Archive for the ‘CPWR’ tag
A Hero of Mine
All of us can look back over our lives as educators and identify people who have been significant role models. One of those persons for me has been Huston Smith. Perhaps the most important American scholar of religions for five decades, Smith was born the son of Methodist missionaries in Dzang Dok, China, where he spent the first seventeen years of his life. Now ninety-three and confined to a chair in his assisted living apartment in Berkeley, California, the old gentleman— eyes sparkling—”banters in Chinese with his friend, Mr. Lin, the maintenance man” (Lisa Miller, “Huston Smith’s Wonderful Life,” The Daily Beast, 2009).
I had read and admired Smith’s premier work, The Religions of Man (1958) many years ago, a book that has sold more than 2.5 million copies and been reprinted over sixty times. My own life experience for twenty-five years, living and working in the religiously plural and multicultural world of Java, Indonesia, caused the book I had read in my seminary class in world religions to be fascinatingly illustrated in the lives of my neighbors, friends, and acquaintances of many faiths.
But it was the chance to meet Huston Smith personally that made such a profound impact upon me. While attending a conference entitled “The World’s Religions after 9-11″ in Montreal, Canada, in 2006, I sat very close to the front of a huge convention hall to hear him address thousands of conferees from all over the globe. Unable to stand at the podium, Smith was seated at a table at center stage. With a gentle demeanor and voice projection dimmed by age, he still had no trouble holding the audience spellbound.
At the conclusion of the session, I rushed to the platform to meet him, and rather than tower above this seated and frail world religions giant, I knelt beside his chair, took his hand, and said, “Dr. Smith, you are one of my heroes.” Without pausing, he smiled and replied, “And if I knew you I’m sure that you would be one of my heroes too!”
I’ve thought about that response many times. Here was a man who has spoken all over the globe, been a close friend of Aldous Huxley, Joseph Campbell, and the Dalai Lama, held teaching posts at Syracuse University, MIT, and Berkeley, written more than a dozen important books, studied and observed ritual practices of Vedanta Hinduism, Zen Buddhism, and Sufi Islam for more than a decade each, and has been the subject of numerous articles, books, dissertations, and an award-winning PBS series with Bill Moyers, now affirming me as a person who would inspire and instruct him in some way, if only we were able to know one another better. This humble spirit, desire to keep on learning, and willingness to affirm others are secrets to the man’s greatness.
British essayist Pico Iyer, in his introduction to Smith’s autobiography, Tales of Wonder:
Adventures in Chasing the Divine, quotes Henry David Thoreau, who wrote: “To set about living a true life is to go [on] a journey to a distant country, gradually to find ourselves surrounded by new scenes and men” (“Foreward,” HarperOne, 2009, xi). That philosophy is certainly mine, as it has been Huston Smith’s. Journeying to distant countries, finding myself surrounded by new scenes and people—these experiences are the learning laboratories that have changed my own life. Myencounters with serious followers of other faith traditions have made me a better Christian. Their devotion to God, as they understand God, and their commitment to living according to God’s ethical Way, as they perceive it to be, have challenged my own devotion to God and desire to live on the Way. Experiences with the Religious Other and the lessons I have drawn from them—how visibly these threads of meaning seem to lead back to this elderly hero of my choosing.
Smith is often asked why he is a Christian, after his having admired, studied, and practiced elements of so many other faiths throughout his lifetime. Bill Moyers also asked him that question.”Because I know my need for forgiveness,” Smith said with great honesty. Raised as a Christian in China, but a student of all the world’s great wisdom traditions, he says “he will never be anything but a Christian. ‘You subtract Christianity from Huston Smith, and there is no Huston Smith left’” (Quoted in Miller, The Daily Beast). And that, too, is a perspective that I claim for myself. The more I learn about religions and religious people in distant places and next door, the more admiration I have for the world’s wisdom traditions—yet, paradoxically, the more committed I am to my own Christian path.
One of the ways Smith explored religious meaning is frequently cited in articles about him. He was at Harvard University participating in psychedelic experiments with Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (also known as Ram Dass). He was also engaged in the Harvard Project, which sought to raise spiritual awareness through the use of entheogenic plants. But Smith, the Methodist missionary kid and forever Christian, looks back on that period of research with a singularly orthodox eye, claiming: “The goal of spiritual life is not altered states, but altered traits” (www.circlesoflight.com).
