Archive for the ‘interfaith dialogue’ tag
by Imam Abdullah T. Antepli
I’m one of only 11 full-time Muslim chaplains on a U.S. university campus, serving at Duke University. It’s the only place I know where it’s kosher and halal to pray for “the Devils.” If one looks for an overarching identity where political, sectarian and religious differences disappear, look toward college basketball. Israeli-Palestinian conflicts are a piece of cake. But the Duke-UNC rivalry, there is no hope.
Unfortunately, the future of Judaism and Islam on American college campuses is not a sports rivalry where it’s trophies that are at stake. I see urgency around Jewish-Muslim relations in general, and in particular on college campuses in the United States.
I have great admiration for leaders like Pope John Paul II and John XXIII – these men moved mountains in repairing Christian-Jewish relations. Christian anti-Semitism took its theological strength from core teachings of Christianity. Unlike Christian anti-Semitism, anti-Semitism in the Muslim world isn’t rooted in Islamic theology and was never fed through core Islamic teachings.
But as anti-Semitism grows in the Muslim world, fueled by political problems in the Middle East, Muslim anti-Semitism is taking root as people turn to Muslim theology to try to find scripture and history that provides religious legitimacy for despicable hate messages.
I know, because I am one of the victims of that anti-Semitism. I’m often asked, “Why are you so obsessed with Jews? Why are you so tirelessly trying to improve Jewish-Muslim relations?” Growing up in Turkey, the first book that I read about Jews and Judaism was at the age of 12 or 13 — a children’s version of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It was very sophisticated propaganda that put modern pictures of Israeli-Palestinian conflict and atrocities atop verses from the Torah and other Jewish teachings, in an attempt to prove the inherent evil of Judaism.. Not every single Muslim is born and raised as an anti-Semite. But it’s not uncommon.
I spent a number of years believing that something is innately, irredeemably wrong about Jews and Judaism. But believing in a God of love and God of mercy and compassion, I was able to go through a life journey that removed that poison from my system. I still consider myself a recovering anti-Semite because old habits die hard and modern challenges keep scratching the old wounds.
Rising bigotry is not unique nor is it one-way. Islamaphobia among the Jewish community is increasing, too, poisoning many Jewish hearts and minds and taking deep root here in the U.S. as well as other parts of the world.
As Muslims and Jews, we have every reason to be worried about the future of our religions. Vis-à-vis Jewish-Muslim relations, we have every reason to do all that we can to build bridges between our communities. As Jews and Muslims it is in our self-interest.
I see the 20th century as the time when world Jewry came to terms and reconciled with Christianity. I see the 21st century as the time Jews and Judaism can come to terms and reconcile with the global Muslim community.
That brings a moral imperative to America’s shores. Yes, anti-Semitism may be poisoning Muslims around the world and it’s changing us for the worse. But it is American Muslims and American Jews who must model what the 21st century will look like. We live in a country with influence and civil liberties; on college campuses in particular, Jews and Muslims have the room to exemplify a fruitful Jewish-Muslim engagement for the rest of the U.S., world Jewry, and the Ummah, the Muslim world.
An important place to start is to diversify our sources of information about each other. I invite you to consider, when does Islam as a religion and Muslims as people come to your attention? Or when do Jews, Judaism and Israel come to Muslim attention?
When it comes to information on college campuses, we have to stop inviting fringe speakers who only serve to firm up extremist images of the other. There also needs to be bilateral Jewish-Muslim conversation. Interreligious sharing is wonderful, but Jews and Muslims share similarities, a common history, as well as similar theological and judicial foundations. Bi-lateral discussions, especially on U.S. college campuses, are a must if we are to be an urgently needed light for the world.
A Voice from Sinai is calling on American Jews and American Muslims, “If there’s going to be any reconciliation, any coming to terms, it will be you. You will exemplify this to the rest of the world.”
Imam Abdullah T. Antepli is this year’s Pope John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue honorary lecturer; this commentary is distilled from that lecture. The JP II Center is located at The Angelicum Pontifical University in Rome and the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City hosted this year’s lecture. Educated in his native Turkey, Imam Antepli is an international leader in Muslim-Jewish dialogue.
Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue (DICID) based in Doha, Qatar, is pleased to announce Call for Entries for The Doha International Interfaith Dialogue Awards for 2014. The theme for the 2014 awards is “Enhancing the Value of Dialogue through Youth”. The prizes will be awarded to works that relate to youth in interfaith dialogue, successful projects on dialogue of youth from different religions, the role of youth in religious dialogue, the role of dialogue in strengthening the capacity of youth and directing their creative energies to build a humane society, a spirit of love, tolerance and co-existence.
The second Doha International Prize for Interfaith Dialogue will be presented during the Doha International Conference for Interfaith Dialogue in Doha, from 25th-27th March 2014.
The prize has been allocated this year for the work that relates to youth in interfaith dialogue, successful projects accomplished in the field of activity related to dialogue of youth from different religions, the role of youth in religious dialogue, the role of dialogue in strengthening the capacity of youth and directing their creative energies to build a humane society, a spirit of love, tolerance and co-existence.
We hope to grant the prize this year to youth issues that are in line with the role of the center, which is keen on building the capacity of youth in harmony with the aims of the Eleventh Doha International Conference for Interfaith Dialogue, which is to be held this year under the theme “Enhancing Value of Dialogue through Youth”.
Objectives of the Award
- Enrich and promote a culture of peaceful coexistence and tolerance among followers of different faiths.
- Activate the religious values to address the issues and problems of concern to humanity in order to promote peaceful coexistence and understanding between different civilizations and faiths.
- Expand the content of the dialogue to include aspects of life interacting with religion.
- Expand the dialogue to include researchers, academics and those interested in the relationship between religious values and life’s issues.
- Provision of scholarly insight, education and training in the areas of competence related to the dialogue of religions.
- Encourage researchers and relevant specialized institutions for fruitful interaction between them in order to reach new prospects for dialogue, in particular, as a method of conflict resolution and peace building.
- Honour the productive, active and creative persons and organisations in the field of inter- religious dialogue.
Best Organisation Award
This award is restricted to distinguished institutions in the field of interfaith dialogue, that have contributed in strengthening the capacity of youth in interfaith dialogue.
Best Individual Award
This award is restricted to distinguished personal achievement in the field of interfaith dialogue, well known for successes in the field of youth and in enhancing the experiences of dialogue among religions.
The jury will decide on competent and deserving winners through assessing their works that have been done in the field of interfaith dialogue, both within the framework of innovative ideas and approaches in research or in the context of social action.
Terms for Applying
Institutions and organisations:
- The institution will be active for at least the last three years in the field of interfaith dialogue and led by youth along with others.
- The institution should have a significant impact on society in general and youth in particular and their efforts for societal development should be clearly visible.
- The institutions project for youth would have an effect on a wide spectrum of sectors of society with special attention given to youth.
- The institution will not be engaged or involved in any form of electoral politics.
- A youth well known for their intellectual acumen and upright character and prolific in the field of interfaith dialogue.
- The candidate should not be in a leadership position in a political party.
- Known for their publications or activities directly related to interfaith dialogue with a special attention to youth issues in interfaith dialogue.
Terms for submitting application
- The submitted application including all attached documents must be sent via e-mail.
- The application shall be written in Arabic or English.
- The application should be in the range of 4000-7000 words.
- The application may include studies, publications or films as supporting documents that explain their experiences.
Value of the award
The award amount is one hundred thousand US dollars (100,000 USD), in addition to a gold medal and a certificate from the Center.
A permanent Award Committee, representing the three monotheistic religions and representing the interfaith Centers, will meet several times a year. The functions of this committee include:
- Announcement of the award, topics and terms.
- Selection of judges.
- Announcement of the award winners on the recommendations of the judges.
Jury members are selected each year by the Award Committee from among the specialists in that year’s award topics. Names of the judges are confidential, and their main functions are:
- To read articles nominated for the award.
- To grade and rank each article/experience based on scholarly criteria including marks for quality of the material presented.
- To submit sealed reports and recommendations to the Award Committee on all applicants of the award which will be officially opened only at the meeting of the Committee.
The organization of the award
- Winners are not allowed to run for another award in the following year.
- The award can be annulled in case of lack of achieving an adequate quality of the submitted works.
- The name of the winner will be announced in the Doha Annual Conference on Interfaith Dialogue.
- The winners will make presentations of their achievements after receiving the award.
- The materials provided that are suitable for publication will be published by DICID.
- The winners will be invited to attend the annual conference of the Center.
All nominations should be sent to Doha Centre for Interfaith Dialogue at the following address:
- The deadline for accepting nominations is the last day of the official working 31st December, 2013
- The Awards will be presented during the Doha International Conference for Interfaith Dialogue which will take place in Doha, Qatar, from 25-27 March, 2014.
