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Archive for the ‘inter-religious dialogue’ tag

Protecting the Earth Through Interfaith Education and Activism

Photography credit to the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development.

The Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development’s Interfaith Climate Change Forum.

by Yonatan Neril
from The Huffington Post

The Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison tells the following story: A young girl with a bird in her hands went to a wise person. The child asked the wise person, “Is the bird in my hands alive or dead?” If the answer was “dead,” she would open her hands. If the answer was “alive,” she would close her hand and kill the bird. The wise person, sensing her intention, responded, “I cannot say whether the bird is alive or dead, but I can say that the fate of the bird is in your hands.”

Today we have in our hands not one bird, and not just all birds, but all living beings on our planet, including 7 billion human beings.

I grew up on an acre of land in California with a large orchard and organic garden. In my BA and MA studies with a focus on global environmental issues, I conducted research in India on renewable energy and in Mexico on genetically modified corn. I came to see first-hand global environmental changes that humanity is effecting on this planet. Following these studies and research, I studied for a number of years in a rabbinic program. Because of my environmental background, I encountered traditional Jewish texts from a particular lens, and realized that my own tradition offers profound teachings that relate to environmental sustainability. I also came to realize that other faith traditions — Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and others — also speak deeply about the roots of and solutions to our environmental challenges. Based on this understanding, I founded The Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development to access the collective wisdom of the world’s religions to promote co-existence and environmental sustainability through education and action.

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Religion in Public Life Discussion with Tony Blair, Charles Moore and the Archbishop of Canterbury

Tony Blair, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Charles Moore (from left to right).

from The Tony Blair Faith Foundation

What part should religion play in democratic society? How should democracy respond to the challenges – and protect the positive impact – that faith can bring?

The excitement in the air was palpable as three of the most dynamic figures in Britain took the stage to address these and many more questions about the role of religion in public life yesterday at the Central Hall Westminster in front of a packed house of 450 guests.

Highlights from the event with Tony Blair, Archbishop Rowan Williams and former Telegraph editor Charles Moore, included enthusiastic debate around the protection of religious minorities and free speech, contributions of faith communities to the global society, and confessions about how the media views religion.

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Reevaluating Interfaith Dialogue

Image Credit to Three Faiths Forum, http://www.threefaithsforum.org.uk.

by Steven Shashoua
from Common Ground News Service

London – Girls in headscarves is not exactly what you would expect to see walking through the doors of a Catholic school in London. Yet for young people living in London today interfaith encounters are not as rare as they used to be.

While opportunities to meet people from other cultures are increasingly common, meaningful learning doesn’t always follow and they don’t necessarily bring about positive shifts in attitudes and real social change.

Over the past 15 years at the London-based Three Faiths Forum (3FF), we have developed models for creating understanding between people of different faiths and beliefs, with a particular focus on students and young people. For the last three years we have been creating links between different faith schools – some 50 in total – through our Faith School Linking programme.

At a school linking event, two or three classes from different faith schools will meet in the morning. Participating students divide into small groups and begin a task, like creating an art project, or sharing a story. They look at each other with some curiosity and hesitation at first, as they meet people very different from themselves.

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Ramadan, a Sacred Time for Reflection, Sacrifice to Muslims and Appreciation as non-Muslims

Photo Credit to Mohammed Ballas- APby Christopher L. Heuertz
from The Washington Post

This week remember to wish all your Muslim friends “Ramadan Mubarak” or “Ramadan Kareem” (“Blessed/Happy Ramadan”) as the annual fast of Islam begins the evening of Thursday, July 19th and goes until the evening of Aug. 18 (holiday may start July 20 and end Aug. 19 depending on when Muslims spot the new moon in different parts of the world).

Ramadan commemorates the month when the sacred scriptures of Islam, the Koran, was given to the prophet Muhammad. In Islam, it is a period of purification, a time if fasting. The fast is observed throughout daylight, commencing at sunrise and concluding at sunset each day. Not only does the fast include food, but water and other beverages— not even a sip. In many instances, Muslims even fast from most forms of entertainment, creating time to recite their scripture and performing additional prayers throughout the night (tarawih or taraweeh).

It’s not simply a fast from food, but a time of cleansing both the body and the soul. Even small children are included in this sacrament.

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Interfaith Work Remains Important to Protect Religious Minorities

Photo Credit to Getty Images

Coptic Christians demonstrating after conflicts in Egypt.

by John Bryson Chane
from The Washington Post

As Egyptians come to terms with the near-sweep of the Muslim Brotherhood in their new government, no one is more apprehensive of what this new government means than Egypt’s minority Christian population. The new president, Mohamed Morsi, has promised protection for minorities, but Coptic Christians in Egypt are still nervous about the future. And they are not alone. In countries across the Middle East, life for religious minorities is often uncertain; and as the violence of the Arab Spring continues, these groups remain at risk of persecution and discrimination.

