Archive for the ‘Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions’ tag
As the world mourns the death of President Nelson Mandela of South Africa, affectionately known as Madiba, it is important that we don’t get too embroiled in sentiments and, in our grief, make the mistake of consecrating his message with his physical body. Like the thousands whom we revere as great people, Madiba was not great by birth, but became great through commitment and dedication to moral values. All of us are endowed with the same measure of commitment and dedication but we tend to use it more for material aggrandizement rather than to enhance our moral and ethical values.
An Indian Government official reportedly said in his condolence message that if the apartheid government had not incarcerated President Mandela for 27 years he would have changed the face of Africa long ago. Implying that those 27 years were wasted. Perhaps some of those years were excessive, but there is no escaping the fact that it was the incarceration that gave Madiba the opportunity to do some soul-searching and turned him from a revolutionary to a revered leader.
Through his life Madiba showed the world that adversity can be good if we use it with understanding. Many a leader who have gone through the same kind of adversity as President Mandela has come out more bitter and violent than ever because they wallow in self-pity. Madiba and others like him used adversity to make a positive change in themselves and their thinking. In a very true sense Madiba became the change he wished to see in the world, to use Gandhi’s famous quotation.
Madiba loved his country more than he loved himself. He was determined to do what was right and good for the country and not be filled with hate and vengeance against those who oppressed him. He had a vision for South Africa where all human beings could live in peace and harmony. It was a vision that has been shared by many leaders of the world, including Gandhi, but it is a vision that has not been realized quite simply because we have chosen the path of materialism rather than moral values. Gandhi warned us that materialism and morality have an inverse relationship. When one increases the other tends to decrease. In a highly materialistic world there is ample evidence today of declining morality. In fact the decay is so overwhelming that it denigrates the very concept of civilization. Is a civilization measured by its material achievements or by its moral integrity? If Madiba could change from being a revolutionary to becoming a revered world leader can we not change from being selfish to being selfless in the service of the world?
Born 1934 in Durban South Africa, Arun was sent by his parents to India when he was 12 years old so that he could live with and learn from his grandfather, Mohandas Gandhi. It was then that young Gandhi learned the principles of non-violence that he continues to espouse until today. Dr. Gandhi spent much of his adult life in India working as a journalist and promoting social and economic changes for the poor and the oppressed classes. Along with his wife Sunanda he rescued about 128 orphaned and abandoned children from the streets and placed them in loving homes around the world. They also began a Center for Social Change which transformed the lives of millions in villages in the western state of Maharashtra. In 1987 Arun came to the United States and in 1991 he started the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence at the Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tennessee. In 2007, the Institute was moved to the University of Rochester, New York. In 2008 Arun resigned from the Institute to begin the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute, with its mission to build basic education schools for the very poor children of the world. The first school will open shortly in a depressed village in western India (www.gandhiforchildren.org). Arun Gandhi has taken the message of nonviolence and peace-making to hundreds of thousands of high school and university youth around the United States and much of the Western world. His publications include The Legacy of Love; The Forgotten Woman: The Life of Kastur, wife of Gandhi, and several others.
Thinking on the future of interfaith, the Parliament of the World’s Religions invited several interns to share on the topic of the next generation of the movement and living out the vision of those pioneers celebrated this important anniversary year. On November 16, 2013, four young adults spoke their hearts and minds to a welcoming crowd of 180 Parliament supporters.
The following interview reflects the vision of Parliament intern in communications and outreach, Maryem Abdullah, a student in the Honors College at University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) and premier student leader of the UIC Model United Nations.
What do you consider to be your identity as an young adult joining the Interfaith movement?
Personally, I identify as a Muslim-American. I was born and raised in Chicago, and so the United States is all I know, and which is why I identify as such. I do hold my Arab heritage close and it will always be a part of me. While I love the fact that I am Arab, I have a hard time [personally] identifying as such because of where I grew up and what surrounded me as a child and young adult. Above all that, however, Islam is near and dear to my heart. No matter where I am, how long I’ve lived there, and with whom I surround myself, I will always have my Muslim identity.
What are some common misconceptions of young Muslim and Arab women you encounter- having grown up in the United States?
Something I face often is the misconception that all Arabs are Muslims and all Muslims are Arab. However, they are not the same or, in my opinion, even similar. Being Arab or from the Middle East is a culture and Islam is a religion. While the two can coincide, they do not have much of a relation to one another.
