The Parliament Blog

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 []

Parliament of the World’s Religions Earns Highest Honors at Religion Communicators Awards

Two videos illustrating the work and mission of The Parliament of the World’s Religion’s were awarded highest honors at The Religion Communicators Council (RCC) annual Derose-Hinkhouse Memorial Awards ceremony in Alexandria, VA.

Both videos received awards under the Audio & Video, Broadcast, Non-Broadcast & Cable category. Parliament Executive Director Dr. Mary Nelson and Kari Carlson of Baha’i Media Services were awarded Best in Class for The Heart of Faith, sharing the story of the Parliament and the ways our interconnection makes humanity stronger. Dr. Mary Nelson and Anna Castelaz of Baha’i Media Services received the Award of Excellence for Our Souls’ Aspiration, which reveals a young people’s hopes for the Parliament fitting into their world.

The Religion Communicators Council is an “interfaith association of religion communicators.” According to its website, the “DeRose-Hinkhouse Memorial Awards are given annually to active members of the Religion Communicators Council (RCC) who demonstrate excellence in religious communications and public relations. The awards are named to honor the late Victor DeRose and the late Paul M. Hinkhouse, leading lithographers in New York City, and longtime friends of the RCC. Both men shared a strong interest in, and concern for, excellence in communications.”

The Parliament is delighted to share these honors with the services department of the Baha’i National Center. Executive Director Dr. Mary Nelson says, “we’re thrilled about the honors awarded to these two exciting videos that share the hearts of people of faith and spirit envisioning a better world. We’re so grateful to the Baha’i Media Services for producing, and RCC for acknowledging and honoring the excellence in these videos.”

Be sure to check out and share the clips below.

The Heart of Faith

Our Souls’ Aspiration

April 14th, 2015 at 10:19 am

Posted in 2015 Parliament []

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.

Sharing 5 Lessons on Non-Proliferation and the Interfaith Movement

By Parliament UN Youth Representative: Tahil Sharma

The United Religions Initiative organized a great panel of activists and ambassadors who work with communities through URI’s ‘Cooperation Circles’ across the globe to make nuclear weapons a thing of the past. People like Jonathan Granoff, a 2014 nominee for the Nobel Peace prize for his work advocating nuclear non-proliferation, and Dot Maver, an activist within the interfaith and peace-building spectrum, gave a thorough and comprehensive understanding of the potentials of nuclear energy and our current capabilities and uses in potentially destroying our world.

This webinar gave tools to productively say “NO!” to the atom and hydrogen bombs which threaten the greatest potential of destroying our environment and our civilization as we know it.

  1. Remembering the everlasting impact – Meltdowns like Chernobyl and Fukushima, the obliterating potential of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the continued tests of nuclear weapons has a lasting effect on many people around the world and our environment. Believe it or not, victims of the atom bombing on Japan today face significant social and political stigma. They are stereotyped and treated as second-class citizens, which is preventing them from speaking out about their experiences. Some of the worst discrimination sees forms of insurance withheld that would help to treat ongoing side effects of the blasts. The majority of society apathetically forgets that our current nuclear weaponry has the potential to destroy the world a thousand times over. (Random fact: Japan has set up a stratified system of coverage for those affected by the bombs based on distance, the manner in which they received any form of radiation poisoning, and depending on the age group. Children within the womb during the blast, for example, are not eligible for coverage or benefits.)
  2. The non-signatories of the NPT – Israel, India, Pakistan, South Sudan and North Korea have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which mandates only the peaceful uses of nuclear energy with the goal of complete disarmament. This plays out as a great challenge for the security and stability of the world, so we continue to find and build movements for non-violence and conflict resolution. Pranab Mukherjee, the then External Affairs Minister and now current President of India, stated in a trip to India in 2007 that “If India did not sign the NPT, it is not because of its lack of commitment for non-proliferation, but because we consider NPT as a flawed treaty and it did not recognize the need for universal, non-discriminatory verification and treatment.” (India Times, 5/23/07) The ambiguity of such a statement can be dangerous, seeing that the continued competition for arms and the instability of peace talks between India and Pakistan could create a sense of discomfort and anxiety in the matter of growing political, social, and economic power. With all of this in mind, the speakers continued to reaffirm our ability as a civil society; as interfaith leaders and activists, we have the power to make a difference and influence the decisions necessary in abhorring and abolishing nuclear weapons.
  3. Storytelling Holds Great Potential – From the personal stories of transformation of the Hibakusha (Survivors of the Atomic bombs in Japan) to live in the 21st century, to the new generations that demand no harm to any innocent human beings, every story has its potential to change minds, strengthen hearts, and move forward. URI UN Representative Monica Willard made note of such power by reciting the poem 20,000,000 by Justine Merritt. In a few succinct moments, she verbalized the potential of annihilation that a nuclear weapon threatens by enumerating the figure 20 million, accounting for the count of lives in the state of California. How profound and bleak a future sounds when you know it can be obliterated in seconds.
  4. The Groundswell of the Common Man – There are a variety of ways that we, as individuals, can work together to change the status quo. Consider petitions like the Peace and Planet Petition for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons (that will be presented to the United Nations on April 26th), planting A-Bomb Surviving Saplings in your community and hosting A-Bomb photo exhibitions, and believing we have the potential to stand up against the destruction of humanity and the biosphere. We must engage communities and organizations around the world, and collaborate in activism, education, and service, to raise awareness and empathy in friends and strangers alike. “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This same potential can reach the highest levels through encouraging legislators and members of parliaments to join the Parliamentarians for Nuclear non-Proliferation and Disarmament to influence policy and law in the abolition of the nuclear use of weapons.
  5. Reflecting on the Power In Our Hands – Before we began the webinar, Rt. Rev. Bill Swing, Founder and President of the United Religions Initiative, read a prayer that reminded me of the beauty and power of all faith traditions, secular perspectives, and spiritual practices; it reminded me that the power to create and destroy was in the hands of all human beings. My own faith traditions of Hinduism and Sikhism have always reminded me that every good and bad action is accounted for and that I am immediately repaid through the karma I deserve. If it is not in my mind and heart that I must work to change and save the world in every way possible, I am doing a disservice to myself, the world and to the Divine I eternally devote myself to.

