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A Letter from the Chair of the Board: Organizational Changes at CPWR

Dear Friends:

It is my difficult task as Chair of our Board of CPWR to announce that the Executive Committee of CPWR has accepted Rev. Dirk Ficca’s resignation as Executive Director of the CPWR.

We are thankful to Rev. Dirk Ficca’s contribution to the interreligious movement. I personally remember him rushing around in the Barcelona Parliament, dressed simply, organizing things, instead of dressing up and being on the stage all the time. That left an impression.

We wish Dirk the best in his future endeavors.

Dr. Mary Nelson, the Vice Chair of the Board of CPWR is going to be our Interim Executive Director. She can be reached at mnelson@parliamentofreligions.org

A few months ago we appointed a Search Committee for the new CEO.. Its members include the following leaders of the interreligious movement: Bill Lesher & Bob Thompson, both Chair Emeritus; Suzanne Morgan and Jim Doty, both members of the International Advisory Board of CPWR; and Bob Henderson and Mary Nelson, both Vice Chairs of the Board. The committee is chaired by Mary Nelson.

The Parliament has tremendous moral and social capital. We are all working on translating this moral and social capital into financial strength for the Parliament so we can be an even better partner in strengthening the interreligious movement.

This world where conflict is increasing needs the interreligious movement more than ever. The CPWR is fully committed to our mission, along with thousands of our electronic participants as members on PeaceNext; hundreds of Ambassadors around the world, members of our Task Forces, our Trustees, and Partner Cities.

Our organization’s statement of purpose reads: “The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions was created to cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities and foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions in order to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world.”

We must continue to strengthen our relationships to connect humanity with a stronger interreligious bond.

One of the most encouraging examples of this positive connection and coalition-buildiing has been the outstanding success of the Muticultural Universal Dialogue which just took place from 29 August to 2 September in Guadalajara, Mexico, organized by one of our long-time partners, Fundación Carpe Diem.  CPWR was represented by Trustee Andras Arthen.

Sometimes we are simply guilty of not telling our story. Here is what will be happening in the next few weeks or so:

1) The Parliament is initiating an important organizing and education campaign, Interfaith Against Hate, generously funded by  IAC Member Suzanne Morgan

2)  The Global Listening Campaign is moving forward with five focus groups happening in Nigeria in the next two weeks, as well as several in Jakarta, Indonesia

3) 24 people have already agreed to lead focus groups across the world to think through the themes for the next Parliament

4) Our Parliament Ambassadors Advisory Group has completed a comprehensive self-survey and have pledged to conduct 80 focus groups in the next 8 weeks

5) We are convening a conference on Educating Religious Leaders for a Multi-religious World at Claremont University, sponsored by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation

6) In Chicago on Nov. 3rd there to be a major event organized by the Women Task Force of the Parliament, to which the public is invited

With your help and assistance we are bound to move forward.

Peace,

Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid

Chairperson
Board of the Trustees for
Council for a Parliament of World Religions

 

The Sharing Sacred Spaces Project

 

Chicago has served as the site of a nine-month pilot program designed to foster interreligious dialogue and understanding, using a resource most religious and spiritual communities already have at their fingertips—spaces to gather.

The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions’ (CPWR) “Sharing Sacred Spaces” project conisted of “open house” type events at eight spaces of local religious and spiritual communities, with the intention to “deepen appreciation for the diverse religious and spiritual traditions by focusing on the spaces that are sacred to these communities.”

A final, culminating event, “Sacred Solidarity,” took place in downtown Chicago, at which representatives from the eight participating communities gathered to sign a pledge committing to work to maintain the ties of trust and friendship built during the last eight months.

“At a time when hatred and violence erupts over religious differences internationally, [this] quiet collaborative effort in Chicago has forged alliances and fostered new friendships across religious lines”, said Rev. Dirk Ficca, executive director of the CPWR.

View photos and learn more about Sharing Sacred Spaces

Sharing Sacred Spaces Creates Interreligious Solidarity

Eight communities in Chicago sign solidarity pledge after visiting each other’s sacred spaces.

by Sarah Fentem

To Suzanne Morgan, the scene Sunday afternoon in Federal Plaza—a bright, white tent, a podium and lectern placed in front of folding chairs, the blindingly bright springtime sun—had the feeling of a graduation.

And for good reason. The stage was set to celebrate the completion of the eight-month Chicago “Sharing Sacred Spaces” program, a series of interfaith events during which eight participating Chicago communities of faith and practice invited others into their sacred space, engaged the visitors around matters of their faith, and provided hospitality and conversation. Morgan, a retired architect, designed the program, which was sponsored by the Council for the Parliament of World’s Religions(CPWR).

