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Watch Oslo Conference on Myanmar’s Systematic Persecution of Rohingyas

The 3-day Oslo conference to stop genocide in Burma is sponsored by the Oxford University Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), the Harvard University Global Equality Initiative, Parliament of the World’s Religions, Burma Task Force USA, Justice for All, Refugees International, and the International State Crime Initiative at Queen Mary University of London.

The Parliament of the World’s Religions invites the interfaith community around the world tune in Tuesday, May 26, 2015 beginning 3am USA EST for the live stream of the Oslo Conference to stop genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Burma/Myanmar.

Government officials, media, and scholars will spend 3 days together May 26 – 28 at the Nobel Institute converging with pastors, imams, and monks. The time-sensitive conference aims to lift international attention toward solving the increasing persecution and suffering of the stateless Muslims who are ethnically linked to the Rakhine Burmese state.

Messages of support will air from a growing bloc of concerned world leaders and Nobel Laureates including philanthropist George Soros, Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire, and political heads from neighboring nations Malaysia and East Timor. These humanitarian calls for justice will implore the global community to understand the persecution of Rohingyas in the style and scale of other recent genocides.

Parliament Chair Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid will inaugurate the conference he hopes will empower the global interfaith community to help save Rohingya lives and prevent genocide.

“As hate, anger and fear is rising around the world, it is important that people of compassion feel the pain of peaceful Rohingyas who have become stateless and homeless in their own ancestral land,” said Mujahid, Co-Chair of the Conference and chair of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

Click to Watch: the Live Streaming begins 26th May 2015  U.S.A.: EST: 3:00 AM


About the Rohingya Crisis for Media and Global Viewers

The Norwegian Nobel Institute &
Voksenaasen Conference Center in Oslo

End Myanmar’s systematic persecution, deprivation and destruction of the Rohingyas. George Soros, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire, José Ramos-Horta and Dr Mahathir Mohammad will join the call to be made by genocide scholars, human rights researchers and activists at the Oslo Conference on May 26.

The conference will push for an end to Myanmar’s “slow genocide” in the Western commercial, diplomatic and military engagement with the SE Asian country.

Oslo, Norway: Over the last 10 days, the world has watched with horror and disbelief the news reports about mostly Rohingyas from Myanmar drifting in over-crowded vessels in the Andaman Sea, half-starved, disease-stricken and dying.

On 26 May, a high-profile international conference will be held at the Norwegian Nobel Institute and Voksenaasen to bring the Norwegian and EU publics closer to the reality of the Rohingyas. This Muslim minority in Myanmar (Burma) has been so systematically persecuted that they would rather risk lives – including those of their infants and children – than die a slow, collective death.

George Soros, the iconic billionaire and philanthropist, is among the international figures who will offer solidarity and compassion for the Rohingyas. He will join the call for an immediate end to Myanmar’s official policy of discrimination, persecution and destruction of over one million Rohingyas an ethnic group in Western Myanmar. In his pre-recorded address prepared for the conference, Soros states that he too was a Rohingya. “In January, when I visited Burma for the 4th time, I made a short visit to Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State in order to see for myself the situation on the ground… a section of Sittwe called Aung Mingalar, a part of the city that can only be called a ghetto. (There) I heard the echoes of my childhood. You see, in 1944, as a Jew in Budapest, I too was a Rohingya. Much like the Jewish ghettos set up by Nazis around Eastern Europe during World War II, Aung Mingalar has become the involuntary home to thousands of families who once had access to health care, education, and employment. Now, they are forced to remain segregated in a state of abject deprivation. The parallels to the Nazi genocide are alarming,” Soros says.

At the conference, a team of researchers from the International State Crime Initiative, Queen Mary University of London will be presenting their latest findings. In a recent article in The Independent (20 May), the lead researcher Penny Green writes: “The Rohingya have now faced what genocide scholar Daniel Feirestein describes as ‘systematic weakening’, the genocidal stage prior to annihilation. Those who do not flee suffer destitution, malnutrition and starvation, severe physical and mental illness, restrictions on movement, education, marriage, childbirth, livelihood and the ever present threat of violence and corruption.”

Such acts compelled former UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar (2008-14), the Argentine legal expert Tomas Ojea Quintana, to observe at the London School of Economics a year ago that in the case of the Rohingyas, “genocidal acts” have been committed by Myanmar. Quintana will be sharing his perspectives in Oslo.

Nobel Peace Laureate, the Archbishop Emeritus Desmond M. Tutu of South Africa, will also address the Oslo conference. He places the responsibility for the Rohingyas’ plight squarely on the Myanmar government. While the government has characterized this as sectarian or communal violence and sought to absolve itself of responsibility, Tutu says there is evidence that anti-Rohingya sentiment has been carefully cultivated by the government itself. “I would be more inclined to heed the warnings of eminent scholars and researchers including Amartya Sen, the Nobel laureate in economics, who say this is a deliberately false narrative to camouflage the slow genocide being committed against the Rohingya people,” Tutu says.