- Visit the DICID’s website at http://www.dicid.org/english/.
All nominations should be sent to DohaCentre for Interfaith Dialogue by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Should you have any questions, please contact the DICID directly by phone at +974 4486 46 66/ +974 4486 55 54 / 974 4486 55 54 or by email at email@example.com.|
Parliament of the World’s Religions Trustee Dr. Arun Gandhi shares this discussion starting-reflection on enemies and debates, especially in the interfaith context, in remembrance of the lessons in non-violence he learned from his grandfather, Mohandas Gandhi.
Lately there has been a lot of talk about “enemies” and how to deal with them. Inevitably, this leads to a heated “debate” and I find both these concepts repugnant since they form the foundation of what I call the Culture of Violence.
If there is anything I have learned from Gandhi’s writings and the lessons he taught me as a young boy entering his teens is that humankind is inexorably dominated by a Culture of Violence. Over generations the roots of this culture have run deep dominating every aspect of human life — from parenting at home to governing nations. The salvation, according to Gandhi, lies in each of us “becoming the change we wish to see in the world.”
During the struggle for India’s freedom from British Colonialism one rule that was observed strictly was never to dehumanize the British as “enemies”. Even when someone made a joke Grandfather would admonish the person and insist that we root out all words from our vocabulary that dehumanize people. Dehumanization is the first step in justifying violence and war. When we learn to respect everyone as human beings — even those with whom we may have differences of opinion — we will reduce violence.
Whenever possible Gandhi entered into a “discussion” with the British, never a “debate”. A discussion implies an openness to understand the other’s point of view and arrive at an amicable understanding whereas a debate implies there is only one Truth and the person with the gift of the gab can overwhelm the other.
A very potent example of this is religion. There are endless debates about which religion is the best and everyone claims they have the whole Truth. This attitude has led to wars, violence, massacres and genocides in the name of God. Yet, unfortunately, we are unwilling to accept that there are many aspects to one Truth. If we continue to debate this point we will never arrive at any understanding.
Religion, my Grandfather used to say, is the spiritual Mount Everest. All of us are trying to scale this peak and we choose different paths to get to the top. Since all the paths are equal why should it be a matter of contention which path one chooses to take? The important objective is for every individual to get to the top by making a sincere and committed effort. It needs no organization — just individual commitment and dedication.
Incidentally, I am offering these thoughts for a discussion, not a debate!
Dr. Arun Gandhi - Born 1934 in Durban South Africa, Arun was sent by his parents to India when he was 12 years old so that he could live with and learn from his grandfather, Mohandas Gandhi. It was then that young Gandhi learned the principles of non-violence that he continues to espouse until today. Dr. Gandhi spent much of his adult life in India working as a journalist and promoting social and economic changes for the poor and the oppressed classes. Along with his wife Sunanda he rescued about 128 orphaned and abandoned children from the streets and placed them in loving homes around the world. They also began a Center for Social Change which transformed the lives of millions in villages in the western state of Maharashtra. In 1987 Arun came to the United States and in 1991 he started the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence at the Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tennessee. In 2007, the Institute was moved to the University of Rochester, New York. In 2008 Arun resigned from the Institute to begin the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute, with its mission to build basic education schools for the very poor children of the world. The first school will open shortly in a depressed village in western India (www.gandhiforchildren.org). Arun Gandhi has taken the message of nonviolence and peace-making to hundreds of thousands of high school and university youth around the United States and much of the Western world. His publications include The Legacy of Love; The Forgotten Woman: The Life of Kastur, wife of Gandhi, and several others.
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA’s opening address to the World’s Parliament of Religions, Chicago, USA, 11 September, 1893
Sisters and Brothers of America, it fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise in response to the warm and cordial welcome which you have given us. I thank you in the name of the most ancient order of monks in the world; I thank you in the name of the mother of religions; and I thank you in the name of the millions and millions of Hindu people of all classes and sects. My thanks, also, to some of the speakers on this platform who, referring to the delegates from the Orient, have told you that these men from far-off nations may well claim the honor of bearing to different lands the idea of toleration.
I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth. I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to the southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny. I am proud to belong to the religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation.
I will quote to you, brethren, a few lines from a hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human beings:
As the different streams having there sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to thee.
