Better than Nothing: MSN "Discovers" Old News, Attributes "Insight" to Contemporary Russian Novelist
This looks pretty much to be a thinly veiled ad placement for a book. Neverthless, we'll take the truth anywhere we can find it. (Editor)
Arkady Povzikov, author of "The Thirteenth Apostle," Langdon Street Press (www.arkadybooks.com), believes the prospects for an accord are still mired in the same old problem.
"No peace accord will work, regardless of who signs it, if the religious leaders of the region aren't included in the process," Povzikov said. "Political leaders may make policy, but the religious leaders hold the hearts and minds of the people. Palestinian political leaders struggle to keep their militant factions dormant during cease fires, because their religious leaders are busy stoking the fire."
Yann Martel in the Man Booker Prize winning novel Life of Pi writes in the first person voice of the protagonist (stranded at sea with little hope for survival):
My greatest wish -- other than salvation -- was to have a book, a long book with a never ending story. One I could read again and again, with new eyes and a fresh understanding each time. Alas there was no scripture in the lifeboat.
Religious extremists in Pakistan seek to restrict girls' education
A great tragedy is occurring in what is known as the Swat valley in Pakistan
It should be known that the single greatest need in the world of Islam is the education of women. Herein lies the only hope for this world religion to solve the problem of violent, militants who persistently besmirch and undermine the full potential for Islam to be a force for good in the world:
As sporadic fighting continues between Moro Liberation Front (MILF) and government forces in Mindanao, bishops agree the planned revival of peace talks between the two sides could succeed if negotiators consult local communities about issues affecting them.
Speaking with UCA News on Dec. 26, Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro said resuming the negotiations "should start with a wider consultation of all the local communities affected" in Mindanao, the southern Philippine region.
For nearly three weeks Israel has blocked access to the Gaza Strip. Foreign journalists are challenging the Gaza ban in court, calling it a 'blow' to freedom of the press.
While this is not technically an article on religion per se, it is an important matter as related to issues of religion and peace.
Tragically, in the past 8 years, members of the Bush administration did much to undermine the all important, and faithfully pursued US moral authority. Israel should not engage in similar risks with this press ban.
It is a welcome relief to read from Pope Benedict XIV sentiments that seem directly to contradict the angst and fear expressed by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue that too much Muslim Christian dialogue could cause confusion.
Earlier this week Benedict XVI received participants in the First Seminar of the Catholic-Muslim Forum.
Developments in Christian-Muslim talks should be shared with the faithful, and not restricted to the experts, Pope Benedict has said.
New York Times' Neil MacFarquhar has an interesting take on the all the "interfaith" hooplah going on in NYC at the moment.
He leads off his reportage this way
UNITED NATIONS — Saudi Arabia, which deploys a special police force to ensure that a narrow sect of Islam predominates in the kingdom, is sponsoring a discussion at the United Nations on religious tolerance starting Wednesday.
And later goes on to say
Most of those attending are political rather than religious figures.
But human rights groups are crying foul that Saudi Arabia is being given a platform to promote religious tolerance abroad while actively combating it at home.
“It’s like apartheid South Africa having a conference at the U.N. on racial harmony,” said Ali al-Ahmed, a Shiite Muslim dissident from Saudi Arabia based in Washington.
Photo of Muslim soldier’s tombstone that touched Powell
When he endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday, former Secretary of State Colin Powell cited a photo he recalled of the grieving mother of a Muslim soldier.
Blogs, including The New York Times' The Lede, have helped readers find that photo, which was featured in The New Yorker.
On "Meet the Press," Powell said he was "troubled" by Republican Party members who permitted rumors that Obama was a Muslim to continue despite the fact that the Illinois senator is a Christian. "Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way,'' the retired general said.
Official: 3,000 Christians flee Iraq's Mosul
BRADLEY S. KLAPPER ASSOCIATED PRESS
Originally published 03:28 p.m., October 11, 2008
BAGHDAD (AP) - Hundreds of terrified Christian families have fled Mosul to escape extremist attacks that have increased despite months of U.S. and Iraqi military operations to secure the northern Iraqi city, political and religious officials said Saturday...
In Mosul, where Christians have lived for some 1,800 years, a number of centuries-old churches still stand.
Joseph Jacob, a professor at Mosul University, said there were nearly 20,000 Christians in the city before the 2003 U.S. invasion. But over half have since left for neighboring towns, or new countries, he said.
Islamic extremists have frequently targeted Christians since the invasion, forcing tens of thousands to flee Iraq. Attacks had tapered off amid a drastic decline in overall violence nationwide, but that appears to be changing with the deaths this month.
Conflict Tests Ties Between the Georgian and Russian Orthodox Churches
On September 6, 2008, on page A5 of the New York edition of the New York Timesthis article (<-- click) "Conflict Tests Ties Between the Georgian and Russian Orthodox Churches," by Sophia Kishkovsky appeared.
In it Kishkovsky explains the struggle and sorrow experienced by Orthodox leaders of the two respective Churches over the recent military aggression between the Russia and Georgia.
“Today, blood is being shed and people are perishing in South Ossetia, and my heart deeply grieves over it,” Patriarch Aleksy said in a statement on Aug. 8 as the fighting raged. “Orthodox Christians are among those who have raised their hands against each other. Orthodox peoples called by the Lord to live in fraternity and love are in conflict.”
This article and this development is important at least for two reasons:
We see potential signs that religion can serve as a harmonizing force across warring boundaries
We see signs that media analysis and reportage is maturing beyond debilitating bias of secular parochialism
The struggle and lamentation of both Georgian and Russian, Orthodox Church leaders demonstrates the potential for religion to serve as a unifying factor, a voice of conscience, and an impetus to move states and militaries away from nation state habit of killing people, harming nature, and destroying property.
In this particular case, the sensibility and concern happened to be because all victims and targets were from the same religion (Orthodoxy). But isn't it possible for us as a species to evolve beyond the archaic shackles of religious parochialism, so that this type of despair suffered and expressed by these Orthodox leaders, would equally arise in the hearts of all religious leaders any and every time any believer from any religion suffers from political and military actions? Or for that matter, couldn't religious leaders grow to feel the same sense of the unconscionable, not only when a co-religionist, or a even a believer suffers, but even when when human beings degenerate to the point of killing, harming, and destroying life, the earth, and property?
Perhaps the solidarity and lament seen this time in the confines of denominationalism, for believers who happen to be of just one sort can serve as an example and as an ideal for the emergence of a broader, greater, and more expansive spirituality that draws from the same basic impulse and sensibility.
If international diplomatic efforts had less of a tin ear for clues from the universe of religion and religious identity, one might have recognized an opportunity in this “cross-enemy” solidarity so rarely found in the midst of this sort of dangerous and horrible war. Could not this Christian (albeit denominational) high-mindedness be seen as a window through which higher, less divisive positions and provocations might have been seized by the United States?
GOP presidential nominee John McCain (perhaps feeling a campaign wedge in the offing) outpaced his own government to rattle US sabers against Russia. Soon thereafter reports came in of a a rare Dick Cheney sighting, this time as he surfaced in Georgia itself to threaten and further sour US-Russia relations.
Might not a more elegant and holistic foreign policy approach to such an intensely sensitive international breakdown, benefit by recognizing a rare and pre-established harmonizing force through these Orthodox leaders? Why not trade on the so-called “Christianness” of American identity and stand in solidarity with leaders from both countries who in unison are calling on conscience and community to rise above the geopolitical forces that led to this tragic and dangerous conflict? Could not “America” have stepped through this door, to engage the leaders on both sides of this dangerous conflict?
We must note and indeed celebrate in this article an occasion in which a writer from mainstream, liberal media has done a fine and impressive job making religious matters, and religious history clear and comprehensible for a popular readership.
Let us hope that the secular bias that has so harmed and diminished the fullness of analysis and human understanding is starting to turn the corner, and fair and solid reporting like this can become a more frequent staple in the news we consume daily.
Frank Kaufmann is the director of the Inter Religious Federation for World Peace. These opinions are his own.
IRFWP supports the decisions of India and Orissa government
We are saddened by developments in Orissa state (India), where fellow Indians have fallen under the spell in which they misuse and misunderstand religion to harm and disrespect one another... the the detriment of all.
A Hindu leader who ran a campaign against Christian conversion was murdered. Maoist rebels took responsibility for this murder, but Hindus blamed Christians nevertheless, and riots ensued. Christians have been killed, thousands have taken shelter in makeshift government camps where Hindu mobs went on the rampage last week after the murder of a Hindu leader.
On Thursday a mob of about 1,000 Hindu men and women had attacked a Christian relief camp.
We of IRFWP are proud and grateful for the Indian and the Orissa governments to have responded so well to diminish these so called "religious" tensions.
The Supreme Court asked the Indian government to deploy the additional federal police in Kandhamal, the worst-affected district in rural Orissa district.
"The counsel for the state of Orissa states that four more battalions of the CRPF are needed. The (federal government) may do so," the court order said.
The state government was also ordered to do more to protect Christians. Thousands of police have been deployed already in 12 of Orissa's 30 districts.
Government counsels said the region was "very, very tense" and no religious march would be allowed there.
Pastor learns about Islam, tries to bridge gap with Christians
During lunch 18 months ago, Dr. Ben Johnson had an epiphany as Dr. Aisha Jumaan, a Muslim, spoke to him about her faith and her experience of God.
"It came to me that this woman loves and worships the same God I do," says Johnson, a Christian. "I had this sharpened awareness that in that moment she was in touch with God, just as I was. It was a dawning and an awakening, and it was liberating because it liberates you from standing on a pedestal and looking down on someone else."
It also inspired Johnson to take on a life-changing mission.
At a time when many Christians, including some in his own church, were openly hostile towards a religion they believed advocated terrorism and was at war with the United States, Johnson initiated a dialog aimed at bringing Christians and Muslims together.
He has conducted a series of lectures and small-group gatherings at which more than 500 Muslims and Christians have shared their faith with each other. Not, Johnson hastens to point out, to convert anyone: "Just to understand each other."
Sunday Johnson will present another lecture, "Beyond 9/11: Christians and Muslims Together — A New World Vision" at Shallowford Presbyterian Church in Atlanta with a vision clear in his mind.
"The dream," he says, "is that we can find a way to bridge the chasm between Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists and make Atlanta a model city. That over the next year or two, we can develop an interfaith immersion program."
