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Golden Rule Meets Beloved Community at Heart of Compassionate Atlanta Inaugural Celebration

Compassionate Atlanta kicks off in beloved community on Feb. 2 at the Carter Center.

Winding down from World Interfaith Harmony week would be a backwards way of saying it.  For event organizers like the Compassionate Cities campaigners in Atlanta, the work is only just beginning.

This is true of Rev. Bob Thompson, Board Chair Emeritus of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, who is now championing a metro-wide effort to bring the Charter for Compassion to life in Atlanta. The Compassionate Atlanta kickoff event was held at the Carter Center on February 2 with co-sponsorship of the Parliament’s Faiths Against Hate campaign, and as a participating entity of the United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week observance. Incidentally coinciding with the beginning of Black History Month in the United States, the Compassionate Atlanta launch embodies the  beloved community vision of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

By launching the campaign, Rev. Thompson is primed to share how a Compassionate city campaign works, and what the Charter means to Atlanta. In a recent conversation with the Parliament, Thompson explains how Atlanta pulls interfaith and interracial harmony under the same umbrella, and why partners like the Parliament’s Faiths Against Hate campaign and other common causes can find a local focus to live out the Charter.

Rev. Bob Thompson kicks off with Compassionate Atlanta Feb. at the Carter Center.

Parliament:  Before we talk about the Charter, what can you share from your favorite memories of your time on the Parliament board?

Rev. Thompson: I cherish so many luminous memories from my tenure. From the Parliament in Cape Town to leading a small group of trustees to meet with the Dalai Lama—these and many significant encounters linger in my memory.  But probably the most significant recollection  occurred after 9/11 when we hosted a large interfaith gathering in a Chicago-area mosque.  Following that gathering many of us in the Chicago interfaith community literally stood with our Muslim sisters and brothers outside of Chicago-area mosques for a number of subsequent days as a statement of our solidarity.

 

Parliament: How does the Charter for Compassion relate to its offspring movements, like Compassionate Action International, the Compassion Games, and Compassionate City campaigns?

Rev. Thompson: The Charter For Compassion was first articulated by Karen Armstrong in her “Make A Wish” TED talk in 2008.  Her wish was granted and the Charter For Compassion was subsequently drafted by a “Council of Conscience,” consisting of interfaith global religious and spiritual leaders. The Charter is the blueprint for the International Campaign for  Compassionate Cities and Compassion Games which serve as concrete expressions of the Charter for Compassion.

Parliament: What does it mean for a city to create a Compassion Campaign?

Rev. Thompson: Every city campaign reflects local capacities.  But each and every city campaign is rooted in the Charter For Compassion.  However we organize in our cities, the message is the same, “treat others the way you want to be treated.”

Parliament: How have municipal leaders taken to the Charter? Do governmental entities agree to change their practices to promote Compassion?

Rev. Thompson: When a city government declares itself a “compassionate city” it issues a proclamation that embraces the Charter for Compassion while working together with its citizens to develop a compassionate action plan that reflects the vision and capacities of that municipality. These efforts ultimately have the power of changing the public conversation and consciousness.

A Proclamation in honor of Compassionate Atlanta was signed by the Atlanta City Council for the kickoff celebration.

Parliament:  What new and different outcomes can a city embarking upon a Compassionate Cities campaign expect, or hope to see happen?

Rev. Thompson: I live by the mantra, “communities consist of conversations. We change our communities by changing our conversations.” We learned from the Civil Rights movement and more recently from LGBT movement, when the conversation changes, communities inevitably change. I believe that compassion and compassionate action are conversation changers that are powerful enough to transform the communities in which we live.

Parliament: Your kickoff event attracted a large crowd of multi-religious and racially diverse faith leaders at the Carter Center in Atlanta over the Feb. 2 -3 weekend. How does the interracial network of faith leaders collaborate in Atlanta as compared to what you saw in Chicago? Moreover have you learned anything organizing in Atlanta which could help aspiring community leaders advance the beloved community in racially segregated cities (like Chicago)?

Rev. Thompson:The diverse Atlanta interfaith community has been the driver of the Compassionate Atlanta campaign.  As an aside, when we were organizing to host the North American Interfaith Network (NAIN) in the summer of 2012, I looked around at members of our organizing team and realized I was the only white man on the committee of 12.  That was a very different experience than I had while doing interfaith engagement in Chicago.

