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Announcing Parliament Grants to Strengthen Grassroots Interfaith Movements

 

Inviting Grassroots Interfaith Organizations to Grow with the Parliament

Let’s Strengthen Our Movement Together.

The Parliament of the World’s Religions will be awarding several grants to interfaith organizations in the United States, ranging from USD $5,000 to $30,000 on a competitive basis.

Priority will be given to initiatives seeking to expand their communication reach and connecting with guiding institutions (media, government, etc.), as well as initiatives seeking to counter hate and prejudice while fostering empathy and compassion.

However, any organization is free to apply.

Awards will be announced after July 1, 2015.

Apply by June 20 to stake your claim in funding your grassroots interfaith movement!

Watch Oslo Conference on Myanmar’s Systematic Persecution of Rohingyas

The 3-day Oslo conference to stop genocide in Burma is sponsored by the Oxford University Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), the Harvard University Global Equality Initiative, Parliament of the World’s Religions, Burma Task Force USA, Justice for All, Refugees International, and the International State Crime Initiative at Queen Mary University of London.

The Parliament of the World’s Religions invites the interfaith community around the world tune in Tuesday, May 26, 2015 beginning 3am USA EST for the live stream of the Oslo Conference to stop genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Burma/Myanmar.

Government officials, media, and scholars will spend 3 days together May 26 – 28 at the Nobel Institute converging with pastors, imams, and monks. The time-sensitive conference aims to lift international attention toward solving the increasing persecution and suffering of the stateless Muslims who are ethnically linked to the Rakhine Burmese state.

Messages of support will air from a growing bloc of concerned world leaders and Nobel Laureates including philanthropist George Soros, Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire, and political heads from neighboring nations Malaysia and East Timor. These humanitarian calls for justice will implore the global community to understand the persecution of Rohingyas in the style and scale of other recent genocides.

Parliament Chair Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid will inaugurate the conference he hopes will empower the global interfaith community to help save Rohingya lives and prevent genocide.

“As hate, anger and fear is rising around the world, it is important that people of compassion feel the pain of peaceful Rohingyas who have become stateless and homeless in their own ancestral land,” said Mujahid, Co-Chair of the Conference and chair of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

Click to Watch: the Live Streaming begins 26th May 2015  U.S.A.: EST: 3:00 AM


About the Rohingya Crisis for Media and Global Viewers

The Norwegian Nobel Institute &
Voksenaasen Conference Center in Oslo

End Myanmar’s systematic persecution, deprivation and destruction of the Rohingyas. George Soros, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire, José Ramos-Horta and Dr Mahathir Mohammad will join the call to be made by genocide scholars, human rights researchers and activists at the Oslo Conference on May 26.

The conference will push for an end to Myanmar’s “slow genocide” in the Western commercial, diplomatic and military engagement with the SE Asian country.

Oslo, Norway: Over the last 10 days, the world has watched with horror and disbelief the news reports about mostly Rohingyas from Myanmar drifting in over-crowded vessels in the Andaman Sea, half-starved, disease-stricken and dying.

On 26 May, a high-profile international conference will be held at the Norwegian Nobel Institute and Voksenaasen to bring the Norwegian and EU publics closer to the reality of the Rohingyas. This Muslim minority in Myanmar (Burma) has been so systematically persecuted that they would rather risk lives – including those of their infants and children – than die a slow, collective death.

George Soros, the iconic billionaire and philanthropist, is among the international figures who will offer solidarity and compassion for the Rohingyas. He will join the call for an immediate end to Myanmar’s official policy of discrimination, persecution and destruction of over one million Rohingyas an ethnic group in Western Myanmar. In his pre-recorded address prepared for the conference, Soros states that he too was a Rohingya. “In January, when I visited Burma for the 4th time, I made a short visit to Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State in order to see for myself the situation on the ground… a section of Sittwe called Aung Mingalar, a part of the city that can only be called a ghetto. (There) I heard the echoes of my childhood. You see, in 1944, as a Jew in Budapest, I too was a Rohingya. Much like the Jewish ghettos set up by Nazis around Eastern Europe during World War II, Aung Mingalar has become the involuntary home to thousands of families who once had access to health care, education, and employment. Now, they are forced to remain segregated in a state of abject deprivation. The parallels to the Nazi genocide are alarming,” Soros says.

At the conference, a team of researchers from the International State Crime Initiative, Queen Mary University of London will be presenting their latest findings. In a recent article in The Independent (20 May), the lead researcher Penny Green writes: “The Rohingya have now faced what genocide scholar Daniel Feirestein describes as ‘systematic weakening’, the genocidal stage prior to annihilation. Those who do not flee suffer destitution, malnutrition and starvation, severe physical and mental illness, restrictions on movement, education, marriage, childbirth, livelihood and the ever present threat of violence and corruption.”