Bible with reference to Hindu scriptures making waves
From the article (article here) it is quite clear that this is meant for Catholic Christians living in India. Even as a guide to personal, parochial faith, it is an excellent project (providing the interpretation and references are done without religious imperialism or bias, and in consultation with Hindu scholars). It is very important for each believer in each tradition to be able to understand our own path in the context of the sincere beliefs of our neighbors (especially to the extent that such understanding helps us learn ever more deeply of our common humanity and common spiritual longing and nature).
IRFWP congratulates St. Pauls for this effort, and encourages as many such similar projects for believers in all traditions. We urge scholars knowledgeable of both Christianity and Hinduism to review and study the Indian Bible to see how Hinduism was treated in this effort.
(Frank Kaufmann - editor)
Bible with reference to Hindu scriptures making waves
Usha Ram Manohar in Kochi | August 05, 2008 12:27 IST
Last Updated: August 05, 2008 12:56 IST
An 'Indianised' Bible with references to the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Manusmriti and drawings of a turbaned Joseph and sari-clad Mary with baby Jesus in her arms, is making waves in Kerala.
This is an unprecedented venture as Indian scriptures Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Mausmriti have been used in a Bible by way of interpretations to biblical passages for the first time, says Catholic church spokesperson Father Paul Thelekat. This is an attempt to make contextual reading and understanding.
Vatican Communique on Results of a Vote in Anglican Church
VATICAN CITY, 8 JUL 2008 (VIS) - Given below is the text of a communique released late this morning by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, concerning recent events within the Anglican Communion.
"We have regretfully learned the news of the Church of England vote that paves the way for the introduction of legislation which will lead to the ordaining of women to the episcopacy.
"The Catholic position on the issue has been clearly expressed by Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II. Such a decision signifies a break with the apostolic tradition maintained by all of the Churches since the first millennium and is, therefore, a further obstacle to reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Church of England.
"This decision will have consequences on the future of dialogue, which had up until now borne fruit, as Cardinal Kasper clearly explained when on 5 June 2006 he spoke to all of the bishops of the Church of England at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
It is the opinion of this writer that the Vatican statement is beligerent and lacks elegance. It is fine for the Roman Catholic Church to express its understanding of doctrine, but such an expression should not be presented in a threatening tone. The impact of denominational decisions on dialogue should be expressed quietly among dialogue partners, in a spirit of Christ-like charity, not in blustery, threatening declarations.
Please continue to pay close and prayerful attention to events and developments in West Java. It is vital to invest in positive interreligious relations and to protect the rights of believers.
JAKARTA - Public Order officials on June 26 demolished a church building in Cimahi regency of Bandung district, West Java, to make way for a new shopping mall and bus terminal after church leaders failed to convince authorities that they owned the land on which it was built...
Since the Indonesian Anglican Church of Cirebeum village was established in 1992 – with a letter of approval from 20 families in the immediate neighborhood – courts have dealt with a succession of people claiming to be the rightful owners of the property. Even as the church building was demolished, a civil tribunal in Bandung district was considering a verdict on rightful ownership following a hearing on June 24.
Swiss nationalists vote on banning Muslim minarets
Here is an important development that warrants the attention of people interested in the development of positive interreligious relations.
It should be noted that the Swiss People's Party and the fringe Federal Democratic Union are anti-immigrant groups who have sponsored similar campaigns, and generally do not enjoy the favor of most Swiss citizens.
GENEVA (AP) — Swiss nationalists have forced a nationwide referendum on whether to ban the construction of minarets where Muslims issue the call to prayer — a proposal that, if approved, could clash with Switzerland's constitutionally protected right to freedom of religion.
The Interior Ministry said it received a proposal Tuesday with more than the required 100,000 signatures.
It was submitted by members of the nationalist Swiss People's Party and the fringe Federal Democratic Union, who say they are acting to fight the political spread of Islam. They argue that the minaret is a symbol of political and religious claim to power rather than a mere religious sign. Article here
John Templeton was one of the great investors of the 20th century, making many hundreds of millions of dollars for himself and those whose funds he managed. But his name is perhaps better known for the way he gave his fortune away.
The Templeton Prize for Progress towards Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities, initially known as the Templeton prize for Progress in Religion, is the world’s richest individual Prize, always set higher than the Nobel and currently worth £820,000. Its distinguished but highly eclectic recipients have included Mother Teresa, the cosmologist John Barrow, the environmental ethicist Holmes Rolston, the philosopher Charles Taylor, Billy Graham, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Charles Colson, the Nixon aide imprisoned for his role in Watergate (he later founded a prison outreach programme).
New Delhi (PTI): Perturbed by growing tendency of stereotyping of Muslims after terror attacks, a prominent body of the communityon Sunday decided to form defence groups against terrorism across the country.
The Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind President Maulana Arshad Madani here said that the organisation would launch an effective movement against terrorist and disruptive forces in every nook and corner of the country.
Colombo, Sri Lanka -- Sri Lanka's Central Cultural Fund Chairman Professor Sudarshan Seneviratne this week lauded Pakistan for her immense contribution towards the protection and preservation of Gandhara's ancient Buddhist cultural heritage
Muslim woman in UK wins 4000 pounds in headscarf racial row
London, June 18 : A British employment tribunal panel has awarded 4,000 pounds to a Muslim teenage hairdresser as compensation for “injury to feelings” after she was declined a job for wearing a headscarf.
Korean team calls for preserving Pakistan's Buddha site
It is often felt that clash over holy sites is one of the most formidable and combustible arenas in the world of interreligious relations. Paradoxically however, holy sites represent great opportunities for leaping forward in the face of the most challenging frontiers of interreligious affairs. All religions have a common intuition as to the fragility, preciousness, and great care needed to protect irreplaceable holy sites. On the basis of this shared generic understanding, enlightened religious leaders can pioneer ways to demonstrate creative designs for collaboration, and loving, mutual respect.
This account of North Asian Buddhists in Pakistan is very encouraging. (Kaufmann)
Korean team calls for preserving Pakistan's Buddha site
The News, June 15, 2008
A delegation of Korean Buddhists headed by senior monk Jeon Woon Deok Saturday urged the Pakistan government to initiate measures for protecting and restoring Buddha site in Takhtbhai and make it the biggest place for Buddha worship.
The seven-member team of the Buddhists visited the historic Mahabat Khan mosque to forge interfaith harmony. Deok and his delegation visited different section of the mosque and met its Khateeb, Maulana Yousaf Qureshi.
On the occasion, strict security measures were put in place as no irrelevant person was allowed to enter the mosque premises.
After their visit, Deok held a joint press conference with Yousaf Qureshi and said that the Korean and Japanese governments would finance a university in the NWFP for the protection of the historic Buddha sites. He said talks were underway with the government of Pakistan in this regard.
“Though physically we belong to Korea but spiritually we are deeply attached to Pakistan as Buddhisattvi spread in the whole world from here,” he added. He said all religions should work for the interfaith harmony and promote the message of peace.
Masjid Mahabat Khan Khateeb said that Buddhist community should closely work with the Muslims for bringing peace as Islam believed in peace and tolerance.
VATICAN CITY – The world is obsessed by Islam, according to the Vatican’s point man for relations with other religions.
Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran also said he did not want an impression to grow that there are different classes of religion.
Tauran’s department, the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, oversees relations with all non-Christian religions except Judaism and is preparing new guidelines for Catholic dialogue with them.
The new guidelines will not have special emphasis on Islam, Tauran said in an interview with the religious website terrasanta.com which specialises in Holy Land affairs.
‘No, it has to have regard for all religions. What was interesting about our discussions was that we did not concentrate on Islam because in a way we are being held hostage by Islam a little bit,’ he said.
‘Islam is very important but there are also other great Asiatic religious traditions. Islam is one religion,’ he said.
Dear IRFWP reader. Below is an RNS article examining the impact that religious and pastoral endorsements have had on the US presidential contest so far.
The article accurately identifies the mark of a shift in the relationship between politicians and clergy that will remain permanent. The sure decline in the religious and political hand in glove is not nefarious, signs of rising secularism, or cause for hand-wringing among lovers of God.
Personally I see two problems that revealed themselves through the chaotic missteps in the religious and political relationships that have littered this political season thus far.
1. The relationship is wrong. This is not to say there should NOT be a relationship, politicians should be religious and religious leaders should invest in the politics of their land. It is to say that these paired responsibilities have not until now taken on the proper form and order.
2. Religious leaders are parochial, not inclusive. All the leaders who caused their candidates of choice were exposed not for a higher inclusive vision but rather for their division. It was the proneness and intensity of againstness that forced the breaches the politicians were eventually forced to declare.
Please read through this RNS article below. Then please offer IRFWP dot org your views and understanding. You may do so in the poll below, but please consider writing your views at length here (<-- click). We will post serious writing as IRFWP commentary, or invite your contribution to Dialogue and Alliance(<-- click)
Hazards for both sides when politicians court pastors By Adelle M. Banks and Daniel Burke
WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney and his Mormon faith. Mike Huckabee and his "Christian leader" ads. John McCain and John Hagee. Hillary Clinton and her "prayer warriors." Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright.
To put it mildly, the 2008 election has featured an extraordinary emphasis on religion.
"There's been more religious ferment in this election than any since 1960," said Ralph Reed, the GOP strategist who helped build the Christian Coalition in the 1990s, "and I don't expect that to come to an end."
But the past couple of weeks have demonstrated -- to a degree not seen in previous elections -- that the intersection of religion and politics can be fraught with peril for pastors and politicians.
This is an extremely important article. The situation requires constant observation and perseverance from international rights and watchdog groups.
If the monks are involved with bombs, even if their cause is just, and even if the destruction is only to property, still this must stop. The current world situation needs to purge violent activity from all religious activists.
If the monks have been subject to torture or questionable interrogation and confession seeking tactics, it is vital that all people and organizations of conscience stay vigilant and bring these realities to the light of day!
HONG KONG — The police in Tibet have arrested 16 Buddhist monks and accused them of involvement in three bombings, a police spokesman in northeastern Tibet said Thursday.
All three involved homemade explosives and caused only property damage, no deaths or injuries, the spokesman said in a telephone interview.
The spokesman, in Qamdo, Tibet, declined to give his name and referred further questions to the Tibet Department of Public Security headquarters in Lhasa, where a press officer said that he had no information.
Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, reported Thursday that the Tibet Department of Public Security had arrested the 16 monks on May 12 and 13 in connection with bombings on April 5, 8 and 15 in villages near Qamdo.
All of the monks have admitted their guilt, according to Xinhua.
Human rights activists and Tibetan exile groups have repeatedly accused Chinese security forces of using torture to extract confessions. The police in China also frequently delay announcing arrests until confessions have been obtained.
