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Parliament Board Condemns Violence in France and Nigeria; Invites All Faith Communities to Issue Joint Statement

“The Parliament of the World’s Religions vehemently condemns revengeful attacks killing 12 journalists and four Jews in France, and an estimated 1500 women and children in Nigeria. Now this cycle of revenge has engulfed the French Muslims with more than 20 attacks on Islamic buildings. We send our condolences to the families of the victims and to all of France and Nigeria as they grieve.

The Parliament believes that use of religion or any other socio-political ideology to “justify” violence is simply not acceptable.

The Parliament urges the global community to remember that such acts violate the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad and asks that faith communities stand together to break this cycle of revenge by speaking out and organizing programs which enhance positive human relationship of compassion and forgiveness.

The Parliament plans to organize special programing in the forthcoming 2015 Parliament in October 15-19th on the cycle of war, violence, and hate. We invite all faith communities to participate in a joint declaration with a clear resolve to do our utmost  to develop a movement against war, violence and hate.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”

Abducting Girls in the Name of God

By Jim Wallis and Dalia Mogahed for Sojourners

The brutal abduction of several hundred Nigerian schoolgirls has stunned and outraged the world. A violent organization called Boko Haram, and its leader Abubakar Shekau, took credit for the kidnapping more than 300 female students from their classrooms at gunpoint, from a government-run school in Chibok, on April 14. In his subsequent video, the smiling terrorist leader told the world they would sell the teenage girls “into the marketplace” or forced marriages; in his latest, he claims the girls have converted to Islam. Shekau has claimed that God told him to do all of this. That is a lie. It is an abomination. It is a blasphemy against God, and people of faith from all traditions should denounce his words.

Invoking the name of God to justify human barbarity is a painfully tragic and an ongoing occurrence. If hearing these lies about God breaks our hearts, we can only imagine they must also break the heart of God. As the Qur’an warns, “Who is more unjust than he who lies against God?” This kind of blasphemy often derives from extreme religious fanaticism that can be found in all of our faith traditions — those who pervert, abuse, and use the language of religion for fear, hate, and power. These self-proclaimed religious leaders must be utterly denounced as false and human abominations of religion and must be publically condemned and held accountable by faith communities around the world.

Beyond that, the abduction of these girls is an abomination because, in the Christian tradition, they are also image bearers of God; in the Muslim tradition, they are also vicegerents, or trustees of God and as such cannot be treated not as slaves or property. We blaspheme God when we claim that more than half of God’s creation is lesser and that it pleases the Divine to subjugate them.

So how should we respond to such lying, hateful, and violent figures? As a Christian and a Muslim, we believe in a God who hears and answers prayer, a God of justice. People of faith everywhere should pray againstthe work of these men. As two leaders from two faith communities, we call upon all people of faith to enter into an international vigil of prayer for the Nigerian schoolgirlswho have been brutally ripped away from their families. We must pray for their safety and rescue and for the courage of world governments and international organizations to do whatever is necessary to find them and return them to the arms of their loved ones. We should also pray for the capture and bringing to justice of the barbaric criminals who have abducted these girls and violated their human dignity. And we should pray for God’s judgment upon these violent perpetrators who dishonor the name of God and pervert the character of their own religion.

So we call upon our brothers and sisters of faith — from Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and every religious tradition, and people still seeking God to commit to PRAY — in a continuing vigil for these young Nigerian sisters.

1. We pray for the 276 Nigerian schoolgirls who are still missing and may be assaulted and abused. We pray for them by name, one by one, and most of their names can be found here.

2. We pray for the Nigerian government, other governments in the region, and international organizations on the ground there to take the courageous decisions and whatever risks necessary to find and rescue these girls.

3. We pray for the United Nations to take whatever actions are necessary to save these girls.

4. We pray for our own governments, and for American citizens, the United States government; to join with Nigerian and African forces to find and rescue these girls.

5. We pray that these violent perpetrators will be captured and brought to justice — all those who ordered or participated in these barbarous acts.

6. We pray together and denounce the false and blasphemous religious justifications for such despicable deeds.

7. And we pray together for God’s judgment, in God’s own way and time, on the souls of those who so dishonor the name of God and dishonor the religious traditions they falsely claim.

We believe in prayer — that prayer draws human attention to things that need our attention, and that God hears our prayers, which can work to change human events and history. It is time to for an international and continuous prayer vigil for the young Nigerian schoolgirls who have been kidnapped out of school for abuse. We must pray for these particular girls and also that this event and moment could draw our attention and our hearts to see how God is using educated and empowered women and girls to change the world. We believe God is doing that, and those who oppose that are indeed the enemies of God. Let us pray.