Bishop Tutu will make an impassioned call in Oslo: “As lovers of peace … we have a responsibility to persuade our international and regional aid and grant-making institutions, including the European Union, to adopt a common position making funding the development of Myanmar conditional on the restoration of citizenship, nationality, and basic human rights to the Rohingya.”

The 3-day conference is sponsored by the Oxford University Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), the Harvard University Global Equality Initiative, Parliament of the World’s Religions, Burma Task Force USA, Justice for All, Refugees International, and the International State Crime Initiative at Queen Mary University of London.

Among the Norwegian participants are former Prime Minister of Norway Kjell Magne Bondevik and Morten Høglund, The State Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway.

The Oslo conference is the culmination of a series of conferences – the two previous ones were held at the London School of Economics and Harvard University in 2014 – designed to call attention to the plight of Rohingyas and their decades-long persecution by successive governments in Myanmar.

“As a Buddhist and an ethnic Burmese, I am devastated and ashamed that my own country of birth has been committing mass atrocities that can only be described as a genocide, as spelled out by the 1948 Geneva Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,” says Dr Maung Zarni, exiled scholar and activist. “The UN and Western democratic governments failed Cambodians, Rwandans, Bosnian Serbs and Tamils previously. They are now failing the Rohingyas. Once again, these entities are ignoring an unfolding genocide. It is outrageous that they are mis-framing the Rohingya issue as a “migration” problem, a “communal conflict” or a “humanitarian crisis”. This is because calling Myanmar’s genocide a genocide will disrupt their “business as usual” approach with the Burmese military and ex-military leaders,” he observed.

“As hate, anger and fear is rising around the world, it is important that people of compassion feel the pain of peaceful Rohingyas who have become stateless and homeless in their own ancestral land”, said Imam Malik Mujahid, Co-Chair of the Conference and chair of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

Press Contact: Dr Maung Zarni
UK Mobile: +44 (0)771 047 3322
Email: fanon2005@gmail.com

INFO FOR THE LIVE WEBCAST from 0900 – 1730 hr (Norway time) (GMT +2)
:
Check the following sites for the web address for to watch the live webcast:

http://www.burmamuslims.org/

http://burmese.rohingyablogger.com/

http://www.maungzarni.net/

BACKGROUNDER

The Rohingyas are a borderland people who have indigenous roots in the pre-nation state border region along the present day borders of Bangladesh and Western Burma or Myanmar. Their long-standing roots in Myanmar’s Rakhine region run contrary to Myanmar’s official denial and the Burmese public perception. There are an estimated at 1.33 million in Myanmar, and an estimated 1 million in diasporas (in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Australia, Japan, Europe and US.) Their ethnic identity has been fluid over the centuries – just like any other ethnic community in the heartland or border regions of Myanmar. In relation to today’s Rohingya identity, it is notable that British Colonial censuses, colonial anthropological accounts and other colonial official records are typically characterized by categories and groupings that were anchored in the prevailing European racism and pseudoscientific understanding of ‘races’, thus their use to deny or discredit Rohingya identity today is highly problematic. The Rohingyas as any ethnic community have the right to self-identify under international law, as was officially pointed out by the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon at the ASEAN Summit in Naypyidaw in November 2014. Importantly, successive Burmese governments after independence from Britain in 1948, both the parliamentary government of Prime Minister U Nu and the military governments of General Ne Win – had officially recognized the Rohingyas as one of the constitutive and indigenous national races of the Union of Burma. The official ethnic identity was chosen by the Rohingya leaders themselves and conferred official recognition by the Burmese governments – as evidenced in the fact that the Rohingyas were allocated thrice-weekly Rohingya language radio program on the sole national radio broadcasting station until 1964, allowed to form associations bearing the name ‘Rohingya’, represent their own community in the national Parliament, allotted a separate entry in the official Myanmar language Encyclopedia published by the Government in 1964, and to have a Special District in Northern Arakan or Rakhine State – known as Mayu District – where the population has always been predominantly Rohingya.

Noteworthy is the fact that both the radicals among the Rohingya Muslims and the nationalists among Rakhine Buddhists took up arms and clamored for secession from the Union of Burma, upon independence from Britain. Confronted with the rebellion on two ethnic fronts, Burmese military and the central government of PM U Nu played divide-and-rule vis-à-vis both Rohingyas and the Rakhine throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Rohingyas armed revolt died down as the result of lack of popular support both amongst the Rohingyas themselves and on the part of the then East Pakistan (before Bangladesh). The central government of Burma made concessions to the Rohingya’s demands including the official recognition of the group – both its identity and its native-ness to the pre-nation-state western borderlands of Burma. Rakhine nationalism – a direct product of the Rakhine’s status as a people colonized by the central Burmese kingdoms – remains strong, continuing to vie for greater autonomy, a fair and equitable share of resources and revenues from the hydro-carbon rich and militarily and commercially strategic Rakhine coastal region.

