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Embracing Diversity in Post-9/11 America

From The Huffington Post

By Valarie Kaur

September 15, 2010 — Nine years ago today, the murder of a family friend changed the course of my life. His name was Balbir Singh Sodhi. Four days after 9/11, he was shot in the back in front of his gas station by a man who yelled when arrested, “I’m a patriot! Arrest me and let those terrorists run wild.”

Sodhi was a turbaned Sikh man.

His murder, combined with thousands of hate incidents and crimes that broke out onto city streets in the days and weeks after 9/11, paralyzed me. As a twenty-year old Sikh American, I grew up with my mother singing mystical poems from the Sikh tradition, where women and men often wrap their long hair in turbans to mark their commitment as saint-soldiers, sworn to love God and serve others. But I also inherited my family’s deep roots in American soil: my grandfather sailed by steamship from India to California to tame the dry Central Valley floor nearly 100 years ago, and I was born and raised on the land he farmed.

I felt that America was wide enough to embrace my diverse identity — until 9/15. After Sodhi’s murder, I saw myself and my family through the eyes of others — our brown skin and turbans marked us as perpetually foreign, automatically suspect, and potentially terrorist. I needed to reconcile the America I knew and loved with the fear hijacking my country. So I grabbed my camera, left college, and drove across the country to make a movie about “who counts” as American in times of crisis.

In the last four years, I have toured with my film Divided We Fall to 150 U.S. cities, speaking to thousands of students in wide-ranging arenas — Ivy League auditoriums on the east coast, university theaters on the west coast, college classrooms in the South and Midwest, private high schools in the wealthy suburbs of Boston and Detroit, and urban elementary schools on the South Side of Chicago. I listened closely to the voices of my generation.

I discovered that I was not alone.

Like me, young people across America have grown up with multiple racial, religious, cultural, and virtual identities that our parents could not have imagined. As the most diverse generation in the history of the world, our plural identities and inclusive worldviews resist the social categories of our parents’ generation: liberal and conservative, black and white, religious and secular.

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Spiritual Intimacy and Interfaith Engagement

From Women’s Radio

Ruth Brodye Sharone, Co-Chair of the Southern California Committee for the Parliament of the World’s Religions and filmmaker shares her insights into the changes occurring within Religious and Spiritual communities.

Ruth and a group of 20 had been invited to present a workshop entitled “Spiritual Intimacy: Taking Interfaith Engagement to the Next Level.”

Her signature on her email is, No longer are there six degrees of separation between any two individuals in the world. There is only one degree-and even that is an illusion!

Ruth has a lot to share about the ripple of the changes and backlashes that began occurring since September 11, 2001.

Ruth’s Website

Weaving a Culture; what others are doing:


Click here to hear the interview.

First Bishop in New Thought Movement of Churches to be Consecrated

From Atlanta Daily World

Members of the International College of Bishops will consecrate the Rev. Dr. Barbara Lewis King as the first bishop within the international New Thought Christian Movement of Churches.  This historic conseration service will take place on Sunday, Sept. 26, at 6 p.m. at the Hillside International Chapel and Truth Center located on Cascade Road in Atlanta.

“Dr. King has shown immense dedication, compassion and commitment to the work of the church for many years.  As an affirmation of her ministerial call and global impact, we — the members of the International College of Bishops — will consecrate her to the office of Bishop in God’s Universal Church,” said Bishop Carlton D. Pearson, Interim senior minister at Christ Universal Temple (Chicago), senior consecrator for the service.

The College of Bishops slated to consecrate Dr. King includes Bishop Yvette Flunder (San Francisco), Bishop Xavier (Ike) Eikerenkoetter (Malibu, Calif.), and Bishop Jim Swilley (Conyers, Ga.).  The Rev. Dr. Blaine Mays, president of the International New Thought Alliance, and the Rev. Dr. Della Reese-Lett, Understanding Principles for Better Living Church, will participate in the service along with Bishop Pearson. Spiritual leaders, stateswomen, and statesmen from around the world have been invited and are expected to attend the celebration, including Dr. Maya Angelou, Susan Taylor, Tavis Smiley, and Dr. Cornel West.