The Spotlight Is on Interfaith Youth: Better Together Day, World Faith, and More

By Shani Belshaw, Parliament of the World’s Religions Intern

The global interfaith movement is expanding rapidly through youth engagement.  Building impact through innovative approaches to dialogue and action, the spotlight on interfaith youth organizations is bright in recent weeks.

  • World Faith-Interfaith Youth In Action announced the introduction of three new members of its Board of Directors, Alexandra Karasavva, Rev. Jennifer Bailey, and Savneet Singh.
    • Karasavva graduated from NYU with a major in Middle Eastern Studies and international politics. She has worked for eight years as the Director at TransPerfect Translations, a global business solutions provider.
    • Rev. Jennifer Bailey is a Nathan Cummings Fellow and Truman Scholar; she leads a multi-faith movement and organizes community events as the Founder and Executive Director of the Faith Matters Network (FMN).
    • Savneet Singh is a Cornell University alumnus, where he majored in Applied Economics and Management. He is the Founder and President of Gold Bullion International (GBI), the first electronic business where individuals can buy, sell, and trade physical precious metals.

Read more about these new World Faith Board here.

It’s time to get the word out for “Better Together Day” on April 14th.

The campaign by Interfaith Youth Core is all about getting our world more connected because we really are better together.

It all starts with a pledge.

For Better Together Day you pledge to meet someone from a different religious or non-religious background and start a conversation with him or her about what they believe and about your beliefs as well.  These conversations break down the stereotype that you can’t casually talk about religion with someone that you don’t know very well, a stereotype that isn’t true at all.

Click here to take the Better Together Day Pledge right now!

IFYC’s website offers many tips on how to start a conversation and even a shared values toolkit. The website has a lot of great ideas on how to get more involved on “Better Together Day”. One way they mention is by “speedfaithing”, which is where you spend 20 minutes learning about a religious tradition the other partakes in. Another idea to get involved is to take a new friend selfie: introduce yourself to a stranger, tell them about “Better Together Day”, share something meaningful with each other, and then snap a selfie with them!

There is even a “Better Together Day” Conversation Space on Facebook! 

Take the pledge and let your friends know about “Better Together Day”. We are in a world blessed with technology, but we are still disconnected as ever. Religious tension globally is at a six year high. We should all be using social media like Twitter and Facebook to stay more connected. Use the hashtag, #WeAreBetterTogether to let all your followers know about this amazing movement.

IFYC is partnering a network of 3.6 million young advocates that take on global issues. DoSomething.org will work with IFYC to promote dialogue through the “One Text Under God(s)” program.

All you do is text IFYC to 38283 and you can have the chance to ask four IFYC members from four different backgrounds about their faith; Thomas is an atheist; Keryn is a Mormon, Pavitra is a Hindu, and Sara Rahim, a Muslim, who is an IFYC alum and serves the Parliament as a UN youth representative.

Read about Sara Rahim in this recent profile featured in “The Muslim Observer”

When Sara Rahim recounts the details of her past accomplishments, it is with a breezy, cheerful tone. This is at once disarming and refreshing, given that they are long and of the highest caliber, especially for a person so young: the twenty-three-year old’s résumé is peppered with accolades from the State Department, the United Nations, and the White House, to name a few.

But for someone who thinks so globally, who speaks a laundry list of languages, her recipe for changing the world, Rahim says, starts simply: with sharing a meal, or starting a conversation.

It is this attitude that propelled her to the UN stage on February 6, 2015 as the youth keynote speaker for World Interfaith Harmony Week. Rahim has served as the Youth Representative of the Parliament of the World’s Religions for a year, one of the oldest interfaith organizations in the world.