What a truism for guiding my days! When all of my ongoing study is finally completed, when academic pursuits, world travel, and busy schedules are reduced to simple days spent confined to a chair in assisted living, will people be able to look at my life—as they most certainly do look at Smith’s life today—and judge that my traits were clearly altered by my faith and exemplified in the way I conducted my spiritual life? I pray so.
Dr. Rob Sellers, CPWR Trustee. Sellers is Connally Professor of Missions, and Professor of Missions Ministry at Hardin-Simmons University in Texas.
Our life experiences are shaped and colored by violence. Whether we are dealing with a child caught in the cross fire of gang activity or violence against our religious community or that of our neighbors, transformative leadership demands that we bring compassionate and proactive responses to the tragedies of our day and age. Transformative leadership also demands listening to the stories of those impacted by violence, looking critically at our own faith traditions, and strategizing on how we as religious communities can partner for the sake of peace.
The Council for the Parliament for the World’s Religions Faiths Against Hate Campaign and SCUPE (Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education) present “Touched By Violence, Partnering for Peace” on May 22, 2013 at the American Islamic College in Chicago, IL. We are sponsoring this one day workshop for leaders, clergy, and people who are called to make a difference by transforming hate and violence into partnerships for peace.
In this workshop we will…
• Share stories of how we have been touched by violence.
• Explore how our faith traditions may legitimize violence in our communities.
• Build partnerships with others leaders touched by violence.
• Learn strategies for dealing with the aftermath of violence.
• Commit to bold actions for peace in and across our communities.
Day: Wednesday May 22nd, 2013
Time: 9:00 am – 5:30 pm
Cost: *Standard Registration $100, Student Registration $60 (with student ID)
Place: American Islamic College | 640 W. Irving Park Rd. | Chicago IL 60613
*Workshop fee includes registration, materials, breakfast and lunch.
Download the flyer here.
by Rev. Anne Benvenuti, PhD
Board Trustee, The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions
© April 2013
The “Nones” are the largest and fastest growing segment of the population on the religious landscape in America, according to the most recent Pew survey. In just the last five years, this group of willfully unaffiliated people has grown from 15% to 20% of the population. They are people who have no religious affiliation, and who don’t want one. Yet only 5% of those surveyed call themselves atheists. In other words, the Nones include many people who, while they don’t want a religious label also don’t want the traditional secular-rationalist-humanist label. 28% of them have practiced yoga, and I wonder how many of them have meditated. That question wasn’t asked. But 60% of these people feel close to the natural world. The majority of the Nones are white people who were raised in religiously affiliated homes. Beyond this, they cut across many of the more common culture divides; they are people with college degrees and people without a college education; they have incomes over 75K, as well as incomes under 30K. In this they defy traditional interpretations, that people who go to college outgrow a childish intellectual dependency on religion, and that poor people lean on religion to support them in living with poverty and its attendant adversity. And it’s especially noteworthy that the Nones are disproportionately young: they’re people who grew up on a socially networked planet, not a religiously networked town.
I’d like to suggest that many of the Nones have “gotten off the bus,” an expression that refers to travelers who want to escape pre-packaged tourism so that they can discover a place as it “really” is. I know a lot of Nones and many of them are Alls. They celebrate the Winter Solstice, and Easter sunrise, they may do yoga or meditate, and they give thoughtfully to charities, all in no particular order, but depending on where they are, how they feel, what seems to be called for. They resist labels produced by media-saturated culture to represent certain predetermined sets of characteristics. They distrust such prepackaged beliefs, and also distrust religious institutions that are so often corrupt and hypocritical. Yet they value human spiritual heritage, often in great variety, and many of these people are more comfortable in a variety of religious settings than they would be in only one.
As a Trustee of the Parliament, I feel it is very important to acknowledge the Nones, and particularly the Alls among them, to notice that they have gotten off the bus and don’t want to get back on. They are not looking for certainties. The old definitions are not relevant for them. Atheist? No. Agnostic? No. Believer? No. They live in verbs more than in nouns; they are more about experience itself and less invested in beliefs about experience.
