Reimagining Interfaith: Taking Our Lead from Kids

Photo and Media Credit: Wikipedia and The Interfaith Observer

In the article below, writer Ms. Vicki Garlock of The Interfaith Observer envisions a path toward improving interfaith results, accomplishments, and effectiveness recommending engagement with children, and offering observations about how children are in the world as a resource to guide our interfaith mindset. Perhaps inadvertently, or by habit, Ms. Garlock reverts quickly to a list of commonalities among us in our faith traditions that do not necessarily arise from observing the behavior of children. This non-children derived list is a good one, but it seems something is needed to weave her gentle and insightful thoughts together into a more seamless essay.

IRFWP thanks Ms. Garlock, and all at TIO for these important and uplifting thoughts, and we pray together for  peace and cooperative world. (IRFWP ed.)

The interfaith movement is all about bringing people together. Most of the time we focus on adults and social justice issues. Don’t get me wrong. I fully support any and all interfaith efforts. But we need to do more, and we need to do it better. That’s why, when I reimagine interfaith, I see the world’s children. I see open minds, friendly hearts, and playful attitudes. I see eyes full of hope and love. I see a future generation of adults that recognizes the value of all faith traditions – a generation that has moved beyond mere tolerance toward deep appreciation. I see a path forward.

There is certainly a role for adults in this scenario. Grown-ups have the means to bring kids of different faiths together. Adults can also facilitate meaningful dialogue and help hold the space for differing worldviews. But adults need to avoid handing down their fears and insecurities to the next generation. The Earth gets smaller by the day, our interconnectedness increasingly apparent. To thrive in this emerging world, kids need to know something about the basic faith practices and beliefs of others, for the health of our planet and the well-being of our species.

Being More Alike than Different

Interestingly, when adults engage in multifaith dialogue, a near-universal refrain emerges: “I realized we are more alike than different.” In my experience, this sentiment is even more common in kids. Kids around the world like to do the same things! They like to play, listen to stories, create things, eat special food, celebrate special occasions, be part of a community, and have fun. All of these can and do happen in multi-faith settings, especially when kids are involved.

Stepping Back

If we take a step back, we can begin to see fundamental similarities: we’re all attempting to articulate the ineffable, we all celebrate important dates in our history, we all have revered writings or oral narratives that guide us, and we all have special ceremonies that help us to embody our beliefs. There are even commonalities across major themes and teachings: being kind to one another, helping those in need, welcoming the stranger, appreciating the wonders of the world around us, and recognizing the miraculous essence of connecting with the Sacred.

Read the full article here.

Making a Difference by Sharing Lives: The “Partnership” and Mutual Growth of Interfaith Mentoring

Photo and Media Credit: The Interfaith Center of New York

I’ve never really put much thought behind mentoring and how much it can affect the youth in our community, it’s likely because I’ve always been fortunate enough to have family members to look up to and guide me. Once I became a big sister at Catholic Big Sisters & Big Brothers (CBSBB) and built a real relationship with my little sister, I started to understand the importance of mentoring. It wasn’t just about seeing each other and sharing laughs, but more about sharing our lives. The moment we began to discuss her dreams, aspirations, and things going on in her life, I started to feel I was making a difference. I also began to realize how much I was learning from her as well; our “partnership” as she would call it has taught me that our youth have more to share than we may think.

Photo and Media Credit: The Interfaith Center of New York

Having the opportunity to become a big sister at CBSBB has been such an amazing journey. Sharing my views, beliefs, passions and outlook on life with someone younger has been immensely rewarding. Reflecting back on my time with my little sister, discussing her plans after high school, dreams and goals make me realize the time spent with her has been well worth it.

Read the full article here. 

After 20-year military standoff, Ethiopia and Eritrea agree to normalize ties in historic breakthrough

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, facing camera, is welcomed Sunday by Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki at the airport in Asmara, Eritrea. (ERITV/AP)

 Ethio­pian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed traveled Sunday to Eritrea, once a bitter adversary, and agreed to normalize ties after an unprecedented summit.