Interfaith advances the Beloved Community through the Charter for Compassion in Atlanta at their kickoff event in February 2014.

The interracially diverse interfaith community in Atlanta reflects in part, the cultural complexity of Southern history.  This diversity was also evident at our Compassionate Atlanta launch at the Carter Center. It has been my experience that the Atlanta interfaith community is intentional about living out the vision of the Beloved Community as Dr. King so eloquently articulated. In terms of residency, most of our cities are racially segregated, Atlanta included.  But if we become conscious and intentional about WHO we engage in our conversations—we can make the Beloved Community real in terms of everyday life.  It all begins with being conscious and intentional and culminates in developing relationships that change how we see ourselves and each other.

Parliament: What happens next for the Compassionate Atlanta campaign?

Rev. Thompson: The purpose of our February 2nd Compassionate Atlanta gathering at the Carter Center was to call all citizens in metro Atlanta to concrete actions that invite cities in the metro area to:

  • 1. Declare their city as a Compassionate City
  • 2. Invite organizations to sign on as Charter Partners or
  • 3. Initiate conversations in our communities around the Charter for Compassion and the question of “what does compassion ask of us?”

We plan to gather again at the Martin Luther King Jr. Chapel at Morehouse College on April 3rd for a Compassion Celebration to report back on what we have done and learned in this two month compassion experiment.

Parliament: The Faiths Against Hate campaign of the Parliament is a co-sponsor of Compassionate Atlanta. How can (and why should) an organization become a co-sponsor?

Rev. Thompson: The Faiths Against Hate Campaign is a very important first step! When CPWR Chair Malik Mujahid called me last April asking if we could organize a Faiths Against Hate event in Atlanta, my immediate response was “Yes!”  Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that we needed to mobilize people around something concrete and positive.  I checked out the compassionate cities movement and asked Malik if we could use this as our organizing strategy.  He was very enthusiastic and supportive.  So the Parliament has helped to make the Faiths Against Hate campaign real in Atlanta through the Compassionate Cities movement. Each and every locality must find their own way to give expression to the Faiths Against Hate initiative.  Finally, we are all in this together.  If we want to bring change to our world we must think globally and act locally.  This is what we have done in Atlanta.

Parliament: Are there any lessons you picked up during your time leading the Parliament that have contributed to how you inspire interfaith and compassion now?

Rev. Thompson: The most important lesson I learned in my role as Parliament Chair was that interfaith dialogue and engagement empowers us to understand that our differences present us with an opportunity to go deeper.  Beneath our differences we share a common humanity. It is this vision of our deep unity amidst our diversity that gives me hope and keeps me doing the work I continue to do.

Rev. Robert V. Thompson - Chair Emeritus. A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Bob Thompson graduated from Berkeley Baptist Divinity School (Graduate Theological Union) and was ordained an American Baptist minister in 1973. He served American Baptist Churches in Kansas, Ohio, and for 30 years, as Senior Minister of the Lake Street Church in Evanston, Illinois. He retired in November of 2010. During the 1980′s Thompson became an activist pastor focusing on issues such as homelessness, racial reconciliation and advocacy for LGBT rights. He is recognized as Minister Emeritus of the Lake Street Church and Chair Emeritus of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Over the years he has contributed articles to periodicals including The Christian Century, The Chicago Tribune (op-ed), Sound Vision (a Muslim outlet), and others. He is the author of A Voluptuous God: A Christian Heretic Speaks (CopperHouse, 2007) and a contributor to the book for preachers, Feasting On the Word, Westminster John Knox Press.

Upon retirement he moved to Atlanta, Georgia where he is actively engaged in the Atlanta interfaith community.

 

Dalai Lama Enlightens CPWR Youth Supporters in New Zealand

The Dalai Lama offered words of hope and encouragement to a youth delegation of world faiths organized by CPWR Ambassador

Youth Delegation Supporters of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions learn from the Dalai Lama on June 10 in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Lachlan MacKay during a three-day tour of New Zealand.  The Tibetan Buddhist leader and Nobel Peace Laureate shared 20 minutes with young people representing a range of different spiritual and faith backgrounds at the Chateau on the Park Hotel in Christchurch, New Zealand on June 10.