The living legacy of the Rev. Dr. Barbara Lewis King is a long-standing testimony of her qualifications for the position of bishop.

She is the founder minister/world spiritual leader and CEO of Hillside International Chapel and Truth Center Inc., one of the largest New Thought Christian churches in the world, and she has been enstooled as the first female chief at Assin Nsuta, Ghana, West Africa. Having had audiences with the Dalai Lama, South Africa’s former President Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu; and having worked closely with His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Dr. and Master Zhi Gang Sha, she is known throughout the world.

Click here to read the entire article.

International Society for Krishna Consciousness Bids for 2014

From ISKON

The next meeting of one of the biggest interfaith gatherings in the world, the Parliament of the World’s Religions, could be hosted in Brussels, Belgium in 2014—and an ISKCON devotee is front and center in the bidding process.

ISKCON’s European Communications Director Mahaprabhu Dasa goes back 117 years to explain how it came to this.

“The Parliament of the World’s Religions was first held in Chicago in 1893 as part of a large fair called the World Columbian Exposition,” he says. “An historic event, it was the first major meeting between leaders and thinkers of both western and eastern religious traditions, and is now seen as the birth of formal interreligious dialogue worldwide.”

But it wasn’t until 1993, when the City of Chicago decided to celebrate the Parliament’s 100th anniversary by having an academic conference, that it became a regular occurrence.

“As they planned it, it developed into a popular event that drew over 8,000 people from many religious communities,” Mahaprabhu explains. “The organizers decided not to wait another 100 years to hold the next one. So they held another in Cape Town, South Africa in 1999.”

After this, the Parliament was established as an event that was held every five years. The next two, held in Barcelona, Spain in 2004, and in Melbourne, Australia in 2009, were similar successes.

“Since the first four had been held in America, Africa, Europe, and Australasia respectively, I was sure the fifth would be held in Asia, the only remaining populated continent,” Mahaprabhu says. “So I began to campaign for Delhi as a candidate. But when I returned to ISKCON’s Radhadesh community in Belgium, several friends of mine who had attended previous Parliaments—including a Rabbi from the Jewish group Lubavitch-Chabad—contacted me and said, ‘Why not have it in Brussels?’ They expected that I might be able to get the ball rolling because of my connections in the interfaith world.”

Whatever his position, however, and whichever city wins the bid, Mahaprabhu is all set to help increase awareness and plan the involvement of devotees from all over the world.

“ISKCON Communications and other ISKCON representatives have attended all four Parliaments so far,” says Mahaprabhu. “We had an especially good presence in Barcelona—there was an ISKCON Communications stand handing out free brochures, and a “temple shop” selling devotional and cultural products. ISKCON guru Sivarama Swami did a presentation on Hungary’s eco-village project Krishna Valley, ISKCON Deity Worship Minister Krishna Ksetra Dasa participated in a panel conference, and one devotee did a cooking course. We also performed a fire sacrifice, or yajna, and held our traditional temple morning program.”

ISKCON’s participation in the Melbourne conference, however, was minimal, and Mahaprabhu hopes that its presence can be brought to a much higher level for the next Parliament in 2014.

“We really need to plan it well in advance, and to convince ISKCON leaders of its importance and receive their support,” he says. “It’s important for us to be present and to contribute in a positive way, because the Parliament—although still in its pioneer phase—is set to become a major interfaith event. For instance, last year it received heavy coverage by the media and a White House delegation even attended. So we would like to have ISKCON’s most talented leaders, thinkers and academics from around the world making proposals for workshops, conferences and presentations.”

Click here to read the entire article.

World Conference of Ethnic Religions Begins in Italy

From The Wild Hunt

August 26th in Italy sees the beginning of the 13th annual World Congress of Ethnic Religions. Formed in 1998 at the first gathering in Lithuania, the congress works to promote tolerance of ethnic indigenous religions and create networks of support among adherents of ethnic traditions across the world. There are member organizations from across Europe, and the Congress also welcomes delegations from India, Russia, and the United States. The theme this year is “Ethics in the Contemporary World”, and is being organized by the Italian organization Gentilitas.

