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Archive for the ‘Religious Tolerance’ tag

My Religion is Better Than Yours

By Gadadhara Pandit Dasa
From Huffington Post

I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely tired of encountering this attitude. Most people who make such statements don’t have deep knowledge or set of experiences within their own tradition, what to speak of other people’s traditions. I am confident that if we made even a little bit of an endeavor to understand another’s faith, it could make all the difference in the world.

The first time I watched “Jesus of Nazareth” with a group of fellow Hindu monks, we all marveled at the life of Jesus and the seriousness of his teachings, and immediately we could find similar teachings from within the Hindu tradition. The video inspired me to read the Gospels, which surprised me even more. The mood of a practitioner described by Jesus is identical to descriptions in the Gita and the Bhagavat Purana.

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike” (Matthew 5:43-45)

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Bahrain King Emphasizes Religious Tolerance

By Habib Toumi
From Gulf News

Manama: King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa has emphasised the significance of promoting interfaith dialogue, tolerant understanding and peaceful co-existence.
Bolstering the values of tolerance and moderation to bolster welfare, consolidate security and boost stability to enable people to prosper should also be emphasised, King Hamad said as he received Rabbi Marc Schneier, the founder and head of the US Ethnic Understanding Foundation, an organisation advocating racial harmony.

“Islam is a tolerant and peace-loving religion which abhors all forms of violence and terror and advocates good advice, serene dialogue and respect of other faiths,” King Hamad said, Bahrain News Agency (BNA) reported.

The Bahraini monarch also pointed out the peace and amity prevailing in the country, saying that this lofty mindset was the basis for the relations between all citizens. “The Kingdom of Bahrain will remain an oasis of security, serenity and constructive co-existence between sects, religions, civilisations and cultures”, he said.

Bahrain is home to a community of around 50 Jews, mainly from families that migrated from Iraq to Bahrain and thrived in the business sector.

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Being a “Person of Faith” in the U.S.

By Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie
From Huffington Post

Again and again, and especially during the election season, we read in the media about “people of faith,” “religious Americans” and “value voters” — and what is meant, in almost all cases, are Americans who are conservative in both their religion and their politics. There is nothing wrong with being a conservative, of course, but we liberal people of faith like to point out that there are other kinds of believers in America. In fact, there are a lot of us.

What exactly does it mean to be a liberal person of faith?

It means to believe in God, to have deep religious convictions and to be offended whenever media voices pour scorn on religious people.

It means to draw on religious teachings and beliefs when making judgments about matters of public policy. But at the same time, it means to know that when we, as people of faith, make a public argument, we must ground our statements in reason and a language of morality that is accessible to everyone — to people of different religions, for example, or of no religion. After all, we recognize that other believers have religious convictions different from our own, and in our diverse democracy, Americans need a common political discourse not dominated by exclusivist theology.

It means to understand that “person of faith” does not only mean the Religious Right; it is, in fact, an inclusive term, referring to both liberals and conservatives and to Christians and Jews of all persuasions, as well as to Muslims, Hindus and believers from other religious traditions.

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Five Lessons on Faith

By Sally Quinn
From Washington Post

It was five years ago this month that we launched “On Faith.” The idea was to inform and educate about all faiths (and no faith) and to initiate an ongoing discussion about the role of religion, values and ethics in our daily lives. I hoped that after learning more, people would become more accepting of those who held different beliefs. Pluralism was the goal.

The discussions we have had over the years have far exceeded my expectations. What I find most gratifying is the inspired contributions from the subjects of our interviews, our contributing writers and our readers. From the volume of e-mails and comments, I know that others find the site as informative, provocative and entertaining as I do.

Since the time we launched I have never been so enthralled, learned so much or been so fulfilled by a subject. It has changed my perspective on life. It is clearly what I was meant to do.

Here are five things I have learned in these five years:

1. Nobody knows.

My favorite bumper sticker and the guiding wisdom for me every day is this: “I don’t know and you don’t either.”

An atheist father was trying to explain to his son that there was no such thing as God. “But Dad,” asked the boy, “how do you know?”

“You’ll just have to take it on faith,” said the father.

That says it all.

We are all taking our beliefs or lack of beliefs on faith.

Although I called myself an atheist when we started this site, I no longer do, thanks to Jon Meacham, the religious scholar and former Newsweek editor who helped launch the site. He also served as co-moderator until last year, when The Washington Post Co. sold Newsweek.

We were having an argument over whether or not I was an atheist. Finally, Jon said something that resonated. He said, “You don’t want to define yourself negatively, and you know nothing about religion.” He gave me a list of books to read and told me to go study religion. If afterward I insisted on calling myself an atheist, he argued, at least I would know what I was talking about.

I was astonished, engaged and finally enlightened by what I read and ashamed at how little I really knew about religion. I’m still reading and still learning, and it seems the more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.

