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European Ethnic Religions Declaration Pursues Better Social Cohesion and Environmental Protections

A Declaration of the European Congress of Ethnic Religions via Parliament Trustee Andras Corban Arthen, who serves as a Presiding and Interfaith Liason to the Congress, Member of the Parliament of the World’s Religions Indigenous Task Force, and Spiritual Director of the EarthSpirit Community.

Parliament Trustee Andras Corban-Arthan presides over the meeting of the European Congress of Ethnic Religions in Lithuania, July, 2014.

We, the delegates from thirteen different countries convened at the European Congress of Ethnic Religions in Vilnius, Lithuania, on this 9th day of July 2014, join our voices together to make the following declaration:

We are members of diverse European indigenous ethnic cultures who seek to revitalize and reclaim our ancestral religious and spiritual traditions. We honor those who went before us, who gave us our life and our heritage. We are bound to the lands of our ancestors, to the soil that holds their bones, to the waters from which they drank, to the roads that they once walked.  And we seek to pass that heritage to those who come after us, whose ancestors we are in the process of becoming – our children, our grandchildren, and the many generations yet to be born. We send solidarity and support to those other indigenous nations, races and religions who are also engaged in the struggle to preserve their own ancestral heritages.

Delegates of 13 European nations convene to issue a powerful declaration calling for the equal station of minority ancestral, indigenous and ethnic groups, and for the protection of the Earth as sacred land.

Our ethnic religions are the product of the history of this continent; they are the living expressions, in the present, of our most ancient traditions and identities. At a time when the world is precariously balanced on the edge of environmental and economic upheaval, largely as the result of imbalanced individualism and rampant greed, our religions promote very different models of spiritual and social values: living in harmony, balance and moderation with the Earth; the importance of family and cooperative community; and respect and honor for all forms of life. Yet, in many countries of Europe, the practice of our religions is impeded, restricted, and sometimes forbidden. We urge all European governments to fully comply with, and actively enforce, the provisions guaranteeing freedom of religion to all citizens as stipulated in the Treaties of the European Union, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, the European Convention of Human Rights, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other similar conventions and agreements, and to refrain from granting preferential treatment to some religions over others. We also ask that this equality of religious preference be reflected in the European educational systems.

Opening session of the Congress

Opening session of the Congress

We urge all our governments to actively engage in the preservation and protection of European indigenous sacred sites – be they human-made structures or natural settings. We further ask that free and open access to those sites be given to ethnic European religions which seek to use them for the purposes of worship and spiritual celebration.

We do not seek ownership or exclusive rights to those sites – the land does not belong to us, we belong to the land.

We object to the use of the term “pagan” by extremist political groups of any kind, as it reflects negatively on our reputation.

Finally, we urge all peoples and all nations to place the well-being of the Earth – who is, literally, our Living Mother – above any and all other priorities.

We send this message in kinship, love, and respect.

Native American Leaders Share Concerns About Sacred Sites

Native peoples are concerned about the effects of abandoned uranium mines on or near their lands. These types of problems in terms of disrespect toward Native American land are the main issues about which Native American leaders have approached the White House of late. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

by Scott Theisen
from ABC News–Minnesota

The Obama administration on Monday began reaching out to Native American political and spiritual leaders to address concerns over the protection of sacred sites on federal land.

Tribal leaders said they’re frustrated. Some feel consultation between the federal government and tribes has become just a formality despite promises by the administration to improve discussions.

About four dozen tribal leaders from New Mexico, Arizona and elsewhere packed a meeting room in Albuquerque for the first of a few listening sessions planned by the U.S. Interior Department.

Pointing to the importance of sacred sites to religious and cultural practices, the department is aiming to develop some kind of uniform policy for addressing the protection of such sites. That could mean a consultation policy specific to sacred sites or changes in law that would allow for greater protections, officials said.

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Sacred music in Manchester: beyond belief

by Riazat Butt for the Guardian

In the back room of a Manchester church, a woman fishes a stereo and some CDs out of a carrier bag . As the evening sun streams through the frosted windows, choir leader Jacqui Allen calls to order the dozen people exchanging small talk around her. Then something extraordinary happens. The choir sings gospel songs such as Face to Face and Joyous in a way that makes the spine tingle, the heart soar and the tummy flip. The same thing happens at its rehearsals every week, but this one is different. The choir of the New Testament Church of God is preparing for its biggest appearance to date – alongside US gospel singer Candi Staton – for the Sacred Sites arm of the festival, which puts international performers in places of Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh and Muslim worship across the city. “I feel very privileged, motivated and encouraged to know the festival is not an in-house event,” says Diane Plummer, a choir member since its inception five years ago. “It will bring the community into a place they don’t normally go.” Fellow singer and parishioner Cory Bernard says the choir has “never done anything like this before. I don’t know what people expect. There are lots of stereotypes about gospel choirs. I think they will hear passion and something different.” The church noticeboard testifies to the event’s popularity, with three pages’ worth of congregants requesting tickets for friends and family.

Staton says that the difference between playing a concert and singing in a church comes down to the atmosphere. “When people come to church, it’s about praise, worship and reverence,” she says down the phone from Atlanta, where she is rehearsing with her band, which is joining her in Manchester. “When people come to a concert, they come to party. For me, I’ve done the secular and sacred. But I am very excited about being part of this.” Staton began her career in the 50s with the Jewel Gospel Trio. She gained mainstream success in the 70s, then returned to her gospel roots in 1982. While the audience at the New Testament Church of God won’t hear her 1976 hit Young Hearts Run Free, she will perform her other smash, You Got the Love, as she says it’s “an inspirational song.”

For festival director Alex Poots Sacred Sites is a way to explore how God is celebrated through the arts. “We’re interested in experimental theatre and offering the chance to witness performances in the most resonant setting. It shouldn’t be something you could see last week.” Poots was inspired by the US theatre director Peter Sellars, who told him there was a network of faith in every city. “Sellars said you could look at a city and it was a grid of sacred sites. That term stuck in my mind.”

Poots originally planned to do Sacred Sites for the inaugaral festival in 2007, but couldn’t make it work in tiome. “One of the earliest sensitivities was going into a situation and asking a stupid question. I wanted to do it with integrity and respect, I wanted there to be dialogue. It’s not a religious service but there are religious aspects to it.”…

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