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Watch Oslo Conference on Myanmar’s Systematic Persecution of Rohingyas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


About the Rohingya Crisis for Media and Global Viewers

The Norwegian Nobel Institute &
Voksenaasen Conference Center in Oslo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.burmamuslims.org/

http://burmese.rohingyablogger.com/

http://www.maungzarni.net/

BACKGROUNDER

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

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

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

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

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

Realizing Religion’s Power to Champion Change

By Rev. Dr. Anne Benvenuti
Parliament Trustee, Co-Chair, Parliament Women’s Task Force

The following excerpt highlights the work of the Parliament and world leaders to recalibrate the religious contexts in which cultural practices carried out equate to human rights abuses. This section comes from the presentation, “Human Rights and Mental Health of Women in the Context of Religious Freedom.” delivered to the International Academy of Law and Mental Health in Amsterdam in 2013.

“What I hope and what I suggest is that religion is one of the great sources of the vision that produced the concept of human rights, that religion is one of the great mobilizers of human goodness and courage to realize visions of just and sustainable human societies, of many various cultural and religious forms. In the twentieth century, it was the charismatic religious leadership of Gandhi, of Martin Luther King Jr., and of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, that provided the impetus for major civil rights movements. “The arc of the universe,” said King, “bends towards justice.” Indeed, we hope that it does.

Today there are many religious voices standing up to the more regressive and intimidating movements in the world of religion; among these are Jimmy Carter, Mary Robinson, and Desmond Tutu, along with many programs of an interfaith nature, many movements within religions, and perhaps most touchingly, many people of faith acting in accord with their consciences.

The Parliament of World’s Religions and other interfaith organizations increasingly provide a forum for more progressive religious voices and the development of shared visions. In fact, Jimmy Carter gave a groundbreaking address to the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions at Melbourne, after very publicly leaving his own lifelong religious home, the Southern Baptist Convention, when that church revoked its blessing on women’s leadership and declared that wives must be submissive to their husbands.

In his address to the Parliament of the World’s Religions, Carter said, “This view that the Almighty considers women to be inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or tradition. Its influence does not stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue, or temple. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths, creating an environment in which violations against women are justified. The truth is that male religious leaders have had – and still have – an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions – all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views and set a new course that demands equal rights for women and men, girls and boys.”

In response to Carter’s address, and under the leadership of Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, the Parliament of the World’s Religions (of which entity I am a trustee) initiated a Women’s Task force, which I co-chair with Phyllis Curott for the purpose of “developing a multi-generational action plan to assure that the voices of women are heard at the vital nexus of women’s issues and religion.”

Speaking of the seemingly needless regression in the world of religion, Desmond Tutu commented on the obvious advantages of including women in leadership, “In my own church, which decided only in 1992 that women could be ordained as priests and bishops, it was quite a shock to realise how much we had diminished ourselves in our ministry when we saw the difference women made. In this volatile time, when there is so much distress and dissatisfaction, we are wasting a huge source of talent and wisdom by not including women as equals in all aspects of life – whether in politics, business or religion.”[20]

I remain convinced that we must engage the world of religion in every way possible, first by recognizing its considerable power to mobilize humans to act courageously to realize the best in us, but also by legislation that protects the freedom and dignity of women and men from bad religion; by interfaith conversation, but also by conversations between the secular and religious domains, and of course by conversations within religious traditions. With regard to this last element, I think it goes without saying that changes in the traditions, including interpretation of texts, must come from within those religious traditions, though conversations across traditional boundaries may well be enriching for all parties.

