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Remembering Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati

Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati

Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati

Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati, a former Brooklyn Jewish housewife turned Guru, lost her battle with pancreatic cancer last week at her home, Kashi Ashram, an interfaith spiritual community, which she founded 35 years ago in the central Florida town of Sebastian. A memorial service will be held at Kashi Ashram on Ma’s birthday, May 26, and will be open to the public.

Thousands followed Ma’s teachings and way of life through a network of affiliated communities and charities throughout the globe. As actress Julia Roberts said, “There are a few people in one’s life that create only the warmest and most powerfully positive impact imaginable. Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati was one of those people to me and my family. She was a beautiful person who shined with love and understanding in all ways. Kashi Ashram was created out of her devotion to all who sought her wisdom and ideas. Her transition was deeply sad news and yet, as with all she did, it has brought me even closer to her words and her teachings. May we all look upon one another with loving kindness in her name and in the memory of all Mothers who love and teach us all.”

Founded by Ma in 1976, Kashi Ashram blends Eastern and Western philosophies. The Ashram sits on 80 acres at the banks of the St. Sebastian River and has dozens of temples and shrines to many diverse religions and spiritual paths. People from all walks of life are welcome and embraced at Kashi and encouraged to worship and coexist in harmony. Kashi Ashram affiliates have been opened in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, and Santa Fe.

Ma was the founder of Kashi Church Foundation, The River School, The River Fund, Kashi School of Yoga, the Village of Kashi, and By the River affordable senior housing. Her present and past affiliations include Trustee Emeritus of the Council for the Parliament of the World’s Religions, Advisory Board Member of Equal Partners in Faith, Advisory Board Member of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy, Advisory Board Member of the Gardner’s Syndrome Association, Delegate to the United Religions Initiative, Member of the Board of Directors of the AIDS care organization Project Response, and member of the Parliament’s General Assembly. Ma also founded orphan centers in Uganda and India.

Click here to read article featuring remembrances of Arlo Guthrie

Click here to read the full obituary

Remembering Richard H. Luecke

The Council notes with sadness the death of the Rev. Dr. Richard H. Luecke, trustee emeritus of CPWR.

Dr. Luecke was active in justice issues and community life for most of his career. From 1976 to 1993 he was director of studies for the Community Renewal Society in Chicago, an organization dedicated to empowering people to build just communities by working to eradicate racism and poverty. Prior to that, Luecke served as director of studies for the Urban Training Center in Chicago from 1964 – 71 and as the developer of the Urban Ministry Project in London and Oxford, England from 1970 – 71.

Dr. Luecke’s service to the church and the world included long-standing service on the boards of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions; Protestants for the Common Good, Chicago; and the Center for Neighborhood Technology, Chicago.

He was professor of philosophy and rhetoric at Christ College, Valparaiso University; visiting professor of political philosophy at the University of Minnesota; and a visiting lecturer at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

Information about his receiving LSTC’s Confessor of Christ Award in 2009 is available online at

He is survived by by his son Christopher, and a daughter-in-law and grandson – David. His wife, Joan, and daughter, Magdalen, preceded him in death.

Jewish Chaplains Memorialized At Arlington Cemetery

By Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service
from Huffington Post

ARLINGTON, VA. (RNS) In a ceremony steeped in Hebrew prayers and military hymns, a monument to Jewish chaplains who died in active duty was unveiled Monday (Oct. 24) at Arlington National Cemetery.

“They are unrecognized heroes of both Jewish and American life, but today we begin the process of publicly acknowledging their contribution and their ultimate sacrifice,” said Allan Finkelstein, president of the Jewish Community Centers Association, which sponsors the council that endorses Jewish military chaplains.

The cemetery’s Chaplains Hill has been home to three monuments — one for World War I chaplains, another for Protestant chaplains from the two world wars and one for Catholic chaplains from World War II and the wars in Korea and Vietnam.

The newest addition honors 14 Jewish chaplains who died in combat, in accidents or of natural causes. They include one who traveled thousands of miles each month to reach Jewish military members in isolated areas in Alaska. Two others perished in plane crashes on their way to conduct Hanukkah services for military personnel.

Retired Rear Adm. Harold L. Robinson, director of the JWB (Jewish Welfare Board) Jewish Chaplains Council, said the memorial reflects the unity of the U.S. military’s chaplain corps.

Click here to read the full article

November 2nd, 2011 at 10:57 am

Remembering Yael Wurmfeld

Yael R. Wurmfeld

Yael R. Wurmfeld

It is with deep sadness that we note the passing of Yael R. Wurmfeld, longtime member of the Board of Trustees of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.

Yael served as Director of the international office (Office of Pioneering) of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States for over 20 years. She was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Council for Higher Education and of the North Shore Choral Society. She was a talented singer, and she was passionate, optimistic and deeply committed to the interreligious movement.

