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As the World Prays for Peace, Milwaukee Interfaith Clergy Offer Strong Spiritual Leadership

Widely shared image of two boys united by interfaith harmony and friendship symbolizing a groundswell cry for peace as violence and war batter the Gaza strip in July 2014.

Originally appeared in Milwaukee Journal Sentinal July 17, 2014, as reported by Annysa Johnson. 

More than 100 faithful from a variety of religious traditions gathered at Milwaukee’s All Saints Cathedral on Wednesday to pray for peace in the Middle East, a response to the escalating hostilities in Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

“Worshippers sang “Donna Nobis Pacem,” or “Grant us Peace” in Latin, Hebrew and Arabic. And Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Unitarian clergy offered their prayers and insights into what it means to work for and live in peace.

“It was very touching and profound,” said an emotional Mary Kelly of Milwaukee, who is Catholic. “There is just such a feeling of helplessness,” around the issues in the Middle East, she said.

“We have such a long way to go — in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Milwaukee. I’m just happy that this congregation saw the need to pull us all together.

The service was organized by the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, which works to find common ground among religious traditions. Like other flashpoints in the Middle East, the Gaza crisis has heightened tensions in Milwaukee’s Jewish and Muslim communities, which tend to view the conflict from different perspectives.

Here are excerpts from the prayers offered Wednesday, in the order they were spoken:

The Very Rev. Kevin Carroll, dean of All Saints Cathedral: “We can pray for peace in far off lands. But our prayers will ring hollow if we ourselves fail to model what peace looks like — in our homes, in our families, in our relationships and in our communities. …Peace starts with prayer. But it also starts right here, right now, with all of us sitting in this room.

Auxiliary Bishop Donald Hying, Archdiocese of Milwaukee: Loving and peaceful God, help us to see ourselves and each other as you see us, beautiful; created in your image; open to love; hearts that are made for peace and good will, sacrifice and generosity. … Help us to love as you love, to forgive as you forgive, to be an extension of your mercy and your peace in this world, and to be signs of your kingdom in our midst.

The Rev. Craig M. Howard, Presbytery of Milwaukee: Deliver us from the hardness of heart that keeps us locked in violent confrontation with one another. Give to us your spirit of love so that we may show compassion. Teach us to walk in humility so we might live in peace with our sisters and brothers. And most of all, God, change our hearts.

Zulfiqar Ali ShahIslamic Society of Milwaukee: Almighty God …we are ruthlessly subjugating, terrorizing and killing each other based upon narrow identities. Guide us to stop this needless violence, terror, aggression, cold blooded murders and destruction. … We beseech you to bring an end to this needless bloodbath and wanton destruction.

Rabbi Ronald Shapiro, Congregation Shalom: Teach us to work for the welfare of all people, to diminish the evil and pains that beset us. And to enlarge those virtues we know will bring dignity and peace to all the peoples of the earth. So bless our striving to make real the dream of peace among all humankind. May we put an end to the suffering we inflict upon one another and cherish the dignity of the soul that abides in each human being.

The Rev. Linda HansenUnitarian Universalists: We pray for the power to see that we are all connected … and that we ultimately help or harm ourselves in helping or harming one another. Out of this vision, may we have the will and the courage to work for a just and peaceful world in which every individual is treated with dignity.

The Rev. Stephen J. PolsterWisconsin Conference United Methodist Church: And so we pray as we gather here … that you will strengthen our resolve to give witness to the truths by the way we live. Give to us understanding that puts an end to strife, mercy that quenches hatred, forgiveness that overcomes vengeance. Impart all of us here and everywhere to live in your law of love.

Swarnjit Aroraof the Sikh community: We are children of one God. … Then how can we say one child is better than the other child. All children in your eyes Lord are sacred. … We pray for peace in the Middle East. Oh God … Give us strength to stand up for peace and non-violence in our world. … We pray for chardi kala, the well-being of each and every human being.

