Sheikh Abdullah tells of need for greater interfaith dialogue

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, closed the first day of the World Government Summit on Sunday night with a call for religious tolerance and a warning that countries must stand up to all forms of extremism.

He announced that, starting from next year, the Human Fraternity Document – signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar during their visit to the UAE last week – will be a part of the educational curriculum in schools and universities.

The document calls on people across the globe to unite to bring about inter-faith harmony and achieve peace.

On an opening day that heard concerns over the rise of populism and divisions driven by poverty and injustice, Sheikh Abdullah also urged governments and their people to ensure dialogue between faiths is open.

“We must find the courage to fight extremism in all its forms,” he told hundreds of attendees at the summit at the Madinat Jumeirah complex in Dubai.

“We have to stand by these principles and this historical declaration is a goal for brotherhood, peace and fraternity among all believers and non-believers – between all those who have goodwill.

“Peace is not a condition for believers only, it is for all people.”

Read the full article here.

Top cleric urges Middle East’s Muslims to ’embrace’ Christians

Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb signed a “document on human fraternity”

The head of Sunni Islam’s highest seat of learning has urged the Middle East’s Muslims to “embrace” local Christians.

Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of al-Azhar in Egypt, told an interfaith meeting in Abu Dhabi attended by Pope Francis that Christians were “our companions”.

He also called on Muslims in the West to integrate into their communities while maintaining their identities.

In his speech, Pope Francis called for a halt to wars in the Middle East.

Sheikh Ahmed and Pope Francis addressed a gathering of religious representatives at the Abu Dhabi Founder’s Memorial on Monday night after signing a “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together”.

The document calls on leaders of the world to work together to “spread the culture of tolerance” and to “intervene at the earliest opportunity to stop the shedding of innocent blood and bring an end to wars, conflicts, environmental decay and the moral and cultural decline the world is presently experiencing”.

In his speech, Sheikh Ahmed first addressed his fellow Muslims in the region.

“My message to you is: ‘Embrace your Christian brothers and sisters. They are companions in the state. They are close to us. There are special bonds between us,'” he said.

He then turned to Middle Eastern Christians and said: “I’d rather you didn’t use the term ‘minority’.

“You’re not a minority. You are citizens in every sense. Let’s put aside that term. You are citizens with full rights. Our bond represents the rock against which all plots that try to divide us will break.”

Read the full article here.

World Interfaith Harmony Week

What is World Interfaith Harmony Week?
The World Interfaith Harmony Week is based on UNGA Resolution A/65/PV.34 for a worldwide week of interfaith harmony. It was proposed in 2010 by HM King Abdullah II and HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan. All around the world, organizations, and individuals host events during the first week of February to help neighbors of different faiths get to know each other and build a foundation for more peaceful and friendly communities.

World Interfaith Harmony Week encourages grassroots events that link people together in a global wave of understanding, respect, and action.

The World Interfaith Harmony Week provides a platform—one week in a year—when all interfaith groups and other groups of goodwill can show the world what a powerful movement they are.

At the Parliament of the World’s Religions, we believe that observing World Interfaith Harmony Week and helping individuals host events in observance is an extension of our mission to cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities and foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions in order to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world.

The Parliament is a non-governmental organization associated with the UN through the United Nations Department of Public Information (UN-DPI). Our UN Task Force facilitates participation across several annual activities at the UN, to align the efforts of the Parliament of the World’s Religions to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and advocate for interfaith perspectives and actions.

Read the full article here.


Rabbi Skorka: What my friendship with Pope Francis taught me about interfaith dialogue

Pope Francis walks with Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka, left, and Omar Abboud, a Muslim leader from Argentina, as he leaves after praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem in this May 26, 2014, file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

This February, I will be a participant with my friend Pope Francis at a “Global Conference on Human Fraternity” hosted by the United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi. It seeks a common framework of cooperation among religious leaders to achieve peace and human solidarity.