My best guess is that the Nones, and especially the Alls among them, express a vital spiritual pulse in the contemporary human world; one that samples spiritual practices, just as people sample the music and cuisine of many cultures. I’ve seen many religious eyes roll at the notion that people are sampling religion like hors d’oeuvres. I’ve heard religious people say that this cannot possibly be a path of spiritual depth, selecting from the menu the most delectable items while eschewing the solidly nutritious, wanting the pleasures of spiritual comfort without the disciplines of communal practice. But, I ask, why make such negative attributions to our fellow humans, especially when we know well the struggles of relating old institutions to an ever-changing world? Once the familiar critique from those who practice solely within specific religious institutions has been stated—and I think it worth a listen– where are we?
I think that we are on a new page, in a new chapter; maybe we are in a new book. For the first time in the history of human psyches, human life is global as a matter of course. At the same time, this global planet is suffering from the collective impact of the human species. It might well be this context that makes the traditional religious issues seem trivial, tribal, and irrelevant. A very legitimate question might be, “Who cares what you believe, much less about religious in-fighting, when we are on the brink of ecological disaster?” Perhaps those who carry forward the religious institutions should seek in the depths of our heritage the wisdom that is relevant to the global and ecologically threatened context in which humans, indeed, all species now live. We should expect to bring forward something of value for this utterly new context, and we might need to accept that many people will engage our traditions on their own terms, not on ours.
As an Episcopal priest I think it is time to welcome conversation with the Nones, and to welcome spiritual practice with the Alls. It is time to listen and to see the way that the Nones can so easily incorporate the All of humanity’s spiritual heritage. We may offer to the Nones and Alls from our own religious heritage, but we need to respect them for what they are too. They invite us to get off the bus, to experience the contemporary world as it really is, a place in which increasing numbers of people are not only comfortable in mixed cultural settings, but who are themselves multicultural individuals living in a multicultural world. We can at least consider that some of the Alls are genuinely interfaith individuals, bringing religions into a new and global era in human history.
The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions released these statements in the newsletter and on CPWR social media channels in response to the April 15, 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon.
During the FBI search for the second suspect, widespread misinformation circulated like a virus on the Internet implicating Islamic extremism in the crime. The older brother, suspect number one, died after sustaining fatal injuries in a gunfight with the police the night before. He was identified as an immigrant from Chechnya, This led to violent and hateful backlash against peaceful Muslim-Americans. The Parliament responded on Friday, April 19:
What do Martin Richard’s words, “No more hurting people, peace,” really mean?
We are mourning the injuries and loss of life sustained in the Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent events. But we condemn the way in which media and the public have so quickly targeted Muslims. What we know:
Several Boston Muslims were beaten this week, including a Muslim physician, before images of the suspects surfaced.
Yet, Muslims have been helpers and healers. Muslims have been running the Boston marathon for years. Working in the center of catastrophe, Muslims were first responders, surgeons operating on victims, and doctors supervising chaotic emergency rooms,
Interfaith action must be immediate to challenge generalizing Muslims.
- We challenge shameful media: A Fox commentator tweeted that all Muslims be killed.
- We challenge criminalizing faiths: If a bomber is Muslim, why is it a Muslim crime, but a white, Christian carries out a massacre in the case of Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary, and his faith is not a question?
- Islamophobia is as harmful as ANY OTHER FORM of hate, equal to Anti-Semitism and racism towards African-Americans and Latinos.
The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions would like to help share resources for Interfaith action. Please notify email@example.com, Faiths Against Hate Coordinator, with any useful tips.
Thank you for standing in solidarity. Peace.
On Tuesday, April 16, 2012 in response to the bombing at the Boston marathon the prior day:
The Council that convenes the Parliament of the World’s Religions reels in the pain felt worldwide because of yesterday’s tragic bombing. We share our deepest sympathy for those who’ve lost life and limb, their families, and the City of Boston. For many still fighting to stay alive, we stand with you.
The Parliament of the World’s Religions commits to channeling the energy of love and prayers into unyielding action against violence.
