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Archive for the ‘faith’ tag

Engaging Faith In the Neighborhood Retreat Registration Closing Soon

Registration closes July 5 for a 3-day intensive interfaith leadership development retreat for adults over July 23 – 25 with Chicago-based Seminary Consortium on Urban Pastoral Education (SCUPE).

Parliament of the World’s Religion Board Trustee and SCUPE President Shanta Premawardhana says, “During these times of significant religious diversity in our communities, it is very important that we begin to understand how to relate to people of other faiths. It requires interfaith literacy, interfaith action, and it requires us to come to know each other and build community together. A lot of the time we are not able to do that because we don’t understand theologically how to make it work.”

Dr. Lucinda Mosher of Hardford Seminary will lead workshop participants on site visits to a Sikh gurdwara, a Hindu temple, and a Greek Orthodox Church, enjoying meals and accommodations just outside Chicago.  It will be an opportunity to answer critical questions by learning “what moves them, what gives them meaning and purpose of life,” says Premawardhana.

The course will begin with a day-long course in Interfaith engagement, followed by two days of site visits with meals included at houses worship. Registration tiers begin with student commuter rates and cap at full shared hotel accommodations and meals.

Workshop objectives include: empowering interfaith leaders, creating a safe space to learn, equipping the participants with teachable resources, discussing America’s religious diversity, building courage to visit new places of worship, building community among the participants, training in effective speaking about interfaith engagement, teaching the history of modern interfaith movement, practicing interfaith engagement, and developing skills to foster interfaith relationships. For more information please visit

July 1st, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Measuring Global Millennials On Religious Attitudes

\Graphic by Viacom International The Next Normal Project

The average percentage of global youth trusting religious leaders is now in the single digits. This “mass exodus” is becoming a pervasive challenge for a lion’s share of the world’s major faith traditions while leaders grapple, struggle, and investigate. Even framing the issue is problematic and poses controversy. So how can the claim religious leaders are performing best in South Africa to connecting to youth be considered credible?

Viacom International, the media corporation owning MTV networks and numerable communications platform  is spearheading an ambitious research endeavor. “The Next Normal” plans to be the largest, sharpest, and most comprehensive survey of Millennials (Gen-Y, predecessors to “Digital Natives) in the world. In April, research conducted by the project reported a comprehensive look at the generational character on religion, spirituality and faith  nation by nation.

Some of the most significant findings include South African millennials having the most trust for religious leaders of any nationality, and that Japanese and Saudi Arabian Millennials are the most inflexible in terms of individualism and choice in religious matters.

Most significant of all is that these numbers are powerful and help plot the future of interfaith around the world.

The study shows,

In exploring Millennial attitudes toward religion, faith and spirituality across the globe, we found that overall, this generation believes that everybody should have the right to choose their own religion. But their openness and tolerance are also marked by distrust in organised religion, as well as distinctions between faith and spirituality in some countries.

On average, only 9% of Millennials say they trust their religious leader and only 10% name “religious leader” among the top 5 inspirational people or bodies of people in their lives (compared to 19% for celebrities and 14% for sports stars).  In terms of trust in religious leaders (who could be anyone from a local priest, preacher, imam or rabbi to the Pope), South Africa comes out strongest with a score of 29% trust – still a relatively small minority – followed by USA on 24% and Turkey on 17%.

Trust in religious leaders is lowest in France (2%), Japan and Spain (both 3%).

Continue reading the report…

So where are the magic answers?

The New Digital Age Google forcecasts shows us that via the internet, humans will increasingly utilize their virtual passports to meet on the social web. This creates unprecedented and uncontrollable influences on millennial attitudes, and may reveal why, some unexpectedly, the youth of certain nationalities are shifting longstanding views on religion.

Considering the parallel, but alternate universe existing on and off the world wide web, Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt recently shared a shocking measure of our day and age. In North Korea, he met women conducting traffic that have become YouTube sensations for their strange, revealing clothing and mythical relationship with the supreme leader. Yet, these women don’t have the slightest notional understanding of YouTube, let alone the internet. Nowadays, the web enables geophysical outsiders unprecedented access into clues about what makes any nation’s people tick.

