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Tuesday Press Conference Will Announce the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions


On September 9, 2014, the leaders of the interfaith movement will hold a press conference to announce the dates and the location of the 2015 Parliament.

Top leaders of the Parliament, URI, Charter for Compassion and the Grandson of Gandhi will address the press conference.

As the hate, anger, and fear is rising in the USA, the interfaith movement with its loving compassionate relationship must rise to the occasion.

Here are the names of the Parliament leaders and some of our cherished partners who will deliver this momentous news: 

  • Parliament Chair Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid
  • Parliament Executive Director Dr. Mary Nelson
  • Grandson of Gandhi, Arun Gandhi, a Parliament Trustee
  • Executive Director of the Charter for Compassion Andrew Himes
  • United Religions Initiative Chair North America Sande Hart

You Can Register Tuesday September 9 for the Next Parliament

As soon as the press conference has taken place, we will send out an announcement of the dates and the location and the registration will begin immediately.

803 Interfaith Activists Have Voted For the Next Parliament

803 people have submitted their ideas and opinions about the next Parliament. They have told us how much in registration fees they prefer, which speakers they would like to hear from and have suggested how to engage young adults in the interfaith movement. We have read them and are implementing much of their advice.

If you have not responded to this survey yet, it still time to do so. Tuesday will be too late. 

Click Here To Submit Your Opinion

It only takes a few minutes!


The Tech Wiz Wiring Compassion Across the World, Andrew Himes 

Mr Himes is the executive director of the Charter for Compassion, launched in 2008 by and Karen Armstrong, with the mission of supporting the emergence of a global compassion movement. He is the author of The Sword of the Lord: The Roots of Fundamentalism in an American Family.  He was born into a leading fundamentalist family of the 20th century and went on to organize for social justice and civil rights in Alabama in the 1970s. As a technology pioneer, Himes was the founding editor of the first tech-journal at Macintosh, lead the team developing the world’s first website at Microsoft, and became its first internet publishing director.

Connect with the Charter for Compassion

The Woman Waging Peace, URI North America Chair, Sande Hart

Sande Hart is the Chair for the North America Region of the United Religions Initiative, Head Coach of The Compassion Games International, Chief Compassion Officer of Compassionate California, President of the women’s interfaith community building organization S.A.R.A.H. (Spiritual And Religious Alliance for Hope) and Co-Founder of I Am Jerusalem/ Board Member of The Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Ethics and serves on Boards a number of interfaith organizations and the UN NGO Cities Peace Team to promote International Day of Peace. Sande is the author of Make A Difference 101, Community Service; A Practical Step-by-Step Guide for Kids and workshop facilitator.

The Parliament Leader and Community Builder Dr. Mary Nelson

Dr. Mary Nelson is the Executive Director of the Parliament. She retired after 30 years as President of Bethel New Life, Inc. a nationally recognized community development corporation on the west side of Chicago. Nelson is the creator of an asset-based model of community development taught nationally and internationally in communities, universities and seminaries on asset-based community. She serves on a number of Boards and Commissions and is the most recent past Chair of the Board of Sojourners, a national faith, policy and advocacy organization.

About The Chair of the 2015 Parliament

Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid

Imam Mujahid was thrice selected as one the 500 most influential Muslims in the world in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Imam Mujahid is president of Sound Vision Foundation, which produces Radio Islam, America’s only daily Muslim call-in talk show. Imam Mujahid has written extensively on religion, public policy and applied aspects of Islamic living. As the national coordinator of the Bosnia Task Force, USA, he successfully led efforts to declare rape as a war crime.

The Grandson Carrying Gandhi’s Legacy Forward, Dr. Arun Gandhi

The 5th Grandson of Mohandas Gandhi, Arun Gandhi was born in Durban South Africa. Dr. Gandhi was sent by his parents to India when he was 12 years old so that he could live with and learn from his grandfather. It was there he learned the principles of non-violence that he continues to espouse today. Dr. Gandhi spent much of his adult life in India inspiring massive social and economic changes for oppressed families and children.After coming to the United States in 1987, he started the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence in 1991 and in 2008 Dr. Gandhi started the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute, with its mission to build basic education schools for the very poor children of the world. Dr. Gandhi has taken the message of nonviolence and peace-making to hundreds of thousands of high school and university students throughout the United States and much of the Western world, and has authored several books. 