Because I see the power for both good and ill in the world of religion, I was ordained an Episcopal priest in 2009, and I serve as a Trustee of the Parliament. I want to illustrate this dimension of my own life with a story: in my very small town, I was recently invited by a Roman Catholic group to participate in their charity walk. I put on my clerical garb, my black shirt and white collar, and I walked thus in the California heat; it was my simple and direct response about women’s leadership to walk among them attired in the symbolic garb of my role of spiritual leadership. The question of the day was what to call me, since “Father” is obviously not the right thing. This is the slow work, and it simply has to be done, village by village, charity walk by charity walk, YouTube video by YouTube video. There is so much that can be done simply be engaging conversations instead of letting the opportunities to do so slip by. I have added to my public and casual vocabulary the expression, “Hmmm, that’s not how I see it…” and have found that what I thought would be both tedious and exhausting is often both enriching and empowering. I’ve learned that often people listen if I will speak my truth, and that people will speak if I listen. As I said, this is the necessary slow work.

The Arc of the Universe does bend toward justice, I think, but the weight of our collective human will, expressed by attention and by action is necessary to that bending.”


[19] Alexandra Toping, “Saudi activists face jail for taking food to woman who said she was imprisoned: Court finds women’s rights campaigners guilty of inciting wife to defy husband’s authority.” The Guardian, 5 July 2013

[20] Desmond Tutu. “Women, Religion, and Change,” The Elders Blog, 1 February, 2012. http://theelders.org/article/women-religion-and-change.

Walking Egypt Back From the Brink of Anarchy

By Ebrahim Rasool and Ebrahim Moosa

The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions holds South African Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool in highest esteem for his dedication to peacemaking. Ambassador Rasool, pictured here from the 1993 Parliament (from left) with CPWR Chair Emeritus Howard Sulkin, championed the 1999 Cape Town Parliament as Chair of the African National Congress and has continued on as a trusted CPWR advisor on interfaith resolution for peacemaking over his years as the Premier of the Western Cape, most recently visiting Parliament leaders in December 2012 as Ambassador to the United States from South Africa.

August 16, 2013 – Originally published in The Washington Post.

Ebrahim Rasool is South Africa’s ambassador to the United States and the founder of the World For All Foundation. Ebrahim Moosa is a professor of Islamic studies at Duke University.

Preventing Egypt from sliding into civil war is a global security issue, as young militants who a year ago trusted the ballot box could potentially turn into the next generation of extremists.

What’s urgently needed is a multi-pronged strategy involving people of moral authority and leaders from countries trusted by the Muslim Brotherhood, the military and secular and liberal groups who can help Egypt walk back from the brink of anarchy and its growing loss of life. We believe an internationally constituted group of eminent persons should jump-start such an effort by brokering conditions for talks between all Egyptian players in an inclusive manner.

Such a group should include Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu of South Africa, former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, Tunisia’s Renaissance Party leader Rachid Ghannouchi, former U.S. national security adviser Jim Jones, former Irish president Mary Robinson and veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi. With the support of the African Union, South Africa, Turkey and Qatar on the one hand, and the United States, the European Union and the Gulf Cooperation Council on the other, the group should immediately engage credible Egyptian leaders to facilitate breakthroughs, a task no one inside Egypt can accomplish now.

A first priority for the group is to urge all parties to end the political deadlock by reconstituting an interim but inclusive civilian government of all the political players, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood, along with skilled technocrats. This requires the release of political detainees. These measures should de-escalate tensions despite the already-high recent death toll.Egypt’s interim civilian government should have six immediate priorities:●Lift the state of emergency and free up the political process. Doing so would restore confidence to a damaged political process and start the healing process.●Use Egypt’s current constitution as a draft for discussion on a final document. This would provide continuity with a legitimate, existing political process while acknowledging its shortcomings.

Ebrahim Moosa is Professor of Islamic Studies in the Department of Religion at Duke University. His interests span both classical and modern Islamic thought with a special interest in Islamic law, ethics and theology. In 2007 he delivered the prestigious Hassaniyyah lecture on the invitation of his Majesty King Mohammed VI in Fez. He was named Carnegie Scholar in 2005 to pursue research on the madrasas, Islamic seminaries in South Asia.
Dr Moosa is the author of Ghazali and the Poetics of Imagination, winner of the American Academy of Religion’s Best First Book in the history of religions (2006). He is he editor of books on Modern Islam, Muslim family law and Islamic revival with multiple publications on issues related to classical and modern Islamic thought. He is a Senior Fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. 