What is the role of religion in your life?
Having a sense of religion helps me with difficulties I face on a day-to-day basis, and I am thankful to my parents who raised me in a household that incorporated religion in most aspects of my life. While I will be the first to admit that I am no model Muslim, my relationship with the God I believe in is the most important thing to me. I don’t think that the black and white version of a faith is what defines a person—their spirituality and connection with their God is what matters. It is a shame that these misconceptions and prejudices leads people to commit hateful crimes against those who look, speak, or dress a certain way. While it saddens me to see such hate in the world, it lifts my spirits to know that the interfaith movement is widespread and that there is hope to end hate and intolerance.
How does being both Muslim and American inform your perspective of the Interfaith movement?
I think the combination of being American and Muslim has helped me become more optimistic about the interfaith movement. I think the interfaith movement will have more of an impact because this generation is more inclusive. Generations only become more tolerant, so it fosters a positive place for the coming together of various faiths, religions, and cultures. In my opinion, we are less clingy to traditional views, and more open to new people, traditions, and ideas. I believe the younger generation sees the world through a different lens than those who raised us. Our previous generation paved the pathway for change, and with the current generation’s open-mindedness, I think greatness can happen.
What evidence of change and greatness do you see happening?
I have my mother to largely thank for my understanding of how much a group of people can impact a community. She was one of the five founding partners of an all female Muslim law firm. At the time I was in 9th grade and I couldn’t care less about anyone’s accomplishments but mine, but now that I’m older and my professional dreams have evolved from an actress to a lawyer, I have come to realize and appreciate all that she has done to further the tolerance of the Muslim community, and for women around the world.
What is your hope for the future of the interfaith movement?
As a member of a generation that is incredibly open and honest, I am happy to see a strong stance against hate and intolerance.
Who embodies the hope of a stronger interfaith movement to you?
I think Malala Yousafzai, a 15-year-old who stood up for the educational rights of women and was consequently shot by the Taliban, is an amazing example of sticking up for what you believe in, despite the hurdles that may come your way. Malala, along with countless other young women working towards common goals, teaches us what we’re up against- and how strong we can be if we come together for a common cause. We have a long way to go with countless bumps ahead of us, but I’m confident that the interfaith movement will lead to a hate-free and more tolerant world.
One year after a hate-motivated gun massacre August 5, 2012, at the Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, WI., took the lives of six and critically wounded four more, a profound faith is working in mysterious ways. Devastating is a word falling short to fully describe that assault on the dignity of life. Through heartache and victimization of the worst kind, the Sikh community survives, heals, and empathizes with unity through their sacred practice of Chardhi Khala, maintaining eternal optimism no matter what strikes. In that spirit, the community invites all to act on their solidarity and join a 6k walk and run on August 3, 2013, to practice Chardhi Kala in memorial.
Trying to grasp this in text might be difficult. This isn’t easy either, but important, to honor those lost and those still healing, to watch the short film “One Year Later” and understand the social consequences when hate running rampant meets a violence-plagued country. Join the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions in identifying what interfaith can do to empower us all to transform hate into loving neighborly relationships From online to on the ground: Chicago, Long Island, New York, and soon to this very gurdwara.
In honor of the six lives lost on August 5, 2012, and the millions of “others” who died for their differences.
The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions congratulates the Hindu American Foundation on their successful campaign to make October the Hindu-American Awareness and Appreciation Month in the state of California. In a release from HAF Press, State Senate Majority Leader, Ellen Corbett, was interviewed about her recent work to bring Resolution SCR 32 to a vote. “As the Senator representing the 10th State Senate District, I am honored to represent constituents from many diverse backgrounds, including a significant number of Hindu Americans,” said Majority Leader Corbett. “California is home to a thriving community of over 370,000 Hindu Americans that enrich our state’s diversity and professional assets in fields as diverse as academia, science, technology, business, arts and literature. I thank my colleagues for supporting SCR 32 today that recognizes Hindu American contributions in California, as well as designates October 2013 in their honor.” The resolution was passed unanimously.
This passage marks a great interfaith triumph as, according to the release, “the resolution also received the support of 55 non-governmental organizations, interfaith leaders, civil rights activists, and community leaders from across the country, who previously wrote to all State Senators urging them to pass SCR 32.” As for this October, many are looking forward to the various events and opportunities for discussion as the month becomes a platform for Hindu dialogue.
