The Parliament Blog

Archive for the ‘reconciliation’ tag

Global Jews and Muslims Can ‘Choose Life’ Together Today Over Joint Fast

As conflict continues to batter civilians in the Gaza strip after a short ceasefire broke down overnight, Interfaith leaders of Judaism and Islam are calling the masses to stand side by side in prayer today, a joint day of fasting that falls on both religious calendars July 15.

Interfaith activists, please share this urgent call for peace. 

The Huffington Post is one of the outlets focusing on the parents. An article about Interfaith prayer for peace today reads, “Sanity must prevail. Inertia cannot take over,” wrote Robi Damelin, in a July 10 editorial in The Huffington Post. Damelin, who lost her son, David, to the conflict in 2002, concluded, “We must come out and demonstrate to the powers that be. Stop the violence. As part of the Parents Circle-Family Forum, Damelin meets with Palestinian and Israeli families who have all lost children in the conflict.”

  • The religious definitions of today’s fasting is explored in The Times of Israel article reporting more on the “Choose Life” movement promoting today’s peace demonstrations:

“The 17th of Tammuz, a fast day that commemorates the breach of Jerusalem’s walls before the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70, falls out on Tuesday. It’s the start of a three-week mourning period leading up to Tisha B’Av, a more well-known fast day that marks the destruction of the temple.

Tuesday is also the 18th day of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, when Muslims fast from dawn till sunset each day for the entire month.

The joint fast “is not a sixties anti-war thing,” said Shaul Judelman, one of the Choose Life organizers. ‘It’s coming from a religious place, which is tricky when rockets are falling. But our future seems to be here together, and no one’s going anywhere.” (Read more on The Times of Israel…)

Those in the United States wishing to join a public prayer demonstration and fast, seek opportunities like the following being organized in D.C. and Chicagoland:

In response, Jewish and Muslim clergy of the DC area are joining together as part of an international effort by religious leaders to pray for an end to the violence.  On Tuesday, July 15th the Jewish and Muslim calendars are united in a day of fast: the fast of 17 Tamuz, and the fast of Ramadan. For both traditions this is a day designated for soul-searching, an opportunity for people to take responsibility, and for self repair, communal purification, and repentance.

As we join together we hope to direct the consciousness of both peoples to this day as a “peak day” – a day in which each man and woman will be invited to take part, to fast in solidarity with the suffering, violence and pain of self and others, to ask how to end the cycle of bloodshed and draw a horizon of hope and vision.

Please join Maharat Ruth Friedman and Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld of Ohev Sholom: The National Synagogue, Rabbi Etan Mintz and Chava Evans of B’nai Israel Congregation, and Imam Johari Abdul-Malik of the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center on Tuesday, July 15th at 5pm in Lafayette Square in Washington, DC to offer prayers for peace and comfort. Leaders and members of all faith communities are encouraged to attend.

Please contact Maharat Friedman at or 847-722-8287 to add your congregation’s name to the list of co-sponsors.

  • JEWISH-MUSLIM FAST FOR PEACE, JULY 15 - Fountain Square, Evanston, IL 6:00pm

Friends – In response to the current violence in Israel/Palestine, Jews and Muslims in Chicago will join in a collective fast on Tuesday, July 15, when our two calendars converge:

The Fast of the 17th of the Hebrew month of Tammuz (for the Jews this is a fast commemorating the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem before the Temple was destroyed) and the middle of the Fast of the Muslim Month of Ramadan.

Chicagoland Jews and Muslims will meet in Evanston, at Fountain Square (corner of Sherman and Davis, just steps from Davis CTA and Metra stations), at 6:00pm.

We will show empathy for each other’s pain and share in a collective prayer for peace, and a better future which our peoples deserve.

For both traditions, this is a day dedicated to taking an accounting of the soul, to taking responsibility, for correcting and purifying, to turning in repentance. The plan is to direct two peoples on this day to a kind of summit, during which everyone is invited to take part, to fast in identification with the suffering, the violence, the pain of one’s self and the other, to ask how we will break the cycle of violence and to create a vision of hope.

As one author (who lost his son in war) recently said: the situation is too desperate for us to drown ourselves in despair.


July 15th, 2014 at 9:03 am

Queen Makes First Visit to Catholic Church in Northern Ireland

Photo from Press Eye Ltd.

