Take on the challenge to find understanding through interfaith events

Imam Jafar Muhibullah performs the Muslim Adhan, part of the call to worship portion of the program during the Interfaith Action of Central Texas’ Interfaith Thanksgiving Service and Celebration in 2010. American-Statesman.

Making the decision to join an interfaith network is a big deal. Individuals must be willing to step outside their comfort zone to embrace the uncanny. In this network, members pray for the well-being and salvation of others who think and believe differently than themselves. Embracing the interfaith community means accepting a multitude of cultures and religious identities.

Conflicts between people have almost always been about securing and controlling land or other resources. In ancient times, the prophets brokered peace between conflicting parties.

The idea that compassion and mercy can bridge the divide between human beings is not exclusive to the Abrahamic faiths. Others have said:

  • Having abandoned the taking of life, refraining from killing, we dwell without violence, with the knife laid down, scrupulous, full of mercy, trembling with compassion for all sentient beings (azquotes.com). — Buddha
  • Not feeling compassion for a stranger is like not feeling when one’s foot has caught fire (ibid). — Confucius
  • To fill the human heart with compassion, mercy and universal love, which should radiate to all countries, nations, and peoples of the world… This is the way to peace on earth (ibid). — Kirpal Singh
  • Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty (ibid). — Albert Einstein

Read the full article here.

Saudi Prince calls for Muslims to join Christians, Jews in Jerusalem meeting

Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Alissa, 43, the former Saudi Justice Minister and current Secretary-General of the Muslim World League (Fox News)

A Saudi prince and current Secretary-General of the Muslim World League has taken the unprecedented and potentially controversial step of urging Muslims to form a delegation alongside Christians and Jewish religious leaders to visit Jerusalem as a step toward peace.

“We should send a peace convoy that is representative of all three Abrahamic religions. They should be Muslim, Christian and Jewish and they should visit all holy sites,” Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Alissa told Fox News in an interview Thursday. “They should meet everyone and find common ground, and they should provide fertile ground to find solutions for peace.”

Alissa stressed the delegation should be made up of religious leaders from each of the three faiths, instead of political figures. “They should be independent of politics, they should have no political agenda whatsoever. They will be more influential without a political agenda because they are independent,” he said.

Nor should the delegation be viewed as an effort from any particular nation, Alissa said. “This visit is not from Saudi Arabia and it should not represent Saudi Arabia,” said the former Saudi justice minister. “It comes from the Muslim world, the Christian world and the Jewish world. It has no relevance to any country whatsoever.”

Read the full article here.

IRFWP Director Attends Festivities

On Sunday, September 30, IRFWP Director, Frank Kaufmann attended and spoke briefly at the festivities marking the 25th anniversary of the annual World Peace Festival 

celebrated on the same occasion as the 50th birthday celebration of Jagadguru Dileepji Thnkappan

Dr. Kaufmann spoke on the internal (invisible) nature of causality, and the difference among birthday commemorations, especially when recognizing those who are born to serve the the welfare of others.

Here are a few images from this wonderful event


Why these faith leaders want religion to play a bigger role in global politics

Elder D. Todd Christofferson, right, member of Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Yoshinobu Mlyke, center and Abdullah Al Lheedan, left, during the photo group at the G20 Interfaith Forum in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sunday, Sep 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Gustavo Garello)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — World leaders today share a growing list of complex problems, and yet the leaders seem to be getting worse, not better, at working together, according to Rowan Williams, the former head of the Church of England.

“What we see is not a movement toward greater justice … but greater fear, division and inequality,” he said during the opening day of the G20 Interfaith Forum, an international gathering of religious leaders and faith-based social activists from the world’s 20 leading economies.

Faith communities can help reverse this trend, Williams and other religious leaders said, addressing how to be more unified in the face of issues like climate change and the global refugee crisis. Ahead of the G20, or Group of 20, annual meeting in Argentina later this year, they’re asking secular politicians to pay more attention to people of faith.

“At a time when our politics becomes more and more divided and polarized, when the defense of national boundaries literally and metaphorically becomes the one thing that many political leaders care about, our religious traditions say we are not permitted by the holy God we serve to forget about any portion of the human race,” Williams said.

Gustavo Garello, For the Deseret News
Member of the G20 Interfaith Forum pose for photographers after a meeting as part of the G20 Interfaith Forum in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018.

The G20 Interfaith Forum is aimed at bridging the gap between faith groups and political leaders, speakers said. Participants hope to help policymakers choose hope over fear and to showcase what’s possible when people in different religious communities and countries work together to care for those in need.

