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Archive for the ‘interfaith’ tag

Wednesday: Holocaust Educator to Share Lessons On Bystanders (Last Chance to Register)

Beth Lilach delivers a presentation to the Faiths Against Hate day of learning in June 2013 for the Parliament of the World’s Religions in NY. This training focuses on Lessons Still Unlearned from the Holocaust experience, primarily mainstream cultural silence and bystanders.

During the season of Passover we have responded to a murder spree outside Kansas City with a #LoveAlert from the global interfaith community, learned about Russian steps to profile a Jewish community in Ukraine, and read news from the Southern Poverty Law Center reporting that white supremacists gathering openly on the “Murder Capital of the Internet” have killed at least 100 people over the last five years.

Can you give one hour tomorrow to join our Faiths Against Hate webinar featuring Beth Lilach of the Holocaust Museum and Tolerance Center of Nassau County? “A moving and powerful reminder of how easily we become bystanders” is how Dr. Mary Nelson, Parliament Executive Director, recalls this presentation we first experienced at our pilot Faiths Against Hate program last summer in Long Island, NY.

This session is free and focused on you: what you need to know, and how you can help. Afterwards, Beth will talk with us and help us learn how the Holocaust experience translates lessons for everyone’s everyday life.

Lessons Still Unlearned: How Bystanders Promote Hate and Violence 

Presented by Beth Lilach
Senior Director of Education and Community Affairs
Holocaust Museum and Tolerance Center of Nassau County

WEDNESDAY APRIL 23
2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. EST

In highly developed nations, the horror of the Holocaust may seem like a distant historical event that “we” would “never” let happen again. But in the time leading up to the genocide of millions, history shows that Antisemitism crept into the mindsets of the majority who eventually gave tacit consent through silence, fear, and ignorance to the killings in the Holocaust. Cultural silence creates a bystander effect acting as a sound barrier between majority populations and the religious minority groups, dehumanizing the “others.”

Beth shares a historical narrative of the Holocaust, providing a tool for insight useful to educators, faith leaders, and interfaith advocates Beth’s lesson provides historical evidence helpful in the work to stop fear, anger, and hate in the United States.



The Parliament and URI Issue Joint #LoveAlert for #Kansas

Global Interfaith Movement Acts for Kansas on Holy Weekend

 

We, the global interfaith community, cherish the principle of shared humanity and champion the Golden Rule as the guiding principle of each of the world’s great spiritual and religious communities. We unite as neighbors in our call for harmony, compassion, and peaceful relationships everywhere.

Sunday’s tragic hate shootings in the Kansas City area urgently signal why interfaith cooperation must become stronger to ensure all people are exposed to the beautiful lessons we learn from each other in diverse communities.

We invite all people to join with the United Religions Initiative (URI) and the Parliament of the World’s Religions in coming together to amplify action for peace:

“The hearts and prayers of our interfaith and inter-cultural family go out to those affected by this terrible tragedy,” said the Rev. Victor H. Kazanjian, Jr., Executive Director of URI.  “Around the world, we affirm our promise to cultivate peace in the midst of difference, to promote enduring interfaith cooperation, and to show love in the face of hate.  May peace and healing find those shaken by this loss.”

Dr. Mary Nelson, Executive Director of the Parliament concurs, “in the face of violence and hate, we people of spirit and faith are challenged to proactively reach out in love and reconciliation.  Now is the time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

From Thursday April 17 through Sunday, April 20, we call for #LoveAlert messages to spread the goodness of interfaith cooperation around the world.

Ways to observe your solidarity include:  Fasting, lighting candles, and inviting your neighbors to your interfaith community events.

Use our tools to overcome hate! The Parliament’s  Faiths Against Hate webinars  train interfaith advocates and URI’s Talking Back to Hate campaign’s toolbox is full of effective best practices in a variety of materials.

Interfaith cooperation is happening; we as partners in the movement for peace affirm that deep interfaith relationships bring everyone closer together to overcome fear and embrace others as neighbors.

By bravely speaking out and acting together, we at the Parliament and URI invite all to work with us to correct injustice and make peace possible for all.