The Queen arrives in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland.

by Caroline Davies

from The Guardian

On the eve of her historic meeting with the former IRA commander Martin McGuinness, the Queen began her two-day tour of Northern Ireland on Tuesday by visiting a community that suffered one of the most notorious IRA attacks.

The Queen joined Catholic and Protestant leaders in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, scene of the Remembrance Day bombing which killed 11 people and injured 63 others 25 years ago. Crowds gathered in the wind and rain to watch her attend a service of thanksgiving in the Anglican St Macartin’s Cathedral, then cross the road to St Michael’s Roman Catholic church, where she met members of the community.

It was the first time in her 60-year reign the Queen had set foot in a Catholic church in Northern Ireland. But then this visit, probably the most significant she has made to the province, has promised some ground-breaking moments. Chief among them is the much-anticipated meeting between McGuinness, the Sinn Féin deputy first minister, and the Queen, the ultimate symbol of British rule in Ireland

Click here to read full article

Korean Churches Plan “Peace Train” Ahead Of 2013 Gathering

The '88 world "Peace Train" of Korean National Railroad. Push-pull type Saemaeul DMU, at Dong-Daegu station, Gyeongbu Line. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

by Kristine Greenaway
from the Eurasia Review

Korean churches are developing plans for a “peace train” that would travel from Berlin through Moscow and Beijing to Busan, South Korea in time for the World Council of Churches’ (WCC) global assembly in October 2013.

The plan is to draw attention to the need for peace and reunification in the Korean peninsula, the churches said, and North Korea also would be on the route of the train, which would carry church and civil society representatives.

“Peace Together 2013, a committee of the National Council of Churches of Korea [NCCK], is working with the governments on the plan,” said Chae Hye-won, Director of the Committee of Reconciliation and Reunification of the NCCK.

A team of ten South Korean Christian leaders will begin a short version of the proposed 16-day trip on 28 May when they travel from Geneva to Beijing.

NCCK is also in early phases of discussion about how to work with the governments of North and South Korea to prepare a peace treaty to be signed in 2013 that marks the 60th anniversary of the ceasefire treaty that ended the Korean War.

Click here to read the full article

Arts and Culture Bring Peace and Reconciliation To Multi-Religious and Multi-Ethnic Communities in Sri Lanka

Traditional Sri Lankan harvesting dance. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

by Iromi Dharmawardhane

The arts and culture can be powerful catalysts in bringing about reconciliation within the hearts of individuals as well as between communities, changing who we are and how we relate to each other.  Reconciliation through the arts and other cultural mediums can occur in two ways: firstly, a victim of war may find it easier to express one’s pain – including one’s remorse – through aesthetic mediums, and secondly, artistic and cultural projects and performances which are a fruit of collaboration between individuals belonging to different communities would lead to the regaining of each other’s trust and respect, understanding each other’s different but equally painful war-time experiences, learning about what is common and valuing what is unique in each other’s cultural heritage, and at last recognizing each other’s interdependence.

The arts, whether it is through music, painting, poetry, prose, song, dance, film, photography, theater, or puppetry, can be a vehicle for truth, dialogue, and inter-cultural understanding for communities who speak different languages in nations where communal relations have been battered by the circumstances of war. Sri Lanka has seen several outstanding examples of how the arts have a great part to play in the national reconciliation process. An extraordinary concert was organized and directed by Mrs. Arunthathy Sri Ranganathan on March 6, 2012 in Sri Lanka where an orchestra comprising 100 young musicians from all districts of Sri Lanka performed in unison, playing a variety of Oriental and Western instruments. This talented and large assembly of musicians from diverse backgrounds conveyed a convincing and memorable message of “unity in diversity”.

The Aru Sri Art Theatre troupe founded by Mrs. Arunthathy Sri Ranganathan to promote inter-ethnic harmony rendered a captivating performance of the dance drama Sri Ram at the International Ramayana Festival in Bintaan, Indonesia on April 12 – 13, 2012 and in Singapore on April 14. They also presented scintillating performances of classical compositions on Hindu themes such as Bharathanatyam and the Cosmic Dance of Shiva which were performed by Sri Lankan dancers of different ethnicities and religions. The conciliatory power of the performing arts in drawing different ethnic groups together was never so vividly and vibrantly depicted. Aru Sri Art Theatre offers audiences across Sri Lanka and overseas contemporary interpretations and innovative productions of rich historical and cultural lore, while retaining the purity of the traditional performing arts. Sri Lankan theater and dance companies and associations, in this way, can organize dance symposiums to celebrate and bring together the different dance types in the Sinhalese tradition (such as Upcountry dances, Low Country dances, Sabaragamuwa dances, and folk dances) and the Tamil tradition (such as bharatanatyam, kathakali, and naddu koothu and other folk dances).