●Restrict the army to its barracks, enforced by pressure from the United States. If the army retreats, the specter of authoritarian rule will be removed and democratic initiatives will be encouraged.●Deploy police forces to provide effective security with external monitoring. Such a move is necessary to establish law and order in all major cities, one of the grievances of the anti-Morsi protesters.

●Facilitate free and fair elections within a reasonable timeframe, say 12 months.

●Foster institutions for democratic rule and economic recovery. This could include a major aid package from the International Monetary Fund to support economic development plus a donor package targeting the restoration of Egypt’s tourism industry and other infrastructure needs.

For their part, the United States and the European Union must exercise their strategic and economic leverage to rein in the Egyptian army before it entrenches itself and reverses all the gains of the Arab Spring. President Obama’s condemnation of the past week’s bloody violence must be bolstered with decisive U.S. and E.U. action to restrain the army: withholding military aid until an inclusive political process is achieved.

Egypt’s security and stability are vital to the geostrategic politics of Africa, Europe and the Middle East, especially as they relate to the United States. Egypt’s ability to be free and democratic has the potential to forge these values in the broader Arab and Muslim world.

Moreover, with Syria’s civil war already spilling over into Iraq and Lebanon, continued violence in Egypt will seriously jeopardize regional security — something that fits al-Qaeda’s agenda.

The cost of doing nothing and simply managing our respective interests is to witness a major Arab country becoming a failed state, a prospect responsible leaders would not wish even on their enemies.

Learn More about Ebrahim Moosa.  Born in South Africa, Dr. Moosa earned his MA (1989) and PhD (1995) from the University of Cape Town. Prior to that he took the `alimiyya degree in Islamic and Arabic studies from Darul `Ulum Nadwatul `Ulama, one of India’s foremost Islamic seminaries in the city of Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. He also has a BA degree from Kanpur University, and a postgraduate diploma in journalism from the City University in London.

Previously he taught at the University of Cape Town and was visiting professor at Stanford University 1998-2001 prior to joining Duke University. As a journalist he wrote for Arabia: The Islamic World Review, MEED (Middle East Economic Digest) and Afkar/Inquiry magazines in Britain and later became political writer for the Cape Times in South Africa. He contributes regularly to the op-ed pages of the Washington-Post, New York Times, Atlanta-Journal Constitution, The Boston Review and several international publications and is frequently invited to comment on global Islamic affairs.

How Christianity Became Cool Again

Hallelujah! 2013 may be the year that it became cool again to be a Christian.

Pope Francis emphasized activism at World Youth Day in Brazil, July, 2013.

Given the last several decades of political domination of Christianity by a coalition that described themselves as ‘the religious right’, it is hard to remember that there was a time in the 20th century when Christians were cool and spoke with a powerful, prophetic voice to the major issues of our day.

There was a time when Christians like Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Berrigan brothers, Thomas Merton, Paul Tillich, Dorothy Day, Henri Nouwen, Howard Thurman, Reinhold Niebuhr and John XXIII offered the basic framework for what Christianity meant to the world.

Collectively, these men and women offered some of the most philosophically deep and socially relevant thought of any kind. They inspired a generation of young people to work in racial reconciliation, environmentalism, economic justice, and anti-war activism. They fed the spirit, while also walking in Jesus’ way of justice and peace.

In those days you could say you were a Christian and the above names might come to the mind of the listener — and they were cool; meaning relevant, compelling, edgy, and forward thinking.

Sadly, that has not been true in recent history. And it has infected the American psyche so much so that when a stranger tells even me, a Christian pastor, that they are a Christian it puts me on edge. Imagine what it must do to a person of another faith or someone who don’t subscribe to any religion.

This has been helped by the media who, when they have wanted a ‘real Christian’ on the show, turned to Jerry Falwell, Tony Perkins or James Dobson resulting in a Christian profile that represented a large, but by no means universal Christian outlook.

