Archive for the ‘News’ Category
As the world mourns the death of President Nelson Mandela of South Africa, affectionately known as Madiba, it is important that we don’t get too embroiled in sentiments and, in our grief, make the mistake of consecrating his message with his physical body. Like the thousands whom we revere as great people, Madiba was not great by birth, but became great through commitment and dedication to moral values. All of us are endowed with the same measure of commitment and dedication but we tend to use it more for material aggrandizement rather than to enhance our moral and ethical values.
An Indian Government official reportedly said in his condolence message that if the apartheid government had not incarcerated President Mandela for 27 years he would have changed the face of Africa long ago. Implying that those 27 years were wasted. Perhaps some of those years were excessive, but there is no escaping the fact that it was the incarceration that gave Madiba the opportunity to do some soul-searching and turned him from a revolutionary to a revered leader.
Through his life Madiba showed the world that adversity can be good if we use it with understanding. Many a leader who have gone through the same kind of adversity as President Mandela has come out more bitter and violent than ever because they wallow in self-pity. Madiba and others like him used adversity to make a positive change in themselves and their thinking. In a very true sense Madiba became the change he wished to see in the world, to use Gandhi’s famous quotation.
Madiba loved his country more than he loved himself. He was determined to do what was right and good for the country and not be filled with hate and vengeance against those who oppressed him. He had a vision for South Africa where all human beings could live in peace and harmony. It was a vision that has been shared by many leaders of the world, including Gandhi, but it is a vision that has not been realized quite simply because we have chosen the path of materialism rather than moral values. Gandhi warned us that materialism and morality have an inverse relationship. When one increases the other tends to decrease. In a highly materialistic world there is ample evidence today of declining morality. In fact the decay is so overwhelming that it denigrates the very concept of civilization. Is a civilization measured by its material achievements or by its moral integrity? If Madiba could change from being a revolutionary to becoming a revered world leader can we not change from being selfish to being selfless in the service of the world?
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. They also 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 he started the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence at the Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tennessee. In 2007, the Institute was moved to the University of Rochester, New York. In 2008 Arun resigned from the Institute 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 open shortly 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. His publications include The Legacy of Love; The Forgotten Woman: The Life of Kastur, wife of Gandhi, and several others.
We all knew of Nelson Mandela’s state and his age. Yet, his death is still a tremendous loss to all of us who learned to struggle against all odds from the man who put his trust in the humanity of his oppressors, the leaders of South Africa’s apartheid system. He wrote a new chapter on the power of dialogue which he, a helpless prisoner, initiated with his powerful captors. And he did all of this without losing his dignity, without compromising his principles, and without being intimidated by the power of the apartheid regime.
It was because of the power of his non-violent struggle, as well as his compassion toward those who took almost all of his youth from him, that I went to South Africa, despite all odds, to attend the Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1999. It was my way of celebrating the power of peaceful struggle. Mandela may not be big on religion, but he sure was high on the ideals of humanity. That is where I made my personal commitment to the interfaith movement, which believes in and promotes the power of dialogue and human relationships.
I had the honor of meeting one of Nelson Mandela’s “comrades”, Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada, at the Radio Islam studio in Chicago. He was among those imprisoned at Robben Island along with Mandela. It was after talking with him that I learned how Mandela transformed the life of this young rebel into positive energy for change.
In today’s world, where hate is rising, the people of love and humanity, those of faith and the “nones”, need to rise as a force for positive human relationships. In a world where one-third of humanity is obese while another third sleeps hungry, let’s share more and consume less.
Let us remember together as we mourn together, that “None of you has faith until you love for your neighbor what you love for yourself.” Long Live Madiba!
Imam Dr. Abdul Malik Mujahid
Chair of the Board of Trustees
Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions
A few years ago I was standing in Nelson Mandela Square in the center of a large shopping mall in Sandton, South Africa admiring the famous 20 ft. statue of Mandela.
As I stood there, one after another Afrikaner families walked up to the statue and took photographs of their blond haired blue-eyed children. One could not help but think that the parents of these children were not raised to admire Mandela, but to fear him and what they had been taught he stood for.