Such acts compelled former UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar (2008-14), the Argentine legal expert Tomas Ojea Quintana, to observe at the London School of Economics a year ago that in the case of the Rohingyas, “genocidal acts” have been committed by Myanmar. Quintana will be sharing his perspectives in Oslo.

Nobel Peace Laureate, the Archbishop Emeritus Desmond M. Tutu of South Africa, will also address the Oslo conference. He places the responsibility for the Rohingyas’ plight squarely on the Myanmar government. While the government has characterized this as sectarian or communal violence and sought to absolve itself of responsibility, Tutu says there is evidence that anti-Rohingya sentiment has been carefully cultivated by the government itself. “I would be more inclined to heed the warnings of eminent scholars and researchers including Amartya Sen, the Nobel laureate in economics, who say this is a deliberately false narrative to camouflage the slow genocide being committed against the Rohingya people,” Tutu says.

Bishop Tutu will make an impassioned call in Oslo: “As lovers of peace … we have a responsibility to persuade our international and regional aid and grant-making institutions, including the European Union, to adopt a common position making funding the development of Myanmar conditional on the restoration of citizenship, nationality, and basic human rights to the Rohingya.”

The 3-day conference is sponsored by the Oxford University Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), the Harvard University Global Equality Initiative, Parliament of the World’s Religions, Burma Task Force USA, Justice for All, Refugees International, and the International State Crime Initiative at Queen Mary University of London.

Among the Norwegian participants are former Prime Minister of Norway Kjell Magne Bondevik and Morten Høglund, The State Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway.

The Oslo conference is the culmination of a series of conferences – the two previous ones were held at the London School of Economics and Harvard University in 2014 – designed to call attention to the plight of Rohingyas and their decades-long persecution by successive governments in Myanmar.

“As a Buddhist and an ethnic Burmese, I am devastated and ashamed that my own country of birth has been committing mass atrocities that can only be described as a genocide, as spelled out by the 1948 Geneva Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,” says Dr Maung Zarni, exiled scholar and activist. “The UN and Western democratic governments failed Cambodians, Rwandans, Bosnian Serbs and Tamils previously. They are now failing the Rohingyas. Once again, these entities are ignoring an unfolding genocide. It is outrageous that they are mis-framing the Rohingya issue as a “migration” problem, a “communal conflict” or a “humanitarian crisis”. This is because calling Myanmar’s genocide a genocide will disrupt their “business as usual” approach with the Burmese military and ex-military leaders,” he observed.

“As hate, anger and fear is rising around the world, it is important that people of compassion feel the pain of peaceful Rohingyas who have become stateless and homeless in their own ancestral land”, said Imam Malik Mujahid, Co-Chair of the Conference and chair of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

Press Contact: Dr Maung Zarni
UK Mobile: +44 (0)771 047 3322
Email: fanon2005@gmail.com

INFO FOR THE LIVE WEBCAST from 0900 – 1730 hr (Norway time) (GMT +2)
:
Check the following sites for the web address for to watch the live webcast:

http://www.burmamuslims.org/

http://burmese.rohingyablogger.com/

http://www.maungzarni.net/

BACKGROUNDER

The Rohingyas are a borderland people who have indigenous roots in the pre-nation state border region along the present day borders of Bangladesh and Western Burma or Myanmar. Their long-standing roots in Myanmar’s Rakhine region run contrary to Myanmar’s official denial and the Burmese public perception. There are an estimated at 1.33 million in Myanmar, and an estimated 1 million in diasporas (in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Australia, Japan, Europe and US.) Their ethnic identity has been fluid over the centuries – just like any other ethnic community in the heartland or border regions of Myanmar. In relation to today’s Rohingya identity, it is notable that British Colonial censuses, colonial anthropological accounts and other colonial official records are typically characterized by categories and groupings that were anchored in the prevailing European racism and pseudoscientific understanding of ‘races’, thus their use to deny or discredit Rohingya identity today is highly problematic. The Rohingyas as any ethnic community have the right to self-identify under international law, as was officially pointed out by the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon at the ASEAN Summit in Naypyidaw in November 2014. Importantly, successive Burmese governments after independence from Britain in 1948, both the parliamentary government of Prime Minister U Nu and the military governments of General Ne Win – had officially recognized the Rohingyas as one of the constitutive and indigenous national races of the Union of Burma. The official ethnic identity was chosen by the Rohingya leaders themselves and conferred official recognition by the Burmese governments – as evidenced in the fact that the Rohingyas were allocated thrice-weekly Rohingya language radio program on the sole national radio broadcasting station until 1964, allowed to form associations bearing the name ‘Rohingya’, represent their own community in the national Parliament, allotted a separate entry in the official Myanmar language Encyclopedia published by the Government in 1964, and to have a Special District in Northern Arakan or Rakhine State – known as Mayu District – where the population has always been predominantly Rohingya.

