“Nissim and his colleagues have worked to tell the stories of “righteous” … as a way to open new channels of understanding among peoples chained by conflict.”
Most people recognize that Islamist terrorists who kill and maim in the name of God do not represent the other billion-plus Muslims in the world today. But still, there is a widespread, if not always articulated, view that huge percentages of Muslims are enablers, cheerleaders or at least passive shoulder-shruggers at what the terrorists do. No doubt a certain number are – probably fewer than feared but more than one would hope.
This is why what took place last Friday, just across the Mediterranean, on the grounds of the Italian Embassy in Tunis, is so important. That is where people of various faiths, nationalities and ethnicities came together to consecrate a “Garden of the Righteous” to honor the memory of Muslims who risked — and in some case, gave — their lives to save others from the horror of terror.
The concept of a Garden of the Righteous draws from the example of the sacred space at Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to victims and heroes of the Holocaust, dedicated to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during humanity’s darkest hour.
Taking this idea and applying it to Muslims who risked or gave their lives in the face of terror is the brainchild of the Italian historian Gabriele Nissim, founder of the Milan-based organization Gariwo, which stands for Gardens of the Righteous Worldwide.
The Empowerment+ toolkit has 12-week multiple tracks, channeling participants to the most appropriate pathway for them. These include: Launching Leaders and My Job Search. Other tracks under preparation include Starting and Growing a Business and Education for Better Work. The Empowerment+ toolkit is intentionally designed to be used in a group (eliminating isolation), to provide practical results (overcoming desperation), to demonstrate acceptance (ending rejection), and to model the radical spiritual power of serving others (replacing spiritual anomie with spiritual groundedness).
These groups will address these human challenges by helping replace isolation, desperation and spiritual anomie with temporal and spiritual empowerment. The spiritual power of the approach is in giving those facing problems the opportunity to constructively help others in the group process.
One component of the initiative is focused on pairing participants with mentors. See what young adults think of this “Launching Leaders” component.
Volunteer mentors — composed of people with business know-how and sincere spirituality from various religious traditions — will use an interfaith self-reliance Empowerment+ toolkit to bring those at risk of socio-economic failure into a wider group of people who help each other acquire the key ‘temporal’ (earthly) and spiritual skills needed to be empowered and successful in the societies where they live.
Border Interfaith, a sister organization of the El Paso Interreligious Sponsoring Organization, has recently led meetings with the Sheriff’s Office in Westway and Canutillo to build relationships with law enforcement.
Border Interfaith is a broad-based community organization that encourages democratic practices and meaningful community action through education and interfaith relationships. The organization is made up of about 15 different institutions including churches, schools and organizations.
“We’ve had lots of meetings and conversations to hear issues and now we are ready to begin to act,” said Arturo Aguila, lead organizer for EPISO and Border Interfaith.
More than 75 residents recently attended the first Border Interfaith house meeting with Sheriff Richard Wiles at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Westway.
Aguila said people in the two communities had been bringing up concerns about law enforcement in their area since the beginning of the year.
“We have people come together and talk about issues affecting their families, develop relationships and then decide what are issues that they have the power to act on and bring out policy change they want to see,” he said.
“Over 80 people attended these meetings. People were sharing their struggles … but then deputies and lieutenants had a chance to speak. People were able to see them as human beings and that they were afraid at times when they would come to some neighborhoods. It really changed the whole dialogue.”
Aguila believes that the model of public meetings with law enforcement might be a good idea for the city of El Paso, especially in light of recent incidents.
BREAKING NEWS: Finalists for Business & Interfaith Peace Awards Announced in Rio
13 Jul, 2016
Immediate Release – 13 July, Rio de Janeiro
A group of 17 business men and women from around the world are finalists for a new award that honors achievement in interfaith relations in both global and local business communities.
The Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards are given by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, a U.S.-based nonprofit, together with the United Nations Global Compact’ Business for Peace platform to honor current or past business CEOs for leadership in promoting and fostering interfaith understanding.
The winners will be announced on Sept. 6, 2016 during the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Judges will name Gold, Silver and Bronze medalists.
“Business leaders are increasingly aware they have a responsibility to do good and not just make a profit,” said Brian Grim, the president and founder of The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation. “Part of doing good is addressing some of the really tough challenges we face such as extremism and communal conflict.”
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The man constantly checked his watch as he stood at the entrance to the Borno Mosque in the center of Gaza City. Anyone coming across him couldn’t help but wonder why he wasn’t praying inside with the others. Why did he keep checking his watch? For whom or what was he waiting? Then a man wearing dark glasses exited the mosque. The man at the door guided him and helped him put on his shoes. Al-Monitor asked after the two men and found that the one by the door is a Christian who regularly waits there to assist his blind Muslim friend.
Blind and visually impaired Palestinians read the Braille version of the Quran at the main center of Dar al-Koran Society on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan in Gaza City, June 18, 2015. (photo by REUTERS/Suhaib Salem)
“Hatem and I have been friends for 15 years, and we have been through joy and pain,” Tarzi told Al-Monitor. “I always accompany him, and people are shocked when they learn that I am Christian and that he is Muslim, given the depth of our relationship.”
Iraqi Christians who are joining Muslims in fasting during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan as a sign of peace and solidarity are facing rebuke from other believers.
“In this way we just wanted to propose a Christian gesture: as Christians, we are confident that fasting and prayer, also shared with others, can work miracles, while weapons and military interventions only kill,” Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I told Fides News Agency.
The Patriarch explained that other Christians, though he did not identify who, have taken issue with Christians and Muslims worshiping together in such a way.
Muslims offer prayers before having their Iftar (fast-breaking) meal during the holy month of Ramadan at a madrasa or religious school on the outskirts of Jammu
Raphael I said reactions have been “paradoxical: from outside, some of our Christians who live abroad were shaken and they even criticized us. From many Muslims, however, I received overwhelming gratitude. Yesterday a Muslim woman with the veil came to the office to thank me. She kept saying: we will all be very grateful, because we are all Iraqis.”
Ramadan, which began on June 6 and will end on July 5, commemorates the time when Muslims believe Allah handed the Quran to the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
It is also the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, which is considered the most sacred in Islamic teachings. Muslims are forbidden to eat or drink from sunrise to sunset during the entire month, in which they must also pray, and practice acts of generosity towards others.