The generic Christian profile that has emerged over these last decades has been someone who does not believe in the equality between men and women, degrades LGBT people, is opposed to science, especially in regards to evolution or climate change, is suspicious of people of other faiths and no faith, and is pro-militarism in foreign policy.

In short, it has been a while since it has been cool to be Christian.

Well, 2013 may be the year that changes.

This week has been a particularly cool Christian week. To start with the amazing Pope Francis took advantage of his time in Rio for World Youth Day to make sure he visited the nearby favela (slum), a prison, and a drug addict center. While there, he continued his habit of speaking about the poor and inequality in a powerful, focused way that no world leader of any kind has for a long time:

No one can remain insensitive to the inequalities that persist in the world!. No amount of peace-building will be able to last, nor will harmony and happiness be attained in a society that ignores, pushes to the margins or excludes a part of itself.

In other words: No justice, no peace.

Pope Francis has consistently taken on the injustice in the world’s financial systems and the indifference the world has towards the poor and the outcaste. Noticeably absent from the Pope’s discourse has been the rights and dignity of gay people — until Monday when the Pope shocked the world by saying “Who am I to judge gay people” and opened the door to gay priests and a basic softening of the church’s hardline stance against LGBT peoples.

Cool.

The Pope was not the only world religious leader to make news this week on gay issues. On Friday, Archbishop Desmond Tutu rocked people’s mind when he said that he would rather go to hell than a homophobic heaven. The icon of the anti-Apartheid movement made the comments at the launch of a United Nations gay rights program in South Africa:

I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this. I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid. For me, it is at the same level.

Really cool.

But these are just the latest headlines that are bubbling up with cool Christians doing relevant compelling things. The United Church of Christ has voted to divest from fossil fuel companies, the Episcopal Church is headed by an amazing woman who is both a scientist and pastor and who is spearheading the conversation between science and religion;

Evangelicals are taking the lead on climate change, the American Bishops are lobbying for immigration reform, the Patriarch Bartholomew is known as the ‘Green Patriarch’ for his work on the environment, Christians are involved with innovative and crucial dialogue with people of other faiths and no faiths; and pastors and priests across the country and the world are ministering to broken people with love and compassion every day.

Christianity is cool again.

Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush is the Senior Religion Editor for the Huffington Post. From 2003-2011, Raushenbush was the Associate Dean of Religious Life and the Chapel at Princeton University. He was the President of the Association Of College and University Religious Affairs (ACURA) from 2009-20011. An ordained American Baptist minister, Rev. Raushenbush speaks and preaches at colleges, churches and institutes around the country.

Here is one case in point. On Gay Pride Sunday in New York I invited a couple of my colleagues to a church where a friend of mine is the pastor. They were having a ‘disco mass‘ and I thought my friends might be intrigued enough to go. They were.

We had a great time at the church. My friends fell in love with the pastor whose style was relaxed and hip, and whose sermon was smart and compelling. They loved the community feel of the congregation, and they thought the ideas they heard there a good way to start gay pride.

Mind you, neither of them had been to church of their own volition — ever. And they may never go back to church. I really don’t care — they are wonderful, spiritual, and ethical people — I don’t need them to become Christian.

However, by being there they understood a little more about why I am Christian, and how Christianity guides the way I view the world and do the things I do. And even with that short glimpse they respected my faith more than they had before.

If more Christians can speak out the way Pope Francis and Archbishop Tutu have this week and so many have been in recent memory — it will change the way people view Jesus and the faith that he inspires in so many of us.

And that will be so cool.