 

How to Make Interfaith Connection with Kansas City Community Now

Connect on Facebook to share messages of support to the affected communities here:

Love Letters for the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City are being sent to:

Local Event Schedule Via the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council

  • Interfaith Service Thursday, April 17 at 10:00 am, White Theatre on West 115th Street in Overland Park, Jewish Community Campus 
  • Spirituality Solidarity for the Victims of the JCC Shootings Friday, 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm,  Church of the Resurrection 
  • Teens will be leading a candle vigil walk this Friday, April 18th. beginning at the JCC at 7:30 pm and heading to Village Shalom then ending with a service at Valley Park.  Event Details: A Shabbat service will be held at the Jewish Community Center beginning at 6 p.m. to remember those most affected by this tragedy. At 7 p.m., we will be walking from the JCC to Village Shalom. We all will be walking together as a community with candles lit and signs to honor the families and the lives of the lost victims. The whole community is welcome to join together for this moment to show that even in the face of adversity, we are able to join together and show we are strong.

Mahavir Jayanti Jain Holiday Celebrates Historic Teachings of Non-violence and Pluralism

Mahavir Jayanti is a holiday celebrated by Jains (Jainism is an ancient Indian religion) to observe the birth of Tirthankar Mahavir. Tirthankar is a liberated soul who has achieved Nirvana. Tirthankar established a fourfold Sangh, or religious community. The Sangh consists of monks, nuns, Shravak (laymen) and Sharvika (laywomen). He was the last of the 24 Tirthankars of this time cycle.

Tirthankar Mahavir and Gautama Buddha were both born in the state of Bihar in India. Though they were contemplatives of their time, neither of them had met the other at any time during their life cycle. Nonetheless, they both observed the same philosophy of non-violence.

Mahavir was born to King Siddhartha and Queen Trishla. He was born in 615 BC. When Mahavir was in the womb, the kingdom experienced more happiness as farmers harvested the highest amount of quality crops, businessmen realized more profits, and the overall atmosphere was one of peace and joy that kept on increasing.

Mahavir renounced his throne and kingdom at the age of 30. For 12 ½ years he left his kingdom and did his penance. He fasted for many days. (Jains observe the fast without any solid or liquid food for 24 hours. They may drink boiled water or go even waterless.) He would meditate for days and nights. He slept only for forty-eight minutes during this a 24-hour time period. During his penance, he observed silence so he could contemplate and achieve enlightenment. He attained enlightenment at the age of 42 ½.

Mahavir gave five codes of conduct to reduce Karma. They are:

• To practice non-violence in thought, word, and actions.
• To seek and speak the truth.
• To behave honestly and never to take anything that does not belong to you, even if it is unclaimed by anyone.
• To practice restraint and chastity in thought, word, and actions.
• To practice non-acquisitiveness.

His main teachings were Ahimsa, Anekantvad, and Aprigraha, meaning “non-violence,” “pluralism,” and “non-attachment.” Mahavir said that there is life in every living being. You do not want to hurt others as they have souls just like you. If you hurt other people they too will hurt you, either in this life or the next life. The cycle would never stop unless you break it. This is your chance in this lifetime while you are born as an individual to stop the hate cycle. You should see the pure soul like yours in others and spread love and compassion.

Jains believe that Tirthankar Mahavir’s philosophy and practice ended his cycle of life and death. He achieved Nirvana at the age of 72. Since then, several enlightened souls have expounded the philosophy of Jainism. One such exalted soul was Shrimad Rajchandra. Jains believe that he was the last disciple of Tirthankar Mahavir during His time. Shrimad Rajchandra greatly influenced Mahatma Gandhi’s spiritual philosophy.

Mahatma Gandhi adapted the practice of non-violence in political struggle and strategy. He observed Satyagraha, championing human rights and practicing civil disobedience to oppose unjust government orders. Gandhi’s practice ended colonialism in India and achieved freedom after 200 years of British rule.

Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence impressed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He practiced Gandhi’s method non-violence and challenged racism in America. Nelson Mandela also achieved victory against apartheid in South Africa.

Mahavir Jayanti will be observed by Jains around the world on Sunday, April 13, by observing special ceremonies in Jain temples. In the early morning of Mahavir Jayanti, Jains give a ceremonial bath to the statue of Tirthankar Mahavir. There are cultural programs with music and dance for everyone to enjoy the birthday of Tirthankar Mahavir. There is also a feast for the visitors of the temple. They give donations to the poor and needy. In many places in India, Jains donate money to release animals from the slaughterhouse and put them in Panjrapol (the animal house) where they are looked after till their last day.