Noteworthy is the fact that both the radicals among the Rohingya Muslims and the nationalists among Rakhine Buddhists took up arms and clamored for secession from the Union of Burma, upon independence from Britain. Confronted with the rebellion on two ethnic fronts, Burmese military and the central government of PM U Nu played divide-and-rule vis-à-vis both Rohingyas and the Rakhine throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Rohingyas armed revolt died down as the result of lack of popular support both amongst the Rohingyas themselves and on the part of the then East Pakistan (before Bangladesh). The central government of Burma made concessions to the Rohingya’s demands including the official recognition of the group – both its identity and its native-ness to the pre-nation-state western borderlands of Burma. Rakhine nationalism – a direct product of the Rakhine’s status as a people colonized by the central Burmese kingdoms – remains strong, continuing to vie for greater autonomy, a fair and equitable share of resources and revenues from the hydro-carbon rich and militarily and commercially strategic Rakhine coastal region.

The official persecution of Rohingyas began in earnest in the late 1970s when the Burmese military leadership – once a multi-ethnic and non-discriminatory – turned anti-Christian and, more potently – anti-Muslim. The Armed Forces of Burma or Myanmar has pursued its un-written, but common policy of ‘purifying’ or ‘cleansing’ the military, especially of higher echelon and strategic positions, of Muslims and Christians. The military leaders openly came to view non-Buddhists, mixed ethnic communities or individuals as ‘untrustworthy’ as evidenced by the special address by General Ne Win to the 1982 Citizenship Act drafting committee in the fall of 1981. The Rohingyas have both historical and cultural ties with what was known as East Bengal (latterly part of East Pakistan and since 1973 Bangladesh) and are the only Myanmar Muslim community with a single geographic concentration along the 170-mile stretch of the Bangladesh-Myanmar borders. As such, the military has, since 1970s, come to perceive them as a “potential threat to national security”. Since then, the Myanmar military has adopted the pre-emptive strategy of characterizing the Rohingya presence in Rakhine State as ‘illegal migration’ of Bengalis from neighbouring Bangladesh[1]. This is the narrative the Burmese national public has been deliberately exposed to over the past 40 years and has become the justification for the systematic destruction of the Rohingya as a group.

The Buddhist majority’s largely anti-Muslim sentiment and the historical animosities between Rakhine and Rohingya that peaked during the years of World War II, have been mobilized by the military and policy makers to support and facilitate the destruction of the Rohingya by the State. Anti-Muslim and other forms of xenophobia are deep-rooted with the Burmese society. Particularly, there is pervasive popular racism towards other Muslim communities. However, only the Rohingyas as a distinct ethnic group have been singled out for systematic, sustained and most severe forms of state-directed repression and annihilation.

[1] In fact, in his now published, formerly ‘top secret’ lecture to the National Defense College in early 1990s, ex-General Khin Nyunt, then Chief of Military Intelligence and the 3rd ranking general, had stated the Muslims from Rakhine state were fleeing across over to Bangladesh, in other words, there was only out-flowing of Muslims from Rakhine to Bangladesh, not the other way around.

The Power of Love and Compassion to Stop the Violence and Start the Healing

By Jon Ramer 

Shared with permission of CompassionGames.org

Baltimore’s riots this week have highlighted the growing unrest and injustices across America. Many are being forced to rethink assumptions we’ve made about race, power, civility, and compassion.  We seem to have forgotten concepts like fairness and justice as a nation. Without this moral compass to guide us, what’s left?

As video after video surfaces of young black males being brutally treated by police, it makes us wonder if racial discrimination and police brutality can now be tolerated in our society. Empathizing with the police and continuing to ignore the root causes of these problems is all too easy. Mainstream media seems to cater to our worst fears and instincts by amplifying the inexcusable behavior of a few.

From the New York Times:

The Rev. Jamal Bryant, delivering the eulogy of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, spoke of the plight of poor, young black men like Mr. Gray, living “confined to a box” made up of poor education, lack of job opportunities and racial stereotypes — “the box of thinking all black men are thugs and athletes and rappers.”

“He had to have been asking himself: ‘What am I going to do with my life?’” Mr. Bryant said. “He had to feel at age 25 like the walls were closing in on him.”

As his voice rose to a shout, and the cheering congregation rose to its feet, Mr. Bryant said that black people must take control of their lives and force the police and government to change.

