Towards A More Comprehensive Interfaith Dialogue

A Christian woman prays inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem, on November 29, 2018. (Photo credit: THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)

In an age where religious persecution is spreading at speed, it is crucial to consider steps which need to be taken to prevent further acts of religiously motivated violence. Engaging in political dialogue and stressing the need to adhere to international legal standards and states’ international law obligations is not nearly enough.

Interfaith dialogue, which refers to an exchange among religious communities on issues of mutual concern, explores the “engagement of the world’s religious traditions around theological questions and in their efforts to collaborate on questions of peace, human rights, and economic and social development.”

The annual G20 Interfaith Forum aims to build a network of faith and interfaith leaders from around the world, together with non-governmental organizations and other policy leaders, to discuss the role that religious communities can play in promoting the goals of successive G20 Economic Summits. The G20 Interfaith Forum identifies the policy and societal contributions of faith traditions and philosophies on leading global issues. The aim is to develop recommendations on priority issues that draw on interfaith insight and experience. The 2018 G20 Interfaith Forum discussed such urgent issues as equality and gender perspective, the migration and refugee crisis, modern-day slavery, environmental issues, hunger and violent extremism. 

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Raising Your Baby on Peace (guest essay)

Raising Your Baby on Peace

353,000 babies will be born today and each one will have a choice of two paths through life: a peaceful one or a violent one. Evidence suggests that babies who are born into violent circumstances will be more likely to continue this cycle of violence when they become adults. It can be difficult to shift deeply ingrained attitudes. If you are expecting a baby, then how can you raise them in a culture of peace? Doing your bit as a parent or guardian will contribute towards sustainable peace for generations to come.

credit: Photos In Cancun

Reasons Be Optimistic for the Next Generation

Due to the hard work of peace activists and democratic governments, we currently live in the most peaceful era of human history. Babies being born today are less likely to experience violence than any previous generation. Global crime rates are down, with the rate of homicide decreasing from 20 in 100,000 in the Middle Ages to just 1 in 100,000 today. Death rates in wars since the peak of World War Two have decreased more than hundredfold.

Through the work of religious peacemakers and intergovernmental organizations, there are many reasons to feel optimistic about the next generation. They have the chance to be part of a truly peaceful society, through battling the last remaining areas of war and violence. Take comfort in the relative safety that your newborn is entering, then build on it with lessons of peace.

Teaching Peace Early in Life

The first stages of a human’s life involve fulfilling basic baby needs, such as providing food and sleep. However, it is never too early to begin instilling the right values in your offspring. Research suggests that physical punishment increases levels of violence in children as they age. Even among small babies, a firm “no” is comprehensible and therefore getting physical is rarely, if ever, necessary. 

As your child starts to ask questions about the world, teaching lessons of peace become paramount. The golden rule – treating others as you would wish to be treated – should be one of their first moral lessons. Be sure to reiterate this to encourage peaceful behaviors as your child develops into an adult.

Maintaining an Awareness of Violence

Despite the many reasons to be optimistic, you should also be willing to face the reality of violence. In the US alone, 20 people a minute are subject to domestic violence from a partner. Although war and per capita deaths, along with violent crime, are at their lowest levels ever, there is still work to be done. If we don’t acknowledge these hard truths, then overcoming it will be impossible. Furthermore, society must be educated on periods of war and violence, such as the Holocaust and World War Two, because those who do not learn about this history are at risk of repeating it.

There has never been a more peaceful time to raise a child, but that doesn’t mean that there is not work still to be done. Raising your baby in a culture of peace, tolerance, and understanding will set them on a path which increases the global level of peace.

Sally Perkins

70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, December 10, 2018


On December 10, the United Nations will mark the 70th  anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In an era of spreading nationalism and gross violations in places like Yemen, Myanmar, South Sudan and Venezuela, it is fair to ask whether the Universal Declaration and the global human rights movement have improved the human condition.  And given these contemporary challenges, there’s the further question of where we go from here.

The Universal Declaration emerged from the horrors of World War II, which resulted in more than 65 million deaths, including six million Jews and hundreds of thousands of others who were systematically murdered during the Holocaust. Stunned by this carnage, the UN’s framers created an organization with three core objectives: advancing collective security, promoting economic development in poorer countries and, for the first time, making the protection of human rights a global priority. The UN adopted the declaration on December 10, 1948, by a vote of 48-0, with eight abstentions. Eleanor Roosevelt, who led the effort, called it a “Magna Carta for all mankind.”