The meeting, to introduce youth supporters of CPWR to the Dalai Lama, centered on the question, “What is the most important thing for young adults and youth to remember when it comes to supporting the interfaith movement and the vision of a world of peace and compassion?”

Offering advice on how youth can work together in harmony both within their faith communities and in the global interfaith movement, the Dalai Lama shared his view that although religions have diverse philosophical perspectives on life, they all share an emphasis on love and compassion.  “Religion is about cultivating a more peaceful mind, so it’s very disappointing if religion becomes a source of conflict,” explains His Holiness. “Our traditions share a common message of love and compassion, patience and tolerance. If we also remember the instructions about forgiveness, there’ll be no basis for conflict.”

The youth delegation of about a dozen people included representatives from Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Baha’i, Quakers, the Sri Chinmoy movement and other spiritual backgrounds. Raving about the experience, CPWR Ambassador Lachlan Mackay said,

Lachlan MacKay is greeted by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. MacKay is the National Vice-President of the United Nations Association of New Zealand and an international ambassador for the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.

The audience was an overwhelming spiritual experience which will not be forgotten by any of the delegation. We regard His Holiness as one of the greatest peace and interfaith heroes of our time. It was an honour and a privilege to be in his presence. I hope the experience and the message His Holiness offered to us will inspire those present at our meeting with him to work tirelessly for interfaith dialogue and collaborative action with all youth in Aotearoa irrespective of their chosen religious or spiritual path. It is a firm belief of those in the interfaith movement that we have to increase our building of bridges of trust, love, understanding and peace amongst all cultures and ethnicities if we are to counteract the many problems facing our very polarised and conflicted world.

Article edited from original by Lachlan Mackay, International Ambassador and Member of the Ambassadorial Advisory Council, CPWR, and  Tom McGuire, Member of the Interfaith Youth Movement in New Zealand

Delegation of Interfaith Youth Leaders in Aotearoa. Delegation Head: Lachlan Mackay – Baha’i, Wellington and International Ambassador for the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions. Deputy Head: Matt Gardner – Catholic, Christchurch and Irene McDowall – Presbyterian/Multicultural, Wellington. Rebekah Sands – Baha’i, Hamilton, Tom McGuire – Sri Chinmoy, Auckland Nadiah Ali – Muslim, Christchurch<br />Grace Reeves – Spiritual, Wellington. Robin de Haan – Buddhist, Auckland (mentor – over 30). Jonathan and Char-Lien Tailby – Quakers, Hutt Valley (mentors – over 30)

Literature Awards Shine On Interfaith Memoir

Advancing the Interfaith movement more into the mainstream, top awards in two literature competitions were snagged by peace builder and interfaith activist Ruth Broyde Sharone’s book. A veteran CPWR activist, Sharon is being celebrated for authoring the groundbreaking a memoir selling the benefits of Interfaith, MINEFIELDS & MIRACLES: Why God and Allah Need to Talk.

Placing first for “religious non-fiction” in the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the memoir pushes Interfaith forward by garnering top honors in the 2013 International Book Awards in the category of “social change.” Featuring  a chapter entitled “A Taste of Interfaith Paradise,” the history of the Parliament and its current mission are chronicled for their transforming effect on Broyde Sharon.

From the official announcement,

At a time of heightened religious conflict and unrest around the world MINEFIELDS & MIRACLES comes as a breath of fresh air and a statement of renewed hope. Broyde Sharone’s riveting memoir—regaling readers with what she calls her interfaith “adventures and misadventures”– has been endorsed by more than 30 religious leaders including H.H. the Dalai Lama. Paul Chaffee, editor of The Interfaith Observer, describes the book as “a page-turner, a compelling, fearless quest to reach across the toughest interreligious boundaries . . .”

Creator of the Golden Rule Poster, Paul McKenna says MINEFIELDS & MIRACLES should be required reading for anyone who is serious about interfaith dialogue. “I have been involved  in interfaith work for more than 30 years . . . and I have seen and heard interfaith stories from around the world, but I have never encountered an interfaith testimonial with the depth and breadth of this one.”

Professor Cornel West at Princeton says: “I strongly support this book.” Best-selling author Marianne Williamson concurs. “This book is a MUST READ for individuals who seek to be collaborators with the Holy in the quest for peace.”

