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Desmond Cahill Awarded Medal of the Order of Australia

From The Moonee Valley Leader

Professor Desmond Cahill

Professor Desmond Cahill

WORKING for religious moderation rather than sidelining faiths is the best way of “dealing with religious-inspired terrorism”, a Flemington intercultural education expert says.

Prof Desmond Cahill is one of three Moonee Valley residents named in the Queen’s Birthday honours list, all receiving Medals of the Order of Australia (OAMs).

Prof Cahill, who has led intercultural studies at RMIT University in the CBD since 1993, was awarded “for service to intercultural education and to the interfaith movement”.

He said he was a “little bit surprised, (given) there are many deserving people who don’t receive such an award”.

The former Catholic priest organised the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne last December, attended by about 6500 delegates.

Prof Cahill, 64, said his passion for intercultural education started when he worked as a priest in the northern and western suburbs for six years in the 1970s.

He was appointed to RMIT in 1979 to develop multicultural studies so people were trained to work with ethnic communities including migrants and refugees.

Prof Cahill also developed training to teach English as a second language and languages other than English in schools.

He said fostering intercultural relationships was vital.

Read the full article here.

Honoring the life of Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari

Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari, a leader of the Sufi faith and head of the Uzbeke Community in Jerusalem, passed away last week. A leading Muslim voice for peace and reconciliation, Sheikh Bukari spoke on the panel “Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding: The Case of Israel-West Bank-Gaza” at the 2009 Parliament.

Sheikh Bukhari

Sheikh Bukhari

At The Jerusalem Post, Lauren Gelfond Feldinger writes:

In a small and ancient family plot attached to his ancestral home in Jerusalem’s Old City, regional Sufi leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari was laid to rest on Tuesday at age 61, after a long struggle with heart disease. He was head of the mystical Naqshabandi Holy Land Sufi Order.

A longtime proponent of nonviolence and interfaith unity, Bukhari found his inspiration in Islamic law and tradition, as well as in the writings of Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.

“The stronger one is the one who can absorb the violence and anger from the other and change it to love and understanding. It is not easy; it is a lot of work. But this is the real jihad,” he once told the Globaloneness Project in an interview.

His teachings and practices put him in danger and under great stress that over the years harmed his health, said Sheikh Ghassan Manasra of Nazareth, whose father heads the regional Holy Land Qadari Sufi Order.

“Sheikh Bukhari influenced lots of people, worked hard to bridge the religions and cultures; and his teaching is keeping part of the youth on the right path. We worked together for many years and succeeded many times and failed many times and decided to stay on the [path] of God to bring peace, tolerance, harmony and moderation,” he said.

“But on both sides, Jewish and Muslim, there are moderates but also extreme people, and our work was very dangerous, with a lot of pressure and stress until now, and I think this explains, in part, his heart problems.”

Dozens of family members and close friends, including Jews, Christians and Muslims, and the Uzbek ambassador to Israel, prayed together at the funeral on Tuesday, as Bukhari, in a white shroud, was lowered into the same grave as his grandfather, great-grandfather and the line of family sheikhs dating to the 17th century.

Numerous rabbis, Muslim and Druse sheikhs, Christian clerics and friends of all faiths from around the country are expected to pay respects at the mourning tents, which will receive visitors for three days.

Click here to read the full article.

Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari passed away June 3 at age 61.

A Conversation with Sister Joan Chittister

Joan Chittister

Joan Chittister

From The Huffington Post

By Janet Haag

The word “prayer” is frequently used among believers and non-believers, but what exactly does it mean? Most of us have a concept of prayer that is limited to supplication for our needs with the expectation that a Higher Power will intervene in our lives and do for us what we are unable to do for ourselves. Yes, this is one way of understanding prayer, but it is not all that prayer is. Like many other values, our understanding of prayer is filtered and shaped by our experiences. Sister Joan Chittister, a visionary spiritual voice in our times and an advocate for peace and justice around the world, offers a full and rich perspective on prayer. Sister Joan is a member of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pennsylvania, founder and executive director of BenetVision, and an internationally renowned speaker and the author. The text of the following interview first appeared in the Winter 2010 issue of Sacred Journey, the quarterly multi-faith journal of Fellowship In Prayer. Sister Joan will also be presenting at Fellowship In Prayer’s 60th Anniversary Conference, June 24 to 27, 2010 at Princeton University. To subscribe to the journal or to register for what promises to be a landmark event, visit www.fellowshipinprayer.org.

Fellowship in Prayer: How do you define prayer in your life?

Sister Joan Chittister: After more than 55 years of growing into a life of prayer through a lifestyle based on it, my definition of prayer is consciousness, immersion, and relationship. Prayer makes us aware of the elements of the divine in human life, bringing us into contact with the God-life in and around us. Prayer is not personal devotion; it is personal growth. Prayer brings us to the ultimate and the eternal, the daily and the regular, the total consciousness of God now. Prayer enables us to be immersed in what is fundamentally and truly divine in life right now. It is not meant to be a bridge to somewhere else because God is not somewhere else. God is here. Prayer is the act of beginning the process of becoming one with the One we seek — eventually, melting into God completely. This can be accomplished through immersion in the Sacred Scriptures. As Christians, what drives us is not has Jesus died but who Jesus is and why Jesus died. How he defines life and death will become our own understanding if we live prayerful lives.

Did you feel this way about prayer from early on in your life or is this something you have slowly developed over time?