Yael was crucial to the hands on organizing efforts for the 1993 Parliament and served for many years on CPWR’s Board of Trustees.

“Yael was one of the inaugural members of the Council, going back nearly to 1988,” said Dirk Ficca, Excecutive Director of CPWR. “She was one of a few Trustees who literally became like staff members in the preparation for the 1993 Parliament in Chicago. For months on end she came down to the office to put in long hours on the program and do outreach to religious and spiritual communities internationally. Yael was a key voice in calling the Council to continue on past the 1993 centennial.”

“We will all miss Yael,” said Rev. William Lesher, Board Chair Emeritus. “She was truly a interreligious pioneer who embodied the kind of passion that gave the Parliament movement its rebirth in our time, and for that we are exceedingly grateful. May perpetual light shine upon her.”

India’s emotional farewell to Sathya Sai Baba

Sathya Sai Baba's FuneralFrom BBC News

“Long live Baba!”  The chant echoed down the street outside Prashanti Nilayam (Abode of Peace), the ashram that Sathya Sai Baba set up in Puttaparthi.

Thousands of people were packed tightly in the narrow lane, many of them seated on the ground, their hands joined in prayer as they murmured his name.

These were ordinary Indians, people who believed Sai Baba to be a living God, someone who could perform miracles. Many of them had travelled vast distances just to be here.

The overwhelming emotion was one of grief and intense devotion.

“I cannot believe he’s left us,” sobbed one man.

“When I heard the news I jumped into my car and drove all the way here. What will we do now? Who will we turn to?”

Click here to read the full story

April 27th, 2011 at 1:19 pm

Bishop Ruiz Garcia, Champion of Indigenous, Dies in Mexico

Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia

Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia in 1993

By David Agren, Catholic News Service
From the National Catholic Reporter

MEXICO CITY — Retired Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia, known as the champion of the poor and indigenous in southern Mexico, died Jan. 24 of complications from long-standing illnesses. He was 86.

The bishop headed the Diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas from 1960 to 2000, and from 1994 to 1998 mediated a commission looking for an end to the conflict between the Mexican government and the indigenous Zapatista National Liberation Army in Chiapas state.

For his work with the state’s indigenous population he received death threats and, in 2002, was the recipient of the Niwano Peace Prize for his work “raising the social standing of the indigenous communities of Mexico” and for his work toward “the reclamation and preservation of their native cultures.”

“Don Samuel was like the prophet Jeremiah, a man who lived and experienced contradiction,” said Bishop Raul Vera Lopez of Saltillo, who served as Bishop Ruiz’s coadjutor from 1995 to 1999.

Vera, celebrant at a Jan. 24 Mass for Bishop Ruiz in Mexico City, described Bishop Ruiz as “a person whose actions were discussed and condemned by a section of society, but for the poor and for those who worked with him, Don Samuel was a bright light, who fulfilled what God told the prophet: ‘This day I set you over nations and over kingdoms, to root up to destroy tear down … to build and to plant.’”

Politicians, prominent journalists and even a group of campesinos (peasant farmers) wielding machetes emblazoned with Bishop Ruiz’s name attended the Mass in Mexico City. A funeral Mass was to be celebrated Jan. 26 in Tuxtla Gutierrez, with the papal nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, presiding.

News of Bishop Ruiz’s death made nationwide headlines because he was well-known for his human rights advocacy and mediation work in Chiapas. He most recently participated in a commission serving as a channel between the rebel People’s Revolutionary Army and the Interior Ministry over the issue of forced disappearances.

Click here to read the full article

Remembering Jake Swamp-Tekaronianeken

Jake Swamp-Tekaronianeken

Jake Swamp-Tekaronianeken, 69, the Wolf Clan Mohawk diplomat, author, teacher, chief, husband, father, grandparent and great-grandparent passed into the spirit world on October 14, 2010 at his home on the Akwesasne Mohawk Territory.

Swamp was one of the most respected and honoured Mohawk Iroquois leaders of the past century.  He was a member of the Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs for over three decades, a position in which he served as a counselor, spiritual leader, legislator and ambassador. He was an exceptional orator with a powerful command of the Mohawk language.  He possessed great knowledge as to the cultural heritage of the Haudenosaunee and shared that wisdom not only with his people but at forums, conferences and classes across the planet. He was known not only for his knowledge but for his teaching skills which were defined by his unique sense of humour.

When Skennenrahowi (the Peacemaker) established the Haudenosaunee Confederacy 800 years ago he set standards for leadership which were embodied in Tekaronianeken. He was patient, compassionate, humble, generous, intelligent and kind.  Whenever he was called upon to serve the needs of the Haudenosaunee he did so without hesitation.  He established the Tree of Peace Society in 1984 to promote the teachings of the Skennenrahowi while advocating greater ecological awareness and sensitivity.  Swamp planted hundreds of Peace Trees in many nations, an activity begun with the founding of the Confederacy.  Through his example millions of trees have taken root around the world from Israel to Australia, Venezuela to Spain and in all regions of North America.