Read the full article here.

G20 Interfaith Forum 2018: Argentina

Media credit: G20 Interfaith Forum.
The Puente de la Mujer, Buenos Aires, Argentina

“Building Consensus for Fair and Sustainable Development:
Religious Contributions for a Dignified Future”

The 2018 G20 Interfaith Forum will take place 26-28 September 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Meetings will be held in the Auditorio Manuel Belgrano in the historic Palacio San Martín of Argentina’s Cancillería, the Ministry of Foreign and Religious Affairs, and in the nearby Sheraton Buenos Aires Hotel and Convention Center. This is the fifth annual event in a series of G20 Interfaith Forums held in relation to the meetings of the international “Group of Twenty” (G20) Economic Summit. This year’s Forum takes place in anticipation of the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires to be held 30 November-1 December.

The G20 Interfaith Forum is pleased this year to partner with meetings of the Argentinian project Ética y Economía, an ongoing dialogue on religiously–and ethically–informed dimensions of the economy, development, and society.

Objective: The Forum helps to identify and showcase the policy and societal contributions of faith traditions and philosophies on leading global issues. It creates opportunities for communication and relationship building, and raises the profile of participating communities, groups, and organizations. The aim is to develop recommendations on priority issues that draw on interfaith insight and experience.

Read the full article here.

Best Practices for Interfaith Learning and Development in the First Year of College

Media Credit: Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC)

IFYC and the IDEALS Research Team are proud to release “Best Practices for Interfaith Learning and Development in the First Year of College.” Informed by the findings of the Interfaith Diversity Experiences & Attitudes Longitudinal Survey (IDEALS), this report offers insight into the experiences and educational practices on campus that have a positive effect on students’ engagement with religious and worldview diversity.

The first year of college is a time of considerable change. As students begin a new chapter of life, they are met with a host of challenges and opportunities that necessitate adjustments academically, socially, and personally. With the optimal blend of engaging curricular and co-curricular experiences, first-year students stand to grow in ways that will prepare them well for continued success. Some of the key developmental tasks in the first year of college include reflecting critically on personal beliefs and values, making commitments to a religious or nonreligious worldview that is personally relevant, becoming adept at productively interacting with peers of different backgrounds and worldviews, and appreciating and understanding those peers who orient around religion differently.

Read the full article here.

Interfaith basketball tournament brings teenagers together

Screen capture from www.fox19.com

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) – Teenagers of three different faiths competed in a basketball tournament over the weekend. They learned about the game and about each other.

The event was hosted by Crossroads Church, The Islamic Center of Cincinnati, and the Jewish Community Relations Council at the Sycamore High School Gymnasium.

Sixty-five male and female teenagers, who identify as Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, participated in the event. They started by playing on teams made up of people who share the same faith, and then competed on teams with people of other faiths.

“We bond over the basketball, and it’s just a great day overall,” said Ben Peri, a player.

Organizers said the games are about breaking down barriers.

“A great opportunity to start a conversation with someone you might not otherwise start a conversation with,” said Joshua Ridgeway, the High School Director at Crossroads Oakley.

“We’re getting calls and contacts from the Hindu community, the Sikh community, and hopefully beyond. The idea is to make it a much bigger event,” said Faris Ghani, the Athletic Direcotr at the Islamic Center.

While winning is a top priority for the players, proving that understanding people from different backgrounds is most important.

“Helps build peace and shows that we’re really all just people and helps cure any misunderstandings there are,” said Yousef Munir, a player.

They are hoping the harmony they witnessed on the court continues outside of the court.

Read the full article here.

Facebook is hiring a director of human rights policy to work on “conflict prevention” and “peace-building”

Media Credit: Techcrunch.com

Facebook  is advertising for a human rights policy director to join its business, located either at its Menlo Park HQ or in Washington DC — with “conflict prevention” and “peace-building” among the listed responsibilities.

In the job ad, Facebook writes that as the reach and impact of its various products continues to grow “so does the responsibility we have to respect the individual and human rights of the members of our diverse global community”, saying it’s:

… looking for a Director of Human Rights Policy to coordinate our company-wide effort to address human rights abuses, including by both state and non-state actors. This role will be responsible for: (1) Working with product teams to ensure that Facebook is a positive force for human rights and apply the lessons we learn from our investigations, (2) representing Facebook with key stakeholders in civil society, government, international institutions, and industry, (3) driving our investigations into and disruptions of human rights abusers on our platforms, and (4) crafting policies to counteract bad actors and help us ensure that we continue to operate our platforms consistent with human rights principles.

