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Reflections on Charleston and the Path to Unity

By Robert C. Henderson
Parliament Trustee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once again our hearts are broken by acts of senseless violence—murders driven by the cancerous madness of racism. And once again the scene is a church, where God fearing souls gathered for Bible study and worship—spiritual fellowship and love, were taken from their families and friends in the vain hope of prompting a racial holy war.

While families and friends grieve and forgive, people of good will and faith offer support and prayers, and politicians make statements, Americans would benefit from deep reflection on the underlying cause of racial division, the heavy price we pay for hate, and the rising sun of racial amity and concord slowly illuminating the darkness of our divided past.

For devastating as they are, these savage acts of violence against innocent souls can neither alter nor prevent the slowly growing acceptance of the oneness of humankind and the reordering of social life to accommodate the requirements of equality.

Throughout America, studies show that interracial cooperation is rising in virtually every aspect of social life. Interracial children are among the fastest growing populations in the country. Faith communities, work places, social organizations, and neighborhoods are all rapidly diversifying; while significant percentages of all groups are marrying people of different colors.

We weep for Charleston, but we must never lose sight of the real change gaining momentum in America: race hate is dying and race amity is our future.

To focus our reflections we offer a few excerpts from “The Vision of Race Unity—America’s Most Challenging Issue,” a statement by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States.

(The statement can be read in its entirety at www.usbahai.org)

Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. –The Baha’i Writings

Racism is the most challenging issue confronting America. A nation whose ancestry includes every people on earth, whose motto is E pluribus Unum, whose ideals of freedom under law have inspired millions throughout the world, cannot continue to harbor prejudice against any racial or ethnic group without betraying itself. Racism is an affront to human dignity, a cause of hatred and division, a disease that devastates society…

Notwithstanding the efforts already expended for its elimination, racism continues to work its evil upon this nation. Progress toward tolerance, mutual respect, and unity has been painfully slow and marked with repeated setbacks. The recent resurgence of divisive racial attitudes, the increased number of racial incidents, and the deepening despair of minorities and the poor make the need for solutions ever more pressing and urgent. To ignore the problem is to expose the country to physical, moral and spiritual danger…

Having gone through the stages of infancy and turbulent adolescence, humanity is now approaching maturity, a stage that will witness “the reconstruction and demilitarization of the whole civilized world–a world organically unified in all the essential aspects of its life.”

In no other country is the promise of organic unity more immediately demonstrable than in the United States because this country is a microcosm of the diverse populations of the earth. Yet this promise remains largely unrealized even here because of the endemic racism that, like a cancer, is corroding the vitals of the nation…

The application of the spiritual principle of the oneness of humanity to the life of the nation would necessitate and make possible vast changes in the economic status of the non-white segments of the population. Although poverty afflicts members of all races, its victims tend to be largely people of color. Prejudice and discrimination have created a disparity in standards of living, providing some with excessive economic advantage while denying others the bare necessities for leading healthy and dignified lives. Poor housing, deficient diet, inadequate health care, insufficient education are consequences of poverty that afflict African Americans, American Indians, and Hispanic Americans more than they afflict the rest of the population. The cost to society at large is heavy…

The persistent neglect by the governing bodies and the masses of the American people of the ravages of racism jeopardizes both the internal order and the national security of the country.

From the day it was born the United States embraced a set of contradictory values. The founding fathers proclaimed their devotion to the highest principles of equality and justice yet enshrined slavery in the Constitution. Slavery poisoned the mind and heart of the nation and would not be abolished without a bloody civil war that nearly destroyed the young republic. The evil consequences of slavery are still visible in this land. They continue to affect the behavior of both Black and White Americans and prevent the healing of old wounds…

Our appeal is addressed primarily to the individual American because the transformation of a whole nation ultimately depends on the initiative and change of character of the individuals who compose it. No great idea or plan of action by the government or other interested organizations can hope to succeed if the individual neglects to respond in his or her own way as personal circumstances and opportunities permit. And so we respectfully and urgently call upon our fellow Americans of whatever background to look at the racial situation with new eyes and with a new determination to lend effective support to the resolution of a problem that hinders the advance of this great republic toward the full realization of its glorious destiny…”



Robert C. Henderson is an elected member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States, the Baha’i Faith’s senior national administrative institution. Dr. Henderson also serves as a Developer and President of the Philanthropic Division of Baharicom Development Company, co-builder of the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE)/Uhurunet submarine cable system. In its planned configuration, the 17,000 km-long fiber optic cable will stretch from France to South Africa and will be operational in the first half of 2012, connecting 23 countries and providing broadband capacity grants to thousands of schools, hospitals and social development projects.