Jim Wallis is president of Sojourners. His book, The (Un)Common Good: How the Gospel Brings Hope to a World Divided will be released in paperback this spring. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallisDalia Mogahed is chairman and CEO of Mogahed Consulting and former Director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies. She is co-author with John L. Esposito of Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think. Follow Dalia on Twitter @dmogahed.

Image: Hudreds gather at Union Square in New York City on May 3 to demand the release of Nigerian schoolgirls, by Michael Fleshman

May 15th, 2014 at 8:35 am

Real Living is Encounter

Father Musa (rightmost) and others at the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions. Photo submitted by author.

by Father Gerald Musa

Why should I engage with people who hold religious beliefs which are different from mine and what difference does interreligious dialogue make when religious intolerance is on the increase?

These are questions I have often reflected upon and I have met friends who ask similar questions. However, I notice that it is hardly possible to avoid interreligious relationships because I was born into a mixed family of Christians and Muslims in Nigeria. My paternal relations are Muslims and my maternal relations are Christians and some of my best friends belong to other religious beliefs. My first name ‘Gerald’ is chosen from the Catholic ‘Saint Gerald Majella’ and my surname is ‘Musa’ which means Moses, an interreligious figure found in Jewish, Christian and Islamic scriptures. So all these factors put together have provided a basis and kindled my interest in interreligious relationships.

I think the most important reasons for which I have developed a passion for Christian-Muslim dialogue are my family and communal background. As a child growing up in a mixed community of Christians and Muslims, I have seen the best and the worst of interreligious relationships. In the communal farm work, no one asks if the other is a Christian or Muslim; in naming ceremonies and marriages everyone participates and contributes irrespective of religious beliefs. During the Muslim celebrations their Christian counterparts supported them with food ingredients and clothes with which to celebrate and the Muslim neighbours did the same for the Christians during Christian festivities. In the village what mattered most was everyone is somehow related to the other. On the other hand, I have personally witnessed riots between Christians and Muslims. The first was during my days in the minor Seminary when arsonists came in and set the school ablaze at a time when we were preparing for our final (high school) exams.

Through the years I have developed an inherent passion for interreligious dialogue and particularly, for dialogue with Muslims. From the various literature on dialogue and the attendance of conferences, my thoughts on dialogue are evolving and so I come to realize that disposition to dialogue is not a destination but a journey. One of the most remarkable pieces of literature on dialogue which I enjoy is Martin Buber’s “I and Thou.” For Buber, the I-Thou relationship is a dialogue and the I-It relationship is a monologue. The traits of the I-Thou relationship are mutual respect, equality and openness while the features of the I-It relationship are objectification and the manipulation of the other.

After ordination as a priest I have been officially engaged at different levels in interreligious dialogue. The first organisation in which I was involved was the Christian-Muslim forum and subsequently in the Nigeria Interreligious Council. Martin Buber says “All real living is encounter.” Through interreligious meetings and conferences I have encountered people with different religious persuasions. The most important conference which I attended is the Parliament of the World’s Religions which took place in Melbourne, Australia in December 2009. During this event, I came across prominent interreligious bridge builders such Hans Kung; Katherine Marshall of the Berkley Center for Peace, Religion and World affairs and the World Faiths Development Dialogue; Wesley Ariaraja of the World Council of Churches; Sakena Yacoobi of the Afghan Institute of Learning; Fr. Lawrence Freeman of World Community for Christian Meditation; and Precious Rasheeda Muhammad of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions headquartered in the US. I also had the privilege of being on the same discussion panel with Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Bukhari, a leader of the Sufi faith in Jerusalem.

When I travelled from Brisbane to Melbourne for the conference, I was sure of where I was going – to the Presbytery of Beaumaris and Black Rock Catholic Parish. Fr. John Dupuche, the Parish Priest and a lecturer at the Australian Catholic University had offered me an accommodation, but I was surprised to see that he lived in the same house with a Buddhist monk, Venerable Lobsang Tendar, who is also an artist, and a Hindu Swami Samnyasanand, who is also a neurophysiologist. I could not work out how these three lived together under the same roof. In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Venerable Lobsang Tendar says: “Every day we do meditation and sometimes in the morning and afternoon and this has really helped me.” This statement indicates that the three are united by the common ground of meditation.

I believe strongly that the path towards peace is in an authentic relationship with other cultures and faith traditions. This relationship begins when we are able to see the common humanity which we share, when we are open to encounter with others and when we make an effort to improve our knowledge on the meaning of dialogue. In 2001, when Pope John Paul II announced the International prayer meeting of world religious leaders which took place in Assisi, he said: “We wish to have Christians and Muslims come together to proclaim before the world that religion must never be a reason for conflict, hatred and violence.”  These words are still relevant for us today.