Sri Lanka held the Interfaith Music Festival (a first in Asia) in February 2012 which was organized and created by the Mother Sri Lanka Trust and The Art of Living Foundation. Children from across the island came together to perform Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, and Islamic chants and songs on one stage. The highly-praised Jaffna Music Festival was held in March 2011 where hundreds of local folk artists from all over Sri Lanka as well as international folk artists performed in Jaffna in celebration of the unique and diverse traditional musical heritage of Sri Lanka and the world. This event was organized by the Sewalanka Foundation with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Aru Sri Art Theatre, and Concerts Norway.

Click here to read the full article

Telling Stories of Muslims and Christians in Syria

Deir Mar Musa, the Monastery of St. Moses the Abyssinian

A portion of Deir Mar Musa, the Monastery of St. Moses the Abyssinian

by Stephanie Saldana
from The Interfaith Observer

Twelve years ago, I travelled to a monastery in the Syrian desert, where I met an Italian priest by the name of Father Paolo Dall’Oglio. For 20 years, he had been living in rural Syria, serving as the abbot of the ancient monastery of Deir Mar Musa. There, he led a community of Arabic-speaking monks and nuns dedicated to prayer, hospitality, manual work and dialogue with Muslims. As I settled in I was astonished to notice Muslims visiting all day, admiring the church frescoes, joining the local Syrian Christians for lunch, even excusing themselves so that they could perform their prayers in a quiet corner of the monastery grounds. I had never seen love between Muslims and Christians embodied so effortlessly, a communion of human beings sharing daily life.

Over the following years I came to know Father Paolo well, and grew accustomed to the Muslims who visited his monastery almost daily. Father Paolo told me stories. He spoke of Muslim sheikhs who came to discuss their faith, of Muslim visitors who arrived bearing gifts – one prominent Muslim artist even sculpted a cross for the monastery – of meals and songs and fears shared between faiths. He quoted the Qur’an as easily as the Bible. To Christians, he told stories of Muslims and their love of Jesus, Mary and the Prophet Mohammed. To Muslims, he told stories of the respect early Muslims had for Christian monks.

Last year, as the crisis in Syria escalated, Father Paolo publicly called for reconciliation in an attempt to avoid civil war. In late November the government issued an order for his expulsion.

For weeks I was haunted by what Father Paolo’s expulsion would mean for Syrian Christians. The conflict in Iraq had already led to the exodus of more than half of the country’s Christian population. The threat of a mass exodus in Syria was equally real – for they had been placed in an impossible situation. As minorities protected by the government, local Christians were terrified of a civil war that would leave them vulnerable to Muslim extremists, just as they were frightened that if an Islamic party took control of the country, their rights would no longer be recognized. Yet now the government was demanding they silence themselves and abandon the Christian principle of confronting injustice and working towards peace.

Click here to read the full story 

Protestant and Catholic Irish Teens Work Together in Texas

From The Dallas Morning News,

ARLINGTON – For far too long, Protestants and Catholics didn’t mingle in Northern Ireland. Violence tore them apart.

But this month, 16 teenagers from the Belfast area – eight of them Protestant, eight of them Catholic – are side by side and becoming friends in Dallas-Fort Worth . They’ve been bonding as they stocked a food pantry for the needy, built a Fourth of July float and jumped on rides at Six Flags Over Texas.

They’re staying with North Texas teens and their families as part of the Ulster Project, a 35-year-old national effort that helps foster friendships among Irish students and transform them into peacemakers in their homeland. Program supporters say that the American teens benefit, too. In 1994, the project expanded to Arlington.

When Beth McClements, 15, heads back to Northern Ireland, she’ll take some lifelong lessons with her.

“Hopefully, to be a little more tolerant and more accepting of people from different backgrounds,” said McClements, who is Catholic. “Be more understanding and less judgmental.”

Hanging out with Catholics and Protestants has shown McClements that while there may be differences in their faith, “we’re all the same.”