The Rev. Jean Dow, pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church: Though we come from different places and express our faith in different ways, give us a common concern, that we may share our deep convictions as people of faith and continue to pray and work together side by side, hand in hand. And Let us pray without ceasing for peace first within our own minds hearts and spirits, so that each of us might also be instruments of your peace and bearers of reconciliation in this city, in our neighborhoods, in our families and in our faith communities.

From CPWR’s Bookshelf, we recommend…

A World of Prayer book cover

From CPWR’s Bookshelf, we recommend:

A beautiful collection of prayers was recently published in the book A World of Prayer: Spiritual Leaders, Activists, and Humanitarians Share their Favorite Prayers, edited by Rosalind Bradley.

Introducing the book in terms reflecting the deeply-felt mission of the Council for a Parliament of the Worlds Religions, Bradley states, ““Our current global situation with its ongoing tensions, wars, and conflicts has convinced me of the importance of finding ways to transcend religious divides and foster greater understanding and mutual respect between the world’s religions” (xxiv).”

Engaging in Interfaith dialogue through activism and involvement across faiths and organizations in Australia is the calling in Bradley’s work invigorating to this collection.  Boasting a spectrum of faiths, Bradley is herself a mosaic (such is the title of her first publication, Mosaic) of personal faiths and spiritual journeys having experienced a richly eclectic involvement in several religious traditions.  This diversity of perspective is championed by a book of thoughtful, and sometimes very personal meditations.

From Rosalind Bradley’s website,

The contributors include Nobel Peace Prize winners Lech Walesa of Poland, Mairead Corrigan of Ireland, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu of South Africa, as well as the Dalai Lama, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Rabbi Jacqueline Tabick, theologian Hans Küng, and well-loved spiritual writers Richard Rohr and Joan Chittister. Artists and musicians such as Pete Seeger and Yusuf Islam are also included, along with many more who share prayers and reflections sure to resonate with readers of all faiths.
The prayers include classic and familiar texts from every religious tradition. But some of the selections are surprisingly personal, offering a glimpse into the heart of many great souls of our time.

A World of Prayer can be purchased through Amazon and through the editor’s website.

December 20th, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Jains Start Fasts, Prayers as Paryushana Begins Today

Photography credit to Dinodia Photo Libary.

Digambra Jain Paryushana celebrations at a temple in Bulawadi, Mumbai.

from The Times of India
by Barkha Mathur

For the extremely religious Jain community, the next eight days are significant for fasting, praying and asking for forgiveness. Paryushana, which means self cleansing by removing all negativity like raag, dwesh, moh and maya, begins on the Bhadrapada Shuklapaksh Chaturthi. It is sacred as it marks the beginning of the eight days when the dashalakshana vrata is undertaken by devout Jains.

The two Jain sects, Shwetambar and Digambar, follow this period on different days. As the calendar this year has an adhik maas, there is a gap of nearly a month between the Paryushana of the two sects.

As these eight to ten days fall during Chaturmaas most saints settle in one place. This gives the community an opportunity to listen to their sermons. Describing it as a time for performing dharma, city businessman Nikhil Kusumgar says temple visits and attending sermons is an essential part of the prescribed rituals. “We follow the dincharya suggested by Lord Mahavir. This includes fasting and satsang.”

Click here to read full article

August 14th, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Embracing a Greener Ramadan

Photography Credit to Google Images.by Ryan Strom
from Common Ground News Service

The holiest month of the Islamic year, Ramadan, began last Friday, 20 July.  This Ramadan, many Muslims are looking at a new dimension of the month: our impact on the earth.  This is particularly important as we learn more about the effects of climate change, dwindling resources and, most importantly, decreasing access to fresh water around the world, which is a growing concern in many Muslim communities and countries.

Muslims believe that God has asked them to abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan.  In addition to fasting, Muslims around the world aspire to attain spiritual contentment and come closer to God through increased prayer, meditation, helping others and self-reflection.  While fasting is the most well known aspect of the month, it is also a time to be more aware of the universal principles of mercy, compassion and respect for the Earth that our faith teaches.

