It is a warm reunion with Kusumita P. Pederson of New York who has now returned to the Parliament Board of Trustees following re-election after the mandatory time-off period required after a previous completed terms has completed.
Reaction from the Parliament Board Chair is bright. Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid describes, “she is a walking interfaith dictionary of America. I have never found Kusumita refusing anything which strengthens interfaith. I am pleased to welcome her back to the board. As the co-chair of the Interfaith Center of New York, she brings strength to our board, as well as much needed connectivity between the local realities and the global scene.”
IFNCY has been gracious to the Parliament as a co-host of the Long Island Faith Against Hate Day of Learning and Relationship held this past June, and through co-sponsoring and cross-promoting an upcoming webinar.
With Pederson returned to the Board, this solidifies a blossoming practice of global-local organizational partnerships which are helping strengthen the interfaith movement.
Dr. Kusumita P. Pedersen was Professor of Religious Studies at St. Francis College in New York. She received her Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies from Columbia University. She was previously Executive Director of the Project on Religion and Human Rights; Joint Secretary for Religious Affairs of the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders on Human Survival; and Executive Director of the Temple of Understanding. She is currently Co-Chair of the Interfaith Center of New York.
A Preface by Imam Dr. Abdul Malik Mujahid, Chair of the Board of Trustees
Human interconnectedness has been transformed dramatically by technology. However, our hearts and our minds are yet to be aligned with the God-given ideals of sharing more and consuming less to achieve better results for the humanity.
In a world where more than a billion people live under two dollars a day; where 45 million people are fleeing conflict and persecution; where fear, hate, and anger are rising, we have a responsibility to be good neighbors, to be compassionate, and to live by the Golden Rule.
The Parliament of the World’s Religions has been ahead of its time in envisioning a better future. Almost a century before the word “global village” was introduced in 1962, the Parliament literally invented the gift of interfaith for our world.
It was also well ahead of its time when the Declaration Toward a Global Ethic was issued at the 1993 Parliament. For the first time in history, representatives of all of the world’s religions agreed on the shared ethics that are grounded in their own religions and traditions:
• The principle of shared humanity
• The Golden Rule of reciprocity
• A commitment to peace and justice
In the last 20 years since the signing of this declaration, people have collected more than 700,000 pieces of content on this topic. There are organizations that have been established based on its theme. Some of these include the Global Ethic Foundation, the Institute for Global Ethics, and the Global Ethics Network. We have also seen the development of campaigns based on topics we advanced, such as the Charter of Compassion, a Charter of Forgiveness, A Common Word Between Us and You, and campaigns to promote the Golden Rule.
So at this juncture, on the 20th anniversary of the 1993 Parliament, we at the Parliament reaffirm our commitment to interfaith harmony by reissuing the Global Ethics and by reasserting our mission: to cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities, and to foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions in order to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world.
We must learn the forgotten lesson that “None of you has faith until you love for your neighbor what you love for yourself.”
Let us, then, friends, share more and consume less!
Let us work hand in hand to change ourselves while saving the only planet we have.
May God open our hearts toward our neighbors. May our Creator open the hearts of our neighbors toward us. Amen.
This preface leads the 2013 reaffirmation of the vision of the Global Ethic penned by Parliament Chair, Imam Dr. Abdul Malik Mujahid on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the document. Join Imam Mujahid, the Parliament, and this generation’s voices for peace by signing the 2013 Call to Live Out the Vision Toward a Global Ethic!
Sharing Sacred Spaces via Hyde Park – Kenwood Interfaith Council
We are excited to announce three new dates for the winter and spring in the Sharing Sacred Spaces program, which offers an opportunity to visit diverse spaces used for different kinds of spiritual practice and to forge friendships and common understanding among different communities.
Friday, February 7 at 6 pm – Taizé Hyde Park
Hosted by Calvert House, 5735 S. University Ave.
Sunday, March 9 at 3 pm – Congregation Rodfei Zedek
5200 S. Hyde Park Blvd.
Sunday, May 18 at 3 pm – Shambhala Meditation Center
37 N. Carpenter St. (in the West Loop)
The Sharing Sacred Spaces approach to encouraging interfaith dialogue was inspired by architect Suzanne Morgan who is the “Sacred Spaces Ambassador” for the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions. Morgan says, “Spaces become sacred through the meaning they have for their constituents. Sharing that meaning can build bridges of trust and reduce social tension and cultural misunderstanding. Sacred spaces are healing places. They help all of us to become whole by connecting us to the divine.”
