Educating for peace in a multi-religious world

There is much about this article that might strike the reader as unremarkable. The speech of the keynote speaker pictured here below, the content, the ideals, and the aspirations may well seem tread worn, and plainly obvious in the ideals expressed;  help “the poor, the marginalized, the migrants and the refugees.” And “faith can never be used to incite violence and that all believers have a moral responsibility to foster a culture of peace.”

What is of note however, is that the event and personalities engaged themselves represent a near 500 year cold war in the religious world. Catholics, and Lutherans, and more recently the Catholic world, and Protestantism at large, represented by the World Council of Churches. 

People not familiar with these internecine conflicts and tectonics inside the most powerful institution on earth (world Christianity) might miss the significance of this gathering. [Frank Kaufmann, Director, IRFWP] 

(LWI) – People of faith must be “keepers of our brothers and sisters,” especially the poor, the marginalized, the migrants and the refugees. That was the message of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Assistant General Secretary for International Affairs and Human Rights, Dr Ojot Miru Ojulu, at an ecumenical and interfaith conference on ‘Promoting Peace Together’.

LWF Assistant General Secretary for International Affairs and Human Rights, Dr Ojot Miru Ojulu addresses the Geneva conference. Photo: WCC/Ivars Kupcis

Religious leaders from different Christian churches and faith traditions gathered at Geneva’s Ecumenical Center on 21 May for the event, jointly organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue(PCID).

The conference focused on two new documents which stress that faith can never be used to incite violence and that all believers have a moral responsibility to foster a culture of peace. The declaration on ‘Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together’ was signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in Abu Dhabi in February 2019, and a new WCC-PCID booklet on ‘Education for Peace in a Multi-Religious World’ was launched at the Geneva event.

Read the entire article here


Students break fast and learn about Ramadan at Interfaith Iftar

Xavier Ortega / The DePaulia

Members of United Muslims Moving Ahead (UMMA) at DePaul participated in an iftar in honor of Ramadan on Tuesday.

Students engaged in a prayer during the festivities. It is customary of iftars to include the Maghrib prayer the fourth of the five main daily prayers. Following the prayer, the main meal is typically served.

UMMA previously celebrated Ramadan with an interfaith iftar on May 8. Future celebrations include an additional iftar on May 23 and a barbecue in celebration of Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, on June 7.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The holiday celebrates the first revelation of the Quran to the Islamic prophet.

The appearance of the crescent moon signals both the beginning and the end of  Ramadan.

The observation of Ramadan is recognized as one of the Five Pillars of Islam, rules fundamental to the religion.

A major component of Ramadan is fasting from dawn to sunset. The purpose of the fast is to redirect the body and soul away from worldly activities in order to cleanse the soul. Muslims also abstain from sex and otherwise sinful behavior during this time.

An additional purpose is to teach Muslims better self-control and to increase their empathy for those who are less fortunate. This is done in the hope of inspiring more generosity and charitable behavior.

Read the full article here.

Entrepreneur markets interfaith meats to combat surge in religious hate crimes

NEW YORK (RNS)  — After the latest wave of attacks at places of worship, from Poway, to Sri Lanka, to New Zealand and Pittsburgh, Mohammad Modarres felt an added sense of urgency in his latest business venture, Abe’s Eats.

A Shabbat Salaam gathering in New York in June 2018. Photo courtesy of Abe’s Eats

Modarres, an Iranian-American entrepreneur, seeks to unite the Muslim and Jewish communities by producing meats that satisfy both faiths’ most stringent dietary laws. It is Modarres’ hope that his company will make the point that the Muslim and Jewish communities, often thought to be opposed, can find strength in combating rising bigotry and hate crimes.

To ensure the meat reaches what is considered the gold standard of kashrut (Glatt kosher) and halal (Zabihah), the butchering process for Abe’s Eats is overseen by a Shokhet, or kosher slaughterer, alongside a Muslim equivalent who gives a prayer at the moment of sacrifice.

Read the entire article here

For houses of worship, interfaith collaboration is the future of security

Poway and Pittsburgh were preceded by the 2017 attack on a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where 26 people were killed. The same year in Quebec City, Canada, six worshippers were killed at a mosque. In 2015, in Charleston, S.C., nine people were left dead at a black church. Six more were killed at a Sikh gurdwara in 2012 in Oak Creek, Wis. And far too many more.

In response, faith leaders across the country are putting their heads together to help protect their congregations — and to do so, they’re increasingly crossing denominational lines.

Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt Jr. walks past the front doors where bullet holes were marked by police at the First Baptist Church on Nov. 7, 2017, in Sutherland Springs, Texas. A man opened fire inside the church in the small South Texas community, killing more than two dozen and injuring others. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Jabbour co-founded the nonprofit last year with the aim of forming a network of U.S. houses of worship and faith-based charities to equip them against security threats, from arson and active shooter situations to hacked emails.

“We’re a community, whether we’re one faith or another,” Jabbour said. “They might be targeting you today, but they might turn around and go to yours tomorrow. So we need to collaborate and exchange notes so we can share solutions.”