“The Congress theme will be to compare the different ethical views of individual members of the religious associations within WCER to find a lowest common denominator or, more simply, to discuss ethical and religious views during the development of rings.”Federazione Pagana, Italy

WCER President Jonas Trinkunas (Romuva), who recently attended the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Australia, was inspired by his experiences there to propose a change of name and focus for the organization.

“In 2009 Romuva (Association of Lithuanian traditional religion) was invited to the Parliament of World Religions held in Melbourne, Australia. Romuva was invited to participate and was an active participant in the section of the Associations of indigenous religions. During the conference I presented not only the religious activities of Romuva, but the activities of the WCER as well. The invaluable experience of having taken part in the Parliament of World Religions after ten years of WCER encouraged me to see again and define the vision and the area of our activities. That’s why I want to reassess and redefine the term which we refer to ourselves. I refer to WCER – World Congress of Ethnic Religions (World Congress of Ethnic Religions). There is a word that I propose to discuss: the change of the term ‘world’ with ‘European’. Hence the change of name to ECER – European Congress of Ethnic Religions (European Congress of Ethnic Religions).”

In addition to the various European delegations, at least two Pagans of note from the United States will be in attendance. Andras Corban Arthen of EarthSpirit (also one of the Parliament’s Board of Trustees), and Prudence Priest, a COG Elder and co-founder of the American Vinland Association. At the AVA blog, Priest has a post running down the schedule of events at the WCER, and  talks about her role “promoting Heathenism” on her travels.

Click here to read the entire article.

Paganism Enters the Mainstream

From AnnArbor.com

Patheos.com, in its summer Future of Religion series, invited authors and scholars to write about the Future of Paganism this week.

According to Patheos.com’s overview, Paganism represents “a wide variety of traditions that emphasize reverence for nature and a revival of ancient polytheistic religious practices.” The article notes, “some Pagan traditions include ritual magic, but this practice is not universal.” This diverse grassroots movement includes Wicca, Goddess Spirituality, and the Pagan Reconstructionist religions (Norse, Druidic, Egyptian, and Greek).

According to Margot Adler, author, NPR journalist, and Wiccan priestess, the Contemporary Pagan Movement has “come of age” in the last 15 years, with estimates of 1 million practicing Pagans. Pagans are being recognized in military cemeteries, hospitals, seminaries, and the Parliament of the World’s Religions. “In short,” Adler says, “Paganism has become a mainstream movement, which has mostly been a good thing.” She asks, however, whether the movement’s critique of monotheistic and patriarchal religions will become “lost or watered down” as it gains more respect in the mainstream.

Sarah Pike, author and professor of religious studies at California State University, discusses the evolving news coverage of Paganism in recent years. Twenty-five years ago, a story about local Pagans gathering in an Indiana state forest was characterized as “devil-worshippers in Yellowwood Forest,” sparking national controversy. This year, the news coverage of Summer Solstice 2010 and other Solstice celebrations was “overwhelmingly positive.”

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Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim Discuss Thomas Berry, CPWR

From The Wisdom of the Labyrinth

Acclaimed cultural historian, cosmologist, Passionist priest, and Earth scholar, Thomas Berry, was among the first of our world’s religious leaders to suggest that the earth ecological crisis is fundamentally a spiritual crisis. Thomas Berry dedicated his life to The Great Work of our time which he described simply as “moving the human community from its present situation as a destructive presence on the planet to a benign or mutually enhancing presence.” Dr. Mary Evelyn Tucker and Dr. John Grim, co-founders and co-directors of The Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale and The Thomas Berry Foundation, join host Robin Bradley Hansel to share their stories and reflections on Thomas Berry’s life, his work, his writings, and his passionate dream for our Earth community.

Click here to hear the broadcast.