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December 3rd, 2011 at 9:48 am

Ancient Texting: The Urgency of Muslim-Jewish Dialogue

By Marshall J Breger, Rabbi Jack Bemporad and Imam Abdullah Antepli
From Huffington Post

A profound event quietly took place this last week: Jewish rabbis and scholars in halacha (Jewish law) met with Muslim imams and scholars in sharia (Muslim law) to discuss how improved understanding and interpretation of the foundational texts, upon which their respective religious laws are based, can help bring the two communities together. The uniqueness of this coming together cannot be over-emphasized.

Though scholarly, this coming together was not just some Ivory Tower undertaking. Ancient religious texts are profoundly influential in our daily lives today. From the Golden Rule to the Ten Commandments and everything in between, our laws, society and understanding of each other are guided, and at times held captive, by the ancient texts of the Abrahamic faiths. So how they are interpreted today is crucial.

In response, an unprecedented gathering of 40 of the country’s foremost minds in sharia and halacha met in a closed-door conference in New York. The October 30 inaugural meeting of the “Muslim Jewish Scholars Conference” will be an ongoing bridge-building effort between the two communities. The conference brings together Jewish and Muslim scholars, rabbis and imams, university professors and chaplains who otherwise have little opportunity to talk to each other. It will provide an opportunity for Muslim and Jewish scholars to talk with each other openly about their respective views of their own traditions; and to talk about pressure points between their communities.

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Engaging Palestinian Literature: A Jewish Journey Into Empathy

By Joe Winkler
From the Huffington Post

I never acquired a taste for overt rebellion. Instead, I sought my independence in books — books that promised to expand my personality by destroying it first. As a high school junior, I hid a “Short Introduction to Atheism” in my underwear drawer. In college I tore off the cover as quickly as I acquired the most recent addition to the New Atheist canon to evade the glares of those who would judge an Orthodox Jew for reading Christopher Hitchens.

As an adult, I found a new genre, not for the sake of teenage rebellion, but to understand, to identify — in short, to empathize. But how often do we use empathy to challenge, and therefore expand, our borders of understanding? Do we believe in a line beyond which we are no longer obligated to learn about the Other, their life, their struggles, joys, idiosyncrasies, merits and weaknesses? Even if we dare not say so, we take this tack in our approach to Arabs in general, and Palestinians specifically. Do we know any Palestinian literature or poetry? If not, why not? What do we fear it will teach us about the experience of the most Other in the contemporary Jewish psyche?

I crossed this last line in devouring a memoir by Mourid Barghouti, entitled “I Saw Ramallah.” Barghouti, a venerable poet and academic, writes a stunningly intense account of his anger, frustration and alienation engendered by his forced exile from his home in Ramallah. He spreads the blame, with the Zionist project/”Occupation” receiving the brunt of it, but the book works best the poetic transcends the political in descriptions of the identity-shattering experience of exile, of eternal foreignness.

My first reaction entailed intellectualization. I read Barghouti’s story, but maintained the perspective of outsider reading in, not looking to get lost in any foreign world, or empathize with any characters. I knew the ready-made answers to specific claims, and deflected each challenge to my core beliefs. I believe it all to contain logical truth, but, perhaps as important, the rationalizations distance us from a raw emotional truth. To feel so much pain caused by your dream, your ancestors’ dream is a kind of assault, leaving you wheezing for air, bloodied and bruised, mugged of your certainty.

Reading him wax poetically about his longing for Jerusalem, my Jerusalem, the country I learned to love from before I can remember, the city my ancestors prayed for in the pits of the hell of exile, in the midst of crusades, massacres and the Holocaust, aroused hatred in my heart. I felt violated, as if his simple longing to return to his home violated my life, somehow. My anger and sense of violation seems incommensurate with my actual love toward Israel. Israel and I, like many Americans, have a complicated relationship. But it’s my relationship. Not his, not theirs, not anyone but my nation, my people.

Then I read it again.

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Pope Meets With Holy Land Rabbi, Imam, Druze

By Nicole Winfield
From Huffington Post

VATICAN CITY — A delegation of Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Druse religious leaders in Israel met Thursday with Pope Benedict XVI in a high-profile display of their efforts to promote interfaith peace initiatives in the region.

The Council of Religious Leaders in Israel was created in 2007 in Jerusalem to bring together Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders in Israel to raise awareness about the need for interfaith dialogue and cooperation in the Holy Land.

The audience with the pope was designed in part to boost the profile of the council, which counts among its members representatives of Israel’s Islamic, or Sharia courts.

Sheik Kiwan Mohamad, who heads an association of some 500 imams in Israel, said the fact that the council exists was proof that people of different faiths can live together peacefully, even amid the political unrest in the Middle East.

“Islam is a religion of peace that loves life and condemns any act in the name of religion against the very principles of the religion,” he said. “The people who act in this way are selfish; they do so for themselves and out of personal motives and interests.”

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An Open Letter to Congress From Leaders of the Faith Community: Don’t Cut Foreign Aid!

By Rabbi Jack Bemporad, Imam Abdullah Antepli and Rev Dr. James A Kowalski
from Huffington Post

The human condition is a precarious one; we cannot separate ourselves from others who are suffering. All of us are vulnerable, and in these particularly vulnerable times, we have to be counted upon to do more to alleviate suffering in the world.