Connect with Gandhi Worldwide
Education Institute

International Religion Reporting Gets a Boost

by Ruth Eglash
from Common Ground News Service

Reporting from Jerusalem–It’s an issue that affects people’s lives across the world everyday yet most media institutions do not dedicate much time, resources or manpower to covering religion.

That was the assessment of some 25 journalists from six continents and 23 countries who gathered last month in Bellagio, Italy to lay down the foundations of an international association aimed not only at boosting the prominence and professionalism of religion reporting but also to emphasise the need for responsible journalism that can unite instead of divide people.

Despite some of the obvious differences – linguistic, nationalistic, religious and political – between those that gathered in Italy from 20-24 March, the International Association of Religion Journalists (IARJ) was officially launched.

“We are living in a global society and our understanding internationally of religion is weak. With this association, journalists now have contacts in various countries and can work together”, commented US journalist David Briggs, a Pulitzer Prize nominee and the main driving force behind the initiative.

Briggs, who was elected as the association’s Executive Director during the meeting’s closing session, has been trying for the better part of the last eight years to establish a global association similar to the Religion Newswriters Association in the United States, which aims to promote high-quality media coverage of religion.

Click here to read the full article

Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life Sparks Discussion around the Media and Religious Knowledge

by Diane Winston and John Green
from the Washington Post

A new survey of news consumers and reporters reveals a significant gap between the two groups [the media and the public] on what’s important and how it’s covered. Two-thirds of the public says the news media sensationalizes religion, a view shared by a little less than one-third of reporters. Significantly, almost 70 percent of the public prefers coverage on religious experience and spirituality, while reporters’ focus is on religion and politics.

…One reason for shortcomings in current coverage is that many reporters lack expertise. Half of those surveyed say they don’t know a lot about religion. Only a fifth claimed to be “very knowledgeable,” and most in that small segment said their information was from their own religious practice, self-study and their family background. In the past, news organizations encouraged staff to attend seminars and workshops for continuing education. But in the recent climate of cutbacks, journalists are reluctant to spend time away from the newsroom even if enhancing their skills.

Click here to read the full article.

Click here to read the original report from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life


The Business of Media and the Interreligious Movement

by Austin Almaguer 

Contrary to the collective nostalgia of news coverage as daring reporting focused on truth telling, the final news coverage (whether printed newspaper, television broadcast, etc) is the product of the different forces within a news organization.  Indeed, each of these forces decides the newsworthiness of a particular report. Newspaper owners want news coverage that encourages newspaper purchases and extends the profit margin.  Media firms want news coverage that can be tied to advertisements.  Journalists want to tell a captivating story based upon their personal background and interests.  Audiences want to hear stories that relate to their cultural and social contexts.  A newsworthy article on crime may not present an objective perspective from the journalist but simply appeal to consumer perceptions and relate to advertisements for self-defense classes.

These competing internal interests within news organizations are essential to contemporary media — and the interfaith movement, as it seeks to gain prominence and importance in public life. The primary interactions inter-religious organizations have with news organizations are with the journalists and their audiences.  Therefore, inter-religious organizations must properly take into account the state of each interest group and respond accordingly.

Due to their frequent interaction with reporters, interfaith organizations should take particular care to  understand the role of journalists and editors (both generally in as individuals) in news coverage.  If the audience is interested in reading a story, then journalists can best be described as interested in telling a story. Therefore, it is important for inter-religious organizations to develop relationships with journalists and editors involved in religious news writing.  An interreligious organization must be aware, however, that not all journalists and editors are interested in positive interfaith stories.  Inter-religious organizations should take time to research which journalists, both locally and nationally, write negative or divisive pieces.

In addition, inter-religious organizations must understand that due to market forces, news coverage focuses on conflict or novelty. As a result, press submissions should incorporate these elements to the extent possible, while serving their intended purpose.  For instance, in the United States, a story about Christians and Jews eating together at a local synagogue may be only slightly novel and certainly would be free of conflict.  However, a story about Christian and Jews eating together at a local synagogue to show solidarity in response to a recent tragedy and to formulate strategies for reconciliation involves conflict (the tragedy) and novelty (Christians and Jews working together).  Moreover, in regions such as Europe and Latin America, where political issues more often take precedence over religious issues, stories of interfaith groups working for positive political change are also more likely to be published by news coverage. Even so, not all media outlets will be willing to run an interfaith story simply because the elements of conflict and novelty are present.  Nevertheless, understanding the dynamic forces at play in audiences and journalists better equips inter-religious organizations to help change the news coverage of religion by making people aware of the positive change happening in our world.