In Owings Mills, Md., more than 50 diverse faith leaders gathered this week to launch the new Interfaith Coalition of Greater Baltimore, which kicked off with a local summit on safety and security for faith-based organizations. There, civil rights advocates and local police offered bystander intervention training, advice on grant applications for security, and practical safety measures leaders can take to protect their organizations.

Read the entire article here

The Role for Religion in the Fight Against ISIS

This is a long, serious, and studied article. It is necessary to click to it and read it to gain the benefit from this report. Writer

Religion & the CVE Industry

Policymakers and counter-terrorism (CT) experts realize that a military approach to terrorism will not address the appeal that violent extremism holds for non-state actors. In the past 18 years, the combination of government CT funds, development aid contracts, and defense contracts produced a booming industry with the mission of confronting terrorism at its core. This new industry emphasizes a society-wide approach to addressing the drift toward extremist ideologies and the appeal of racial, religious and ethnic supremacy. Countering violent extremism (CVE) activities involve tackling radical ideologies by engaging a wide spectrum of stakeholders….

To complicate matters, CVE policymakers did not understand the full range of religious leaders or the depth and breadth of religious institutions, nor did they have experts to provide guidance on religious literacy, practices, and their complex relationships with local, national and international authorities. International conferences focused on the intricacies of Wahhabism versus Salafism; policymakers created a taxonomy of quietist versus activist Salafis around the world and believed engaging with “quietist nonviolent” Salafis could help counterbalance the jihadist Salafis. Graeme Wood’s famous Atlantic Monthly article, “What ISIS Really Wants,” stated that “Quietist Salafism offers an Is­lamic antidote to (ISIS)-style jihad­ism” and evoked the colonial policy of “good Muslim vs. bad Muslim,” and stirred a lively debate on Wood’s assumption as well.

The role of religion in countering violent extremism — especially during the peak of Daesh’s rise after the capture of Mosul, Iraq, in 2014 — was tied to an abstract computation of funding a religious leader’s organization, building trusted networks, and supporting the dissemination of CVE messaging about peace and pluralism. Considering religious engagement as an aspect of security was problematic to some, but others argued that the stakes were too high to ignore the role of religious actors in CVE activities.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. Please read the entire article here


May 9, Ramadan Dinner and Panel Discussion (NYC Event)

This year’s focus of the panel discussion: The refugee crisis, looking at our role as impacted communities and as helpers and allies.

About this Event

Panelists will include:

Monami Maulik, Global Coalition on Migration,

Kay Bellor, Vice President for Programs, Lutheran Refugee Services,

Rabbi Michael Feinberg, Labor Religion Coalition;

Hakan Yesilova, Fountain magazine; and

Rev. Winnie Varghese, Trinity Wall Street; other presenters TBA.

Introduced by Serene Jones, UTS President.

Accompanied by Refugee Voices Photography show from Theresa Mendes and David Haung, freshly returned from refugee camps in Bangladesh.

The world shrugs as China locks up 1 million Muslims

Ordinarily IRFWP endeavors to steer clear of content with political implications. This is one of the differences between interfaith activism, and religious freedom activism. 

The fields are closely related, but interfaith tends to deal solely or predominantly with relationships WITHIN the religious sphere, whereas religious freedom concerns deal with the circumstances of a religion or religions as determined by their situation in a given political State. 

The two areas are closely related, and have areas of overlap, but they are not the same. Conflating these areas is a common mistake, even among seasoned interfaith activists.

In the case of the crackdown on Uighur Muslims in the region of Xinjiang, the situation is too severe to ignore, even for an organization customarily devoted to interreligious relations. 

Political situations are always complex, and there always are two sides to every story. We cannot know all the details about this situation. Even so there is a natural religious and interreligious response in the face of human suffering.

IRFWP asks all believers worldwide both to pray for the end of this oppression, and to seek for ways from within our own traditions and communities to help. (Frank Kaufmann – Director)

China has detained an estimated 1 million to 2 million Uighur Muslims in the region of Xinjiang, and millions more live one step away from detention under the watchful eye of the Chinese Communist Party.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

It has been two years since the internment camps first came to light internationally, and a series of reports from Xinjiang have made vivid the scale of the abuses. Yet foreign governments and corporations are content to pretend it isn’t happening.

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“If right now, just about any other country in the world was found to be detaining over 1 million Muslims of a certain ethnicity, you can bet we’d be seeing an international outcry,” says Sophie Richardson, china director for Human Rights Watch.

  • “Because it’s China, which has enormous power in international institutions these days, it’s hard to muster any response at all.”
  • “There has been this almost childlike hope that as China gets wealthier and more secure it would change” and adapt to international norms, Richardson says. Instead, China is using its economic clout and influence at the UN to undermine those norms.

China has long waged a campaign of “assimilation and cultural destruction” in Xinjiang, but under President Xi Jinping it has “dramatically escalated,” says Omer Kanat, a prominent Uighur activist. “The camps are designed to eradicate the Uighur’s religious and ethnic identity once and for all.”

  • China used to deny the camps existed; it now claims they’re voluntary and designed to root out extremism.