“This is not the time for us as a people to be sitting on a corner drinking malt liquor. This is not the time for us to be playing lottery,” he said.

“Get your black self up and change this city,” he said. “I don’t know how you can be black in America and be silent. With everything we’ve been through, ain’t no way in the world you can sit here and be silent in the face of injustice.”

What a powerful call to justice. However, it isn’t just a call to African-Americans. If we see ourselves as one multi-cultural society we need a collective action that will lead to effective change. What is society’s role in providing a way out of the poverty, hopelessness and despair that these young men seem to be stuck in?

The pathway out used to be as simple as getting a good education and hard work that might ultimately earn you a fair shot at the American dream. But with the rise in the cost of education and the lack of decent paying jobs, this no longer seems like a winning strategy.  We need to do better as a society, even if it’s more difficult. We need to relearn how to respect our differences and work together: to address these challenges with effective policies, solutions, and on the ground actions that change lives.

The Power of Compassion and Our Interrelatedness

According to Navajo Medicine Woman Patricia Anne Davis,  “the word ‘compassion’ can best be translated into English using the word ‘proxy’, meaning that another person can experience another person’s experience because we are all related by our inherent divinity given to each person equally. It is an all-inclusive experience where there is unity in the natural order and everyone is interconnected.”

We are interconnected to the youth and to the police. Can we find compassion for the police officers who are upholding the law and for the black youth who have the cards unfairly stacked against them?

The challenges we face are personal and spiritual as well as economic, cultural and political. Compassionate action can build this bridge. The role of compassion is not only vital in our lives, it is a key to understanding the circumstances of every perspective and finding a way forward that is just and can heal the rifts in our communities.

In Detroit, Michigan a team called #MetroDetroit participated in the Compassion Games “Love This Place! Serve the Earth Week” Coopetition from April 18 through April 26.

We recently wrote a news post about the organizer of the team Reverend Jim Lee of Renaissance Unity Church titled “Love The Hell Out of Metro Detroit: From the Blame – Shame Game to the Compassion Games.”

metrodetroit2Lee is “rewiring the cellular memory to a place of forgiveness so his city can thrive – so the beloved community can emerge.” Rev. Lee wants to be very clear, “Forgiveness is not about forgetting the past. It doesn’t change what happened. What changes is the interpretation and perception with a new quality, a new tone can emerge to heal us today, so we can move on to the beloved community.”

Lee believes that his community can revitalize and empower itself by bringing the power of love and compassion to bear on their everyday life. Lee says he wants to “Love our way through the pain. Let’s make the pain the lesson, not the reason.”

The #MetroDetroit team committed to participate in the Love This Place! Story Mapping challenge and set out to identify many of the places in Detroit that they cherish and love. The goal was to heighten appreciation of their physical environment, their sense of social cohesion, and their experience of safety and peace within their neighborhoods.

We are happy to report that team #MetroDetroit posted more photo stories than any other city in the world!  Congratulations #MetroDetroit!  You can see all the story photos here.metrodetroit3

We can learn so much from this remarkable team and their accomplishments. We can come together to make just and lasting change by building cultures of compassion and kindness. There are over 300 cities around the world that have embarked on compassionate city campaigns. As people of this remarkable time – filled with great challenges and surprising opportunities – what do we choose?

The Compassion Games supports communities committed to creating cultures that are safer, kinder, and better places to live. You can find out more here www.compassiongames.org Game on!

Jon Eliot Ramer is an American entrepreneur, civic leader, inventor, and musician. He is co-founder of several technology companies including Ramer and Associates, ELF Technologies, Inc., (whose main solution, Serengeti, was purchased by Thomson Reuters) and Smart Channels. The designer and co-founder of several Deep Social Networks, he is the former Executive Director of the Interra Project, and a co-founder of Ideal Network, a group-buying social enterprise that donates a percentage of every purchase to a non-profit or school. Ideal Network is a certified B-Corp that was recognized as “Best in the World for Community” in 2012 by B-Labs. He is also the designer and co-founder of Compassionate Action Network International, a 501(c)(3) organization based in Seattle, that led the effort to make the city the first in the world to affirm Karen Armstrong‘s Charter for Compassion. Most recently, Ramer conceived of and produced the “Compassion Games: Survival of the Kindest.” 

May 4th, 2015 at 9:14 am

Parliament Board Condemns Violence in France and Nigeria; Invites All Faith Communities to Issue Joint Statement

“The Parliament of the World’s Religions vehemently condemns revengeful attacks killing 12 journalists and four Jews in France, and an estimated 1500 women and children in Nigeria. Now this cycle of revenge has engulfed the French Muslims with more than 20 attacks on Islamic buildings. We send our condolences to the families of the victims and to all of France and Nigeria as they grieve.