An inspirational speaker, filmmaker, and journalist, and a recognized champion for interfaithengagement, Broyde Sharone was recently inducted into the Martin Luther King Board of Advisors of Morehouse College. Ruth’s documentary, GOD AND ALLAH NEED TO TALK, took top honors earlier this year as the best short in the 2013 World Harmony Interfaith Film Festival.

A former CPWR staff member, Broyde Sharon is currently Co-Chairing for a third term a grassroots interfaith body called the  Southern California Committee for a Parliament of the World’s Religions in Los Angeles, where she’s known for initiating, innovating, and co-producing interfaith programs in Southern California, in the U.S. and abroad.

The book is available for purchase through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, the author’s website , and shortly as an ebook.

Dalai Lama Speaks in Favor of Female Successor

The Dalai Lama, self-proclaimed feminist and Spiritual leader of Tibet, recently sat down with British journalist Cathy Newman. “I would be pleased if my successor was female,” the Dalai Lama said.

The Telegraph reports,

But the bigger problem is the Dalai Lama doesn’t get to choose who takes on his Buddhist baton. In fact, I also asked him if he could “do a Pope”, and quit when he gets too old and frail. The answer was no.

A new leader emerges after a search by the high lamas. Traditionally, they search for a child born around the same time as the current Dalai Lama dies. It can take several years, and involves looking out for a number of mysterious signs. They might have a dream about where thenext Dalai Lama comes from. Or if the current incumbent is cremated, the high lamas might watch which direction the smoke blows in, or go to a holy lake – Lhamo Lhatso – in central Tibet and watch for a sign from there.

But in theory, whereas Catholic women are categorically excluded from becoming Pope, Buddhism is rather more enlightened. The Buddha himself was the first religious founder after the Jains who allowed women into his order, and that was more than two and a half thousand years ago. In practice, though, women weren’t given the same opportunity to educate themselves as men, so the idea of a woman being installed as Dalai Lama was as notional as the sign from the lake.

April 24th, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Dalai Lama Taps American to Bridge East and West at Tibetan Monastery

Nicholas Vreeland, newly appointed abbot of Rato Monastery in Southern India.

by Kim Lawton
from The Washington Post

The Dalai Lama has given Nicholas Vreeland, director of The Tibet Center in New York, a daunting new assignment. On July 6, Vreeland will be enthroned as the new abbot of Rato Monastery in southern India, one of the most important monasteries in Tibetan Buddhism. He will be the first Westerner to hold such a position.

In making the appointment, the Dalai Lama told Vreeland, “Your special duty (is) to bridge Tibetan tradition and (the) Western world.”

“His Holiness wishes to bring Western ideas into the Tibetan Buddhist monastic system, and that comes from his recognition that it is essential … that there be new air brought into these institutions,” Vreeland told the PBS program “Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.”

Click here to read full article

 

July 1st, 2012 at 10:55 am

The Science of Compassion

James Doty

by James R. Doty
from the Huffington Post

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.”

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.

Click here to read the full article

Beastie Boys Co-Founder, Buddhism, and Islam

Photo of MCA of the Beastie Boys, who became a Buddhist, as well as a champion of mutual understanding between the US and Muslims. Photo from the Guardian

by Omid Safi
from Religion News Service (RNS)

If you are of a certain age (not gonna say it) and your impression of the Beastie Boys ends with “(You Gotta) Fight for the Right (to Party)”, “Sabotage”, or even “Intergalactic”, you might not have been keeping with the evolution of the Beastie Boys from hip-hop punks in the early 80’s to elder statesmen of the Hip-Hop world, converts to Buddhism, and defenders of the Tibetan cause.    Adam Yauch, also known as MCA, was one of the co-founders of Beastie Boys.

Born to a Catholic dad and a Jewish mother, MCA eventually found his spiritual home after meeting His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the 1990’s.  This is how he expressed his own spiritual yearnings:

The feeling I get from the rinpoches and His Holiness [the Dalai Lama] and Tibetan people in general. The people that I’ve met are really centered in the heart; they’re coming from a real clear, compassionate place. And most of the teachings that I’ve read about almost seem set up to distract the other side of your brain in order to give your heart center a chance to open up. In terms of what I understand, Buddhism is like a manual to achieve enlightenment—there are these five things and these six things within the first thing, and all these little subdivisions. And despite all of that right-brain information, it’s very heart-centered. At least that’s the feeling I get from the Tibetans. Also the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism have been passed down for a long time now. They have that system pretty well figured out.