There are no Jain temples in Waco, Texas. The nearest Jain temple is in the Dallas area. The temple is open to anyone wanting to attend Mahavir Jayanti. You can get more information about their program at www.dfwjains.org.

Sources: www.jainworld.com; www.times of india.com; Wikipedia.

Kirit Daftary is a past president of JAINA (Federation of Jain Associations in North America). There are 67 Jain Centers and a population of over 150,000 Jains in North America. He is also a board member of Greater Waco Interfaith Council and a trustee and officer of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

The Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council Expresses Message of Hope in Light of Tragic Events

Kansas City, MO (April 15, 2014) – We extend our deepest sympathies for the families and friends of those killed and injured in the recent shootings in Overland Park at the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom. This is the time of year for celebration and commemoration in many faiths, a time when communities look to the renewal of spring and hope.

Our hearts go out to the Jewish community, as well as the victims and their families, to the victims’ own faith communities, the entire Kansas City area, and all the world touched by this tragedy.

When confronted with senseless and vicious acts of violence we can get overwhelmed by confusion, grief and anger, and the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council is offering prayers for peace, healing and understanding. We honor the rich diversity of culture and religions that enhance our lives, and we speak with one voice of peace and respect for all.

The Council wants everyone to know the outpouring of emails and calls from interfaith communities around the world has been inspiring and gives hope. These groups and individuals want everyone in Kansas City to know they care and are ready to support in whatever way they can.

We celebrate the gifts of pluralism in our city, celebrating the interconnectedness of all life.

Whatever our individual faith traditions, we simply can’t imagine being separate… we can’t imagine our lives without each other.

We invite the people of our community, in every church, temple, synagogue, home, and wherever you may be, to come together in a Prayer for Community Peace at 1:00pm CST on Sunday, April 20. We offer the enclosed prayer and invite all people to join in all or part of this prayer, offered in the spirit of peace and community.

Prayer for Community Peace

We come together in prayer to acknowledge
the Source of comfort in suffering, who forever summons
our human community to justice, peace and forgiveness.

While we may stand today in the shadow of ignorance and violence,
finding our way through hatred, fear, and blind rage,
we know we are not alone.
We extend our loving compassion to all life throughout the world
so that the memory of those lost may be a blessing to us forever.

Almighty Love, you call upon us to love one another,
and to bring mercy to those burdened with sorrow and grief.
You have created us for community, diverse according to your will,
so that we can only be whole together.

Do not let our anger divide us now from one another,
or turn us aside from our abiding purpose.
Rather, let every heart be filled a bright reflection of your everlasting love.
Let every heart that lifts this prayer to you today,
by whatever name it calls upon you, be filled with divine peace.

As we pray this prayer, make these words your own:
In word, spirit and deed I honor you.
Your presence is a blessing, your commitment inspiring.
From this moment forward, I carry my intention to know and be known,
finding peace within so that I might create peace without.
And so it is.

The Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council is a non-profit organization that is building the most welcoming community for all people. The Council is made up of 15 Directors from 15 various faith traditions from A to Z (American Indian to Zoroastrianism). We strive to provide programming to educate the Greater Kansas City area about the many diverse faith traditions represented in the community by joining forces in religion, spirit and community.

The Future of Jewish-Muslim Relations on College Campuses: Hope or Hopeless?

Imam Abdullah T. Antepli, one of only 11 full time Muslim chaplains at a U.S. University.

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.

The Charter for Compassion and Parliament Sign Strategic Partnership (VIDEO)

The Parliament of the World’s Religions and the Charter for Compassion announce their strategic partnering for collaboratively supporting the Compassionate Cities movement around the world. Charter founder Dr. Karen Armstrong Parliament Chair Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid signed the strategic partnership announcement April 3 in Atlanta, affirming:

Dr. Karen Armstrong, Author and Founder of the Charter for Compassion shakes hands with Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid to affirm a strategic partnership aiming to mutually support the Compassionate Cities movement worldwide.
Photo by Morehouse College, April 3, 2014, Atlanta, GA, USA

The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions and Charter for Compassion International today announce our strategic partnership aimed at supporting the emergence of the Compassionate Cities movement worldwide.