The official persecution of Rohingyas began in earnest in the late 1970s when the Burmese military leadership – once a multi-ethnic and non-discriminatory – turned anti-Christian and, more potently – anti-Muslim. The Armed Forces of Burma or Myanmar has pursued its un-written, but common policy of ‘purifying’ or ‘cleansing’ the military, especially of higher echelon and strategic positions, of Muslims and Christians. The military leaders openly came to view non-Buddhists, mixed ethnic communities or individuals as ‘untrustworthy’ as evidenced by the special address by General Ne Win to the 1982 Citizenship Act drafting committee in the fall of 1981. The Rohingyas have both historical and cultural ties with what was known as East Bengal (latterly part of East Pakistan and since 1973 Bangladesh) and are the only Myanmar Muslim community with a single geographic concentration along the 170-mile stretch of the Bangladesh-Myanmar borders. As such, the military has, since 1970s, come to perceive them as a “potential threat to national security”. Since then, the Myanmar military has adopted the pre-emptive strategy of characterizing the Rohingya presence in Rakhine State as ‘illegal migration’ of Bengalis from neighbouring Bangladesh[1]. This is the narrative the Burmese national public has been deliberately exposed to over the past 40 years and has become the justification for the systematic destruction of the Rohingya as a group.

The Buddhist majority’s largely anti-Muslim sentiment and the historical animosities between Rakhine and Rohingya that peaked during the years of World War II, have been mobilized by the military and policy makers to support and facilitate the destruction of the Rohingya by the State. Anti-Muslim and other forms of xenophobia are deep-rooted with the Burmese society. Particularly, there is pervasive popular racism towards other Muslim communities. However, only the Rohingyas as a distinct ethnic group have been singled out for systematic, sustained and most severe forms of state-directed repression and annihilation.

[1] In fact, in his now published, formerly ‘top secret’ lecture to the National Defense College in early 1990s, ex-General Khin Nyunt, then Chief of Military Intelligence and the 3rd ranking general, had stated the Muslims from Rakhine state were fleeing across over to Bangladesh, in other words, there was only out-flowing of Muslims from Rakhine to Bangladesh, not the other way around.

Meet Daniel Hostetler, the New Executive Director of the Parliament

Daniel Hostetler begins as executive director of the Parliament of the World’s Religions on April 20. Hostetler brings to the Parliament more than 30 years experience in corporate consultancy and non-profit management, most recently directing operations and finance with the Dupage-Aurora [Illinois] World Relief, an international Christian non-profit which supports refugees and immigration issues.

Prior to joining World Relief, Hostetler co-founded and functioned as CEO of Legacy Analytics, which was recognized by Inc.’s Top 500 Fastest Growing Companies. His background includes serving as President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the George S. May International Company Southern European Division (SED,) and for ten years leading 300+ employees. He was also Co-Founder of Strategic Business Partners, which reached national prominence in winning one of the highest awards in the consulting industry.

Another nonprofit organization for which Hostetler holds a board position is the “Jacob Hochstetler Family Association,” which honors his Amish ancestry.

Among his community service activities, Hostetler often volunteers in homeless shelters, hospice, and travels through faith-based initiatives such as Christian Peacemaker Teams.

Hostetler is a devoted member of the Christ Community Mennonite Church in Schaumburg, IL where he finds his call to peacebuilding.

Amish and Hutterite communities across the midwest of the United States see frequent visits from Hostetler, who also travels internationally to perform nonviolent mediation.

Hostetler holds a bachelor’s degree in Business with highest honors from Ohio Christian University and completed an advanced degree in Non-Profit Management at Chicago’s North Park University in 2013.

A raw vegan, Hostetler supports a wide-range of compassionate, humanitarian, and animal welfare efforts. He makes his home in Chicago’s Western suburbs with his wife and is the father of two adult sons and a daughter.

April 17th, 2015 at 11:05 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Mexico’s Carpe Diem Hosting Major Interfaith Conference May 6 – 8

The Parliament strongly expresses support for Interfaith foundation Carpe Diem in presenting Mexico’s second Multicultural Universal Dialogue coming May 6 – 8 in Guadalajara, Jalisco. An international roster of speakers will explore spiritual, scientific, academic and intercultural perspectives on enhancing cooperation across cultures. Many will hail from across Mexico’s religious and indigenous landscape with international guests traveling in from other countries.

One such speaker will be Parliament Chair Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid.

With congratulations to Carpe Diem on its significant achievement for interfaith within Mexico, the Parliament regards this gathering as a benefit to the entire global interfaith community. “I am very much looking forward to being there,” Mujahid says, adding that he sends his best wishes to the organizers of their third major event.

Chair Mujahid will bring a flavor to the conference tying in with values close to both the organizers of DMU and the 2015 Parliament in Salt Lake City.

Click here to register for the Multicultural Universal Diologue and to learn more information.