March 29th, 2012 at 7:55 am

9 Religion Themed Films At Sundance Film Festival 2012

from Huffington Post

The 2012 Sundance Film Festival began Jan. 19 and will continue until Jan. 29 in Park City, Utah. Sundance takes place annually in Utah and is the largest independent cinema festival in the United States. Religion and spirituality featured prominently at the Sundance Film Festival 2011, with 26 films exploring themes of ultimate meaning, bigger questions of life and the complicated role that religion plays in our world.

This year’s festival features at least nine films touching on the topic of religion and spirituality. While most of these films are set against a Christian background, “5 Broken Cameras,” directed by a Palestinian and Israeli duo, is a thought-provoking personal documentary on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Additionally, “Bestiaire” uses humans and beasts to explore the Hindu concept of darshan (an act of beholding the Divine).

From exposing the hypocrisy of the church to commenting on the sexual lives of rebellious religious teenagers to chronicling the hopeful story of Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop, these films explore a variety of themes.HuffPost Religion has compiled a list of films highlighted at Sundance Film Festival 2012 that explore the topic of religion and spirituality. Enjoy!

Click here to read the full article

Getting the Interfaith World Connected

by Paul Chaffee

Ray Downs taught a captivating confirmation class at International Church in Bangkok in 1957. But I was stunned at the end of the year when the pastor asked if we were ready to confirm our faith and join the church. I went straight to Dad, a Presbyterian missionary: “I’m just beginning to understand what you believe, and I haven’t any idea what the Buddhists all around us believe – and now I have to join?!” Dad said, “Not at all. No requirement.” The next day he put a thick tome surveying the world’s religions in my hands, a gift that helped shape my life.

More than half my career has been spent working on grassroots interfaith activities. So, at 65, retiring from the Interfaith Center at the Presidio, my motive question had long ago become, How can we do better at building healthy, vital relations between, among, and within the world’s many spiritual, religious, indigenous, and convictional communities who share a passion to heal a wounded world?

My dear spouse’s business acumen meant we could retire in San Francisco and I could become an ‘amateur,’ as in doing something for the love of it. Freed from agency responsibilities, I dove into the internet to better discern the scope of a burgeoning interreligious culture, grassroots and global. I’ve been stunned again, this time by the magnitude and diversity of people in countries everywhere spontaneously deciding to develop friendly relations with ‘the other,’ the stranger. Interfaith culture is emerging unplanned, largely self-funded, and proliferating like spring flowers on a hillside.

That discovery led back to a notion many of us ‘in the vineyard’ have talked about in recent years. We need to be better connected. We need a transpartisan arena where every group’s best interfaith efforts has a platform, a place to share stories, learnings, and connections, a place to begin collaborating around shared concerns.

How to do it? So far, very few financial resources support interfaith work. However, interfaith veterans everywhere repeat the same mantra – “The most valuable thing for me personally has been the amazing relationships I’ve enjoyed. So many, so close.”

Once upon a time I dreamed about writing a blog. But connecting the different parts of the interfaith world is infinitely bigger than any one-man-show. So I started inviting friends, seasoned interfaith veterans and young adult leaders, to contribute to a new venture. A core group accepted the responsibility of formal decision making, and the larger group has grown to 75.

The core group, armed with an anonymous $20,000 startup donation, came up with agreements about The Interfaith Observer, or TIO for short. We decided to be as lean as possible financially. The Interfaith Peace Project agreed to serve as fiscal sponsor during our time of formation. And a number of our advisors contributed their digital expertise to constructing a website and mass-e-mail capabilities. Here are some of the policies which guide us for now.

  • All writing and editing is volunteered.
  • TIO is free to subscribers and encourages readers to reprint and utilize what they find useful. (We would be happy to know how you use it.)
  • TIO strives to develop collaborative rather than competitive relationships.
  • TIO aggregates the best stories and resources we can find as well as publishes new content. Expect dozens of links in each issue for deeper exploring.
  • TIO is happy to join groups which share its concerns and has already built relationships with North American Interfaith Network and United Religions Initiative, whose purpose is “to promote enduring, daily interfaith cooperation, to end religiously motivated violence, and to create cultures of peace, justice, and healing for the Earth and all living beings.”
  • TIO will address the interfaith universe subject by subject, starting, in September 2011, with ‘deepening interfaith dialogue.’ The next 12 issues address: history, institutions, celebration, making meaning (spirituality, theology, and…), young adults, women, indigenous traditions, the Earth, peacemaking, refreshment, funding, and, in September, 2012, education. (Current and back issues will be available at TIO’s homepage.)