The Parliament believes that use of religion or any other socio-political ideology to “justify” violence is simply not acceptable.

The Parliament urges the global community to remember that such acts violate the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad and asks that faith communities stand together to break this cycle of revenge by speaking out and organizing programs which enhance positive human relationship of compassion and forgiveness.

The Parliament plans to organize special programing in the forthcoming 2015 Parliament in October 15-19th on the cycle of war, violence, and hate. We invite all faith communities to participate in a joint declaration with a clear resolve to do our utmost  to develop a movement against war, violence and hate.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”

Announcing His Holiness the Dalai Lama & Dr. Karen Armstrong Are Coming to the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions

It is with great pleasure that we announce  two of the esteemed keynote speakers of the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions:

 

His Holiness The Dalai Lama

& Dr. Karen Armstrong

 

Read their biographies below

*Both of these acclaimed leaders will also be featured in the Get Golden Banquet at the 2015 Parliament.

Who better to help lead the interfaith world in reclaiming the heart of our humanity than two of the most acclaimed teachers of compassion?

Returning to the Parliament of the World’s Religions in 2015, His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso the XIV Dalai Lama and Dr. Karen Armstrong will cross-pollinate the religious, scientific, and civic institutions we represent with the seeds of compassion and kindness.

We are honored to present these pillars of wisdom to share their expertise on the themes of the next Parliament:

  • Widening Wealth Gap and Wasteful Consumption
  • Climate Change and Care for Creation
  • War, Violence, and Hate Speech 

Still haven’t registered for the 2015 Parliament?

Super Saver Discounts end November 30th.

Register now – Students save 70%!

RegisterSubmit ProposalsExhibitSponsor

Exhibit, Sell, & Sponsor

Hundreds of booth spaces are available to display, showcase or sell your books, gift items, or pieces of art. It can be about your faith, your organization, your passion, or your business. Parliament participants are highly educated, highly networked, and highly philanthropic; best of all, people who attend Parliaments are dedicated to promoting healing action across the world. Click here to exhibit…

Be a Presenter at the Parliament

Share the stories of how different religions work with each other for common good, tell others about your faith, and recruit people who can tell your story better. Engaging the leadership of young and emerging adults, women, and indigenous communities in the Interfaith movement is especially considered programming for the 2015 Parliament!  Click here to propose a program to present at the 2015 Parliament….

Attend the Golden Banquet at the Parliament

We are planning a fabulous dinner to celebrate practitioners of the Golden Rule! Join us as we honor some of our champions who exemplify compassionate living, and are teaching the world to do the same. The 2015 Parliament Get Golden dinner will benefit the future of the interfaith movement. Reserve your seat when you register!

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the head of state and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. This Nobel Prize winning peace activist is known for his unswerving commitment to love, compassion and non-violence, and has moved the world with his spiritual teachings on “the universal religion of kindness.” Since 1967, His Holiness has traveled and met with adherents, leaders and scholars in over forty-five countries and has authored or co-authored more than sixty books.
Dr. Karen Armstrong is a religious thinker who has written more than 20 books on faith and the major religions, studying how our faiths shaped world history and drive current events. Her new book is entitled Fields of Blood: Religions and the History of Violence. Armstrong’s 2008 TED Prize wish asked us to help her assemble the Charter for Compassion, a document around which all of us can work together for peace. It has since inspired the Charter for Compassion movement sprouting in hundreds of cities around the world.

Celebrate Compassion in Chicago’s Pre-Parliament Event with Arun Gandhi and a Faiths Fest


The Parliament of the World’s Religions is coming home. For the first time since 1993, the largest, most historic global interfaith summit is returning to the United States in October 2015. We are honored to invite you to experience a taste of this life-changing gathering on November 13, 2014. Join us in the Parliament’s home city by hosting your own table or purchasing tickets as together we look with great excitement toward our 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Salt Lake City, Utah!

A celebratory, pre-Parliament event, benefitting the Parliament of the World’s Religions:

        5:30pm:  A Festival of Faiths Reception

        6:30pm:  Benefit Dinner and Program

        8:00pm:  Dessert Reception

        Chicago Cultural Center, Sidney R. Yates Gallery, 78 East Washington Street, Chicago

For Tickets: Chicago Pre-Parliament Benefit on Eventbrite

This vibrant evening of learning and celebration will be a glimpse of the Parliament to come! At the Faiths Fest Reception you will rediscover the unique and varied gifts of our gathered faith communities. Two dynamic new videos, produced by Baha’i Media Services will be premiered, showcasing our rich tradition and pointing us toward a bright future.  Over dinner, you will be engaged and inspired by our brief program including a call to action from Dr. Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mohandas Gandhi, and rousing performances, bringing the spirit of the Parliament directly to you. And, the most compelling aspect of the evening will be your opportunity to pre-register for the eagerly anticipated 2015 Parliament!