Nevertheless, on this warm evening, they patiently coaxed their children to stand straight and tall at the feet of the great man.
What powers of spirit and vision could bring such transformation? Perhaps it was the unimpeachable integrity of moral stamina undiminished by 27 years of imprisonment.
Or the indomitable will inspired by the vision of social justice that he bent to the task of exorcising the spirit of apartheid—employing the tools Truth and Reconciliation instead of bloodshed to shepherd a nation, conceived in social injustice, to a united future.
Nelson Mandela birthed a new South Africa and in so doing revitalized the spirits of moral excellence and social justice among people in every land. Like South Africa, we all have much yet to do in the quest for truth, reconciliation, and unity. But thanks to Mandela, we have a model to follow. A model of true faith steeped in patience, an unbending vision of social justice without shortcuts or compromise.
Mandela was committed to religion as a powerful agent of change. “Without the religious institutions, he explained at the Parliament of the Worlds Religions in Cape Town, “I would not be here today.”
“You have to have been in a South African jail under apartheid where you could see the cruelty of human beings to each other in its naked form. “…Religious institutions and their leaders gave us hope that one day we could return.”
He explained that Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Jewish religious groups were instrumental in providing him and other young blacks with an education – and later in giving comfort to political prisoners and their families.
As grateful recipients of Mandela’s precious gifts to humankind, perhaps each one of us might arise and struggle to return the favor in the name of our many faiths. We must work together to carry on the mission that Nelson Mandela gave his life to: to build a world inspired by love and guided by the principle of true justice, that we are all one family—bound together by bonds and ties that are stronger than blood. Nelson Mandela his gone from us now, but his spirit must live on in our hearts and guide our service to God, to our nations, and to one another.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, ‘Madiba,’ has now passed into the Light. He was here now he is everywhere. He reminded us that although we have the machinery of war, it is only by our nonviolent choices that we can create the machinery of peace. With tireless passion, immense heart, an extraordinary mind and unfathomable self-sacrifice, he forgot himself into immortality and showed us how to establish the beloved ultimate economic world community.
Lawrence Edward Carter Sr., Ph.D., D.D., D.H., D.R.S., D.H.C.
Dean, Martin Luther King International Chapel
Professor of Religion, College Archivist and Curator
Founder, Gandhi, King, Ikeda Institute for Global Ethics and Reconciliation
Trustee, Council for A Parliament of the World’s Religions
On the day the Nelson Mandela has died, the Parliament of the World’s Religions remembers a speech that shook the souls of Interfaith fourteen years ago to the day. Speaking on the evening of Sunday, December 5, 1999, the former and first black president of South Africa told the thousands gathered about how interfaith cooperation was the only peaceful means to end Apartheid.
Master of ceremonies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
Unfortunately, I must tell a story, which in gatherings of this nature I have told more than a hundred times. Because that story puts in context some of the remarks that have been made here about one individual. This is when I spent a holiday in the Bahamas in 1993. I met some tourists — a man and a wife — as I was taking a walk and the man stopped and said, “Mr. Mandela.”
I said, “Many people mistake me for that chap.” And he said, “Would I be entitled to take you for that chap?” I said, “You’d be doing what many people are doing.” He then turned to his beloved wife and said, “Darling, Mr. Mandela.”
She was totally unimpressed.
She said, “What is he famous for?” And the husband in his embarrassment dropped his voice and said, “Mr. Mandela, Mr. Mandela.” And the woman insisted “I asked what is he famous for?” And before the husband answered she turned to me and said, “What are you famous for?”
I couldn’t answer the question.
But there is another incident near, at home, when a five-year-old lady — I was told by security that she was at the gate. And I said, “Let her come in.” And they said, “She is very cheeky” I said, “Precisely for that reason let her come in.” And indeed she was quite a lady because she just stormed into my lounge without knocking, did not greet me and the first remark was, “How old are you?” I said, “Well, I can’t remember, but I was born long, long ago.” She said, “Two years ago?” I said, “No, much longer than that.”