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Read New World Encyclopedia article here

Faith Minister launches national tour to celebrate the role of faith communities

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Faith Minister Lord Bourne today (4 December 2018) embarked on his latest national Faith Tour to shine a spotlight on the central role faith institutions play in building strong, resilient communities.

The tour – ‘Belief in communities: bridging divides and strengthening communities’ – will commence with a visit to the Highway of Holiness Church in Tottenham and will be followed by monthly flagship visits across the country to engage directly with faith communities.

Minister for Faith Lord Bourne said:

Large or small, faith communities are often at the heart of a local area – the glue that binds our society together.

The length and breadth of this country, faith institutions form community hubs and support centres, as well as places of worships.

The Highway of Holiness Church in Tottenham is a shining example of this – providing support to its community with a homeless shelter for those most in need.

Read the full article here.

‘It’s a unifying experience’: Winona Interfaith Council brings religious, spiritual communities together for Thanksgiving service

Winona area residents of different faiths write messages and goals on a cloth inside Central Lutheran Church on Tuesday night as part of a community art project during an interfaith Thanksgiving service.
Chuck Miller, Winona Daily News

On Tuesday, more than 50 people of differing beliefs came together for a Thanksgiving service during which a person from each of five different faiths — Bahá’í, Hindu, Christian, Jewish and Zen-Buddhist — spoke from their own perspectives about gratitude and how it can build bridges. The event was hosted by the Winona Interfaith Council, which worked together to pray, learn, serve and stand together as pillars of different faiths holding up the same spiritual building.

To start the service, Grace Presbyterian Lutheran pastor Rachel Riggle encouraged attendees to be part of a community art project in which people wrote on a blue cloth one thing they hoped the community or they themselves personally could overcome. The cloth was later draped across a bench and a wooden bridge was placed over it — in order to overcome those challenges, one must first name them and then with a heart full of gratitude, hope and faith, and move forward as a community, as a bridge, to overcome them.

After Riggle explained the project, people began to rise and make their way toward the cloth.

As person after person wrote down what they hope to overcome — including hate, worry and fear of others — a song began to fill the air as the crowd sang in harmony with one another.

“Let there be peace on earth,” the people sang. “And let it begin with me.”

Read the full article here.

Holiday Heroes: Thanksgiving with the Jewish Relief Agency

Every holiday has its unsung hero, and AOL’s video series “Holiday Heroes” highlights those individuals who are making a difference in their communities.

This week’s Holiday Heroes spotlights those who make up the Jewish Relief Agency. A project that began with just 3 volunteers serving 19 families has grown into one of the area’s most impactful organizations, with 1,000 volunteers serving 3,000 families every month.

For over 18 years, the organization has been feeding needy, from senior citizens to families to “anyone who has fallen on hard times” across a 5-county area in Philadelphia. It’s a way for the volunteers, both old and young, to do their part, and bring something as simple as an apple or granola bar to the hungry.

This month, the JRA is delivering for both the upcoming Thanksgiving and Chanukah holidays.”What you’re giving out today is not only food — it’s blessings,” the organization tells its volunteers.

For the entire article, along with the video on this event, click here.

A new campaign is asking all Americans to show up for Shabbat this weekend and fight anti-Semitism

People mourn during a community gathering for the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Sunday. (Credit: Matt Rourke/AP)

A new campaign is encouraging Americans of all faiths to visit synagogues for Shabbat services Friday and Saturday as a show of strength and love against hate.

Launched by the American Jewish Committee, a global Jewish advocacy organization, the #ShowUpForShabbat campaign is a reaction to last Saturday’s massacre, when 11 worshipers were gunned down at a synagogue in one of Pittsburgh’s most vibrant Jewish communities.

Shabbat, Judaism’s traditional day of rest, is observed from Friday evening to Saturday evening. Its rituals include prayer, family gatherings and festive meals.

The campaign is also asking elected officials, religious and civic leaders and other community allies to show up. It’s telling synagogues to expect an influx of attendees during their Shabbat services and asking them to provide explanatory programming for newcomers.

One religious group has already pledged to attend.

A leader of the Sikh community in the US, who experienced their own tragedy when a gunman killed six worshipers at a temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, in 2012, is encouraging Sikhs to go to Shabbat services this weekend.

“After Oak Creek, the Jewish community resoundingly stood by Sikh Americans, and this time we encourage our whole community to stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters,” said Rajwant Singh, co-founder of the National Sikh Campaign, in a statement.