In the Spiritual Movement to Fight Climate Change, the Pope Is Not Alone

When it comes to climate change, Pope Francis and many other world religious leaders are cut from the same cloth.

 for OnEarth
originally published by the Natural Resource Defense Council

PHOTO: CATHOLIC CHURCH OF ENGLAND AND WALES/FLICKR

When Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became pope in 2013, the new pontiff took the name Francis in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, the 13th-century preacher known for a great love of animals and nature. So maybe it’s no surprise that yesterday Pope Francis delivered the Roman Catholic Church’s first-ever encyclical on the environment—most notably, on climate change.

“The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all,” he wrote.

Catholics regard encyclicals, or official papal letters, as authoritative teachings on a particular subject. They’re meant to instruct as well to inspire action among the flock. And Francis’ flock is big—1.2 billion strong—but he’s hoping to prompt people of all creeds, at all levels of society, to join in the battle against climate change. World leaders will convene in Paris in December at the United Nations climate conference to hash out their countries’ carbon-reduction pledges.

Pope Francis will be in Paris, too, fighting for the actions he deems morally necessary to care for our “one single human family.” On that note, he is not the only faith leader who’s got climate on the mind. Here’s what the world’s other major religions have to say about the subject.

ISLAM (1.6 BILLION FOLLOWERS)

Environmental consciousness first took root in Islam in the 1970s, with many “green Muslims” turning to passages in the Koran that discussed the sacredness of nature. It wasn’t until 2009, however, that Sheikh Ali Gomaa, the Gran Mufti of Egypt—nicknamed the “Green Mufti”—announced a seven-year plan to make Islam more environmentally friendly. “Pollution and global warming pose an even greater threat than war, and the fight to preserve the environment could be the most positive way of bringing humanity together,” he said. Gomaa’s plan focused on Medina, Saudi Arabia, the religion’s second-holiest city, and included commitments to renewable energy and climate change education.

Despite these and other efforts by activists across the Muslim world, the voice of Islamic leaders has been conspicuously absent from the global dialogue on the issue. This is particularly troubling to some members of the faith since many traditionally Islamic countries are particularly prone to the impacts of climate change, such as drought and sea-level rise.

HINDUISM (1 BILLION)

The vast majority of Hindus live in India, where the effects of climate change are already devastating the country. A recent heat wave killed thousands—it wasn’t the first, and it won’t be the last.

As in Islam, Hindu scriptures allude strongly and often to the connection between humans and nature. These texts form the foundation of the Hindu Declaration on Climate Change, presented at a 2009 meeting of the Parliament of World Religions. In the statement, the authors accept that “centuries of rapacious exploitation of the planet have caught up with us” and state clearly that a radical change in our relationship to the planet is necessary for survival. The declaration also recognizes that “it may be too late to avert drastic climate change” and encourages compassionate responses to “such calamitous challenges as population displacement, food and water shortage, catastrophic weather, and rampant disease.”

PROTESTANTISM (814 MILLION)

Evangelical Protestants: Much of the non-Catholic Christian focus on climate change has centered on denial—global warming, they say, is a natural process brought about by God, not humans. Indeed, when public figures make spectacles of those beliefs (looking at youSenator Inhofe), they’re hard to ignore.

One group of evangelicals known as the Cornwall Alliance is responsible for fueling much of such misinformation. “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human contribution to greenhouse gases is causing dangerous global warming,” it stated in an official declaration in 2009. In April, the alliance responded directly to news of the upcoming encyclical with an open letter to Pope Francis outlining why “it is both unwise and unjust to adopt policies requiring reduced use of fossil fuels for energy” and encouraging the pope to “advise the world’s leaders to reject them.”

About 35 to 45 percent of all evangelicals, however, are not members of the denial choir. Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, for example, doesn’t find that her faith conflicts with the facts about human-induced global warming. The Bible is actually very clear that there are consequences for making bad choices. Sow the seeds, bear the fruit. Climate change is the consequence of making some bad choices,” she says in a 2012 onEarth article about her efforts to reach out to her religious community. Associations like the Evangelical Climate Initiative and the National Association of Evangelicals* have also accepted that climate change is anthropogenic, and in 2013 more than 200 evangelical scientists released a letter calling on Congress to address climate change. “Our nation has entrusted you with political power; we plead with you to lead on this issue and enact policies this year that will protect our climate and help us all to be better stewards of Creation,” they wrote.