Cultivating Online What We Do Face to Face

The Parliament of the World’s Religions is the one global event where these relationships can be built organically through personal encounter, with the intentional and expressed purpose of cultivating international bonds of harmony through interfaith understanding.  Historically, youth have made remarkable contributions to the Parliament, and leave changed for life. The difference for the next Parliament is that these meeting will have already happened through introductions on the web.

Can we gauge the meaning of all this, and should we? Does the Parliament answer to the youth exodus? The results of this survey is consistent with the reports flurrying in from all corners of the world in our Global Listening Campaign. These sessions conducted by Parliament Ambassadors have uniquely national flair, but express one sentiment that is resoundingly the same: have we lost our youth? How can we get them back? 

The Parliament’s answer is simple: engage online, and act proactively to talk with youth. If confidence is greatest in favor of South African faith leaders, it must mean that faith leaders deliver on their promises and in an age of expecting results, they must act on their word.

Do you find this to be true? How do religious institutions answer to the attitudes of youth to engage millennials in religious and spiritual communities inclusive to all living generations? What can the Parliament do?

  • To share a response in writing to become part of a Parliament online publication, please e-mail
  • To pursue Ambassador opportunities to hold a Listening Session in your community, please e-mail



As A Sikh-American I Refuse To Live In Fear And Negativity

Photography credit to State of Formation

Simran Jeet Singh

by Simran Jeet Singh
from State of Formation

As a Sikh-American, I am absolutely heart-broken.

As soon as news broke about the massacre in Wisconsin, my parents called me to make sure I was safe. Our conversation was eerily similar to the moments immediately after 9/11.

After making sure I was safe, they asked me to be careful walking around the streets of New York City. They pointed out that: “You never know what someone might do.”

While I accepted their advice, their words crushed me.

As a Sikh, I believe that people are inherently good. Our faith instills a sense of perpetual optimism, and our traditions teach us to always make the best of a tough situation.

Fear and negativity are foreign to our vocabulary. Sikhs are not a God-fearing people; we are God-loving.

The commitment to love and optimism shapes the way that Sikhs interact with their societies, and I’m concerned that becoming cynical and negative might lead us down a slippery slope.

So I am making a conscious decision. I am refusing to accept that human beings are malicious and hateful, and I am rejecting the notion that we need to live in fear.

Click here to read 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)

The Rabbi And The Christian Cab Driver

Author Rabbi Brad Hirschfield. Photo from

by Brad Hirschfield
from the Huffington Post

I flew into Syracuse, N.Y., on a windy evening in October of 2000. After we landed, I hailed a cab. This not being New York City, where I am from, there was no cab line, no wait and no time to look at the car I was jumping into.

As soon as I was in the cab however, I noticed that pretty much every surface of the car’s interior was covered with a JESUS LOVES YOU sticker, that there was a crucifix mounted on the dashboard and there were even little green pocket bibles hanging on strings at the point where the windshield meets the frame of the car. This wasn’t just a cab, it was a rolling cathedral!

Part of me thought I should just jump out of the car, but we were already pulling away from the curb and I didn’t want to cause any trouble or cost the driver his fare.

As he pulled out of the airport, the cabdriver, a middle-aged man with a scraggly beard, lo
ng greasy blond hair and wearing a red checkered shirt, cut off at the sleeves, was checking me out in the rearview mirror. He was actually using his rearview mirror to see if what he thought he saw on the back of my head (a kippah/yarmulke/skullcap) was really there.

Having decided that it was really back there, which it was, he finally asked in the raspy voice of a heavy smoker, “So, what do you do?”

Click here to read the full article

Irish Bill Proposes Full Legal Status for Humanist Weddings

by Deaglan de Breadun
from The Irish Times

The government is expected to agree today to back legislation giving humanists the same status as organised religions and civil registrars in conducting marriage ceremonies.

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton is due to ask her ministerial colleagues to support the Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill at this morning’s Cabinet meeting.

The legislation was introduced in the Seanad as a Private Members’ Bill by Trinity College Senator Ivana Bacik and is due to pass final stages in the Upper House tomorrow.

