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Archive for the ‘dialogue’ tag

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)

The Real Environmental Crisis: Lessons From the Green Patriarch

Photo Credit to Trent Gilliss

His All Holiness Bartholomew, Patriarch of Eastern Orthodox Christians

by Krista Tippett
from The Huffington Post

Earlier this month, His All Holiness Bartholomew, the Patriarch of 300 million Eastern Orthodox Christians, convened a two-day conversation on “environment, ethics and innovation.” We gathered on the tiny, ancient island of Heybeliada off Istanbul, which was once the Patriarch’s Constantinople and before that New Rome.

There were scientists there, and activists, and religious thinkers. Greenpeace was represented, and so was Dow Chemical. We did not solve any problem or draft a white paper or conceive a plan of action. There were no expectations of these things, and so it was not, like the recent Rio conference, roundly condemned as a failure. But our discussion did yield some fresh examination of the often-unnamed obstacle to all the good solutions and plans already out there: the human condition.

The gathering convened in a former seminary, which Ataturk’s successors closed as they secularized Turkey and which the present Islamic government seems poised to re-open. It was poignant, in this space, to hear James Hansen — the NASA scientist who seminally defined the relationship between atmospheric carbon dioxide and civilization as we know it — profess that scientists need the help of the religious in an urgent struggle for public understanding.

Click here to read full article

 

Coffee Shop Religion: Interfaith of the Everyday

Author Saumya Arya Haas. Photo from Google Images.

by Saumya Arya Haas
from Huffington Post

I never learned much about religion until I started hanging out at Muddy Waters Coffee Shop on the corner of Lyndale and 24th in Uptown, Minneapolis.

I was raised to be a priestess (of Hinduism), grew up surrounded by world scripture and philosophy, and was taught by learned scholars and mystics. But my religious education didn’t really begin until I started talking — and listening — to other people from other ways of life. I had a great foundation but it had to evolve beyond what I could experience as an individual. Understanding is a journey, and it’s nice to have company if you can get it.

When Muddy’s opened in the late 80s, it was grungy, grubby and the bathroom was frightening. The only food on the “menu” was Pop-Tarts and SpaghettiOs. Punks, goth kids and all the other wonderful misfits of Minneapolis risked splinters from the rickety picnic tables to enjoy caffeine and conversation in precious Midwestern sunlight. I would come with my friends but talked to everyone. I got over my fear of homeless people and started seeing them as just people. Some reminded me of the wandering sages of my almost-native India, people who lived by choice or necessity on the fringes and accumulated hardship wisdom the rest of us shied away from.

All the scriptural education in the world is not worth one good hour-long conversation with a stranger about their beliefs.

Click here to read the full article

Guadalajara Hosts Multicultural Universal Dialogue

From Wednesday 29 August to Sunday 2 September, 2012 at the Historic Center of Guadalajara, Cabañas Cultural Institute (Heritage) in Guadalajara, Mexico, a Multicultural Universal Dialogue will be hosted, with the following objectives:

  • Encouraging the building of peace and equity.
  • Speaking around that which unites us, regardless of race, creed or social status.
  • Bringing our ideas to solve problems that are common to all.

Participants in the Dialogue event will hail from religious, spiritual, indigenous, and academic communities, and humanitarian, women’s, environmental, Elders, youth and children-based organizations. All persons interested in the intercultural dialogue and coexistence between different cultures, religions and spiritual manifestations are welcome. This event will aim to preserve the autonomy of principles and personal and collective identity, and find answers to social conflicts that afflict all people.

Content will include:

a) Ecology

b) Human Rights

c) Children

d) Youth

e) Wisdom of the Elders

Where do we go? Where do we go? Another world is possible!

Themes of the conference will also include:

The Earth and Humanity

The Role of Women in the News

Millennial Heritage of Our Peoples

Building Peace through Hope, Harmony and Solidarity

Science, Technology and Religion

Spirituality with or without religion

The Program will include: conferences, panels, dialogues, a blessing ceremony, artistic and cultural events, art exhibitions, music, dance, film, discussions around faith, globalization, cultural identity and migration, and intercultural relations.

Ultimately, the event hopes to cultivate development and peace-building, greater consciousness of respect for life and diversity of beliefs and values; promotion of intercultural celebration, equality, and justice.  Cultural diversity is the most reliable guarantee of social cohesion and provides inspiration to achieve a better world.
The spiritual and human strength help us believe in ourselves and open our hearts to others. We can make a different world.

Click here to learn more about the event (this link is in Spanish)

A Better Way to Talk About Faith

Students at an Interfaith Youth Core event in Washington, DC in 2011. Photo from NYTimes

by David Bornstein
from the New York Times

Is there a way to overcome religious intolerance?