Nicolas Bequelin, a Hong Kong-based researcher for Human Rights Watch said that while he had no specific information on the monks under arrest, he was doubtful that their treatment would meet international standards.
“We have no confidence that these people get due process, and in particular the issue of confession is always tricky, because of the use of pretrial torture and coercion in China,” he said.
Judges in Tibet have also been outspoken in saying that their goal is to try cases as quickly as possible and preserve the territorial integrity of China. “They don’t pretend that they’re giving people a fair trial, they say they are fighting separatism,” Mr. Bequelin said.
The author of this article is cynical about the interfaith qualities of the coming June 4 interfaith conference that Saudi King Abdullah will open, and over which Saudi Shura Council head Saleh bin Huma will preside, and perhaps rightly so.
The author approaches the event from the hard edge of oil profits and national self-interest. Of course these are elements in all equations in the region. Further it is the responsibility of peace seekers and interfaith activists to be sophisticated in their efforts for peace.
For this reason, Mr. Friedman's excellent article (though it might be felt as a touch harsh by Saudi leaders) is a must read.
To move away for a moment from the mental prisons of materialism and self-interest as the core motivational essence of being human, I for one pray that Shiite and Sunni Muslims can discover beauty in one another's traditions, and find a higher home in Islam for the breadth of approaches these two historical approaches represent.
June 2, 2008
By George Friedman
The Saudis are hosting an interfaith conference June 4. Four hundred Islamic scholars from around the world will be there, with one day devoted to interfaith issues. Saudi King Abdullah will open the conference, over which Saudi Shura Council head Saleh bin Huma will preside. This is clearly intended to be a major event, not minimized by the fact that Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran’s most influential leader — who heads Iran’s Assembly of Experts, the body that elects and can remove the Supreme Leader — will be attending as well. Rafsanjani was specifically invited by the Saudi ambassador to Iran last Wednesday with the following message: “King Abdullah believes you have a great stature in the Islamic world … and he has assigned me the duty of inviting you to the conference.” We would not have expected to see a meeting on interfaith dialogue even a year ago.
For its part, al Qaeda condemned the conference. Its spokesman, Abu Yahya al-Libi, said of Abdullah via videotape that “He who is called the defender of monotheism by sycophantic clerics is raising the flag of brotherhood between religions … and thinks he has found the wisdom to stop wars and prevent the causes of enmity between religions and peoples.” He went on to say “By God, if you don’t resist heroically against this wanton tyrant … the day will come when church bells will ring in the heart of the Arabian Peninsula.” In the past, the Saudis have been very careful not to push al Qaeda, or the kingdom’s own conservatives, too far.
One reason for the change might be the increasing focus by conservative Saudi clerics on the Shia, particularly Iran and Hezbollah. Twenty-two leading conservative clerics issued a statement condemning the Shia as destabilizing the Arab world and hostile to Sunnis. More important, they claimed that Iran and Hezbollah are only pretending to be hostile to the United States and Jews. In a translation by The Associated Press, the clerics said that “If they (Shiites) have a country, they humiliate and exert control in their rule over Sunnis. They sow strife, corruption and destruction among Muslims and destabilize security in Muslim countries … such as Yemen.” This view paralleled statements by al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri a few weeks back.
May 16, 2008
by Preeti Bhattacharji
Council on Foreign Relations
Religious observance in China is on the rise. According to a survey published in a state-run newspaper, 31.4 percent of Chinese adults are religious, a figure that is three times the initial government estimate. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is officially atheist, but it has been growing more tolerant of religious activity for the past twenty years. China's constitution explicitly allows "freedom of religious belief," and in 2005, the State Council passed new guidelines broadening legal rights for state-sanctioned groups. In March, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recognized these efforts and removed China from the State Department's list of top human rights violators. But experts say that Muslim Uighurs, Buddhist Tibetans, unregistered Christians, and groups that the party brands as cults, such as Falun Gong, are still persecuted and repressed.
Freedom and Regulation
Article 36 of the Chinese constitution says that Chinese citizens "enjoy freedom of religious belief." It bans discrimination based on religion, and it forbids state organs, public organizations, or individuals from compelling citizens to believe in—or not to believe in—any particular faith. In 2005, the State Council passed new Regulations on Religious Affairs, which allow religious organizations to possess property, publish literature, train and approve clergy, and collect donations as long as they have registered with the state. According to Chinese criminal law, officials who deny citizens of their right to religious belief can be sentenced up to two years in prison.
But religious freedom is still not universal in China. The state only recognizes five official religions—Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism—and considers the practice of any other faith illegal. Religious organizations are required to register with one of five state-sanctioned patriotic religious associations, each of which is supervised by the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA). Religious groups that fail to affiliate with one of the five official religions are denied legal protection under Chinese law.
Mr Sweetman allowed Shekina Egan (13) to wear the hijab, but called on the State to give guidance and so avoid a situation where one school had a policy allowing a hijab, while it was not permitted in another.
Shekina is the eldest daughter of Gorey native Liam Egan, who lived in the Yemen and Saudi Arabia and converted to Islam a number of years ago. Mr Egan returned to his hometown last year with his family which also includes wife Beverly and children Shakura (12), Shakiira (8) and Shadia (4).
Beverly Egan said it was Shekina's choice to wear a hijab. She said: "Leaving it to individual school boards of management was not a safe way to go".
Mr O'Keeffe said he did not regard questions over the Muslim veil as "a serious issue" in Ireland.
He said: "Wearing a veil is unlikely to be an issue in most schools but there will come a time when schools will be forced to deal with situations when parents demand that their daughters face be fully covered.
"Will it be found to be discriminatory under Equal Status legislation if school authorities insist that a full veil can't be worn?
LDS-Catholic relations impact the study of Geneology
This article is presented as information. It is an unexpected arena of interreligious relations. The Catholic Church and the Church of the Latter Day Saints. The eventual outcome of this "conversation" has implications beyond the relationship of these two communities of faith. The whole world of geneology and geneological studies will be affected by this matter.
As you will read in the article, the Catholic Church is not the only religious group that has taken exception with the LDS practice of baptizing the deceased. How this will end is anyone's guess. We present the issue here for the sake of those involved in interfaith work. Frank Kaufmann
Jaipur has suffered horrible attacks from extremists in ruthless bombings timed and orchestrated to cause the greatest possible loss of life and injury to innocents. Near crowded temples to coincide with the celebration of Lord Hanuman, and in the surrounding bazaars and market places.
Of course we decry the brutal and bestial mind that possesses the perpetrators. The Economic Timesreports on developments and investigations.
In the mean time, lifelong, saintly activist Shrivatsa Goswami remains in Jaipur to offer prayers and comfort.
Here is what Shrivatsa writes to a fellow scholar in the States who wrote Shrivatsa with concern:
I am giving Bhagavata katha in Jaipur and we gathered even today despite the curfew to pray for the departed and help the suffering families. The day was peaceful and the anger did not translate into retalliation and that is what the hindu leaders here have apealed to the citizens of Jaipur. Like Varanasi, Jaipur will prove its sanity and maturity to the disbelief of media--who are very much disappointed for lack of violence.
Please pray for Shrivatsa, for all who seek to give comfort and solace, for all who suffer, and for all who champion interreligious understanding and harmony in our violent and dangerous times.
Here is an important article from the Pew Forum on religion in China on the eve of the 2008 Summer Olympics:
According to a 2006 survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, 31% of the Chinese public considers religion to be very or somewhat important in their lives, compared with only 11% who say religion is not at all important. When asked a somewhat different question in a 2005 Pew poll, an even greater percentage of the Chinese public (56%) considered religion to be very or somewhat important in their lives.
While there are no nationally representative surveys of the religious affiliation of the Chinese public, three recent surveys provide some sense of the number of people who belong to China’s five main recognized religions – Buddhism, Protestantism, Catholicism, Islam and Taoism
Islamic seminary's plea against cow slaughter receives praise
It is continued good news each time we find leaders, institutions or communities standing up and fighting for the rights of believers from different faiths.
In the article just below, we read of a Jewish rabbi calling for protests to protect the sensibilities of Hindus
In this article, we read of a Muslim seminary calling for the end to cow slaughter and consumption, not because it is a matter of Muslim dietary law, but rather as a gesture to care for the religious life and sensibilities of Hindus.
There is no better way to forge the steady advance of interreligious harmony and cooperation, than to take solid action on behalf of the religious concerns of others. Frank Kaufmann
Islamic seminary's plea against cow slaughter receives praise
New Delhi: The Deoband-based Islamic seminary's plea to refrain from cow slaughter and beef eating has been warmly received with people saying the gesture will go a long way in further cementing Hindu-Muslim brotherhood.
"The appeal to refrain from cow slaughter and beef eating is in tandem with India's secular ethos and sentiments. It is a welcome move that will go a long way in bridging the gap between Hindus and Muslims," Harcharan Singh Josh, a member of the National Commission for Minorities, said.
"In India, where unity thrives in diversity, the people should learn to respect each other's religious sentiments. Such gestures should be replicated in our behaviour as well and, if possible, reciprocated as well. Thus, we can contribute to the country's peace and harmony."
Jewish leader calls for boycott of the movie "The Love Guru"
I have not seen this movie. I do not know first hand the degree to which its content is offensive.
What is positive to note in this article is the cross defense of a religious community, by a leader from a different religion.
This is an example of what must be done in all dimensions of religion so that religious leaders can transcend our own rootedness in separation, and insodoing rise to hold the lead in peacemaking that not only is proper to true religious leadership, but requisite to any hopes for peace in the world. Frank Kaufmann
Jewish leader calls for boycott of the movie "The Love Guru"
Washington, May 6 : A prominent Jewish Rabbi has called for boycott of upcoming movie "The Love Guru" because it "lampoons Hinduism, mocks Ashram life and Hindu philosophy" and asking "who laughs at religious practices".
Rabbi Elizabeth W. Beyer of Nevada, in a statement, said, " 'The Love Guru' lampoons Hinduism, mocks Ashram life and Hindu philosophy. While 'Guru Pitka' states that he endorses no particular religion, the movie clearly portrays him as a guru - religious leader of Hindus."
GRANTHAM, Pa. (CNS) -- The two Democratic senators seeking their party's nomination for president sought to define themselves in terms of their religious faith in an April 13 forum at Messiah College in Grantham that was broadcast live on CNN.