Read the full article here.

A Message from the Interfaith Youth Core: Pittsburgh Shooting

Photo: Sara C. Tobias, Newark Advocate, via USA TODAY Network)

A Message from IFYC

On Saturday morning, a hate-filled gunman entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA and killed eleven people as they celebrated Shabbat. Many others were gravely wounded, including four police officers. Since then, this act of anti-Semitic terrorism has been described as the worst attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history.

Elsewhere in America this weekend, two African-Americans were killed merely for the color of their skin after a failed church shooting in Kentucky, and a Florida man sat in custody accused of sending at least thirty-one bombs to people with whom he disagreed politically.

IFYC extends our deepest sympathy to those people and communities devastated by these recent acts. We stand with them in solidarity and in grief.

Terrorism, racism, and anti-Semitism are outrageous. Yet they persist today in 2018. What is to be done? Who will do it?

  • To those who want to do something: this is a time for interfaith leaders to act.
  • Interfaith leaders see the other side, defending The Other and standing up to ensure their safety and right to thrive.
  • Interfaith leaders work to educate others about the inspiring aspects of different faiths and worldviews.
  • Interfaith leaders convene those in their communities, finding shared values and common concerns as a basis for working together.
  • Interfaith leaders build and strengthen relationships across the kinds of lines that others refuse to cross through dialogue, service, and, sometimes, by sharing in others’ grief or fear.
  • Interfaith leaders build where others destroy. Today, we ask you to practice your interfaith leadership wherever you are. To help you, we’ve compiled a list of resources from IFYC and other organizations committed to pluralism to kickstart your outreach, guide your conversations and activities, and help you educate yourself, your friends, and your neighbors.

In the coming days and weeks, we hope you will join us and others across the U.S. in acts of interfaith leadership big or small.

Perhaps, as you face these challenges, you might contemplate this passage from the Jewish Mishnah:

“It is not your responsibility to finish the work, but neither are you free to refrain from it.” -Pirkei Avot

For all information regarding the IFYC, please click here.

Palestinian Authority condemns deadly attack at Pittsburgh synagogue

The scene of a mass hooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood on October 27, 2018, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images/AFP)

We of the IRFWP are greatly encouraged by the condemnation, and the condolences issued by the Palestinian Authority, for our Jewish brothers and sisters, following the heinous, tragic, and deadly attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, October 27th, 2018. 

We are proud of our brothers and sisters in Palestine, and use the occasion of printing this news to add our own voice to the 1000s of organizations and leaders to express our most profound sorrow in solidarity with Tree of Life families, with Jewish believers, and with all people of conscience in this time of shock and sadness. 

We pray that all our oneness that arises in such times of unspeakable loss and crisis may persist to carry us toward enduring peace and mutual embrace across religions, cultures, and ethnic bonds. [editor, IRFWP]

The Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry on Sunday condemned the deadly shooting attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, calling it “a terrorist act.”

A gunman, who entered the Jewish place of worship on Saturday, shot dead at least 11 people and injured six others.

“The Foreign Ministry condemns this terrorist act that targeted a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh,” the PA Foreign Ministry said in a statement published by the official PA news agency Wafa. “The ministry condemns the targeting of places of worship by these terrorists who hold fascist and rotten beliefs based on the supremacy and dominance of white people.”

The suspected gunman, identified as 46-year-old Pittsburgh resident Robert Bowers, reportedly yelled “All Jews must die” as he entered the synagogue and began firing during a circumcision ceremony, or brit. He engaged in a shootout with responding police officers and barricaded himself inside the building before surrendering. He is said to have been injured.

The PA Foreign Ministry said that it stood in solidarity with the American people and offered its condolences to the families of the victims.

On Saturday evening, the Turkish Foreign Ministry denounced the shooting attack.

“We have received the news with sorrow that many people were killed and injured in an armed attack targeting a synagogue today (27 October) in Pittsburgh, USA,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “We strongly condemn this heinous attack and express our condolences to the grieving families, the American Jewish community and the people of the United States.”

On Sunday morning, the Saudi embassy in Washington, DC, also condemned the shooting.

“The Embassy expresses its sincere condolences to the American people and to families of victims of the violent incident at a synagogue in Pittsburgh today. Houses of worship are meant to provide safe and spiritual refuge. Those who desecrate their sanctity attack all humanity,” the Saudi embassy tweeted.

Read the full article here.