Well, there was certainly a time in my very young life, when prayer was an exercise. However I wasn’t long in monastic life when I realized, like a teabag, I was being steeped in an environment that spoke to me of another layer and level of life. In this environment the notion that prayer is somehow or other an exercise in words simply dissolved very quickly. You know, in the Catholic tradition, around the 15th or 16th century, the Roman Catholic Church began to talk about prayer in different forms — prayers of adoration, prayers of contrition, prayers of thanksgiving, and prayers of supplication. These are types of formal prayers, based on words, but they are not prayer. Prayer moves us from the level of personal consciousness to God-consciousness, union with God or what we call the mystical life.

The Sufis tell a wonderful story about a seeker who one night hears a voice saying, “Who’s there?” and the Sufi seeker answers with great excitement, “It is I, it is I, Lord! I am right here!” And the voice disappears. Years later, the Sufi again hears the voice calling, “Who’s there?” The Sufi thinks, “Here’s that voice again!” and he gets very excited at yet another opportunity, and responds, “It is I, Lord, and I seek you with all my heart!” Once again, the voice disappears. Some years later he again hears the voice calling, “Who’s there?” This time, the Sufi replies, “Thou Lord, only Thou!” This story clearly describes the process of moving oneself into the mind, heart, and consciousness of God. It comes, yes, little by little, but it also comes instantaneously, once we move into what the ancient mystics call “prayer without words.” This prayer is the prayer of consciousness. This prayer is the very breath of life. Consciousness that the breath I breathe is the breath of God is the sum total of an attitude of prayer.

Click here to read the full article

Citizen Journalists Cover the Parliament: Farewelling Friends

Australia’s ABC TV youth video team covers Day 7 of the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions, Melbourne, focusing on saying farewell and what participants take from the event.

Parabola Magazine Highlights 2009 Parliament

World Religions Get Down to Earth

by Trebbe Johnson

“Sensually, it was a panoply of colorful raiment, ceremonies, liturgies, and languages from around the world.  Spiritually, the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions, held December 3-9 in Melbourne, Australia, had the feeling of a quest, or rather thousands of individual quests pursued by people who came together not just to espouse their own beliefs but to explore together how to solve some of the world’s most grievous problems.  “Making a World of Difference: Hearing Each Other, Healing the Earth” was the theme of this gathering held in the soaring, light-filled Melbourne Convention Center on the bank of the Yarra River, int he ancestral homeland of the aboriginal Wurundjeri people.  For a week, six thousand participants from eighty countries, representing religious and spiritual traditions old and new, shared one another’s worship services; attended 662 talks, panel discussions, and films; and exchanged ideas, prayers, and email addresses.

The first Parliament of World Religions took place in Chicago in 1893, the second not until one hundred years later, again in the Windy City.  Cape Town, Barcelona, and now Melbourne have hosted subsequent gatherings.  Since the beginning, the concept of what the parliament has to offer, and to whom, has changed radically.”

Click here to download the full article (pdf)

Trebbe Johnson is the founder and director of Radical Joy for Hard Times, a non-profit organization devoted to finding and making beauty in wounded places. She writes frequently on the relationship of myth, nature, and spirit and is the author of The World Is a Waiting Lover: Desire and the Quest for the Beloved. She lives in rural Pennsylvania.

Bridging Babel report explores Social Media and Inter-religious Dialogue

Bridging Babel: New Social Media and Interreligious Dialogue and Intercultural Understanding explores how social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube connect users with a culturally diverse audience, allowing for communication at an unprecedented level of speed and accessibility. This report was released by undergraduate fellows at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs.

The undergraduate fellows conducted 39 in-depth interviews with scholars, religious and interfaith leaders and technology experts. They also conducted a survey at the 2009 World Parliament of Religions in Australia and online through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn social media outlets.

Michael Nelson, visiting professor of Internet studies in Georgetown’s communications, culture and technology program, served as faculty advisor on the project.

“Together we’re exploring a brand new field and creating the best available source of information on how – and how not to –use Web 2.0 tools like Facebook to bridge the barriers between people of different faiths,” Nelson said.

While the interviews showed a diverse range of opinions about how to use social media to foster interreligious dialogue, with some saying that only face-to-face dialogue is useful, the report notes that online interaction is the wave of the future.

“Interfaith understanding is about communication, and communication is increasingly about new social media,” notes center director Thomas Banchoff in the report. “If we want to support dialogue across religious divides on the world’s most pressing policy challenges, we need a better grasp of how technology connects people and mobilizes them for action.”

Click here to read the full article

Citizen Journalists Cover the Parliament: Youth

Australia’s ABC TV youth video team covers Day 6 of the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions, Melbourne, focusing on youth at the Parliament.

Yoga: Covert Conversion to Hinduism or Universal Good?

In this Parliament of the World’s Religions session, this panel of yogis and yoga experts considers whether the practice of yoga is necessarily linked to Hinduism, and whether it is possible to practice yoga fully without taking on the beliefs of Hinduism.

May 23rd, 2010 at 6:00 am

Citizen Journalists Cover the Parliament: Social Cohesion

Australia’s ABC TV youth video team covers Day 5 of the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions, Melbourne, focusing on Social Cohesion.

Citizen Journalists Cover the Parliament: Indigenous Peoples

Australia’s ABC TV youth video team covers Day 4 of the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions, Melbourne, focusing on Indigenous Peoples.