We hope that you will be with us on this momentous evening! If you are unable to be physically present, please consider a generous donation. As we move boldly towards our long awaited 2015 Parliament, your support and presence helps us step with confidence into our future. Thanks to you, that future is here.

September 30th, 2014 at 5:08 pm

A Call for Compassion for Children Arriving From Central America

By Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño of The United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, and Bishop J. Jon Bruno, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and President of the Los Angeles Council of Religious Leaders. Via Huffington Post.

Unaccompanied minors crossing the United States – Mexico border has become a humanitarian issue as tens of thousands of children from Central American countries arrive in the United States expecting welcome due to law challenging deportation from countries which do not share borders with the U.S. Image: Flickr User Denise_Rowlands

Last week, we, alongside Dr. Robert K. Ross, President and CEO of the California Endowment and Fred Ali of Weingart Foundation, visited some of the hundreds of children temporarily being housed at the Port Hueneme Naval Base. The stories of these children, the dangerous conditions under which they were forced to leave their homes, and their arduous journeys to travel to the United States touched us all. These children are just a few among the 52,000 children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras who are currently being held in a variety of temporary shelters.

The ongoing and highly politicized public debate about immigration has quickly and incorrectly come to engulf this latest humanitarian situation. The fact that these are young, frightened children who have risked their lives and fled extreme violence to come here, often on their own, has been forgotten. This is in fact an international emergency that calls upon all of us to put the health and well-being of these children before any political grandstanding.

Like so many of our own ancestors, these children are fleeing incredible social crises, which have inspired them to make the difficult choice to leave home solely in hopes of survival. Currently, many Central American nations are struggling with extreme violence connected to drug trafficking and gangs. As we learned in a recent Reuters article, a young immigrant named Jeffrey fled his home of La Ceiba, Honduras because a local gang charged him the equivalent of $24,000 not to kill him. Like Jeffrey, many children are sent away from their homes and families to avoid being drafted into local gangs and cartels with the certain future of incarceration or death. In response, desperate parents with few alternatives have opted to send their unaccompanied children north in hopes of their finding refuge in the United States. But, instead of finding safe harbor, tens of thousands of children, have struggled on long journeys fleeing danger only to get caught in a political limbo while our nation tarries over their fates.

The status of these children poses a humanitarian dilemma. As children await a possible future of deportation, violence and possibly death, it is time for us to cast aside partisan differences and seek solutions to ensure their long-term health and safety. We can choose to use this moment to find the best in ourselves and have compassion for these children. If people from every faith and every community work together, we can live up to our shared values and take care of the most vulnerable among us. As we met these children, we learned that they are children of prayer, prayers that sustain them and give them hope.

We all know that where a child is born shouldn’t determine how long she lives, but it does. However, we must remember that under God, there is a universal citizenship — a status that makes us all equal under His eyes and worthy of love, dignity and respect, regardless of what side of the man-made border you are from. All children have basic human rights, no matter what they look like or where they come from. From universal citizenship springs unconditional love that goes beyond skin color, language and race. Around the world families desire for their children to be safe, content and healthy and if they are not able to provide such privileges, the most desperate go as far as sending their children to distant shores. As communities of faith and philanthropy, we have a responsibility to step up during this time of massive suffering among innocent children. If we don’t help the children in our society, the most defenseless among us, who will?

In 2004, Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño became the first Hispanic woman to be elected to the episcopacy of The United Methodist Church, the second-largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. Today, she is one of 50 bishops leading more than eight million members of her denomination. Bishop Carcaño serves as the official spokesperson for the United Methodist Council of Bishops on the issue of immigration. After serving for a term as Bishop of the Phoenix Area giving oversight to United Methodist work in Arizona, southern Nevada, and southeastern California, she was assigned in 2012 to the Los Angeles Area where she now leads United Methodist work in southern California, Hawaii and other islands in the Pacific Ocean. The Bishop is also a participant in FaithSource, a resource for journalists looking for diverse voices of faith to speak to key issues, sponsored by Auburn Seminary.

Celebrated British Author Karen Armstrong Wins Inaugural Prize For Her Contribution To Global Interfaith Understanding

Karen Armstrong honored the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions in 2010 with a talk on Compassion in Palo Alto, California.

