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Archive for the ‘united states’ tag

Interfaith Leaders Fast to Protest Solitary Confinement

Advertisement for the National Religious Campaign Against Torture’s 23-hour Fasting Solidarity event. Photo from Google Images.

by Chris Lisee
from Religion News Service

An interfaith coalition is urging Congress to end solitary confinement, which they said is a “harmful, costly, and ineffective practice.”

Muslim, Jewish, and Christian faith leaders joined the National Religious Campaign Against Torture to break a 23-hour nationwide fast on Tuesday (June 19) at a press conference following the first-ever congressional hearing on solitary confinement.

“We’re breaking our fast with a commitment that this issue is not over (and) that we’re going to even give more energy to our effort to make sure that no one has to spend time in solitary confinement,” said Richard Killmer, NRCAT’s executive director and a Presbyterian minister.

The earlier hearing before the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights called attention to economic, safety, and moral issues solitary confinement raises.

Click here to read the full article

Three Stories About Expressing Faith in America

A class of boys receives instruction at the Hsi Lai Temple in Los Angeles, California. Listen to stories of Buddhism in America and other lesser-known religion stories by clicking the link below.

from Voice of America

Religious faith is both deeply personal and a community experience. In the United States, religious communities of many kinds co-exist and sometimes work together in interesting ways.

This week, learn about Buddhism in America. The ancient religion has its roots in India. Today, many forms of Buddhism are practiced in the United States. Hear what American-born clergyman Kusala Bhikshu has to say about the religion’s popularity.

In the state of Tennessee, members of the Catholic religious group, the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia’s, lead simple lives of work and service. Not much has changed in their community over the years. But more young women are joining. Some see this as a sign that young people are placing growing value on faith and service.

But first, we hear from Muslim students at a Christian university here in Washington DC. Christopher Cruise tells us how students are dealing with the differences in their religious beliefs.

Click here to listen to the stories and/or read the transcripts

U.S. Southern Baptists Elect First Black President

Fred Luter, newly elected leader of the Southern Baptist Convention.

by Kathy Finn
from Reuters

The largest U.S. Protestant denomination chose its first black president on Tuesday, an historic election for the predominately white religious group as it seeks to better reflect the diversity of the country and its membership.

Fred Luter, a New Orleans pastor and civic leader, ran unopposed for the top post in the 167-year-old Southern Baptist Convention, which counts a growing number of minorities among its 16 million members.

His election to a one-year term was met by thunderous applause and a standing ovation from the thousands of Southern Baptists attending the convention’s annual meeting in New Orleans.

Click here to read the full article

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.

Click here to read the full article

The Power of Interfaith-Based Community Organizing

LA Voiceby Minister Zachary Hoover

On May 15, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed the Responsible Banking Ordinance, which requires banks seeking city contracts to disclose detailed information about their lending and foreclosure practices. This victory allows people to see which banks are investing in their community or being responsible neighbors and which ones are not. Big banks are incredibly powerful and pay millions of dollars for lobbying to write rules that benefit them. Angelenos won a rule that shifts some power back into the hands of the people. And that rule would not have been won without the power of organized religious communities under a common banner.

I am blessed to lead LA Voice, a multiethnic, federation of 25 churches, synagogues, and mosques that is striving to be something healing and striving to do something healing. The climate of racial anxiety, divisive politics that pull at our implicit biases, and the growing diversity of our country urgently call all of us to speak, listen, and struggle together for a different set of outcomes for our cities. Our organizational leaders, clergy and lay, are striving every day to shift the balance of spiritual and political power so that our great city might truly reflect its glorious name and the dignity of all—not just the dignity of those with the means and privilege to protect their opportunity and promote the future of their children, but of all those who have been left out or pushed out of the land of opportunity we claim to inhabit.

Pastors, imams, rabbis and laity from the member congregations of LA Voice have played key leadership roles in the struggle to gain leverage to end unfair foreclosures, to increase small business lending to communities of color, to end costly, unjust police impounds of immigrants’ vehicles—immigrants whom our state does not afford the opportunity to get a driver’s license; and to increase access to food in public housing in East LA. These same leaders have sent clergy to represent them with the Governor of California to influence the outcome of much needed revenue initiatives for our schools, and they have sent thousands of letters and made countless visits to state political offices to write new rules that make life fairer for suffering communities. The power of faith and interfaith struggle is alive and well in many places, including in PICO National Network organizations like LA Voice.

