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Southeast Asian Buddhist-Muslim Coalition Strengthens Peace Efforts

Meeting of Buddhist and Muslim Leaders in Bangkok to establish new action on stabilizing interreligious conflicts in the South and Southeast Asian region.
Photo By The International Network of Engaged Buddhists

A coalition of Buddhist and Muslim leaders from South and South East Asia met in Bangkok on June 16th to endorse the 2006 Dusit Declaration, and to commit to act cooperatively with new proposals to stabilize inter-religious relations in the region. This coalition inspires the hope that conflict manifesting in violence, like the recent attacks in Bodhgaya, can be prevented.

Highlights of the 2006 Dusit Declaration include efforts to encourage media outlets to be more evenhanded towards both religions in their broadcasting, the expansion of unbiased religious perspectives taught in children’s classrooms, and a new emphasis on inter-religious harmony in politicians’ reforms.

The declarations made in Thailand (found in this International Buddhist-Muslim Joint Statement) focus on the potential benefits of tolerance: “We are also deeply aware that if Buddhist and Muslim communities can overcome the challenges that confront them, there is tremendous potential for the growth and development of ideas and values that may help to transform the region.”

The coalition organized by the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB), the International Movement for a Just World (JUST), and Religions for Peace (RfP) included representatives from seven countries with the allegiance of some international participants.

The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions applauds this coalition for being a model of cooperation and tolerance in the South East Asian region.

Participants included:


Al Haj U Aye Lwin, Muslim, Chief Convener, Islamic Center of Myanmar and a Founder of Religions for Peace Myanmar

U Myint Swe, Buddhist, President, Ratana Metta, and President of Religions for Peace Myanmar


Sri Lanka

Harsha Navaratne, Buddhist, Sewalanka Foundation

Dr. M.A. Mohamed Saleem, Muslim, President of Mahatma Ghandi Centre in Sri Lanka

Ven. Professor. Kotapitiye Rahula, Buddhist, Department of Pali & Buddhist Studies, University of Peradeniya; Sri Lanka Council of Religions for Peace

Ven. Dr. Divulapelesse Wimalananda thero, Buddhist, University of Peradeniya

Ven. Kalayanamitta Dhammapala, Buddhist, Wat Thong Noppakul

Ven. Balangoda Manju Sri Thero, Buddhist, Senior Buddhist Sangha for Inter-faith Peace



Dr. Chandra Muzaffar, Muslim, President, International Movement for a Just World (JUST)

Anas Zubedy, Muslim, Secretary General, JUST

Fah Yen Yin, Program Coordinator, JUST

K V Soon Vidyananda, Buddhist, Malaysia Engaged Buddhist Network


Muhammad Habib Chirzin, Muslim, Islamic Forum on Peace, Human Security and Development

Abdul Mu’ti, Muslim, Central Board Muhammadiyah

Wintomo Tjandra, Buddhist, Hikmahbudhi


Sulak Sivaraksa, Buddhist, Sathirakoses-Nagapradipa Foundation

Ven. Phra Bhanu Cittadhanto, Buddhist, Wat Phra Ram IV (Kanchanobhisek)

Parichart Suwannabuppha, Buddhist, Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, Mahidol University, Salaya,

Saroj Puaksumlee, Muslim, Leader of Bann Krua Community, Bangkok

Ratawit Ouaprachanon, Buddhist, Spirit in Education Movement

Somboon Chungprampree, Buddhist, International Network of Engaged Buddhists

Patcharee Conmanat, Buddhist, International Network of Engaged Buddhists


Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, Deputy Secretary General, Religions for Peace

Rev. Shin’ichi Noguchi, Niwano Peace Foundation

Russell Peterson, American Friends Service Committee

Prashant Varma, Deer Park Institute, India

California Declares October “Hindu Appreciation Month”

Photo: Hindu American Foundation

The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions congratulates the Hindu American Foundation on their successful campaign to make October the Hindu-American Awareness and Appreciation Month in the state of California. In a release from HAF Press, State Senate Majority Leader, Ellen Corbett, was interviewed about her recent work to bring Resolution SCR 32 to a vote. “As the Senator representing the 10th State Senate District, I am honored to represent constituents from many diverse backgrounds, including a significant number of Hindu Americans,” said Majority Leader Corbett. “California is home to a thriving community of over 370,000 Hindu Americans that enrich our state’s diversity and professional assets in fields as diverse as academia, science, technology, business, arts and literature. I thank my colleagues for supporting SCR 32 today that recognizes Hindu American contributions in California, as well as designates October 2013 in their honor.” The resolution was passed unanimously.

This passage marks a great interfaith triumph as, according to the release,  “the resolution also received the support of 55 non-governmental organizations, interfaith leaders, civil rights activists, and community leaders from across the country, who previously wrote to all State Senators urging them to pass SCR 32.” As for this October, many are looking forward to the various events and opportunities for discussion as the month becomes a platform for Hindu dialogue.