MCA’s passing away was mourned by none other than His Holiness the Dalai Lama:
Adam had helped us raise awareness on the plight of the Tibetan people by organizing various freedom Tibet concerts and he will be remembered by his holiness and the Tibetan people.

Click here to read the full article

Dalai Lama Wins Templeton Prize for Work on Science, Religion

by Chris Herlinger
from Religious News Service

The Dalai Lama is best known for his commitment to Tibetan autonomy from China and his message of spirituality, nonviolence and peace that has made him a best-selling author and a speaker who can pack entire arenas.

But somewhat under the radar screen, the Tibetan Buddhist leader and Nobel Prize laureate has also had an abiding interest in the intersection of science and religion.

That interest won Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, the 2012 Templeton Prize on Thursday (March 29), a $1.7 million award that is often described as the most prestigious award in religion.

The Dalai Lama is the highest-profile winner of an award that in recent years had been given to physicists and theologians not well known to the general public, but earlier had been given to the likes of evangelist Billy Graham and the late Mother Teresa.

“With an increasing reliance on technological advances to solve the world’s problems, humanity also seeks the reassurance that only a spiritual quest can answer,” said John M. Templeton, Jr., the president and chairman of the Pennsylvania-based John Templeton Foundation and the son of Sir John Templeton, who founded the prize in 1972.

“The Dalai Lama offers a universal voice of compassion underpinned by a love and respect for spiritually relevant scientific research that centers on every single human being.”

For his part, the Dalai Lama, in a video statement released during a live webcast announcing the prize, struck a modest note. He said he was nothing more than “a simple Buddhist monk,” despite the 2012 Templeton or his 1989 Nobel Peace Prize.

Click here to read the full article

Religion Stories Of 2011: The Top 11

by Paul Brandeis Raushenbush
from Huffington Post

In the final days of 2011 we pause to reflect on the year that has past — the good, the bad and the ugly. Here are the HuffPost Religion Top Stories of 2011.

The Muslim Spring
It started with a simple vegetable seller in Tunisia who, humiliated by the police and autocracy, set himself on fire at the end of 2010. One year later, the seemingly eternal regimes of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have fallen to popular uprisings and several others, including Syria, appear to be teetering. Once called the Arab Spring, Islam is increasingly being recognized as the fuel that fed the fire of these revolutions — a fire that that may both warm and burn in 2012.

The Dalai Lama Steps Down
The Dalai Lama made history when he relieved himself from his responsibility as political head of the Tibetan people to concentrate solely on his role as spiritual leader; ending one of the most enduring, if benevolent, theocracies in the world. Lobsang Sangay, the Harvard-trained legal scholar, is the the new Tibetan Prime Minister in a time when frustrations with Chinese policy is leading to a fiery form of radical protests by nuns and monks.

Mormons in Politics
The potential success of the Romney presidential campaign has fed a frenzy of discussion of what it means that a Mormon is in politics. The fact that Romney is not the only Mormon candidate (Huntsman) and that the Senate Majority Leader (Reid) is also Mormon doesn’t seem to stop the endless punditry and speculation. Will religious suspicion on the part of evangelicals in the primary and secularists in the general election doom this Mormon moment?

The Muslims Are Coming, The Muslims Are Coming
Fear of the “Muslim menace,” fueled by cynical politicians and well funded think tanks, has led to anti-sharia laws proposed and passed in states around the country. The fact that these states hadno pending pro-sharia laws is apparently beside the point. Creating bulwarks instead of bridges, the anti-sharia (read Muslim) movements seem to ebb and flow according to the political tides (think Park 51 in 2010). Get ready for a flood in 2012.

The End of the World
In order to give people time to repent, people with May 21 Judgment Day signs started popping up well before the announced date of the end of the world. The “prophet” of this apocalypse was Harold Camping, an elderly man with a drawling voice heard most prominently on his Family Radio empire. People left jobs, families prepared to be raptured and as the clock ticked down, the entire world held its collective unbelieving breath. And then time went on, and oddly a little disappointed, so did we.

