The Parliament Blog

Archive for the ‘community’ tag

Reflections from Rosebud Reservation

By: Parliament Amabassador Aamir Hussain. Originally published on Huffington Post

This past week, I joined 11 other medical students from the University of Chicago in volunteering at a Lakota Native American reservation in Rosebud, South Dakota. We spent some of our time volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, and some time shadowing physicians at the local Indian Health Service (IHS) hospital. This experience was a great opportunity to not only learn about health care challenges on reservations, but also to reflect on the intersections between religion, service, and medicine.

Aside from astronomically high rates of chronic conditions such as Type II Diabetes, obesity, depression, and alcoholism, patients at the IHS clinic often lack access to cancer screenings because the small facility does not have the resources to provide those services. As a result, it is not uncommon for treatable conditions to cause life-threatening complications. I was shocked to learn that some patients suffered from tuberculosis, a disease that I thought had been mostly eliminated from the United States. Finally, patients routinely resort to using the emergency room often need to be air-evacuated to other hospitals for minor complaints that cannot be addressed on the reservation.

However, there were also several positive aspects of the IHS. First, The primary care doctors I shadowed were able to spend lots of time with her patients, talking through diagnoses and medications at length. Second, the reservation community was very close-knit, and physicians (even those who lived outside the reservation) were well-acquainted with Lakota traditions and had a strong desire to be part of the local culture. Finally, although the IHS is woefully under-funded (annual health spending per person for the overall U.S. population is over $9000, in comparison to about $2400 per person in the IHS), it is still a single-payer system that guarantees coverage to all Native Americans with documented membership in a federally-recognized tribe. Although IHS insurance may be less effective outside IHS facilities, this federal program ensures that virtually everyone on the reservation is insured.

While learning about Lakota history, I was intrigued by the changing roles of religious groups over time. Until the mid-20th century, many Western churches saw the Native Americans as “savages,” and many priests sought to “educate” the Lakota in such a way that they would forget their old ways and completely adopt Western customs. Fortunately, there now seems to be more mutual understanding between different spiritual traditions. Christian institutions provide a large number of social services, and serve as community centers for various activities. Churches and religious leaders now run many charities, including the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity. However, many Lakota traditions such as sweat lodges, vision quests, and Sun Dances are also practiced, and some reservation residents observe Christianity alongside the traditional Lakota religion.

Indeed, I was struck by the contrast between hopelessness and optimism on the reservation. On one hand, unemployment is well over 70 percent, the life expectancy can be less than 50 years, suicide rates are extremely high, and families are often trapped in cyclical poverty. On the other hand, reservation residents speak fondly of Sinte Gleska, an accredited Lakota university that provides a wide array of degrees, and cheer for their young students who have won full scholarships to major national universities like Stanford and Dartmouth. Others express hope for the in-progress Crazy Horse Memorial, and how it can someday stand as a symbol of the unvanquished Native American spirit for generations to come.

Through my conversations with the people of Rosebud, I was constantly reminded of a verse from the Quran that speaks of resilience: “Verily, with every difficulty there [comes] relief” (Quran 94:6). Throughout my life as practicing Muslim, I always took this verse for granted; whenever I struggled with something, I found comfort in the fact that relief would eventually come. However, this past week has shown me that for many people, hardship can often be followed by an even greater hardship. Finding any “relief” can be very difficult, and it can be tough to persevere when faced with such overwhelming odds.

I have been inspired by the various people I have met on this short trip, from the recent high school graduate who strives to learn at least “one new fact” every day and someday teach English abroad, to the tireless educator at Sinte Gleska University who motivates her students to follow their dreams, to the hospital worker who speaks fluent Lakota with local elders, keeping an ancient language alive.

These friends I made, and many others, illustrate my religion’s core tenets of humility, service, resilience, and community engagement. As a result, I have become more motivated to reflect on my own practice of Islam, and will strive to exhibit those virtues throughout my medical career.

Before we left to return to Chicago, our Rosebud host told us, “It doesn’t matter if you never return here. Just promise me this: never forget us, and never forget what you learned here.”

That is a promise I intend to keep.

April 24th, 2015 at 2:02 pm

Waking In Oak Creek Reveals Community’s Inspiring Response to Hate

Not In Our Town’s new film Waking in Oak Creek profiles the powerful community response to the shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in 2012. After six Sikh worshippers were killed and Oak Creek Police Lieutenant Brian Murphy was shot 15 times by a white supremacist, town leaders worked together to cultivate new bonds with the Sikh community and guide the community forward toward healing. Young temple members, still grieving from the tragedy, emerge as leaders, and thousands gather for vigils and a 6K run to honor the victims. Together, a community rocked by hate is awakened and transformed by the Sikh spirit of relentless optimism.