For more information, please connect to The Hindu American Foundation.


U.S. Releases Planbook For Faith Houses Facing Shooters

Run, Hide, or Fight

First U.S. Government Guide Released For Confronting Gunmen in Houses of Worship

June 20, 2013

On Tuesday, U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden announced the government’s first guidebook instructing faith congregations to prepare for an armed shooter situation.  Speaking at an emergency preparedness event on gun violence, Biden detailed the 38-page document’s purpose in response to the recent rash of gun tragedies in school and faith settings.  The “Guide for Developing High Quality Emergency Operation Plans for Houses of Worship” outlines strategies to appoint and train congregation members on: 

  • assigning congregation members to assess immediate threats,
  • determining the best places for shelter and useful hiding spots
  • identifying who should run, who should hide, and who should fight back
  • planning effective evacuations in the event of an armed gun attack
  • depicting “scenarios” and considering response options in advance 
  • developing survivor mindset to increase the odds of surviving

DOWNLOAD Guide for Developing High-Quality Emergency Operations Plans for Houses of Worship

Developed in consultation with clergy from the United States concerned about mass shooters, the guide attempts to address fears rising since summer 2012, when a gunman shot and killed six Sikhs inside the gurdwara of Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The team of agencies collaborating to produce the document include Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Justice, Department of Health and Human Services, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation It is addressed that training through the guidebook may become mandatory for faith houses receiving federal funds.

We invite you to discuss this landmark move by the U.S. government with us on Facebook. 

What kinds of questions do you have about the guidebook? Would you ask your faith leaders to implement this training? Does the guidebook seem helpful? Do you think completing training like this increases security, or perpetuates fear?

If you are in the New York-area this weekend, we hope you will join the premiere of Faith Against Hate: A Day of Interfaith Learning and RelationshipPresented in partnership with the Interfaith Institute of the Islamic Center of Long Island Saturday, June 22, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. at Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY. 


15 Countries Improving Religious Freedom

“Religious Freedom Under Attack” headed a recent L.A. Times editorial. With tunnel vision squarely focusing on the status of turbulent nations, the column exposed merely the harshest facts in a new government report which also shines a little light on world interfaith development.

Of course, it would be neglectful of the media to ignore the current religious climate. One ongoing crisis in this camp is the  Bahai’s worldwide protest efforts amping up against Iranian courts for jailing seven leaders for more than five years now, simply for being Baha’i and not sharing the faith sponsored by the state.  Therefore, headlining any story about religion and governments because of cases like the Baha’is sets the stage for most reports to seem like totally bad news.

The U.S. Department of State report breaking down the state of religious freedom around the world in 2012 does describe a world beleaguered with turmoil. However, it also clues religious-government watchdogs in on how the American government applies its 15-year-old International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, even when not promising to diffuse some of the worst trouble spots.

It also points to some yet-to-be-really-covered-by-the-media good news:

Mentioning some positive action by governments where promoting religious liberty has proved tricky, 2012 demonstrates some indication that interfaith action by governments on the rise.

15 Countries Improving Religious Freedom

mollyparliamentofreligions's 15 Countries Trying To Improve Religious Freedom album on Photobucket

Source: U.S. Department of State International Religious Freedom Report 2012  Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Citations: Section II: Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom Improvements and Positive Developments in Respect for Religious Freedom. Consult report for more national information, religious demography, identifications and definitions.

1. Tanzania

In October President Kikwete visited several churches in the Mbagala suburb of Dar es Salaam which were burned or damaged following religious unrest. He urged self-restraint and emphasized that citizens should not take the law into their own hands.In November the prime minister publicly pledged to initiate a national dialogue between religious leaders to promote religious tolerance; this had not occurred by year’s end. Also in November, the Interfaith Council asked to meet with the president to discuss intolerance among factions within the Muslim community and Christian groups. This meeting did not take place by year’s end.In November the prime minister took a strong stand against the October religious violence, calling for political and religious tolerance.On December 31, President Kikwete stated that the country faced, for the first time in its history, the possibility of civil strife and division along religious lines. He encouraged religious and political leaders to take seriously their responsibility to ensure that citizens continue to live peacefully regardless of their religion, ethnicity, color, or place of origin.

2. Laos

Some positive steps were taken during the year to address specific religious freedom concerns. The LFNC, joined during the year by the Ministry of Home Affairs, instructed local officials on religious tolerance and in some situations intervened in cases where members of minority religious groups, particularly Christians, had been harassed or mistreated.

In an effort to promote consultation among all stakeholders concerning revisions to Decree 92, the LFNC and Ministry of Home Affairs organized meetings for religious group representatives in Vientiane, Champasak, Bokeo, and Bolikhamxay Provinces, and the city of Vientiane. The meetings allowed for open discussion about the government’s plan to amend the decree, and provided an opportunity for religious groups to offer suggestions for its improvement.