This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post by Religious Editor Paul Raushenbush

Religious and Spiritual Leaders Reflect on 9/11

Beyond 9/11 to a Broader View of the World by Sister Joan Chittister, OSB

Healing, Hope and Humanity: A Sikh Reflection by Dr. Tarunjit Singh Butalia

It Is Time to Invoke Historys Other 9/11 of Nonviolence and Global Interfaith Dialogue by Anju Bhargava

9/11: Ten Years On by Eboo Patel

From Memory to Hope by Rev. Dr. Katharine Rhodes Henderson

Lessons from the Kaddish a Decade Later by Chancellor Arnold M. Eisen

WATCH: The Future Of Christian-Muslim Relations In The West

For A More Unified, Understanding New York by Georgette Bennett, Ph.D.

Did 9/11 Make Us Morally Better? by Miroslav Volf

Hate and Hope by Serene Jones

Reaching for Hope After 9/11 — Together by The Interfaith Amigos

WATCH: Finding Hope And Healing At Ground Zero

The Sukkah and the World Trade Center by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

An Opportunity For Reflection by Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori

Our post-9/11 failures by Desmond Tutu

Unite through compassion by Karen Armstrong

Remaking the world after 9/11 by Tony Blair

Radical Islam on its way out by Feisal Abdul Rauf

9/11 demands intellectual honesty by Sam Harris

Rebuilding our souls by Thomas Monson

Spirituality after the attack by T.D. Jakes

Peace begins internally by Donald Wuerl

Live the memorial by Katharine Jefferts Schori

Death and the hope of resurrection by Mark Driscoll

Divided world, divided hearts by Deepak Chopra

We grasped our brokenness anew by David Wolpe

Americans still dont know Islam by Yasir Qadhi

A prayer for America by Sally Quinn

From Ground Zero to the State Dept by Suzan Cook

10 Years Later, We Must Do Better by Rabbi Michael M. Cohen

Dalai Lama turns 76 in Washington, will meet with congressional leaders

by Ana Sebescen from CNN

Thousands of well-wishers sang “Happy Birthday” Wednesday to the Dalai Lama, who turned 76 at the beginning of an 11-day visit to the capital on which he will meet with top congressional leaders.

So far, the White House has remained silent on a potential meeting between the Tibetan spiritual leader and President Obama

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has invited the Dalai Lama to the Capitol on Thursday to meet with congressional leaders, his office announced Wednesday. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will be among those attending.

Obama met with the Dalai Lama in Washington in February 2010, triggering a rebuke from China, which considers the Dalai Lama the leader of a separatist movement.

“I always say, the best gift to me is to practice compassion,” said the Dalai Lama said Wednesday. He urged the crowd to search for happiness within and promote non-violence, compassion and equality around the world.

The term “Dalai Lama” is a Tibetan Buddhist religious title. Under Buddhist teachings, the title is given to those who are the reincarnations of a lineage of religious teachers. The current Dalai Lama is considered the 14th in this line.

Wednesday’s festivities marked the start of the Dalai Lama’s visit, during which he will confer a special blessing and ancient Buddhist teachings.

“Rich, poor, believer, non-believer – no difference. We are all the same,” the Dalai Lama said…

Click here to read the full article

 

Desmond Tutu: Why We Should Celebrate Difference

by Desmond Tutu from Huffington Post

As the world’s memory of apartheid receded, Desmond Tutu responded to a stream of invitations to speak around the world on the practical implications of ubuntu. An excerpt from a speech to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva in 2001 follows.

We inhabit a universe that is characterized by diversity. There is not just one planet or one star; there are galaxies of all different sorts, a plethora of animal species, different kinds of plants, and different races and ethnic groups. God shows us, even with a human body, that it is made up of different organs performing different functions and that it is precisely that diversity that makes it an organism. If it were only one organ, it would not be a human body. We are constantly being made aware of the glorious diversity that is written into the structure of the universe we inhabit, and we are helped to see that if it were otherwise, things would go awry. How could you have a soccer team if all were goalkeepers? How would it be an orchestra if all were French horns?