Jake Swamp was a founder of the Akwesasne Freedom School in 1979 and helped develop a curriclum which was based on the traditional values of the Haudenosaunee.  He managed Radio CKON at Akwesasne and not only oversaw its Native based programming but helped secure its status as the only Native licensed broadcast facility in the Americas.

Swamp served as Mohawk Nation diplomat in many instances. He addressed the Fourth Russell Tribunal in the Netherlands, was a delegate to the United Nations, met with leaders of foreign nations and advised representatives from the US Congress and Canadian Parliament.  He worked closely with Dr. Greg Schaaf to have the US Senate pass a resolution acknowledging the influence of the Haudenosaunee on the US Constitution and thereby initiated a revolution in the understanding of American history. He was a delegate to two sessions of the World Parliament of Religions where he was affectionately called “el jeffe”.

As a member of the Mohawk Nation Tekaronianeken took an active role in preserving the ceremonial activities of the longhouse people.  At each one of the rituals he rose from his seat as a Wolf Clan leader to address the people, with the beauty of his words calling their attention to those rituals which express the nation’s collective gratitude to the natural world for the blessings of life.  He presented infants to the people, gave advice to newlyweds and spoke words of condolence to those who suffered the loss of their loved ones.

There is another requirement for leadership set by Skennenrahowi, perhaps the most important of all.  Before one can become a leader that person has to have the love and support of  their family and must in turn love them; peace in the home brought about clarity in council.  Tekaronianeken was a devoted family man, married to Judy Point Swamp for 49 years. Theirs was a solid and stable union defined by mutual respect, admiration and a quiet yet powerful affection. Jake was a highly skilled ironworker, he was one of the legendary Mohawk “skywalkers”, traveling great distances to provide for his wife and children.  This determination to insure his family’s health and security was a legacy of his parents, the late Leo and Charlotte Papineau Swamp. Jake was the second child of fourteen, in a family raised to be self reliant,hardworking and creative. He is leaving behind seven children, twenty three grandchildren, and thirteen great grandchildren, many of whom are now assuming their own leadership roles within the Nation. He was a devoted lacrosse fan and an avid gardener and was rightly proud of the athletic skills of his family.

It is taught by the Haudenosaunee that whatever one does in life it is essential to leave things better than when they were found, to take into consideration the effect of one’s actions on the seventh generation into the future.  Throughout his wonderful life Tekaronianeken abided by this principle.  Through his books, his words and his actions he brought great honour to his family, his community, the Mohawk Nation and the Haudenosaunee.

Tekaronianeken was a good friend of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, and will be greatly missed by many in the interreligious movement.

Services for Tekaronianeken will begin at the Homemaker’s Building, River Road, Snye District of Akwesasne on October 16 with the funeral at the Mohawk Nation longhouse at 10 AM, Monday,October 18.

Flowers and other support may be sent to the Swamp family: Box 326, Cook Road, Akwesasne, NY 13655.

Remembering Dr Ezzeddin Ibrahim

Dr. Ezzeddin Ibrahim

Dr. Ezzeddin Ibrahim

Dr Ezzeddin Ibrahim was a renowned academic and an acknowledged Islamic scholar who was appointed as the Cultural Advisor to the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Ruler of Abu Dhabi, founder and President of the UAE.

During Dr Ibrahim’s early career he held a number of educational and administrative positions in the field of education and scientific research in Egypt, Libya and Syria. In Qatar he devised a study programme for the Ministry of Education and in Saudi Arabia he held the eminent post of Professor of Arabic Literature at Riyadh University.

Throughout his life he remained passionate in his call for Islamic-Christian dialogue and worked tirelessly articulating his message, both in person as a key speaker at many international conferences and through his varied publications in journals, newspapers and books. During this time he came into contact with numerous distinguished people, and amongst those who had a profound effect on him was Pope Paul Vl who he met at his official residence in the Vatican in 1978 and the Dalai Lama whose philosophical and thoughtful insights left a lasting impression. Dr Ezzeddin Ibrahim fervently believed that dialogue begins by respecting the right of others to their beliefs and by strengthening the religious foundations for coexistence in one nation.

With that in mind and following a recent meeting with Pope Benedict, he worked closely with the ruler of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah, to organize and participate in dialogue in Madrid in 2008, concentrating on life in human societies, international cooperation, human rights, issues of security, peace, and living together in the world. Besides speakers from the three monotheistic religions, Dr Ezzeddin, with the sincere support of a strong Middle Eastern monarch, was able to include delegates from other religious traditions, faiths and philosophies who he felt were under represented at such conferences. Although previously attempted and partly realised, this had not happened before, as it did so comprehensively in Madrid.

