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.

UAE convenes interfaith dialogue on strengthening ties with Muslim community

NEW YORK, 4th May, 2019 (WAM) — The UAE, in its capacity as the chair of the Group of Member States of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, OIC, hosted a dialogue with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on strengthening ties with the Muslim community.

The dialogue session, which took place at the UN Headquarters on Thursday, was entitled ‘Strengthening Ties with the Muslim Community: Promoting Dialogue, Understanding, Tolerance, and Acceptance’.

The discussion focused on the importance of interreligious dialogue as a core value of Islam with keynote remarks by Archbishop Bernadito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN, Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, University Chaplain and Executive Director of New York University’s Bronfman Centre for Jewish Student Life, and Agshin Mehdiyev, Permanent Observer for the OIC to the UN.

Ambassador Lana Zaki Nusseibeh, UAE’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, opened the discussion by underlining the critical need for promoting understanding, tolerance, and acceptance within the Muslim community and between Islam and other faiths – particularly in light of recent events that have demonstrated the impact of intolerance and polarisation.

She said, “It is abominable that people are being targeted at their places of worship, and it is a tragedy of our modern world that holy sanctuaries increasingly require armed security to ensure the safety of innocent congregants.” A moment of silence was held at the meeting for the victims of recent terrorist attacks – where religious centres were targeted.

Nusseibeh underscored the key role of the Muslim community in leading interfaith dialogue. “As Muslims, we have this responsibility not only because we constitute a quarter of the world’s population, but because embracing and welcoming people of all faiths is a basic tenet of Islam,” she said.

Read the entire article here

Prayer Service Seeks National Unity As Conflicts Rage in Church and Government

At the National Day of Prayer, minister Anthony Thompson, missionaries Andrew and Norine Brunson, and White House advisor Samuel Rodriguez convey “Love One Another” theme.

On May 2, 2019, Rev. Anthony Thompson of Charleston, S.C. addressed the National Day of Prayer observance in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

“Can you pray for those who mistreat you?” asked Thompson. “Can you love someone who hates you because of the color of your skin? God asked me that question one difficult day.”

“Can you love someone who hates you because of the color of your skin? God asked me that question one difficult day.”

Thompson shared the shocking story briefly. His upcoming book Called to Forgive chronicles the tragedy in detail, along with how his family has recovered since then.

He was followed by Andrew and Norine Brunson, missionaries to Turkey who were freed in October. They spoke of how prayer cultivates fortitude in the midst of persecution, which they foresee coming to Western nations.

“The first commandment is to love God,” said Brunson in an interview. “Intimacy with God is the foundation. It will soon become more difficult for people to stand for Jesus Christ in an unapologetic way.”

On May 2, 2019, a group of 250 clergy and ministry leaders worshipped during the National Day of Prayer observance in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Josh Shepherd)

Read the entire article here

California synagogue shooting suspect identified; 1 dead, 3 injured including rabbi, authorities say

The IRFWP family expresses our profound sadness over today’s tragic shooting in a San Diego Synagoue. We offer sincere condolences and prayers for all affected. 

We pray for the settlement of peace over our human family, so that all may worship peacefully, without fear.

Two people hug as another talks to a San Diego County Sheriff”s deputy outside of the Chabad of Poway synagogue [Denis Poroy/AP Photo]

A gunman walked into a southern California synagogue crowded with Sabbath worshippers on Saturday and opened fire with an assault-style rifle, killing one woman inside and wounding three others in a hate crime carried out on the last day of Passover, authorities said.

The suspect, a 19-year-old white male whose identity was not immediately made public, fled the scene by car and was arrested a short time later when he pulled over and surrendered to police, authorities said at a news conference.

President Donald Trump and other elected officials decried what they called an anti-Semitic attack exactly six months since 11 people were killed at a Pittsburgh synagogue in the deadliest assault on Jews in US history.