In collaboration with the LFNC, the Institute for Global Engagement, a U.S.-based religious freedom organization, conducted training for provincial and district officials and local religious leaders to help both sides better understand each other and the scope of Decree 92.

The government eased its control over the Catholic community in the north. At year’s end, a Catholic bishop in Luang Prabang was in the process of establishing residency and identifying land for the construction of a church building with the support of local authorities. A Vientiane church delegation, accompanied by LFNC officials, traveled to Bokeo Province to visit Catholic communities in Houayxay, Meuang, and Tonpheung. The church was able to expand charitable activities and provided assistance to a school for the deaf in Luang Prabang.

3. Malaysia

On February 21, Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin participated in World Interfaith Harmony Week. Activities held during the week included community activities and religious forums.

On December 26, church leaders announced the government had rescinded quotas, age limits and other travel restrictions previously imposed on Christian Malaysians who wished to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

On November 3, the Perlis Al Islah Association in collaboration with the Islamic Council of Perlis, a government entity, and the Perlis Malay Customs Council (an NGO) organized an interfaith forum “Gateway to Interfaith Goodwill (Gema) 2012.” The crown prince of Perlis chaired the forum, which was designed as a platform for interaction among different religions with the hope of creating a better understanding between them. Seventeen religious groups, including representatives of Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Taoism, attended the forum.

In a statement to Christian leaders in January, the prime minister promised full consultation when assigning mission school heads. He also agreed to after-school Bible classes, as well as implementation of a regulation that allowed non-Muslim places of worship to apply for tax exempt status for donations received from individuals. This was the first time the prime minister had addressed these issues in a public statement. The tax regulation went into effect shortly thereafter.

4. Taiwan

On June 8, in a change of visa policy, the government started granting missionary visas to other orders of religious workers besides priests and nuns. This change granted all male religious orders (priests, brothers, monks) and female religious orders (sisters and nuns) eligibility for visas to conduct religious work. Religious organizations previously complained that only priests and nuns could obtain missionary visas. The immigration law does not have a formal provision for missionary visas for individuals who do not have the rank of priest or nun within their respective religious orders, which includes Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist workers. In the past, the government regularly granted visas to religious workers of some religious groups who were not priests or nuns and uniformly applied the eligibility to all religious groups by year’s end.

5. Vietnam

In May the government for the first time granted 20 members of the Baha’i Faith permission to participate in an annual religious pilgrimage to the Baha’i World Center in Haifa, Israel. The nine-day pilgrimage allowed Bahais to visit religious shrines and meet with fellow believers. In August the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of Hanoi celebrated the twentieth anniversary of its establishment in Hanoi. The day-long public celebration was attended by nearly 100 followers from the northern area of the country, 20 foreign Bahais representing countries in the region, and government officials.

In July and August the CRA registered 20 new churches in the Northwest Highlands. These included both Protestant and Catholic congregations.

During his appointment that began in January 2011, Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, the non-resident papal representative to Vietnam, made eight visits to the country. The government and the Vatican continued discussions toward normalizing relations. In September Archbishop Girelli made his first visit to the Northwest Highlands to meet with fellow believers. During his visit, the archbishop led mass for congregants of newly recognized churches.

In June the government restored five acres of land to St. Peter’s Catholic chapel in Hanoi. Congregants had formally petitioned the government ten years earlier.

According to contacts from multiple faiths, the government facilitated the construction of new places of worship, including Christian churches, Buddhist temples, monasteries and pagodas. The government’s assistance included transferring land to religious groups, granting building permits, or granting small construction grants through the CRA.

6. Belarus

Authorities allowed Jehovah’s Witnesses to hold a three-day convention in Minsk in July. Over 7,500 members from across the country reportedly attended the convention without official interference.

7. Georgia

On March 27, the parliament amended the criminal code to make religious motives an aggravating factor for all crimes. Although authorities prosecuted no crimes under the new amendment during the year, the Georgian Young Lawyers Association stated that passage of the amendment could discourage such crimes.

8. Kosovo

In April parliament passed legislation establishing SPZs in the historic center of Prizren and the village of Velika Hoca/Hoce e Madhe, both of which contained numerous religious and cultural sites dating to the thirteenth century. In July the Constitutional Court upheld the legislation and rejected appeals claiming the law would unconstitutionally give special rights to Serbs over the rights of other citizens.

9. Norway

In a January Holocaust Memorial Day speech, the prime minister apologized for the participation of the country’s officials in the expulsion of Jews during World War II when the country was under Nazi occupation. The speech was the first formal direct apology from the government and was commended by religious figures. In November the head of the police department also apologized for police participation in expelling Jews during the war years. Some social commentators and religious leaders stated this was even more significant than the prime minister’s Holocaust Memorial Day speech.