Interreligious dialogue has always been a priority for me. I learned its importance from my mentor Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer, a protégé of the great Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.

In preparation for the gathering in Abu Dhabi, I find myself asking why my dialogues with the future Pope Francis so powerfully affected both of us. How did they move beyond being superficial exchanges of information to become profound spiritual and personal experiences? How did they come to embody what he has described as “the journey of friendship” that Jews and Catholics have undertaken since the Second Vatican Council?

First, we consciously put God at the center of our exchanges. We talked about God and how to draw closer to God. We wanted to learn from each other’s experiences of God. This gave us both the certain awareness that God was accompanying us on our journey.

Keeping focused on our relationships with God kept us humble and more open to each other. As Francis put it in On Heaven and Earth, the book we co-authored, “To dialogue, one must know how to lower the defenses, to open the doors of one’s home and to offer warmth.” We understood that God has fashioned all of us in the divine image, enabling us to see God’s reflection in each other’s faces as we increasingly opened our hearts to each other.

Additionally, we never tried to persuade—or dissuade—each other of anything. As Pope Francis has recalled: “[T]here was a basis of total trust, and…neither of us negotiated our own identity. If we had, we would not have been able to talk. It would have been a sham…. And neither of us attempted to convert the other.” Because of our trust, “our dialogue was free-wheeling,” as Francis reminded me when I shared a draft of this essay with him. Respect for each other’s religious integrity, in fact, helped us learn together. “My religious life became richer with his explanations, so much richer,” my friend observed.

Finally, we treasured the differences within our commonalities. We have learned that it would be a blasphemy to God if we were to let even defining differences separate us as God’s children and as brothers. Dialogue is the imperative of our age. Francis once wrote to me that “the seed of peace, once sown, will not be destroyed. You have to wait for the birth of the time that will favor its growth by praying and following the commandment of love.”

Read the full article here.

Gov. Kelly interfaith service theme: “Unity”

Photo Credit: WIBW

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW)– Laura Kelly spent time before taking her oath as governor attending an interfaith service.

Religious leaders from different faiths including Hindu, Islam, Baptist, and Lutheran. joined the governor to give their well wishes. Their remarks shared a common theme of unity among the people of Kansas.

The leaders called on Governor Kelly and Lieutenant Gov. Lynn Rodgers to keep aiming for progress for the state.

“Our goal as the text says is to repair the world to make it better today than it was yesterday,” said Rabbi Moti Rieber of Kansas Interfaith Action.

Each prayer and blessing urged the new Governor and Lt. Governor to show the difference unity can make, and provide them strength as they spend the next four years in office.

“We must collaborate in an effort to pioneer the best of ideas that will shape the Kansas of tomorrow,” Dr. T. La Mont Holder of Wichita’s Calvary Baptist Church said, “And leave our state in a better place for generations to come.”

Read the full article here.

Importance of Interfaith Dialogue

Dr. Ruhul Amin
Kelly Gorham/ Montana State University

A Muslim writing about religion in a newspaper with a predominantly Christian audience is a testament to the value of interfaith dialogue in our society. It is imperative in today’s ever-shrinking world that we do not use others’ faiths as a criterion to separate them from engaging in our civic arena. We cannot afford to claim ignorance towards other religions. We must not claim to be religious by stating that it is only us, and not others, who matter. We should appreciate that there is dignity in difference. Assimilation and respect for others who are different than us should be an integral part of our faith. These are the central tenets of interfaith dialogue. It is an exercise of learning about other faiths that are different than ours. It is about respectful coexistence with others whose faiths, customs, and worldviews are different than ours.