She suddenly changed the topic and said, “why did you go to jail?” I said, “Well, I didn’t go to jail before because I liked. Some people sent me there.”
I said, “Some people did not like me.” And she said, “How long did you remain there?” I said, “Now I can’t remember.”
I said, “No, more than that.” Then she says, “You are a stupid old man, aren’t you?” And having made that devastating attack, she sat down with me and joked with me as if she had paid me a compliment.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, I hope at the end of my speech if you feel that I have not risen to expectations, I hope you will be more diplomatic than that young lady.
The truth of the old African proverb that we are people through other people is tonight very evocatively being demonstrated by this gathering of so many people from all parts of the world. This coming together here in this southernmost city on the African continent of representatives from such a wide range of the faiths of the world simbolizes the acknowledgement of our mutual interdependence and common humanity. It is to me a humbling experience to be part of this moving expression and reaffirmation of the nobility of the human spirit. This century has seen enough of destruction, injustice, strife and division, suffering and pain and of our capacity to be massively inhuman the one to the other. There is sufficient cause for being cynical about human life and about humanity. This gathering at the close of our century serves to counter despair and cynicism and calls us to a recognition and reaffirmation of that which is great and generous and caring in the human spirit. We are being reminded in the words of the psalm that we were indeed created a little lower than the angels and crowned with glory and honor.
I accept with humility and great appreciation the honors that you have sought fit to bestow on an old man in the years of his retirement. If nothing else, it demonstrates that old age still intimidates people into paying respect and homage.
I accept these awards not merely on my behalf. I do so in recognition of the three persons after whom the awards are named and in celebration of what they stood for. I wish through the receipt of these awards to identify with those values which they represented so powerfully in their respective lives and works a commitment to peace, nonviolence and dialogue.
I also dedicate these awards to those millions and millions of ordinary unsung men and women all over the world who throughout this century courageously refused to bow to the baser instincts of our nature and to live their lives in pursuit of peace, tolerance, and respect for differences.
Even in the closing decade of the century, we have witnessed how internecine strife degenerated into genocide with former neighbors participating in the slaughter of each other. This century, unfortunately, had too many leaders attempting to exploit communal differences for their own political ends. In most instances, it was the resolve and the determination of ordinary citizens to resist this course to destructive sectarianism that saved our world from even more instances of genocide and violent conflict. It is them the decent, general citizenry who we salute at the close of the century that has its share of war and strife. We have had men who were so arrogant that they wanted to conquer the world and turn human beings into their slaves. But the people always put an end to such men and women. Alexander the Great thought he could conquer the world. Caesar also had the same ambitions. Napoleon almost succeeded in laying the whole of Europe at his feet. And during our time, there emerged Hitler who did exactly the same thing. But it was the ordinary people, not kings and generals, it was the ordinary people, some of whom were not known in their own villages who put an end to those tyrants — to those dictators. And it is for that reason that the real leaders of the world are those who for 24 hours a day think in terms of the poorest of the poor. It is those men and women who know that poverty is the single most dangerous threat to society in the world today.
In our country, my generation is the product of religious education. We grew up at a time when the government of this country owed its duty only to whites: a minority of less than 15 percent. They took no interest whatsoever in our education. It was religious institutions whether Christian, Moslem, Hindu or Jewish in the context of our country, they are the people who bought land, who built schools, who equipped them, who employed teachers, and paid them. Without the church, without religious institutions, I would never have been here today. It was for that reason, that when I was ready to go to the United States on the first of this month, an engagement which had been arranged for quite some time, when my comrade Ibrahim told me about this occasion I said I would change my whole itinerary so I would have the opportunity to appear here.
But I must also add that I do appreciate the importance of religion. Apart from the background that I’ve given you, you’d have to have been in a South African jail under apartheid where you can see the cruelty of human beings to others in their naked form. But it was again religious institutions, Hindus, Moslems, leaders of the Jewish faith, Christians, it was them who gave us the hope that one day we would come out. We would return. And in prisons, the religious institutions raised funds for our children who were arrested in thousands and thrown into jail.