The government made a number of monetary grants to increase security for the Jewish community and to combat anti-Semitism in schools. The government allocated 7.2 million kroner ($1.25 million) for security at the Jewish Religious Community’s (DMT) facility and synagogue in Oslo. In addition to the funding, the Ministry of Justice and Public Security announced it would maintain a dialogue with the DMT, the Police Security Services, and the Police Directorate to ensure that the DMT’s facilities were properly safeguarded. The Ministry of Education granted 6 million kroner ($1.05 million) for programs that included training about anti-Semitism in schools throughout the next three years. The Ministry of Government Administration and Church Affairs will finance the DMT’s new online anti-Semitism reporting mechanism.

10. Turkey

In a February session held behind closed doors, the Ecumenical Patriarch addressed the parliament’s Constitutional Reconciliation Sub-Committee, which was responsible for drafting a new constitution. This was the first time in the history of the republic that a leader of a religious minority group addressed the parliament. Subsequently, representatives of the Syrian Orthodox community also testified before the sub-committee.

The government continued to implement a 2011 decree allowing a one-year period for religious minority foundations to apply for the return of, or compensation for, properties seized by the government in previous decades. Between 1936 and 2011, the government seized thousands of properties belonging to Christian and Jewish religious foundations. A 1936 law required that religious foundations compile and officially register lists of all properties owned. Although it was widely recognized at the time that these lists were not comprehensive, the government then began seizing unlisted properties from religious foundations. A 1974 High Court of Appeals ruling interpreting the 1936 law stated it had been illegal for religious foundations to acquire any new property after 1936, enabling the government to seize without compensation religious foundation properties acquired between 1936 and 1974.

By August, the GDF had received approximately 1,560 applications for the return of seized properties from the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Jewish, Syrian Orthodox, Bulgarian Orthodox, Georgian Orthodox, Chaldean, and Armenian Protestant communities. By year’s end, the GDF had reviewed approximately 200 of the applications and returned 71 properties to religious community foundations, made offers of compensation for 15 properties, declined 19 applications for lack of evidence, and returned the remaining applications for the correction of technical problems. The government established an arbitration system for foundations that believed the amount of compensation received for a property was inadequate. If the arbitration process is unsuccessful, foundations will have access to the courts for redress.

The decree did not alter the law that made it possible to seize property acquired after 1936, nor did it change the complicated procedure for administering foundation properties that contributed to the seizure of many properties. Additionally, the decree did not cover properties taken from religious institutions or communities that do not have legally recognized foundations, including the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches.

The 2011 decree also permitted the formation of new religious community foundations as well as the reopening of foundations that had previously been closed and whose assets the GDF had confiscated. The GDF approved new or reactivated foundations for the Jewish community in Izmir, the Armenian Orthodox community in Istanbul, and the Greek Orthodox community in Istanbul. Prior to the 2011 decree, the government had approved only one new religious community foundation since the founding of the republic—the Istanbul Protestant Church Foundation in 2003.

11. Iraq

In September the Basrah Provincial Council Committee for Religious Minorities called on the central government to provide support for Iraqi Christians who wanted to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, equating these trips with the Muslim Hajj.

Throughout the year, Iraqi Security Forces deployed police and army personnel to protect religious pilgrimage routes and sites, as well as places of worship during religious holidays. In late September, the Iraqi Security Forces deployed 20,000 police and army personnel to Karbala to protect land routes pilgrims take to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj; and in late October, the Iraqi Security forces deployed 12,000 police and army personnel to the holy city of Karbala to protect hundreds of thousands of religious pilgrims to the city for Eid al-Adha.

The Ministry of Human Rights reported that it took several steps to protect members of minority religious groups and address their concerns. They conducted an investigation into the phenomenon of suicides of Yezidi young people; provided humanitarian assistance to internally displaced minority groups, including Christians; and held over 200 workshops throughout the country on minority rights.

The Ministry of Human Rights reported that during the year Iraqi Security Forces escorted 1,300 Christian students from al-Hamdaniya to Mosul to attend school each day, and increased the number of night patrols in Christian neighborhoods in Mosul.

The KRG continued to welcome Christians from outside the IKR who moved to the region due to perceived discrimination and threats to their safety elsewhere. Armenian Church of America archbishop Vicken Aykazian said in December that the IKR “has become a safehaven for Christians, [and] the [regional] government is building churches, schools, and community centers for them,” adding that “Christians today feel very comfortable [in the the IKR].”

12. Israel and The Occupied Territories

There were no violent attacks against Messianic Jews and notably fewer physical assaults against Jehovah’s Witnesses during the year. The police investigated all known instances of religiously motivated attacks and made arrests when possible, including in August when the police arrested seven suspects for assault, harassment, and arson in connection with Haredi protests against the opening of an Orthodox all-girls school in Beit Shemesh.

The state formally recognized non-Orthodox rabbis for the first time on May 30 and agreed to fund Reform and Conservative rabbis appointed by rural communities.

