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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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As Good Friday and Passover meet this year, interfaith families receive double blessings

In 2019, Good Friday and the first night of Passover coincide. When the holidays fall on the same date, Jewish and Christian couples look for ways to combine them or celebrate them one after the other.

They were on a date at the Gusman Theater in downtown Miami when May Cain, raised in Reform Judaism, suddenly asked Bill Snihur, a Catholic, during intermission if religion would be a problem for their relationship.

“No,” he answered immediately.

“Neither of us requested the other to convert to the other´s religion,” said Cain. Her husband added, “We liked what we saw and we embraced it. We didn’t want to change this.”

Like many interfaith couples, Cain and Snihur, both lawyers, agreed to raise their children in a home that recognizes both cultures, celebrating Christian as well as Jewish traditions.

“We weren’t going to do heavy-duty indoctrination in both religions, but instead we focus on similarities and we speak to them about the meaning and symbolism of each holiday,” Cain said of their twins, Ariel and Alexander, 25-year-old brother and sister. The couple has been married 28 years.

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Patience in the wake of the Notre Dame fire

The tragic fire of Notre Dame this week leaves us not only reeling and suffering emotionally, but further spiritually searching for meaning.

Flames and smoke rise from the blaze at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Thierry Mallet)

It is human nature to seek cause of events, and meaning in our experiences.

Sadly, our time has become one of more speed and less thought, and a time of instant politicization of collective experience. This latter-most reality is wholly unfortunate especially when sacred matters come before us. I recommend all mature people quickly eschew and reject this grotesque, manipulative, and divisive writing and behavior.

There also is a rush to analysis, to meaning-creating, In this case understandably so. While this goes on, I recommend we take in as many such analyses as possible, with an open mind. Take all such writing and commentary in prayerfully, and through this, we will see our own views begin to crystallize, both as individuals personally, and collectively, little by little.

Michael Ledeen, in his April 16 essay, Notre Dame: A Bad Omen or a Sign of the Strength of Western Civilization? offers some good and constructive thoughts to the larger conversation, one that hopefully will continue to attract creative reflections from many more thinkers going forward.

Frank Kaufmann

Director, Inter Religious Federation for World Peace

Read Ledeen‘s entire article here

Sikhs aim to plant million trees as ‘gift to the planet’

Bali Singh Panesar, of Sikh Union Coventry, and Nav Mann, a Coventry 2021 UK city of culture official, plant trees in the city. Photograph: Sikh Union Coventry

Sikhs around the world are taking part in a scheme to plant a million new trees as a “gift to the entire planet”.

The project aims to reverse environmental decline and help people reconnect with nature as part of celebrations marking 550 years since the birth of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak.

Rajwant Singh, the president of the Washington DC-based environmental organisation EcoSikh, which is coordinating the Million Tree Project, said he wanted to mark the anniversary in a significant way.

“Guru Nanak was a nature lover. [He] had talked about nature as a manifestation of God and many of his writings talk about how we need to learn lessons of life from nature.”

Singh said he hoped the project would motivate Sikhs – especially the young – to improve their relationship with nature and would be seen more broadly as “a gift to the entire planet”.

Palvinder Singh Chana, the chair of Sikh Union Coventry, said: “As Sikhs, our connection to the environment is an integral part of our faith and identity. Future generations will benefit from the fruits of our labour, symbolising peace, friendships and continuity for generations to come.”

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Nigerian women’s network builds interfaith bridges

The Women of Faith Peacebuilding Network has reached more than 10,000 Muslim and Christian women across the country.

A participant receives her certificate after the two-week empowerment program of the Women of Faith Peacebuilding Network in Abuja, Nigeria. Photo courtesy of Sister Agatha Chikelue.

When Fatima Isiaka, a respected Muslim leader in Abuja, Nigeria, asked a cab driver to drop her off at St. Kizito Catholic Church, the driver thought she was lost.

Isiaka, who wears a jilbab head covering and robe, recalled: “He told me, ‘This is a church!’ I said, ‘Yes, I know.’”

Isiaka was part of an innovative effort to bring Christian and Muslim women together in hopes of fostering religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence. The Women of Faith Peacebuilding Network was started in 2011 by Agatha Ogo­chukwu Chikelue, a sister of the Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy congregation, and Maryam Dada Ibra­him, a local Muslim businesswoman.

Isiaka, now deputy director in the network’s Abuja branch, looks back fondly on her time at the St. Kizito Catholic Church.

“I loved every bit of my stay there,” Isiaka said. “I found a place in the church where I performed ablution, to set up my mat and pray.”

Since the group began, the Women of Faith Peacebuilding Network’s activities have reached more than 10,000 Muslim and Christian women across the country. The network also offers vocational training in catering, bead making, fashion design, and soap production to a smaller group of women who participate in an annual 21-day seminar.

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