Archive for the ‘CPWR’ tag
On March 13, 2013, the Conclave of Cardinals of the Catholic Church elected Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina as the 266th Pope, bishop of Rome, and successor to St. Peter. For the first time in history, the newly elected pontiff chose to be called Francis, a name with significant resonance for the poor and for interreligious relations.
In response to questions, Vatican spokesman Fr. Frederico Lombardi, S.J., clarified that the new pope chose this name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. Francis was known as “Il Poverello” (the little poor one) because of his affection and concern for the poor and his simple lifestyle. These have long been hallmarks of the life of Cardinal Bergoglio, who abandoned the elaborate episcopal residence in Buenos Aires for a simpler abode and who used public transportation instead of a chauffeur. He has spoken passionately about the plight of the world’s poor as a scandal that cries to heaven.
Francis of Assisi also has a special significance for interreligious relations because he visited Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil at Damietta in Egypt during the Fifth Crusade, seeking peace in a time of conflict. It was to Francis’s hometown of Assisi that Pope John Paul II invited the leaders of the world’s religious traditions to come to pray for World Peace in October, 1986, an unprecedented gathering. Those familiar with Cardinal Bergoglio’s heritage as a member of the Society of Jesus noted that Francis was also the name of Francis Xavier, one of the first generation of Jesuits who brought the gospel to India, where he ministered to poor fisherfolk in the south and who later went to Japan and who died off the coast of China, hoping to visit that land as well.
Pope Francis has had deep experience in interreligious relations in Argentina. He co-authored a book with Rabbi Abraham Skorka, Sobre el Cielo y la Tierra (On Heaven and Earth, Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 2011; e-book: Random House Mondadori, 2011). Regarding interreligious discussions, then-Cardinal Bergoglio wrote: “Dialogue is born from an attitude of respect for the other person, from a conviction that the other person has something good to say. It assumes that there is room in the heart for the person’s point of view, opinion, and proposal. To dialogue entails a cordial reception, not a prior condemnation. In order to dialogue it is necessary to know how to lower the defenses, open the doors of the house, and offer human warmth” (my translation).
The book is itself a model of interreligious dialogue. In the Foreword, Rabbi Skorka notes the risk that they were taking in sharing their personal exchanges with the public: “To transform the dialogue into a conversation with many, to bare our souls, accepting all the risks that this implies, but profoundly convinced that this is the only path of knowing the human, which is capable of bringing us closer to God.” At a later point in the dialogue, the rabbi comments: “If we arrive at an attitude of genuine humility, we will be able to change the reality of the world. When the prophet Micah wanted to give a definition of what it means to be religious, he said: ‘Do justice, love piety, and walk humbly with your God.’”
In response, Cardinal Bergoglio replied: “I am totally in agreement on the question of humility. It pleases me also to use the word ‘meekness,’ which does not mean weakness. A religious leader can be very strong, very firm without exercising aggression. Jesus says that the one who leads must be one who serves. For me, this idea is valid for the religious person of whatever religious confession. Service confers the real power of religious leadership” (my translation).
Pope Francis promises to be a forceful spokesperson for the poor, an eager and attentive partner in interreligious conversations, and a leader who reaches out to the entire world.
by Kathe Schaaf
Women’s Task Force, Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions
The Women’s Task Force was represented as more than 6,000 women from around the world converged on the United Nations headquarters in New York for the 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women March 4-15. More than 100 workshops and panels anchored by grassroots women and NGOs explored this year’s theme, eliminating and preventing all forms of violence against women and girls.
The Women’s Task Force of CPWR hosted several events, including a panel of women exploring this challenging topic from diverse religious perspectives. “Religion, Culture and Violence Against Women” was attended by more than 50 women and featured Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune, Founder and Senior Analyst of FaithTrust Institute along with Rabbi Diana S. Gerson, Program Director of the New York Board of Rabbis, and Salma Elkadi Abugideiri, who anchors the Peaceful Families project for the Muslim community.