Presbyterians Acknowledge Gays and Lesbians Can Be Ministers
Ho hum, gays can be ministers, too. Yet, for the Presbyterian Church, one of America’s most famously and proudly plodding religious traditions, to change its laws to allow openly gay men and women in same-sex relationships to be ordained as clergy was a major step forward for LGBT rights and for the Church as a whole.

Click here to read the full article

A Path of Interreligious Friendship

by Leo D. Lefebure

When I was a graduate student at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago in the 1980s, there were intense discussions of religious pluralism and theological understandings of religious diversity. My doctoral dissertation focused on the importance of the biblical wisdom tradition for contemporary Christian theology, concluding with suggestions that this trajectory could be a fruitful starting point for inter-religious reflection.

During this period, a couple that I knew moved from Casper, Wyoming, to Bangkok and invited me to visit them. This led to my first trip to East and Southeast Asia. I visited Kyoto, Bangkok, Myanmar/Burma, and Bali, and was deeply moved by the beauty of the Buddhist and Hindu art in these sites. I also stayed in the Buddhist monastery of Wat Rempoeng near Chiang Mai, Thailand, where I was introduced to the practice of Theravada Buddhist meditation.

Shortly thereafter, I came to know the noted Japanese Zen Buddhist philosopher, Masao Abe, who was then a visiting professor at the University of Chicago. He agreed to be the mentor to me for a post-doctoral research project funded by the Association of Theological Schools of the United States and Canada, which allowed me to go to Kyoto, where Abe introduced me to a circle of Japanese scholars, both Buddhist and Christian. These encounters led to my book, The Buddha and the Christ (Orbis Books 1993). My most recent book, The Path of Wisdom: A Christian Commentary on the Dhammapada (Peeters and Eerdmans 2011), continues this trajectory of reflection, responding to the wisdom sayings of Shakyamuni Buddha in light of both biblical and later Christian wisdom traditions. I continue to appreciate the deep wisdom of the Buddhist tradition and find it enriching on many levels.

In 1987, as I was beginning to teach at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary near Chicago, I was invited to participate in a retreat of Catholic priests and rabbis at the University’s Center for Development in Ministry, where we not only talked to one another but also prayed together. This began my decades-long engagement in Jewish-Christian dialogue, which continues today. In the spring of 2009, I participated in a very moving Jewish-Christian study trip to Poland, co-sponsored by Georgetown University and the Polish Foreign Ministry, exploring various aspects of Jewish-Polish relations past and present.

In the 1990s, I was invited to join the Midwest Dialogue of Catholics and Muslims, where I contributed to the drafting of a booklet on Revelation in Catholic and Muslim Perspectives. I was teaching at Fordham University in New York City on September 11, 2001. Afterward, I was involved in discussions of religion and violence at a number of venues, including Siena College near Albany, NY, the Islamic Center of Passaic County, New Jersey and in the Mid-Atlantic Dialogue of Catholics and Muslims in Queens.

I became involved with the work of CPWR when I went to a theology meeting at DePaul University and happened to come upon a group of colleagues who were on the CPWR research committee helping to plan the 1993 Parliament in Chicago. They invited me to attend their next meeting and join the research committee. I also covered the 1993 Parliament for The Christian Century. Later, when I was teaching at Fordham University, I participated in the Consultation on Interfaith Education’s planning for their symposium at the 2004 Parliament in Barcelona, where I offered reflections on the Dalai Lama’s contribution to interfaith education.

The most powerful defining moment of the interreligious movement for me was the 1996 Gethsemani Encounter at Gethsemani Abbey, Kentucky, which included the Dalai Lama, Maha Ghosananda (the Patriarch of Cambodian Buddhism), and many other Buddhist and Catholic monastic leaders. The context of a Catholic Trappist monastery with its rhythms of silence, meditation, and prayer, provided a welcoming atmosphere for the week-long monastic inter-religious reflection. The spirit of Thomas Merton hovered around us as we continued his practice of inter-religious friendship. As an advisor to Monastic Interreligious Dialogue, I enjoyed many moving exchanges with Buddhist and Catholic monastics. Other powerful experiences have come on Buddhist-Christian retreats that draw upon the resources of both traditions.

Given the often problematic role of religion in the world’s conflicts past and present, I believe my involvement in inter-religious reflection is important in building bridges and shaping a healthy community of the world’s religions. I find much hope and encouragement in the wonderful women and men whom I have met in inter-religious encounters.