But with all the chatter about religion these days, too often the faith-based imperative–to help those in need–has been missing from the conversation. That includes, unfortunately, some discussions on Capitol Hill around funding for development assistance. As a country founded on religious freedom and equality, we must remember what the faiths actually call on us to do for people in need.

Priests, imams, reverends and rabbis all recognize the significance of the individual and our obligation to him or her.

The ancient rabbinic text, the Mishnah, states: “A single man was created in the world, to teach that if any man has caused a single soul to perish, scripture imputes it to him as if he had caused a whole world to perish, and if any man saves alive a single soul, scripture imputes it to him as if he had saved alive a whole world…” Similarly in the Qu’ran, “the destruction of one innocent life is like the destruction of the whole of humanity and the saving of one life is like the saving of the whole of humanity.” (Al-Ma’idah “the Tablespread” 5:32). Matthew 25 famously states, “As you did it to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.”

Equality has special meaning in the Abrahamic faiths. Equality does not refer solely to the spiritual equality of every human being, nor primarily to those of equal rank, or those of the same class, or who have equal possessions. And it is more than justice in the sense of rectification of wrong.

Equality is something positive and it refers to those who are weaker than oneself i.e. the poor, the stranger, the widow, orphan and the slave. Equality means raising those who are vulnerable, disadvantaged, to the status of those who are secure. Thus the Biblical legislation mandates that there be one law for the home born and the stranger. (Exodus 12:49)

These laws and teachings spell out the rights of the poor, the orphan, the widow and the stranger, who share a common bond. All of them lack a protector that can stand up for them. They do not have a next of kin to intercede for them and therefore the law intervenes as the next of kin. And the guarantee is God.

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What One Palestinian Learned From Gandhi

by Sami Awad
from Huffington Post

I was 12 years old when I was introduced to Gandhi. My uncle Mubarak returned from India with four big heavy boxes filled with books. All same size and shape with warn-out green covers. These books included all the writings of Gandhi. They filled two book shelves, double the space taken by the Encyclopedia Britannica. What attracted me in the boxes was a comic book of the story of Gandhi from his childhood to his death. I read the comic book over and over. At a young age, Gandhi became a comic book hero.

Gandhi became a real hero through the work of Mubarak, who started the Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence in Jerusalem. Mubarak traveled from one Palestinian village to the other promoting nonviolence in the same way Gandhi did in India. As he spoke of Gandhi, he never said we need to do what Gandhi did; he emphasized the uniqueness of our own heritage, culture and condition under Israeli occupation and how we were to develop our own approaches to nonviolence and not copy others. In 1988 Mubarak Awad, who became known as the “Palestinian Gandhi,” was arrested and deported by the Israeli authorities.

Over the years I continued to study Gandhi, reading more of the big green books that now sit on two shelves in my office in Bethlehem. I have also traveled to India twice. Once with Arun Gandhi, the grandson of the Mahatma, and the second to participate in a conference to commemorate the century celebration of one of Gandhi’s most famous writings, Hind Swaraj. There I was honored to give a talk in the presence of His Holiness the Dalia Lama.

As a Palestinian, there are many lessons learned from Gandhi. One important lesson was in seeing nonviolence not only as a tactical and pragmatic tool of resistance but also as a holistic and spiritual approach to life and living. Gandhi was not only passionate about ending the British colonial rule of India, he was also passionate about uprooting the cause of violence in every aspect of one’s life and relations. This is not easy for people who live under daily suffering and oppression, but in my work in nonviolence in Palestine, I now believe that my own liberation as a Palestinian is not only about ending the Israeli military occupation, but also about addressing all aspects of violence — be they political, social, economic or environmental. Nonviolence is not a tactic to be taken out of the box when it seems fit to use. It is a way of life.

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Praying with the Earth: A Prayerbook for Peace

Praying with the Earthby John Philip Newell
from Huffington Post

I do not know how many Christians have read the Quran. And I do not know how many Muslims have read the Christian Scriptures. But I do know that until we come back into relationship, until we begin to learn the wisdom at the heart of one another’s traditions, we will be less likely to work for peace. And without peace in the household of Abraham and Sarah and Hagar there will not be peace among us as nations today.

“Praying with the Earth: A Prayerbook for Peace” is a resource book in the Praying for Peace Initiative, designed especially to nurture relationship between Christianity, Islam and Judaism as a way of making peace in our world. Each morning and evening in a seve- day cycle we use words from the Quran, the Hebrew Scriptures and the teachings of Jesus to pray for peace. We know the shadow side of our religious inheritance, the way it is used to fuel hatred and division between us as peoples and as nations. But do we also know the prophetic power for peacemaking at the heart of our three faiths? We need to do the hard work of confronting the falseness within us and between us while at the same time accessing the vision and the hope for healing.

“Whichever way you turn, there is the face of God.” How many of us would have guessed that these words, which invite us to look for the Sacred in everything, come from the Quran? (The Cow 2:115) We have been too ready to believe the lie that it is only in certain faces, certain races, certain places, that we will glimpse the Holy. How can we help one another remember the true heart of Islam, the true heart of Christianity, the true heart of Judaism — all of which cherish a vision for the sacredness of every life?