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Archive for the ‘religion’ tag

Faith Inspires: Hindu American Seva Charities

Photo Credit to Myra Iqbal, AOL

Niki A. Shah teaches yoga to a group of kids as a part of the Hindu American Seva Charities.

by Jahnabi Barooah
from The Huffington Post

This week’s Faith Inspires highlights the work of Hindu American Seva Charities (HASC), an organization whose mission is to engage in “seva, interfaith collaboration, pluralism, social justice and sustainable civic engagement to ignite grassroots social change and build healthy communities.” Seva, which means “service” in Sanskrit, is an important aspect of the Dharmic traditions, which include Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.

In 2009, when President Barack Obama issued a “call to serve,” Anju Bhargava, a Hindu American resident of Livingston, NJ, was appointed to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. HASC is a result of that collaboration, and was designed to strengthen and put a spotlight on civic engagement and community service efforts in the Dharmic community.

Despite the White House’s support and guidance, HASC did not have the easiest start, and their success over the past two years can be attributed as much to creative theological thinking, as to the Dharmic community’s desire to be fully accepted in the American community.

“The Hindu community didn’t have a faith-based infrastructure [to perform community service],” Anju Bhargava, the founder of the HASC told The Huffington Post. Even though many Hindus were engaging in community service through informal means, Hindus did not have access to sustainable community service programs that were faith-based. If the goal was to bring seva to the forefront and make it relevant in the American context, the challenge was that the Hindu-American community was so fragmented because of its varied religious and philosophical beliefs, Bhargava told The Huffington Post.

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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.

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From Steeples to Domes, Architecture Reflects Religious Diversity

Photo Credit to John Gillis from The Daily News Journal

The pinnacle of Shri Krishna Pranami Mission Hindu Temple in Christiana.

from The Daily News Journal
by Scott Broden and Doug Davis

Religious architecture is all about helping believers worship.

Whether it comes to church bell towers, steeples and crosses or mosque minarets and domes, the designs are ways for the congregation to keep the faith. The Daily News Journal recently visited a number of these houses of worship throughout Rutherford County to learn how architecture plays a role in their religion.

Located in rural Christiana, the 12,799-square-foot Hindu Shri Krishna Pranami temple completed in 2009 is, on the surface, a stark contrast to the traditional homes and farms that make up this tight-knit community. But it’s that rural quality, that “incredible natural beauty” that made the community an ideal fit for the temple and its followers, according to Vippin Aggarwal, speaking on behalf of Temple President Hasmukhbhai Savalia.

Making Room for People With Disabilities

Photo Credit to Creative Commons by Patrick Brown
from State of Formation

Each person was different and each brought with them their own challenges and gifts. Some of them had significant language challenges and behavior problems that were hard to navigate. Some were capable of a relatively normal life with a job, social life, and real community. The major aspect of the person center planning process is dreaming. This is what seemed to be the most difficult part of the institutional environment. As much as these people were cared for and even happy to some extent, they had very few dreams for themselves and the only people in their lives were paid to be there and so no one had aspirations for these people beyond the most basic care. My mom and I had to stretch ourselves to think of dreams for these people we didn’t even know. These individuals had been cut off from their families and natural relationships and put into a clinical environment that lacked the kind of creativity, which can only come from genuine relationships.

The experience has made me reflect on how important community is to human dignity and fulfillment. One of the most attractive aspects of organized religions is their capacity for community. When talking to these individuals about what they want out of life, participation is a faith community was a common desire. I’ve known many people with disabilities who have found strength and acceptance in their faith communities. My sister reads the bible more than anyone else I know. She always asks me about different characters and stories that shes been reading and I don’t always know the passages she is referring to. She is someone that takes her faith seriously and yet our home parish has no program to support her and so she attends a bible study at another church. Christian congregations generally don’t have a good grasp on how to incorporate people with disabilities. The bible study that my sister goes to is a special group, only for people with developmental delays and cognitive disabilities. There are a lot of programs out there with similar models. The problem is that they simply create a separate but equal kind of system where people with disabilities have to participate in a parallel congregation. I haven’t seen any programs that have really incorporated people with disabilities in to the main parish programming.

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Michelle Obama: “No Place Better” for Political Issues Than in Church

Photo Credit Wikipedia

First Lady Michelle Obama

by Adelle M. Banks
from Religion News Service

First lady Michelle Obama held up the church as the place to deal with political issues and the catalyst for getting people to the polls in a keynote speech Thursday (June 28) to members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

“You see, living out our eternal salvation is not a once-a-week kind of deal,” she said in a keynote speech at the historically black denomination’s quadrennial General Conference in Nashville, Tenn.

“And in a more literal sense, neither is citizenship.”

She noted that Jesus, too, did not keep his work within the walls of the church.