Participating communities included a Buddhist Temple, a Jewish Reform Congregation, the Downtown Islamic Center, an Episcopal Cathedral, and United Methodist, Christian Science, Presbyterian, and Catholic churches.


photos by John White

By Sunday, all the communities had shared their sacred space with one another, and were gathered together for the first time not to focus on an individual space or religion, but to celebrate the harmony and diversity of the group as a whole.

“It really solidifies what we’ve done,” Morgan said of the event.

“This is the beginning of the journey, not the end,” said Dirk Ficca, the Executive Director of the CPWR. Ficca announced the success of the program “exceeded expectations” and the Chicago pilot program will be used as a model for 80 partner cities around the world.

Of the program, Morgan said herself she had “No clue how it would turn out,” explaining the success of the “Sharing Sacred Spaces” depended on the public’s involvement.

“We were amazed at how people took this up,” she said. “They wanted to connect, to share something.”

The diversity and harmony among the participating communities was underscored by the signing of the “Sacred Spaces” Solidarity Pledge, the focal point of the event.

The Solidarity Pledge speaks of the bonds of mutual respect and trust forged among the eight participating faith communities during the last eight months. By signing the pledge, they promise to support and respect each other, stand together against public disrespect or harm of any faith community, and to celebrate “shared values of justice, peacemaking, and harmony in diversity.”

As a representative from each location took the stage to sign the pledge, they also read a personal statement explaining what the pledge meant to their community. The statements were as diverse as the communities from which they came.

“We commit to this pledge because as Jews we know the history of bigotry and intolerance,” said Rabbi David Levsinky from the Chicago Sinai Congregation. Syed Khan, from the Downtown Islamic Center, referenced the “pledge of mutual support and defense” the Prophet Muhammed made with the citizens of Medina before he signed the pledge. And Kwang Oh, the representative from the First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple, said “We as United Methodists believe there is a God who loves us and calls for us to love one another, who insists we work with all people.”

The communities’ declarations showcased the philosophy at the heart of “Sharing Sacred Spaces”—that what makes us different ultimately can be what brings us together.

 

Learn more about Sharing Sacred Spaces

 

“Sacred Solidarity” in Chicago

Sacred Solidarity in Chicago

Sunday, June 10, 2-4pm

Federal Plaza, on the southwest corner of Adams and Dearborn

Eight Chicago Religious and Spiritual Communities to Pledge Interfaith Cooperation on June 10 

Sharing Sacred Spaces

The sacred spaces of the eight participating religious and spiritual communities

Sacred Solidarity” is a public event that is the culmination of an eight-month project called “Sharing Sacred Spaces” sponsored by the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions (CPWR).

“Religious and spiritual communities standing with each other in the face of religiously-motivated defamation, hatred and violence is the meaning of solidarity,” says Dirk Ficca, Executive Director of CPWR.  “Grounding a pledge of solidarity from within their religious and spiritual traditions makes it sacred. That religious and spiritual communities in downtown Chicago have made such a pledge brings a sacred dimension to the civil space they share.”

In the past eight months, people from different Chicago religious and spiritual communities have forged bonds of friendship and trust through the “Sacred Spaces” series of events. The pledge they sign will symbolize their ongoing effort to honor and respect their different traditions, as well as committing to spread this effort to the surrounding community.

Representatives from the eight participating communities will gather to sign a pledge committing to work together to reduce social tension and build bridges of trust and hope in the city of Chicago.  These bonds were built as each of the eight communities invited others into their sacred space, engaged the visitors around matters of their tradition or practice and provided hospitality and conversation. Welcoming each other into their sacred spaces created appreciation of the various religious and spiritual traditions and a sense of community between the participants.

The public is encouraged to join in the pledge-signing event on Sunday, June 10th, 2-4pm, at Federal Plaza, on the southwest corner of Adams and Dearborn.

The solidarity pledge speaks to the many levels of understanding and respect that were built over the eight-month period among eight different religious communities in Chicago. The eight communities are the Midwest Buddhist Temple, Fourth Presbyterian Church, St. James Episcopal Cathedral, Chicago Sinai Congregation, First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple, Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist, Old St. Patrick’s Catholic church and the Downtown Islamic  Center. The pledge is as follows:

“Sharing Sacred Spaces” Solidarity Pledge

We, communities of faith and spirit serving in the Chicago metropolitan area, acknowledge and commit to these ideals:

  • that the work of cultivating the religious and spiritual life of human beings is an essential part of the strength and progress of our wider community
  • that supporting those who are committed to cultivating religious and spiritual life strengthens the entire fabric of our community
  • that we honor the wider traditions of those affiliated with and worshipping or practicing with the communities listed here
  • that we actively look for ways to stand in solidarity with each other and to serve our wider community
  • that we stand together against any public attempt to disrespect or harm the well-being of any community of faith or practice or its sacred space
  • and we celebrate our shared values of compassion, justice, peacemaking, and harmony in diversity.