The Parliament of the World’s Religions Celebrates the World Bank Faith Partnership to End Extreme Poverty by 2030

Photo: rebelmouse.com via worldbank.org

More than 30 religious leaders and faith-based organizations have endorsed a global call for ending extreme poverty. The World Bank’s April 9 release of Ending Extreme Poverty: A Moral and Spiritual Imperative explains the moral obligation shared between faith communities to end the systems which create extreme poverty.

“When we in the interfaith movement commit our faith and action with the will to make it happen, incredible progress is possible,” says Parliament Executive Director Dr. Mary Nelson.  “The Parliament fully endorses the moral imperative, and welcomes the opportunity to work with the World Bank, the United Nations, and other international partners to relieve more than 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty.”

The statement follows a high-level meeting between World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and faith leaders earlier this year as part of its commitment to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030.

The timing syncs with the growing concern of interfaith leaders to make measurable progress on global crises.

“Poverty is a moral issue. The 2015 Parliament will have a special track on the widening wealth gap and income inequity,” says Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, Parliament Board Chair. Mujahid continues, “We will invite the 10,000 participants of 80 countries and 50 religious and spiritual traditions of the 2015 Parliament to make a commitment to engage the guiding institutions of their respective countries, to make extreme poverty a thing of the past through changes in public policy, and to facilitate a balanced relationship between labor and capital to achieve just distribution of wealth.”

As the mother of the modern global interfaith movement, the Parliament of the World’s Religions aims to foster harmony across the world’s religious and spiritual institutions and to engage with the world’s powers to achieve a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world.

Since its introduction at the 1993 Parliament, the Global Ethic established a consensus of the world’s religions on critical global issues such as extreme poverty. The advancement of the Global Ethic stands stronger than ever today with the World Bank’s commitment with interfaith partners to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030. The Parliament welcomes engagement with global partners to mobilize interfaith action for sustainable development and to end extreme poverty.

Read the Statement and Get Involved

The Parliament invites the global interfaith community to contribute to conversations on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #Faith2EndPoverty.

Additionally, all are invited to tune into the full coverage on April 15 where World Bank President Dr. Kim will lead a panel discussion with faith-based organization leaders.

World Bank’s Statement
Ending Extreme Poverty: A Moral and Spiritual Imperative

Our common understanding

As leaders from diverse religious traditions, we share a compelling vision to end extreme poverty by the year 2030. For the first time in human history, we can do more than simply envision a world free of extreme poverty; we can make it a reality. Accomplishing this goal will take two commitments: to act guided by the best evidence of what works and what doesn’t; and to use our voices to compel and challenge others to join us in this urgent cause inspired by our deepest spiritual values.

The world has achieved remarkable progress in the past two decades in cutting in half the number of people living in extreme poverty. We have ample evidence from the World Bank Group and others showing that we can now end extreme poverty within fifteen years. In 2015, our governments will be deciding upon a new global sustainable development agenda that has the potential to build on our shared values to finish the urgent task of ending extreme poverty.

We in the faith community embrace this moral imperative because we share the belief that the moral test of our society is how the weakest and most vulnerable are faring. Our sacred texts also call us to combat injustice and uplift the poorest in our midst. No one, regardless of sex, age, race, or belief, should be denied experiencing the fullness of life.

Our shared moral consensus

This is why the continued existence of extreme poverty in a plentiful world offends us so deeply. Our faith is tested and our hearts are broken when, in an age of unprecedented wealth and scientific advancement, so many still live in degrading conditions. We know too well that extreme poverty thwarts human purpose, chokes human potential, and affronts human dignity. In our increasingly interconnected world, there is enough to ensure that no one has to fight for their daily survival.

Ending extreme poverty will require a comprehensive approach that tackles its underlying causes—including preventable illness, a lack of access to quality education, joblessness, corruption, violent conflicts, and discrimination against women, ethnic minorities and other groups. It will also necessitate a change in the habits that cause poverty—greed and waste, numbness to the pain of others, and exploitation of people and the natural world. It calls for a holistic and sustainable approach that transforms cultures and institutions, and hearts as well as minds.

In too many parts of the world, women and girls are consigned to second class status, denied access to education and employment, and victimized by violence, trafficking, and rape. Until each and every person is afforded the same basic rights, none of us can truly flourish.

We must also state unequivocally that ending extreme poverty without mitigating climate change and combating inequality will be impossible. Climate change is already disproportionately hurting people living in poverty. Extreme inequality, within and between countries, contradicts our shared religious values, exacerbates social and political divisions, and will impede progress. What is needed is a new paradigm of socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable economic growth.

Our call to action

We believe that now is the time to end the scourge of extreme poverty—by restoring right relationships among people, affirming human dignity, and opening the door to the holistic development of all people. If we were more committed to living these common values there would be less poverty in the world.