Thinking on the future of interfaith, the Parliament of the World’s Religions invited several interns to share on the topic of the next generation of the movement and living out the vision of those pioneers celebrated this important anniversary year. On November 16, 2013, four young adults spoke their hearts and minds to a welcoming crowd of 180 Parliament supporters.
The following interview reflects the vision of Parliament intern in communications and outreach, Maryem Abdullah, a student in the Honors College at University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) and premier student leader of the UIC Model United Nations.
What do you consider to be your identity as an young adult joining the Interfaith movement?
Personally, I identify as a Muslim-American. I was born and raised in Chicago, and so the United States is all I know, and which is why I identify as such. I do hold my Arab heritage close and it will always be a part of me. While I love the fact that I am Arab, I have a hard time [personally] identifying as such because of where I grew up and what surrounded me as a child and young adult. Above all that, however, Islam is near and dear to my heart. No matter where I am, how long I’ve lived there, and with whom I surround myself, I will always have my Muslim identity.
What are some common misconceptions of young Muslim and Arab women you encounter- having grown up in the United States?
Something I face often is the misconception that all Arabs are Muslims and all Muslims are Arab. However, they are not the same or, in my opinion, even similar. Being Arab or from the Middle East is a culture and Islam is a religion. While the two can coincide, they do not have much of a relation to one another.
What is the role of religion in your life?
Having a sense of religion helps me with difficulties I face on a day-to-day basis, and I am thankful to my parents who raised me in a household that incorporated religion in most aspects of my life. While I will be the first to admit that I am no model Muslim, my relationship with the God I believe in is the most important thing to me. I don’t think that the black and white version of a faith is what defines a person—their spirituality and connection with their God is what matters. It is a shame that these misconceptions and prejudices leads people to commit hateful crimes against those who look, speak, or dress a certain way. While it saddens me to see such hate in the world, it lifts my spirits to know that the interfaith movement is widespread and that there is hope to end hate and intolerance.
How does being both Muslim and American inform your perspective of the Interfaith movement?
I think the combination of being American and Muslim has helped me become more optimistic about the interfaith movement. I think the interfaith movement will have more of an impact because this generation is more inclusive. Generations only become more tolerant, so it fosters a positive place for the coming together of various faiths, religions, and cultures. In my opinion, we are less clingy to traditional views, and more open to new people, traditions, and ideas. I believe the younger generation sees the world through a different lens than those who raised us. Our previous generation paved the pathway for change, and with the current generation’s open-mindedness, I think greatness can happen.
What evidence of change and greatness do you see happening?
I have my mother to largely thank for my understanding of how much a group of people can impact a community. She was one of the five founding partners of an all female Muslim law firm. At the time I was in 9th grade and I couldn’t care less about anyone’s accomplishments but mine, but now that I’m older and my professional dreams have evolved from an actress to a lawyer, I have come to realize and appreciate all that she has done to further the tolerance of the Muslim community, and for women around the world.
What is your hope for the future of the interfaith movement?
As a member of a generation that is incredibly open and honest, I am happy to see a strong stance against hate and intolerance.
Who embodies the hope of a stronger interfaith movement to you?
I think Malala Yousafzai, a 15-year-old who stood up for the educational rights of women and was consequently shot by the Taliban, is an amazing example of sticking up for what you believe in, despite the hurdles that may come your way. Malala, along with countless other young women working towards common goals, teaches us what we’re up against- and how strong we can be if we come together for a common cause. We have a long way to go with countless bumps ahead of us, but I’m confident that the interfaith movement will lead to a hate-free and more tolerant world.
As the United States grows in Interfaith activism, the government is beginning to support areas whereby international relations can be improved through immersion and study. One such opportunity pairs interested leaders of academic backgrounds with studies which will directly enhance interfaith understanding.
United States Department of State embassies operating in countries around the world offer six-week academic programming to scholars wishing to pursue short-term U.S. Studies within the American collegiate setting. The Study of the U.S. Institute for Scholars accepts applications in five research areas including Journalism and Media, U.S. Foreign Policy, U.S. Political Thought, Contemporary American Literature, and Religious Pluralism. While deadlines occur on different schedules throughout the year, Jamaican and Malaysian scholars are among the invited foreign-national groups at this time.