Liza Hawrylak of Arlington says that the Ulster effort is making a difference. Her family has hosted two students from Northern Ireland. The Irish teens find common ground, said Hawrylak, president of Ulster Project Arlington.

“You see how the kids grow and they’ve bonded together and work together,” she said. “We’re bringing peace to the future leaders of Northern Ireland.”

Beginnings in 1975

The Ulster Project was launched in 1975 when a Church of Ireland priest was asked what could be done to ease tensions in Northern Ireland.

The priest, who had visited the U.S. during a pastoral exchange program, figured that students could benefit from seeing how Americans lived in a multicultural society.

There are several Ulster Project chapters across America. The Arlington group holds fundraisers through the year to cover half of the Northern Ireland teens’ travel and program costs.

In Northern Ireland, peace has long been elusive. About 3,700 people were killed during a 30-year period called the Troubles, which lasted until the late ’90s.

In 1972, British soldiers killed 13 protesters in Northern Ireland on a day known as Bloody Sunday. Last month, the British prime minister offered an apology after an investigation determined that the killings were unjustified.

A peace agreement in 1998 ended much of the violence.

But tensions linger. Last spring, a bomb went off in the town of Holywood, where McClements lives.

“It’s sad to think that it’s still happening,” she said. “There’s a small group from each side that would still be involved in violence, but everyone else is trying to move forward.”

Life is improving in Northern Ireland, and people are more tolerant, the Ulster Project participants say. Protestants and Catholics are mingling. Schools are integrated and children of both faiths are becoming friends.

“It’s definitely getting better,” McClements said.

The Northern Irish teens in Texas say they’re open-minded. To them, it doesn’t matter who’s Protestant and who’s Catholic.

“I don’t really care what religion somebody is,” said Thomas Elliott, 16, who is Protestant. “As long as they’re a nice person, that’s all that really matters.”

Elliott said the tension between Catholics and Protestants won’t completely disappear. But he hopes that what he learns in Texas rubs off on people back home.

Their American hosts are learning lessons, too.

Beth Grothouse of Arlington, whose family is hosting McClements, hopes to take what she’s learned back to the halls of Lamar High School, where she’s a student.

“There’s just so many people at school who you look at and say, ‘I’m not going to talk to them,’ ” the 15-year-old said. “There are so many little cliques, and people judge. I think it will open me up and be more accepting.”

Click here to read the full article.

Nigerian Imam and Pastor Lead Peace Efforts in Kenya

From The Washington Post,

Muhammad Ashafa (left) and James Wuye (right)

Muhammad Ashafa (left) and James Wuye (right)

The unlikely and inspiring Nigerian duo Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye were in Switzerland last week at the Caux Forum for Human Security. Their partnership is unlikely because they were militia leaders on opposite sides of the conflict in northern Nigeria and lost not only friends but parts of their own bodies as combatants (James wears his artificial arm proudly). It is inspiring because they are powerful exemplars of the possibility of reconciliation.

Pastor James and Imam Ashafa were at Caux to launch a film called An African Answer (it will be released in September). An earlier film, The Imam and the Pastor, told the story of how they overcame their own hatred and joined forces, and their subsequent joint work in Nigeria. The new film is about their work in Kenya to help dampen the fires of violence that erupted there after the 2007 election.

Kenya’s conflicts are centered on ethnic differences, not religious ones. So the imam and the pastor approached local communities in Eldoret not in their religious roles but as specialists in conflict resolution.

The film is instructive, showing how the duo went about their work. Each man led a group of one of the ethnic communities, the Kalenjins and Kikiyus. They first undertook a classic effort to draw out some positive views each held of the other. Then they delved into the grievances, and there were plenty. Land topped the list, but there was also much resentment about attitudes and respective tendencies to stick to their own communities, including separate Christian churches.

The first visit seemed to bring some greater consciousness of the complexities of the sources of conflict and produced a committee with a mandate to monitor the fragile peace. A second visit some months later delved deeper and sought ideas for common action. A plan to unify the ethnically separated markets in a town emerged.

And then, the film shows, members of the communities wrote down their grievances on pieces of paper and burned them in a ceremonial fire. This ritual was aimed at catharsis and symbolized a commitment to consign the bitterness of past hurts and longstanding grievances to the flames.

The two Nigerians seemed to lead the Christian reconciliation rituals without a trace of concern for religious difference – indeed a sense pervades the images that the unifying power of faith is far greater than any specific difference in beliefs or teachings. Forgiveness, love of neighbor, and commitment to address and resolve conflicts were powerful bonds.