2009 Parliament Statement of Indigenous People

An Indigenous Peoples’ Statement to the World

Delivered at The Parliament of the World’s Religions

Convened at Melbourne, Australia

on the Traditional Lands

of the Wurundjeri  People of the Kulin Nation

December 9, 2009

PREAMBLE

In keeping with the theme of this year’s Parliament: “Make a World of Difference: Hearing each other, Healing the earth,” We, the Indigenous Peoples participating in this Parliament hereby issue this statement:

We are Indigenous Peoples and Nations who honor our ancestors and care for our future generations by preserving our lands and cultures. For thousands of years, Indigenous peoples have maintained a fundamental and sacred relationship with Mother Earth. As peoples of the land, we declare our inherent rights to our present and continuing survival within our sacred homelands and territories throughout the world;

We commend the Australian government’s recent support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We call on all governments to support and implement the provisions of the UN Declaration.

Since time immemorial we have lived in keeping with our sacred laws, principles, and spiritual values, given by the Creator. Our ways of life are based on thousands of years of accumulated ecological knowledge, a great respect for our Mother Earth, a reverence and respect for all our Natural World relations and the survival of our languages, cultures, and traditions.

The Indigenous instructions of sharing and the responsibility of leadership to future generations are wise and enduring. As the traditional nations of our lands we affirm the right to educate our children in our earth-based education systems in order to maintain our indigenous knowledge systems and cultures. These have also contributed to our spiritual, physical and mental health;

Indigenous peoples concept of health and survival is holistic, collective and individual.

Indigenous Elders

It encompasses the spiritual, the intellectual, the physical and the emotional. Expressions of culture relevant to health and survival of Indigenous Peoples includes relationships, families, and kinship, social institutions, traditional laws, music, dances, songs and songlines, ceremonies and dreamtime, our ritual performances and practices, games, sports, language, mythologies, names, land, sea, water, every life forms, and all documented forms and aspects of culture, including burial and sacred sites, human genetic materials, ancestral remains, so often stolen, and our artifacts;

Unfortunately, certain doctrines have been threatening to the survival of our cultures, our languages, and our peoples, and devastating to our ways of life. These are found in particular colonizing documents such as the Inter Caetera papal bull of 1493, which called for the subjugation of non-Christian nations and peoples and “the propagation of the Christian empire.” This is the root of the Doctrine of Christian Discovery that is still interwoven into laws and policies today that must be changed. The principles of subjugation contained in this and other such documents, and in the religious texts and documents of other religions, have been and continue to be destructive to our ways of life (religions), cultures, and the survival of our Indigenous nations and peoples. This oppressive tradition is what led to the boarding schools, the residential schools, and the Stolen Generation, resulting in the trauma of language death and loss of family integrity from the actions of churches and governments. We call on those churches and governments to put as much time, effort, energy and money into assisting with the revitalization of our languages and cultures as they put into attempting to destroy them.

The doctrines of colonization and dominion have laid the groundwork for contemporary problems of racism and dispossession. These problems include the industrial processes of resource exploitation and extraction by governments and corporations that has consistently meant the use of imposed laws to force the removal of Indigenous peoples from our traditional territories, and to desecrate and destroy our sacred sites and places. The result is a great depletion of biodiversity and the loss of our traditional ways of life, as well as the depletion and contamination of the waters of Mother Earth from mining and colonization.

Such policies and practices do not take into account that water is the first law of life and a gift from the Creator for all beings. Clean, healthy, safe, and free water is necessary for the continuity and well being of all living things. The commercialization and poisoning of water is a crime against life.

The negative ethics of contemporary society, discovery, conquest, dominion, exploitation, extraction, and industrialization, have brought us to today’s crisis of global warming. Climate change is now our most urgent issue and affecting the lives of indigenous peoples at an alarming rate. Many of our people’s lives are in crisis due to the rapid global warming. The ice melt in the north and rapid sea rise continue to accelerate, and the time for action is brief.