I am so honoured to receive this prize. I am also most grateful to Dr Nayef Al-Rodhan and the British Academy for drawing attention in this way to the need for transcultural understanding. One of the chief tasks of our time must surely be to build a global community where people of all ethnicities and ideologies can live together in harmony and mutual respect: if we do not achieve this, it is unlikely that we will have a viable world to hand on to the next generation. Religion should be making a contribution to this endeavour but, sadly, for obvious reasons, it is often seen as part of the problem. Yet I have been enriched and enlightened by my study of other faith traditions because I am convinced that they have much of value to teach us about our predicament in our tragically polarized world.

The Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Transcultural Understanding, which is open to nominations from around the world, is a new award from the British Academy. It is named after International Relations scholar, Dr Nayef Al-Rodhan, who is the author of numerous works, including The Role of the Arab-Islamic World in the Rise of the West: Implications for Contemporary Trans-Cultural Relations (2012). This new prize – worth £25,000 and to be awarded annually for five years – is designed to honour outstanding work illustrating the interconnected nature of cultures and civilizations. Dr Nayef Al-Rodhan has said of this prize:

“Positive transcultural understanding and synergy is not only morally appropriate but also necessary for the sustainable future of our globalized world. The multi-sum security nature of our connected and interdependent world makes such positive interactions an important pre-requisite for transcultural security, national security of all states, and the security and stability of the whole global system.”

Sir Adam Roberts, President of the British Academy, will say at the award ceremony on 4 July:

“This is the British Academy’s newest and biggest prize, and we are deeply grateful to Nayef Al-Rodhan for having initiated it. Much of the Academy’s work – in a huge range of subjects from classical antiquity to modern politics and international relations – draws attention to the elements of sharing, borrowing and even theft of ideas between different civilizations. The British Academy is delighted to inaugurate this very special prize. A distinguished jury, chaired by Dame Helen Wallace, Foreign Secretary of the Academy, selected the winner. From a large and impressive field they have made a brilliant choice.”

A former Roman Catholic nun, Karen Armstrong is well known for her work on comparative religion. She has drawn attention to the commonalities of the major religions, such as their emphasis on compassion. She rose to prominence in 1993 with her book A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Her substantial body of work (translated into 45 languages) also includes:

•           Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths (1996).

•           Islam: A Short History (2000)

•           Buddha (2000)

•           The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam (2000)

•           The Spiral Staircase: A Memoir (2004)

•           A Short History of Myth (2005)

•           The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions (2006)

•           Muhammad: A Prophet For Our Time (2006)

•           The Bible: The Biography (2007)

•           The Case for God: What Religion Really Means (2009)

She has been notably active in bringing together different faith communities to encourage mutual understanding of shared traditions. In 2005, at the inauguration of Alliance of Civilizations, a UN initiative sponsored by the Prime Ministers of Spain and Turkey, she was appointed a member of the international High-Level Group that was asked by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to diagnose the causes of extremism and to propose measures to counter it. She is a Trustee of the British Museum and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

She has received many awards and prizes. In 2008, on receiving the TED Prize, she called for the creation of a Charter for Compassion, which was unveiled the following year (www.charterforcompassion.org). The Charter was written by leading activists and thinkers representing six of the major world faiths: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. The Charter has now become a global movement, and is particularly active in Pakistan, the Netherlands, the Middle East and the United States. Armstrong and other activists are now creating a network of “Cities of Compassion”. She has said: “My hope is to ‘twin’ some of these cities, so that a city in the Middle East can twin with one in the USA to exchange news, and encourage email friendships and visits. In Pakistan, we are creating a network of Compassionate Schools to train the leaders of tomorrow, and in September 2012, the Islamic Society of North America endorsed the Charter, making its schools ‘Schools of Compassion’ and urging its mosques to become ‘Compassionate Mosques’.”

 

July 3rd, 2013 at 7:00 pm

The Science of Compassion

Dr. James Doty is Chair of the Dalai Lama Foundation Board of Directors, and serves on the International Advisory Board of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.
Photo: Festival of Faiths

A Many Splendored Jewel

By Dr. Jim Doty

Why, in a country that consumes 25% of the world’s resources (the U.S.), is there an epidemic of loneliness, depression, and anxiety? Why do so many in the West who have all of their basic needs met still feel impoverished? While some politicians might answer, “It’s the economy, stupid,” based on scientific evidence, a better answer is, “It’s the lack compassion, stupid.”

St. Paul’s Cathedral, London Photo: Wikipedia

I recently attended the Templeton Prize ceremony at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and have been reflecting on the words of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in conversation with Arianna Huffington: “If we say, oh, the practice of compassion is something holy, nobody will listen. If we say, warm-heartedness really reduces your blood pressure, your anxiety, your stress and improves your health, then people pay attention.” As director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University (one of the two organizations recognized in the Templeton Prize press release), I would agree with the Dalai Lama.

