Archive for the ‘9/11’ tag
Winding down from World Interfaith Harmony week would be a backwards way of saying it. For event organizers like the Compassionate Cities campaigners in Atlanta, the work is only just beginning.
This is true of Rev. Bob Thompson, Board Chair Emeritus of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, who is now championing a metro-wide effort to bring the Charter for Compassion to life in Atlanta. The Compassionate Atlanta kickoff event was held at the Carter Center on February 2 with co-sponsorship of the Parliament’s Faiths Against Hate campaign, and as a participating entity of the United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week observance. Incidentally coinciding with the beginning of Black History Month in the United States, the Compassionate Atlanta launch embodies the beloved community vision of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
By launching the campaign, Rev. Thompson is primed to share how a Compassionate city campaign works, and what the Charter means to Atlanta. In a recent conversation with the Parliament, Thompson explains how Atlanta pulls interfaith and interracial harmony under the same umbrella, and why partners like the Parliament’s Faiths Against Hate campaign and other common causes can find a local focus to live out the Charter.
Parliament: Before we talk about the Charter, what can you share from your favorite memories of your time on the Parliament board?
Rev. Thompson: I cherish so many luminous memories from my tenure. From the Parliament in Cape Town to leading a small group of trustees to meet with the Dalai Lama—these and many significant encounters linger in my memory. But probably the most significant recollection occurred after 9/11 when we hosted a large interfaith gathering in a Chicago-area mosque. Following that gathering many of us in the Chicago interfaith community literally stood with our Muslim sisters and brothers outside of Chicago-area mosques for a number of subsequent days as a statement of our solidarity.
Parliament: How does the Charter for Compassion relate to its offspring movements, like Compassionate Action International, the Compassion Games, and Compassionate City campaigns?
Rev. Thompson: The Charter For Compassion was first articulated by Karen Armstrong in her “Make A Wish” TED talk in 2008. Her wish was granted and the Charter For Compassion was subsequently drafted by a “Council of Conscience,” consisting of interfaith global religious and spiritual leaders. The Charter is the blueprint for the International Campaign for Compassionate Cities and Compassion Games which serve as concrete expressions of the Charter for Compassion.
Parliament: What does it mean for a city to create a Compassion Campaign?
Rev. Thompson: Every city campaign reflects local capacities. But each and every city campaign is rooted in the Charter For Compassion. However we organize in our cities, the message is the same, “treat others the way you want to be treated.”
Parliament: How have municipal leaders taken to the Charter? Do governmental entities agree to change their practices to promote Compassion?
Rev. Thompson: When a city government declares itself a “compassionate city” it issues a proclamation that embraces the Charter for Compassion while working together with its citizens to develop a compassionate action plan that reflects the vision and capacities of that municipality. These efforts ultimately have the power of changing the public conversation and consciousness.
Parliament: What new and different outcomes can a city embarking upon a Compassionate Cities campaign expect, or hope to see happen?
Rev. Thompson: I live by the mantra, “communities consist of conversations. We change our communities by changing our conversations.” We learned from the Civil Rights movement and more recently from LGBT movement, when the conversation changes, communities inevitably change. I believe that compassion and compassionate action are conversation changers that are powerful enough to transform the communities in which we live.
Parliament: Your kickoff event attracted a large crowd of multi-religious and racially diverse faith leaders at the Carter Center in Atlanta over the Feb. 2 -3 weekend. How does the interracial network of faith leaders collaborate in Atlanta as compared to what you saw in Chicago? Moreover have you learned anything organizing in Atlanta which could help aspiring community leaders advance the beloved community in racially segregated cities (like Chicago)?
Rev. Thompson:The diverse Atlanta interfaith community has been the driver of the Compassionate Atlanta campaign. As an aside, when we were organizing to host the North American Interfaith Network (NAIN) in the summer of 2012, I looked around at members of our organizing team and realized I was the only white man on the committee of 12. That was a very different experience than I had while doing interfaith engagement in Chicago.