We honor the runners whose beautiful journeys, many in tribute to the slain of Sandy Hook Elementary, were robbed of their triumphant finish. Their strength and determination exemplified heroism yesterday when running through that harrowing scene to aid the wounded. We must not let the hope they give us all become tarnished by violence.
We hope that the culprits are found and apprehended soon. Whether terrorists are domestic- or foreign-born, we must not abide five years passing before identifying perpetrators, such as transpired after the 1996 Olympic Games bombing in Atlanta, GA. Naming the guilty parties is critical to restoring a sense of security, but we also emphasize that perpetrators of violence should be included in your prayers. This act is strong and healing.
The Interfaith movement must move to show that there is another way. Interfaith prayer vigils and worship services can unite us, but we must also be organized to mediate the ongoing hate fear and anger into positive human relationships.
It is our duty to intervene in the blame game. Communities and individuals of all religious, faith, and spiritual backgrounds must act in harmony to promote peace. It is imperative to break this cycle of violence that is fueled by fear. Every tragedy divides us when we see an enemy in our faith neighbor. This Boston bombing, like the Madrid train bomb, and September 11 have cultivated a pervasive fear. It hurts us all.
In this spirit we continue a year-long campaign to combat hate. Our nationwide Faiths Against Hate initiative moves to mediate hate, fear, and anger through common goals of peace into positive human relationships. Through webinars, social networking, and day-long trainings, Faiths Against Hate is equipping faith leaders and all who are called to make a difference in this uphill movement. Constructively empowering communities to act courageously with new tools can stop these brutal acts against humanity.
The council that convenes the Parliament of the World’s Religions recently announced an urgent financial challenge putting the largest and oldest global Interfaith organization into jeopardy of closing imminently after April 15.
Plans for moving forward have jumpstarted with relief efforts from Baha’i, Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Native, Unitarian, Jewish, Humanist, Christian, Pagan, Muslim, Buddhist and Spiritual communities. In this rush to rescue the Parliament, friends have raised more than $120,000 of the needed $150,000 in two weeks time.
Funds are flooding in from around the world on the Parliament’s CauseVox funding site with simple messages of hope, faith, and love for the Parliament’s mission. The transformative impact of the Parliament on individual lives, community relationships, and across global networks of spirit and faith can continue. To meet the newest world challenges in critical need of collaborative intervention, just $30,000 remains to move the Parliament into the future.
Many have expressed a desire to give more than their budget permits. If you have stepped up in the last week and would like to stretch your gift, you can contribute more to the Parliament by creating a personal fundraising page on the Causevox website!
Share why you’ve donated, and invite others to join your effort. Use your social media profiles to announce your efforts. Forward e-mails, make calls, send texts. Tell your congregations at worship about the Parliament!
If this gift is your first to the Parliament, know that you can make a difference. With this off our backs, we are freed up! We can continue our important work toward peace and harmony. Please give generously. Tax-deductible donations are being accepted on*:
Together we can finish off this $30,000 debt and enter the new era of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Your gift of at least $100, or whatever you can give, helps move us toward the future.
BE A HOPE BUILDER TODAY.
*Hope Builder donors will receive discounts to the next Parliament event and other local interfaith gatherings.
We are profoundly grateful.
Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid Dr. Mary Nelson
Chair of the Board Interim Executive Director
CPWR is a 501c.3 non-for-profit organization
Christian-, Muslim-, and Jewish-Americans ages 18 through 35 are encouraged to apply to the Ecumenical Institute at the Chateau de Bossey of the World Council of Churches for the “Building an Interfaith Community” seminar course running August 12 – 30 this summer in Switzerland. May 1 is the deadline, and financial assistance is available.
“What can we, as people of faith, do to respond and to overcome the pressing challenges of our time, such as violence and conflict, and build together mutually accountable societies based on respect and cooperation?” This is the question up to 30 young Christians, Muslims and Jews from around the world are to explore during a summer seminar at the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Institute in Bossey.
Aug 30, 2013 06:00 PM
Participants should be between 18-35 years of age, well grounded in their own faiths and be positioned to influence the thinking of members of their wider faith communities after completion of the summer course
By Marcus Braybrooke for The Interfaith Observer
The Early Years of the Interfaith Movement
The legacy of the 1893 World Parliament of Religions did not live up to the high hopes of its organizers. The dream of a new era of universal peace too soon became the bloody nightmare of twentieth century battlefields and genocide.