The MOI did not arrest, detain, require bail for entry or a written pledge to abstain from missionary activity, or refuse entry to anyone due to their religious beliefs. There was no indication that the MOI collected data on alleged missionaries from antimissionary groups and used it to deny entry to the country to foreign individuals. There was no official statement that the policy had changed, but no incidents were reported since the July 2011 action of a Jerusalem district court judge who reprimanded the MOI for the illegal procedure.

On August 2, the Knesset amended legislation from 2010 to apply tax exemptions to all places of religious instruction equally.

13. Israel and The Occupied Territories – Israel and The Occupied Territories – The Occupied Territories

PA-Israeli security cooperation at Joseph’s Tomb improved during the year following an agreement reached in 2011 between the PA, the IDF, and the Ministry of Defense’s civil administration to station 10 permanent PA police officers at the tomb. On February 9, PA forces accompanied 15 rabbis from the West Bank’s Huwwara checkpoint to the tomb in the first such security coordination with Israeli forces. The PA coordinated all visits with Israel.

Israel issued slightly more than 100,000 permits to allow Palestinian West Bank residents to enter Jerusalem during the month of Ramadan, representing a seven-fold increase from the 16,700 permits it granted in 2011. It expanded the categories of people exempted from the permit requirement for men and women above age 40 and allowed persons between the ages of 35 and 40 to receive permits.

14. Morocco

In March the government permitted the funeral of Shia cleric Abdallah Dadou, killed in a fire in Belgium, to take place in Tangier. The funeral was the first public Shia ceremony in the country in many years.

15. Cuba

Religious groups reported improved ability to attract new members without government interference. The majority of religious groups reported reduced interference from the government in conducting their services, and improvement in their ability to import religious materials, receive donations from overseas, and travel abroad to attend conferences and religious events. Many religious groups found it easier to bring in foreign religious workers and visitors and restore houses of worship.

The government requested Pope Benedict XVI’s visit and provided extensive logistical support during his March 26-29 trip, including allowing the Pope to say mass in the central squares of the two largest cities, and declaring the three days of the visit a national holiday to facilitate citizen participation in the open-air religious ceremonies. Footage of the visit was broadcast on state-run television stations, and the visit was reported in print and radio. A few Protestant churches reported that they were also permitted to hold religious ceremonies in public spaces.


The Legacy of the 1893 Parliament of the World’s Religions

By Marcus Braybrooke for The Interfaith Observer

The Early Years of the Interfaith Movement

The legacy of the 1893 World Parliament of Religions did not live up to the high hopes of its organizers. The dream of a new era of universal peace too soon became the bloody nightmare of twentieth century battlefields and genocide.

Pope Leo XIII officially censured the Roman Catholic speakers at the Parliament and forbade participation in “future promiscuous conventions.” The openness to other faiths shown by many Christians at the 1910 World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh was soon obscured by Karl Barth and Hendrik Kraemer, who stressed the distinctiveness of the Gospel over against religions, which, they proposed, were a futile human effort to reach God.

Yet there was a legacy. The Parliament created awareness among some that there are “wells of truth outside Christianity.” Historian Sidney Ahlstrom said it began the slow change by which Protestant America was to become a multi-racial society. Swami Vivekananda and Dharmapala established continuing Vedanta and Buddhist groups in the United States.

The Parliament also stimulated the academic study of religions. The Haskell lectureship endowment at the University of Chicago brought distinguished scholars of “comparative religion” to the school and enabled Henry Barrows, secretary of the Parliament, to lecture in Asia.

In 1901 the first meeting of the International Congress for the History of Religions (IAHR) was held as part of the Paris Universal Exposition, though this was for the scientific study of religions and not for interfaith dialogue. The distinguished scholar Joseph Kitagawa wrote, “it becomes clear that what the Parliament contributed to Eastern religions was not comparative religion as such. Rather Barrows and his colleagues should receive credit for initiating what we call today the ‘dialogue among various religions,’ in which each religious claim for ultimacy is acknowledged.”

Initial Institutional Developments

IARF activities continue today around the world. This recent gathering was in Andhra Pradesh in India. Photo: iarf.netPlans for another Parliament in 1901, possibly in India, came to nothing – although small scale parliaments were held in Japan and elsewhere. The obvious ‘child’ of the Parliament was the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF), as it is now known, which held its first meeting in 1900. The prime mover was Charles William Wendte, born in Boston in 1844, had helped plan the 1893 Parliament. His parents had come to the United States on their honeymoon and stayed on. Wendte’s father became a Unitarian after being astonished to hear “something sensible from a preacher!” To his delight, his son became a Unitarian minister.

Besides his congregational responsibilities, Charles Wendte built up close relations with the German Free Protestant Union. With the American Unitarians, they were the main supporters of IARF, though among the 2,000 participants at the 1907 Boston Congress were some members of the Brahmo Samaj and a handful of liberal Jews, Muslims, and Catholics. (A longer profile of the IARF will be published here later this year.)