The interracially diverse interfaith community in Atlanta reflects in part, the cultural complexity of Southern history. This diversity was also evident at our Compassionate Atlanta launch at the Carter Center. It has been my experience that the Atlanta interfaith community is intentional about living out the vision of the Beloved Community as Dr. King so eloquently articulated. In terms of residency, most of our cities are racially segregated, Atlanta included. But if we become conscious and intentional about WHO we engage in our conversations—we can make the Beloved Community real in terms of everyday life. It all begins with being conscious and intentional and culminates in developing relationships that change how we see ourselves and each other.
Parliament: What happens next for the Compassionate Atlanta campaign?
Rev. Thompson: The purpose of our February 2nd Compassionate Atlanta gathering at the Carter Center was to call all citizens in metro Atlanta to concrete actions that invite cities in the metro area to:
- 1. Declare their city as a Compassionate City
- 2. Invite organizations to sign on as Charter Partners or
- 3. Initiate conversations in our communities around the Charter for Compassion and the question of “what does compassion ask of us?”
We plan to gather again at the Martin Luther King Jr. Chapel at Morehouse College on April 3rd for a Compassion Celebration to report back on what we have done and learned in this two month compassion experiment.
Parliament: The Faiths Against Hate campaign of the Parliament is a co-sponsor of Compassionate Atlanta. How can (and why should) an organization become a co-sponsor?
Rev. Thompson: The Faiths Against Hate Campaign is a very important first step! When CPWR Chair Malik Mujahid called me last April asking if we could organize a Faiths Against Hate event in Atlanta, my immediate response was “Yes!” Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that we needed to mobilize people around something concrete and positive. I checked out the compassionate cities movement and asked Malik if we could use this as our organizing strategy. He was very enthusiastic and supportive. So the Parliament has helped to make the Faiths Against Hate campaign real in Atlanta through the Compassionate Cities movement. Each and every locality must find their own way to give expression to the Faiths Against Hate initiative. Finally, we are all in this together. If we want to bring change to our world we must think globally and act locally. This is what we have done in Atlanta.
Parliament: Are there any lessons you picked up during your time leading the Parliament that have contributed to how you inspire interfaith and compassion now?
Rev. Thompson: The most important lesson I learned in my role as Parliament Chair was that interfaith dialogue and engagement empowers us to understand that our differences present us with an opportunity to go deeper. Beneath our differences we share a common humanity. It is this vision of our deep unity amidst our diversity that gives me hope and keeps me doing the work I continue to do.
Rev. Robert V. Thompson - Chair Emeritus. A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Bob Thompson graduated from Berkeley Baptist Divinity School (Graduate Theological Union) and was ordained an American Baptist minister in 1973. He served American Baptist Churches in Kansas, Ohio, and for 30 years, as Senior Minister of the Lake Street Church in Evanston, Illinois. He retired in November of 2010. During the 1980′s Thompson became an activist pastor focusing on issues such as homelessness, racial reconciliation and advocacy for LGBT rights. He is recognized as Minister Emeritus of the Lake Street Church and Chair Emeritus of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Over the years he has contributed articles to periodicals including The Christian Century, The Chicago Tribune (op-ed), Sound Vision (a Muslim outlet), and others. He is the author of A Voluptuous God: A Christian Heretic Speaks (CopperHouse, 2007) and a contributor to the book for preachers, Feasting On the Word, Westminster John Knox Press.
Upon retirement he moved to Atlanta, Georgia where he is actively engaged in the Atlanta interfaith community.
by Kim Lawton
from Religion & Ethics Newsweekly
Ten years after 9/11, relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in the US remain complicated. In many areas, tensions have been on the rise. There has been sharp controversy surrounding a proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero, and according to pew, proposed mosques in 36 other locations have also encountered community resistance. There’s also been a growing debate over Islamic religious law or shariah. Measures to restrict or ban the use of shariah have been introduced in nearly two dozen states. Yet in other areas the last 10 years have brought a new spirit of dialogue and cooperation.
by Sarah Bassin
from State of Formation
It is no coincidence that moments of national crisis are often coupled with sharp increases in interfaith engagement. Laurie Goodstein wrote in The New York Times, “In the months and years after 9/11, in communities large and small, mosques opened their doors for Friday prayers and iftar dinners to break the Ramadan fast. Churches and synagogues deluged imams with speaking requests. Muslim, Jewish and Christian performers hit the clubs on comedy tours,”
It seems slightly absurd at first thought – the idea that a comedy show somehow responds to a major national threat. But a recent delegation visiting from Egypt reminded me just how essential such forums are to the health and security of our society.