Rev. Dr. Marie Fortune encouraged attendees to support the National Declaration by Religious and Spiritual Leaders to Address Violence Against Women which is posted online:
We proclaim with one voice as national spiritual and religious leaders
that violence against women exists in all communities, including our own, and
is morally, spiritually and universally intolerable.
We acknowledge that our sacred texts, traditions and values have too often been
misused to perpetuate and condone abuse.
We commit ourselves to working toward the day when all women
will be safe and abuse will be no more.
We draw upon our healing texts and practices to help
make our families and societies whole.
Our religious and spiritual traditions compel us to work for justice and the eradication of
violence against women.
We call upon people of all religious and spiritual traditions to join us.
The Women’s Task Force also co-hosted an intergenerational circle workshop “Women as Spiritual Leaders: Transforming Violence” with Women of Spirit and Faith and a Sacred Circle in collaboration with numerous other women’s organizationswho have been bringing grassroots women’s circles to the UN for nearly a decade.
Many of the women at UN-CSW this year were wearing blue buttons in support of a 5th World Conference on Women to connect and energize the many networks of grassroots women worldwide.
By Andras Corban-Arthen
CPWR Board Trustee Emeritus
In mid-February, a delegation from the CPWR returned to Guadalajara, México for further conversations with our partners from the Carpe Diem Foundation there, as well as with government officials and business leaders, to further explore the possibility of holding the next Parliament of the World’s Religions in that city. As part of this visit, the spring meeting of the Council’s board of trustees was held in Guadalajara, so that the trustees would have the opportunity to experience the city first-hand.
The CPWR delegation enjoyed a very educational tour of Guadalajara’s historical district, featuring bustling streets, charming plazas and gorgeous 16th century colonial buildings. The tour included visits to the Hospicio Cabañas, an early-19th-century orphanage sprawling over two full city blocks, which has recently been completely renovated; and the Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan, the second most important shrine to the Virgin Mary in México (every 12th of October, over 2 million people take to the streets to accompany the image of the virgin, on foot, for an 8 km. pilgrimage from her temporary residence in the Cathedral downtown to her permanent home in the Basilica).
The trustees also listened to a very interesting presentation by the Secretary of Public Security of the state of Jalisco, who put in perspective some of the U.S. media’s sensationalized accounts regarding drug-cartel related violence in México, and offered us some welcome reassurances about Guadalajara’s safety.
The visit concluded with a celebratory get-together at Carpe Diem’s colorful headquarters, where the trustees had a chance to meet with representatives of many different spiritual communities from Guadalajara.
Joining an esteemed group of spiritual thinkers, luminaries of religion, and Interfaith leaders, Imam Malik Mujahid is featured in the newly released e-zine, “The Coming Interspiritual Age.” This 192-page digital magazine is a complement of the recently released book of the same title by Kurt Johnson and David Robert Ord forecasting an evolutionary interspiritual movement referenced by the writings of Brother Wayne Teasdale, a former Parliament trustee.
Chairman Mujahid’s stories in Namaste Publications’ “The Coming Interspiritual Age” disclose his personal perceptions of being a co-trustee with Bro. Wayne Teasdale on an Interfaith board reacting to September 11, 2001, the relevance and future of Interfaith, and the role of Parliament. From there, his views on global interspirituality, mysticism, and how the “Timeless Wisdom” is steeped in us all to encounter is explored in depth.
E-Zine Contributors: Eckhart Tolle, Ken Wilber, David Korten, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Charles Gibbs, Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, Ashok Gangadean, Mirabai Starr, Nancy Roof, Kurt Johnson, Constance Kellough, Alison van Dyk, Dena Merriam, Russill Paul, Thomas Huebl, Leo Semasko, M. Darrol Bryant, Ed Bastian, Diane Berke, Phillip Hellmich, Rupert Spira, Loch Kelly, Paul Chaffee, Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Adam Bucko,Rory McEntee, Robert Toth, Ralph Singh, Gorakh Hayashi, Matthew Cobb, Janet Quinn, Maurizio and Zaya Benazzo, Neill Walker, Tim Miner, Cassandra Vieten, Jody Lotito-Levine, Kristin Hoffmann, Kenji Williams, Weston Pew, Bruce Schuman
The Power of Listening, Brother Teasdale & the Parliament of World Religions
By Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid
I did not know him well. But he gave me a very important lesson in listening.