Fr. Gerald M. Musa was born in Gusau, Zamfara State, Nigeria and is a Catholic priest of Sokoto Diocese, Nigeria. Fr. Musa had studied philosophy at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, Makurdi and theology at St. Augustine’s Seminary, Jos, Nigeria. He undertook postgraduate studies in Communication at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome. Fr. Musa worked as Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (Sokoto Chapter). He also worked as an executive member of the Muslim-Christian Forum and the Nigeria Interreligious Council, Sokoto, Nigeria.

He is currently at the stage of completing his doctoral thesis at the School of Journalism and Communication. He is writing on “Dialogue as Communication: Potentials and Challenges of Christian-Muslim dialogue in Nigeria.”

Fr. Musa has keen interest in intercultural communication and in communication for social change.

Kenyan Muslims, Christians Vow To Prevent Violence

Photo Credit Getty Imagesby Tom Odula
from The Huffington Post

NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenyan clerics across the religious divide vowed Tuesday to not allow sectarian violence to erupt following attacks on churches over the weekend that killed at least 15 people.

The Inter-Religious Council of Kenya said Muslims will form vigilante groups alongside Christians to guard churches in Kenya’s North Eastern Province, where the latest attacks occurred.

Adan Wachu, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims and the chairman of Inter-Religious Council, said the weekend attacks, which are being blamed on an al-Qaida-linked militant group from Somalia, are meant to trigger sectarian violence between Christians and Muslims. Wachu said clerics will actively preach against retaliation to prevent violence from spreading in Kenya like it has in Nigeria, where attacks on churches by a Muslim sect has ignited a spiral of violence.

Click here to read full article


Christians, Muslims Unite At Nigeria Protest

by Jon Gambrell
from The Huffington Post

Christians and Muslims protesting together in Nigeria. Photo by Getty Images.

LAGOS, Nigeria — A human wave of more than 20,000 surrounded the Muslim faithful as they prayed toward Mecca Friday, as anti-government demonstrations over spiraling fuel prices and corruption showed unity among protesters despite growing sectarian tensions in Africa’s most populous nation.

While violence sparked by religious and ethnic divisions left about 1,500 people dead last year alone in Nigeria, some hope the ongoing protests gripping the oil-rich nation will bring together a country that already suffered through a bloody civil war.

“It shows that Nigeria is now coming together as one family,” said Abdullahi Idowu, 27, as he prepared to wash himself before Friday prayers.

Click here to read full article

June 28th, 2012 at 10:55 am

Bishops and Extractive Industries: A Human Face of Mining

Katherine Marshall

by Katherine Marshall
from the Huffington Post

In far flung corners of the world, religious leaders are protesting against mining companies and projects. What are their complaints? In Guatemala, they argue that gold mining poisons the water table, in Chad that painfully negotiated revenues that promised to ease the pain of poverty are nowhere in sight, in Ecuador that oil drilling devastates the landscape, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Nigeria that mining feeds devastating conflicts, in Ghana that mining in forest reserves threatens animal and plant species, in India that it strips indigenous people of their land rights, and in Peru that it pollutes lakes and rivers. The litany goes on and on but the underlying story told is one of broken promises, of powerful companies for whom profit is their God, and of a wounded planet whose land resources are despoiled with little to show, harming the people who live nearby.

It’s not that the church leaders are fighting a futile battle to stop all mining. As a statement of Catholic Bishops from Latin America who met last July in Chaclacayo, Peru began, “the church recognizes the importance of the extractive industries, the service they can provide to mankind and the economies of the world, and the progress they contribute to society as a whole.” But, there is a long list of “buts.” The bishops’ bottom line is that they see an irrational exploitation that leaves a trail of destruction, even death, throughout Latin America.

At the Washington National Cathedral an unlikely gathering of bishops, preachers, and advocates met on April 24 to explore how they might join forces both to draw attention to the harm that bad mining practices wreak on people and land, and to point to practical, positive ways to move forward. The prime movers behind the effort are the Bank Information Center, its indomitable leader, Chad Dobson and Father Seamus Finn, whose work with the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility has focused for years on nudging and cajoling companies towards responsibility in their corporate practice. Two large faith inspired organizations, Catholic Relief Services and Tearfund, have long campaigned for responsible mining and support the new coalition.

Click here to read the full article

Nigeria: Sultan Attributes Violence to Lack of Religious Understanding


The Sultan of Sokoto, Dr Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, said in Sokoto on Monday that lack of education was the root cause of violence in the country.

Abubakar spoke while receiving the President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue in the Vatican, Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, who paid him a visit in his palace in Sokoto.

He said people were not knowledgeable enough about their religions and as such took issues in the negative.

According to him, our people do not know the similarities between Islam and Christianity due to lack of education.

The Sultan added that it was important that we must always teach adherents the true meaning of religion.

He said that that was because if people had knowledge about the similarities of the two religions there would not be conflict in the polity, the Sultan said.

Click here to read the full article. 

