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Reevaluating Interfaith Dialogue

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

by Steven Shashoua
from Common Ground News Service

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

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

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

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

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The Three Faiths Forum- Helping Children Understand

Photograph by Cathal Mcnaughton/PA

A Three Faiths Forum event in action.

by Jessica Abrahams
from The Guardian

Fifteen years ago, a Muslim scholar, a Christian priest and a Jewish philanthropist came together in London to create Three Faiths Forum (3FF), a platform for community leaders to engage with each another and break down barriers. But today, some of the most valuable work the charity undertakes is in schools, ensuring that tensions between faith communities don’t trickle down to the next generation.

Often this will simply be making sure that children of different faiths have an opportunity to meet one another or addressing a lack of knowledge about other religions; occasionally more severe problems occur. “We’re contacted by RE teachers to help when there’s been anti-Jewish, -Muslim or -Christian sentiment,” says Debbie Danon, the charity’s education manager.

Deputy director Rachel Heilbron speaks of one particularly serious case they became involved with last year. A teacher discussing the features of a church with a group of 14-year-old students at a non-denominational school in London mentioned synagogues. Some of the students complained they didn’t want to learn about “Jew stuff”. They said that Jews were dirty and smelly and that they kept money under their hats. As the situation escalated, some of the children began banging on the tables, chanting: “Kill the Jews, kill the Jews.”

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The Science of Compassion

James Doty

by James R. Doty
from the Huffington Post

Why, in a country that consumes 25% of the world’s resources (the U.S.), is there an epidemic of loneliness, depression, and anxiety? Why do so many in the West who have all of their basic needs met still feel impoverished? While some politicians might answer, “It’s the economy, stupid,” Based on scientific evidence, a better answer is, “It’s the lack compassion, stupid.”

I recently attended the Templeton Prize ceremony at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and have been reflecting on the words of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in conversation with Arianna Huffington: “If we say, oh, the practice of compassion is something holy, nobody will listen. If we say, warm-heartedness really reduces your blood pressure, your anxiety, your stress and improves your health, then people pay attention.” As director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University (one of the two organizations recognized in the Templeton Prize press release), I would agree with the Dalai Lama.

What exactly is compassion? Compassion is the recognition of another’s suffering and a desire to alleviate that suffering. Often brushed off as a hippy dippy religious term irrelevant in modern society, rigorous empirical data supports the view of all major world religions: compassion is good.

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London 2012: How Do the Olympics Handle Religion?

by Michael Hirst
from BBC News

How do you cater for athletes of nine different religions at the Olympic Games?

The man charged with answering that question for the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, Locog, is Reverend Canon Duncan Green, an Anglican priest who has been seconded to Locog as its head of faith services.

His starting point was to form a faith reference group comprising representatives of the UK’s nine largest religions – Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Sikh, Hindu, Zoroastrian, Jain and Bahai – to advise on issues around faith in order to cater to the observations of practicing athletes, spectators and officials.

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April 12th, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Karen Armstrong: Prejudices Will Be Shaken by This Show

By Karen Armstrong
From the Guardian

Ever since the Crusades, when Christians from western Europe were fighting holy wars against Muslims in the near east, western people have often perceived Islam as a violent and intolerant faith – even though when this prejudice took root Islam had a better record of tolerance than Christianity. Recent terrorist atrocities have seemed to confirm this received idea. But if we want a peaceful world, we urgently need a more balanced view. We cannot hope to win the “battle for hearts and minds” unless we know what is actually in them. Nor can we expect Muslims to be impressed by our liberal values if they see us succumbing unquestioningly to a medieval prejudice born in a time of extreme Christian belligerence.

Like Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Christians, Sikhs and secularists, some Muslims have undoubtedly been violent and intolerant, but the new exhibition at the British Museum – Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam – is a timely reminder that this is not the whole story. The hajj is one of the five essential practices of Islam; when they make the pilgrimage to Mecca, Muslims ritually act out the central principles of their faith. Equating religion with “belief” is a modern western aberration. Like swimming or driving, religious knowledge is practically acquired. You learn only by doing. The ancient rituals of the hajj, which Arabs performed for centuries before Islam, have helped pilgrims to form habits of heart and mind that – pace the western stereotype – are non-violent and inclusive.

In the holy city of Mecca, violence of any kind was forbidden. From the moment they left home, pilgrims were not permitted to carry weapons, to swat an insect or speak an angry word, a discipline that introduced them to a new way of living. At a climactic moment of his prophetic career, Muhammad drew on this tradition. Fleeing persecution in Mecca in 622, he and the Muslim community (the umma) had migrated to Medina, 250 miles to the north. Mecca was determined to destroy the umma and a bitter conflict ensued. But eventually Muhammad broke the deadly cycle of warfare with an audacious non-violent initiative.

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St Paul’s Seeks New Direction and Begins Dialogue with Occupy Movement

by Alan Rusbridger
from the Guardian

The Rt Rev Richard John Carew Chartres exuded an aura of benign ecclesiastical calm having performed the most dramatic reverse ferret in modern church history.

The Bishop of London was cloistered in his 17th century palace – confusingly called the Old Deanery – after overseeing a meeting of the St Paul’s Cathedral chapter at which his colleagues had unanimously agreed to overturn virtually every single decision they had reached over the past two weeks.

“Reverse ferret” is, technically speaking, a term used in Fleet Street, just down the road, to describe the moment when an editor executes a startling editorial U-turn.

But it was the bishop who brought off a remarkable tactical volte face. Stepping into the shoes of the recently-departed dean of St Paul’s, Graeme Knowles, Chartres decided to suspend legal action against the protesters who are camped out barely a hundred yards from his sitting room – and to disregard the legal and health and safety advice which had previously led to the closure of the cathedral.

“The symbolism of the closed door was the wrong symbol,” said Chartres, who also announced an initiative, led by a former investment banker, with the aim of “reconnecting the financial with the ethical”.

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Anwar Ibrahim: Religion and Pluralism in a Divided World

Leader of the Opposition in the Malaysian Parliament and featured Parliament speaker Anwar Ibrahim recently lectured at the London School of Economics, UK.

Click here to listen to or read the lecture

March 29th, 2010 at 5:23 am

The Parliament of Actions: Building Peace in Pursuit of Justice

As we enter into the final days and hours before the Parliament of Religions in Melbourne, Australia, we would like to take some time to reflect on the work ahead.  The 2009 Parliament will be ripe with promise and we can best engage this opportunity by considering worthy responses to the challenges of the world today. We invite you to view this series of eight public service announcements in preparation for your Parliament experience.

Our first announcement focuses on a dilemma as relevant as it is ancient.  This riddle is the subject of one of our seven Parliament subthemes:

Building Peace in Pursuit of Justice

Please watch the video below to learn about St. Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace in London.