Waking in Oak Creek is a strong resource to spark conversations and action in your town to address the need to build bridges between different groups in the community; actively respond to hate and intolerance; and engage youth in building safe, inclusive communities. A community screening and discussion of the film can serve as a way to initiate – and sustain – interfaith collaborations and vital local work on these urgent issues.

Through Not In Our Town’s partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, free DVDs of Waking in Oak Creek are available for community screenings, educational programs, and training workshops. Additional resources include a Guide for Community Screenings, an Educator Lesson Plan, and outreach tools.

Watch the film trailer, request a free DVD, and download valuable resources here.

Not In Our Town (NIOT) is a movement to stop hate, address bullying, and build safe, inclusive communities for all. Learn more at www.NIOT.org.

January 30th, 2015 at 9:54 am

A Holiday Sermon for Every Faith: Tools for Teaching Tolerance

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Holiday Sermon for Every Faith: Tools for Teaching Tolerance

with Lecia Brooks

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 10:00 a.m. CST

 

 

 

 

What we know about the state of hate and intolerance in the U.S. is harrowing, but not crippling. How can holiday sermons transform communal calls for peace into tools for teaching tolerance? Join Lecia Brooks, Southern Poverty Law Center’s Director of Outreach, in the in the first webinar installation of our Faiths Against Hate campaign. Faith-based community and interfaith participants will benefit by this discussion explaining how interfaith measures can successfully mitigate the worsening climate of hate in the United States, how to link the lessons of the SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance campaign to the holiday sermon as a vehicle, what positive outcomes arose from peace-seeking action this year, and how to train parents to teach tolerance in a holiday season.

Lecia Brooks is the Director of Outreach for the Southern Poverty Law Center where she leads efforts to develop and facilitate educational resource models of anti-oppression, teaching tolerance, and advancing civil rights.   Brooks shepherded the publication of the widely-read biannual Teaching Tolerance Magazine of the SPLC in conjunction with the center’s first web-based professional development program, the Teaching Diverse Students Initiative.  Prior to joining the SPLC, she served as Director of Special Projects at the Conference for Community & Justice in Los Angeles.  While there, she initiated a series of anti-hate courses with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office for juvenile hate crime offenders; designed and directed residential camp programs with Tyra Banks for teenage girls to combat the negative effects of sexism; and created and facilitated anti-oppression workshops for high school students and teachers featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Brooks is also the Founder and Principal Consultant for Diversity Matters, an independent consulting firm that develops customized education and diversity workshops for non-profits, institutions of higher learning and government entities. Brooks began her career as an elementary school teacher, and earned her degree in political science at Loyola Marymount University.  

 

 

After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.

System Requirements
PC-based attendees:
Required: Windows® 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server

Macintosh®-based attendees:
Required: Mac OS® X 10.4.11 (Tiger®) or newer

Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/965841566

All of our webinars are recorded.  Click here to watch webinars

As A Sikh-American I Refuse To Live In Fear And Negativity

Photography credit to State of Formation

Simran Jeet Singh

by Simran Jeet Singh
from State of Formation

As a Sikh-American, I am absolutely heart-broken.

As soon as news broke about the massacre in Wisconsin, my parents called me to make sure I was safe. Our conversation was eerily similar to the moments immediately after 9/11.

After making sure I was safe, they asked me to be careful walking around the streets of New York City. They pointed out that: “You never know what someone might do.”

While I accepted their advice, their words crushed me.

As a Sikh, I believe that people are inherently good. Our faith instills a sense of perpetual optimism, and our traditions teach us to always make the best of a tough situation.

Fear and negativity are foreign to our vocabulary. Sikhs are not a God-fearing people; we are God-loving.

The commitment to love and optimism shapes the way that Sikhs interact with their societies, and I’m concerned that becoming cynical and negative might lead us down a slippery slope.

So I am making a conscious decision. I am refusing to accept that human beings are malicious and hateful, and I am rejecting the notion that we need to live in fear.

Click here to read full article

Colorado Churches Remember, Reflect on Aurora Theater Shooting

Photo credit to Helen H. Richardson from the Denver Post.