But a gathering of Christian and Muslim faith leaders in Beirut last month gives me hope that religious leaders can play a role in speaking up for minority religions and negotiating conflicts between groups. The symbolism of holding such a meeting in Beirut is resonant and powerful. For Protestants and Catholics to come together with Shi’ites and Sunnis in a city so often shredded by sectarian violence sends a powerful message to faith communities and the world.

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Including Ourselves: A Lesson from an Elevator-Ride

Photo Credit to State of Formation by Simran Jeet Singh
from State of Formation

It’s not uncommon for kids to ask their parents about “that thing” on my head.

In most instances, the parents look at me uncomfortably, embarrassed that I might be offended in some way. I’ll usually acknowledge their discomfort with an awkward smile before looking away and pretending not to notice as they try to discretely shush their kids.

But recently I had the most amazing experience. I walked into the elevator of my apartment building in Manhattan and — despite knowing New York etiquette — I couldn’t help but smile at the two little girls standing with their young mother. The girls were wearing matching, polka-dotted raincoats, and they were fully focused on not dropping their popsicles.

The older of the two girls must have sensed me enter the elevator, because she slowly shifted her neck to look up at me and gawked for a few seconds. She then turned to her mom and unabashedly shouted: “Hey Mom! What’s that thing on his head?!”

The young mother made eye contact with me and quickly checked to see if I was planning to respond. I flashed my standard awkward smile, and she returned an awkward smile of her own before totally catching me by surprise.

“That’s a turban.”

“Why does he wear it?”

“It’s part of his religion. Do you remember the boy in your class who wore a turban?”

“Yeah, he doesn’t cut his hair. He has really long hair. ”

I was shocked. I wanted to give everyone in the elevator a high-five, but remembering I was in New York, I tried to play it cool. I put on my Denzel Washington face (the coolest person I could think of on the spot), and as I walked out of the elevator, I turned to the mother and whispered a soft “thank you.”

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A Review of Ruth Broyde Sharone’s “Minefields & Miracles”

The book cover of Minefields & Miracles.

by Paul Chaffee
from The Interfaith Observer

…Like other readers charmed by Ruth’s TIO articles each month, I knew her ‘story’ would be fascinating. Anyone meeting her quickly learns how much she loves her Jewish tradition and how, from that posture, she has become a promotional force of nature supporting grassroots interfaith engagement around the world.

Little did I guess, though, that Minefields & Miracles would be the best interfaith book published since Acts of Faith (2007) by Eboo Patel. Ruth and Eboo both grew up in Chicago and happen to share a remarkable capacity: their compelling personal stories read like can’t-put-it-down novels, all the while leading us through spiritual, religious questions, provoking us, teaching us, time and again inciting a-ha! moments. Ruth’s odyssey is a feast of extraordinary interfaith encounters resonating long after you leave a page.

Her high-level energy is evident from the start and never lets up. Expelled from college housing when administrators discover her Jewish heritage (the first of many “minefields”), a fierce sense of justice became her spiritual bone marrow. Graduating from college, she turned to journalism, choosing, as a beginner, the daunting route of independent international correspondent. Her goal: to identify, visit, and write about Jewish communities throughout Central and South America.

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Praying with the Earth: A Prayerbook for Peace

Praying with the Earthby John Philip Newell
from Huffington Post

I do not know how many Christians have read the Quran. And I do not know how many Muslims have read the Christian Scriptures. But I do know that until we come back into relationship, until we begin to learn the wisdom at the heart of one another’s traditions, we will be less likely to work for peace. And without peace in the household of Abraham and Sarah and Hagar there will not be peace among us as nations today.

“Praying with the Earth: A Prayerbook for Peace” is a resource book in the Praying for Peace Initiative, designed especially to nurture relationship between Christianity, Islam and Judaism as a way of making peace in our world. Each morning and evening in a seve- day cycle we use words from the Quran, the Hebrew Scriptures and the teachings of Jesus to pray for peace. We know the shadow side of our religious inheritance, the way it is used to fuel hatred and division between us as peoples and as nations. But do we also know the prophetic power for peacemaking at the heart of our three faiths? We need to do the hard work of confronting the falseness within us and between us while at the same time accessing the vision and the hope for healing.

“Whichever way you turn, there is the face of God.” How many of us would have guessed that these words, which invite us to look for the Sacred in everything, come from the Quran? (The Cow 2:115) We have been too ready to believe the lie that it is only in certain faces, certain races, certain places, that we will glimpse the Holy. How can we help one another remember the true heart of Islam, the true heart of Christianity, the true heart of Judaism — all of which cherish a vision for the sacredness of every life?

Toward a Dharmic Model of Chaplaincy in Semitic Settings: The Challenges of Translating Religion for Others

From State of Formation

After a three-month sojourn in India, I return to State of Formations with renewed vigor.  I also return with sustained interest in the possibilities of representing Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism, and other Dharmic traditions within Western institutions.  This post marks the first in a series about the pivotal, intermediary role that cultural and religious brokers from Asia and Africa play in North Atlantic universities.  At the risk of sounding too unclear, academic, or opaque, I draw upon examples from my experience as the Hindu Fellow  – otherwise known as “The Hindu Chaplain” – at Yale University.

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