Given global demographic changes, it’s a vital question. “The most certain prediction that we can make about almost any modern society is that it will be more diverse a generation from now than it is today,” the political scientist Robert D. Putnam has written. “This is true from Sweden to the United States and from New Zealand to Ireland.”

In the United States, the question holds special significance for the simple reason that American society is highly religious and highly diverse and — on matters concerning faith — considerably more politically polarized than a quarter-century ago.

The United States prides itself on welcoming people of different faiths. The Bill of Rights begins with a guarantee of freedom of worship. In 1790, George Washington sent a letter to a Jewish congregation in which he expressed his wish that they “continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants,” and declared that the government “gives to bigotry no sanction.” In 2010, Mayor Bloomberg’s impassioned and courageous defense of the Cordoba House — the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” — became an important addition to a long and noble tradition of inclusion. (It’s a speech worth reading.)

But while there have been widespread efforts over the past generation to promote and celebrate ethnic and racial diversity — everything from “Sesame Street” to multicultural studies to work force sensitivity training — the one topic that has often been kept off the table is faith. Americans have grown more comfortable talking about race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation, but not faith. It’s too personal, too divisive, too explosive. How do you conduct a productive conversation among people whose cherished beliefs — exclusive God-given truths — cannot be reconciled?

That’s a process that a Chicago-based organization called the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) has refined into something between an art and a science, demonstrating how to bring college students together across faith and belief lines so that they develop greater respect, comfort and appreciation for one another and their traditions.

Click here to read the full article

Muslim Converts in UK Energize Community But Face Obstacles

Lauren Booth, a prominent British Muslim convert. Photo from laurenbooth.co.uk

by Trevor Grundy
from ENI News

Muslim converts in the United Kingdom — a small but growing number — often bring new energy to their faith communities, but also report facing obstacles to acceptance.

“Converts are a bridge between non-Muslim, mainly white, communities and Muslim communities who are mainly from sub-continent communities,” said Fiyaz Mughal, founder and director of London-based Faith Matters, an inter-faith organization, in an interview with ENInews.

However, converts also told researchers last year that they felt cast adrift after their acceptance of Islam. Although mosques were delighted to welcome new members, they often failed to provide support when their new co-religionists faced hostility from family and friends, they said.

The study, by Kevin Brice of Swansea University in Wales, said there were about 100,000 converts to Islam in the U.K. in the 2000-2010 decade, up from 60,000 in the 1990s.

The report, called “A minority within a minority: a report on converts to Islam in the United Kingdom,” was sponsored by Faith Matters, which is supported by the British government and faith groups. There are about 1.8 million Muslims in the U.K., out of a total population of 62.5 million.

British converts to Islam — “muhtedis” in Arabic — can serve as a bridge over which Muslims and non-Muslims can meet and exchange ideas, said Mughal.

Click here to read the full article

My Neighbor’s Faith: Trouble Praying

Nancy Fuchs Kreimer is the Director of the Department of Multifaith Studies and Initiatives at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College where she is Associate Professor of Religious Studies.

by Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer
from the Huffington Post

“I envy you Jews,” said the young German as he poured my morning coffee.

The year was 1980. I was the guest of a graduate student at Heidelberg University. My stay in his home was part of a month-long trip through Germany with Jews and Christians engaged in “post-Holocaust interfaith dialogue.”

My host’s statement surprised and bewildered me. I was just beginning my dissertation on the topic of anti-Judaism in Protestant “Old Testament” theology and I thought I knew a lot about the relationship between Jews and Christians. In fact, I was planning to devote my career to helping Christians see their complicity in the suffering of the Jews and to transcend the flaws in their theology. I could understand my host feeling sorry for us Jews. I could understand him apologizing to us. But I could not understand him envying us.

“Why in the world would you envy Jews?” I asked.

His reply changed my life.

“I envy you because it is easier for you to pray. You see, we young Germans carry the weight of what our parents and grandparents did — or did not do — during the war. It is hard for us to talk to God. We feel a little embarrassed.” Although the conversation took place 30 years ago, I can conjure it up in an instant: the earnestness in my fellow student’s voice, the clarity in his blue eyes.

I had thought, until then, that it was we Jews, the victims, who had trouble praying! There was something about the way he said it — perhaps the phrase “a little embarrassed” — that made it feel completely genuine. This conversation clarified for me my core belief, a very useful thing to discover at the age of 27. After that morning, I possessed an orienting idea, a place to check in regularly to see if my plans were aligned with what I believed.

I believe that we should live our lives so that our children won’t be “a little embarrassed” if they want to pray. Until that morning, I thought that meant being a good daughter, a compassionate friend and a dutiful citizen. But now I saw something new: taking responsibility for the group from which I derive my identity, the group whose actions will lead my children to be proud or embarrassed before God. For me, that group was and is the Jewish people.