Student Leaders are also invited to a similarly structured program for six-week academic stays with the possibility to join the Fulbright program in a wider variety of disciplines such as:
- Civic Engagement
- Comparative Public Policy
- Global Environmental Issues
- New Media in Journalism
- Public Policy and Government Leadership
- Religious Pluralism in the United States
- Social Entrepreneurship
- U.S. History
- Government Women’s Leadership
Interested parties are encouraged to navigate through their individual country’s United States Embassy Office for exact deadlines. At soonest, online applications are due December 31, 2013.
On behalf of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions and its Board of Trustees, Board Chair Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid extends greetings to Religions For Peace, which is presently holding its ninth world assembly.
Approximately 900 are gathered for the assembly this week in Vienna, Austria, where religious communities are discussing ways to “welcome the other.”
“The world needs more interfaith activism for harmony among religions to achieve world peace and sustainable development,” says Imam Mujahid. The Parliament Chair added that Religions For Peace is doing good work for humanity.
Imam Mujahid concludes, “the Parliament believes that not only the communities of faith need to work with each other, but that all interfaith organizations need to work with each other as well.”
For more information Religions For Peace International on the web is reached at www.rfp.org.
As Mayor and on behalf of the City of Chicago, I am pleased to welcome all of those gathered for both the 120th & 20th anniversary celebrations for the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.
It is truly exciting to know what an important role Chicago has played in the 120 years since the inaugural Parliament of the World’s Religions was held here, and then 20 years ago in the second – the 1993 Parliament. The 1893 Chicago Parliament opened the door for the interreligious movement and that event brought together thousands of people from all over the world. It marked a pivotal moment for many different religions and spiritual communities from the east and west coming together around a common commitment to justice and peace.
In 1993, the second Parliament introduced a Global Ethics Initiative that maintains a vision of people living peacefully together and sharing responsibility for the care of the earth while identifying the common commitments that come out of different belief traditions. In Chicago, we know there’s a need for this important work. When religious and spiritual communities combine their strengths and commitments, a more just, peaceful and sustainable world is the result.
These special anniversary celebrations and benefits represent an ongoing commitment to thoughtful, enduring work. The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions not only unites people of spirit and faith to engage with the issues of our time, but also mobilizes efforts to combat bias and hate. I offer heartfelt congratulations on this auspicious occasion and recognize all of those
I am confident that Chicago will continue to be a central meeting place for the Council for a
Parliament of the World’s Religions. Best wishes for much continued success.
One of the biggest festivals in India, Diwali, begins November 3. Similarly important as Christmas in the United States, celebrations will be held by Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains in and outside of India. Globally, Diwali is observed by both religious and nonreligious, as well as by other religious communities celebrating the joyous season in secular ways.Observing the official holiday in India falls this year on November third because it is the fifteenth day of the Katrina month on the Hindu calendar.
Diwali means the “Festival of Lights,” and each religion tells its own Diwali story.
- Hinduism – One of India’s major religious groups, Hindus, celebrate a story beginning approximately 900,000 years ago. Shri Rama, who was to become the king, was sent away to a forest so that his brother could become king. Shri Rama’s wife, Seta, and brother, Layman, followed him. But during this time, the demon Ravan abducts Seta. After winning at battle with Ravan, Shri Rama returns to Ayodhya with Seta after fourteen years. The people of Ayodhya welcomed him by decorating their homes, and lighting lamps and fire crackers by night. They also distributed sweets and bought gold ornaments to show their happiness. Since then, Diwali is observed by Hindus on this day.
- Sikhism – Two percent of Indians, Sikhs, honor the sixth Sikh Guru Hargobind Sahib, along with 52 kings, who was released from prison on Diwali by the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. When Guru Hargobind Sahib arrived at the Golden temple in Amritsar, his devotees lit lamps celebrating his release.
- Jainism – A minority Indian religious group, Jains comprise approximately 0.4% of the India’s population. Their observance dates some 2,539 years ago, when Lord Mahavir, the 24th Tirthankar (who established the rituals of Jainism as practiced today_ attained Moksha, the liberation from the endless cycle of life and death. There is no more birth to experience; one enjoys bliss forever in Siddhalok, the place at the top of the universe. Jains celebrate this day by lighting lamps to dispel inner darkness. They also observe a fast from Sunrise to next day’s Sunrise. Jains drink only boiled water from sunrise to sunset during their fast without taking any solid or liquid food. Jains do not light fire crackers because that will kill many insects and could take the lives of birds or other creatures, since Jains believe in nonviolence.