A jarring but realistic feature of the film is the dominance of men. Women play only marginal roles. That’s an honest reflection of the social norms in the communities concerned and is another reminder of how important it is to bring women into central roles in work for peace. They have so much to offer.

Click here to read the full article.

Zen Master Bernie Glassman Discusses the Art of Reconciliation

From The Huffington Post,

Bernie Glassman, founder of Zen Peacemakers, has been a student of Zen for over 50 years. Since 1996, he have been leading Bearing Witness retreats in the Auschwitz concentration camp with people from all different faiths and nations. This November, Zen Peacemakers are planning the first retreat involving young adults from key conflict areas. Ts-AUSCHWITZ-largehe three tenets of the Zen Peacemakers are not-knowing, bearing witness and loving actions. They deepen the practice of bearing witness at Auschwitz and on the streets, and they practice loving actions based on the first two tenets through their service projects of the Montague Farm Zen House. In the following interview, Bernie Glassman discusses Zen Peacemakers’ Auschwitz retreat.

These comments are part of a longer interview with Bernie Glassman in January, 2010. The questions were written by Christa Spannbauer, journalist and assistant to Roshi Willigis Jäger, and the interview was conducted by Ari Pliskin.

What do you teach at Auschwitz?

Nothing. I am not the teacher there. Auschwitz is the teacher. Its an amazing teacher. I’m always seeking places to learn. Many times, I invite people to do the trip with me. Maybe they’ll learn something, too. I try to bring us into a situation in which there is almost no way not to learn. This plunges us into the state of not-knowing and then we can bear witness to the joy and suffering of the world.

Many people and groups visit Auschwitz. What makes the Zen Peacemakers Bearing Witness Retreat unique?

Most visit and then leave the same day. We stay for six days. We also bring people from many cultures, countries and traditions. We bring people from both sides: children of survivors and children of SS officers. Those who come consider themselves open-minded enough to come, but when they come together in the same room, it is a different story. Problems erupt and people clash.

What happens when people clash on the retreat?

If you stay in the cauldron of Auschwitz, by the third or fourth day, changes happen. At one retreat, a Jewish man had become friendly with a German woman and discovered her father ran the camp that killed his family. At first, he was enraged and she was overwhelmed with guilt. Within another day, they went through the cycles of emotions and they were hugging and kissing. I don’t know what would happen if any given person came, but I know they won’t be the same when they leave.

Why Auschwitz?

There is a part of us that allows us to dehumanize people. It’s an aspect of ourselves that we don’t want to touch. Auschwitz is the world-monument of that aspect.

How can we deal with the dehumanizing aspect in us so that it doesn’t cause so much harm in the world?

The first way to deal with this aspect is to remember. “Re-membering” as the opposite of dismembering — remembering is putting back together what’s been taken apart. After the eighth year of remembering victims, Heinz-Jürgen Metzger, the coordinator of Peacemaker work in Europe, said it was time to start remembering the perpetrators. Heinz’s uncle was castrated because he wouldn’t do the work of the SS. Heinz didn’t learn about this for 25 years because his family was disgraced because his uncle wouldn’t comply. When Heinz proposed remembering the perpetrators, about half the participants were ready to leave.

I brought up the issue of remembering and honoring the perpetrators at a later retreat, which was very difficult. Honoring means we cite their name, like we do for those who died there. The goal was to change from just blaming and hating the perpetrators to get into what was going on a deeper level. So we did a ceremony in the guards’ tower, where each person honors a time when they were a perpetrator or someone was a perpetrator to them.

How far can you go in this remembering? If this is one world, and the point is to re-member the whole world, where do you stop? That’s where your practice has to be. To go into the spaces of what the perpetrators went through and what happened after — many committed suicide.

Click here to read the full article.

Father Leonel Narvaez Op-Ed Published by Eureka Street

Father Leonel Narvaez takes on the challenge of writing about a complex issue at depth.  His op-ed for Eureka Street begins with  the difficulties of establishing peace after 54,000 Colombia insurgents agreed to cooperate with the Commission of Reparation and Reconciliation.  Narvaez goes on to discuss the necessity for both forgiveness and reconciliation in any progress to a genuine and lasting peace.

To read the full op-ed, click here.