The immediate result of this revelation was that I changed my dissertation topic. Rather than looking at problematic Christian texts, I would study problematic Jewish writings. I would investigate the ways in which my own tradition misunderstands others rather than point a finger at the others for misunderstanding us.

Click here to read the full article

How Should Baptists Relate to Persons of Other Faiths?

by Robert Sellers

How should Baptists relate to persons of other faiths?  “Where am I going to meet someone like that?” might be the question of many Baptists, especially in the “Bible Belt” of the deep South.  Well, we no longer need to travel internationally to encounter them.  Here in this country they are our office colleagues, university classmates, town merchants and healthcare workers, active-duty soldiers, or local firefighters and police officers.  They congregate in community centers and shopping districts of our large cities, establishing an ethnic, cultural quarter that is distinct and well-defined.  They lobby city councils and zoning boards for permission to build mosques, temples, gurdwaras, or synagogues on quiet, tree-lined streets.  They manage play groups and summer camps, participate in science fairs and musical competitions, and conduct food and craft bazaars.  Most importantly, such families are living in our suburban neighborhoods, where we meet them at backyard barbecues and pool parties.  At school their youngsters become our children’s and grandchildren’s friends and competitors and may one day become our daughters- and sons-in law.  None of these new realities should surprise anyone, for this growing segment of our population belongs here, for they too are Americans.

Yet, the increasing cultural and religious plurality in the United States, coupled with recent world events, makes it difficult for many Americans to know just how to relate to minority religious and ethnic groups.  My immediate concern here, however, is how Baptist Americans—those of my own religious heritage—think about and treat our neighbors of other faiths.

CERTAINLY NOT WITH FEAR AND STEREOTYPING

There are several ways of relating to religious others.  One approach that is totally unproductive and damaging is to react with fear and stereotyping.  There is evidence of this negativity all around us.  Books that claim to know the “truth” about other religions line the shelves of popular Christian bookstores.  Internet “you-won’t-believe-it!” stories about religions and their practitioners are forwarded, perhaps by millions of church members, without regard for whether the accounts are factual or kind—or simply constitute urban legends, political propaganda, or hate-mongering.  Regrettably, Baptist leaders—the most recent being Robert Jeffress—make public statements that draw critical reactions and portray an intolerant spirit.

According to Harvard professor Diana Eck: “Without question, some Americans are afraid of the changing face of our country.  After all, the first response to difference is often suspicion and fear.”#  This nebulous fearfulness expresses itself in stereotypical thinking and unkind generalizations.  Reacting with fear and stereotyping, however, is uncivil and unchristian, yet Baptists have not been guiltless in this regard.  One particularly harsh judgment, for example, was made by Baptist Franklin Graham, who in the aftermath of 9-11 called Islam “a very evil and wicked religion.”#  Speaking to NBC News in 2001, he remarked: “It wasn’t Methodists flying into those buildings, and it wasn’t Lutherans.  It was an attack on this country by people of the Islamic faith.”#  Graham’s generalization circled the globe via the internet and painted Baptists worldwide in harsh shades of black and white.  As an institution dedicated to proselytism, the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board has produced Prayer Guides that direct members of the denomination, especially during the high holy days of individual religions, to pray for “lost” Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, and Muslims who are bound by “confusing and mistaken belief[s]” and who practice “meaningless rituals.”#

Fomenting fear of followers of other faiths by making grossly stereotypical observations and patently untrue accusations—or uncritically passing along such inflammatory material—will not encourage peace or cooperation.  May Baptists never build walls when we ought to construct bridges.

NOT EVEN WITH INDIFFERENCE OR TOLERATION

A second possible approach to religious others is to act with indifference or toleration.  Perhaps we believe that tolerating differences is the best way, because it is a moral solution with impressive historical roots.  The Greek moralist Plato considered the crowning human virtue to be “harmonious action [that] forges a link between [an] individual and [others within society].”#  Immannuel Kant, the German Enlightenment rationalist, argued that people should act in such a way that they could be satisfied were their action the universal behavioral norm.#  These lofty European ideals were preceded by parallel sentiments from Asia.   Confucius taught his followers to cultivate loyalty, humanity, integrity, mutual respect, personal self-restraint, and harmonious family and social relationships.#  Similarly, the ancient Buddhist philosopher Shantideva taught that “[i]f you can cultivate the right attitude, your enemies are your best spiritual teachers because their presence provides you with the opportunity to enhance and develop tolerance, patience, and understanding.”#  So, tolerating others is certainly better than not tolerating them!

