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Parliament of Religions Calls Faith Communities to Actively Oppose War, Blockade of Gaza, Anti-Semitism & Islamophobia to Protect Israeli and Palestinian Lives

The Parliament of the World’s Religions grieves whenever violence and conflict flares, as is now occurring in Palestine and Israel. Grief, however, must not paralyze faith communities and the interfaith movement into silence and inaction. Instead, we are called to serve as moderating agents in the cause of sustainable justice, unconditional compassion, and enduring peace by raising our voices against those who seek the annihilation of their enemies.

The Parliament, therefore, asks religious and spiritual communities across the globe, and the interfaith movement specifically, to be vocal and active in:

    • calling both sides to end the war in an ethical manner, including the ending of the seven-year blockade of Gaza, with borders monitored by the United Nations to ensure safety for Israelis as well as Palestinians
    • asking world leaders to take concrete steps, with urgency, to ensure the freedom, self-determination, security, and equal rights for Palestinians and Israelis
    • calling the United Nations to ensure that both sides abide by international laws and human right accords in safeguarding civilians, with special attention given to children
    • requesting both sides to recognize the humanity of the other and to honor their sacred spaces

The Parliament of the World’s Religions encourages all faith communities and especially the interfaith movement to actively expose and challenge anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in their neighborhoods, cities, and in the public discourse. Let us be moderating voices and agents that will revitalize the dialogue and cooperation between Jews, Christians, and Muslims. This mission should be a part of our sermons, prayers, and civic action.

This statement was adopted by the Board of Trustees of the Parliament by a majority vote.

As the World Prays for Peace, Milwaukee Interfaith Clergy Offer Strong Spiritual Leadership

Widely shared image of two boys united by interfaith harmony and friendship symbolizing a groundswell cry for peace as violence and war batter the Gaza strip in July 2014.

Originally appeared in Milwaukee Journal Sentinal July 17, 2014, as reported by Annysa Johnson. 

More than 100 faithful from a variety of religious traditions gathered at Milwaukee’s All Saints Cathedral on Wednesday to pray for peace in the Middle East, a response to the escalating hostilities in Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

“Worshippers sang “Donna Nobis Pacem,” or “Grant us Peace” in Latin, Hebrew and Arabic. And Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Unitarian clergy offered their prayers and insights into what it means to work for and live in peace.

“It was very touching and profound,” said an emotional Mary Kelly of Milwaukee, who is Catholic. “There is just such a feeling of helplessness,” around the issues in the Middle East, she said.

“We have such a long way to go — in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Milwaukee. I’m just happy that this congregation saw the need to pull us all together.

The service was organized by the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, which works to find common ground among religious traditions. Like other flashpoints in the Middle East, the Gaza crisis has heightened tensions in Milwaukee’s Jewish and Muslim communities, which tend to view the conflict from different perspectives.

Here are excerpts from the prayers offered Wednesday, in the order they were spoken:

The Very Rev. Kevin Carroll, dean of All Saints Cathedral: “We can pray for peace in far off lands. But our prayers will ring hollow if we ourselves fail to model what peace looks like — in our homes, in our families, in our relationships and in our communities. …Peace starts with prayer. But it also starts right here, right now, with all of us sitting in this room.

Auxiliary Bishop Donald Hying, Archdiocese of Milwaukee: Loving and peaceful God, help us to see ourselves and each other as you see us, beautiful; created in your image; open to love; hearts that are made for peace and good will, sacrifice and generosity. … Help us to love as you love, to forgive as you forgive, to be an extension of your mercy and your peace in this world, and to be signs of your kingdom in our midst.

The Rev. Craig M. Howard, Presbytery of Milwaukee: Deliver us from the hardness of heart that keeps us locked in violent confrontation with one another. Give to us your spirit of love so that we may show compassion. Teach us to walk in humility so we might live in peace with our sisters and brothers. And most of all, God, change our hearts.

Zulfiqar Ali ShahIslamic Society of Milwaukee: Almighty God …we are ruthlessly subjugating, terrorizing and killing each other based upon narrow identities. Guide us to stop this needless violence, terror, aggression, cold blooded murders and destruction. … We beseech you to bring an end to this needless bloodbath and wanton destruction.

Rabbi Ronald Shapiro, Congregation Shalom: Teach us to work for the welfare of all people, to diminish the evil and pains that beset us. And to enlarge those virtues we know will bring dignity and peace to all the peoples of the earth. So bless our striving to make real the dream of peace among all humankind. May we put an end to the suffering we inflict upon one another and cherish the dignity of the soul that abides in each human being.