Our shared convictions call us to empower and uplift— not denigrate—those living in poverty, so that they can become agents of their own transformation. We must abandon a politics that too often marginalizes their voices, blames them for their condition, and exacerbates extremes of inequality. Now is the time to turn fatigue into renewed commitment, indifference into compassion, cynicism into hope, and impotence into a greater sense of agency that we can and will end extreme poverty by 2030.

We commit to working together to end the scandal of extreme poverty. We will act, advocate, educate, and collaborate, both among ourselves and with broader initiatives. And we commit to holding all levels of leadership accountable—public and private, domestic and international.

Our approach to this staggering need must be holistic, rooted in the spiritual visions of our respective faiths, and built on a shared recognition of the intrinsic dignity and value of every life on Earth.

Realizing this shared goal will require a revolution in social and political will, as well as new innovations and greater collaboration across sectors. We call on international organizations, governments, corporations, civil society, and religious communities, to play their essential parts and join with us in this critical cause.

Poverty’s imprisonment of more than a billion men, women and children must end. Now is the time to boldly act to free the next generation from extreme poverty’s grip.

5 Ways You Can Save Lives on World Water Day

Image Courtesy of World Bank Photo Collection

By Brian McLaren and Susan Barnett via On Faith

Water is the one symbol shared by all faiths, so it may be surprising to learn that this sacred gift can also be one of the deadliest things on earth.

Here are five things to know about water — and five simple ways you can make a difference:

1. Water is health.

Look no further than the Ebola crisis for a tragic reminder of just how difficult it is to contain disease without clean water. People in contact with the infected and deceased, especially family members in many villages, couldn’t even wash their hands.

The lack of access to safe water and sanitation causes 50 percent of under-nutrition and fills 50 percent of hospital beds in developing countries. The global water crisis is the leading cause of death of children under the age of five, killing more kids than malaria, AIDS, and TB combined.

Think about the billions of dollars spent fighting HIV/AIDS and malaria. Then realize that the absence of safe water and sanitation means immune-suppressed people living with HIV/AIDS must take their medication with dirty water — ,and no sanitation increases breeding grounds for malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

What can you do?
Support WASH — WAter, Sanitation, and Hygiene. Every faith and denomination engages in global health and development work — and from farming and nutrition to maternal/child health and education, success relies on access to safe water and sanitation. Support your faith-based development organizations, and let them know that WASH needs to be a priority in all the good work they do.

2. Water is education.

More than half of all primary schools in developing countries don’t have adequate water, and nearly two-thirds lack adequate sanitation. That means students gets chronically sick and miss a lot of school. One third of school children suffer from intestinal worms from unsafe water.

Though we’re seeing an increasing focus on the importance of girls’ education, without water, many girls must skip classes to help their mothers carry heavy cans of water for their families, sometimes for miles every day. Many drop out of school entirely once they hit puberty because the lack of separate sanitation and washing facilities is humiliating.

The best way to turn a child into a dependent and impoverished adult is to deny her an education.

What can you do?
Get your kids involved. More than 400,000 students in 800 schools across the U.S. have already made a global impact working with H2O for Life. When a small village in Kenya told a schoolteacher that it was desperate for clean water, middle school teacher Patty Hall introduced the idea to her students in Minneapolis. After they learned about the global water crisis and their own water consumption, her class tried to raise a small amount of money to help the village school get water and sanitation. It turned out to be far easier than they thought — this village now has a permanent source of water all year round and H2O for Life was born.

Since 2007, students across the U.S. have supported over 600 WASH projects, helping over a quarter million students just like themselves — in Africa, India, the Caribbean, Central and South America. H2O for Life has all the free tools and support you’ll need.

3. Water is safety.

Without access to latrines, many women and girls dare to relieve themselves only under the cover of darkness. Their organs can be damaged and nighttime trips to secluded fields put them at nightly risk of violence and sexual assault.

What can you do?
In honor of World Water Day (March 22 each year) designate one spring week at your house of worship as “World Water Week.” Feel free to adapt A Sermon for World Water, and encourage your clergy to deliver it. Share it from pulpit to pew on your website and weekly bulletin.

Water doesn’t have to be serious all the time. Have fun — challenge your congregation to drop a coin in a bucket every time they flush the toilet or turn on the faucet. Faiths for Safe Water has free and fun ideas that help families lower water bills while helping raise funds for those without.

4. Water is equality.

Women and girls can spend up to 60 percent of each day walking to collect water, sometimes along desolate and unsafe paths. It’s a heavy, backbreaking burden that keeps women, families, and whole villages in poverty.

What can you do?
Have a child in Sunday school? Download a free faith-based curriculum that engages children in service learning around water and faith.

5. Water is peace

Peace cannot be achieved when some have plenty and others don’t have something as basic to life as water. Conversely, conflicts have been averted when access to water is negotiated. The world is facing a global water crisis, including in parts of the U.S., and it is only going to get worse without our intervention.

What can you do?
For faith leaders interested in lending your voice on behalf of water for all, please contact Faiths for Safe Water founder Susan Barnett at susankbarnett@gmail.com.