The World Congress of Faith can claim a more distant relationship. Its links with the 1893 Parliament came through the “Second Parliament of Religions,” held in Chicago in 1933, in conscious imitation of the earlier event. The 1933 Parliament, a largely forgotten event, was initiated by Charles Weller and Mr. Das Gupta. Weller, a social worker, started the League of Neighbours in 1918 to help integrate African Americans and foreign-born citizens into American life.

Das Gupta had come in 1908 from India to England. To help remedy British ignorance of India, he organized the Union of East and West. Then in 1920 he accompanied Rabindranath Tagore to the United States. Das Gupta stayed on and restarted his Union of East and West in America. Early in the 1920s he met Weller. Together they merged the League of Neighbours and the Union of East and West to create the Fellowship of Faiths. The Fellowship arranged in several cities meetings at which a member of one faith paid tribute to another faith. It also published a journal called Appreciation.

In May 1929, the World Fellowship of Faiths met in Chicago. This revived memories of the city’s 1893 Parliament and led to a similar event being held to coincide with the Second World Fair in 1933. Twenty-seven gatherings were held in Chicago, with a total attendance of 44,000 people. Preliminary meetings were also held in New York. Bishop McConnell claimed, perhaps unfairly, that the 1933 gathering was an advance on the 1893 event. “The first difference,” he said, “is that instead of a comparative parade of rival religions, all faiths were challenged to apply their religion to help solve the urgent problems which impede man’s progress. The second difference is that the word ‘faiths’ is understood to include, not only all religions, but all types of spiritual consciousness.”

One of those who attended the 1933 Parliament was Sir Francis Younghusband, who three years later arranged the first World Congress of Faiths in London. The minutes of the first planning meeting make clear the link with the World Fellowship of Faiths, which had arranged the Second World Parliament of Religions in 1933. Younghusband soon made clear to Das Gupta that, although grateful to him and the World Fellowship of Faiths, that he – Younghusband – was in charge of the Congress.

The World Fellowship of Faiths described itself as “a movement not a machine; a sense of expanding activities, rather than an established institution, an inspiration more than an achievement. It has never sought to develop a new religion or unite divergent faiths on the basis of a least common denominator of their convictions. Instead, it held that the desired and necessary human realization of the all-embracing spiritual Oneness of the Good Life Universal must be accompanied by the appreciation (brotherly love) for all the individualities, all the differentiations of function, by which true unity is enriched.” This is still a fair description of the interfaith movement.

Mazel Tov to Parliament Treasurer, One of “America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis”

Rabbi Michael Balinsky, Treasurer of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions Board of Trustees, was just named one of “America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis” by The Jewish Daily Forward.  Of the honor, Balinsky said a former student had nominated him after inspiring him to become a rabbi. “It was all very touching,” Balinsky shares.

Rabbi Adam J. Rosenbaum describes Balinsky’s influence on his journey toward Rabbinical work:

“As my Hillel rabbi at Northwestern University, Rabbi Balinsky showed me that it was possible to guide young people toward Jewish observance with a sense of tolerance, openness and patience. He was sensitive to the fact that college students endure many ups and downs, and he approached each student with a proper mix of honesty and compassion. Most of all, no matter what I asked him, his answer and tone were both genuine and respectful. He is the reason why I became a rabbi, and if I can one day become half the rabbi that Michael Balinsky is, my community will benefit greatly.”


The Power of Listening: Chairman Mujahid Featured In New Interspirituality E-Zine

Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions Chair of the Board of Trustees, Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid

Joining an esteemed group of spiritual thinkers, luminaries of religion, and Interfaith leaders, Imam Malik Mujahid is featured in the newly released e-zine, “The Coming Interspiritual Age.” This 192-page digital magazine is a complement of the recently released book of the same title by Kurt Johnson and David Robert Ord forecasting an evolutionary interspiritual movement referenced by the writings of Brother Wayne Teasdale, a former Parliament trustee.

Chairman Mujahid’s stories in Namaste Publications’ “The Coming Interspiritual Age” disclose his personal perceptions of being a co-trustee with Bro. Wayne Teasdale on an Interfaith board reacting to September 11, 2001, the relevance and future of  Interfaith, and the role of Parliament.  From there, his views on global interspirituality, mysticism, and how the “Timeless Wisdom” is steeped in us all to encounter is explored in depth.


E-Zine Contributors: Eckhart Tolle, Ken Wilber, David Korten, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Charles Gibbs, Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, Ashok Gangadean, Mirabai Starr, Nancy Roof, Kurt Johnson, Constance Kellough, Alison van Dyk, Dena Merriam, Russill Paul, Thomas Huebl, Leo Semasko, M. Darrol Bryant, Ed Bastian, Diane Berke, Phillip Hellmich, Rupert Spira, Loch Kelly, Paul Chaffee, Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Adam Bucko,Rory McEntee, Robert Toth, Ralph Singh, Gorakh Hayashi, Matthew Cobb, Janet Quinn, Maurizio and Zaya Benazzo, Neill Walker, Tim Miner, Cassandra Vieten, Jody Lotito-Levine, Kristin Hoffmann, Kenji Williams, Weston Pew, Bruce Schuman


The Power of Listening, Brother Teasdale & the Parliament of World Religions

By Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid

I did not know him well. But he gave me a very important lesson in listening.