Continue reading…

Congratulations to these emerging leaders. All young and bold interfaith advocates are invited to bring their talent and energy to this year’s 2015 Parliament at reduced student rates! Check it out here. 

Parliament Communications Team Member Nafia Khan contributed to this article.  

Religion and Women’s Dignity and Human Rights at the #UNCSW59

Reflections, Prayers and Remembrances at the 59th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women

by Phyllis Curott, Vice-Chair of the Parliament of the World’s Religions Board of Trustees, Chairwoman of the Parliament Women’s Task Force

“Thank you for doing this – this is is just what we needed.” This was the reaction expressed, and what we had hoped for, as we concluded our women’s interfaith service organized by the Women’s Task Force and the Interfaith Center of New York as a special sponsored event for the 59th Session of the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women.

The well-attended service at the Chapel of the Church Center for the United Nations offered a chance for UNCSW attendees to gather and reflect, pray and meditate, share insights and strengthen hope, to offer their gratitude and honor our co-workers who have passed from this life.

A remarkable and diverse group of women religious leaders spoke: the Chaplain of the CCUN Chapel Rev. Dionne Boissiere opened the service with a warm welcome and was followed by former Trustee and founder and President of the International Academy for Transcultural Cooperation, Audrey Kitagawa who filled the sacred space with chanting before sharing reflections on Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai.

Kusumita Pedersen offered the historic and pressing context for the service, reading from the Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world, Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom…”

To embrace the park, Grant Park,
with Ribbons
is to hold those gathered to hear the Dalai Lama,
is to hold those gathered together
after an event called The Parliament of the World’s Religions,
is to hold them within the Hope and Love of the stitches, paint strokes, weavings
of those who could not come.
To embrace the park, Grant Park, with Ribbons
is to send a message to those boats along the shore
those people walking on the hot sidewalks around the park,
is to send a message to those gathered inside the pieces of fabric
and those watching from a distance - to see and to know
that others from around this beautiful and tortured Earth
wait in Hope
pray with Love
that the event held within the Parliament of the World’s Religions
will grow beyond these few days in a place called Chicago
will grow to embrace the Earth
with the Hope
the prayers
the Love.
Shalom,
Justine Merritt | May 1993

She also honored the memory of several remarkable women including Tonya Frichner, founder of the American Indian Law Alliance and Advisor to the Women’s Task Force. Heartfelt and moving reflections were also shared by Indigenous leader Murial Borst, who worked closely with Tonya, Aisha al-Adawiya, founder and Chair of Women in Islam, Dr. Uma Mysorekar, President of the Hindu Temple Society of North America, the Reverend Chloe Breyer, Episcopal priest and Executive Director of the Interfaith Center of New York and Monica Willard, United Nations Representative of United Religions Initiative, who read a poem by Justine Merritt, founder of the Ribbon International Project to eliminate nuclear weapons that began with the 1993 Parliament in Chicago.

Dozens of women stood and shared, honored and remembered women who had inspired their lives and expressed why it was important for them to share their reflections. It was particularly moving that two young women from the Church of Latter Day Saints participated and expressed their commitment to supporting the Women’s Initiative and the Parliament by organizing homestays for visiting participants.

After the event, Kusumita Pedersen said, “It brought us together in a special way, strengthened us and we learned from each other. ‘Speaking from the heart’ is much needed, as many said and we proved. It also turned out to be entirely appropriate for the CSW.”

We are women of many faiths who have faith in women. And we have faith in what happens when women speak from their hearts. This is how we reclaim the heart of our humanity and we hope that you will join us in speaking from your heart at the Women’s Assembly beginning at 9 AM on October 15th, and during the Women’s Program Initiative throughout the Parliament from the evening of October 15th through October 19th, 2015.

There will be panels and presentations, workshops and conversations, and a Women’s Sacred Space available throughout the Parliament for spiritual gatherings, reflections, religious observances, prayers, meditations, rites and celebrations that express the great diversity, strength, wisdom and beauty of women’s spirits.

We invite you to share your reflections on what it means to be a woman of faith and what it means to have faith in women at #FaithInWomen

We invite you to submit a program proposal, spiritual or religious observance or celebration at: http://goo.gl/pWt2Ed

We invite you to join us at the Women’s Assembly on October 15 and the Women’s Program Initiative and the Parliament of the World’s Religions October 15 – 19.

With love and gratitude,
Phyllis Curott

 

 

Ms. Phyllis Curott

Phyllis Curott is an attorney, author and Wiccan priestess. An interfaith activist and advocate of religious liberties for minority faiths in the courts and media, Jane Magazine honored her as one of the Ten Gutsiest Women of the Year, New York Magazine described her as one of the “culture’s most intellectually cutting-edge thinkers,” and Beliefnet has featured her in their video series Preachers and Teachers. Curott is founder and president of the international Temple of Ara and president emerita of the Covenant of the Goddess.

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.