Prayers for Victims, for Families, for Peace

IRFWP and our worldwide family of spiritual leaders from Islam, Christianity, and all religions extend urgent and deepest prayers for our Muslim brothers and sisters of Christchurch, for all families, friends and all  affected by our tragic loss. We pray for peace among all people of faith, and among all affected lands, peoples, and cultures.

Young man praying in Mosque, image by Samer Chidiak

Prayers, image by congerdesign

Pope Francis meets with LDS President Nelson in the Vatican

The Vatican
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican in Rome, Italy, on Saturday, March 9, 2019.

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church and President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints met today at the Vatican in the first-ever face-to-face discussion between the heads of the two global churches.

“The differences in doctrine are real and they’re important,” President Nelson said afterward as he stood just outside St. Peter’s Square, “but they’re not nearly as important as the things we have in common — our concern for human suffering, the importance of religious liberty for all of society, and the importance of building bridges of friendship instead of building walls of segregation.”

The two world religious leaders shared a belief that faith in God brings morality and stability to society.

“If we have a godless society, we have a rudderless ship,” President Nelson said.

The pope extended the invitation for a private audience to the Latter-day Saint leader in conjunction with President Nelson’s trip this weekend to Italy, where he will dedicate the history-making new Rome Italy Temple.

Read the entire article in Deseret News 

Pope denounces ‘depraved’ antisemitism and urges dialogue

From Miami Herald. No caption. No credits

Pope Francis denounced the “depraved hatred” behind a wave of anti-Semitic attacks in parts of the world and said interfaith dialogue can help counter it.

Francis met Friday with a delegation of the American Jewish Committee and praised their longstanding good relations.

He lamented that their meeting was taking place amid the spread of a “climate of wickedness and fury, in which an excessive and depraved hatred is taking root.”

And he warned that for Christians, any form of anti-Semitism is “a rejection of one’s own origins, a complete contradiction.”

Read the entire Miami Herald article here

2019 Annual International Conference on Ethnic and Religious Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding

Conference Synopsis

Researchers, analysts, and policy makers have been trying to find out whether there is a correlation between violent conflict and economic growth. A new study shows evidence of global economic impact of violence and conflict and provides an empirical basis for understanding the economic benefits resulting from improvements in peace (Institute for Economics and Peace, 2018). Other research findings suggest that religious freedom is linked to economic growth (Grim, Clark & Snyder, 2014).

Although these research findings have initiated a conversation about the relationship between conflict, peace and global economy, there is an urgent need for a study aimed at understanding the relationship between ethno-religious conflict and economic growth in different countries and at the global level.

The United Nations, member states and the business community are hoping to achieve peace and prosperity for all peoples and the planet through the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the year 2030. Understanding the ways in which ethno-religious conflict or violence is related to economic development in different countries around the world will help to equip government and business leaders to act effectively and efficiently.

In addition, ethno-religious conflict or violence is a historical phenomenon that has the most devastating and horrific impact on humans and the environment. The devastation and loss caused by ethno-religious conflict or violence are currently being experienced in different parts of the world. The International Center for Ethno-Religious Mediation believes that knowing the economic cost of ethno-religious conflict or violence and the ways in which ethno-religious conflict is related to economic growth will help policy makers and other stakeholders, especially the business community, design proactive solutions to address the problem.

The 6th Annual International Conference on Ethnic and Religious Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding therefore intends to provide a pluri-disciplinary platform to explore whether there is a correlation between ethno-religious conflict or violence and economic growth as well as the direction of the correlation.

Dates and Agenda

October 28, 2019 – Arrival of Participants

October 29, 2019 – Opening Ceremony, Keynotes, Distinguished Speeches, Academic Presentations & Panel Discussions

October 30, 2019 – Academic Presentations & Panel Discussions

October 31, 2019 – World Elders Forum, Inauguration of Peace Council, Closing Ceremony (One God Day Event – A Day to Pray for Peace)

Read the full article here.

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.