The eight participating communities:

  • The Midwest Buddhist Temple, 435 W. Menomonee, 312-943-7801
  • The Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut, 312-787-4570
  • St James Episcopal Cathedral, 64 E. Huron, 312-787-7360
  • The Chicago Sinai Congregation, 15 W. Delaware, 312-867-7000
  • The First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington,312-236-4548
  • The Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist, 44 E. Wacker,312-236-4671
  • Old St. Patrick’s Church, 700 W. Adams St, 312-648-1021
  • The Downtown Islamic Center, 231 S. State, 312-939-9095 

Rev. Dirk Ficca, executive director of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, says the “Sharing Sacred Spaces” model of community building will be offered to other neighborhoods and suburbs of Chicago as well as to over 70 international Partner Cities. “Chicago is just the beginning,” says Ficca. “Together, we hope to chart a course that will strengthen bonds between diverse religious and cultural communities throughout the world.”

Dirk Ficca Featured on CBS Documentary

from CBS News Religion and Culture

This program airs throughout December and will be online after Dec 18.

FINDING COMMON GROUND: TODAY’S INTERFAITH MOVEMENT looks at how the interfaith movement has evolved over the years.

The program visits with Rev. Dirk Ficca, Executive Director of the Chicago-based Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.  The Parliament hosts the world’s largest interreligious gathering, meeting every five years in a different part of the world. People of every faith are invited to share their religious identities, dialogue and voice their hopes and concerns for the future.

One of the most interesting things about the modern interfaith movement, according to Rev. Ficca, is that cooperation among people of different faiths is more mainstream than ever. He says, “For me, it’s when a local imam and rabbi and Catholic priest in Downers Grove meet every Thursday for lunch and talk about how to get their three communities to know each other, and somehow replicating that all over the United States, all over the world. That’s where I put my hope.”

We also hear from Dr. Eboo Patel, founder and president of the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) based in Chicago, Ill. This nonprofit organization was founded in 2002, based on the idea that the most powerful common ground between all faith traditions is the inspiration to serve others. Dr. Patel and his organization are working with the youth of today as a means to thwart religious extremism and encourage interfaith understanding and leadership. “I think the world looks different,” Dr. Patel says, “if America’s college campuses become models of interfaith cooperation and graduate a critical mass of interfaith leaders.”

When the White House announced the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge in March of this year, IFYC worked as an advisor and partnered to craft the nationwide program.

One of the schools participating in the President’s challenge is Albright College, a private liberal arts school in Reading, Penn. Rev. Paul Clark, the school’s chaplain, will be shepherding the project with a group of interfaith student leaders.  He says, “If we can apply this kind of model of talking to one another, and then reaching out to the larger community, then something really important could happen here.”

Recently, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that Reading, Penn. has the largest share of residents living in poverty per capita. In an effort to help the marginalized, the religious community of Reading has come together and worked in partnership to help alleviate the symptoms of poverty.  We hear from Rabbi Brian I. Michelson, Rabbi of Reform Congregation Oheb Sholom; Elsayed [Steve] Elmarzouky, President of the Islamic Center of Reading, and Michael J. Kaucher, Executive Director of the Reading Berks Conference of Churches, about how working together to serve their community has reinforced their belief in the need for interreligious dialogue and cooperation at the local level.

John P. Blessington is the executive producer and Liz Kineke is the producer.  FINDING COMMON GROUND is produced in cooperation with the National Council of Churches, Consortium of Roman Catholic organizations, the Islamic Society of North America, the Union of Reform Judaism and the New York Board of Rabbis.

Click here to check local listings

Click here to watch online (after Dec 18)

Dirk Ficca Honored for Interreligious Work

Rev. Dirk Ficca

Rev. Dirk Ficca

Dirk Ficca, Executive Director of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, will be honored tonight at the 2011 Niagara Peace & Dialogue Awards in Chicago.

The Niagara Foundation annually awards individuals and organizations who have contributed their time, energy, leadership, and dedication to the cause of dialog, peace, understanding, and community service.

Ficca is the 2011 recipient of the Niagara Fethullah Gulen Award, which recognizes excellence in the particular area of interreligious understanding. The award is named after the Foundation’s and Institute’s honorary president, M. Fethullah Gulen, an accomplished Islamic scholar and preacher from eastern Turkey.

The other 2011 Honorees are Lisa Madigan, Attorney General, State Of Illinois; Anne Eleanor Roosevelt, Vice President, Global Corporate Citizenship, The Boeing Company; and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Dalai Lama visit inspires interfaith art project

Roman Catholics decorate star and crescent of Islam for Dalai Lama's visit

Roman Catholics decorate star and crescent of Islam for Dalai Lama's visit

The Dalai Lama’s message of compassion long has transcended Tibetan Buddhism and enchanted people of all faiths — and no faith.

