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Archive for the ‘service’ tag

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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A Better Way to Talk About Faith

Students at an Interfaith Youth Core event in Washington, DC in 2011. Photo from NYTimes

by David Bornstein
from the New York Times

Is there a way to overcome religious intolerance?

Given global demographic changes, it’s a vital question. “The most certain prediction that we can make about almost any modern society is that it will be more diverse a generation from now than it is today,” the political scientist Robert D. Putnam has written. “This is true from Sweden to the United States and from New Zealand to Ireland.”

In the United States, the question holds special significance for the simple reason that American society is highly religious and highly diverse and — on matters concerning faith — considerably more politically polarized than a quarter-century ago.

The United States prides itself on welcoming people of different faiths. The Bill of Rights begins with a guarantee of freedom of worship. In 1790, George Washington sent a letter to a Jewish congregation in which he expressed his wish that they “continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants,” and declared that the government “gives to bigotry no sanction.” In 2010, Mayor Bloomberg’s impassioned and courageous defense of the Cordoba House — the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” — became an important addition to a long and noble tradition of inclusion. (It’s a speech worth reading.)

But while there have been widespread efforts over the past generation to promote and celebrate ethnic and racial diversity — everything from “Sesame Street” to multicultural studies to work force sensitivity training — the one topic that has often been kept off the table is faith. Americans have grown more comfortable talking about race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation, but not faith. It’s too personal, too divisive, too explosive. How do you conduct a productive conversation among people whose cherished beliefs — exclusive God-given truths — cannot be reconciled?

That’s a process that a Chicago-based organization called the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) has refined into something between an art and a science, demonstrating how to bring college students together across faith and belief lines so that they develop greater respect, comfort and appreciation for one another and their traditions.

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Seva: Celebrating the Sacredness of Service

by Andrew Blackmore-Dobbyn
from Huffington Post

The best way to find your self is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Mahatma Gandhi

What we seek from religion is a sense of meaning, purpose, belonging; a stronger connection to each other. This is what seva is and this is what seva does. When we speak of seva, we mean ego-less service in which we put ourselves to work in aid of the greater community. It answers all these needs in a profound way. Vikas Khanna and I began exploring seva in True Business, our first Holy Kitchens film about Sikhism. We were intending only to show how people shared food but quickly discovered that sharing food was just the beginning of seva. This work of quiet dignity allows its practitioners to directly benefit from the work they do in that they can see its effect in front of their eyes. Hungry people come and they are fed. The fear of starvation is removed from their lives. When you take away someone’s hunger, you make it possible for him to think about his existence on a higher spiritual plane. In the secular world we refer to this as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. In a spiritual setting it is putting someone in reach of the divine. When you put a roof over someone’s head, provide access to clean water, give children medicine to keep them alive, this is seva. It is keeping the promise of the covenant that we are all our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.

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