Pope Leo XIII officially censured the Roman Catholic speakers at the Parliament and forbade participation in “future promiscuous conventions.” The openness to other faiths shown by many Christians at the 1910 World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh was soon obscured by Karl Barth and Hendrik Kraemer, who stressed the distinctiveness of the Gospel over against religions, which, they proposed, were a futile human effort to reach God.
Yet there was a legacy. The Parliament created awareness among some that there are “wells of truth outside Christianity.” Historian Sidney Ahlstrom said it began the slow change by which Protestant America was to become a multi-racial society. Swami Vivekananda and Dharmapala established continuing Vedanta and Buddhist groups in the United States.
The Parliament also stimulated the academic study of religions. The Haskell lectureship endowment at the University of Chicago brought distinguished scholars of “comparative religion” to the school and enabled Henry Barrows, secretary of the Parliament, to lecture in Asia.
In 1901 the first meeting of the International Congress for the History of Religions (IAHR) was held as part of the Paris Universal Exposition, though this was for the scientific study of religions and not for interfaith dialogue. The distinguished scholar Joseph Kitagawa wrote, “it becomes clear that what the Parliament contributed to Eastern religions was not comparative religion as such. Rather Barrows and his colleagues should receive credit for initiating what we call today the ‘dialogue among various religions,’ in which each religious claim for ultimacy is acknowledged.”
Initial Institutional Developments
IARF activities continue today around the world. This recent gathering was in Andhra Pradesh in India. Photo: iarf.netPlans for another Parliament in 1901, possibly in India, came to nothing – although small scale parliaments were held in Japan and elsewhere. The obvious ‘child’ of the Parliament was the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF), as it is now known, which held its first meeting in 1900. The prime mover was Charles William Wendte, born in Boston in 1844, had helped plan the 1893 Parliament. His parents had come to the United States on their honeymoon and stayed on. Wendte’s father became a Unitarian after being astonished to hear “something sensible from a preacher!” To his delight, his son became a Unitarian minister.
Besides his congregational responsibilities, Charles Wendte built up close relations with the German Free Protestant Union. With the American Unitarians, they were the main supporters of IARF, though among the 2,000 participants at the 1907 Boston Congress were some members of the Brahmo Samaj and a handful of liberal Jews, Muslims, and Catholics. (A longer profile of the IARF will be published here later this year.)
The World Congress of Faith can claim a more distant relationship. Its links with the 1893 Parliament came through the “Second Parliament of Religions,” held in Chicago in 1933, in conscious imitation of the earlier event. The 1933 Parliament, a largely forgotten event, was initiated by Charles Weller and Mr. Das Gupta. Weller, a social worker, started the League of Neighbours in 1918 to help integrate African Americans and foreign-born citizens into American life.
Das Gupta had come in 1908 from India to England. To help remedy British ignorance of India, he organized the Union of East and West. Then in 1920 he accompanied Rabindranath Tagore to the United States. Das Gupta stayed on and restarted his Union of East and West in America. Early in the 1920s he met Weller. Together they merged the League of Neighbours and the Union of East and West to create the Fellowship of Faiths. The Fellowship arranged in several cities meetings at which a member of one faith paid tribute to another faith. It also published a journal called Appreciation.
In May 1929, the World Fellowship of Faiths met in Chicago. This revived memories of the city’s 1893 Parliament and led to a similar event being held to coincide with the Second World Fair in 1933. Twenty-seven gatherings were held in Chicago, with a total attendance of 44,000 people. Preliminary meetings were also held in New York. Bishop McConnell claimed, perhaps unfairly, that the 1933 gathering was an advance on the 1893 event. “The first difference,” he said, “is that instead of a comparative parade of rival religions, all faiths were challenged to apply their religion to help solve the urgent problems which impede man’s progress. The second difference is that the word ‘faiths’ is understood to include, not only all religions, but all types of spiritual consciousness.”