“And to anyone who says that church is no place to talk about these issues, you tell them there is no place better — no place better,”   she said. “Because ultimately, these are not just political issues — they are moral issues.”

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Dressing With Faith, Not Heat, in Mind

Photo Credit Michael Nagle for the New York Times

A Traditional Hasidic Jewish Outfit

by Joseph Berger
from The New York Times

When the mercury passes 90, most New Yorkers start to wilt. Many resort to shorts and tank tops, even in the office. More than a few bankers and lawyers reach for their seersuckers.

Yet amid all the casual summer wear, in some neighborhoods more than others, Hasidic men wear dark three-piece suits crowned by black hats made of rabbit fur, and Hasidic women outfit themselves in long-sleeved blouses and nearly ankle-length skirts. To visibly cooler New Yorkers, they can look painfully overdressed.

Some New Yorkers who are not Hasidic surely ask themselves: How on earth do they stay cool?

The answer is a mix of the spiritual and, yes, the creatively physical. The Hasidim will tell you they have learned to live comfortably in all seasons with their daily attire.

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July 5th, 2012 at 1:54 pm

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.

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Why Inter-Faith Understanding Is More Important Than Ever in Leadership

Former Prime Minister of Britain and founder of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, Tony Blair. The Tony Blair Faith Foundation promotes respect and understanding between the major religions and makes the case for faith as a force for good in the modern world. Faith is vitally important to hundreds of millions of people. But religious faith can also be used to divide. The Tony Blair Faith Foundation is a response to these opportunities and challenges. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

by Tony Blair
from the Huffington Post

The Alpha Leadership conference taking place today in London is a reminder that despite all the negative news about religion, a different face of faith is visible and real the world over. The Alpha course on leadership, which was begun under Nicky Gumbel of the Holy Trinity Church in London, has been taken by 18 million people world-wide and is all about spreading a gospel of compassion and service to others. A similar message is given out from the remarkable Rick Warren’s church in Southern California where his congregation now numbers in excess of 100,000 people and his global reach extends to every nation on earth.

But such work is not confined to the Christian religion. There are extraordinary Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist organisations that do great work and show selfless sacrifice in some of the poorest and most forgotten parts of the world. 40% of the healthcare in Africa is delivered by Faith groups, notably the Catholic Church.

When we began the Tony Blair Faith Foundation four years ago, there was a lot of scepticism as to whether there really was any interest in inter-faith understanding. Weren’t religion and religious people bound to be introspective and uninterested in the faith of others? Today we are active in 20 countries, thousands of people take part in our programmes and we have volunteers in over 140 nations. The truth is that the numbers of people who have Faith is growing, such growth is not at all limited to the developing world and it is simply impossible to comprehend politics in certain parts of the world – e.g. the Middle East – without comprehending the importance of Faith.

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Trinidad and Tobago Consulate Launches New York-Based Interfaith Council

The Trinidad and Tobago Interfaith Council and Advisory Committee in New York with Consul General at centre and chairman Dr Glenville Ashby in rear.

by Dr. Glenville Ashby
from The Guardian Media

The scene was idyllic as a range of religion-cultural expressions graced York College Performing Arts Center.

Invocations, Quranic recitation, Indian classical dances, Roman Catholic liturgy, Orisa libations, and the tolling bells of Spiritual Baptist dazzled. Coupled with the musical syncretisation of the pan, tassa, tabla, and sitar—the audience was visually and audibly transfixed. It was the first salvo in a series of events to mark T&T’s 50th anniversary as an independent state.

Hundreds, including members of the Caribbean consular corps, packed the popular theatre for the four-hour long interfaith and thanksgiving service that also featured addresses by the Diaspora’s religious figures on the theme, Faith in a Modern World.

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International Religion Reporting Gets a Boost

by Ruth Eglash
from Common Ground News Service

Reporting from Jerusalem–It’s an issue that affects people’s lives across the world everyday yet most media institutions do not dedicate much time, resources or manpower to covering religion.

That was the assessment of some 25 journalists from six continents and 23 countries who gathered last month in Bellagio, Italy to lay down the foundations of an international association aimed not only at boosting the prominence and professionalism of religion reporting but also to emphasise the need for responsible journalism that can unite instead of divide people.

Despite some of the obvious differences – linguistic, nationalistic, religious and political – between those that gathered in Italy from 20-24 March, the International Association of Religion Journalists (IARJ) was officially launched.

“We are living in a global society and our understanding internationally of religion is weak. With this association, journalists now have contacts in various countries and can work together”, commented US journalist David Briggs, a Pulitzer Prize nominee and the main driving force behind the initiative.

Briggs, who was elected as the association’s Executive Director during the meeting’s closing session, has been trying for the better part of the last eight years to establish a global association similar to the Religion Newswriters Association in the United States, which aims to promote high-quality media coverage of religion.

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