For more information, please connect to The Hindu American Foundation.
Come celebrate with the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions!
We are gathering to commemorate the birth of Interfaith in Chicago, the 1893 and 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions, and to honor the passion and work of new interfaith leaders today. Join us as we honor old friendships and build new ones for a bright and peaceful future!
Questions? Please contact Molly Horan, firstname.lastname@example.org
by Martin E. Marty
On July 4, 1776, thirteen colonies on the East Coast of what became the United States declared independence from mother England, thus giving citizens ever since a great occasion. Their act represented only a beginning of an experiment with which citizens have been tampering and venturing ever since. Those who celebrate religious diversity and pluralism especially have good reasons to join the celebration, but they are not helped by those who see both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as finished products, faultless documents written by titans who knew exactly what to do about the religion of Others. (Let me henceforth capitalize that as a kind of technical term).
Thus debates over whether America was founded as a “Christian Nation,” whether it is one today, whether it must be one tomorrow, and whether “secularists” are taking over or have taken over, color much argument in these times of intense political polarization. Such debates, though in differing forms and waged by diverse casts of characters, tend to start on the foundation of a notion held by many, that we have simply fallen from and lost the perfect solutions of the Founders. (Let me capitalize that word, too.) More fruitful are debates which reflect an observation that the Founders “solved the religious problem by not solving the religious problem.”
They could not have “solved” it, and we cannot either. But they could creatively address it, and many of them did in ways that we can celebrate on Independence Day.
Their problem, as old as human history, was how to live with and deal with the Other, the individual or group that was different from their own. The drafters of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution wrestled with the problem all through their subsequent lives. Some did try to evade it by pretending it away, chiefly by celebrating their own belief-system or religious community as being superior, if not perfect, and then excluding and opposing the Other. Most colonists who came from the British Isles or places like the Netherlands, dominated, and therefore in nine of the thirteen colonies “established” religion by law, and maintained it with coercive force.
Most of the signers of the Declaration were unfamiliar with, uneasy with, or simply “anti-“ those who were the Other. Benjamin Franklin, who has the reputation of being most tolerant, according to his biographer David Freeman Hawke “welcomed neither felons, Negroes, Catholics, nor Germans flooding into Pennsylvania.”
“Why should Pennsylvania,” he asked, “founded by the English, become a colony of aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them?” Needless to say, he later moderated those views. Thomas Jefferson, the other signer equally admired by pro-tolerance, interfaith-favoring citizens, in public voiced disturbing views of Native American religion and, in private, unsettling views of the Other, including those held by orthodox Christians. Yet he left a legacy worthily celebrated each July 4 and the 364 other days of our years.
What happened to bring about change? To answer that question is to begin to publicize the need for and the value of inter-faith relations in a time when Muslims and “immigrants” and others often play the role of the Other. The first fact about the majority of the colonial Founders, being English and Protestant, was that in the colonies they had never met the Other. For one example out of many; outside Maryland and Pennsylvania they would never meet Catholics. How did change come about? They began to know those whose religions were strange to them, beginning in colonies like Pennsylvania. They had to make common causes with the Other to win the War of Independence. They began to read texts by Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and others whose views of the Other later turned out to be more helpful and even world-changing. Through two centuries they fashioned movements and organizations to advance what came to be called “interfaith dialogue.” They changed because of interfaith marriages, mass media imates—let it be said—and their mobility from isolated existence to pluralist communities, etc. etc.
Every Independence Day more of the Others bump into each other and face common problems. They, we, have begun to learn that religion factors into most inter-group and many inter-personal encounters, and find new reasons to converse with and seek to understand the Other who, today, maybe one’s daughter-in-law, college room mate, fellow Democrat or Republican, and neighbor, all of whom get to address religion in a republic whose founders did not solve “the religious problem” but who came to face it often in ways that are rich in promise to us who celebrate July 4 once more.
Religious freedom initiatives are booming in recent global surveys.
Leveling the playing field for social cohesion, these advances propel Interfaith to a global tidal wave now crossing the borders of more than half of the world’s nations. If the following data is promising, it may reach almost three quarters of the world’s nations if trends in religious freedom continue. Unexpected improvements are stacking up fast toward more liberating political movements, and the station of women is appraising with higher worth in more areas as well.