Mainline Protestants: Meanwhile, many other protestant denominations have made serious commitments to combating climate change, and the United Church of Christ leads the way. It issued a resolution in 2007 admitting Christian complicity in the damage human beings have caused to the earth’s climate system,” and in 2013, it became the first U.S. denomination to divest from fossil fuels. EpiscopaliansAnglicans, and Presbyterians have all addressed the global challenges of climate change. And in 2008, prominent leaders in the Southern Baptist Church, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States with 16 million adherents, challenged the denomination’s official stance by declaring that “humans must be proactive and take responsibility for our contributions to climate change—big and small.”

BUDDHISM (488 MILLION)

You know that climate change is a serious issue if the Dalai Lama is deeming it more pressing than Tibetan independence. In a 2011 conversation with the U.S. ambassador to India, the religious leader said that “melting glaciers, deforestation, and increasingly polluted water from mining projects” were problems that couldn’t wait.

Before that, as part of a scientifically grounded 2009 Buddhist declaration on climate change citing the “ecological consequences of our collective karma,” the Dalai Lama endorsed the 350-parts-per-million target for carbon emissions. More recently, in 2014, he addressed the dire need for climate action: “The worst possible aspect of climate change is that it will be irreversible and irrevocable. Therefore, there is the urgency to do whatever we can to protect the environment while we can.”

ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY (300 MILLION)

Similar to the Green Mufti, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the spiritual leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church since 1991, has earned the title of “Green Patriarch” for his dedication to environmental matters.

In 2002, Bartholomew, alongside the late Pope John Paul II, addressed the issue of environmental ethics and has since repeatedly spoken about the need to protect the environment. Last year, he delivered a message at the U.N. Interfaith Summit on Climate Change about embracing the urgency of the problem. Each believer and each leader, each field and each discipline, each institution and each individual must be touched by the call to change our greedy ways and destructive habits.”

SIKHISM (27 MILLION)

Close to 80 percent of all Sikhs live in the Punjab region of India, an area already deeply affected by climate change. Punjab is the country’s breadbasket, and extreme drought is threatening farmers, not to mention the entire agricultural system. With this in mind, prominent Sikh leaders joined forces in 2009 to create EcoSikh, a group dedicated to “promoting care for the environment.” That year, a month before climate talks in Copenhagen, the group partnered with the United Nations and other faith groups and announced a five-year plan to help curb climate change.

Last September, EcoSikh issued an official statement on climate change, the first of its kind from a Sikh organization. “It is abundantly clear that our action had caused great damage to the atmosphere and is projected to cause even more damage if left unhandled,” it declared. “As Sikhs, we appeal to lawmakers, faith leaders, and citizens of the world to take concrete action toward reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment. As Sikhs we pledge to take concrete actions ourselves. We have a responsibility to follow our Gurus’ teachings and protect the vulnerable.”

JUDAISM (14 MILLION)

Many Jewish groups and individuals have been addressing environmental issues for years, but they have only started making official statements and calls to action on climate change in the past several years. In 2009, Commission on Social Action to the Union for Reform Judaism issued a resolution on the “unprecedented challenge of climate change due to greenhouse gas emissions” and need for urgent action.

But as the Forward reports, the People’s Climate March in September is what first catalyzed many Jewish groups—including Conservative, Renewal, and Reconstructionist—to support the event that called on leaders to come to a strong international agreement on climate change. The Orthodox movement has been a bit more reluctant, however. Its top organizations, the Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America, steered clear of the march, worrying it could get “politically hijacked.”

BAHA’I (7 MILLION)

The Baha’i faith centers on principles like unity, justice, equality, and altruism, and its teachings promote the agreement of science and religion. It is fitting, then, that the Baha’i International Community has been publicly addressing global warming for years. In a 2008 statement, the group highlighted the need for individual, community, national, and international responses to climate change, and in 2009 presented (along with EcoSikh) a seven-year action plan to confront the issue.

Last year, Peter Adriance, the representative for sustainable development for the Baha’is of the United States, spoke out in support of the Obama administration’s new rules limiting carbon pollution from power plants. “More than purely an environmental issue, the setting of carbon standards is an issue of fairness, equity, and justice,” he said. “My hope is that our generation will be able to leave the world directed toward a better future than the one toward which we are currently headed, a world in which all people will be able to lead safe, productive, and healthy lives.”

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.