Dr Ezzeddin Ibrahim died on 30 January 2010 aged 81.

Click here for more on Dr Ibrahim

March 24th, 2010 at 5:33 am

Remembering David Ramage—Pastor, Champion of Social Justice and Interreligious Visionary.

The Rev. Dr. David Ramage, Jr.

The Rev. Dr. David Ramage, Jr.

We note with sadness the passing on February 14, and honor the legacy, of the Rev. Dr. David Ramage, Jr. — pastor, community activist, church leader, fervent believer in interreligious dialogue, peacemaker and, above all, friend of the Parliament of the World Religions.

It was David’s vision, organizational skills and international stature that proved pivotal in making the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions a reality, a success and milestone in advancing the cause of interreligious engagement. As Board Chair of the Council, David’s leadership united and inspired religious and civic leaders across the full spectrum of faith communities to see the necessity of reconvening the Parliament, in Chicago, the city of its birth, one hundred years after its founding in 1893.

But David’s work on behalf of the Parliament was just one facet of his remarkable career and deeply-held beliefs about dialogue, communication and mutual understanding. As president of McCormick Seminary from 1985 to 1993, he was instrumental in helping McCormick adopt a more outward-looking perspective, establishing a community-based urban ministry, ecumenical partnerships and the diversification of its student body — all in service towards a new conception of cross-cultural theological education. As David said upon his assuming the presidency of McCormick, “we have enormous diversity in this seminary, for it represents the world in which it lives.” A few years later, in a sermon broadcast on Chicago’s long-running Sunday Evening Club, David took his own sense of ecumenism even further:

“Our community and our world are threatened by increasing division, fear, alienation and hostility. We share this world and this community with others. Dialogue with others, joint planning and working together at common tasks can truly help. We must learn to understand and communicate, in ways that may feel strange to us, if we are to find light and life beyond our present knowledge and hope beyond our present understanding.”

Dave was born March 7, 1930 to Margaret White Ramage and David Ramage, Jr. in Cincinnati and graduated from Norwood High School in 1948 and Hanover College in 1951, going on to earn a divinity degree from McCormick Theological Seminary in 1955. He was awarded honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees from both Hanover College and Johnson C. Smith University. Dave was ordained by the Presbytery of Chicago in 1957. He then served in Chicago as director of a youth gang action/research project, as a social worker in settlement houses and as pastor of the Emerald Avenue Presbyterian Church. During this time he teamed up with community organizer Saul Alinsky and served on the Board of Alinsky’s Industrial Areas Foundation. In 1963 David became an executive officer of the Board of National Missions of Churches in New York. He was Executive Director of its Department of Mission Strategy and Evangelism and Chairman of the Division of Church Strategy and Development. During this time, he also served as an adjunct staff member for the World Council of Church’s Division of World Mission and Evangelism and the Committee to Combat Racism and the organization staff of the Joint Committee on Society, Development, and Peace of the Council and the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace of the Vatican. In 1970 he joined the staff of the Center for Community Change in Washington, D.C. as vice president for Field Services and in 1971 became its president. The Center is a national community development assistance and social policy research agency. From 1975 to 1985, Dave held executive positions at the New World Foundation in New York City as vice president, executive director, and president. The Foundation gives priority to encouraging effective education and promoting citizen responsibility and involvement in public issues such as peacemaking, community organization and development, and racial and ethnic opportunity. In 1985 David became the eighth president of McCormick Theological Seminary. In the summer of 1993 David chaired the Meeting of the Council of a Parliament of World’s Religions in Chicago. In 1994 David retired from his post as president at McCormick Theological Seminary and became a MacArthur Foundation Fellow. Dave and his wife Betty retired to Marco Island, Florida and Reston, Virginia. In 2001 David received the Alumni Achievement Award from Hanover College.

David is survived by his wife, Betty, their four children and their spouses, David and Corinne, Jonathan and Debbie, Elizabeth and Adam, and Daniel and Lynne, ten grandchildren, one great grandchild, his sister, June, his brother, Dan, and a host of nieces and nephews, cousins, relatives and loving friends.

March 1st, 2010 at 11:26 am

A Tribute to the Life of Aboriginal Artist, Ruby Hunter

We are saddened to learn that Aboriginal advancement pioneer and history-maker, singer-songwriter Ruby Hunter recently passed away.  Hunter was a featured performer with her partner, Archie Roach at the Sacred Music Concert of the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions.  Hunter was the first Indigenous woman in Australia to be signed to a major record label.  We pay tribute to and honor the life of Ruby Hunter.

Australian coverage:
The Australian
ABC News

February 23rd, 2010 at 12:16 pm