In the recent words of Ebrahim Rasool, the religious world needs “to move beyond the ‘compare and contrast’ model of interfaith engagements, and build solidarity across our markers of difference to achieve shared goals that both signal the relevance of religion and faith as well as demonstrate its capacity to build coalitions, campaigns and unity in action around values and principles we hold in common.” (Claremont Lincoln University inauguration keynote, September 6, 2011) Amen.

The TIO Adviser/Contributor braintrust continues to grow. We began as a group of friends, near and far, creating a new kind of interfaith publication. We’re becoming a global network that we hope will be as fruitful as the publication we promote. Because we can’t afford to grow unmanageably, guidelines are being developed for joining TIO’s braintrust. As it grows larger, we’ll have subgroups focused on the themes TIO explores each month. As a virtual community develops, new possibilities will emerge.

In a world so dark with despair and violence, interfaith work is a candle casting hope far and wide. TIO hopes to reflect the light.

Online Interfaith Media: Odyssey Networks’ Journey

Odyssey Networks: Call on Faithby Rev. Eric C. Shafer
Odyssey Networks

It was 1987 and America was riveted by the “televangelist” scandals—celebrity TV ministries collecting millions of dollars in donations that ended up supporting their own lavish lifestyles. In response, the leaders of the cable industry met with major US faith leaders, all determined to restore the integrity of faith on television. Together they founded the National Interfaith Cable Coalition (NICC) and underwrote what would become its Odyssey Channel, giving the new interfaith offering carriage on cable systems throughout the United States.

Fast forward to 2011: Today the media is not plagued by scandal but fueled by it. “Controversy sells.” In religion this means an emphasis on conflict rather than cohesion, strife rather than working together.

We saw this most clearly last year in the controversy surrounding a Muslim-sponsored community center in Lower Manhattan. Its construction was welcomed by the community and media until a set of bloggers and interest groups latched onto the story and made it appear controversial, bringing with it all sorts of attention — mostly negative — from the national media. Odyssey addressed this controversy and the people of faith who favored this community addition in a video covering an interfaith rally held on September 12th in support of the center.

This is but one example of how Odyssey Networks has found a new niche as America’s largest multi-faith coalition, with nearly 100 member faith groups, faith related organizations and individuals. We tell the stories of people of faith working together for the common good, promoting understanding among people of different faith traditions or even no faith tradition.

Other stories we have told recently include faith perspectives to on the death of Osama bin Laden, World Interfaith Harmony Week, the unprecedented Peter King hearings on American Muslims, the move to divide the Sudan into north and south, Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s visit to quake-devastated Haiti, and the “Politics of Hunger.”

Unsurprisingly in this era of “viral media,” these reports all first appeared on Odyssey Networks but then traveled around the Internet to sites like CNN online, Democracy Now, and the Huffington Post.

Yet not all of our work is “viral.” We recently sponsored an in-person national gathering to foster conversation around the topic of 9/11, the Conversation We Never Had. And although no longer a cable television channel, cable television remains a vital platform for Odyssey. On July 28, the new Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) will air Odyssey’s Serving Life, the story of a unique convict-staffed hospice program in at Angola Penitentiary in Louisiana. In April Odyssey’s production of The Shunning, based on Beverly Lewis’ best-selling novel, debuted on the Hallmark Channel earning top ratings and critical acclaim.

And now, instead of a cable television channel, we have a growing “channel” for the fast-growing mobile telephone platform: our Call on Faith smartphone application. Odyssey has also increased its presence of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and plans to begin a channel on Roku, one of the new “over the top” Internet television providers, in 2012.

We like to call these efforts “Odyssey Everywhere,” meaning that to tell the stories of people of faith working for positive change in the world in 2011 we must use all of the so-called media “platforms” available to us and use them well.

Our world has become increasingly multi-media. Odyssey Networks is working to spearhead innovation, especially technological innovation, within the multi-faith movement. As people of faith with the important overall message of God’s love for the world to share, we must use all of the new technological advances to help us share this story.

June 2nd, 2011 at 6:33 am