This Compassionate Cities movement is deeply aligned with the principles of the Parliament. The International Campaign for Compassionate Cities aims to affirm the principle of compassion in the behavior of hundreds of millions of people in thousands of communities around the globe. We believe compassion is a practical, measurable standard we can apply to specific outcomes, including the alleviation of poverty, hunger, and disease, the protection of human rights, the extension of democracy, the creation of a peaceful world, and dealing with the challenges of global climate change.

The Parliament of the World’s Religions is the mother of the global interfaith movement. Its mission is to achieve a peaceful, just and sustainable world, and at the heart of that mission is the convening of the world’s largest interfaith gathering, each time in a different host city.

The first Parliament was held in 1893 in Chicago and brought Hinduism, Buddhism, the Jains, Sikhs, and other Eastern faiths to the United States.

Council of the Parliament will encourage Ambassadors of the Parliament as well as its members and affiliates around the world to join the Compassionate Cities Initiative and to engage their local communities with the movement. The Charter for Compassion will highlight the Parliament’s efforts to bring the principles of the Charter to life in projects and programs in every community.

Signed April 3, 2014 by Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid , Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Parliament, and  Dr. Karen Armstrong, Founder, Charter for Compassion International and the author of the Charter for Compassion.

 

Parliament United Nations Task Force Forms to Enhance Relations, MDGs

Flags flying high at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.
Credit: UN Photo/Joao Araujo Pinto

The Parliament of the World’s Religions is dedicating a new task force to move forward since becoming a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) associated to the United Nations Department of Public Information (UN-DPI) in late 2013.

The newly-formed The United Nations Task Force of the Parliament is now meeting to explore ways that the Parliament can collaborate with other NGOs to carry forward its mission, and to more fully integrate the Millennium Development Goals into its work overall.

Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, Chair of the Board of Trustees, is encouraged by the potential of this new Parliament initiative stating,

 

The Parliament has high expectation in developing a deeper relationship with the United Nations since it is one of the important guiding institutions for humanity. The Parliament’s UN Task Force is just a first step in the right direction. We are also looking forward to working with other interfaith organizations at the UN to enhance our desire to have better Intra-Interfaith cooperation.

 

Excited for the work ahead, the Parliament announces those comprising the United Nations Task Force of the Parliament of the World’s Religions are:

Dr. Kusumita Pedersen: Co-Chair of the Parliament UN Task Force, Board Trustee
Rev. Dr. Anne Benvenuti: Co-Chair of the Parliament UN Task Force, Parliament Representative to the United Nations, Board Trustee
Rev. Dr. John Pawlikowski: Parliament Representative to the United Nations, Board Trustee
Rev. Phyllis Curott: Parliament Representative to the United Nations, Board Trustee
Ms. Sara Rahim: Parliament Youth Representative to the United Nations, St. Louis University Student
Mr. Tahil Sharma: Parliament Youth Representative to the United Nations, University of LaVerne Student
Dr. Aisha al-Adawiya: Founder and Chair of Women in Islam
Mr. Naresh Jain, Parliament Trustee Emeritus, Founding Member of Educare
Ms. Kay Lindahl, Parliament Ambassador Advisory Council Member
Dr. Mary Nelson (Ex-Officio), Parliament Executive Director
Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid (Ex-Officio), Chair of the Board of Trustees, Parliament of the World’s Religions

Dr. Kusumita Pedersen reflects that “between all its members, this task force has many years of varied experience of work in the NGO world connected to the UN.”

The Parliament supports the DPI in its aim of widening public knowledge of the UN, so watch this space for items about the UN and its multi-faceted work, and look forward to getting to know each of the Parliament Task Force members in the months ahead through profiles in our newsletter, features on Facebook, and activity reports.

Most recently, the Parliament Women’s Task Force was co-host of a parallel event to the 58th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women which was held March 3 – 15. On March 11,the gathering in New York City joined spirits world-wide for Remembering the Sacred Heart of Your Activism: An Evening of Prayer, Reflection and Inspiration convened by organizers Women of Spirit and Faith, Gather the Women Global Matrix, Millionth Circle, We Are Enough and United Religions Initiative, and more.

The Parliament as always shares a deep commitment to cooperation and commitment toward a just, peaceful, and sustainable world, and is gearing to offer many more opportunities to enhance work on these critical goals as 2014 continues.