For Christians, who believe they are created in the image of God, it is the Godhead, diversity in unity and the three-in-oneness of God, which we and all creation reflect. It is this imago Dei too that invests each single one of us — whatever our race, gender, education, and social or economic status — with infinite worth, making us precious in God’s sight. That worth is intrinsic to who we are, not dependent on anything external, extrinsic. Thus there can be no superior or inferior race. We are all of equal worth, born equal in dignity and born free, and for this reason deserving of respect whatever our external circumstances. We are created freely for freedom as those who are decision-making animals and so as of right entitled to respect, to be given personal space to be autonomous. We belong in a world whose very structure, whose essence, is diversity, almost bewildering in extent. It is to live in a fool’s paradise to ignore this basic fact.

We live in a universe marked by diversity as the law of its being and our being. We are made to exist in a life that should be marked by cooperation, interdependence, sharing, caring, compassion and complementarity. We should celebrate our diversity; we should exult in our differences as making not for separation and alienation and hostility but for their glorious opposites. The law of our being is to live in solidarity, friendship, helpfulness, unselfishness, interdependence and complementarity as sisters and brothers in one family — the human family, God’s family. Anything else, as we have experienced, is disaster…

Click here to read the full speech

Desmond Tutu to Retire

Desmond TutuFrom CNN

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu announced Thursday he will retire from public life in October, when he turns 79 years old.

“Instead of growing old gracefully, at home with my family — reading and writing and praying and thinking — too much of my time has been spent at airports and in hotels,” the Nobel laureate said in a statement.

“The time has now come to slow down, to sip Rooibos tea with my beloved wife in the afternoons, to watch cricket, to travel to visit my children and grandchildren, rather than to conferences and conventions and university campuses,” he said.

Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, formally retired as Archbishop of Cape Town in 1996.

But by then he was already chairing South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a public inquiry into the crimes of the country’s apartheid regime. He retired from that position in 1998.

Since then, Tutu has continued to travel the world, lecturing and advocating for various causes.

Click here to read the entire article.

One Young World Holds First International Summit

Screen shot 2010-06-17 at 3.44.52 PMOne Young World (OYW), a global forum for young leaders, held its first international summit in February this year. 823 young leaders from 112 countries met in London for three days to discuss current events and developed 6 key Resolutions. Plenary sessions were led by such international figures as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan, and Muhammad Yunus.

Addressing the crowd of young leaders, Muhammad Yunus said, “Only if we act can we create the world that we want.” Discussion topics focused on how to implement social change in a business setting. Said Lauren Pierce Bush, 25 year old founder of FEED, “The importance of doing good in business will be just as important as doing well in business.”

To watch footage from from the summit and learn more about OYW, click here.

Currently, OYW Ambassadors from Nigeria, Russia, and South Africa are supporting the Missing Millenium Development Goal, a petition that declares the eight Millennium Development Goals can only be successful with Interfaith Collaboration. The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) created by the UN include objectives such as halving poverty and preventing the further spread of HIV and AIDS.

Click here to sign The Missing Millenium Development Goal petition.

June 20th, 2010 at 6:00 am

Desmond Tutu Video on PeaceNext and YouTube

From a recent e-mail sent to all members of PeaceNext.org,

Dear PeaceNext friend,

We’d like to thank you for strengthening the interfaith movement through your
presence on PeaceNext. We are happy to share the release of Desmond Tutu’s 2014 Parliament Bid address – made first available here to our PeaceNext community.tutu-screenshot

Now on to the video… on May 20, Archbishop Desmond Tutu shared an inspiring message with the 2014 Parliament Bid Teams. He addressed the 10th Anniversary Celebration of the 1999 Cape Town Parliament and also recognized the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative’s celebration of the official launch of the Charter for Compassion in South Africa. To begin the celebration, Karen Armstrong, a featured speaker of the 2009 Parliament also delivered a compelling message. Representatives from the Bid Cities, now narrowed down to Brussels, Belgium; Dallas, Texas, U.S.A; and Guadalajara, Mexico, were in attendance at the Chicago viewing along with friends and Council Trustees.

Click here to watch the video. The video is also being featured on PeaceNext‘s main page.