The present convention, which is one of the most august assemblies ever held, is in itself a vindication, a declaration to the world, of the wonderful doctrine preached in the Gita:
Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to me.
Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization, and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.
Taking time to mark twenty years of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, on May 11, the Sikh Religious Society of Chicago opened doors to the interfaith community of Chicagoland to kickoff the anniversary year’s celebrations. Speaking from a Christian community, Joyce Shin of Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church offered reverence to a God whose world is failing to live up to his image, asking for strength to be stronger and to cultivate peace. Praying for justice, Shin’s words mirror the mission the Parliament follows moving forward in Presbyterian-religious terms.
Great is your Word, O God, and great are your works. Each day we breathe in what you breathed out.
We take in the goodness and beauty of your creation, the love you have for it, and your command to care for it.
With heads bowed down and hearts broken, we confess to you, O God, the sorrow we feel for the great mistakes your world has made.
Together we bear the consequences of a creation marred by sin. Your truth has been twisted and your providence perverted.
Anger has been sown and violence spread. And when violence is committed in your name, we shudder with shame.
For the way things are, we are sorry, for we know your world has fallen short of your creation. We see the scars on both friend and stranger.
We have condoned ignorance and allowed injustice, and we have made others to suffer for our mistakes.
We do not take lightly, great God, the damage done, the lives lost, and the grief immeasurable.
When we fear that the world is beyond repair, remind us that you have created us to be in your image. We are not sure what that means.
Compared to you we are fallen, frail in strength, and fickle in conviction.
At most, God, we hope that, if we imitate you all the days of our lives, we will come to embody what you have in mind for us:
that our bodies will bear the grooves of daily service and that our faces will reveal lines of compassion;
that our souls will be strengthened to speak out for those whose voices are ignored and to stand up against forces that keep people down.
Then when you look upon us and the world you have created, most merciful God, we pray that you will see some semblance of your image:
a world in which just priorities are pursued; the young are educated; the elderly cared for; the vulnerable protected; the hungry filled; the homeless safe.
Do not let the needs of your creation overwhelm us, Lord. Though the world’s needs are great, your power is greater. Amen.
by Rev. Anne Benvenuti, PhD
Board Trustee, The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions
© April 2013
The “Nones” are the largest and fastest growing segment of the population on the religious landscape in America, according to the most recent Pew survey. In just the last five years, this group of willfully unaffiliated people has grown from 15% to 20% of the population. They are people who have no religious affiliation, and who don’t want one. Yet only 5% of those surveyed call themselves atheists. In other words, the Nones include many people who, while they don’t want a religious label also don’t want the traditional secular-rationalist-humanist label. 28% of them have practiced yoga, and I wonder how many of them have meditated. That question wasn’t asked. But 60% of these people feel close to the natural world. The majority of the Nones are white people who were raised in religiously affiliated homes. Beyond this, they cut across many of the more common culture divides; they are people with college degrees and people without a college education; they have incomes over 75K, as well as incomes under 30K. In this they defy traditional interpretations, that people who go to college outgrow a childish intellectual dependency on religion, and that poor people lean on religion to support them in living with poverty and its attendant adversity. And it’s especially noteworthy that the Nones are disproportionately young: they’re people who grew up on a socially networked planet, not a religiously networked town.
I’d like to suggest that many of the Nones have “gotten off the bus,” an expression that refers to travelers who want to escape pre-packaged tourism so that they can discover a place as it “really” is. I know a lot of Nones and many of them are Alls. They celebrate the Winter Solstice, and Easter sunrise, they may do yoga or meditate, and they give thoughtfully to charities, all in no particular order, but depending on where they are, how they feel, what seems to be called for. They resist labels produced by media-saturated culture to represent certain predetermined sets of characteristics. They distrust such prepackaged beliefs, and also distrust religious institutions that are so often corrupt and hypocritical. Yet they value human spiritual heritage, often in great variety, and many of these people are more comfortable in a variety of religious settings than they would be in only one.
As a Trustee of the Parliament, I feel it is very important to acknowledge the Nones, and particularly the Alls among them, to notice that they have gotten off the bus and don’t want to get back on. They are not looking for certainties. The old definitions are not relevant for them. Atheist? No. Agnostic? No. Believer? No. They live in verbs more than in nouns; they are more about experience itself and less invested in beliefs about experience.