Nobody needs to convince me of the importance of interfaith work; she would be preaching to the choir. I serve as the executive director of NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change. We equip American Muslims and Jews with skills and resources to improve the relationship between the two communities and work toward a common good.
Sometimes, though, I am guilty of relying too heavily on the philosophical justifications for such pluralistic work. Of course it is good to reach out to others. My religious tradition compels me to do so. In turning to the abstract, I overlook the mundane and practical arguments for interfaith relations. Sometimes, the mundane and the practical are the most compelling.
by Rabbi Or Rose
from Huffington Post
As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approached I, like so many others, began to reflect on the events of that devastating day, and all that has transpired in our country and throughout the world since. I also began to think about the future and what life might look light 10 years from now. What kind of society will my young twins — now in preschool — live in as post-bar and bat mitzvah teens? As a rabbi and interfaith educator, I am particularly concerned about the role of religion in helping to create a more just and compassionate world.
Since the attacks on 9/11 and various events following it created serious challenges for inter-religious cooperation, I decided to reach out to colleagues from other faiths to see if we could formulate a shared vision statement. Thankfully, Rev. Bud Heckman of Religions for Peace USA and Valarie Kaur of Groundswell at Auburn Theological Seminary were working on similar projects, so we decided to draft what became the following pledge, with help from advisers at our respective organizations.
If any one of us had written this document alone it would certainly read differently than the current text, but our intention was to see what we could say together, knowing that we hold different beliefs and opinions, and that we also share key values in common. We are grateful to the dozens of religious leaders that have lent support to this effort by signing their names to this pledge. It gives us renewed hope that our religious communities can work together to create a better future.
If this statement speaks to you, we invite you to add your name to the list of signatories and to share the text with family, friends and community members. It is our prayer that this document — imperfect, to be sure — might be helpful to others in strengthening their commitment to religious pluralism, to justice, and to the healing of our broken and beautiful world.
from NPR’s Worldview
CPWR Board Chair Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid is interviewed about 9/11’s impact on American Muslims.
In a 2003 article, he likened the situation for Muslim Americans to a “virtual internment camp.” Although he says law enforcement outreach has been strong locally, Mujahid wants to see more engagement on the national level.
Paul Brandeis Raushenbush
from Huffington Post
Two religious responses from the days immediately following the attacks of 9/11 demonstrate how religion has been both a divisive and unifying force in America over the last ten years.
The first was from Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell who assigned blame for the attacks to God who, they explained, was angry at America because of Gays, Feminists and the ACLU, among others. While fires still smoldered at Ground Zero, Falwell and company were ironically fanning the flames of discord and division by blaming God and liberals instead of religious extremism.
The second response was different. As soon as reports made clear that the terrorists claimed allegiance to the fundamentalist Islam of Osama bin Laden, many feared violence might be directed toward the American Muslim population. Yet in the days after 9/11, reports came from all across the country that Christians, Jews, and other people of faith had called local mosques to offer support and solidarity. Instead of turning against Muslims, the religious community rallied for their fellow Americans of a different faith tradition.
These two examples show the simultaneous yet divergent directions that religious practice and thought has taken in America in the last ten years. 9/11 made it clear that religion, which had been ignored in global political calculations and overlooked by the media for decades, was still a force, and perhaps the force in people’s personal and communal lives.
While many still hold that religion is essentially divisive, since 9/11 it has been clear that religion has been an overwhelmingly positive force to bring people from different backgrounds together within American society.