Read the entire article here

Maryland faith leaders break matzoh together

Interfaith leaders gathered for a midweek version of the Jewish Passover Seder. They included, from left, Bishop Chris Matthews of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Richa Agarwala of the Chinmaya Mission Washington Regional Center; the Rev. Kasey Kaseman, an interfaith liaison with the Montgomery County government; Gompo Yeshe of Kunzang Palyul Choling; and Imam Ahmad Bahraini of the Islamic Educational Center. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

About 20 rabbis, imams, ministers and leaders of other religious groups gathered for a midweek version of the ritual dinner that usually ushers in the start of Passover, the Jewish festival that began the night of April 19 and ends this weekend.

Lubna Ejaz of the Muslim Community Center passes unleavened bread to Gompo Yeshe of Kunzang Palyul Choling at the interfaith dinner Wednesday night in Rockville. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

County Council Vice President Sidney Katz (D-District 3) said his staff came up with the idea for the event after the deadly mass shootings at a Pittsburgh synagogue in October and mosques in New Zealand last month. The event came together as the world was reacting to news of the Easter Sunday suicide bombings at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka…

Rabbi Janet Ozur Bass breaks a piece of unleavened bread at the midweek interfaith Seder, hosted by Montgomery County Council Vice President Sidney Katz. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

There were the usual Seder rituals: blessings over grape juice (no wine was served, respecting the Islamic practice of not consuming alcohol), dipping green vegetables in salt water and eating charoset, a paste-like mixture usually made of fruit, wine and nuts that is supposed to recall the mortar that Israelite slaves used while building in Egypt.

Read the entire article here

Interfaith event aims to build community among students of different religions

“I think the key to making UCLA more tolerant is to have an exposure to those of other faiths and ideas.”

Panelists from different religions spoke about their experiences with their religion in college to promote understanding across faiths at an event Tuesday. The Undergraduate Students Association Council president’s office hosted the event. (Jacqueline Gerdne/Daily Bruin)

An interfaith committee featured students from different religions Tuesday to promote understanding across faiths.

Panelists from various religions – including Catholicism, Judaism and Islam – spoke about their experiences with their religion in life and in college, how they have developed their faith and how their beliefs have helped them to find a community on campus. The Undergraduate Students Association Council president’s office hosted the event.

A moderator from the interfaith committee asked the three student panelists about different aspects of their faiths to spur an open discussion about religion and to address common misconceptions about their faiths.

Read the entire article here

Muslim Leader tried to prevent Sri Lanka Jihadist tragedy

IRFWP commends the extraordinary courage and exceptional social and civic consciousness of  Muslim Council of Sri Lanka leaders. 

Further IRFWP calls for persistent mutual respect among conscientious, harmonious religious and spiritual people of good will. 

— Frank Kaufmann, Director

The site of a car explosion near St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo on April 22.Photographer: Jewel Samad/AFP via Getty Images

Hilmy Ahamed, vice president of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, said he warned military intelligence officials about the group and its leaders about three years ago. On Monday afternoon, Sri Lanka’s government said National Thowheed Jamath was responsible for six suicide bombings at Christian churches and luxury hotels.

“Targeting the non-Muslim community is something they encourage — they say you have to kill them in the name of religion,” Ahamed said in a phone interview from Colombo on Monday. “I personally have gone and handed over all the documents three years ago, giving names and details of all these people. They have sat on it. That’s the tragedy.”

The National Thowheed Jamath has broken up into various groups as individual leaders pursued separate funding sources, Ahamed said. Although not all members of the group were radicalized, the group is “extremist in their thinking,” he added.

Read the entire article here

Please Pray for Peace and for the Victims of the Easter Sunday, Sri Lanka Bombings

A series of co-ordinated bomb blasts at churches and hotels across Sri Lanka killed more than 200 people and left hundreds more injured on Easter Sunday in one of the worst bouts of violence in the island nation since civil war ended a decade ago.

REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

Pope Francis, who visited the country four years ago to minister to the island nation’s Christian minority, expressed his condolences in his Easter Sunday mass in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. “I want to express my loving closeness to the Christian community, targeted while they were gathered in prayer, and all the victims of such cruel violence,” he said. “I entrust to the Lord all those who were tragically killed and pray for the injured and all those who are suffering as a result of this dramatic event.”

Read one article report here