Sens. Barack Obama of Illinois and Hillary Clinton of New York talked about the role of faith in their lives, about the place they think religion should hold in civil society, about their beliefs on when life begins and how that influences their political stances on abortion and end-of-life care.
The Compassion Forum, held at an evangelical liberal arts college in a state holding its Democratic presidential primary April 22, marked a significant shift in the way Democratic candidates are willing to talk about religion.
Cuts of meat that are forbidden by kosher or halal law are sold back into the general market, but animal rights activists find kosher and halal slaughter practices inhumane. The British Food and Farming Minister wants these meats labeled so that consumers have the right to reject meats if they feel the animals have been treated in inhumane ways (during slaughter).
Here, (some) Jews and Muslims have come together in agreement. It is a matter to keep on your radar.
Brit Jews, Muslims say no to labelling of halal and kosher meat
London, Apr.7 : Jews and Muslims in Britain have reportedly objected to a Government proposal to label halal and kosher meat before they are put on sale.
Reacting to Food and Farming Minister Lord Rooker's proposal that suggests that the public should be given the choice of deciding whether they want to buy food from animals that have been bled to death, community leaders and members said this step to label meats went against their religious beliefs.
"My choice as a customer is that I would want to buy meat that has been looked after and slaughtered in the most humane way possible."
Lord Rooker's comments were welcomed by the RSPCA, which is concerned about the experience of animals killed for Jews and Muslims.
Patna Sikhs protest Guru Gobind Singh's armour's auction in UK
This writer upholds the position of the Patna Sikhs protesting the the proposed auction of an armour at London's renowned Sotheby's, believed to be that which belonged to the Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and last religious head of the Sikhs.
It is the firm stance of this writer expressing the IRFWP position that every possible measure should be sought in all cases to protect and respect the religious sensibilities and the world's sacred treasure entrusted to each of the many distinct faith communities in the world.
We as a worldwide family of believers from every tradition should stand in solidarity with one another in concern for respecting that which is sacred and treasured from a viewpoint of religious faith and belief.
We call upon Sotheby's to withdraw the armor from auction until the matter is settled in consultation with Sikh leaders and believers.
Patna, Apr 2 : The Sikh community in Patna on Wednesday protested against the proposed auction of an armour at London's renowned Sotheby's, as they believe it belonged to the Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and last religious head of the Sikhs.
The protesters came out in large numbers shouting slogans and showing placards voicing their demand and urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to step in to stop the proposed auction.
"The government should immediately stop the auction and if they (British Government) continue with it, then it will hurt the religions sentiments of Sikhs and our gurus. Moreover, if our demands are not met, then we shall report against the British Government in the International Court of Justice," added Raja Singh, Secretary of Takht Shri Harminderji Patna Sahib.
The apex religious representative body of the Sikhs, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandhak Committee (SGPC) had also appealed to Manmohan Singh to look into the matter.
An important article appears today in The Times of India entitled "Young Muslims in UK attracted to radical Islam." The unfortunate reality is described plainly in the headline, but the article fails to unpack the implications of two key elements concealed in the very words of the writer himself.
The first clue appears in paragraph one:
Young Muslims in Britain are increasingly getting inclined towards radical Islam as it presents a more "comprehensive and coherent" ideology than the one advocated by local mosques, a report has suggested.
And the second in paragraph two:
"The growth of monocultural ghettos has led to the radicalisation of young Muslims who see extremism as the only theology available to them," the report, by British home office in 2005 said.
The essence of my commentary is twofold. The first is a call to world, Muslim leadership, especially its theologians, scholars and educators to recognize the implications of this observation. The second is a call to all concerned citizens worldwide to recognize the enduring fact that non-religious elements contribute to this harmful and self-destructive identification with deviant and aberrant "religious" interpretations.
When first reading this Times of India headline, I felt saddened. On balance I tend to admire the UK for its efforts to intuit and implement the all important ideal of religious freedom (as opposed to so many mainland European nations, which or some odd reason are lowbrow in this arena). Thus, why in the UK of all places (as one of the better places to be Muslim) should there be an increase in the trend toward what is called "radical Islam" (a misnomer in my opinion)?
The reasons for this shone through the writer's casual observations. I was not at all surprised to discover that both halves of the equation had little to do with religion per se. Yet even so, the implications for religious leaders and practitioners are great.
The two elements identified in the article as responsible for the rise of "radical Islam" among Muslim youth in the UK are: 1. Monocultural ghettos, and 2. The comprehensiveness and coherence of these evil teachings.
The fact of monocultural ghettoes is a political, economic, cultural, and historical reality, far more than a religious one (if at all). While not a religious reality, it is nevertheless a religious problem, namely something religions (and surely not just Islam) should address and fix. Monocultural ghettos are a problem. These have the potential to lead to anger and violence whether packaged in an ideology or not (for example plain old drug and gang violence), and whether the ideology happens to be the perversion of religious teachings or not (for example Marxism, a religion denying ideology is extremely violent).
The second element that completes the circle in this sad and destructive mix is that the appeal described for "radical Islam" is that it is comprehensive and coherent! Not that it is true, edifying, uplifting, consistent with tradition and historical interpretation, or responsible in anyway to genuinely religious purposes. As with the ghetto problem, comprehensiveness coherence in a thought system are not related necessarily to religion. Any thought system can be comprehensive and coherent, even one claiming to represent a religion despite violating the most important of its basic tenets.
And here with this issue of coherence, (just as it was with the issue of monocultural ghettoes), it is not a matter necessarily related to religious thought, but again it is a religious problem. If Muslim leaders, educators, and parents cannot present a comprehensive and coherent account of the Islam of peace, human equality, social cohesion, and respect for life they leave their precious children vulnerable to villains who can construct a comprehensive and coherent call, even if it is one that defiles all virtue and life itself.
It is not sufficient merely to proof-text and reiterate ad nauseum the incessant declaration that Islam is a religion of peace, and that Islam means peace. It is necessary to compete with the appeal, devotion, and ideological ardor invested in the thought systems generated by militant and violent preachers and recruiters.
The realities sadly happen to be, 1. intolerable and enraging life in monocultural ghettos, combined with 2. selfless (if perverse) devotion and intellectual striving of hateful, violent ideologues. These are the challenges that must be faced and resolved by Muslim intellectuals, leaders and educators. Wherein lies a comprehensive and coherent account of Islam's true beauty that can speak in the midst of this tragedy, this current world of offense, separation, and inequality experienced in Europe's ghettos? This is the most pressing challenge of our time. The lives of a generation of beautiful young men and women depend on our success.
Frank Kaufmann is the director of the Inter Religious Federation for World Peace The opinion here is his own
As we see now a second seeming about face (first with Muslims and now with Protestants) we must ask exactly what it is that we keep seeing here? Is this calculated by Benedict XVI as a path to a higher good? "Insulting people is the best way to generate fruitful interreligious dialogue." Are we seeing a person who simply suffers from a deep inner conflict. "Sometimes I think Islam is inherently evil, sometimes I think its great." Is Pope Benedict XVI a calculatING person, who plays this back and forth game as a means surreptitiously to pursue Catholic imperialism? Kind of a theological rope-a-dope?
Whatever this is, it should properly arouse genuine interest among people who take religious belief and the importance of religious leadership seriously.
Pope Benedict XVI is to rehabilitate Martin Luther, arguing that he did not intend to split Christianity but only to purge the Church of corrupt practices.
Pope Benedict will issue his findings on Luther (1483-1546) in September after discussing him at his annual seminar of 40 fellow theologians — known as the Ratzinger Schülerkreis — at Castelgandolfo, the papal summer residence. According to Vatican insiders the Pope will argue that Luther, who was excommunicated and condemned for heresy, was not a heretic.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, the head of the pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said the move would help to promote ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Protestants. It is also designed to counteract the impact of July's papal statement describing the Protestant and Orthodox faiths as defective and “not proper Churches”.
The ten members of the Danish parliament's Foreign Policy Committee, including Denmark's former foreign minister Mogens Lykketoft, erred when they canceled a trip to Iran two days prior to scheduled meetings.
FOR Fatma Benli, a Turkish lawyer and women’s rights advocate, the controversy over Islamic head scarves has the irritating sound of a broken record.
Ms. Benli, who is 34, wears one herself. (On Wednesday, it was light brown with a floral print, tucked into the neck of a white turtleneck.) But she would rather talk about other things.
“I could tell you about domestic violence, about honor killings, about the parts of the criminal code that discriminate against women,” she said, ticking off her areas of expertise in rapid-fire sentences. “But we can’t move on to those issues.
“The head scarf is where we are stuck.”
“This is related to my private life,” she said. “It’s my personality. My wholeness.”
Sheikh attempts preemption in anticipation of Duth Film
UPI Germany Correspondent Stefan Nicola reports that the the Dutch government is bracing for widespread violence that could be sparked by an anti-Islam film that its producer wants to broadcast sometime this week.
The anticipated screening has already sparked international protests. Although no one has seen the film yet, there are rumors Wilders will tear up or burn the Koran in it. If that was true, Ahmad Badr al-Din Hassoun, the Grand Mufti of Syria, said earlier this month at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, "this will simply mean he is inciting wars and bloodshed. ... It is the responsibility of the Dutch people to stop him."
Sheikh professor Saheed Satardien writes clearly and extensively on the matter seeking in all ways to preempt the possibility of violent protest. Sheikh's Satardien's voice and analysis is very important. He is especially to be commended for visionary, courageous, PREEMPTIVE efforts to prevent violence, rather than merely decry it after matters degenerate out of control.
Please click to read further to read Sheikh Satardien's message in it's entirety.
Juashaunna Kelly, the District of Columbia's fastest woman, high-schooler in the mile and two-mile was barred from competition in Montgomery Invitational indoor track and field meet after officials said her Muslim clothing violated national competition rules. Meet director Tom Rogers said Kelly's uniform violated rules of the National Federation of State High School Associations.
Unfortunate and provocative decisions such as these must be avoided at all costs.
Mistakes such as this are a wake up call begging for more complete and far-ranging interreligious guidance and education especially for all people who occupy positions of influence, even influence in such public arenas of sports and other high profile cultural activities, AND people whose decisions impact young people.
Exemplary young people like Juashaunna Kelly, who not only excel in their endeavors, but furthermore manifest a proud devotion to spiritual and moral life should be upheld and encouraged, and never anything so unconscionable as being publicly diminished or obstructed by blind and foolish decisions, like that of meet director Tom Rogers.
Support for Erdogan's move to lift the head scarf ban
Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is pushing to lift Turkey's "headscarf ban" that forbids the wearing of Muslim head scarves in universities and public offices.