* * *

Our faith voices are the voices of hope. The global water crisis is going to affect us all. Who better to take the lead on behalf of all of God’s children than us?


Brian McLaren is an author, speaker, activist, blogger, and networker. He began his career as a college English teacher and then spent more than 20 years as a pastor. He has written more than a dozen books, including “Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?” and “We Make the Road by Walking.” He is an initiator with the Convergence Network.
Susan Barnett is a former award-winning network news producer; she continues to produce documentary films and is a strategic media and communications consultant to nonprofits, working at the nexus of media, the faith and moral voice, and social justice. She is founder of Faiths for Safe Water and Impact-Communications.

 

#FaithInWomen | The Parliament Celebrates the Interfaith Movement on International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day and the Parliament of the World’s Religions applauds the global interfaith movement that is celebrating women and girls all over the world who are at the heart of our religious and spiritual communities.

The Parliament has a proud history of pursuing the advancement of women in the world:

  • At the first Parliament in 1893, nineteen women speakers made women’s religious history when they addressed themes of religion and women from a racially and religiously diverse podium, when women rarely spoke in public settings.

  • The 1993 Parliament produced the profoundly influential Global Ethic enumerating the equality of  men and women.

  • At the 2009 Parliament, Jimmy Carter gave his groundbreaking speech on the responsibility of the world’s religions to affirm and uphold the human rights and dignity of women.

  • In 2012, the Parliament established it’s Women’s Task Force to lift the voices, perspectives, and influence of women in our movement.

The Parliament is committed to maximizing opportunities for women worldwide to be empowered agents of peace. When the next global generation of women measures our work for a more peaceful, just and sustainable world, the prominence of female voices will be a critical marker.  We commit to making it happen.  We are buoyed now by a growing women’s interfaith network and drawing on the theme of this year’s United Nations observance of International Women’s Day, “Empower Women, Empower Humanity: Picture it!”- we affirm the moral responsibility of the interfaith movement to protect, preserve, and promote the dignity and human rights of women.

This is how we reclaim the heart of our humanity.

Today, more than half of 2015 Parliament registrants are women, and key note speakers include women Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire and prominent religious leaders, scholars and activists like Karen Armstrong, Vandana Shiva and Terry Tempest Williams. Women from all over the world will converge in Salt Lake City to assure that the world’s religions affirm the dignity and human rights of women.

We invite you to join us in making women’s history.  


Authored by Phyllis Curott, Vice-Chair of the Parliament Board of Trustees, Chairwomen of the Parliament Women’s Task Force 

Janaan Hashim, Parliament Board Trustee, Parliament Women’s Task Force

Molly Horan, Director of Communications, 2015 Women’s Planning Committee 

Ourvoices and Green Faith Supporters on Getting Behind Pope Francis on Climate Change

Getting Behind Pope Francis on Climate Change: Why People of Diverse Faiths Should Support the Eco-Encyclical

By Rabbi Lawrence Troster and Jeff Korgen of Ourvoices.net Multi-faith Climate Campaign and Green Faith

This summer, Pope Francis will issue a papal encyclical on the environment. In a year of unparalleled importance for climate change because of key UN meetings in Paris this December, his timing couldn’t be better.

The encyclical will not only represent a key step forward on climate and environmental issues within the Catholic community. It will be a document that people of all faiths can use to increase the attention paid to climate change and the environment in their own communities.

Timing Is Everything

Pope Francis himself recently announced that the encyclical will be released in early summer, prior to the Paris talks. For 20 years, world leaders have made these negotiations an exercise in futility, despite consistent leadership from the UN. Scientists widely agree that we need a strong agreement out of Paris to have a prayer of keeping global warming below devastating levels. Pope Francis is doing his best to help create a positive outcome.

What’s an Encyclical?

The two previous popes wrote extensively on environmental concerns. Pope Francis himself has referred to climate change in numerous speeches. But a papal encyclical, one of the highest forms of Catholic teaching, is different. By addressing these concerns in this format, undiluted by other concerns, the Pope makes the topic unavoidable for Catholics globally.

Once the encyclical is released, it will be shared throughout the Roman Catholic Church and incorporated into the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the foundational document for the moral formation of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. The Church will have a high-status statement that engages the entire Catholic community on climate change, putting the environment squarely on the church’s agenda for the foreseeable future.

Good for Non-Catholics Too

An essential document for Roman Catholics, the encyclical will also be influential for other Christians and people of all faiths and good will. When the encyclical makes headlines, diverse faith leaders globally will want to highlight their own traditions’ eco-teachings.

This is good, because over the past two decades, eco-theologians globally have articulated values deeply consistent with the themes that Pope Francis can be expected to share. With an eye to the Pope’s past speeches and writing, here are several likely themes of the encyclical, with points of connection to other faiths.