It was days after 9/11 when we were in a CPWR meeting. We were thinking about
the future. Everyone was coming up with good ideas. Interfaith people are so much
alike. Their smiles, their language, the way they carry themselves is quite similar. So
much so that I developed a level of skepticism toward the “interfaith people” as nice
people who hang out with the other nice people.
In the meeting, Brother Wayne Teasdale was quiet, listening attentively. And then
he spoke. It was the first time I heard him speak. What he had to say literally woke
everyone up from “just being nice”.
It is important, he said, that we listen to the voices which are not normally heard.
Why not invite extremists to our Parliament? Why not hear from them about their
His thoughts somewhat disrupted this gathering of “nice interfaith people.” There
was a detectable level of discomfort. My own discomfort was a little higher for other
reasons: suddenly everyone was looking at me. He added yes, may be our Muslim
friends can arrange for those voices to be present.
Now so many years after I am more used to people looking at me like that. At that
time I was a bit offended being looked at as though I had some sort of agency of
extremists. But as soon as the stares moved away from me, I was deeply absorbed
thinking about his wisdom and courage to say something like that so soon after 9/
That was the foundation when we selected the theme for the Barcelona Parliament
of the World’s Religions as “Pathways to Peace: The Wisdom of Listening, the
Power of Commitment.”
The Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1893 was an extra-ordinary event but
an event nevertheless. The Parliament is, thankfully, no longer an event. It is a
movement. The Parliament has evolved to become a summit of extra-ordinary
human beings who are active in their cities and regions for the common good;
articulating the best of their ideals and living them in deliberate relationships with
other people of other religions and traditions. They come, they listen, they share,
they learn and go back to their homes inspired and informed to re-nourish their
communities and expand the sphere of their interfaith universe.
The Parliament program is normally divided in three broad tracks. In one track,
people listen directly to others talk about their own religion and tradition, a
powerful opportunity for banishing negative stereotypes. Another track invites
people to share about their relationships with other faith communities; and yet
another track discusses the common issues facing humanity and how religions are
working with each other to think, provide, and promote solutions.
The interfaith movement is growing by leaps and bounds. Not only people of faith
are founding and expanding this movement, but people of no faith, civil society and
government institutions are also looking to interfaith relations as a vehicle of human
With that in mind, the Parliament strategic plan has included between Parliament
programs to continuously engage the interfaith community with a whole set of
learning opportunities about interfaith dialogue, organizing and engagement.
As the forces of fear, anger and hate rise, we believe that people of loving
relationship need to be stronger than ever and better equipped with the best
practices of interfaith to mediate negativity into the positive energy needed for
human societies to grow and flourish.
In the global village, a spark of anger can go beyond burning the neighborhood
down — it can create lasting harm. The Parliament might have been ahead of its time
in the past, but it is the call of our time now.
And one of the critical issues of now is the challenge of climate change — this
requires behavioral change along with good public policies. It is the people of faith
who have the most transformative impact on those who listen to them week after
week — and that is a whole lot of people around the world.
We are not about creating another faith by some odd merging of religions. We are
about harmony between people of faith for the common good.
Well. We were unable to get some extremist to the Barcelona Parliament. We did not
know them to invite them. Probably the CIA knows their way about. But they are too
busy playing drones to kill them as soon as they find their address and if not them,
their neighbors and look-alikes.
In the 2009 Melbourne Parliament, however, I did present a talk about “The Street
Theology of Anger” to articulate the extremists’ abusive distortion of Islamic
teachings. That was inspired by Brother Teasdale’s wish to listen to the difficult
voices. I was surprised to see an overflowing crowd and was happy that there were
not many loaded stares
Continue Reading “The Coming Interspiritual Age” for Imam Malik Mujahid’s perspectives on Global Mysticism and Spirituality.