This is not merely and purely an issue of religious freedom. It is also the wedge and icon of the decades long power battle between "the generals" and elected governments in Turkey.
In addition to plain fights over power, there is a genuine ideological dimension as well. The secular establishment (including the military) sees attempts to lift the ban as threatening Turkey's "secular principles." In the past, Turkey's generals have even staged coups in the name of wanting to "protect the nation's secular traditions"!
One cannot look at this just cynically though. The legitimate points of concern from side of the secular elite is the express fear that lifting the headscarf ban could put pressure on women to wear ever more conservative attire, and open new avenues for the government to impose strict versions of Sharia law on public and private life. These are highly sensitive issues that often dominate the national agenda.
Still on principle alone it is necessary to side with Erdogan who insists that lifting the ban is nothing more than a question of individual liberty.
This claim to simplicity is not true in the context of Turkish power politics, and highly charged questions involving culture, religion, and even Turkey's own directions on policy and international relations. Still, even in such complex and complicated issues of politics and policy, it remains necessary to uphold the ideal of personal liberty, especially in the arena of religious freedom. We cannot be comfortable when governments impose on the free expression of personal faith. We do not want Turkish Muslims barred from their sacred obligations any more than we would hope to see such constraints and impositions on Muslims citizens in Holland, Germany, or France.
Egypt allowed about 2,000 Palestinian pilgrims to cross back into the Gaza Strip on Wednesday
Israel had demanded that they travel back to the Gaza Strip via an Israeli-controlled border crossing, Kerem Shalom, where they could undergo Israeli security checks. But Hamas refused
saying that its supporters could be arrested by Israel.
Israeli officials suspect that some of the pilgrims brought back large sums of money and other contraband for Hamas.
The Abbas-led Palestinian Authority, which rules from the West Bank, went to great efforts to organize an official quota of about 1,000 Gaza pilgrims, who were to travel to Saudi Arabia and back via Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.
Last year in August and September it was shown that the world could not protect nor defend the Buddhist monks of Myanmar, who suffered under government crackdown including deaths and 1,150 political prisoners. (See IHT article today)
China is set to make 2008 the year it asserts its status as a global colossus by flexing frightening economic muscle on international markets, enjoying unprecedented levels of domestic consumption and showcasing itself to a watching world with a glittering £20bn Olympic Games.
For this reason it is important to keep steady watch on developments in China especially as pertains religious freedom (as guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948).
Today The Epoch Times reports China Strengthens Tibetan Religious Repression,
Sources revealed on December 24 that the Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in China's southwest Sichuan province continues to strengthen its control over the local temples. Officials have ordered Tibetans under the age of 18 not to serve as lamas.
As a result, many young lamas have been expelled from the temples. Meanwhile, the government is investigating lamas associated with India. The National Security Agency is also interrogating foreign lamas who are learning Tibetan Buddism in Ganzi.Dawa Tsering said, "The County official has visited our temple several times this year. Each time, we were asked to sign an anti-Dalai Lama's 'separatist activities' campaign statement. We have been reluctant, but there's nothing else we can do.
The County government prepared the speech and made the Tulku read it on the radio."
The IRFWP deeply agrees with the Muslim charities identified in this article. The mission of religion is to care equally for all people of all faiths. The act of service and sacrificial love and care that transcends religious differences, and embraces all people as beloved of God is the best way to advance a peaceful world. It is religion at its best.
Abdul Malik Mujahid wasn't quite sure where to start when the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago decided to extend its charitable mission beyond Muslims.
So he rented a refrigerated truck, filled it with thousands of pounds of meat, and began driving around the city, looking for poor people.
"Finding the poor is not easy; there is no ZIP code for it," he said of the long drives. "It was difficult."
After a few years doing it the hard way, the council, representing more than 50 mosques, teamed up with the Greater Chicago Food Depository. This week, to mark the annual celebration of Eid al-Adha, they will give away some 25,000 pounds of fresh, organic meat to local pantries.
A minister in India's West Bengal state has called for a ban on a book carrying a picture the Prophet Muhammad.
Muslim HIndu relations have been strained to the point of violence in the eastern, Indian city of Calcutta (Kolkata). At the end of November riots closed down the city, requiring the use of troops to return the city to its normal day to day functions. BBC carried this report on November 22:
Calcutta calm after day of riots: Life is returning to normal in the eastern Indian city of Calcutta a day after protests over a controversial writer turned into riots.
On Wednesday, police using tear gas and baton charges were unable to control crowds calling for Bangladeshi feminist writer Taslima Nasreen [Read about Taslima here and here] to leave India.
Rioters blocked roads and set cars alight. At least 43 people were hurt.
More than 100 arrests were made.
Crowds were also protesting at recent attacks on Muslims in the Nandigram area in the east of West Bengal state.
Now, the BBC reports that a book has appeared about former Indian president and philosopher S Radhakrishnan that has a "picture of the Prophet Mohammad" (PBUH). Minority affairs minister Abdus Sattar said the picture on the cover could lead to "religious tensions".
The publisher of the book, Vijay Goel, said he could take the book off the market and ensure that the future editions did not carry the picture.
Additionally, Ms Nasreen withdrew some lines from one of her books after Calcutta was rocked by violent protests against her on 21 November.
It is the opinion of this writer that the frequency of Muslim protests and riots over real and perceived religious offense (like the recent riots calling for the death of s simple school teacher in Khartoum) is a great negative in the world of religion, and that local Muslim leadership should become a community that champions more than anyone a stern insistence that believers behave with temperance, moderation, and respect. Matters of religion and increasing understanding and care for that which is sacred in our respective traditions can come without destructive, personal abandon and self indulgence as imagined righteousness.
The letter (available at www.acommonword.com) is remarkable for its depth and message. Its signers represent all major schools of Islamic thought. It quotes from religious texts of Muslims, Christians, and Jews to show two shared, fundamental beliefs: love of one God, and love of neighbor.
Last week, the pope responded by praising the "positive spirit" behind the letter and inviting a delegation of its signers to the Vatican for talks. Just a year ago he angered many Muslims with a speech that linked Islam to violence. In the United States, the Muslim letter has prompted Yale Divinity School to lead an effort toward interfaith conferences and workshops in the US, Britain, and the Middle East.
This week's intervention of British Muslims [Reported quite extensively on these pages] to win a pardon for an English schoolteacher in Sudan shows that intrafaith efforts can have a moderating effect.
The entire article is brief but well worth reading and knowing. Please click through to this good work by the Christian Science Monitor
Gillian Gibbons, the British teacher jailed for insulting Islam in a row over
a teddy bear, was preparing to fly home from Sudan today after being
pardoned by the country's President.
The 54-year-old mother-of-two was released into the care of the British
Embassy in Khartoum after receiving an official pardon from Omar al-Bashir.
Her release followed 48 hours of negotiations between Sudanese officials and
two British Muslim peers, Lord Ahmed of Rotherham and Baroness Warsi.
Please pray for the two Muslim, British Parliamentarians who are in Sudan to plead the case of school teacher, Gillian Gibbons. Additionally we of IRFWP call upon Muslims, especially world Muslim leaders to pressure Sudan president al Bashir to quickly resolve this matter, and take the name of Islam away from these unthinkable negatives.
KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) -- British officials pushed Sunday for a pardon from Sudan's president for a teacher imprisoned for allowing her students to name a teddy bear Muhammad.
Two Muslim members of British parliament, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi and Lord Nazir Ahmed, were meeting with Sudanese officials in the capital Khartoum for a second day to try to secure the early release of British teacher Gillian Gibbons.
Media headlines often speak of tensions between the Western and Islamic worlds in terms of religion.
The frictions can range from protesters in Brussels trying to highlight what they see as the dangerous encroachment of Islamic values into Europe to protesters in the Middle East demonstrating against what they see as insults in Western newspapers to the Prophet Muhammad.
observers say that one important fact is too often lost sight of.
the tensions between East and West are far more often over political than religious values.
in the Islamic world there are many conspiracy ideas about the West's war on Islam, so called, and on the other hand many Westerners suspect that the Muslims are rallying against Western civilization in general," says Mustafa Akyol, deputy editor of the Istanbul-based "Turkish Daily News." "I think that these fears, that are exaggerated on both sides, create the basic divisive point."
CAIRO, Egypt — Citing a long list of chilling testimonials, human rights groups Monday called on the U.S.-backed Egyptian government to stop discriminating against converts from Islam and members of some religious minorities who want their faiths reflected on their national identity cards.
Egyptians must list their religion on their ID cards, which are required for enrolling in university, starting a job, opening a bank account and most other aspects of public life. But authorities, drawing on Islamic law, essentially refuse to acknowledge Muslims who convert to other faiths and recognize only the three "revealed religions": Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Egyptians who belong to minority groups such as the Baha'i often find themselves basically stateless if they refuse to list "Muslim" or "Christian" on their IDs.
Recent days have seen a controversy arise base on a report from Catholic News Agency (CNA). It quickly spread even to involve conservative US Senators and Congressmen (happened to be men). The matter of religious freedom as related to the upcoming Olympic games in China are something of great ongoing interest.
DENVER (AP) — The U.S. Olympic Committee received confirmation from Olympic officials Wednesday that there will be no restrictions on Bibles being brought into the Olympic village in Beijing next year.
The USOC contacted the International Olympic Committee about the issue in response to a story posted on the Catholic News Agency Web site citing a list of prohibited items that was reported to include Bibles.
Religious services will be available in the Olympic Village next summer for Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists, he said. Religious texts like the Bible and Koran should be available.
With the Olympics heading to the largest Communist country in the world, many observers are interested to see how China handles issues like freedom of the press and freedom of religion over the 16 days next August.
Saudi king's historic Vatican visit comes amid tension
Here is an interesting article. The visit of Saudi King Fahd to Italy puts in high relief the diferent degrees of religious freedom and religious pluralism comparing Western Europe to some Muslim countries (including the country in which Islam was founded).
When Saudi King Abdullah arrives in Rome Tuesday he may wish to take a break from his schedule, including a historic meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican, for a quiet moment of prayer at the city's central mosque, Europe's largest Muslim house of worship.
In the highly unlikely event of Benedict visiting Saudi Arabia, there the pontiff would not find a single church to pray in. The kingdom prohibits all public religious displays that are not Islamic and routinely refuses clerics from other faiths entry into the country.
Rome's central mosque, reportedly built for more than $50 million largely donated by Saudi Arabia's former king Fahd,was inaugurated in 1995 in a ceremony attended by representatives of the Catholic, Jewish and Buddhist faiths.