Religious Leaders in Nigeria Call for Peace and Interreligious Cooperation

from Leadership, Nigeria

Most Rev. John Onaiyekan, the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Diocese, on Wednesday advised Christians to always control their anger and avoid revenge irrespective of the circumstances they find themselves.

Onaiyekan gave the advice in Madalla, Niger, on Wednesday on the occasion of a funeral mass at the St Theresa’s Catholic Church, for victims of the Dec. 25, 2011 bomb blast.

He urged the worshippers to move from natural feelings to “the living springs of our faith.

“If we have learnt to see the hand of God in all that happen to us, we must see it, especially in events like the Christmas Day bomb blast, which left us totally shattered.

“We must go beyond nature and overcome natural instincts of anger and, perhaps, even vengeance.’’

Onaiyeka said the injunction of the Lord was clear: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you and pray for those who treat you badly’’.

“We must draw on the grace of Christ for such spirit for forgiveness as Christ on the cross gave the example when he prayed for those who were persecuting him,’’ he said.

Onaiyekan also prayed that those in charge of the nation’s security and safety would have the wisdom to know how best to tackle security challenges as they occur.

“We pray for God’s protection on our security agents who often find themselves in the line of fire in the course of their duties,’’ he said.

In his message, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Rev. Fr. Mathew Kukah, said religious leaders across the faiths must stand up and face the challenge of the times by offering “a leadership that focuses on service to humanity’’.

“These are troubled times for our country; I say so because amidst this confusing debris of hate, anger and frustration, we have had some very interesting dimensions.

“As Nigerians, Christians and Muslims, we must stand together to ensure that our resources are well utilised for the common good.

“These are difficult times but they are also times of promise; our country has turned its back on all forms of dictatorships.
“Our hands are on the plough and we are resolutely committed to democracy,’’ Kukah said.

Click here to read the full article


Dialogue in Nigeria: Muslims & Christians Creating Their Future

This hopeful documentary gives voices and faces to 200 courageous Muslims and Christians – diverse young women and men – who unite successfully in Jos, central Nigeria.

Refusing to be enemies, they are together during days and evenings of the 2010 International Conference on Youth and Interfaith Communication.

They are tense yet excited to finally cross lines of religion, economics, tribe, and gender to transcend the status quo and discover empathy for each other’s personal life experiences.

Together they realize that “an enemy is one whose story we have not heard,” while listening-to-learn and thus dignifying themselves and the “others.”

Face to face and in small circles, they begin with ice-breakers and continue in depth to discover one another’s equal humanity – fear, grief, needs, hopes, and concrete plans for a shared future.

These determined young Nigerians illustrate how others worldwide can successfully connect and communicate to create authentic community.

Click here to watch the video

Christians and Muslims Unite at Nigeria Protest

By Jon Gambell
From Huffington Post

LAGOS, Nigeria — A human wave of more than 20,000 surrounded the Muslim faithful as they prayed toward Mecca Friday, as anti-government demonstrations over spiraling fuel prices and corruption showed unity among protesters despite growing sectarian tensions in Africa’s most populous nation.

While violence sparked by religious and ethnic divisions left about 1,500 people dead last year alone in Nigeria, some hope the ongoing protests gripping the oil-rich nation will bring together a country that already suffered through a bloody civil war.

“It shows that Nigeria is now coming together as one family,” said Abdullahi Idowu, 27, as he prepared to wash himself before Friday prayers.

Labor unions, meanwhile, announced Friday they would halt their five-day strike for the weekend, allowing families stuck largely inside their homes to go to markets and rest. Union leaders also plan to meet President Goodluck Jonathan and government officials on Saturday for new negotiations, just ahead of a promised labor shutdown of Nigeria’s oil industry.

Nigeria, which produces about 2.4 million barrels of crude a day, is the fifth-largest oil exporter to the U.S. While the country has a several-week stock of oil ready for export, the threatened shutdown Sunday could shake oil futures as traders remained concerns about worldwide supply.

The strike began Monday, paralyzing the nation of more than 160 million people. The root cause remains gasoline prices: President Goodluck Jonathan’s government abandoned subsidies that kept gasoline prices low Jan. 1, causing prices to spike from $1.70 per gallon (45 cents per liter) to at least $3.50 per gallon (94 cents per liter). The costs of food and transportation also largely doubled in a nation where most people live on less than $2 a day.

Anger over losing one of the few benefits average Nigerians see from being an oil-rich country, as well as disgust over government corruption, have led to demonstrations across this nation and violence that has killed at least 10 people. Red Cross volunteers have treated more than 600 people injured in protests since the strike began, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Friday.

“Over 4,000 persons have also been temporarily displaced there as a result of the strike and communal tensions,” said Mamadou Sow, the deputy head of the committee’s delegation in Nigeria. “Most of them have now started to return to their homes.”

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