In acting together for justice, our leaders find their voice and voices. When sixty African American Muslims join 700 Christians of all colors and 50 Jews at a gathering to launch a campaign, and their leaders sit together onstage with political and business leaders, I see interfaith power. When Fr. Margarito goes to Shabbat services at a neighboring Jewish community to tell his community’s story and proposes going to city hall together, with translation, new ground is broken. When I, an American Baptist Minister, have the honor to sit with five respected Imams and dream about what we might change together about mass incarceration, as we speak about li ta’arafu and how knowing one another is something God desires for us, I hear interfaith dialogue. When our Jewish leaders from West LA journey to East LA to fight together for a better life for those whose migration is more recent, and they share their personal Exodus stories, and they take the power of that bond into meetings with LAPD, they live interfaith peacemaking. When 250 PICO affiliated clergy gathered in New Orleans last fall to launch an initiative to bring a bolder prophetic voice and the power of organizing to bear to bend the arc of U.S. history toward justice, and those leaders experience moments of discomfort at the different approaches of their fellow clergy, we build new life as they commit to each other despite those gut rumblings. When passersby see clergy of different colors and creed standing together at a press conference, defying what they have heard in the media about how much we all really hate each other, there is a witness to a more powerful Spirit.

I truly find God’s Spirit alive, and where we find power to change our world for the better, is in the messiness of our stories and contending for our public space together. Those same Jews and Christians and Muslims who have won real change have plenty of moments where understanding each other isn’t the first thing that happens—whether it’s a Jewish leader cringing at the “in Jesus’ name,” or a Muslim leader wondering why we haven’t thought about a space for their afternoon prayer on the agenda, or a Christian pastor explaining to a congregant why it is OK for them to be in relationship with non-Christians without aiming for their conversion, or explaining to another Christian how real the power of prayer is in his church.

Organizing is messy. And leaders are the ones who shepherd their people down a new path that leads to more abundant life and wrestles with the consequences of the status quo. We at LA Voice are interested in being with people who want to be together because it gives them the power to be transformed, to transform others, and to change our world. Transformations aren’t real if they don’t change our transactions.

I am not under the illusion that organizing is equally easy in all of the countries to which this newsletter makes its way. I cannot speak about the dangers and fears that must come with organizing right now in Northern Mexico or Syria. And I can only confess shame at the countless opportunities powerful countries like ours miss to act with our human family in other countries. But wherever we are, if we do not use our shared values, stories, and relationships to build real power to unyoke the burden of disproportionate death and suffering that we all allow to be visited upon some while protecting others, then no God can save us. As Bob Dylan says, “You’re gonna’ serve somebody, it might be the Devil, it might be the Lord, but you gonna’ serve somebody.”

Minister Zachary Hoover is Executive Director of LA Voice, an affiliate of the PICO National Network (a national network of faith-based community organizations working to create innovative solutions to problems facing urban, suburban and rural communities).

 

Sacred Space: Balwant S. Hansra on Sikhism and the Gurdwara (Video)

Dr. Balwant Singh Hansra discusses Sikhism, the Gurus, the gurdwara, langar, and the practice of his religious tradition.

CPWR Vice-Chair Bob Henderson Elected to Serve on the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States

The elected governing body of the U.S. Baha'i community is the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States, a nine-member council with headquarters in Evanston, Illinois, near the Baha'i House of Worship in neighboring Wilmette. The members of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States, elected in April 2011, are (seated, left to right): Valerie Dana, Juana C. Conrad, Jacqueline Left Hand Bull, Fariba Aghdasi, and Erica Toussaint, (standing, left to right): David F. Young, Robert C. Henderson, Kenneth E. Bowers, and Muin Afnani.

from bahai.us

The National Spiritual Assembly oversees the administrative affairs of the Baha’is of the United States and provides guidance for their spiritual and moral development. The Assembly oversees a publishing trust and several periodicals, including The American Baha’i newspaper; Brilliant Star, a magazine for children; and World Order, a quarterly journal of opinion and ideas. The Assembly also operates retreat and conference centers in California, Michigan, Maine and South Carolina.