Click here to read full article

 

August 1st, 2012 at 10:55 am

Colorado Churches Remember, Reflect on Aurora Theater Shooting

Photo credit to Helen H. Richardson from the Denver Post.

Parishioners of the Potter House Church worshipping in a powerful service dedicated to the victims of the Aurora theater shooting.

by Elana Ashanti Jefferson, Kurtis Lee and Kristen Browning-Blas
from The Denver Post

Few things soothe like the familiar.

For parishioners in and around Aurora on Sunday, that meant coming together for worship and perspective in the aftermath of a far-reaching act of public violence.

Church leaders rose to the occasion.

“You can’t just not mention it,” Eleanor VanDeusen, religious education director for children and youth at Foothills Unitarian Church in Fort Collins, said of Friday’s movie-theater shooting that left 12 dead and dozens more injured. “When these horrific events happen, we really come back to that idea of community and connection.”

Sierra Graves, 20, Derrick Poage, 22, and Naya Thompson, 22, went together Friday to see “The Dark Knight Rises” at the Century Aurora 16 theater. After an anxious, sleepless weekend and several national media interviews, the friends were together again Sunday, calm and composed, for an uplifting 11 a.m. service at Restoration Christian Fellowship, about 2 miles from the shooting site. The service began with 20 minutes of prayer and reflection around the massacre.

Click here to read full article

July 25th, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Sacred Space: Amal Ali on Islam and the Mosque

 

Amal Ali discusses Islam, prayer, the mosque, and the practice of her religious tradition.

July 24th, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Nine FAQs About Ramadan

Photo Credit to Alamy

Peckham Mosque women praying Ramadan prayers.

from The Huffington Post

What is the history of Ramadan?

Ramadan is the 9th month of the Arabian calendar. The term Ramadan literally means scorching in Arabic. It was established as a Holy Month for Muslims after the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in 610 CE on the occasion known as Laylat al-Qadr, frequently translated as “the Night of Power.

What is the ‘goal’ of Ramadan?

In general, the practices of Ramadan are meant to purify oneself from thoughts and deeds which are counter to Islam. By removing material desires, one is able to focus fully on devotion and service to God. Many Muslims go beyond the physical ritual of fasting and attempt to purge themselves of impure thoughts and motivations such as anger, cursing, and greed.

Click here to read full article

Ramadan, a Sacred Time for Reflection, Sacrifice to Muslims and Appreciation as non-Muslims

Photo Credit to Mohammed Ballas- APby Christopher L. Heuertz
from The Washington Post

This week remember to wish all your Muslim friends “Ramadan Mubarak” or “Ramadan Kareem” (“Blessed/Happy Ramadan”) as the annual fast of Islam begins the evening of Thursday, July 19th and goes until the evening of Aug. 18 (holiday may start July 20 and end Aug. 19 depending on when Muslims spot the new moon in different parts of the world).

Ramadan commemorates the month when the sacred scriptures of Islam, the Koran, was given to the prophet Muhammad. In Islam, it is a period of purification, a time if fasting. The fast is observed throughout daylight, commencing at sunrise and concluding at sunset each day. Not only does the fast include food, but water and other beverages— not even a sip. In many instances, Muslims even fast from most forms of entertainment, creating time to recite their scripture and performing additional prayers throughout the night (tarawih or taraweeh).

It’s not simply a fast from food, but a time of cleansing both the body and the soul. Even small children are included in this sacrament.

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

Rise in UK Multifaith Prayer Rooms, a Liverpool Study Reveals

The multifaith space at the Museum of Liverpool

from BBC News

The number of shared spaces for prayer, reflection and meditation has risen over the last 10 years, a study has found.

Researchers from The University of Liverpool said there were more than 1,500 multifaith spaces in the UK.

Dr Andrew Crompton from the University of Liverpool said the increase came in spite of “a decline in the popularity of established religion”.

Click here to read the full article.