  • The earth is a gift from God and reflects a divinely ordained beauty and order. This theme is integral to Christianity, Judaism and Islam, which share an understanding of God as a magnificently generous creator.
  • Human beings must act as the stewards and protectors of this order. Human power over Creation must be carefully utilized in a constructive way. Judaism, Chrisetianity and Islam offer variations on this theme, rooted in Biblical creation accounts and from passages from the Qur’an. Hinduism and Buddhism, with their traditional teachings on ahimsa (non-violence), consistently emphasize that it is our dharma (duty) to treat the natural world with respect. The moral imperative to protect the earth is strong across all faiths.
  • The poor and excluded suffer the worst effects of pollution and climate change. Consistent with the Catholic notion of “the preferential option for the poor,” Pope Francis has repeatedly emphasized the vulnerability of the poor to environmental crises. In line with the teachings of every major religion, he will urge leaders to protect from environment-related devastation those who have been “excluded” from the world economic system.
  • Linking nature’s destruction with greed. Pope Francis has consistently criticized the current economic order as a greed-driven, “throw-away” system, in which the rich get richer and the poor poorer. The Pope will likely be clear that he is not anti-capitalist; he’s anti-greed.
  • Pollution as Structural Sin. In 1997, Patriarch Bartholomew of the Eastern Orthodox Church became the first major religious leader to call pollution sinful. We expect that Pope Francis will take this a step further, describing nature’s degradation not only the sin of individuals but also the “structural sin” of the society, whose large-scale systems result in harm to both nature and people.

Pope Francis will likely place the environment in the context of traditional Catholic doctrines on the rights and dignity of the human being, including previous teachings on birth control, gay marriage, abortion, euthanasia and the death penalty. There will be a great deal of continuity between the encyclical, what previous popes have said on the environment and what he himself has already stated. What will be new is the depth of support the pope provides on this issue, demonstrating that unchanging spiritual teaching can adapt to address great turning points in human history.

Getting Behind Pope Francis

People around the world will want to celebrate the encyclical’s release. To help channel this enthusiasm, OurVoices, the international, multi-faith climate campaign, will be facilitating an inter-religious response, sharing the perspectives and reactions of people from a wide range of traditions and circumstances.

Growing numbers of people of faith are united behind a strong agreement at the Paris meetings. Pope Francis is adding his voice through the most powerful means at his disposal. Given the critical importance of 2015, all faith leaders should do the same, urging world leaders to commit to halting the destructive trend represented by climate change and creating an authentically prosperous future for all.

Republished with the author’s permission from Rabbi Lawrence Troster via Huffington Post

Jeffry Odell Korgen & Rabbi Lawrence Troster are engaging Catholic and Jewish communities in OurVoices.net, the international, multi-faith climate campaign.

Parliament Representative Sara Rahim to Deliver Youth Keynote Address to UN for World Interfaith Harmony Week

Parliament Representative Ms. Sara Rahim Will Address the United Nations for World Interfaith Harmony Week on February 6, 2015.

You are invited to attend this special program convened by the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations in cooperation with the Committee of Religious NGOs:

World Interfaith Harmony Week Multi-religious Partnership for Sustainable Development

Apply for Passes:

Special grounds passes to the UN Headquarters in New York City will be issued upon availability Tuesday, February 3.  

Click Here to Request a Pass Today >>

World Interfaith Harmony Week Multi-religious Partnership for Sustainable Development
Presented by the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations

February 6, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. EST
This event will be webcast on UN.org- Finalized Program TBA | Tentative Program as Follows

Opening Session:

  • H.E. Mr. Sam Kahamba Kutesa, President of the General Assembly of the United Nations
  • H.E. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations
  • Dr. William F. Vendley, President of the RNGO Committee at the UN
  • Ms. Sara Rahim, UN Youth Representative of the Parliament of the World’s Religions

Panel Themes:

featuring distinguished speakers TBA:

Interfaith Collaboration for Post 2015 Sustainable Development Agenda

Partnership to Strengthen the Post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals

The 2015 World Interfaith Harmony Week Observance of the United Nations is convened by the Office of the President of the General Assembly in cooperation with the Committee of Religious NGOs.

Co-Sponsors include the CONGO Committee on Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns – NY | Global Movement for the Culture of Peace | NGO Committee on Sustainable Development | Spiritual Caucus at the UN | The Values Caucus at the UN

Read the United Nation World Interfaith Harmony Week Resolution Here

The United Nations observance of World Interfaith Harmony week celebrates its fifth year in 2015. $50,000 in prize money sponsored by King Abdullah of Jordan is dedicated to winning entries promoting peace across the world. Submissions include performance, organizing, and just about anything interfaith.

To learn more and to enter this global peacebuilding competition click here. 

Gandhi and His Message | Arun Gandhi on the Anniversary of His Grandfather’s Assassination

Dr. Arun Gandhi

Weeks before his assassination, a journalist asked the great Indian leader and champion of non-violence, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi what would happen to his philosophy of nonviolence after his death. His reply was both prophetic and poignant. He said: “The people of India will follow me in life, worship me in death, but not make my cause their cause.”