The Rev. Linda HansenUnitarian Universalists: We pray for the power to see that we are all connected … and that we ultimately help or harm ourselves in helping or harming one another. Out of this vision, may we have the will and the courage to work for a just and peaceful world in which every individual is treated with dignity.

The Rev. Stephen J. PolsterWisconsin Conference United Methodist Church: And so we pray as we gather here … that you will strengthen our resolve to give witness to the truths by the way we live. Give to us understanding that puts an end to strife, mercy that quenches hatred, forgiveness that overcomes vengeance. Impart all of us here and everywhere to live in your law of love.

Swarnjit Aroraof the Sikh community: We are children of one God. … Then how can we say one child is better than the other child. All children in your eyes Lord are sacred. … We pray for peace in the Middle East. Oh God … Give us strength to stand up for peace and non-violence in our world. … We pray for chardi kala, the well-being of each and every human being.

The Rev. Jean Dow, pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church: Though we come from different places and express our faith in different ways, give us a common concern, that we may share our deep convictions as people of faith and continue to pray and work together side by side, hand in hand. And Let us pray without ceasing for peace first within our own minds hearts and spirits, so that each of us might also be instruments of your peace and bearers of reconciliation in this city, in our neighborhoods, in our families and in our faith communities.

Global Jews and Muslims Can ‘Choose Life’ Together Today Over Joint Fast

As conflict continues to batter civilians in the Gaza strip after a short ceasefire broke down overnight, Interfaith leaders of Judaism and Islam are calling the masses to stand side by side in prayer today, a joint day of fasting that falls on both religious calendars July 15.

Interfaith activists, please share this urgent call for peace. 

The Huffington Post is one of the outlets focusing on the parents. An article about Interfaith prayer for peace today reads, “Sanity must prevail. Inertia cannot take over,” wrote Robi Damelin, in a July 10 editorial in The Huffington Post. Damelin, who lost her son, David, to the conflict in 2002, concluded, “We must come out and demonstrate to the powers that be. Stop the violence. As part of the Parents Circle-Family Forum, Damelin meets with Palestinian and Israeli families who have all lost children in the conflict.”

  • The religious definitions of today’s fasting is explored in The Times of Israel article reporting more on the “Choose Life” movement promoting today’s peace demonstrations:

“The 17th of Tammuz, a fast day that commemorates the breach of Jerusalem’s walls before the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70, falls out on Tuesday. It’s the start of a three-week mourning period leading up to Tisha B’Av, a more well-known fast day that marks the destruction of the temple.

Tuesday is also the 18th day of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, when Muslims fast from dawn till sunset each day for the entire month.

The joint fast “is not a sixties anti-war thing,” said Shaul Judelman, one of the Choose Life organizers. ‘It’s coming from a religious place, which is tricky when rockets are falling. But our future seems to be here together, and no one’s going anywhere.” (Read more on The Times of Israel…)

Those in the United States wishing to join a public prayer demonstration and fast, seek opportunities like the following being organized in D.C. and Chicagoland:

In response, Jewish and Muslim clergy of the DC area are joining together as part of an international effort by religious leaders to pray for an end to the violence.  On Tuesday, July 15th the Jewish and Muslim calendars are united in a day of fast: the fast of 17 Tamuz, and the fast of Ramadan. For both traditions this is a day designated for soul-searching, an opportunity for people to take responsibility, and for self repair, communal purification, and repentance.

As we join together we hope to direct the consciousness of both peoples to this day as a “peak day” – a day in which each man and woman will be invited to take part, to fast in solidarity with the suffering, violence and pain of self and others, to ask how to end the cycle of bloodshed and draw a horizon of hope and vision.

Please join Maharat Ruth Friedman and Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld of Ohev Sholom: The National Synagogue, Rabbi Etan Mintz and Chava Evans of B’nai Israel Congregation, and Imam Johari Abdul-Malik of the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center on Tuesday, July 15th at 5pm in Lafayette Square in Washington, DC to offer prayers for peace and comfort. Leaders and members of all faith communities are encouraged to attend.

Please contact Maharat Friedman at MaharatRuth@ostns.org or 847-722-8287 to add your congregation’s name to the list of co-sponsors.

