man and woman” (#288).
About Author Dr. Leo D. Lefebure:
Leo D. Lefebure is the Matteo Ricci, S.J., Professor of Theology at Georgetown University and a priest of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago. He is the author of four books, including Revelation, the Religions, and Violence and The Buddha and the Christ. His next book will be Following the Path of Wisdom: a Christian Commentary on the Dhammapada, which is co-authored with Peter Feldmeier. He is an honorary research fellow of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Through elections held November 15 by the Board of Trustees of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, author, scholar, and founder of the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Non-violence, Dr. Arun Manilal Gandhi, is now beginning a 3-year term as a Parliament trustee. A grandson of Mohandas Gandhi, Arun brings an unassuming spirit and illuminating gumption to the Parliament in a partnership for a peaceful, just, and sustainable world.
Parliament Board Chair Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid smiles on the news stating, “Gandhi was not known for his silence, and neither is his grandson, Dr. Arun Gandhi. He is doing his best to keep the flag of Satiagraha alive in America, as well as in India, where the voices of hate and anger sometimes seem to be drowning out the voices of truth and humanity. It is our honor to have Dr. Arun Gandhi on the board of the Parliament. We feel enriched with wisdom and connected to an important legacy of our time.”
Born 1934 in Durban South Africa, Arun was sent by his parents to India when he was 12 years old so that he could live with and learn from his grandfather, Mohandas Gandhi. It was then that young Gandhi learned the principles of non-violence that he continues to espouse until today.
Dr. Gandhi spent much of his adult life in India working as a journalist and promoting social and economic changes for the poor and the oppressed classes. Along with his wife, Sunanda, he rescued about 128 orphaned and abandoned children from the streets and placed them in loving homes around the world.
Together they began a Center for Social Change which transformed the lives of millions in villages in the western state of Maharashtra. In 1987, Arun came to the United States, and in 1991 started the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence at the Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tennessee, which was moved to the University of Rochester, New York in 2007.
Arun resigned from the Institute the following year to begin the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute, with its mission to build basic education schools for the very poor children of the world. The first school will soon open in a depressed village in western India (www.gandhiforchildren.org).
Arun Gandhi has taken the message of nonviolence and peace-making to hundreds of thousands of high school and university youth around the United States and much of the Western world.
Publications by Arun Gandhi include The Legacy of Love; The Forgotten Woman: The Life of Kastur, wife of Gandhi, and several others.