Parishioners of the Potter House Church worshipping in a powerful service dedicated to the victims of the Aurora theater shooting.

by Elana Ashanti Jefferson, Kurtis Lee and Kristen Browning-Blas
from The Denver Post

Few things soothe like the familiar.

For parishioners in and around Aurora on Sunday, that meant coming together for worship and perspective in the aftermath of a far-reaching act of public violence.

Church leaders rose to the occasion.

“You can’t just not mention it,” Eleanor VanDeusen, religious education director for children and youth at Foothills Unitarian Church in Fort Collins, said of Friday’s movie-theater shooting that left 12 dead and dozens more injured. “When these horrific events happen, we really come back to that idea of community and connection.”

Sierra Graves, 20, Derrick Poage, 22, and Naya Thompson, 22, went together Friday to see “The Dark Knight Rises” at the Century Aurora 16 theater. After an anxious, sleepless weekend and several national media interviews, the friends were together again Sunday, calm and composed, for an uplifting 11 a.m. service at Restoration Christian Fellowship, about 2 miles from the shooting site. The service began with 20 minutes of prayer and reflection around the massacre.

Click here to read full article

July 25th, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Faith Inspires: Hindu American Seva Charities

Photo Credit to Myra Iqbal, AOL

Niki A. Shah teaches yoga to a group of kids as a part of the Hindu American Seva Charities.

by Jahnabi Barooah
from The Huffington Post

This week’s Faith Inspires highlights the work of Hindu American Seva Charities (HASC), an organization whose mission is to engage in “seva, interfaith collaboration, pluralism, social justice and sustainable civic engagement to ignite grassroots social change and build healthy communities.” Seva, which means “service” in Sanskrit, is an important aspect of the Dharmic traditions, which include Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.

In 2009, when President Barack Obama issued a “call to serve,” Anju Bhargava, a Hindu American resident of Livingston, NJ, was appointed to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. HASC is a result of that collaboration, and was designed to strengthen and put a spotlight on civic engagement and community service efforts in the Dharmic community.

Despite the White House’s support and guidance, HASC did not have the easiest start, and their success over the past two years can be attributed as much to creative theological thinking, as to the Dharmic community’s desire to be fully accepted in the American community.

“The Hindu community didn’t have a faith-based infrastructure [to perform community service],” Anju Bhargava, the founder of the HASC told The Huffington Post. Even though many Hindus were engaging in community service through informal means, Hindus did not have access to sustainable community service programs that were faith-based. If the goal was to bring seva to the forefront and make it relevant in the American context, the challenge was that the Hindu-American community was so fragmented because of its varied religious and philosophical beliefs, Bhargava told The Huffington Post.

Click here to read full article

 

Including Ourselves: A Lesson from an Elevator-Ride

Photo Credit to State of Formation by Simran Jeet Singh
from State of Formation

It’s not uncommon for kids to ask their parents about “that thing” on my head.

In most instances, the parents look at me uncomfortably, embarrassed that I might be offended in some way. I’ll usually acknowledge their discomfort with an awkward smile before looking away and pretending not to notice as they try to discretely shush their kids.

But recently I had the most amazing experience. I walked into the elevator of my apartment building in Manhattan and — despite knowing New York etiquette — I couldn’t help but smile at the two little girls standing with their young mother. The girls were wearing matching, polka-dotted raincoats, and they were fully focused on not dropping their popsicles.

The older of the two girls must have sensed me enter the elevator, because she slowly shifted her neck to look up at me and gawked for a few seconds. She then turned to her mom and unabashedly shouted: “Hey Mom! What’s that thing on his head?!”

The young mother made eye contact with me and quickly checked to see if I was planning to respond. I flashed my standard awkward smile, and she returned an awkward smile of her own before totally catching me by surprise.

“That’s a turban.”

“Why does he wear it?”

“It’s part of his religion. Do you remember the boy in your class who wore a turban?”

“Yeah, he doesn’t cut his hair. He has really long hair. ”

I was shocked. I wanted to give everyone in the elevator a high-five, but remembering I was in New York, I tried to play it cool. I put on my Denzel Washington face (the coolest person I could think of on the spot), and as I walked out of the elevator, I turned to the mother and whispered a soft “thank you.”

Click here to read full article

Auburn Media Training: Top Ten Tips to Speak Prophetically through the Press

Macky Alston

Macky Alston

Click here to watch the video Thursday, August 30, 2012

10:00am U.S. Central Time

Join Auburn Media’s Founding Director Macky Alston for this workshop that will outline the top ten tips you need to remember to get your voice heard through the media. Voices of faith who are interested in using the upcoming news hook of the anniversary of September 11th as an opportunity to bridge religious divides are encouraged to join this special workshop.