The Divine Feminine Emerging, Embodied, and Emboldened

By Kathe Schaaf and Kay Lindahl for The Interfaith Observer

Finally…

Circle of Wise Women Candlelamp – Photo: goddessgift.net

We can’t help but notice that the world seems to have suddenly ‘discovered’ the value of women. After thousands of years living in the shadow of the masculine, after being pushed into the margins of power and leadership, after being silenced in every cultural institution – including most of the major world religions – the media today is full of messages that it is time to listen to women’s wisdom.

Women’s leadership styles are being acknowledged widely in diverse segments of the global media:

  • Research articles from the field of neuroscience suggest that women’s brains do indeed work differently than men’s, giving us more capacity for the kind of functions required to address the complex issues facing our planet: multi-tasking, integration, cooperation, and contextual thinking.
  • A headline during the recent budget impasse in the U.S. Congress declared “Women Lead While Men Bicker.”
  • Micro-lending programs in Africa and Asia frequently identify women as key to their success; not only are women more marginalized in poor countries but they are also more likely to make decisions that will benefit both family and community.
  • Even the world of religion has begun to acknowledge the importance of women’s voices and leadership. Pope Francis recently called for a “more incisive female presence” and a broader application of “feminine genius” in the life of the Church.
  • Sojourners recently launched a Campaign for Women and Girls that supports the equality of women in ways that are both practical and theological. The cover of their January 2014 Sojourners magazine boldly states, “Twisted Theology: Churches that still treat women as inferior are distorting the image of God.”

The Divine Feminine Rising

While all of this sudden attention on women, leadership, and feminine spirituality is exciting, it is important to pause a moment and listen deeply for the heartbeat of the Divine Feminine guiding, informing, and inspiring this complex global movement. The Divine Feminine is indeed rising, despite all the jagged history which repressed Her and despite the reality that women have been offered little legitimate space in which to practice feminine ways of being and doing. She rises in individual women and in the thousands of organizations they have created around the world. She rises as women struggle to bring a different style of leadership – and a new matrix of assumptions and values – to the institutions, initiatives, and corporations which shape our culture. And many believe She rises now on behalf of this troubled planet.

Continue Reading…

Kathe Schaaf is a Trustee Emeritus of the Parliament of the World’s Religions and Co-Founder of Women of Spirit and Faith. Kay Lindahl is on the Ambassador Advisory Committee of the Parliament of the World’s Religions and Co-Founder of Women and Spirit and Faith

Reflecting from Russia on World Interfaith Harmony Week

The Parliament of the World’s Religions recently welcomed Ermolina Galina of Siberia to the Ambassadors program. The following reflection shares the story of her interreligious community in Novosibirsk, Russia, observing the United Nations Interfaith Harmony Week.

World Interfaith Harmony Week inspires community gathering and interreligious excursions for Siberian residents. Shared by Parliament Ambassador Galina Ermolina.

The world we live in is overloaded with hatred these days, and religious conflicts bring us to disasters. What we need today is to change the paradigm of thinking from confrontations to understanding that we belong to one world, to one planet, to One God, whoever God is for each one of us.

My friends and I- being very much concerned about the situation- made attempts to find a possibility of cooperation between representatives of some religious institutions in our city, Novosibirsk, Western Siberia, (Russia).

In the beginning, I would not say we were very successful. Like anywhere, some religious representatives here are not yet able to speak cooperatively about different religions.

So when news came that the United Nations proclaimed a Week of Inter-religious Harmony from February 3 up to February 9, 2014, we decided to participate in a cultural excursion program organized by one of the public organizations working for peace in our big city since we had done events together in the past.

The purpose of this project was to get acquainted with representatives of the religions, to learn more about their unique qualities, so that it would become possible to start mutual cooperation of understanding and sharing on the basis of the Golden Rule.

Every day of the week, a group of people interested in the subject planned to visit this or that religious center, or church, or cathedral, following the list:

  • Bate Menahem Synagogue
  • Catholic Cathedral
  • Mosque
  • Church of Jesus Christ (Mormons),
  • Christian Church and Center of the Vedic Culture (Krishnaits)

On one of the days, a concert for veterans was performed by the student-volunteers of the Federation for Peace.