The Earth’s resources are finite and the present global consumption levels are unsustainable and continue to affect our peoples and all peoples. Therefore, we join the other members of the Parliament in calling for prompt, immediate, and effective action at Copenhagen to combat climate change;

On September 13, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In support of this historic event, the Episcopalian Church in the United States adopted a resolution at its 76th General Convention in July 2009, repudiating and disavowing the dehumanizing Doctrine of Christian Discovery. By doing so, the Church took particular note of the charter issued by King Henry VII of England to John Cabot and his sons, which authorized the colonizing of North America. It was by this ‘boss over’ tradition of Christian discovery that the British crown eventually laid claim to the traditional territories of the Aboriginal nations of the continent now called Australia, under terra nullius and terra nullus. This step by the Episcopalian Church was an act of conscience and moral leadership by one of the world’s major religions. Religious bodies of Quakers and Unitarians have taken similar supportive actions.

In Conclusion, we appeal to all people of conscience to join with us: We hereby call upon Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican to publicly acknowledge and repudiate the papal decrees that legitimized the original activities that have evolved into the Doctrine of Christian Discovery and Dominion.

Click here to download this document.

The Interfaith Youth Movement Down Under

From The Journal of Inter-religious Dialogue

Nivy is a Hindu. She loves Aussie rules football. And her goal is helping others.  When she was growing up in the Middle East, Nivy experienced firsthand how religious identity shaped the way people related to one another.

Recovering in hospital after a serious accident, Nivy’s background as an Indian Hindu all of a sudden became an issue, and had she not also been an Australian citizen it is likely her treatment would have been jeopardized. Now, years on, this experience of prejudice remains with her as a vivid memory. Nivy is a young person in an era of inter-religious conflict, and in understanding just what is at stake she is working to build global interfaith cooperation. She is part of a movement of religiously motivated young people who (although their individual stories are unique) share a common vision.

Nivy is just one of the young leaders helping to build InterAction, a multifaith youth network based here in Australia. InterAction has a mission of fostering mutually enriching relationships and respect for identity by engaging young people in common action for the common good. We are inspired youth from diverse cultural, spiritual & religious backgrounds, working together side-by-side to build a better world. Through collaborative service projects, InterAction links like-minded groups and individuals to make positive contributions to their local communities and humanity as a whole. By doing so, we aim to replace conflict and competition with cultures of co-operation and peace.

We subscribe to the model of action-focused interfaith engagement. Not everyone can be an expert in theology, but each person already is the expert of their own experience. In building inter-religious harmony, the doorway to dialogue is action.  By collaborating on service projects which tackle issues of common concern, we can truly come to recognize one another as allies and friends.  In this way, not only can people of different faiths share the one table, we can each enjoy our different dishes and come away feeling mutually nourished and enriched by the experience.


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A Church for the 21st Century

From Soul’s Code

Soul's Code

BY DAVID RICKEY — Recently two events have changed my center of gravity. First, attending the Parliament for the World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia in December of 2009 and then going to Haiti for the first time in June of 2010 and, at the same time, reading “The God Theory” by Bernard Haisch.

The Parliament gave me the opportunity to experience people from an amazing variety of spiritual perspectives, all talking and sharing in a way that opened my eyes further to the truth of the “interfaith” reality of TRUTH.

My trip to Haiti was my first encounter with incredible poverty as well as the resilience of the human spirit that I could see in the faces of the Haitian people. My reading “The God Theory” gave “solidity” to my own questions and emerging answers about this amazing mystery I call God.

To work backwards through that, it now seems clear to me that God is nothing less than “absolute intelligence” seeking to express itself and to experience this infinite possibility, especially, from a human point of view, through humans!

Taking this as my starting point, the world’s religions and spiritual paths then are the variety of ways in which human beings have tried to express their emerging awareness of this incredible wisdom, energy, presence, and creativity.

How we’ve made “God” work for us

We human beings, especially the sages among us, intuit this divine reality and then express it in whatever images and stories work for us. But the stories and images are limited to the level of awareness and the available images of the time they are formulated. And therefore, human development is reflected in the stories, really much more so than “ultimate truth”. This is not to say the stories are wrong, or not of value, but that they are limited, and perhaps their value is relatively short-lived.

On the other hand, the resilience of the human spirit, as experienced in the Haitian people, is a testament to the vast creative potential that lies “behind” all life, especially all human life. My experience of being among these wonderful people, especially the children, brought into sharp focus the amazing potential for creativity and responsiveness that is available to us.

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