Auburn Seminary, Millennials, Moral Vision, and Movement-Building
by Valarie Kaur
“We need to have an ‘American spring’… nonviolent change where people from the grassroots get involved again.” – Former Vice President Al Gore, August 2011
We’re hungry for a movement. Faith and moral communities around the globe are tired of politics that maintain the status quo. Here in the U.S., a rising generation is finding brave new ways to channel moral vision into action: we’re marching in the streets for immigration reform, holding the banner of marriage equality, pushing back on anti-Muslim rhetoric, and demanding an end to partisan politics.
But we’re not being heard. A small segment of the American population still holds the monopoly over ‘morality’ on the airwaves and in the halls of power. As we near the end of the 9/11 decade, these voices continue to dominate public discourse and proclaim the language of faith for restrictive political agendas, stripping the dignity of immigrants, denigrating LGBT people, and fueling anti-Muslim ideologies.
The moment is ripe for people from across faith and moral communities to take action. This ten-year anniversary of 9/11, our congregations and communities are holding vigils, walks, hearings, screenings, and community service projects that stand for compassion, renewal, and religious diversity in all 50 states. What would happen if we connected the dots and saw ourselves as part of one movement? What would happen if we announced ourselves as part of a groundswell of people across faiths and beliefs committed to heal and repair the world?
We could form the beginning of a new multifaith movement for justice.
I’m part of a multifaith coalition, based out of Auburn Seminary in New York City but extending across the country, working to inspire a groundswell of community this ten-year anniversary of 9/11. We’re chronicling, connecting, and resourcing events across the U.S. that bring people together in healing and hope. We’re inviting people to sponsor Ribbons of Hope to New York City, which we will weave into a diverse tapestry that represents the groundswell. And we are mobilizing a multifaith network to surge into national and local media to eclipse anti-Muslim rhetoric and ideologies – now and through the 2012 election.
We believe that the end of the 9/11 decade marks the rise of a new generation ready for meaningful change. The Millennial generation, young people born roughly in the 1980s and 1990s, belong to the most open and diverse generation the country has seen. We form real and virtual communities that transcend old divides: right and left, black and white, religious and secular At the same time, we have come of age in the shadow of major crises: the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the threat of climate change, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a punishing economic recession. Many of us mobilized to elect President Barack Obama but widespread disillusionment with the political process has since set in. We want a movement that’s not about a political identity, particular tradition, but a shared moral vision for a better world.
We don’t need to wait for this moral center to emerge. Thousands of faith and moral communities across the U.S. are already working from a sense of moral calling that has nothing to do with politics – alleviating poverty, protecting immigrants, and facilitating multifaith cooperation this 9/11 anniversary for example. They’re just working alone. The light of social justice flickers in brave corners but fizzles in isolation. To achieve meaningful change in a networked society, we must shine that light in a bold constellation.
With the rise of a new generation, innovations in online organizing, and widespread hunger to respond to social challenges as interconnected, we can build a movement of faith and moral communities networked for change in the run-up to the 2012 election. Together, we offer a brand new voice in the political system – faith and moral communities willing to transcend old divides, organize around shared moral imperatives, and take action on urgent social causes. America needs this voice, now more than ever, to come from outside Washington, rather than from within it. We just need to proclaim our voice as one, starting now. Join the groundswell.
Valarie Kaur, director of Groundswell, is an award-winning filmmaker (Divided We Fall, 2008), Harvard-trained theologian, and social justice advocate. She studies at Yale Law School, where she teaches visual advocacy as director of the Yale Visual Law Project. Housed at Auburn Seminary, Groundswell is a new multifaith social action network that generates the moral force around urgent social causes.
Want to learn more? Auburn Seminary will host a special teach-in “Out of the Shadows of 9/11: Millennials, Moral Vision, and the Global Groundswell” with thought leaders, including Valarie Kaur, on September 6th at 7pm in New York City. Click here to RSVP or to watch live streaming.