  • JEWISH-MUSLIM FAST FOR PEACE, JULY 15 - Fountain Square, Evanston, IL 6:00pm

Friends – In response to the current violence in Israel/Palestine, Jews and Muslims in Chicago will join in a collective fast on Tuesday, July 15, when our two calendars converge:

The Fast of the 17th of the Hebrew month of Tammuz (for the Jews this is a fast commemorating the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem before the Temple was destroyed) and the middle of the Fast of the Muslim Month of Ramadan.

Chicagoland Jews and Muslims will meet in Evanston, at Fountain Square (corner of Sherman and Davis, just steps from Davis CTA and Metra stations), at 6:00pm.

We will show empathy for each other’s pain and share in a collective prayer for peace, and a better future which our peoples deserve.

For both traditions, this is a day dedicated to taking an accounting of the soul, to taking responsibility, for correcting and purifying, to turning in repentance. The plan is to direct two peoples on this day to a kind of summit, during which everyone is invited to take part, to fast in identification with the suffering, the violence, the pain of one’s self and the other, to ask how we will break the cycle of violence and to create a vision of hope.

As one author (who lost his son in war) recently said: the situation is too desperate for us to drown ourselves in despair.

 

July 15th, 2014 at 9:03 am

American Rabbis Unite in Welcoming Pope to Israel

Spanning four full pages in one of Israel’s leading newspapers, over 430 Rabbis and influential Jewish leaders have signed an open letter of welcome to Pope Francis on his trip to Israel. The welcome message will be published Sunday, May 25 in Ha’aretz and presented to the Pope in Israel.

The project is conceived by Angelica Berrie, Chairperson of the Center for Interreligious Understanding (CIU) in association with Rabbi Jack Bemporad, Executive Director of CIU in the U.S. and director of the John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue, housed at the Angelicum Pontifical University in Rome, where the rabbi is also a professor.

Pope Francis’ visit to Israel shows his concern for peace. The message of welcome, signed by rabbis and leaders of all Jewish denominations, underscores interreligious dialogue not merely as an ideal, but as an effective path to understanding.

“There is recognition among Jewish leaders that dialogue is essential to bring about genuine understanding and mutual appreciation. Pope Francis has been clear that he wants to build bridges between all religions to bring about peace in the world,” said Rabbi Bemporad. “The on-going and vibrant commitment to open dialogue continues to not only strengthen the relationship between Catholics and Jews, but my hope is that it can be a model for all interreligious work.”

Having fled Mussolini’s Italy as a small child, Rabbi Bemporad has dedicated his life to interreligious work among Jews, Catholics, Muslims and Christians worldwide. This welcome ad is made possible by the generous support of the New Jersey-based Russell Berrie Foundation and its President, Angelica Berrie. The Russell Berrie Foundation is the primary supporter of the John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, a leading program of interreligious dialogue and learning.

For more information, contact: Susan Barnett

Text of the letter to Pope Francis:

UNITED IN OUR AGE:
“Since the spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews is thus so great, this sacred synod wants to foster and recommend that mutual understanding and respect which is the fruit, above all, of biblical and theological studies as well as of fraternal dialogues.”
Nostra Aetate
Second Vatican Council, 1965

 

To His Holiness Pope Francis:

With you we are here to build bridges so that we can traverse these bridges of faith together in a journey of hope for justice, equality and peace, and to continually recognize and strengthen the important relationship between Catholics and Jews worldwide.

And where better to reaffirm that relationship, than in the Holy Land of Israel, a place both religions treasure as part of a shared heritage.

Peace be with you,
Shalom,

Signed by over 430 Rabbis and Jewish leaders

Protecting the Earth Through Interfaith Education and Activism

Photography credit to the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development.

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

by Yonatan Neril
from The Huffington Post

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

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

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

Click here to read full article

Catholic Couple Embark on Interfaith “Pilgrimage,” Circle World on Religious Tolerance Quest

by Gillian Flaccus
from the Huffington Post

CLAREMONT, Calif. — Frederic and Anne-Laure Pascal are devout Roman Catholics who built their lives around their religion. When she lost her job last year, the young couple decided on an unlikely expression of their religious commitment: a worldwide “interfaith pilgrimage” to places where peace has won out over dueling dogmas.

Since October, the French couple has visited 11 nations from Iraq to Malaysia in an odyssey to find people of all creeds who have dedicated their lives to overcoming religious intolerance in some of the world’s most divided and war-torn corners.