These words could have been uttered by any of the people we worship today. Gandhi’s cause was simple: Bring peace through religious, ethnic and cultural harmony among the people of the world. Our emphasis on nationalism and patriotism, narrowing people’s perspectives to a small geographical area, was repugnant to Gandhi. In fact, he said, the acceptance of the interconnectedness and inter-relatedness of all beings is what will save this world from strife and destruction. No country, however rich and powerful, can be safe if the rest of the world destroys itself. The security and stability of any country, he believed, depends on the security and stability of the whole world.

What we are doing today is just the opposite. We are not only torn apart as nations but even in our belief in God and spirituality. The world is witnessing violent chaos. People killing each other in the name of God although God and religion are about love, respect, compassion, understanding and acceptance. If the world does not appear to have accepted Gandhi’s message of nonviolence and a life of harmony, neither has his own country of birth and dedication – India.

Not even his own Congress Party believed in or accepted his philosophy and way of life although this party has ruled over India for almost 60 years after independence in 1947. The Congress Party paid lip-service to Gandhi, printed his image on all currency notes and observed his birth and death anniversaries. Beyond that Gandhi’s legacy gathered dust on the shelves. If India could not give the lead to the world in sane living can one expect other nations to follow Gandhi’s ideology?

I believe Gandhi was a universal personality and his philosophy should appeal to anyone who believes in civilized behavior. After all he did influence many leaders in different countries! The tragedy is that everyone sees his philosophy of nonviolence as a strategy of convenience and not as a way of life. The consequence is that individually and collectively as nations we subscribe to a Culture of Violence that dominates every aspect of our lives. Nonviolence is selectively used as just another weapon of convenience.

Peace has, consequently, come to mean the absence of war and that if we are not fighting physically we are nonviolent. We do indulge, however, in passive (or non-physical) violence like exploitation, oppression of all kinds, wasting resources, encouraging disparities, and the countless other ways in which we hurt people emotionally, spiritually and psychologically. It is this passive violence that generates anger in the victim and ultimately results in physical violence. It is the fuel that ignites war and violence.

India is now at the crossroads. The extreme right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its multiple off-shoots have come into power. Their genesis is in the Hindu supremacist and militant RSS organization, that was responsible for the assassination of Gandhi. Since the assassination of Gandhi in 1948 the Hindu right wing claimed they had nothing to do with the conspiracy and that it was all engineered by Nathuram Godse, his brother Gopal and a few friends. The reality is that Godse was a member of the RSS, and withdrew himself from membership only to protect other RSS functionaries, during his trial.

With the sweeping majority that the Hindu Right wing now enjoys in the Indian Parliament their Members of Parliament have been emboldened to demand that Godse be considered a hero of the Indian revolution, that the killing of Gandhi was an act of patriotism and that Gandhi’s image be removed from the currency notes. To me this sounds like tacit admission that they were morally responsible for empowering Nathuram Godse to carry out the assassination plot, just as the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is morally responsible for the slaughter of more than 2,000 Muslims in the State of Gujarat in 2002 when he was the Chief Minister, the equivalent of a US Governor. The slaughter was the result of police inaction and the Government’s lack of intention to call in Federal troops. Either Mr. Modi wanted the slaughter to take place or he was a weak leader incapable of controlling the government and the bureaucracy. Most people believe it is the former and not the latter

The Hindu nationalists, like bigoted people anywhere, are adept at speaking from both sides of their mouths. This includes the Prime Minister, Mr. Modi, who has almost overnight become America’s wunderkind. The BJP and its numerous allies firmly believe in the Nazi theory that a lie repeated often enough will eventually be accepted as truth. Unless the people of India come together against hate, intolerance and fascism, lies, deceit and corruption could be India’s fate in the foreseeable future.

ABOUT DR. ARUN GANDHI

Dr. Arun Manilal Gandhi

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.

January 29th, 2015 at 5:56 pm

Parliament Board Condemns Violence in France and Nigeria; Invites All Faith Communities to Issue Joint Statement

“The Parliament of the World’s Religions vehemently condemns revengeful attacks killing 12 journalists and four Jews in France, and an estimated 1500 women and children in Nigeria. Now this cycle of revenge has engulfed the French Muslims with more than 20 attacks on Islamic buildings. We send our condolences to the families of the victims and to all of France and Nigeria as they grieve.

The Parliament believes that use of religion or any other socio-political ideology to “justify” violence is simply not acceptable.

The Parliament urges the global community to remember that such acts violate the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad and asks that faith communities stand together to break this cycle of revenge by speaking out and organizing programs which enhance positive human relationship of compassion and forgiveness.

The Parliament plans to organize special programing in the forthcoming 2015 Parliament in October 15-19th on the cycle of war, violence, and hate. We invite all faith communities to participate in a joint declaration with a clear resolve to do our utmost  to develop a movement against war, violence and hate.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”