It was days after 9/11 when we were in a CPWR meeting. We were thinking about
the future. Everyone was coming up with good ideas. Interfaith people are so much
alike. Their smiles, their language, the way they carry themselves is quite similar. So
much so that I developed a level of skepticism toward the “interfaith people” as nice
people who hang out with the other nice people.

In the meeting, Brother Wayne Teasdale was quiet, listening attentively. And then
he spoke. It was the first time I heard him speak. What he had to say literally woke
everyone up from “just being nice”.

It is important, he said, that we listen to the voices which are not normally heard.
Why not invite extremists to our Parliament? Why not hear from them about their

His thoughts somewhat disrupted this gathering of “nice interfaith people.” There
was a detectable level of discomfort. My own discomfort was a little higher for other
reasons: suddenly everyone was looking at me. He added yes, may be our Muslim
friends can arrange for those voices to be present.

Now so many years after I am more used to people looking at me like that. At that
time I was a bit offended being looked at as though I had some sort of agency of
extremists. But as soon as the stares moved away from me, I was deeply absorbed
thinking about his wisdom and courage to say something like that so soon after 9/

That was the foundation when we selected the theme for the Barcelona Parliament
of the World’s Religions as “Pathways to Peace: The Wisdom of Listening, the
Power of Commitment.”

The Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1893 was an extra-ordinary event but
an event nevertheless. The Parliament is, thankfully, no longer an event. It is a
movement. The Parliament has evolved to become a summit of extra-ordinary
human beings who are active in their cities and regions for the common good;
articulating the best of their ideals and living them in deliberate relationships with
other people of other religions and traditions. They come, they listen, they share,
they learn and go back to their homes inspired and informed to re-nourish their
communities and expand the sphere of their interfaith universe.

The Parliament program is normally divided in three broad tracks. In one track,
people listen directly to others talk about their own religion and tradition, a
powerful opportunity for banishing negative stereotypes. Another track invites
people to share about their relationships with other faith communities; and yet
another track discusses the common issues facing humanity and how religions are
working with each other to think, provide, and promote solutions.

The interfaith movement is growing by leaps and bounds. Not only people of faith
are founding and expanding this movement, but people of no faith, civil society and
government institutions are also looking to interfaith relations as a vehicle of human

With that in mind, the Parliament strategic plan has included between Parliament
programs to continuously engage the interfaith community with a whole set of
learning opportunities about interfaith dialogue, organizing and engagement.

As the forces of fear, anger and hate rise, we believe that people of loving
relationship need to be stronger than ever and better equipped with the best
practices of interfaith to mediate negativity into the positive energy needed for
human societies to grow and flourish.

In the global village, a spark of anger can go beyond burning the neighborhood
down — it can create lasting harm. The Parliament might have been ahead of its time
in the past, but it is the call of our time now.

And one of the critical issues of now is the challenge of climate change — this
requires behavioral change along with good public policies. It is the people of faith
who have the most transformative impact on those who listen to them week after
week — and that is a whole lot of people around the world.

We are not about creating another faith by some odd merging of religions. We are
about harmony between people of faith for the common good.

Well. We were unable to get some extremist to the Barcelona Parliament. We did not
know them to invite them. Probably the CIA knows their way about. But they are too
busy playing drones to kill them as soon as they find their address and if not them,
their neighbors and look-alikes.

In the 2009 Melbourne Parliament, however, I did present a talk about “The Street
Theology of Anger” to articulate the extremists’ abusive distortion of Islamic
teachings. That was inspired by Brother Teasdale’s wish to listen to the difficult
voices. I was surprised to see an overflowing crowd and was happy that there were
not many loaded stares :)

Continue Reading “The Coming Interspiritual Age” for Imam Malik Mujahid’s perspectives on Global Mysticism and Spirituality.

Inaugural Benedictions Dedicate CPWR Trustee Message to President Obama

Dedicating words of spiritual guidance to the inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama January 21, this Huffington Post feature shares a beautiful prayer from CPWR Trustee, Dr. Tarunjit Singh Butalia:

O Creator and Sustainer of Life. Bless our nation with strength and humility, confidence and compassion, safety and shared security, as well as prosperity and loving kindness. May we continue to stand up for the weak and oppressed so we can be a light to the world for the dignity of all human beings. May we be respectful of our sacred environment and engage in civil discourse that leads us towards national progress. Bless this great nation and its citizens, our President, and our elected representatives so we can work together to create a more perfect union for all.”

CPWR Trustee Butalia is a Sikh faith leader with progressive results facilitating interreligious relations. Butalia’s benediction reflects the shared spiritual will of faith traditions in support of the national community and its global relationships.