Diwali is a joyous moment for everyone. Observers often buy gold and gold jewelry to show signs of prosperity and to welcome Laxmi, the Goddess of money, to their homes. Bonuses and sweets are distributed by businesses to workers and agents. Everyone gathers to share sweets. Banks, government offices and schools take longer holidays. The day after Diwali begins a new Calendar year for Hindus and Jains. For Hindus the new year will be Vikram Samvat 2070, the calendar established by emperor Vikramaditya. For Jains the new year will be Veer Samvat 2540, based on the Nirvana anniversary of the Lord Mahavir.
In the United States, Hindus, Sikhs and Jains go to temple to worship and celebrate Diwali. Also, they gather at homes and create a party atmosphere. As many Indians string lights in decoration around their homes, it leads many people think early Christmas decorations are in progress. Neighbors should feel free to knock on the door of an Indian neighbor and wish them “Happy Diwali”. They will appreciate the sincerity and treat visitors to delicious Indian snacks and sweets. “Happy Diwali”
Kirit C. Daftary is a resident of Waco and practices Jainism. He is trustee of the Council of Parliament of World Religions, Board member of Greater Waco interfaith Council and the past president of JAINA, (Federation of Jain Associations in North America) There are about 150,000 Jains in North America and about 65 Jain Temples in North America.
Honoring Our Jain Delegate from India at 1893 Parliament: Lawyer Virchand Raghavji Gandhi (1864-1901)
For many years, an indelible delegate to the Parliament has not been found within the 1893 Parliament’s archival history on this site. The Parliament is pleased to introduce the name Virchand Gandhi to the roster of dynamic Indian delegates celebrated during this important anniversary year.
For the 1893’s Parliament of World Religions, originally the most acclaimed Jain Priest, Muni Atmaramji, was invited to represent Jainism. His photo and details were printed in Rev. John. H. Barrows official book (Page 21& 56). When it became evident Rev. Muni Atmaramji could not attend, his disciple, Lawyer Virchand Raghavji Gandhi, was deputed to represent Jainism.
As a Jain delegate, Virchand Gandhi captivated the 1893’s Parliament of World Religions.
In Rev. J.H.Barrow’s book Virchand Gandhi’s following speeches are recorded:
- Welcome speech on Opening Day in afternoon session (September 11, 1893)
- Speech on the philosophy and ethics of the Jains
- A patriotic speech in reference to the allegations of the previous day against the morality of the Hindu religions (audience applauded on his every word
- A closing speech whereby Virchand Gandhi was greeted with much applause as he came forward to speak on last day.
Virchand Gandhi was one of the chief exporters of the Jain Religion from India and was the secretary of Jain Association of India. For East Indian Delegates, a dinner was arranged by Rev. J. Henry Barrows and William Pipe before the commencement of 1893’s Parliament which was attended by Virchand Gandhi and other Indian delegates.
Two more important movements were floated after 1893’s, Parliament of World Religions closed, and in both committees the name of Virchand Gandhi appeared as a committee member along with Dr. Paul Carus and other team mates.
The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions Board of Trustees is pleased to announce the election of a new trustee. Dr. Paul Eppinger brings a wealth of experience promoting interfaith dialogue by new and exciting means to the Parliament Board as the current Executive Director of the Arizona Interfaith Movement and until recently, serving as a member of the Parliament’s Ambassador Advisory Council.
Eppinger is “a very smart businessman in the work of Interfaith, exactly the kind of idea person who will help guide the Parliament forward as we encounter new opportunities and challenges,” says Executive Director of the Parliament, Dr. Mary Nelson.
His passion for cultivating shared humanity, and creative business approach has helped market interfaith understanding to an entire state. “Arizona Interfaith is very uniquely organized under Paul’s leadership. Where else are people buying license plates promoting the Golden Rule, while the promotion of the Golden Rule goes back to support the organization itself! This is a model to be followed by other cities,” says Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, Chair of the Board of Trustees.
Dr. Paul Eppinger is a graduate of William Jewell College, Princeton Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity and a Master of Theology degree, and San Francisco Theological Seminary where he received a Doctor of Ministry degree. He has served as a missionary, a pastor, and a professor. He has served on numerous boards and committees for his denomination and in the communities in which he pastored.
From 1993 to 2002, he served as the Executive Director of the Arizona Ecumenical Council. He then became the Executive Director of the Arizona Interfaith Movement in 2002. The Arizona Interfaith Movement is composed of 24 different major religious groups and seeks to bring understanding of each other to all the major religions of the state.