The Bill proposes to amend the Civil Registration Act 2004, which regulates the registration of civil marriages.

The 2004 Act stipulates that, apart from Health Service Executive registrars, only a member of a “religious body” may celebrate legal marriages.

This is defined as “an organised group of people, members of which meet regularly for common religious worship”.

This includes organisations such as the Pagan Federation Ireland and the Spiritualist Union of Ireland, which have obtained registration under the Act.

But the definition excludes members of the Humanist Association of Ireland, who currently conduct humanist wedding ceremonies even though these are not legally recognised.

The Bill proposes to extend the right to conduct civil marriages to nonreligious groups such as the HAI. A group of this nature must be a “philosophical and nonconfessional body”, have been performing marriage ceremonies for at least five years, and at least 20 couples must have participated in the ceremony.

Click here to read the full article

May 12th, 2012 at 10:55 am

Five Lessons on Faith

By Sally Quinn
From Washington Post

It was five years ago this month that we launched “On Faith.” The idea was to inform and educate about all faiths (and no faith) and to initiate an ongoing discussion about the role of religion, values and ethics in our daily lives. I hoped that after learning more, people would become more accepting of those who held different beliefs. Pluralism was the goal.

The discussions we have had over the years have far exceeded my expectations. What I find most gratifying is the inspired contributions from the subjects of our interviews, our contributing writers and our readers. From the volume of e-mails and comments, I know that others find the site as informative, provocative and entertaining as I do.

Since the time we launched I have never been so enthralled, learned so much or been so fulfilled by a subject. It has changed my perspective on life. It is clearly what I was meant to do.

Here are five things I have learned in these five years:

1. Nobody knows.

My favorite bumper sticker and the guiding wisdom for me every day is this: “I don’t know and you don’t either.”

An atheist father was trying to explain to his son that there was no such thing as God. “But Dad,” asked the boy, “how do you know?”

“You’ll just have to take it on faith,” said the father.

That says it all.

We are all taking our beliefs or lack of beliefs on faith.

Although I called myself an atheist when we started this site, I no longer do, thanks to Jon Meacham, the religious scholar and former Newsweek editor who helped launch the site. He also served as co-moderator until last year, when The Washington Post Co. sold Newsweek.

We were having an argument over whether or not I was an atheist. Finally, Jon said something that resonated. He said, “You don’t want to define yourself negatively, and you know nothing about religion.” He gave me a list of books to read and told me to go study religion. If afterward I insisted on calling myself an atheist, he argued, at least I would know what I was talking about.

I was astonished, engaged and finally enlightened by what I read and ashamed at how little I really knew about religion. I’m still reading and still learning, and it seems the more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.

Click here to read the full article

December 3rd, 2011 at 9:48 am

Touring the Ironbound: Environmental Justice Made Real

By Yaira Robinson
From State of Formation

I was on a chartered bus with about 40 other people—Christians, Jews, Muslims, Unitarian Universalists, one Buddhist, and one Wiccan priest. We were united in being people of faith, in being mostly white and middle class, and in touring part of Newark, New Jersey as part of the Environmental Justice retreat of GreenFaith’s Fellowship Program.

I already knew that low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately affected by environmental degradation; if there are toxic emissions or pollution to be found in a community, it’s most likely on the “other side of the tracks,” where poverty and the legacy of racism and discrimination combine to form communities that have little leverage in the fight against larger corporate interests. And so it is in the Ironbound, a historically immigrant community in Newark, so-named because it is bounded on three sides by railroad tracks—and on the fourth side, by Newark Airport.

Today, the Ironbound is home to more than 50,000 people, mostly Portuguese and Spanish speakers, a majority of them foreign-born. The community struggles with chronic poverty and unemployment, and residents’ average income is a meager $16,000 per year. Our tour guide, Dr. Ana Baptista of the Ironbound Community Corporation, pointed out the great irony of the situation: here we were, right next to the third largest seaport in the U.S., a port that brings goods from around the globe to the largest consumer market in the world… and local residents are left out, saddled instead with an excess of pollution—a good portion of it diesel exhaust from trucks transporting those goods, and bunker fuel exhaust from the ships in port.