'Reciprocity is what we hope for
'It is necessary to take account of the needs of Christians there' in Saudi Arabia
The Vatican continues to lament the lack of religious freedom in Saudi Arabia
Muslim groups draft rulebook for mosques to drive out extremists
Once again Britain, and British religious groups lead the way in sound process recognizing the unique role religions have to play in the development and protection of open democratic societies.
In this time of intensified security concerns, and when so many violent and militant actors claim Islam as their ideological foundations, there is a temptation and a tendency for knee jerk and panicked reactions leading to the erosion of religious rights and liberties, and ill-conceived and counterproductive heavy-handedness from secular and state actors.
In this article (<-- click link) we read the encouraging development in which Muslim leaders themselves are defining the parameters by which Islam might be properly understood, preached, and practiced. Thus with the hard work of this council, Muslim leaders from Great Britain tackle the challenge of militants not only with lip service, and even not only with theological and ideological debate and dialogue. The concern to uphold the beauty of Islam in an open, multi-religious society is also being undertaken utilizing the tools and strictures available to ecclesiological regulations.
The first attempt by British Muslims to set out the core standards and constitutions for Britain's 1,350-plus mosques and Islamic centres has been drawn up by a new body representing four leading groups.
The move was welcomed by Hazel Blears, the communities secretary. Ministers have often complained that there is a lack of oversight of mosques, and hope the proposals for standardised rules on governance and leadership could help to drive out extremism.
Technically this must be seen, of course, as a political development, not a religious one. Nevertheless, as our hopes endure to see peace arise in the troubled Holy Land, ideological developments among the primary actors are important to track, especially when an added voice toward moderation appears.
A Danish political party is using a drawing of the prophet Muhammad on election material, in a move described as a “provocation” by at least one local Muslim organisation.
The far-right Danish People’s party today unveiled an election advertisement showing a hand-drawn picture of the Islamic prophet under the slogan “Freedom of speech is Danish, censorship is not”, followed by the words “We defend Danish values”.
The Danish general election will take place on November 13.
The following two articles are worthy of our attention for several reasons:
1. The degree to which religion effectively can contribute to the ideal of peace is largely linked to political context in which religious life is lived and advanced
2. Much of today's global conflict has religious undertones, and is extended by means of state instruments (including violent means).
3. The US so far has shone as one of the better environments in terms of its devotion to the UN sanctioned requirement for religious freedom (even significantly in advance of other Western democracies (such as France and Germany).
For this reason, when religion and state issues come to the fore, It is important for interfaith and peace activists to pay close attention.
Here are two articles very different in nature, yet ones which proved the reader with keen issues about which to ponder in the arena of religion and state:
Call for Full Communion Between Catholic and Orthodox
This is from the Vatican News Service. Who knows what to expect here, but if the Holy Father asks us to pray for full communion between Catholics and Orthodox, sincere believers in the ideal of greater interreligious cooperation should do just that.
VATICAN CITY, OCT 10, 2007 (VIS) - At
the end of today's general audience in St. Peter's Square, the Pope
recalled how "the Joint International Commission for Theological
Dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox is currently holding its 10th
plenary assembly in Ravenna, Italy, where it is deliberating upon a
theological subject of particular ecumenical interest: the
ecclesiological and canonical consequences of the sacramental nature of
the Church - ecclesial communion, conciliarity and authority."
"I ask you to join me in my prayer," said the Holy Father, "that this
important gathering may help us to progress towards full communion
between Catholics and Orthodox, and that we may soon be able to share
the one chalice of the Lord."
BEIRUT, Lebanon, Oct. 5 — With the Islamist group Hezbollah having brought Lebanese politics to a standstill, the country’s once-dominant Christian community feels under siege and has begun re-establishing militias, training in the hills and stockpiling weapons.
Many Lebanese say another civil war — like the 15-year one that started in 1975 — is imminent and that the most dangerous flash points are within the divided Christian community.
Christian youth are signing up for militant factions in the greatest numbers since the end of the civil war, spray painting nationalist symbols on walls and tattooing them on their skin, and proclaiming their willingness to fight in a new civil war — in particular, against fellow Christians.
“When the war begins, I’ll be the first one in it,” said Fadil Abbas, 30, flexing his biceps in Shadow Tattoo as an artist etched a cross onto his shoulder. “I want everyone to know I am a Christian and I am ready to fight.”
IRFWP.com is devoted to issues of religion and peace. The vast majority of its commentary and reportage deal strictly with interreligious relations. Frequently matters pertaining to fields related to religion such as politics and media, arise on these pages because religious life and responsibility does not happen in a vacuum.
As all know, American politics has a deeply religious element at its core. The "religion" of American candidates concerns voters. American conservatives have tended to require a certain brand of Christian identity from their candidates.
I publish this report from today's New York Sun to help IRFWP.org readers understand some of the "religious" elements that impact electoral politics in America.
Interview with Haji Zahir Kharoti, Afghan tribal elder from Ghazni Province
This is a very valuable and important read for any concerned with religion and peace. It is also presented in a tenor that is sorely missed in the complex, and highly calculating spirit of Western journalism and political life
Man felt "duty" to deliver Korean hostages
August 31, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Haji Zahir Kharoti is an Afghan tribal elder from Ghazni Province who served as a mediator between the Taliban and the Afghan government during the six-week South Korean hostage crisis.
Kharoti played a key role in establishing the face-to-face talks between South Korean negotiators and the Taliban -- talks that led to the release of the last 19 hostages on August 30. Moreover, with the exception of the two South Korean men killed by the Taliban, Kharoti personally drove all of the hostages to freedom in his own car -- transporting them in small groups from the hands of their captors to officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross.
One would imagine, from the standpoint of violence prone Islamists that Germany (for the most part) did not fall too far onto the wrong side of the ledger vis a vis the non-UN approved US led invasion of Iraq.
The Christian Science Monitor is likely the world leader in superior journalism with regard to religious news. The relationship between "Interfaith" and "Religious freedom," is subtle and important. This article makes a very constructive recommendation.
CHIEF RABBI OF ISRAEL YONA METZGER CALLS FOR UN-STYLE RELIGIOUS FORUM WHERE CONSTRUCTIVE INTERFAITH WORK CAN OCCUR
CHIEF RABBI OF ISRAEL YONA METZGER VISITS HIS EMINENCE ARCHBISHOP DEMETRIOS OF AMERICA
NEW YORK - His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, welcomed Tuesday the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger, at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America in New York. The Chief Rabbi has been visiting the United States and had expressed the desire to meet the Archbishop. Mr. John Catsimatides a member of the Archdiocesan Council and an Archon facilitated the meeting.
This writer has skepticism on a couple of points:
1. Does one really get a good cross-representation of world Muslims with a 95 page survey? I cannot think of too many people involved in violence-based interpretations of Islam who'd be willing to sit down with someone toting around a 95 page survey?
2. What is more astounding than the reported decline in approval for violence against civilians reported in this current survey, is the claim that the numbers in favor of such violence soared as it did in such high percentage points just a little while ago.
Well, these are just my own confusion, but do read the survey if its figures are true, it's hopeful information. -- Frank Kaufmann, New York
Hearts and minds of young Muslims will be won or lost in the mosques
The new honesty of community leaders must be matched by a strategy from government that is patient and painstaking
Monday July 9, 2007
Two days after the 7/7 bombings in London two years ago, Muslim community leaders gathered at the London Muslim Centre to consider the impact of the attacks and who might have organised them. Many present refused to accept it might have been Muslims - the common refrain was that it could have been the French, because they had just lost the bid to host the Olympics.
Wind forward two years and the story has changed. On Friday, a campaign was launched with full-page newspaper adverts condemning the attempted bombings in London and Glasgow and pledging full support to avert future attacks. On Saturday,Muslim activists and imams from across the country gathered in London to consider what could be done to tackle extremism. Britain's Muslims have launched their most concerted attempt yet to win the hearts and minds of the public and distance themselves from the activities of violent extremists who claim to act in the name of their faith.
This opinion written by Dr. Asma Mobin-Uddin, a pediatrician in Columbus, Ohio, and the board chairwoman for the Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islam appeared in the July 4 NY Post (congratulations to them).
The CAIR site also hosts a prominent link to a fairly extensive collection of Muslim condemnation of terrorism.
BETRAYAL OF OUR FAITH & PROFESSION
By DR. ASMA MOBIN-UDDIN
July 4, 2007 -- AS THE investigation of the terror plots in London and Glasgow unfolds, I am experiencing the emotions I often do in hearing that people associated with my faith are involved - incredulity, anger, and outrage that once again, these heinous acts are associated with people professing to be Muslims.
But this time, my sense of disbelief and betrayal reaches a new level as I learn that many of those accused share not only my faith but also my profession.
The thought of physicians treating patients while secretly plotting to kill innocent people sickens and angers me on a new level.
The fires of Hell are real and eternal, Pope warns
Here is an interesting article. Is it news or is it opinion? The fact of the speech of His Holiness is news, but is the content of his speech opinion? Benedict XVI says that Hell is really a place. John Paul II said it was a state of being. In addition to re affirming honest to goodness, real, old fashioned, actual FLAMES, Benedict XVI also declared "limbo" to be nothing more than a medieval, theological hypothesis.
Vatican City - Hell is a place where sinners really do burn in an everlasting fire, and not just a religious symbol designed to galvanise the faithful, the Pope has said.
Addressing a parish gathering in a northern suburb of Rome, Benedict XVI said that in the modern world many people, including some believers, had forgotten that if they failed to “admit blame and promise to sin no more”, they risked “eternal damnation — the Inferno”.
ONE EVENING JUST BEFORE CHRISTMAS, in a modest, two-bedroom apartment on 16th Street NW, the most controversial clergyman in the recent history of the Roman Catholic Church took a moment to sing me a song.
Emmanuel Milingo, 76, the former archbishop of Lusaka, Zambia, popped a cassette into his stereo and smiled as words in Chewa, the language of his youth, filled the living room. A soft murmur kept the rhythm while two interwoven strains chased each other, catching up, then pulling apart."It is my own composition," Milingo said. "Do you hear? Listen: It is my voice, three times."
16 Asian nations just signed the Cebu Declaration on Energy Security, (in the Philippines). Signatories to the Cebu Declaration on Energy Security pledged their support on ensuring the security of energy supplies in the Asian region and to work together to find alternatives to fossil fuels.