One of those who attended the 1933 Parliament was Sir Francis Younghusband, who three years later arranged the first World Congress of Faiths in London. The minutes of the first planning meeting make clear the link with the World Fellowship of Faiths, which had arranged the Second World Parliament of Religions in 1933. Younghusband soon made clear to Das Gupta that, although grateful to him and the World Fellowship of Faiths, that he – Younghusband – was in charge of the Congress.
The World Fellowship of Faiths described itself as “a movement not a machine; a sense of expanding activities, rather than an established institution, an inspiration more than an achievement. It has never sought to develop a new religion or unite divergent faiths on the basis of a least common denominator of their convictions. Instead, it held that the desired and necessary human realization of the all-embracing spiritual Oneness of the Good Life Universal must be accompanied by the appreciation (brotherly love) for all the individualities, all the differentiations of function, by which true unity is enriched.” This is still a fair description of the interfaith movement.
The modern Parliament of the World’s Religions began twenty years ago in Chicago. A 100-year celebration of the first Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1893 became a revival for global interfaith. There and then, we declared the mission we continue today; convening global citizens of spirit and faith, connecting a network of worldwide communities, and enabling the dialogue among us to transform into action. The collective goal over these years?
A just, peaceful, and sustainable world.
Looking back to move forward this year makes now the time to revisit our roots, learn from our history, and step into our future wired for progress.
Sri Chinmoy was officially invited to hold the opening meditation at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago on August 28, 1993.
Rabbi Michael Balinsky, Treasurer of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions Board of Trustees, was just named one of “America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis” by The Jewish Daily Forward. Of the honor, Balinsky said a former student had nominated him after inspiring him to become a rabbi. “It was all very touching,” Balinsky shares.
Rabbi Adam J. Rosenbaum describes Balinsky’s influence on his journey toward Rabbinical work:
“As my Hillel rabbi at Northwestern University, Rabbi Balinsky showed me that it was possible to guide young people toward Jewish observance with a sense of tolerance, openness and patience. He was sensitive to the fact that college students endure many ups and downs, and he approached each student with a proper mix of honesty and compassion. Most of all, no matter what I asked him, his answer and tone were both genuine and respectful. He is the reason why I became a rabbi, and if I can one day become half the rabbi that Michael Balinsky is, my community will benefit greatly.”
The Council that convenes the Parliament of the World’s Religions is faced with an enormous one-time financial challenge we must immediately overcome to continue to exist. By April 13, 2013, we can raise the $150,000 needed to go on.
In just two days, generous gifts granted through our fundraising site on CauseVox and direct commitments have totaled more than $35,000.
CPWR Executive Director Dr. Mary Nelson says each Board Trustee is meeting equal fundraising goals through personal outreach. By helping us meet this challenge, the Board of Trustees can free the Parliament to carry on the mission of creating peace in the world through interfaith harmony by:
- Convening the next Parliament event
- Widening our connections and keep encouraging local interfaith event
- Celebrating our deep 120 year history
- Honoring our leaders and MOVE FORWARD TO A FUTURE WITH HOPE
“Our problem started when a bomber attacked Madrid just weeks before the 2004 Barcelona Parliament,” says Mary Nelson. To explain further why the Parliament is acting fast, Nelson continues,
A last-minute loan became necessary to carry out the event. But a life changing Barcelona Parliament was held, bringing people together to overcome fear through interfaith action.
Why now? A Spanish court judgment of $276,600 against the Parliament slowly came to the U.S. Courts. On March 21, 2013, the U.S. court upheld the debt against the Parliament. We were advised we had at least three months, but court papers served last week gave us until April 17,2013.
The CPWR Board met and said we dare to do the impossible; the work of the Parliament must go on. To protect the celebration of our 120th Anniversary this year, we had raised $126,600 in our earlier efforts. The need now is $150,000 more.
In a few short days, by internet, direct solicitation, Board efforts, we have an additional $35,000 in hand. And we’ve just started. You can help make the difference.
Reasons to donate are many and personal, but the hundreds stepping in already have shared that the Parliament:
- “…teaches tolerance”
- “…is a vehicle for peace in the world,”
- “…was the highlight of my life.”
PLEASE. BE A HOPE BUILDER TODAY.
Tony Blair Foundation
Melbourne Parliament, 2009