The rapprochement between the two neighbors could have far-reaching consequences for improving the stability of the Horn of Africa, which is home to several conflicts and environmental crises.

The two countries will reopen embassies, restore flight links and allow direct telephone calls. Landlocked Ethi­o­pia will look to start using Eritrea’s Red Sea ports.

“We have agreed to open up embassies in our respective countries, allow our people to visit each other’s cities, and allow our airlines and ports to operate freely,” Abiy said. “Love is greater than modern weapons like tanks and missiles. Love can win hearts, and we have seen a great deal of it today here in Asmara.”

Read the full article here.

Vatican cricket team tours UK to strengthen interfaith relations

Photo and Media Credit: Vatican News

The Vatican’s cricket team takes off on a fourth UK tour on Tuesday, with the goal of strengthening interfaith relations high on their action-packed agenda.

The team, officially known as St Peter’s Cricket Club, was established in 2013 and is made up of young men who are studying for the priesthood in Rome.

It operates under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Culture and was set up to promote ecumenical and interfaith relations through a shared love of cricket.

As well as their sporting fixtures, the Vatican team will be visiting a London mosque, a Sikh gurdwara, a Hindu temple and a Jewish synagogue to strengthen interreligious relations and to highlight the vital role of faith in contemporary society.

Read the full article here.

International Center for Religion and Diplomacy Monthly Update: July 3, 2018

Photo and Media Credit: ICRD

Dear friends,

After generations of strife, there are promising signs of change in Pakistan. Last year, the country saw a decrease in the number of terrorism-related deaths, and experienced no major attacks during the Shi’a holy day of Ashura. In January, the government announced the release of a fatwa signed by 1,800 scholars that condemns sectarianism and other forms of extremist hatred and violence. Over the last 15 years, ICRD has been blessed to work with Pakistani religious peacebuilders across many faith traditions who have taken a leading role in challenging prejudice and extremism.

Most recently, ICRD and its partners supported a powerful transformation in the decades-long hostilities between Islamic sects by supporting a messaging campaign led by local religious actors. This campaign seeks to combat divisive sectarian rhetoric with a theologically-grounded counter-narrative that was designed by religious leaders from all major sects and facilitated by ICRD.

Read the full article here.

Interfaith breakfast looks at moving from prayer to action

LEADOPTION Gurdeep Singh, from left, Manpreet Singh and Gurpreet Singh of the Sikh Center of Oregon share scriptural singing with the crowd during the 2018 Interfaith Prayer Breakfast at St. Andrew Lutheran Church on Thursday morning, June 28, 2018. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian)

The Interfaith Coalition of Southwest Washington hosts the breakfast at a different church each year and also holds an interfaith Thanksgiving service.

“Coming together, breaking bread together, really brings that community feeling,” said Khalid Khan, who’s part of the Interfaith Coalition and the Islamic Society.

Sermet said she regularly advocates for Muslims, typically an insular group, to get more involved in the broader community and cooperate with other groups. She invited others to do the same — to reach out to Muslims or people of different faiths and work together. Removing evil is imperative to not just the Muslim faith but all faiths, she said.

Pawneet Sethi of the Oregon and Southwest Washington Sikh community spoke about fulfilling humanity’s basic needs as a stepping stone to spiritual growth. What kind of society would we be if our neighbors’ basic needs were met and they could “fulfill their divine potential,” he said.

Read the full article here.

Scholars discuss significance of Dead Sea Scrolls at Boulder interfaith gathering

An interfaith gathering in Boulder met Sunday night to hear three scholars discuss the religious and archeological significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls, 10 of which are on display through Sept. 3 at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. (Helen H. Richardson / THE DENVER POST)

Religious groups from around Boulder gathered Sunday night at the Islamic Center of Boulder to learn about the history of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the shared significance to their faiths.

Kara Matsuda, a member of the Boulder Stake, said she when she heard about the exhibit she wanted to have an event where religious groups could come together to discuss the significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls to their faiths. Since the museum is not permitted to host religious events as a public institution, she decided to organize something herself. She reached out to other religious leaders in the area to plan the event, including Kanwal Ejaz, the Islamic Center’s interfaith director.