- Moving closer to a human rights platform, the Council on Foreign Affairs of the European Union’s new guidelines on the protection and promotion of religious freedom and belief empower individuals to manifest religious or non-belief practices in compliance with acts on anti-discrimination, non-violence, and safety for women and children. More, the standards are set to influence official EU engagement with non-EU states.
While the European Union cements its democratic view of religious life and liberty,
- Pew Forum data discussed in this week’s the Daily Number announces that 76 percent of nations are trying to do something about “religious restrictions and hostilities.” Over half of these nations are initiating interfaith dialogue policies, and almost 40 percent of nations are specifically enacting measures to redress or combat religious discrimination.
- For even more information, the United States Department of State recently released a comprehensive, year-long 2012 report on International Religious Freedom. The online data can be customized toward research results filtered into specific nations, regions, and categories. Violations aren’t the only tracked data, and there is good news to be discovered in 15 nations improving their effort to advance religious freedom. Political, social, and anecdotal evidence is provided concerning attitudes and unprecedented legal amendments.
WOMEN’S TASK FORCE IS STANDING WITH MALALA. WILL YOU?
Via WalkFree.Org and A World At School
Every young person should have the opportunity to learn, but that’s not currently the reality for over 57 million out-of-school children around the world. We know that when children do not have the chance to get an education, conditions are ripe for modern slavery. Instead of going to school, they are forced to work in the streets, fields or mines.
Last October, people across the globe united to send thoughts of hope and love to a brave young girl fighting for her life in Pakistan.
The Pakistani Taliban tried to assassinate Malala Yousafzai because of her strong voice in the fight for women’s rights and youth education. Their gunmen boarded her school bus and shot her in front of her peers — but Malala survived and she hasn’t stopped fighting.
Over the past two weeks, the basic right to education has been under attack around the world – from the school shootings in Nigeria to Pakistan, where 14 young female students were massacred as their bus taking them home from university was blown up by extremist militants. We were once again reminded of the continued need to stand behind Malala and her cause.
On July 12 – less than a year after she was attacked – Malala will mark her 16th birthday by speaking at the UN. She’ll be delivering, to the highest leadership of the UN, a set of education demands written for youth, by youth.
Join us in uniting for Malala – and for girls’ education — once again.
Taking time to mark twenty years of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, on May 11, the Sikh Religious Society of Chicago opened doors to the interfaith community of Chicagoland to kickoff the anniversary year’s celebrations. Speaking from a Christian community, Joyce Shin of Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church offered reverence to a God whose world is failing to live up to his image, asking for strength to be stronger and to cultivate peace. Praying for justice, Shin’s words mirror the mission the Parliament follows moving forward in Presbyterian-religious terms.
Great is your Word, O God, and great are your works. Each day we breathe in what you breathed out.
We take in the goodness and beauty of your creation, the love you have for it, and your command to care for it.
With heads bowed down and hearts broken, we confess to you, O God, the sorrow we feel for the great mistakes your world has made.
Together we bear the consequences of a creation marred by sin. Your truth has been twisted and your providence perverted.
Anger has been sown and violence spread. And when violence is committed in your name, we shudder with shame.
For the way things are, we are sorry, for we know your world has fallen short of your creation. We see the scars on both friend and stranger.
We have condoned ignorance and allowed injustice, and we have made others to suffer for our mistakes.
We do not take lightly, great God, the damage done, the lives lost, and the grief immeasurable.
When we fear that the world is beyond repair, remind us that you have created us to be in your image. We are not sure what that means.
Compared to you we are fallen, frail in strength, and fickle in conviction.
At most, God, we hope that, if we imitate you all the days of our lives, we will come to embody what you have in mind for us:
that our bodies will bear the grooves of daily service and that our faces will reveal lines of compassion;
that our souls will be strengthened to speak out for those whose voices are ignored and to stand up against forces that keep people down.
Then when you look upon us and the world you have created, most merciful God, we pray that you will see some semblance of your image:
a world in which just priorities are pursued; the young are educated; the elderly cared for; the vulnerable protected; the hungry filled; the homeless safe.
Do not let the needs of your creation overwhelm us, Lord. Though the world’s needs are great, your power is greater. Amen.