The husband-and-wife team blogs about their adventures – and their own soul-searching – and takes short video clips for the project they’ve dubbed the Faithbook Tour.

Click here to read the full article

A Jewish Synagogue Makes a Comeback in Lebanon

Two Syrian workers in the Magen Abraham synagogue. Photo Credit: Natalie Naccache

by Nicholas Blanford
from the Christian Science Monitor

Amid the new tower blocks that are changing this city’s skyline rises a newly restored symbol of Beirut’s multireligious society.

The Magen Abraham synagogue is the last Jewish place of worship to survive in Beirut, a lone reminder that a few decades ago a thriving Jewish community lived in the city center.

The Jewish faith is one of the 18 officially recognized sects that exist in Lebanon. When the synagogue was built in 1920 there were some 12,000 Jews in Lebanon. But the Arab-Israeli conflict and Lebanon’s devastating 1975-90 civil war spurred Jews to emigrate, and today there are only around 150 left here.

Click here to read the full article.

April 9th, 2012 at 7:55 am

Interfaith Effort Boosts Latin Ties: Jews and Muslims Meet to Work Out Differences

by Nathan Guttman
from The Jewish Daily Forward

WASHINGTON — While international attention is focused on relations between Jews and Muslims in Europe, following the Toulouse shooting, attempts are under way to strengthen ties between the two religious communities in another region: Latin America.

A group of Muslim and Jewish leaders from Latin American and Caribbean nations came to Washington on March 26 as a first step in an effort to forge partnerships between the communities.

The program is an initiative of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, which has been organizing Muslim–Jewish dialogue events in the United States and in Europe in which synagogues twin with mosques, and leaders of the two faith communities work together on issues relating to anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and Middle East peace.

Click here to read the full article.

Faith Inspires: The Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development

from Huffington Post

This week’s Faith Inspires highlights the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development (ICSD), a Jerusalem-based organization of inter-religious leaders who promote environmental consciousness and responsibility together. Through their Seminary Students Sustainability Program, Muslim, Christian and Jewish students learn side-by-side about sustainability and co-existence. The organization leads “eco-tourism” trips throughout the Holy Land. And on March 19, ICSD will host the Interfaith Climate and Energy Conference, which will bring together a diverse group of religious leaders to talk about the religious imperative to protect the earth.

Click here to read the full article

Michael Lerner: There Is a Nonviolent Alternative to War with Iran

by Rabbi Michael Lerner
from Huffington Post

President Obama is under immense pressure from Netanyahu and his allies in the U.S. Congress, AIPAC, Christian Zionists and Republican candidates for the presidency to give Netanyahu private assurances that if the U.S. strategy to stop Iran from developing the capacity (not the actuality) for nuclear weapons doesn’t work, the U.S. will back an Israeli first strike.

This is the moment for peace oriented voices to speak out and say no to an Israeli first strike with American overt or covert backing. We at Tikkun magazine and our Network of Spiritual Progressives have launched a national campaign to say no! We are attempting to buy space in major newspapers and electronic media on the web to launch this campaign quickly before Obama and Netanyahu meet next week. Please get involved here.

There is a non-violent way to deal with all this. The background info:

Apparently the U.S. and Israel are debating the best method for coercing Iran to stop developing the capacity for nuclear weapons. Israel believes that goal requires a military strike; the U.S. talks of “crippling” economic boycotts. Other military and strategic experts have argued that neither path is likely to succeed in the long run as long as Iran finds itself in a world in which nearby China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Israel all have powerful nuclear military capacities. And with Iran certain to face nuclear obliteration should it use its nukes in a first strike against Israel or anyone else, it is more likely that continuing extremes of poverty, oppression from Western supported elites, and social injustice, rather than the threat of Iranian nukes, will continue to be the primary destabilizing factor among the tens of millions of Middle East Muslims in the coming decades.

Imagine instead if the U.S. were to announce our new non-violent path to homeland security: a strategy of generosity, acknowledging the pain and distortion hundreds of years of Western colonialism has brought to the region, particularly to the Palestinian people, and simultaneously launching a Global Marshall Plan (already introduced to Congress by Hon. Keith Ellison as House Res. 157) aimed at ending poverty, homelessness, hunger, inadequate education and inadequate healthcare both at home and around the world. Dedicating 1-2% of our gross domestic product each year for the next twenty (to be collected not through taxes on ordinary citizens but a 1% Tobin tax on all international transactions of one million dollars or more).

Click here to read the full article.