Applying the “rights-based” approach in national, organizational, and humanitarian bodies on human rights is the methodology studied at the Venice School branch of the European Inter-University Centre. This field of study is often helpful for Interfaith advocates working across sectors to integrate or advance fairness ideologies in individual or community settings. These trainings are open to academics and professionals:
from the European Inter-University Centre:
European Inter-University Centre’s Venice School of Human Rights was born in 2010 with the goal of studying today’s challenges in the field of human rights. It allows its participants coming from all over the world to list these challenges and examine their reasons and possible solutions to deploy. The Venice School intends to highlight that the respect for human rights is the responsibility of all, that «Human Rights are our responsibility». Participants of EIUC’s Venice School will benefit from a faculty of well-known academics and practitioners that will merge theory into practice with the scope of creating a dynamic classroom.
EIUC Venice School of Human Rights is aimed at postgraduate students from all nationalities wishing to consolidate and update their knowledge of human rights. The School is likewise open to members from national and international organisations wishing to specialise and to better understand how to integrate human rights in their daily work. Finally, EIUC Venice School is aimed at Alumni from the E.MA and all other regional masters organised under EIUC umbrella.
After an introduction on general challenges, three topics will be examined in depth:
· Freedom of Religion and Belief is a human right that has a longstanding universal recognition. The 1948 Universal Declaration guarantees its enjoyment. Today we witness more and more to a clash between two systems that oppose religious values to human rights in different areas: women’s rights, gay marriages, ritual slaughtering, circumcision, protection of children… What is the status of religious freedom? How can we protect religious minorities? How can we reconcile religious freedom with other rights?
· Another challenge we face nowadays is discrimination based on sexual orientation. Discrimination against LGBTI is extremely common. The aim during this school is to examine the rights recognized at the universal and regional levels and educate the participants about how to protect this particularly vulnerable category of persons.
· Finally, the last topic we wish to address during this year’s School is how international organizations should integrate human rights into their policies. The European Union has, for instance, underlined the need in its action plan to integrate a rights-based approach within its policies. This cluster will try to familiarize the participants with the core elements of Rights-Based Approach raising awareness of common obstacles and challenges and giving a methodology to apply in all phases of the programming process.
Dates: 27 June – 6 July 2013
Type of courses: Lectures in the plenum and smaller seminars
Application deadline: 30 April 2013
Benedict XVI’s papacy has been marked by ups and downs. There was more than one colossal “faux pas” (.e.g the Regensburg speech) with regard to Muslims (and the Bishop Williamson affair). Overall, however, Benedict generally kept intact the interreligious thrust of the Catholic Church generated by Vatican II But he did not do much to advance that thrust beyond his predecessor John Paul II.
If (and that remains a big “if”) the new Pope wishes to move interreligious relations to a new level I see three interrelated challenges before him. The first will be how to handle the strong emphasis on evangelization and dialogue that has been a central of the past several years of Benedict XVI’s time in office. In my mind few Catholic leaders have really struggled with the question, “can you mount an evangelization campaign and still remain committed to interreligious relations?” Doesn’t such an evangelization outreach place “the other” on unequal footing from the Catholic perspective? And doesn’t authentic dialogue require some affirmation of the coequal status of your dialogue partner?
Cardinal Turan who heads the Congregation for Interreligious Relations within the Vatican has spoken of an equality of religious persons but not an equality of religious traditions. Does this resolve the issue? While I see it as a somewhat positive step in the evolution of Catholic thinking it remains something less than a fully adequate response.
The Vatican, through its Congregations for Evangelization and Interreligious Dialogue, released a statement in 1991 trying to address the tension between the two aspects of Catholic religious commitment. This document went through numerous drafts, the final version being somewhat less satisfactory than some of the initial drafts. The late Catholic interreligious pioneer Jacques Dupuis, SJ, as well as the interreligious leader at Georgetown University, Dr. John Porelli, have both found this document as not ultimately resolving the tension between dialogue and proclamation/evangelization. The new Pope will have to decide whether he wants to pursue some further resolution or simply pursue the evangelization card without much regard for the implications for interreligious relations.