By David C. Steinmetz [December 5, 2006]
It was widely assumed that Pope Benedict XVI had made a serious diplomatic faux pas when he read a quotation from a 15th-century Byzantine emperor criticizing what the emperor regarded as the inherent violence of Islam. Critics suggested...
The majority of Turkish Muslims and their spiritual leaders viewed the Pope’s visit favorably. [Tuesday, December 05, 2006]
By Asia News
The Patriarchate of Moscow has described the recent journey of Benedict XVI to Turkey as “important”, and has expressed hope that it will contribute to promoting sincere dialogue between the two sister Churches.
An Open Letter to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
From the Married Priests Now! Prelature, November 4, 2006
My Brothers in Christ,
The Archbishops, Bishops and Priests of the Married Priests Now! Prelature send their cordial greetings to you and to the Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops of the USCCB.
As you know, the Church in our country is in dire straits because of the shortage of priests. Churches are closing, priests are serving two and three parishes, the Mass and the Eucharist is not available to hundreds of thousands of Catholics. Lay men and women are being appointed as canonical pastors of parishes. The Church-at-Large has become a Mission Territory.
The veil is not a religious obligation — it is a symbol of the subjugation by men of their wives and daughters
MY PARENTS moved here from Kashmir in the 1960s. They brought with them their faith and their traditions. But they also arrived with an understanding that they were starting a new life in a country where Islam was not the main religion
The Holy Father Should Apologize. Muslims Should Refrain from Protest
By Frank Kaufmann
The problem arising from Pope Benedict XVI's Regensburg speech is deeply serious, perhaps far more than people grasp on the face of what we know through the news.
The present situation is this:
The academic address of The Holy Father Benedict XVI to the faculty at his alma mater in Regensburg is tragic beyond measure. It represents an unconscionable provocation of religious tensions in a world already blistering under the scourge of religious division.
Muslim rage against this speech is intuitive, technically misdirected, and self-defeating.
Religions as Conscience: The Interfaith Imperative
by Frank Kaufmann
This essay was delivered at the
The Convergence of Science and Spirituality Conference
Great Hall, Iliff School of Theology - September 09, 2006
The evolution of interfaith consciousness in the modern period is rapid and promising. Progress notwithstanding, pioneers in the field have yet to intuit an endgame sufficient to bring world traditions to full and enduring harmony. At present even the best interfaith relations remain bound as lateral wanting for a transcendent, unifying principle.
People of conscience, good will, and humane sensibilities stood aghast to see our race drawn into full scale war lasting over a month in July and August of this year! The excruciatingly slow to write and pass UNSC Resolution 1701 is insular in its premise, cosmetic in its intention, and fragile in its design. It is a built on self-interest, namely the very cause of conflict now adorned in the raiment of peace.
We pray that its provisions somehow succeed at least to hold against further outbreak of hostilities at such unthinkable levels of destruction and death. We are grateful to sincere peace seekers in the UN and elsewhere who gave their days and nights desperately searching for ways to end military aggression.
ISRAEL, LEBANON: The Escalation of Conflict in a New World
July 19, 2006
Israel bombing Lebanon is serious. (Many argue Israel was left with no choice.) Incursion into Gaza and the West Bank is a sovereignty-oddity that withstands the ascription international war. Bombing Lebanon does not.
The following article ("The Terrorist" written by Lawrence Wright) is about the relationship between the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and other major Al Quaeda leaders.
Some may feel that running this analysis on the pages of a site devoted to religion and peace dignifies those who purport the very antithesis of IRFWP ideals. We feel however that those devoted to the cause of religion and peace must recognize that people such as Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri view their lives and work as deeply religious in nature.
For this reason we have decided to provide for our readers Lawrence Wright’s profoundly knowledgeable, deeply insightful, and very readable June 19 New Yorker article analyzing how current Al Qaeda leaders viewed and related to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
When religion is flooded with reasoning, much of what it holds will get washed away; what remains is pure spirituality. Religion is a technique to become spiritual. Spirituality is nothing but Life Engineering. It is a quality that enables you to live a life centered on the miracles of Existence, in the firm conviction that you are part of a macrocosmic orchestra being conducted by Existential Energy. It keeps you in a liberated state inside while you perform in the outer world, intelligently and effortlessly.
Does a person’s religion make any difference to the way they experience death and grief? It depends on their understanding of religion, even Islam. There are healthy attitudes to religion, and there are unhealthy ones. Unfortunately, while it is certainly a fact that some religious attitudes help the personality to grow, others seriously stunt it.
IRFWP Series on Religion and Peace and Interreligious Dialogue
Self Realization Lifestyles and World Peace
Frank Kaufmann May 31, 2006
On May 30, 2006 the IRFWP continued its series to address the challenging issues of religion and peace in our time. The first of this series tackled issues surrounding the evacuation of the Jewish settlements from Gaza. The second was entitled “Arts in the Aftermath: The Role of Art and Artists in Creating a Culture of Peace in the Post 9/11 Era." This time we asked, “does the pursuit of self realization through meditative lifestyles lack sufficient engagement with pressing matters of war, hunger, and other social and political plagues of our time.”
Here is a very long (for our pages), but extremely important article by Peter J Boyer first appearing in the May 22, 2006 issue of the New Yorker magazine. What makes this article great is that it realizes or commands a masterful and elegant orchestration of contemporary power tectonics. Religion (Christianity) and Religious Institutions, Hollywood, Culture, the Academy, the evolution of journalism and public relations, even electoral politics! Boyer treats all sides of an intense controversy with an even hand, and with respect. It is SO rare to find a journalist with such a gentle touch, and so well calibrated to religious nuance.
There is no such thing as a "Christian politics." If it is a politics, it cannot be Christian. Jesus told Pilate: "My reign is not of this present order. If my reign were of this present order, my supporters would have fought against my being turned over to the Jews. But my reign is not here" (John 18:36). Jesus brought no political message or program.
The great wheel of history always turns, if slowly, and so, at last, the ultimate betrayer, Judas Iscariot himself, comes around again for another inspection, a potential record-clearing moment occasioned by the publication of “The Gospel of Judas” (National Geographic; $22), a very ancient, though not actually contemporary, rendering of Jesus, as seen by the man who ratted him out. Written in Coptic, and found, three decades ago, within a papyrus codex that contains other non-canonic writing, the manuscript has known a bizarre Calvary of its own—including a papyrus-damaging sixteen-year residence in a safe-deposit box in Hicksville, New York—and has only now been edited and translated into English by an international group of scholars, each of whom has provided his own commentary.
DIVORCE proceedings bring out the worst in people. When Abdul Rahman tried to get custody of his daughters in Kabul, Afghanistan, his wife's family told the court that he was unfit to care for his children because he had converted from Islam to Christianity some 16 years ago. A zealous prosecutor, hearing of the case, charged Mr. Rahman with apostasy, a crime punishable by death under some interpretations of Islamic law. If Mr. Rahman does not repudiate Christianity, the judge in the case has said, he will get the death penalty.
President Karzai is in a terrible situation. He has no easy way out of the looming beheading of Christian convert Abdul Rahman. Karzai's decision will affect not just Afghanistan and his own political future. It also will have huge impact on the exorbitant foreign policy gamble perpetrated by the Bush administration.
Attempting to broaden its appeal, the National Union-National Religious Party reached out to secular Israeli voters on Tuesday, promoting its joint right-wing list as the best choice for the nationalist camp.
The Dalai Lama has a cold. He has been hacking and sniffling his way around Washington, DC, for three days, calling on President Bush and Condoleezza Rice and visiting the Booker T. Washington Public Charter School for Technical Arts. Now he's onstage at the Washington Convention Center, preparing to address 14,000 attendees at the Society for Neuroscience's annual conference.
As I read the review, I wonder if Stark is revisiting the classical "Protestant work ethic" theme, or if there are observations of his that are genuinely innovative. I am not sure that religionists would necessarily want to be identified as cause for the rise of capitalism. The themes are provocative nevertheless.
The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism and Western Success. Rodney Stark. Random House. $25.95. 281 pp.
Even diligent students of the papacy may be unfamiliar with the pontificates of Michael and Pius XIII. Pope Michael, born David Bawden, was crowned on July 16, 1990. He has spent his papacy mostly at home, in Delia, Kansas, where he writes self-published books such as Imposter Popes and Idol Altars. Pope Pius XIII, born Earl Pulvermacher, was elevated on October 24, 1998, and currently takes Springdale, Washington, as his seat. Both popes appear in traditional papal vestments, both trace the origins of their particular schisms to the misdoings of John XXIII, and both—ah, yes—maintain websites from which they carry out their ministries.
Life of Omar Ibn Said is the earliest preserved Muslim manuscript written in the United States. Long considered one of the treasures of antebellum literature, the manuscript had been missing since the 1920s.
In 1995 it was rediscovered in an old trunk in Virginia, and sold at auction to collector Derrick Beard. Beard loaned the work to The Interfaith Center of New York, where it is the centerpiece of an exhibit on Said's life.
New York, USA - At age 86, Huston Smith is returning home again - to Christianity.
Smith is the dean of American scholars on world religions and his best-selling textbook about them is known to legions of college students. Personally, he's explored many faiths - though he's also a minister in the United Methodist Church, the denomination in which he was raised in China as the son of missionaries.
Here is an article that is fascinating for a number of reasons. It is beautifully written, and inquires into some of the more subtle challenges facing believers in our multi-religious world and societies. Significant scholars are interviewed and cited, good social and moral analysis obtains, along with a genuine concern for the spiritual growth of believers, especially young people. Yet astoundingly, in the midst of such a sensitive and delicate inquiry, we find a quote collapsing Rael, Buddha, and Allah as comparable objects of religious commitment, and all equally rejection-worthy. What are better ways to respond to the challenges identified in this article?
Bard Theological Conference and Festival Reflection
(Photo: Stefano Russo)
Neale Donald Walsch, author of "What God Wants," creator of the worldwide Humanity’s Team spiritual movement and one of the conference's keynote speakers, receives a “Greatest Vision” award at Bard College for his "extraordinary contribution to the advancement of the New Spirituality.”
If Mr. Blair can stay the course he set in response to the deplorable London bombings, and if the people whom he calls as partners can rise to meet the challenge, what is called Muslim terrorism will end.
Mr. Blair offers the first intelligent response from a major Western leader to what is called Muslim terrorism. Mr. Blair’s clear and balanced 4 point plan introduced in Parliament promises to reverse our plummet into the blind and primitive militarism that nourishes escalating guerilla attacks on innocents.