And many when they left prison had a high level of education because of the support we got from religious institutions. And that is why we so respect religious institutions and we try as much as we can to read the literature which outlines the fundamental principals of human behavior like the Bhagavad Gita, Koran, the Bible and other important religious documents. And I say this so that you should understand that the propaganda that has been made, for example about the liberation movement in this country, it is completely untrue. Because religion was one of the motivating factors in everything that we did.
In some respects, the turn of the century is an arbitrary happening in the cycle of human life where there is always change from one day to the other. In other respects, it provides us with the symbolic opportunity to take stock of the substance of our lives and of what lies ahead.
As we approach the 21st century, we cannot but be starkly aware that we stand at a crossroads in our history. That the general citizenry to which we referred — those women, men and children who merely desire and have inalienable right to lead a decent life — continue to suffer deprivation and poverty. The world is still marked by massive inequality. In too many parts of the world warfare and violent conflict still reign. The powerful dominate at the expense of the poor and the vulnerable. The symbolic turn of the century calls us to a commitment to make the coming century one in which these and other issues of human development are fundamentally addressed. We shall have to reach deep into the wells of our human faith as we approach the new century. No less than in any other period of history, religion will have a crucial role to play in guiding and inspiring humanity to meet the enormous challenges that we face. In our South African society, we have identified as a crucial need for our efforts at material and social development and new construction to be matched and accompanied by what is called an RDP of the soul — a moral reconstruction and development program. That is no less true of our entire world.
The world is undergoing a profound redefinition of values and modes of perception. The globalization of the world economy and the outstanding advances of communications technology have drawn all of us together into a smaller world. Those technical advances might, however, also have contributed to a growing confusion of values as people seek to find their localized places in that globalized world. The escalation of poverty in a world that is at the same time marked by such opulence and excessive wealth, the suffering and marginalization of vulnerable groups at a time when the concepts of democracy and equality are supposed to have become universal, the growing degradation of the environment often caused by the greed of industrial development. These are but some of the contradictions that at heart are moral and ethical questions. And on the level of personal life as the world supposedly becomes smaller, the loneliness of individual human beings across the globe increases.
Religion, like all other aspects of human lives, of course faces its own challenges. We have seen how religion at times provided the basis and even gave legitimization to violent expressions of intolerance and conflict. Tragically, religion sometimes seemed to have lost its ability to hold people to good values and to inspire in them those articles and approaches that transcend the narrow and immediate considerations. Religious leaders, institutions and adherents now once more need to draw upon those critical resources that have made it such a central part of human life throughout the ages. Few other dimensions of human life reach such a massive following as the religious. Its roots are in every nook and cranny of society where political leaders and the economically powerful have no sway. The religions and faiths of our world have pondered over and listened. Hence the importance to once again draw on those forces of spirituality and innate goodness.
No government or social agency can on its own meet the enormous challenges of development of our age. Partnerships are required across the broad range of society. In drawing upon its spiritual and communal resources, religion can be a powerful partner in such causes as meeting the challenges of poverty, alienation, the abuse of women and children, and the destructive disregard for our natural environment.
We read into your honoring our country with your presence an acknowledgement of the achievement of the nation and we trust in a small way that our struggle might have contributed to other people in the world.
We commend the Parliament of the World’s Religions for its immense role in making different communities see that the common ground is greater and more enduring than the differences that divide. It is in that spirit that we can approach the dawn of the new century with some hope that it will be indeed a better one for all of the people of the world.
I thank you.
Full text of speech by Nelson Mandela at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, Cape Town, South Africa, December 1999. Transcribed by Gillian Hagerty, “The Word Foundation.”
The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions Board of Trustees is pleased to announce the election of a new trustee. Dr. Paul Eppinger brings a wealth of experience promoting interfaith dialogue by new and exciting means to the Parliament Board as the current Executive Director of the Arizona Interfaith Movement and until recently, serving as a member of the Parliament’s Ambassador Advisory Council.