With respect to Catholic-Jewish relations, for example, the new Pope will have to decide whether he will take seriously Cardinal Walter Kasper’s contention that Jews have authentic revelation and remain in the covenant, hence not a community that needs to be proselytize. The issue of evangelization remains a continuing source of tension in most of the other relationships the Catholic Church has with other religions.
The second challenge is whether the Catholic Church truly believe it has some new insights to gain for its own religious self-understanding from interreligious dialogue. Dialogue ought to be an experience of faith sharing leading to mutual learning. But the thrust of a document such as DOMINUS IESUS released by the Congregation for Sacred Doctrine under the leadership of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger seems to deny that Catholicism has anything to learn from interreligious exchanges. It is fully complete as it now stands. Such a perspective, if it dominates, does not create much enthusiasm for dialogue either among Catholic or possible dialogue partners.
A sidebar question is whether a new Pope will emphasize that interreligious dialogue must become an integral part of contemporary Catholic identity and not merely a peripheral exercise undertaken by a select few.
Finally, there is need for the new Pope to continue the process of acknowledging that the Catholic Church over the centuries has treated other Christians as well as people in other faith communities with contempt that has sometimes led to outright suffering and persecution. There must be a clear acknowledgment that the institutional church itself and its leaders were responsible and not merely some wayward individuals. This is not a requirement for authentic dialogue merely for Catholics. But Catholics cannot exempt themselves from this process if a positive culture of dialogue is to emerge.
The statement issued by the French Catholic Bishops some years ago regarding the activities of French Catholicism, including bishops, stands as a marvelous model for how this might be done by Catholics and others.
On behalf of the Russell Berrie Foundation,the Institute of International Education has announced the sixth consecutive year of the Russell Berrie Fellowship Program in Interreligious Studies, arranged at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum).
The aim of the Fellowship Program is to build bridges between Christian, Jewish, and other religious traditions by providing the next generation of religious leaders with a comprehensive understanding of and dedication to interfaith issues. Russell Berrie Fellows are expected to complete the program and return home to their parishes and communities to lead others in efforts to promote interfaith understanding.
The Fellowship offers clergy, religious, and members of the laity an opportunity to study at the Angelicum to obtain a Certificate in Interreligious Studies. The award provides one year of financial support for up to ten new Russell Berrie Fellows. It is intended to cover tuition, a modest living stipend and book allowance, examination fees, and travel to and from the recipient’s home country.
Applicants of all faiths and backgrounds from around the world – including students currently enrolled at the Angelicum – who have a demonstrated interest in Interreligious Studies, are encouraged to apply on the Russell Berrie Fellowship site. The application deadline is March 22, 2013.
Upcoming Chicago Events: An Evening with Imam Feisal, Interreligious New Year Celebration, and Interfaith Prayers
The United Nations’ Interfaith Harmony Week begins February 1 and will continue through February 7. Recognizing the critical need for inter-religious dialogue, events will be held worldwide to observe this special time of year. We encourage all to attend an Interfaith event. Some of the following events held here in Chicago are free and open to all.