We drove by the port and then made our way through the “Chemical Corridor,” a narrow strip of land lined with dozens of chemical manufacturing plants. There was a fat-rendering plant, some metal plants, a sewage treatment plant, one that made “natural flavors” (what is that, anyway?), and more. And then, in the midst of all this, the Essex County Correctional Facility. And a proposed immigration detention facility to be used to house families. I started to feel sick to my stomach.

Click here to read the full article

December 2nd, 2011 at 10:39 am

Interfaith Tips: Telling Our Stories

by Yaira Robinson from State of Formation

Going to the park, to work, to the grocery store or pretty much anywhere today is venturing out into a religiously pluralistic setting. In all of those places, there are bound to be people who profess different religious beliefs than you do, or who profess no beliefs at all. In many of these settings, we keep quiet about our religious views so as not to offend or distance ourselves from others. I wonder, though, if this leaves us saying nothing real at all, and sometimes increases the distance between us rather than bringing us together in actual relationship.

Engaging in interfaith work takes this everyday religious pluralism to a whole new level. For this work, there are no roadmaps, no graduate certification programs, no experts; there are just individual people trying the best they can to forge new paths of partnership and mutual understanding. Because of the interfaith environmental justice work in which I’ve participated for the last three years, I’ve thought a lot about how to be an individual person of particular faith in an intensely and intentionally religiously pluralistic setting. Below are some things I’ve learned; perhaps they are also applicable for your local park or workplace, or for late-night interfaith conversations with your neighborhood grocery clerk (and if you try that, I’d love to hear how the conversation goes).

1. Share your religious story (in a respectful, non-proselytizing kind of way). When you share your story with others, it helps them feel comfortable sharing their stories with you.

2. Know your religious story. In order to share your religious story, you first have to have one. Whatever your religious (or non-religious) tradition is, know it and live it. For me, this means being an active member of my synagogue and engaging in regular study, practice and prayer.

Click here to read the full article

Do Atheists Belong in the Interfaith Movement?

Chris Stedman
from State of Formation

Recently, there’s been a lot of talk in the organized atheist, humanist, skeptic and freethought movements about the potential benefits and drawbacks of interfaith work.

Over at Patheos, the Executive Director of the American Humanist Association, Roy Speckhardt, recently made an excellent case that—while the terminology of “interfaith” may be problematic and there are several other important issues to grapple with—it is worth atheists’ while to get involved. At Friendly Atheist, Secular Student Alliance Communications Director Jesse Galef offered a long list of reasons atheists might participate, and how their involvement might improve some of the problems within the interfaith movement. Despite Galef and Speckhardt’s serious concerns and reservations, they have been actively involved in intentionally interfaith efforts, and I suspect their participation has informed their conclusions about the idea.

However, those speaking out against atheist involvement in the interfaith movement are, at the moment, a bit more numerous (just a couple of examples, with several others to follow). As far as I can tell based on what many atheists opposed to interfaith involvement state in their writing, a large percentage of them seem to have kept their distance from interfaith work. I understand their hesitation given the criticisms they offer, but I can’t help but wonder if there is some disconnect when those who criticize the interfaith movement the most also seem to have had little to no actual experience with it. I could be wrong, but I’d be surprised if someone who had been involved in interfaith work would suggest, as prominent atheist blogger P.Z. Myers did, that it “cheerfully and indiscriminately embrace[s] every faith without regard for content.”

Present in almost every atheist blog I’ve read opposed to interfaith work are perhaps the most common critiques I hear from my fellow atheists regarding interfaith work, and they’re directly related: that interfaith leaves no room for religious criticism, and that it by default excludes atheists because atheism isn’t a “faith.” Most atheists I know who reject the idea of participating in interfaith work do so in part because they assume that, in order to participate, everyone must bite his or her tongue and play nice, and that participation in this kind of movement lends our implicit approval to “faith” as a concept and rallying point.

I’d like to explain why I think these concerns may be somewhat overblown; how they might be combated where they exist, and the reality that they actually don’t apply to most situations.

Click here to read the full article