Macky Alston is Senior Director of Auburn Media at Auburn Theological Seminary, and dedicated to informed coverage of religion in the media. Macky is an award-winning filmmaker and an organizer in the worlds of media and religion. He has received two Sundance Film Festival Awards, the Gotham Open Palm Award, three Emmy nominations, and has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Today Show and in The New York Times. Alston is currently screening his new documentary LOVE FREE OR DIE about Gene Robinson, the first openly gay person to become a bishop in the historic traditions of Christendom.

 

Title: Auburn Media Training: Top Ten Tips to Speak Prophetically through the Press

Date: Thursday, August 30, 2012
Time: 10:00am CDT
After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.

System Requirements
PC-based attendees:
Required: Windows® 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server

Macintosh®-based attendees:
Required: Mac OS® X 10.4.11 (Tiger®) or newer

Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/842178510

All of our webinars are recorded.  Click here to watch webinars

 

Reimagining Interfaith Conversation: Engaging Your Community Through Multimedia

Beth Katz

Beth Katz

Click here to watch the video Wednesday, August 1, 2012

10:00am U.S. Central Time

Identity, religion, spirituality, and culture — these topics define our interactions with others but normally are taboo in conversation. How can we create a new normal in which families and communities openly and respectfully learn and share about these important aspects of identity? This webinar offers concrete strategies for doing so and reflects on other lessons learned from Project Interfaith’s most recent program, RavelUnravel.com.

Launched in May 2012, RavelUnravel.com is a multimedia exploration of the religious and spiritual identities that make up our communities and world. This unique site features over 720 video interviews where individuals from a wide variety of religious and spiritual identities discuss their identities in a personal way, as well as the stereotypes that impact them and whether or not their communities have welcomed their chosen religious or spiritual paths.

Beth Katz is Founder and Executive Director of Project Interfaith. She is an adjunct professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha where she has taught courses on international conflict resolution and religious diversity. She also is a member of the Nebraska Medical Center’s Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) Consultation Committee and serves on the Mayor’s Clergy Advisory Board in Omaha as well as the board of the Center for Catholic Thought and Culture at Creighton University. In 2012, she was the recipient of the President’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Legacy Award from Creighton University and was named one of the Ten Outstanding Young Omahans (TOYO) by the Omaha Jaycees.

 

Title: Reimagining Interfaith Conversation: Engaging Your Community Through Multimedia 

Date: Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Time: 10:00am CDT
After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.

System Requirements
PC-based attendees:
Required: Windows® 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server

Macintosh®-based attendees:
Required: Mac OS® X 10.4.11 (Tiger®) or newer

Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/317260390

All of our webinars are recorded.  Click here to watch webinars

 

Making Room for People With Disabilities

Photo Credit to Creative Commons by Patrick Brown
from State of Formation

Each person was different and each brought with them their own challenges and gifts. Some of them had significant language challenges and behavior problems that were hard to navigate. Some were capable of a relatively normal life with a job, social life, and real community. The major aspect of the person center planning process is dreaming. This is what seemed to be the most difficult part of the institutional environment. As much as these people were cared for and even happy to some extent, they had very few dreams for themselves and the only people in their lives were paid to be there and so no one had aspirations for these people beyond the most basic care. My mom and I had to stretch ourselves to think of dreams for these people we didn’t even know. These individuals had been cut off from their families and natural relationships and put into a clinical environment that lacked the kind of creativity, which can only come from genuine relationships.

The experience has made me reflect on how important community is to human dignity and fulfillment. One of the most attractive aspects of organized religions is their capacity for community. When talking to these individuals about what they want out of life, participation is a faith community was a common desire. I’ve known many people with disabilities who have found strength and acceptance in their faith communities. My sister reads the bible more than anyone else I know. She always asks me about different characters and stories that shes been reading and I don’t always know the passages she is referring to. She is someone that takes her faith seriously and yet our home parish has no program to support her and so she attends a bible study at another church. Christian congregations generally don’t have a good grasp on how to incorporate people with disabilities. The bible study that my sister goes to is a special group, only for people with developmental delays and cognitive disabilities. There are a lot of programs out there with similar models. The problem is that they simply create a separate but equal kind of system where people with disabilities have to participate in a parallel congregation. I haven’t seen any programs that have really incorporated people with disabilities in to the main parish programming.

Click here to read full article