CPWR Sacred Space Ambassador, Suzanne Morgan, and Carisse Ramos developed the Interreligious New Year Program being hosted by the Midwest Buddhist Temple in Chicago on Friday, February 1, 6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m, Midwest Buddhist Temple, 435. W Menomonee St., Chicago. The program features:
- Year-End Introduction by Rev. Ron Miyamura
- Buddhist Ringing of the Bell
- Sharing New Year Practices from Diverse Traditions
- *Presenters followed by participants New Year Flower Release
- Toshi Koshi Soba Noodles and refreshments
*Buddhist, Candoble, Greek Orthodox, Indigenous, Islam, Jain, Judaism, Roman Catholic, Unitarian, Zoroastriansim\
The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religion join the Asian-American Coalition of Chicago to present a gathering with representatives of different Metropolitan Chicago area faith communities to lead prayers for Peace, Prosperity and Harmonious Co-existence. Finding ways to transcend religious divides and foster mutual understanding and respect between people will continue through this service on February 23.You are invited Saturday, February 23, 2013, 4:00 p.m – 5:30 p.m., Hyatt Regency O’Hare (Grand Ball Room – Section F-G-H), 9300 W. Bryn Mawr Avenue, Rosemont, IL 60018 (Parking at Hyatt Regency O’Hare Hotel Parking lot is complimentary)For More Information, please contact: Rajinder Singh Mago 630-440-7730, Dr. Mary Nelson 312-629-2990, or Dr. Nguyen-Trung Hieu 773-307-5035
“We’ve gotta tear down those walls. We’ve gotta TEAR DOWN those walls. WE’VE GOTTA TEAR DOWN THOSE WALLS!”
Depicting a 196o’s summer rally, Dr. Mary Nelson, CPWR’s Interim CEO, relives a historical moment. For her, this is a personal story of joining her neighbors to protest housing discrimination against people of color. Committing to march for the civil rights cause, Mary worked passionately for this open, “beloved” community.
Leading the civil rights movement to the North, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had journeyed to Chicago to launch what would become a summer-long effort. His Saturday marches concentrated on those neighborhoods that were the most bitterly opposed to integration.
Nelson says, “King preached the night before [the first march] that we had to tear down the walls of racism, of economic injustice, and the way to tear down those walls was to peacefully just make a witness and be strong. We had to have some training in non-violence and how to do that.”
It isn’t a pretty piece of history, and Nelson doesn’t gloss over the raw and gritty reality of what it was. But it was also an exciting time to change the system. Rabbis and Christian clergy together answered King’s ecumenical call. Black Muslims who were beginning to add their voice to the movement often took jobs as King’s bodyguards.
Dr. Nelson had joined an interfaith force for change, and was ready to take to the streets.
Trekking together down Cicero Avenue, pastors marched in front linking arm-in-arm to King. Singing “We Shall Overcome” and “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around,” their chorus wouldn’t be thrown, even as bystanders littered the march trying to impale everything about it.
Lining their path, the sidewalks were overcrowded by epithet-screaming opponents. Nelson says in that time, “if you were to label them, they’d be rednecks.”
Par for the course, they prepared to encounter danger and would enact a non-violent response. Through the sounds of firecrackers that burst frighteningly like gunshots, Nelson was walking behind Mahalia Jackson, the gospel singer who’d sing at King’s rallies.
Jackson had brought the marchers to their feet the night before singing, “Joshua fit The Battle of Jericho and those walls a’come tumblin’ down…,”
Nelson was stumped in her tracks with everyone else as a disturbing scene unfolded. “One man with just hate filling his face, a fantastic visual of hate, did a big glob of spit onto Mahalia’s cheek,” Nelson cringes to recall.
Planted in place, Mahalia turned and stared her bully straight in the eyes, peering into him. All watched Ms. Jackson as she wiped away the man’s spit and offered him the words, “God Bless You My Child.”
“The power of nonviolence had made this big, bully man and all his hate just shrivel up, like Judas, and he understood that his power was nothing compared to the power of being able to bless him in the midst of that,” Nelson says.
It was the first time Nelson says she viscerally experienced the power of non-violence. From that point, she would march each Saturday that summer while King took residence in an impoverished West-side Chicago neighborhood.
Preaching to break down barriers and make room for everyone in a beloved community, King dispatched his wider vision for equality that would change Chicago and the nation. These shared convictions would also guide Nelson through decades of leadership in community organizing. Now at the helm of our global interfaith council, Nelson tirelessly dedicates each day to justice, and happily shares stories that drop the jaws of those around her.
Like the story of marching with MLK, which Nelson more aptly calls, “My Mahalia Jackson story.”
And really…, it is.