The company has faced fierce criticism in recent years over its failure to take greater responsibility for the spread of disinformation and hate speech on its platform. Especially in international markets it has targeted for business growth via its Internet.org initiative which seeks to get more people ‘connected’ to the Internet (and thus to Facebook).

Read the full article here.


Media capture from RFBF. Brian J Grim, Ph.D. Georgetown University shown.


Comments by Brian Grim

Religion annually contributes nearly $1.2 trillion of socio-economic value to the U.S. economy, according to a September 2016 first-of-its-kind study that Melissa Grim and I published in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion.


That is equivalent to being the world’s 15th largest national economy, putting it ahead of about 180 other countries. It’s more than the annual revenues of the world’s top 10 tech companies, including Apple, Amazon and Google. And it’s also more than 50% larger than that of the annual global revenues of America’s 6 largest oil and gas companies. So, you might say, that represents a lot of spiritually inspired fuel being pumped into the U.S. economy.

Religion certainly plays a unique role in the socio-economic behaviors of Americans. For example, adults who are highly religious are significantly more likely than those who are less religious to report they did volunteer work and made donations to the poor in the past week, according to the Pew Research Center.


Statistics drawn from PewResearchCenter

Religion contributes economically to American society in three general categories:

— Congregations: $418 billion

— Religious institutions: $303 billion

— Business: $437 billion (faith-based, -related or -inspired)

All these figures come from a careful analysis of survey and financial data from a wide range of national sources detailed in the research article in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion.

Sources include: National Congregations Study; Religious Congregations and Membership Study; Private School Universe Survey; Institution of Education Sciences; Becker’s Hospital Review; Revenue reports of faith-based health organizations, charities & businesses; Faith-related business data by Oxford University’s Said Business School Professor Theodore Roosevelt Malloch; Congregational “halo effect” analysis by University of Pennsylvania Professor Ram Cnaan; and the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Role of Faith.

Read the full article and report here.

Interfaith Failure and the Catholic Scandal

Religions are too isolated from one another, and as such we fail to recognize that what hurts one hurts all.

This is especially true in the modern world, characterized by increasing secularism, and by a global communications net in which everyone everywhere quickly knows what happens even in a small corner of our world.

The Catholic Church currently is in the throes of intense internal division, and possibly crippling scandal. The challenge facing the Catholic community has three related parts. 1. Members of the clergy, even at high levels have perpetrated sexual abuse of parishioners, even children. 2. Senior leaders, have covered up these crimes, even leaving known offenders in positions of clerical authority where they continue to commit these egregious and horrifying crimes against innocent and trusting believers. 3. For the first time, the Pope himself is now accused of being complicit in covering up and protecting clergy guilty of criminal, sexual abuse of parishioners including of children. Archbishop Carlo Mario Viganò released an 11-page dossier calling on Pope Francis to resign, accusing him of know about US Cardinal McCarrick’s criminal behavior. The former papal ambassador to Washington Vigano, claimed he was told Francis knew about sanctions placed on McCarrick by Benedict XVI in 2009 or 2010.

Pope Francis (left) Pope Benedict (right)

These horrors, and crimes are devastating to 1000s of upright, innocent, faithful and devoted Catholic leaders and clergy, and equally heart rending and confusing for the millions of humble, and sincere Catholic believers and families worldwide.

What is not making news, and what is not heard in commentary in the midst of all this is any sign or expression of concern, nor solidarity from leader and believer from non-Catholic religions. This tragic interfaith poverty reveals insensitivity of heart, and a failure of both intuition and compassion on the part of leaders and believers in the world’s religions. No one is living, acting, nor speaking unde the light of the obvious truth “what hurts one of us, hurts all of us.”

It is dull not to see the clear writing on the wall that Catholic problems sooner of later will equally hurt the cause of all religions.

Innocent and trusting believers in every religion will grow increasingly doubtful of religion in general. And all religions will suffer. Everyone knows that every religion has problems. It should be obvious that we must help one another..

Interfaith intelligence, awareness, and active responsibility should properly invoke intense investment, concern, and support from good and honest religious believers and leaders in every tradition.

We cannot be so insular, parochial, and separated in consciousness and heart that we can possibly turn a blind eye, exhibiting no care for people who suffer, simply because they are from traditions other than our own. Every religion should be better than that.

Frank Kaufmann

September 14, 2018