I managed to visit three events of the Week: Bate Menahem Synagogue, Church of Jesus Christ (Mormon) and Center of the Vedic Culture (Krishnas).

Personally, I have already been aware of diversity in interfaith relations because I have been many times during the last ten years in the Interfaith Community of the great Saint Baba Virsa Singh in Delhi and Punjab, where I have been significantly trained and acquired experience on the subject. Also, I have tried to stay active over the last three years as a member of the United Religions Initiative.

At the end of the week reflecting on the events of Harmony Week I have come to the conclusion that the event was not only interesting for the participants, but we learned a lot and gained new experiences in relations between the people of different religions. We hope that managed to make new friendships, for almost everywhere we were welcomed to come again.

“Unity in diversity” is one of most important slogans in the world, and we had an opportunity to see it in practice. Unity and oneness was manifesting itself in the warm hospitality, peaceful atmosphere of the meetings everywhere.

However, when our group approached the Russian Orthodox Church, we were given a chilly reception with the comment that special written permission was needed.  Unfortunately, many of us have faced difficult policies and responses, and this may be one of the reasons for us to join the Interfaith movement.

It was such a disappointment for all, and the situation was saved somehow by one participant who suggested to go the very special Exhibition “Holy Religious Places” of Siberia, situated quite nearby. The exposition was created by Dmitriy Dobryi who started this project a few years ago after the vision of Saint Princess Olga who told him to collect paintings, photos and other artifacts of Churches and other religious institutions of Novosibirsk region in one place for the people to see them. He himself made an incredibly beautiful embroidery portrait of St. Olga.

People like Dmitriy are those fanatics who are devoted to the values of religion, which means “connecting with the Highest.” The fact that this exhibition exists and works is a miracle itself, for there is no financial support from officials, either church or civil.

Coming back to the issue of diversity I would say that have come to the comprehending the method which every religious institution applies to attract people to their congregation.

Belonging to Synagogue, first of all, one feels protected in the midst of the surrounding world, one feels being a member of one powerful community, where one can get help if needed. It attracts even the people belonging to other religions due to the nationality or native traditional religion.

We didn’t feel any attempt to woo us into converting to this religion. Even if one can have different points of view on some fundamental things, but one can admit and accept those values which are strong within Jewish Community.

The visit to the Mormon Center was a pleasant one as well. Most of the missionaries are young smiling people from the USA speaking good Russian. From the speech of the center leader we received a lot of information about the origin of Mormon movement, its history and the development of the movement today.

We were given some materials to read at home as well. Even though the Mormon Teaching itself is difficult for me to follow, our event was devoted not to discussions or disagreements, but to finding the things which we all have in common, which can bring us to cooperation.

The Golden Rule says: “By thy God”, not by mine. It is important to Mormons to proclaim love to Jesus and God.

Chowing down on delicious Indian-style food in the vedic house of worship during World Interfaith Harmony week in Siberia!

The last event, visiting Vedic Center was quite different from what we have seen before. Most of the people present there were young, and some come with children. I have been many times in India, and at some moments felt as if I was again there. The highlight of that evening was a presence of Indian Swami Ji, who had been touring through Russia for more than a month. He addressed the audience with a nice and wise talk, speaking about love and harmony between people, despite difference in religions.

Of course, he said much about Krishna and Krishna movement all over the world. That Swami Ji is a good example for spiritual leaders; he managed to connect vedic knowledge with every day life challenges in a good, not scholastic way.

I asked him a question what way would he suggest to stop violence in the world and the answer he had given made me happy, because it completely coincided with my thinking:

we should begin with changing the way of our thinking, with cleansing our mind. That’s what Baba Virsa Singh used to say again and again.

Bombs and bullets will not change the world,at any rate –to a better world.

It is known that “joy is a special wisdom,” and appeared that the Vedic group of people sincerely follow this rule through ritual dancing and singing. I don’t want to say that this is an example for all to follow, but they enjoyed that evening.

After talks and dancing, everyone was invited to have traditional vedic food, of course vegetarian. One of the guests belongs to the Orthodox church and came out of curiosity.

In a way the events and experiences of our project was a reflection of the situation between religions today.

In two days we came together to share experiences, reflection and for planning our future cooperation with the religious institutions of the city, taking into consideration the experiences we had during the Harmony week.