CPWR staff offer our warmest wishes for peace and progress to President Obama as he begins his second term, and to CPWR’s new and continuing Trustees beginning the 2013 term.

Dr. Tarunjit Singh Butalia is a member of the Interfaith Committee of the World Sikh Council – America Region (WSC-AR) and served as the Secretary General of the organization for 2004-2005. At the national level on behalf of WSC-AR, he is on the Presidents Council and Steering Committee of Religions for Peace – USA as its Moderator, and serves on the Board of Directors of the North American Interfaith Network as its Vice-Chair. 

9mm Golden Calves

9mm Golden Calves

by James E. Atwood | January 2013

Originally printed in Sojourners Magazine

BACK IN 1990, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) issued this warning: “The religious community must … take seriously the risk of idolatry that could result from an unwarranted fascination with guns, which overlooks or ignores the social consequences of their misuse.” Two decades later, about 660,000 more Americans have been killed by guns, with a million more injured.

These figures convince me that what was a risk in 1990 has become our reality today: For too many, guns have become idols. They claim divine status; make promises of safety and security they cannot keep; transform people and neighborhoods; create enemies; and require human sacrifice.

Not all gun owners have permitted their guns to become idols or absolutes. In fact, a recent poll shows most gun owners and NRA members, in contrast to public perception, believe personal freedom and public safety are complementary, not contradictory. But those few who hold the microphone at the NRA (the wealthy manufacturers and the gun zealots who do their bidding) have permitted their fascination for guns to supplant God and God’s requirements for human community.

An idol’s followers boldly claim divine status for it. Former NRA executive Warren Cassidy was clear when he boasted, “You would get a far better understanding [of the NRA] if you approached us as if you were approaching one of the great religions of the world.” Not to be outdone, Charlton Heston, during a speech as NRA president, intoned, “Sacred stuff resides in that wooden stock and blued steel—something that gives the most common man [sic] the most uncommon of freedoms, when ordinary hands can possess such an extraordinary instrument that symbolizes the full measure of human dignity and liberty.”

To turn away from the idolatry of guns will require community dialogue, self-examination, and prayer. One part of our response should also be to enact common-sense gun laws—which, when they have teeth, are very effective. We in the U.S. need two new federal laws, which would almost guarantee an immediate, dramatic decline in gun violence. The first needed law is a renewed ban on the sale of assault weapons. Good citizens have no need for guns that can rapidly fire up to 150 rounds without reloading and are designed to kill great numbers of people in close-quarter military combat. These are the weapons of choice for deranged individuals who are determined to kill. They must be banned in America forever.

A second common-sense law would require all gun purchasers to undergo an instant background check. This is technically feasible today, but it has not been implemented because the Gun Empire considers any law, however wise or minimal, to be a coordinated attempt to confiscate their weapons. Such a law would eliminate the many sales by unlicensed dealers at America’s 5,000 gun shows—dealers who can, in most states, legally sell any weapon to any person with no questions asked. It’s simply cash and carry.

I make no claims of certainty in determining whether or not a particular individual’s spirit has been converted by an idol, but for 37 years I have observed individuals who grow threatened and angry when gun values are questioned; who show little grief for society’s gun victims; who oppose any preventive measures to stop gun violence; and who believe the solution to gun violence is to arm more people. I am confident that such traits indicate that people are, at least, struggling with idolatry as they turn a human-made thing into an absolute that challenges the requirements of the living God. As Jesus taught us, we cannot serve two masters.


James E. Atwood, a retired Presbyterian pastor, is a gun owner, author of America and its Guns: A Theological Exposé, and chair of the Greater Washington chapter of the anti-gun- violence group Heeding God’s Call.


Image: Licensed for Re-Use

January 9th, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Call for Papers: International Conference on Leadership and Management through Spiritual Wisdom

The School of Management Sciences, Varanasi and Centre for Spiritualism and Human Enrichment (C-SHE), in partnership with California State University San Bernardino (USA) and PHD Chamber of Commerce & Industry (India), is organizing a three day International Conference on “Leadership and Management through Spiritual Wisdom” from 22nd February to 24th February, 2013.

Conference objectives:

• Highlighting the challenges of leadership and management in globalized era.


• Exploring causes of leadership success and failures.


• Role of Spiritual wisdom in leadership and management.


• Developing insights into the dimensions of spiritual wisdom.


• Understanding means and methods for inculcating and practicing spiritual wisdom in

leadership and management.


• Developing a path where an individual become free, actualized and emancipated so as to

become an enlightened leader and to find out the basic alchemy for this kind of leadership who

can bridge the chasm between the opposites & spiritual view of life.


• Highlighting importance of inter-disciplinary approach to various professional disciplines for

bringing synergy and unified approach for solving management problems.

For more details please visit To know more about the Center for Spiritualism & Human Enrichment and its various programs, please visit the website:


Papers should be sent at /