My best guess is that the Nones, and especially the Alls among them, express a vital spiritual pulse in the contemporary human world; one that samples spiritual practices, just as people sample the music and cuisine of many cultures. I’ve seen many religious eyes roll at the notion that people are sampling religion like hors d’oeuvres. I’ve heard religious people say that this cannot possibly be a path of spiritual depth, selecting from the menu the most delectable items while eschewing the solidly nutritious, wanting the pleasures of spiritual comfort without the disciplines of communal practice. But, I ask, why make such negative attributions to our fellow humans, especially when we know well the struggles of relating old institutions to an ever-changing world? Once the familiar critique from those who practice solely within specific religious institutions has been stated—and I think it worth a listen– where are we?
I think that we are on a new page, in a new chapter; maybe we are in a new book. For the first time in the history of human psyches, human life is global as a matter of course. At the same time, this global planet is suffering from the collective impact of the human species. It might well be this context that makes the traditional religious issues seem trivial, tribal, and irrelevant. A very legitimate question might be, “Who cares what you believe, much less about religious in-fighting, when we are on the brink of ecological disaster?” Perhaps those who carry forward the religious institutions should seek in the depths of our heritage the wisdom that is relevant to the global and ecologically threatened context in which humans, indeed, all species now live. We should expect to bring forward something of value for this utterly new context, and we might need to accept that many people will engage our traditions on their own terms, not on ours.
As an Episcopal priest I think it is time to welcome conversation with the Nones, and to welcome spiritual practice with the Alls. It is time to listen and to see the way that the Nones can so easily incorporate the All of humanity’s spiritual heritage. We may offer to the Nones and Alls from our own religious heritage, but we need to respect them for what they are too. They invite us to get off the bus, to experience the contemporary world as it really is, a place in which increasing numbers of people are not only comfortable in mixed cultural settings, but who are themselves multicultural individuals living in a multicultural world. We can at least consider that some of the Alls are genuinely interfaith individuals, bringing religions into a new and global era in human history.
by Dawud Walid
My passion for bridging religious differences has been shaped not only by my spiritual connection to the Islamic tradition, which promotes striving towards the common good, but also by how I was raised.
As a youth, I was privileged to travel abroad with my father, who worked for an agency that promoted trade and commerce. I was exposed at a young age to people of diverse ethnic backgrounds as well as introduced to people of various faiths. I met people who practiced indigenous African religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. I visited a Catholic church in West Germany prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall and toured the home of Anne Frank in Amsterdam.
Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib, who was a cousin and disciple of Prophet Muhammad, said, “People are enemies of what they do not know,” and “Whoever is ignorant of a thing finds fault in it.”
I believe that much of the conflict that exists among people of diverse faith traditions—that is not rooted in politics—is mere ignorance of the other. Therefore, based upon my experiences in which I find confirmation from my spiritual tradition, organic intermingling and purposeful dialogue with others are the only hope that we have in cultivating peaceful coexistence between various peoples of faith. Hence, I have been involved in both interfaith and intrafaith activism for the last 15 years.
Though I am an advocate of interfaith and intrafaith activism, I am certainly not a proponent of theological relativism, the concept that all philosophies are equally valid and that we must affirm others’ theology even when it conflicts with ours. I find such relativist discourse to be unauthentic and counterproductive. The purpose of interfaith and intrafaith dialogue is for us to recognize our differences to dispel misconceptions, which breeds fear of the other, so we can move towards the states of tolerance, peaceful coexistence and optimally mutual cooperation to make a more just world.
The Qur’an states (5:2), “Cooperate with each other in virtue and piety, but do not cooperate with each other in sin and enmity.”
As a member of the Metropolitan Detroit Interfaith Workers Rights Committee, I join others of various faith traditions to advocate for labor rights and social justice based upon our sincerely held beliefs, not to convert them to my theology. With rights to have the existence of unions and collective bargaining being stripped, to Wall Street banks secretly renegotiating lenders’ mortgages, which have caused thousands of American citizens to become homeless, we need each other as various faith groups to challenge these injustices. Jews cannot do it alone, Christians cannot, nor can Muslims. It is through such collaboration based upon our acceptance of transcendent values within our separate traditions, which will earn us the pleasure of the Divine according to my belief.
