Patience in the wake of the Notre Dame fire

The tragic fire of Notre Dame this week leaves us not only reeling and suffering emotionally, but further spiritually searching for meaning.

Flames and smoke rise from the blaze at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Thierry Mallet)

It is human nature to seek cause of events, and meaning in our experiences.

Sadly, our time has become one of more speed and less thought, and a time of instant politicization of collective experience. This latter-most reality is wholly unfortunate especially when sacred matters come before us. I recommend all mature people quickly eschew and reject this grotesque, manipulative, and divisive writing and behavior.

There also is a rush to analysis, to meaning-creating, In this case understandably so. While this goes on, I recommend we take in as many such analyses as possible, with an open mind. Take all such writing and commentary in prayerfully, and through this, we will see our own views begin to crystallize, both as individuals personally, and collectively, little by little.

Michael Ledeen, in his April 16 essay, Notre Dame: A Bad Omen or a Sign of the Strength of Western Civilization? offers some good and constructive thoughts to the larger conversation, one that hopefully will continue to attract creative reflections from many more thinkers going forward.

Frank Kaufmann

Director, Inter Religious Federation for World Peace

Read Ledeen‘s entire article here

Sikhs aim to plant million trees as ‘gift to the planet’

Bali Singh Panesar, of Sikh Union Coventry, and Nav Mann, a Coventry 2021 UK city of culture official, plant trees in the city. Photograph: Sikh Union Coventry

Sikhs around the world are taking part in a scheme to plant a million new trees as a “gift to the entire planet”.

The project aims to reverse environmental decline and help people reconnect with nature as part of celebrations marking 550 years since the birth of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak.

Rajwant Singh, the president of the Washington DC-based environmental organisation EcoSikh, which is coordinating the Million Tree Project, said he wanted to mark the anniversary in a significant way.

“Guru Nanak was a nature lover. [He] had talked about nature as a manifestation of God and many of his writings talk about how we need to learn lessons of life from nature.”

Singh said he hoped the project would motivate Sikhs – especially the young – to improve their relationship with nature and would be seen more broadly as “a gift to the entire planet”.

Palvinder Singh Chana, the chair of Sikh Union Coventry, said: “As Sikhs, our connection to the environment is an integral part of our faith and identity. Future generations will benefit from the fruits of our labour, symbolising peace, friendships and continuity for generations to come.”

Read the full article here.

Nigerian women’s network builds interfaith bridges

The Women of Faith Peacebuilding Network has reached more than 10,000 Muslim and Christian women across the country.

A participant receives her certificate after the two-week empowerment program of the Women of Faith Peacebuilding Network in Abuja, Nigeria. Photo courtesy of Sister Agatha Chikelue.

When Fatima Isiaka, a respected Muslim leader in Abuja, Nigeria, asked a cab driver to drop her off at St. Kizito Catholic Church, the driver thought she was lost.

Isiaka, who wears a jilbab head covering and robe, recalled: “He told me, ‘This is a church!’ I said, ‘Yes, I know.’”

Isiaka was part of an innovative effort to bring Christian and Muslim women together in hopes of fostering religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence. The Women of Faith Peacebuilding Network was started in 2011 by Agatha Ogo­chukwu Chikelue, a sister of the Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy congregation, and Maryam Dada Ibra­him, a local Muslim businesswoman.

Isiaka, now deputy director in the network’s Abuja branch, looks back fondly on her time at the St. Kizito Catholic Church.

“I loved every bit of my stay there,” Isiaka said. “I found a place in the church where I performed ablution, to set up my mat and pray.”

Since the group began, the Women of Faith Peacebuilding Network’s activities have reached more than 10,000 Muslim and Christian women across the country. The network also offers vocational training in catering, bead making, fashion design, and soap production to a smaller group of women who participate in an annual 21-day seminar.

Read the entire article here

Rockland Interfaith Symposium: Diversity key in wake of hate crimes

Minister Wesley King hugs Imam Syed Ali after the Interfaith Symposium held at Rockland Community College March 20, 2019. Peter Carr/The Journal News

RAMAPO – Rockland officials and faith leaders gathered Wednesday to address rising divisiveness between communities in the wake of the recent shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Hate crimes have been on the rise, and with high profile shootings at mosques, synagogues and churches, the county has recommitted itself to addressing the issue, Human Rights Commissioner Constance Frazier said Wednesday at the second annual Rockland County Interfaith Symposium at Rockland Community College.

Much of the dialogue at the symposium was centered on celebrating diversity.

Keynote speaker the Rev. Brandon McLauchlin emphasized that people are all the same despite their differences.

“All of us have differences,” he said. “All of us have things that we add to the world but at the end of the day … we’re all one group together. We’re all human.”