Join the groundswell. Send a Ribbon of Hope to Ground Zero on 9/11/11.
by Ralph Singh
Wisdom Thinkers Network
Ten years ago, Gobind Sadan USA, a Sikh spiritual center north of Syracuse, was a victim of arson. It was the first attack on a place of worship following September 11th, and the first to come under Governor Pataki’s newly signed legislation against hate crimes.
As we gathered amidst the charred remains, a light shone through a window frame, and we learned that our holy scripture, Guru Granth Sahib, had not burned. Not only had it not been damaged by fire – but the tons of water that had been poured through the roof had not touched a single word. The Light of God’s love had triumphed over hatred.
We saw this as a ‘teachable moment’ and went public with a message of forgiveness, channeled from Baba Virsa Singh ji through me, which galvanized the entire community. As our major English-language Sikh newspaper noted
Thankfully, some have taken this crime as an opportunity to promote a community-wide healing. Temple spokesman Ralph Singh said its members have gathered to offer prayers of forgiveness to those who set the fire. He also said the community has offered help, money and other sanctuaries for the Sikhs.
“This provides us the opportunity to help rebuild and repair the overall community, to rebuild the sense of love and compassion which will triumph over the hatred in our society,” Singh said. “Out of that love, the building in its time will also be rebuilt.”
The generosity of spirit shown by members of the temple should inspire all people who believe in the real America. True national unity must embrace all Americans. In such unity, there is no place for hate.
This was a positive outcome from a terrible situation. But in spite of our collective attempts , there are still plenty of places for hatred to fester in the world.
In order to have civil discourse, let alone civil society, we needed to develop a shared narrative towards peace.
While peace exists within each of us,the path to peace is laid out by all of our teachings. Unless there is a bridge to the world when we open our eyes it is a difficult transition. But it has always been the stories which laid the path for the ordinary person to follow — without the story there is no reinforcement of the values in the reality of the material world. We need to move beyond reason and expand our consciousness and our circles.
So, with the help of a diverse, committed group of friends, we are convening a Wisdom Thinkers Roundtable which we are convening in New York, on September 8th, linked to the tenth anniversary of 9/11, to highlight how, through our shared wisdom, both sacred and secular, we can create a shared narrative to reweave the fabric of our society.
Most feel that the moral fabric of our world has begun to unravel or has at least frayed. We hope to offer a simple solution, a simple beginning to the path out of our human dilemma.
By bringing the shared wisdom of our traditional stories and new experiences and making it accessible to all, not just through roundtables but around the tables at breakfast clubs, in the local diners and bagel shops of America (and around the world), we can begin to change the way people talk with each other and the quality of substantive conversation that will emerge. Then we have not only a chance at social cohesion, but also a real chance to achieve a just peace.
Everyone has wisdom to offer. It doesn’t depend on our status or education. In fact, I ask most everyone I meet, workers on our home, a stewardess on a long flight, what thread of wisdom would you like to add to reweave the fabric of our society for our children. And their faces light up – You mean me? – and then they open up and share amazing thoughts.
A young Vietnamese woman who ran the kitchen where I was on the faculty of a summer institute recently, greeted me: “I’m Buddha who are you?” she asked, smiling. And then handed me a carafe of milk for my coffee. “This is a ‘h^t’, you call it a jug – but it’s the same thing, right. It’s all the same isn’t it?” That is right!
Just take the time to listen and engage on this wonderful journey we call life – and we will find our fellow travelers, and each hand in hand, round the table, or out of the fires of conflict, we will help each other find our path to peace.
by Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy and Akbar Ahmed
from Huffington Post
Amid a surging fear of Muslims — Islamophobia — in our nation, it is time for all of us to improve our understanding of Islam and our relationships with Muslims — if not because it is right to do this morally, then because it is in our best interests nationally.
The fact is that we live in a world alongside one and a half billion Muslims, and regardless of the desire of some on the fringes of society, our Muslim neighbors are not going anywhere. A failure to understand this population and its religion is bad enough. Choosing to intentionally demonize those who follow this religion and provoke the anger of the Muslim people qualifies not just as insensibility but insanity.