London It is hard to overstate the importance of religion in the contemporary world, yet its role remains underexplored and little understood. Western elites are perplexed by religion and the beliefs and practices that it can engender. But before Marx, almost all socialism was Christian. Equally, all those on the right were Christian monarchists who saw the defense of established religion as a key political task.
Sun Myung Moon is a man on the move. Rarely is he in one place for very long. He travels constantly. There are many reasons for this, including his mission to lead a complex, international movement with several major centers for operations.
Dr. Frank Kaufmann
Director, Office of Interreligious Relations
Europe is a land of conflict grounded in religious difference.
August Prize winner, Sweden’s Per Olov Enquist notes that “half of Europe’s wars, from the Monophystic struggles in the Roman Empire… to the German Empires’ cultural battles in the 19th Century, had arisen from some sort of theological strife, and since the church was a state institution, it led to war.”
Viewpoint: War, Journalists, and Cultural Blunders
By Frank Kaufmann
Special to World Peace Herald
Published May 21, 2005
NEW YORK -- The near thorough removal of all communications boundaries in our contemporary world is literally unprecedented. Incendiary Arabic language sermons quickly circulate among American conservatives, and insults to Islam are heard instantly in remote cities and villages from Peshawar to Kuala Lumpur. We do not yet have habits of mind that match this new reality. Debate, reactions, and analyses struggle to transcend traditional categories. As such they do not shed light. Wholesome responses and solutions elude us.
By Peter Slevin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 6, 2005
TOPEKA, Kan., May 5 -- Debating a question that the scientific establishment considers settled, Kansas education authorities put evolutionary theory on trial Thursday in a hearing marked by sharp exchanges over Earth's origins and what students should be taught in science class.
Washington, DC, May. 03 (Culture of Life Foundation/CWNews.com) - Polling data continues to show that people committed to their faith are abandoning the Democratic Party in historic numbers. The shift has become so significant that according to a report from the Pew Research Center, church attendance is a greater indicator of how one voted in the 2004 presidential election than "such demographic characteristics as gender, age, income, and region" and is "just as important as race."
America's "Europe problem" and Europe's "America problem" have been debated for years. The debate is usually framed in terms of policy differences: over prosecuting the war on terrorism; over the United Nations' role in world affairs; over the Kyoto Protocol on the global environment; over Iraq. The differences are real. But attempts to understand them in political, strategic and/or economic terms alone will ultimately fail because such explanations don't reflect the human texture of contemporary Europe.
Religious Differences Should Not Be Emphasized: Mauritianian Dignitaries Stress Need for Tolerance
It has long been known that Muslims and Christians vying on African soil has been the wellspring of a great many difficulties, and perhaps more unsettling even a greater number of untended to social problems. We praise and pray for Dr. Noko of the Lutheran World Federation, that he can continue successfully in his pursuit of collaboration, and set an example by his course. We hold that indigenous traditions also belong at the table for any and all interfaith labor in Africa.
Dr. Robert S. Kittel, Director of Peace Education - IIFWP
At a Hindu ashram just outside Goa, India, interreligious harmony is thriving. In this small resort town, famous for beautiful beaches and mouth-watering cashews, the eleventh annual “All Religions Seminar for World Peace” was convened on March 20, 2005. Despite the historical religious rigidity and loathing that forced the British Raj to be divided between Hindu-dominated India and Muslim-dominated Pakistan at the end of WWII and the current tensions over the divided state of Jumma and Kashmir, this conference sought to reconcile these differences by seeking common ground and mutual understanding.
By MICHAEL NOVAK
Published: April 20, 2005
With not even a moment to breathe out, the airwaves filled to capacity with "expert" analysis on Benedict XVI. Many hold the sky is falling amidst charges of extremist, authoritarian and other harsh traits. Robert Novak, on the other hand sounds a much more hopeful note in his New York Times article. In it he says "One of the characteristics the new pope much cherishes is "openness to the whole" - to the whole of history, to the whole of the human race."
We, the international and interreligious community of the IRFWP join our Catholic brothers and sisters, and all people of conscience in the world, in mourning and in prayers for the safe and peaceful ascension of the Holy Father, John Paul II.
Pope John Paul II managed the staggering challenges of spiritual leadership with humility and courage, and provided a world in transition with great and much needed spiritual and moral influence.
May God bless him, and console his flock at this time.
The providential path to true liberation and complete freedom
By Rev. Sun Myung Moon
Published April 13, 2005 UPI
This is the full text of the principal address delivered by Reverend Sun Myung Moon on April 13, 2005, to the the International Leadership Convocation on "Leadership for Global Transformation: Exploring the Vision, Methodology and Best Practices Necessary for a New Era of Lasting Peace," in Washington, DC.
The 350 delegates to the conference, came from China, India, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Russia and the USA, representing the fields of religion, government, academia, the media, business, civil society and the arts. The convocation was sponsored by the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace. This address sounded the keynote and provided the guiding principles for the week-long gathering of peace education.
This article stumbles a bit only insofar as it seems bound in a parochial Christian perspective, failing to reflect a broader and more impressive view acknowledging the vast array of world spiritualities.
Still its philosophical, theological, sociological, and historical reflections on the shortcomings of atheism are quite worth reading.
There seems to be a growing consensus around the globe that godlessness is in trouble. "Atheism as a theoretical position is in decline worldwide," Munich theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg told United Press International Tuesday.
Interfaith activity must orient itself to the hard, life-and-death reality associated with religious influence in the world. It is important that we be informed. And it is important that we incorporate this knowledge of various Interreligious relations into our interfaith strategies. I have heard from even my closest, educated Muslim friends the repeated refrain "Islam is one, Sunnis and Shias have no problems with one another." The fact that this is not true is less important than the chance for these two communities, beginning with religious leaders to work together for the good of the innocent families who live in Muslim countries with both persuasions.
WASHINGTON -- Muslim analysts acknowledge that a stable democracy in Iraq would ultimately have a positive effect on Arabs and the larger Muslim world alike. They argue that if Iraq emerges as a viable democracy despite its ethnic and religious divisions, it will show that the Muslims are capable of living with differences.
America's future is bound up with the Muslim world. Is that as grim a prospect as it appears today? The imam of a New York City mosque (located 12 blocks from the World Trade Center) insists that it doesn't have to be so. With a foot - and an extensive history - in both worlds, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf offers an encouraging vision and an ambitious blueprint for getting past the stereotypes and paralyzing myths. This is an invigorating glimpse into the heart and mind of a wise Muslim seeking the higher ground, and a moving example of the impact of the American experience.
Political processes, truces, ceasefires, roadmaps, and other symbols and contracts for peace are fragile and have a habit of breaking down. Witness the aftermath of the “roadmap,” and the birth of the second intifada, which yielded a massive spike in violent deaths to Israelis and Palestinians alike.
In keeping with the mission of the IRFWP to publish opinion and commentary, we offer this important essagy from Baghdad theologian Dia Al-Sharkarchi, which first appeared in The Daily Star
By Dia Al-Sharkarchi
Saturday, January 29, 2005
During the last 25 years, Islam has played an increasingly influential role in politics (and not only in the Islamic world), with political Islam frequently expressing itself through radicalism and terror. Both Muslims and non-Muslims have not always agreed on the extent to which such behavior is compatible with genuine Islam.
Our family has suffered a terrible blow, this time in Southeast Asia and stretching right the way across to Somalia on Africa’s eastern coast. Confirmed deaths exceed 140,000 with 1,000s still unaccounted for, and millions remain homeless.
Reports are of a frantic race to save millions of survivors from dehydration and disease and stop the terrifying death count from climbing further.
On the humanitarian side we have responded well. Aid for Tsunami relief has already topped 2 billion dollars making this the biggest relief effort in history. Japan so far is the biggest donor having pledged 500 million dollars; the United States has offered 350 million dollars so far. Even so circumstances and disorganization are creating obstacles for the safe delivery of relief.
Dr. Frank Kaufmann, IRFWP Director
4th World Summit
Washington D.C., United States
December 12, 2004
IIFWP identifies two core principles as requisite for the effective pursuit of peace. These are “living for the sake of others”, and “life without boundaries.” These concepts carry a great danger of misunderstanding, which could slow down or impede our peace efforts. Why? It is because people use terms like these thinking they have a single, universal meaning. In fact the meanings can vary greatly from person to person. We can end up speaking past each other, while thinking we are on a shared road of understanding.
JEDDAH, 10 November 2004 — A long history of war, a radical religious attitude, and an unfortunate accident may well have served as ingredients of the deadly cocktail that has turned Fallujah into the capital of insurgency in Iraq and the scene of the only major battle fought by the US-led coalition for the control of the country.
We are called to analyze peace efforts so as to bridge visions, proposals and activities coming from religion and civil society with the world of political power. Peace activists and spiritual leaders often blame politicians for war and conflict, explicitly or implicitly painting political figures in broad generalizations as enemies of enlightenment, peace, and reconciliation. Conversely political leaders and elected officials often see religious and civil peace activists as hopelessly naïve, and clueless about even minimal realities with which responsible political leaders must deal every day.
There were two sessions dedicated to issues related to peace in the Middle East at the past IIFWP Assembly 2004: a concurrent panel on “Challenges to Peace in the Middle East”, and a later working session entitled “Middle East Peace Initiatives: Focus on Israel and Palestine”. Both sessions were moderated by Dr Frank Kaufmann, director of Interreligious Relations for IIFWP. Seen in the wider – or deeper – context of the overall conference theme, “Establishing a World Culture of Heart”, these meetings were both honest and constructive.
On March 23, 2004 in the US Dirksen Senate Office Building the IIFWP sponsored an awards ceremony and a night of religious reconciliation among Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Native American Indians. This “Crown of Peace” ceremony was the culmination of an international conference on the theme, “Forging a Path to Peace and Reconciliation at a Time of Global Crisis.”
How Could, or Should Religions Contribute to Peace
Excerpt: The question “How Could, or Should Religions Contribute to Peace” evokes a sense in everyone that they already know the answer. People automatically think, “The answer to that question is obvious. Just ask me. I’ll tell you.” Not every question evokes the same feeling. For example, “how many calories are there in an apple?” The fact that everyone thinks they know how religions should contribute to peace says a great deal.
The Jerusalem Post carries an article in which Nathan Sharansky, and others comment on a recent poll in which 7.500 Europeans identified Israel as the greatest threat to world peace.
Sharansky describes the findings to reveal "pure anti-semitism," and Rabbi Marvin Hier, the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center's founder and dean, has launched a web-based petition to call for the disqualification of the European Union from a role in Middle East Peace Talks.