“We thought this would be the perfect opportunity to unite people among Abrahamic faiths,” Matsuda said.

Read the full article here.

Uganda tour honors 40-year interfaith friendship

In front of an audience of about 1,000 at Kampala University in Uganda, Badru Kateregga and David Shenk speak about Christian-Muslim dialogue and the book they co-authored almost 40 years ago, A Muslim and a Christian in Dialogue. — Kampala University

For four days in April, Badru Kateregga asked audiences a question as he toured Uganda with David Shenk: “How many of you can say you have a friendship that has lasted 40 years?”

Kateregga and Shenk can. Their friendship has made an impact on countless people by demonstrating the transformative effects of respectful dialogue between faiths.

For many years, Kateregga and Shenk have lived out the message of the groundbreaking book they co-authored in 1980, A Muslim and a Christian in Dialogue.

Kateregga invited Shenk on an April 16-19 peacemaking tour of his home country, celebrating almost 40 years of the book — and an even longer friendship between a black African Sunni Muslim and a white North American Mennonite.

David Shenk felt that what people found most compelling was simply the enduring friendship between two people with such striking differences.

Kateregga is a prominent figure in the Muslim world. Besides founding Kampala University, he founded the East African Universities of Kenya and Rwanda and served as Uganda’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf states, Iraq and Palestine.

Shenk has spent his life working to share a Christian witness. He has served with EMM virtually all his adult life, both as a missionary and on staff. He has authored or co-authored more than a dozen books.

Both men are dedicated peacemakers. Their belief in the power of dialogue and mutual respect drew them together when they first met in the 1970s as religion professors at Kenyatta University in Nairobi.

Read the entire article here.

Interfaith Hospitality Network: A circle of community concern

Interfaith Hospitality Network staff, from left, are Meghan Snyder, Stacey Burge, Rebecca Neuberger, Kim Williams and Ben Green. (Photo: Laura A. Hobson for The Community Press)

Interfaith Hospitality Network’s mission is to provide homeless families emergency shelter, helping them transition to permanent housing, and hospitality.

Started in 1991 as an emergency shelter with eight congregations participating, the center now has over 100 congregational partners of all faiths and wraparound support which extends beyond emergency shelter.

Twenty-six host congregations provide a site with food, beds and activities. These include Adath Israel Congregation, Knox Presbyterian Church, First United Church of Christ, Our Lady of the Rosary Church, Episcopal Church of the Redeemer and Ihsan Community Center.

There are 78 support congregations, meaning those that provide volunteers for food and activities with the children. Included in this group are All Saints Catholic Church, Congregation Beth Adam, Clifton United Methodist Church, and Mount Washington Presbyterian Church.

Read the full article here.

Building bridges while breaking bread: Norfolk temple holds interfaith Ramadan meal

Guests listen to speakers during a community interfaith dinner on Wednesday, June 6, 2018 at Ohef Sholom Temple in Norfolk. Media credit: Kristen Zeis, The Virginia-Pilot.

More than 100 people gathered for an iftar dinner – the evening meal in which Muslims break their fasts during Ramadan – at the temple. Partnered with the Rumi Forum, an interfaith and intercultural organization, the shared meal was meant for people of different faiths to learn more about each other.

Mustafa Akpinar, chief executive officer of the Rumi Forum, said they also host similar events to celebrate holidays like Christmas and Yom Kippur.

“It’s a beautiful way of getting to know our brothers and sisters by experiencing and learning from each other,” Akpinar said.

The temple has held many iftar dinners over the years, said Rabbi Rosalin Mandelberg of Ohef Sholom. Despite the difference in religious beliefs, attendants often find they’re more alike than they would believe.

“Peace has to start in relationships between people, and you can only build those relationships by getting to know each other,” said Mandelberg . “It’s too late to wait until a crisis occurs to come together.”

It’s about building bridges while breaking bread, she said.

Read the full article here.