Eppinger is “a very smart businessman in the work of Interfaith, exactly the kind of idea person who will help guide the Parliament forward as we encounter new opportunities and challenges,” says Executive Director of the Parliament, Dr. Mary Nelson.
His passion for cultivating shared humanity, and creative business approach has helped market interfaith understanding to an entire state. “Arizona Interfaith is very uniquely organized under Paul’s leadership. Where else are people buying license plates promoting the Golden Rule, while the promotion of the Golden Rule goes back to support the organization itself! This is a model to be followed by other cities,” says Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, Chair of the Board of Trustees.
Dr. Paul Eppinger is a graduate of William Jewell College, Princeton Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity and a Master of Theology degree, and San Francisco Theological Seminary where he received a Doctor of Ministry degree. He has served as a missionary, a pastor, and a professor. He has served on numerous boards and committees for his denomination and in the communities in which he pastored.
From 1993 to 2002, he served as the Executive Director of the Arizona Ecumenical Council. He then became the Executive Director of the Arizona Interfaith Movement in 2002. The Arizona Interfaith Movement is composed of 24 different major religious groups and seeks to bring understanding of each other to all the major religions of the state.
Via Tikkun Daily:
Religious accommodation in the workplace seems to be gaining strength in recent times. Last month, corporate America received a huge setback as retail giant Abercrombie and Fitch was found by a federal judge to have discriminated against a Muslim clerk who wore a hijab to work and was subsequently fired. While that story took the nation, especially American Muslim circles by storm, I refrained from writing about it for the simple reason that there didn’t seem much else to say. A court of law of the United States had already given a powerful message that American Muslims, with our infinite rituals and practices, were part of the fabric of American life and deserved equal treatment under the law. What more could anyone add? Yet here I am less than a month later, writing about this landmark case, not to state the obvious but because it seems that this case may have set some sort of precedent for religious accommodation.
First and foremost, the Abercrombie and Fitch lawsuit has set a precedent simply based on who filed it and why. As numerous reports explained earlier this month, it was filed by a Muslim woman who was fired for wearing her hijab to work because it went against the company’s “look policy”. For women of all faiths, colors, sizes and state of physical attractiveness, such a disregard for look policies in general is a huge step in a number of ways, which I won’t go into here. For Muslim women however, the case is a major achievement. While discrimination based on the hijab (or veil or niqab) is quite commonplace, it hasn’t been documented until recently. Studies in the United States now show that the hijab has a negative impact on all aspects of the hiring process (Not Welcome Here: Discrimination towards Women who Wear Muslim Headscarf, Human Relations, May 2013). Similar studies in the United Kingdom also show women facing difficulties finding and keeping jobs while wearing the hijab (Ethnic Minority Female Unemployment, All Party Parliamentary Group on Race and Community UK).
In the struggle for workplace-related religious freedom, Muslim women have, perhaps unwittingly, blazed a new trail. While on the one hand the hijab makes them a target for unfair practices, it also becomes a beacon for the legal system to rally under. For most judges and juries, the fact that a woman would be fired due to her dress is such an obviously unfair concept that it begs retribution. And although the Abercrombie and Fitch lawsuit is arguably the most popular, it certainly isn’t the only one Muslim women have fought in recent times. Disney for example has been on the receiving end of at least two similar cases, with judgment pending or settled. And for the few that we read about in the papers, there are probably hundreds that never get reported.
Therefore, more than the issue of being Muslim and female in America today, this case and many others like it highlight the challenges of being a religious minority in the American workplace. Although religious accommodation in the workplace is not a new concept (in fact it’s been around since the Civil Rights era), it puts the burden on the employee to report the incident, something he or she may not feel safe doing. The fact is that employers of all types have probably been stomping on the rights of their employees to practice religious beliefs since the first person ever hired, from African slaves being denied the freedom to practice their own religious traditions a few hundred years ago to fringe Christian groups today not receiving equal treatment for Sabbath and holidays.