He said it was important to remember that when defending beliefs and principles.

“We get so caught up in defending what we believe, that we forget to actually live what we believe,” McLauchlin said.

Read the full article here.

Interfaith Shabbat brings Jews, Muslims together

Media Credit: Alexandra Wimley/Post-Gazette

Around 7:30 Friday night at Temple Sinai in Squirrel Hill, a visitor standing in the hallway could hear the braided sounds of a Muslim imam chanting Arabic prayer in one room and Jewish clergy leading Shabbat worship songs in the nearby sanctuary to guitar accompaniment.

They had gathered under one roof for the third annual interfaith Shabbat dinner and service, hosted by Temple Sinai with guests from the nearby Islamic Center of Pittsburgh in Oakland.

The event, launched here in 2017 in the wake of a U.S. travel ban targeted at several majority-Muslim countries, had long been scheduled for this Friday night.

But it took on a much more poignant significance coming one week after a gunman killed 50 worshipers at two New Zealand mosques.

That in turn recalled the terror of the Oct. 27, 2018 killings of 11 worshipers from three Jewish congregations at the Tree of Life / Or L’Simcha synagogue in Squirrel Hill. In the wake of that anti-Semitic massacre, local Muslims and other faith groups rallied to the support of the Jewish community.

On Friday afternoon, in fact, just hours before the sundown start of the Jewish worship services, many Jews and others had attended the main weekly prayer service at the Islamic Center in a similar demonstration of solidarity.

“It’s really beautiful,” said Mohammad Sajjad, executive director of the Islamic Center. “It just reaffirms people in the Pittsburgh community, especially in the interfaith community, they’ve got each other’s backs.”

Read the full article here.

Pope’s meeting with Moroccan king to boost interfaith dialogue

Media Credit:

The theme of inter-religious dialogue has risen to the fore as Pope Francis prepares to meet King Mohammed VI during his trip to Morocco from March 30-31.

High hopes are expected of their summit as the Moroccan king also holds the religious title of Commander of the Faithful in this predominantly Sunni Muslim African nation of 36 million people, The North Africa Post reports.

The country has won widespread praise, including from the Catholic Church in the capital Rabat, for balancing the interests and values of moderate Islam with calls for greater understanding between Muslims, Jews and Christians.

[The] highlight of his visit is expected to take place at Hassan mosque, where the pope is due to directly address the public before he honors the graves of two former kings with a moment of silent contemplation.

The monarch expressed Morocco’s determination to continue to work with the pope on the consecration of the values of coexistence, communication, and dialogue between different people and civilizations. The King said that their mutual goal is to contribute to the construction of a better future to ensure the principles of harmony, peace, sustainability, and security (Morocco World News).

Read the full article here.

Interfaith Outreach After The New Zealand Attack

People on Tuesday stand next to floral tributes placed across the road from the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, where dozens of worshippers were gunned down last week.
Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images

After the New Zealand attack, there is a surge of interfaith support for U.S. Muslims. Churches, synagogues and other houses of worship are trying to help mosque-goers feel less afraid.

Below are excerpts from the transcript from NPR radio station:

“We’ve all experienced the evil of hate. We pray that we be strong together and that all of us will work together to remove all of that hate…”

“Standing with each other in moments like this is vital, says Ginna Green of Bend the Arc, a progressive Jewish advocacy group.”

“The common thread that connects these tragedies, such as the Pittsburgh shooting on October 27, is a hateful, destructive, violent white nationalist ideology that targets all of us. In this moment, we are not safe unless we’re together.

And at a time when American Muslims say they feel vulnerable, Rami Nashashibi, a Muslim community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, says these alliances aren’t just comforting.

Our strength, our resilience and, in many ways, even our survival depends on those types of alliances in this country and beyond.

This was a tragedy, he says, but not a surprise. Hate crimes are on the rise. Other faith and community groups put out messages of support. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America asked people to reach out to Muslim neighbors. The president of the American Atheists urged people to consider whether their own actions contributed to the climate that allowed the New Zealand attack. The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ civil rights group, called on the president to stop fearmongering.

And at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, an interfaith vigil of more than 200 people gathered Saturday. Elected officials, rabbis, pastors and poets were among those who mourned the killings in New Zealand. But even that was interrupted by reports of an active shooter. People fled the vigil, leaving behind shoes and backpacks. It turned out it was apparently just balloons popping nearby on campus. But the fear was real.

Read the full article here.

New Zealand Jews Officially in Solidarity


Synagogue, credit BusyHomeschoolDays

For the first time in history, New Zealand’s synagogues will be closed this coming Shabbat following the massacre of muslims in Christchurch.

The Jewish Agency and New Zealand Jewish Council, according to the Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog, do this as an act of solidarity with the bereaved families.

Story in Jerusalem Post