What exactly is compassion? Compassion is the recognition of another’s suffering and a desire to alleviate that suffering. Often brushed off as a hippy dippy religious term irrelevant in modern society, rigorous empirical data supports the view of all major world religions: compassion is good.

Our poverty in the West is not that of the wallet but rather that of social connectedness. In this modern world where oftentimes both parents work, we are spending less time as a family. People are living farther away from extended families and perhaps more disconnected than ever before as suggested by Robert Putnam in Bowling Alone. Putman observes that we thrive under conditions of social connection but that trust and levels of community engagement are on the decline. Loneliness is on the rise and is one of the leading reasons people seek counseling.

 

Close Enough to Share a Problem

One particularly telling survey showed that 25% of Americans have no one that they feel close enough with to share a problem. That means that one in four people that you meet has no one to talk to and it is affecting their health. Steve Cole from UCLA, a social neuro-genetics scientist, has shown that loneliness leads to a less healthy immune stress profile at the level of the gene – their gene expression makes them more vulnerable to inflammatory processes which have been shown to have negative effects on health. Research by expert well-being psychologists Ed Diener and Martin Seligman indicates that social connectedness is a predictor of longer life, faster recovery from disease, higher levels of happiness and well-being, and a greater sense of purpose and meaning. One large-scale study showed that lack of social connectedness predicts vulnerability to disease and death above and beyond traditional risk factors such as smoking, blood pressure, obesity and lack of physical activity.

The Dalai Lama is a founding patron of CCARE and has spoken at Stanford on compassion. Also, His Holiness serves on the International Advisory Board of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions. Photo: CCARE

The Dalai Lama is a founding patron of CCARE and has spoken at Stanford on compassion. Photo: CCAREWhile many pay attention to their diet and go to the gym regularly to improve their health, they don’t think of social connectedness this way. Just like physical fitness, compassion can be cultivated and maintained. Chuck Raison and colleagues at Emory University have demonstrated that a regular compassion meditation practice reduces negative neuroendocrine, inflammatory and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress. Exercising compassion not only strengthens one’s compassion but brings countless benefits to oneself and others. In fact, Jonathan Haidt at the University of Virginia and others have shown that, not only are we the recipient of compassion’s benefits but others are inspired when they see compassionate actions and in turn become more likely to help others in a positive feedback loop.

As human beings, we will inevitably encounter suffering at some point in our lives. However, we also have evolved very specific social mechanisms to relieve that pain: altruism and compassion. It is not just receiving compassion that relieves our pain. Stephanie Brown, professor at SUNY Stony Brook University and the University of Michigan, has shown that the act of experiencing compassion and helping others actually leads to tremendous mental and physical well-being for us as well. While survival of the fittest may lead to short-term gain, research clearly shows it is survival of the kindest that leads to the long-term survival of a species. It is our ability to stand together as a group, to support each other, to help each other, to communicate for mutual understanding, and to cooperate, that has taken our species this far. Compassion is an instinct. Recent research shows that even animals such as rats and monkeys will go through tremendous effort and cost to help out another of its species who is suffering. We human beings are even more instinctually compassionate; our brains are wired for compassion.

At Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE), in collaboration with colleagues in psychology and the neurosciences worldwide, we aim to further research on compassion and altruism. CCARE sponsors an ongoing series of programs. Many pioneering researchers of compassion, including several mentioned in this article, have been presenters and will be again in future programs. We invite you to join us. For more information, please click here.

Dr. Jim Doty is the Chairperson to the Board of Directors of The Dalai Lama Foundation, and serves on the International Advisory Board of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.

This article appearing in the May 15, 2013 issue of the Interfaith Observer has been republished with permission.

This article was originally published by Huffington Post on June 7, 2012.

Global Spirit: An Interview with Robert Thurman and Karen Armstrong on Religion and Compassion

Photo Credit Global Spirit

Karen Armstrong and Robert Thurman being interviewed together in New York.

from The Huffington Post

We call Global Spirit the first “internal travel” series, because the topics and the discussions so often lead to a kind of inner exploration. Unlike programming on Animal Planet or National Geographic, Global Spirit is not about discovering anything that is outside of yourself. The opening program in our series, “The Spiritual Quest,” was one of our more exciting and challenging to produce

For Karen and Bob, it was one of those “first-time meetings” that we try to achieve on Global Spirit — to bring two people together for the first time, in this case, two highly articulate teachers and authors from distinct religious traditions, who have always wanted to meet each other. You can sense a kind of magic in the air, as they both experience the sheer delight of discovering things about each other they’ve always wanted to know. Yes, it was an uplifting show, with a good amount of spontaneous humor.

Click here to read the full article and watch a clip of the interview