The problem with toleration, however, is that it may just be a polite word for “indifference.”   Diana Eck acknowledges that “[a]lthough tolerance is no doubt a step forward from intolerance, it does not require new neighbors to know anything about one another.  Tolerance can create a climate of restraint but not one of understanding.”#  Tolerance becomes indifference if its mantra morphs from “we all have a right to be ourselves” to “let them just be whoever they want.”  Whenever our language turns from talk of “we” to references to “they,” a dichotomy, a chasm, a rift has formed between us and them, between ourselves and the “Other.”

As America becomes more religiously and culturally pluralistic, some Baptists regrettably practice only toleration, mistaking the philosophical moral norm for the ethic of Jesus Christ, which is much more demanding.  May we never merely tolerate our multi-religious neighbors, much less treat them with indifference, as if they are not important to God.

BUT WITH COMPASSION AND FRIENDSHIP

How, then, should Baptists relate to religious others?  We need to respond with compassion and friendship.  Jesus is our model for approaching others.  He crossed multiple barriers that separated respectable religious folk of his day from the foreigners, disenfranchised, and marginalized of Palestinian society.  Toward a host of persons whom most merely tolerated, and others who were feared, stereotyped, and even violently oppressed, Jesus was inclusive, attentive, helpful, and befriending.

Of course, genuine friendships require honest communication, which necessitates both talking and listening—dialogue instead of monologue.  Also, friendships are always more successful where there is mutual esteem and a genuine interest in the other.  Such connections require both time and great patience.  This kind of relationship that stretches across cultural and religious barriers may be more difficult, but it is adventuresome and hugely rewarding.

CONCLUSION

Genesis 18, in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament, records the occasion when Abraham was sitting outside his tent at Mamre, seeking a breeze on a stiflingly hot Middle Eastern day.  Three strangers appeared in the hazy distance—perhaps enemies, clearly not a part of Abraham’s clan.  But, interestingly, Abraham eagerly went to greet the strangers, first falling down before them in an extravagant gesture of welcome, later offering a warm meal and place to rest in his personal tent.  British historian, comparative religionist, and author Karen Armstrong astutely notes that “during the ensuing conversation, it transpires quite naturally that one of these strangers is Abraham’s God.  The act of practical compassion led directly to a divine encounter.”#

It is my conviction, one I passionately hold, that most of the people who follow other faiths—like most Baptists—are good people who would like to tear down the walls of separation and build bridges of connection.  But in order for us to do our part, we must not react to them with fear and stereotyping.  We have to go beyond mere indifference or toleration.  The way forward, the way of Jesus, is to respond with compassion and friendship.  And, when we risk forging new friendships with our multi-religious neighbors, they will no longer be as strangers to us. Such a bonding can provide an experience of real transcendence, for in acting toward them in a godly fashion, we will be enriched by the evidences of God in them.

Robert P. Sellers is professor of missions and theology at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, and represents Cooperative Baptist Fellowship on the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches, USA.  He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.

Schoolchildren Speak with Scotland’s Top Religious Leaders

STV hosts student question time event with Scotland's top religious leaders.

from  STV.TV

School pupils have been given the opportunity to ask some tough questions of Scotland’s top religious leaders at an inter-faith event.

The event, hosted by STV at its Pacific Quay HQ in Glasgow, was attended by representatives from the country’s leading faith groups, including Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders.

Scottish Inter-faith council organised the event, hosted by STV’s news anchor John MacKay, to give schoolchildren the chance to talk directly to religious leaders through a virtual video link.

Pupils from Holyrood Secondary School were also invited into the studios to sit around the table with the leaders to ask them their questions.

Click here to read the full article

Islamic Community of Calgary Planning Interfaith Dialogue

by Mario Toneguzzi

 

The Islamic Supreme Council of Canada is planning to hold a national interfaith dialogue with Christian and Jewish leaders in Canada.

Calgary Imam Syed Soharwardy said the council wants to hold a series of interfaith dialogues in all major cities, including Montreal, Toronto, Mississauga, Halifax, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Surrey and Vancouver.

He said the purpose is to discuss: religious and secular fundamentalism and extremism in Canada; the role of religion in Canadian society; the impact of international events on faith communities and their relationships in Canada; the perceived threat of sharia law; Canadian values versus religious values; Jewish-Christian values versus Islamic values; freedom of speech and the freedom of religion in Canada and around the world; and improvements in interfaith relationships in Canada.

Soharwardy said more topics can be added for the discussion and other religious groups, including atheists and agnostics, can also participate in these dialogues.

“We are in communication with several Christian and Jewish organizations across the country and finalizing the dates of these meetings,” he said.

The Islamic Supreme Council of Canada is seeking assistance from all religious leaders and organizations to help and participate in this national dialogue.

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