It’s an ethos that blends spirituality with humanism and logic, common ground on which most religious traditions tend to agree.

This weekend, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th dalai lama and spiritual leader of troubled Tibet, will bring tidings to Chicago that address religious tensions head on and prescribe what it takes to ease them.

The anticipation of his arrival inspired a dozen religious communities to undertake an unusual artistic endeavor that will provide the backdrop to the Dalai Lama’s appearance Sunday on the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Framing the Dalai Lama on stage will be a dozen towering religious icons created by artists of other traditions. Roman Catholics decorated a star and crescent of Islam. Native Americans created the nine-pointed star of the Baha’i faith. An African-American Protestant congregation on the South Side incorporated the design of the 4,000-year-old symbol of Zoroastrianism, a tradition some didn’t know existed before the project.

“It’s an amazing show of support and unity that different people of different faiths actually came together,” said Nina Norris, a member of St. Matthias Catholic Church in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood. “The fact that it’s guided under the Dalai Lama is maybe the only way it could happen.”

Invited by the Theosophical Society in America, the group that hosted the monk’s first visit to the Chicago area in 1981, the Dalai Lama will present a public talk Sunday at the UIC Pavilion.

On Monday morning at downtown’s Harris Theater for Music and Dance, he will join a rabbi, a pastor and a Muslim scholar for a panel discussion titled “Building Bridges: Religious Leaders in Conversation with the Dalai Lama.” The panel will be moderated by Eboo Patel, founder and executive director of the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Core.

Tim Boyd, president of the Theosophical Society in America, which is based in Wheaton, said the Dalai Lama thought for three seconds before he accepted his invitation during a private audience last year. After all, it was his introduction to the Theosophical Society in India 55 years ago that opened his eyes to the plethora of world religions beyond his own, Boyd said.

“It was the first time he had met people who believed there was value in the religions of the world and there was a certain essence they all shared,” Boyd said. “At that time, he was a 21-year-old monk. To him, Buddhism was all that he knew and all that he thought was appropriate. After that meeting, he left there a changed man.”

The Greater Jihad of Friendship

The Rev. Dirk Ficca, Executive Director of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, addresses the current climate of Islamophobia at a recent Friendship and Dialogue Iftar dinner hosted by the Niagara Foundation.

Rev. Dr. Dirk Ficca from Niagara Foundation.

October 8th, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Chicago Tribune publishes CPWR “Call to Solidarity”

From The Chicago Tribune

As anyone who has faced tragedy knows – be it an individual, family, community or nation – it is ultimately not the tragedy itself, no matter how unjust and terrible, but the response to it, that makes all the difference.

I know a courageous woman whose son was severely injured in a bombing while walking the narrow streets of Jersusalem. As he endured operation after operation, she sat for months by his bedside, pondering what to do. With every right to be angry, she chose instead to work for peace; something she has done for the past decade as an Israeli Jew, working tirelessly among Palestinian Muslim and Arab Christian women.

It is how we respond to the unimaginable tragedy of 9/11 that will make all the difference for those who live together in the United States, and for our enduring relations with those beyond our borders.

We must never forget what happened. We must continue to remember those who were lost, those who continue to mourn their colleagues, friends, and loved ones, and to renew our resolve to prevent such acts of wanton and cowardice violence in the future, both at home and abroad.

Just as importantly, we must use the symbolic character of 9/11 to once and for all make the crucial distinction between the true religious aims of Islam, and the morally disciplined and peace-loving ways of the Muslim community – with all of the inevitable imperfect striving that goes with any human endeavor of any kind, for that matter – and the despicable act of a misguided, murderous terrorist cell that has sought to hijack Islam with its baseless justifications of a righteous jihad.

Click here to read the entire article.

Guadalajara Accepts Bid For 2014 Parliament

Dirk FiccaFrom Informador.com

The Council for a Parliament of World Religions determined that the city will compete to host the religious event.

GUADALAJARA, JALISCO (21/JUL/2010).- The executive director of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, Dirk Ficca, formally accepted this morning the nomination for Guadalajara to host the meeting of the Parliament in 2014.

As anticipated this article, two other cities that also seek to be the seat of Parliament and whose last edition took place in Melbourne, Australia, in late 2009 are Brussels, Belgium, and Dallas, Texas, two cities that have been accepted for candidacy.
During the official announcement, Rev. Ficca also said that in seeking the seat, the Perla Tapatia seeks to become a player in the religious movements. “The hospitality and warmth of its people,” said Ficca, make our city the center of culture and spirituality of Mexico, a strong contender to win the seat of Parliament.

Dirk Ficca reiterated that the Parliament of World Religions is not official representatives of any religious congregation and does not take any political stance.

Click here to read the entire article.