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September 2012

Olympic Gold and Going for the Golden Rule

In ancient Greece, the Olympic Games were also a religious occasion and accompanied by a 100 days truce midst any warfare. Today some faith groups have observed 100 days of prayer for peace and that the Games would foster international friendship.

An Interfaith Response to Violence Near and Far

Why wait for disaster to strike? We can align during special times designated by the United Nations, including the International Day of Peace on September 21 and World Interfaith Harmony Week, February 1-7

Religion in U.S. Public Education

Religious Liberty, Public Education, and the Future of American Democracy: A Statement of Principles

Learning About Interfaith Every Which Way

As with so much mainstream media, stories about religious education usually shine a bright light on particular problems – science versus creationism in the classroom, lawsuits over textbooks, prayer in public schools, renting space to religious groups, upset atheists – so many problems, so many conflicts.

Seminaries Buzzing with Interfaith Studies

Most of the several hundred seminary campuses crisscrossing Canada and the United States were developed by individual religious traditions. They wanted to ensure a steady, dependable source of new leaders for their denomination’s congregations. Over the decades most of these seminaries developed similar curricula – ancient languages, scripture, history, theology, ethics, pastoral care, and the liturgy, policies, and history of each school’s particular tradition. This shared curriculum, though, did little to connect the different traditions to each other. In most of these schools, memory, vision, values, and institutional structures all come through the lens of a particular tradition.

NAIN Takes Interfaith Culture the Next Level

North American Interfaith Network’s (NAIN) annual conferences, held since 1988, are a family affair, a time to deepen old relationships and start new ones, a laboratory for innovative interfaith interaction, and a place to learn professional skill-sets you can’t find anywhere else. NAINConnects in recent years have been hosted by Vancouver, Richmond, San Francisco, Kansas City, Salt Lake City, and Phoenix. Each site comes with its own flavor and special gifts. Each introduces NAIN to vital, unique interfaith communities with multiple programs and collaborative interaction.

The Case for Multifaith Education

As a rabbi who directs a multifaith center in a Christian seminary, I often get asked about multifaith education. People ask me, “What curriculum should I use?” or “How can we teach our students about other religions?” Even more often I am asked, “Do you know a Muslim I can invite to speak at our program?” But rarely am I asked, “Why should we be doing interfaith education at all?” A rabbinic colleague of mine put it to me this way: “I just can’t articulate why interfaith is important to focus on,” he said. “Other than making sure we can all just get along, why does this matter?” he asked. Let’s be honest: most of us know precious little about our own religious traditions, so why should we spend our valuable time learning about other faiths?

Education that Really Means Something

I decided to be a teacher when still in high school. One could do the most good for people, I felt, when they are still children. As my own education progressed, I grew to feel a profound dissatisfaction with the conventions and expectations around me. Why were so many people obsessed with “making it” in a world that is so flawed and crazy?

Climbing a Holy Mountain for Peace

In response to world crises, spiritual pilgrims often ascend mountains, sacred heights, for prayer, fasting, discernment, and ceremony. For the past three years people from different faiths have joined in an interfaith peace ritual on Mount Baldy, in the San Gabriel Mountains of southern California, sponsored by the Aetherius Society. Rev. Paul Nugent, a director of the Society, describes it as "a unique event to draw together pilgrims of all ages and all walks of life. We walk together, climb together, sing together, and pray together for world peace."

Interfaith Dialogue Flowering in Mexico

More than 1,000 participated in the “Universal Multicultural Dialogue of 2012,” a spiritual and cultural festival held at the Archeological Museum in Guadalajara, Mexico, August 29-September 2. The five-day conference included 140 events: panel discussions, dialogues, workshops, performances, meditations, ritual celebrations, yoga instruction, and a keynote by neurosurgeon Dr. James R. Doty of Stanford University. His talk centered around scientific research of the beneficial effects of meditation on the brains of a group of Buddhist monks.

Learning to Build Interfaith Community

Early last June, while most students were packing their books and looking forward to a summer respite from papers and tests, twenty-three women and men, affiliated with Boston Theological Institute’s network of seminaries, participated in an intensive two-week seminar focused on developing interfaith leadership and community-building skills.

TIO in Canada

This month TIO begins a monthly feature, “TIO in Canada,” edited by Terry Weller, who lives outside of Toronto and adds this to the responsibilities he already has as TIO’s assistant editor.

“Interfaith Seminaries” Chart New Territory

Historians generally associate the birth of world’s interfaith movement with the seminal Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893. At that gathering, the brilliant and charismatic Swami Vivekananda introduced the “consciousness” teachings of Vedanta to the West. After this remarkable seeding, the next Parliament of Religions would not gather for another hundred years.

Animating Interfaith Culture for 5000 Teenagers a Year

Scarboro Missions in Toronto has a long history of promoting the Golden Rule as a universal ethic. The jewel in the crown of their interfaith ministry may be a workshop called “Animating the Golden Rule with World Religions,” offered to hundreds of young people every week. The workshop opens a compelling, appreciative door into religion and spirituality in its full diversity. It introduces teen-agers to an ethic of reciprocity with joy and respect rather than judgment, with creative engagement rather than didacticism.

Creating the Order of Universal Interfaith

Since its inception, leaders in the interfaith movement have asserted that interfaith is about bridge-building, not creating a new tradition; and that we treasure our differences as well as the values we share. Not everyone agrees though, and there have always been minority opinions.