This lawsuit and its subsequent judgment offers hope to all those who have ever faced ridicule, harassment and even discrimination by their employers and co-workers – a fact that became apparent to me in the month of September as I read about several similar cases being filed and/or settled. For instance, a few days ago a car-dealership in California settled a $158,000 lawsuit against a Nigerian Seventh-Day Adventist employee who was refused leave on Friday nights and Saturdays for observance of the Sabbath. Similarly this month the city of Birmingham, Alabama is paying $80,000 to a Messianic Jewish woman for scheduling her for work on the Jewish Sabbath. Also this month, the EEOC has also filed a lawsuit against the owner of a KFC restaurant who fired a Pentecostal woman for wearing pants instead of the uniform dress to work.
These people and others like them prove that its acceptable and often even rewarding to stand up to unfair practices at your workplace, that you don’t have to be Muslim to get the justice you deserve, and that the future looks bright for equality and fairness in employment. Muslim women may have set a precedent in visibility but they are certainly not the only ones to benefit from a better work environment and greater accountability by employers.
Saadia Faruqi is an interfaith activist, editor of Interfaith Houston and trainer of American Muslim issues. Follow her on Twitter @saadiafaruqi.
A Listening Session conducted by Parliament Ambassador Sanchay Jain in Jaipur, India brought together eleven members of the Hindu community at the Children’s Peace Palace, Anuvibha, Rajsamand. As many gathered were professional educators, the participants agreed that “humanity is the supreme religion to be taught to children,” rather than imparting one-sided stories of religiosity to children.
The Parliament encourages listening sessions around the world to give the Interfaith advocates across borders the chance to share important issues in their region within the interfaith or religious community context, and how it is desired that the Parliament can incorporate both their values and challenges into the planning of the next major Parliament.
Jain reports that important facts discussed within the group included challenges they face and challenges all face in global society today. The role of religion, spirituality and convictions were also addressed to overcome these challenges (caste system, tensions between Hindu and Muslim Indians, and extremism) as well as the role of the Parliament by improving the capacity to organize religious leaders around the world for a peaceful coexistence. As a result these listening sessions help the Parliament peer into the lens through which the smaller groups view Interfaith as a model to achieve peace, justice, and sustainability in our world.
Ambassadors like Sanchay Jain conducting listening sessions serve their community and the Parliament in vital areas. When attendees are mobilized to attend a Parliament, it is helpful to guarantee their voices have been considered and included in the planning process.
” When someone deeply listens to you, the room where you stay starts a new life and the place where you wrote your first poem begins to glow in your mind’s eye. ” – John Fox
The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions mourns the recent passing of Father Jorge Manzano, a dear friend and one of the leading lights of the interreligious movement in México. Padre Manzano was a professor of philosophy at the University of Guadalajara for over 40 years, where he specialized in the works of Nietzsche, Kierkegaard and Hegel and drew nothing but the highest praises from his students and colleagues. During the 1960s, Padre Manzano spent several years in Denmark, working with political prisoners and immigrant communities in Copenhagen, and later on championed the causes of indigenous peoples in his native Mexico.
In 2007, Padre Manzano was one of the featured speakers at the World Interreligious Encounter in Monterrey, an event organized by the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Subsequently, he inspired the formation of Fundación Carpe Diem Interfé, which has become the leading interfaith organization in Guadalajara and has partnered with the Parliament on several occasions. In his message of condolence, Parliament Chair Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid recalled Padre Manzano as “a brilliant and gentle man, who did so much to plant the seeds of the interreligious movement in México.” May he rest in peace.
The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions shares congratulations to Dr. Joshua Lincoln on his recent appointment as Secretary-General of the Baha’i International Community. The Centre will be undoubtedly blessed by his wealth of engagement in global interfaith relations.
The Baha’i community has been central to the work of CPWR from its beginnings. One of CPWR’s three incorporating founders and first Chair of the Board, Charles Nolley, comes from the Baha’i community. He and four other Baha’is were prominent signatories of the 1993 declaration Towards A Global Ethic.
For more information on Dr. Joshua Lincoln, read the news release here.