Archive for the ‘interfaith dialogue’ tag
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.
by Trevor Grundy
from ENI News
Muslim converts in the United Kingdom — a small but growing number — often bring new energy to their faith communities, but also report facing obstacles to acceptance.
“Converts are a bridge between non-Muslim, mainly white, communities and Muslim communities who are mainly from sub-continent communities,” said Fiyaz Mughal, founder and director of London-based Faith Matters, an inter-faith organization, in an interview with ENInews.
However, converts also told researchers last year that they felt cast adrift after their acceptance of Islam. Although mosques were delighted to welcome new members, they often failed to provide support when their new co-religionists faced hostility from family and friends, they said.
The study, by Kevin Brice of Swansea University in Wales, said there were about 100,000 converts to Islam in the U.K. in the 2000-2010 decade, up from 60,000 in the 1990s.
The report, called “A minority within a minority: a report on converts to Islam in the United Kingdom,” was sponsored by Faith Matters, which is supported by the British government and faith groups. There are about 1.8 million Muslims in the U.K., out of a total population of 62.5 million.
British converts to Islam — “muhtedis” in Arabic — can serve as a bridge over which Muslims and non-Muslims can meet and exchange ideas, said Mughal.
by Gerard O’Connell
from the Vatican Insider
Patrick D’Rozario was the first Catholic priest to be ordained in Bangladesh after the country gained independence from Pakistan in 1971, following a nine-month war. After ordination in 1972, he served as Project Director of the Christian Organization for Relief and Rehabilitation and assisted over 10,000 families in the war-torn society.
A member of the Holy Cross Congregation, he studied in Dhaka and Karachi before going to Louvain University, Belgium, where he gained his degree in moral theology, a subject he subsequently taught at Dhaka’s major seminary (1976-90).
John Paul II nominated him bishop in 1990, and Benedict XVI appointed him first as coadjutor-bishop, 2010, and then archbishop of Dhaka, October 2011. In this exclusive interview, the sixty-eight year old friendly and dynamic Archbishop talks about the situation and mission of the Church in Bangladesh.
by Walter Ruby
from Common Ground News Service
Washington, DC – Until recently, the Muslim and Jewish communities of Latin America had been largely untouched by the burgeoning movement of the past five years to strengthen communication and cooperation between Jewish and Muslim leaders and grassroots activists in North America and Europe. That isolation is now coming to an end.
Jews and Muslims have a long history in Latin America. There is evidence that Jews and Muslims escaping the Inquisition accompanied Spanish and Portuguese explorers on their voyages of discovery to the Americas in the 15th and 16th centuries. Both communities grew in the late 19th and early 20th centuries due to the large-scale immigration of Jews from Eastern Europe and Muslims from Arab countries.
Jewish and Muslim businesspeople have long been sparkplugs of the economies of Brazil and Argentina and to a lesser extent, Uruguay, Chile and other Latin American countries, and have often maintained cooperative business and personal relationships with each other.