The key to a productive democracy is to encourage interfaith communication. It is important not to marginalize people of other faiths, including those who do not identify with a faith at all. The foundation for interfaith dialogue should be that all parties engage in the discussion without any hostility or preconceived notion. The objective of interfaith communication is not to resolve our faith-based differences but to appreciate others’ faiths. Despite having different beliefs, we should still be able to work together for the betterment of our society to address issues such as homelessness, hunger, or job opportunities for the marginalized. We know that bridges of understanding do not fall from the sky or rise from the ground. They are built by engaging in dialogue. A religiously diverse democracy can help create spaces, organize social events, and foster friendship among people of different faiths to share a common life together.

Read the full article here.

Camille Paglia on the Value of Interreligious Knowledge

In a recent interview with Spectator|USA, Professor Paglia is asked to comment on “multiculturalism.” She cites the following as distilling her argument from Provocations, her most recently published collection of essays:

What is true multiculturalism?

As I repeatedly argue in Provocations, comparative religion is the true multiculturalism and should be installed as the core curriculum in every undergraduate program. From my perspective as an atheist as well as a career college teacher, secular humanism has been a disastrous failure. Too many young people raised in affluent liberal homes are arriving at elite colleges and universities with skittish, unformed personalities and shockingly narrow views of human existence, confined to inflammatory and divisive identity politics.

The cover of Provocations, Camille Paglia’s new collection of essays

Interest in Hinduism and Buddhism was everywhere in the 1960s counterculture, but it gradually dissipated partly because those most drawn to ‘cosmic consciousness’ either disabled themselves by excess drug use or shunned the academic ladder of graduate school. I contend that every educated person should be conversant with the sacred texts, rituals, and symbol systems of the great world religions — Hinduism, Buddhism, Judeo-Christianity, and Islam — and that true global understanding is impossible without such knowledge.

Read the entire interview here

Ring Bells and Shout! Exploring the Heritage, Culture & Faith of NYC’s Orthodox Christians

Special thanks to The Interfaith Center of New York

Don’t forget to wish “Happy Christmas” to Christians today – that is, to the hundreds of millions of Orthodox Christians in the world who celebrate Christmas on January 7 (or in some cases, January 6).

Pictured above (clockwise from top left):

The Very Reverend Fr. Thomas Zain, Dean,
St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral

Rev. Fr. John Vlahos, Dean,
Holy Trinity Cathedral (Greek Orthodox)

The Right Reverend Archimandrite Father Christopher Calin,
Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection (Orthodox Church in America)

Fr. Gregory Saroufeem,
St. Mary and St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church of Manhattan

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‘You belong’: Threatened Muslim child receives 500 interfaith letters of support

Letters received by CAIR-Massachusetts in support of a 10-year-old Muslim girl. Photo courtesy of CAIR

BOSTON (RNS) — When a 10-year-old Muslim girl looked in her classroom cubby one Friday morning last month, she found a note there with the words, “You’re a terrorist,” scribbled in childish, all-capital letters.

The next week, a message appeared, saying, “I will kill you.”

“She was visibly upset — she was crying,” her uncle Jamaal Siddiqui told CBS Boston. “Just the thought of that makes me feel sick to my stomach.”

Now, two weeks after receiving the threat, the fifth-grade student at Hemenway Elementary in Framingham, Mass., has stacks upon stacks of letters of support from all over the country, waiting to be read.

“Dear young sister, assalam ‘alaikum!” one letter with a colorful heart began. “May you have peace in your heart, a smile on your face, and every good thing in this life and the next.”

“Hi friend!” another read. “A Jewish family from Maryland is sending you love and support. You are wonderful.”

“People of all religions should be freinds [sic],” a 6-year-old child named Sophie wrote above a colorful illustration of a young girl in a red hijab holding hands with a blond-haired girl.

In all there are more than 500 letters from more than 20 states.

“No child deserves to feel afraid at school because of their faith,” said Sumaiya Zama, director of community advocacy and education for CAIR’s Massachusetts branch. “We’re incredibly heartened by the wider community’s support for this young Muslim student, particularly by the powerful messages from the interfaith community.”

Read the full article here.