Whether at the local, regional, national, or international level, Baha’i elections follow a similar process that seeks to choose spiritually minded leaders from the entire body of believers in the area.  The electoral process at the national level is different in one respect. While the local Assembly is elected by all adult community members, the National Spiritual Assembly is elected by delegates, who, in turn, are chosen in “district” conventions. All adult Baha’is are eligible to vote in district conventions, and so the connection between the individual and his or her national-level governing body remains quite close. In choosing members of the National Spiritual Assembly, delegates may vote for any adult Baha’i residing in the country – once again preserving the freedom of choice that is fundamental to the Baha’i electoral system.

Click here to read the full article

 

Baha’is Mark Centenary of US Visit by Religious Leader

In 1912, Abdu'l Baha spent from April to December touring North America. Here he is shown at center with Baha'is in Lincoln Park, Chicago, IL, USA. Photo from Voice of America

by Jerome Socolovsky
from Voice of America

The Baha’i faith was founded in Iran in the 19th century, but its adherents believe the United States has a special spiritual destiny. Baha’is are celebrating the 100-year anniversary of a visit to the United States by Abdu’l Baha, whom they call “The Master.”
Abdu’l Baha arrived in the United States in April 1912 and traveled across the country by train. During the journey, he declared that America had the potential to “lead all nations spiritually.”

Abdu’l Baha, who was 68 at the time, was the son of the founder of the Baha’i faith, Baha’u'llah.

“For Baha’is, it marked the first time in religious human history, that a holy member of a prophet of God’s family had come to Western shores,” says Layli Miller-Muro, a member of the Baha’i leadership assembly in Washington. “Most religions begin in the East, and we don’t often have a direct descendent able to come to the West.”

Click here to read the full article

June 2nd, 2012 at 10:55 am

North American Interfaith Network Connect Conference

Just a few of the featured speakers for the NAINConnect Conference in Atlanta this coming July. Photo from NAIN.org

The North American Interfaith Network’s annual Connect Conference will be taking place in Atlanta, GA from July 15th-18th, 2012. The theme of the conference will be “Establishing Interfaith-Friendly Cities.” To learn more and register for the conference, click here.

Students Walk to Protect Native Sacred Places In Midwestern United States

Students from Haskell Indian Nations University are embarking on 1,000 plus mile trip to bring awareness to the protection of Native American sacred places and present a copy of the Protection of Native American Sacred Places Act to Congress.

by Dana Attocknie
from the Native American Times

A dozen students from Haskell Indian Nations University are walking to the save the Wakarusa Wetlands, the only remaining native wetland prairie in Lawrence, Kan., from being destroyed in order to become the South Lawrence Trafficway (SLT). Their walk through seven states is named the Trail of Broken Promises, and their first steps were taken on May 13, 2012 from Lawrence, Kan. Their journey will go through 50 communities, cover 1,100 to 1,300 miles, and end July 9 in Washington, D.C. where the students will present the Protection of Native American Sacred Places Act to Congress. The bill amends the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, “to ensure that federal laws protecting the free exercise of religion include protection of traditional Native American Sacred Places where ceremonies, commemorations, observances or worship are conducted or occur, and to provide a right of action to protect Native American Sacred Places.”

“This is a spiritual issue. We believe that Congress needs to address specific legislation to protect sacred places in an inclusive manner for all people whom those places affect … By walking the Trail of Broken Promises we call attention to the spiritual interconnectedness that we as human beings have with our environment and all elements within it,” Millicent Pepion, of the Navajo and Blackfeet Nations, said to United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples James Anaya, on May 3 in Tulsa. “We declare that a mutual respect and dignity be given to Native American people in concerns that affect our home communities. We respectfully request that the U.S. government adhere to our cultural, social, medical, environmental, and spiritual interests that the Trail of Broken Promises members seek to protect.”

Pepion is active in the Wetlands Preservation Organization and the Indigenous and American Indian Studies Club at Haskell. Her quest to bring awareness to the wetlands is part of her Commitment to Action that was accepted into the Clinton Global Initiative University. In her commitment letter she quotes Dr. Daniel Wildcat, her advisor, as reminding her, “‘It is not our right to protect Mother Earth, it is our responsibility.’”

Click here to read the full article