As there is a need for interfaith cooperation, I also see the necessity for intrafaith dialogue and cooperation among Muslims. Thankfully, American Muslims have not experienced sectarian tension that has led to violence as in Iraq and Pakistan. Irrespective of schools of thought within Islam, Muslims share common social challenges, which need to be addressed, and one of the most pressing is Islamophobia. Mosque construction projects have been met with vitriol across America in which anti-Muslim bigots do not distinguish whether the majority of worshipers in the mosque are Sunni or Shia Muslims. When I’ve interviewed Sufi Muslim women, who were discriminated against due to wearing hijab, the offenders did not distinguish between whether they were members of a Sufi order or not in their discrimination. In all of these scenarios, to the offenders these were Muslims all the same. Hence in 2006, I joined Islamic religious leaders in Metro Detroit from various traditions to clarify misinformation disseminated about Islam. This convening then gave birth to continuing monthly meetings in which other common challenges are discussed between Muslims of various persuasions.
Life is short, and none of us know how long we will have to work to effectuate change for a better world. The Creator will take care of the afterlife; that will all work itself out. I believe that this world was entrusted to us to protect the creation and to cultivate the common good for all human beings. My work in bridging religious differences has been and hopefully continues to be for the common good of all of us.
Dawud Walid is the Executive Director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI), an imam, and board member of the Metropolitan Detroit Interfaith Workers Rights Committee.
from Odyssey Networks
If you are between the ages of 15 and 24, here’s how you can have your story of a great experience made into a video…
Volunteer one hour where you spend time with
someone different from you.
Find someone who doesn’t look like you,
or who does not live like you
AND who doesn’t pray like you.
Spend an hour engaged in some activity with this person. This activity could be eating together, visiting a special place, etc. The “doing it together” part is more important than exactly what you are doing. For as many ways as you find that you are different, talk with that person about how many ways you are the same. How many things do you have in common? Can you make the ratio 5 to 1?
Two winning stories will be chosen by Odyssey Networks and they will send a professional video crew to film your story! The winning video will be shown on Odyssey’s website!
by Jeff Brumley
from Associated Baptist Press
Interfaith dialogue is on the rise, not just in formal conversations led by judicatory leaders but in local communities where friendships forge as ministers of various faiths work together for common goals amid increasing religious diversity in the Bible belt.
Kyle Reese, pastor at Hendricks Avenue Baptist in Jacksonville, Fla., has been highly visible in community interfaith efforts, especially in his dialogue with Muslim and Jewish spiritual leaders. He refers to Imam Joe Bradford as “best friend” – as he does a rabbi and an Orthodox Christian priest.
Pastor Steve Jones, who made headlines working with Jews and Muslims to tackle social injustice in Birmingham, Ala., said the same about Rabbi Jonathan Miller. “I am closer to these guys than I am with many other Baptist ministers,” said Jones, the senior pastor of Southside Baptist Church.
by Teo Bishop
from the Huffington Post
This is not the first time that I’ve felt slighted by one of my parent’s lack of interest in the mystical. I may be the only member of my family who would rather talk about religion than football. Our holidays, even the religious ones, are uncomfortably secular to me. I’d almost prefer my family to be fundamentalist Christians, if for no other reason than they might be willing to talk about theology as though it really meant something.
Theology, or Polytheology, or Process Theology — these subjects are rich soil to me; good dirt for planting, and worth tending to. I’m pretty sure that my parents have different ideas about deity than I do, but I don’t know that because we’ve never actually had a conversation about it. I’ve done more heart-to-heart’ing about religion on my blog, Bishop In The Grove, with my readership of relative strangers than I ever have over dinner with my family.
You just don’t talk about those sorts of things.
…I’m the silent Pagan in the bunch. I’m the candle burning, incense igniting, ritual doing, tarot card reading Pagan, who would be perfectly happy to discuss why they choose pray to Jesus over someone else, or what prayer really is, or whether their worship of a transcendent God ever feels lonely, or what they think death might be like. I think about these things, but I don’t know how to bring them up without starting an argument.
Perhaps this is why interfaith dialogue is so difficult, too. If we don’t know how to begin a conversation about faith and practice with our own families, how are we supposed to talk across the greater religious divide? It’s much easier to remain silent, to avoid the awkward moments, to shore up our defenses in the event of a possible attack.
I get disappointed, though, when we avoid these conversations, because I have this deep desire to be known by the people in my life. When they don’t seek to understand me, when they don’t try to figure out what I mean when I say Pagan, or Druid, or any number of other tradition-specific terminology, I feel whitewashed into being simply The Son, or The Brother. I revert back to being all of the things I was by default, and none of the parts I chose for myself are brought into the light to be seen.