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The Gift of These Voices

The Gift of These Voices

Those of you who have followed TIO since it launched in September 2011 know that a major motivation for creating this publication was to tell the untold interfaith stories proliferating around the world. That much has begun, with 1,500 articles in TIO’s archive now being programmed with new software that should make them much more accessible by subject, theme, and author. We hope to launch TIO’s renovated website this September, with TIO’s whole library available to you in just a few clicks.

Featuring Eboo Patel

Featuring Eboo Patel
This year TIO has devoted its March-July issues highlighting a handful of contributors who have made a special mark in the interfaith community and been particularly generous in contributing to this journal. This month we are happy to share the work of Eboo Patel, a 41-year-old Muslim who grew up in Chicago, did his PhD at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, then founded the Interfaith Youth Core. Today IFYC has a staff of 45, a $6.5 million annual budget, and a laser-like focus on developing interfaith leadership in the confines of higher education in the United States.

Featuring Vicki Garlock and Bud Heckman

The best gift in editing this publication for the past five years has been getting acquainted and working with hundreds of interfaith leaders, young and old, women and men, from dozens of different national, religious, and spiritual affiliations.

Featuring Ruth Broyde Sharone

If ‘interfaith’ is considered a big tent, you might say it covers the whole of humankind and our relationships, includes indeed all that lives, according to so many traditions. The 21st century really is different because we’re much more connected with each other, and our networks grow each day. So many changes in a few years, so many strangers who’ve become friends!

Featuring Marcus Braybrooke

The Reverend Doctor Marcus Braybrooke has aptly been called the dean of interfaith historians. He has travelled hundreds of thousands of miles attending interfaith events for half a century. His work mining the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago and the subsequent evolution of the Parliament of the World’s Religions is where the student of interfaith history must begin. Amazon’s Marcus Braybrooke Page, which lists 37 of his books, introduces him this way: “Marcus Braybrooke is an Anglican priest, an interfaith activist and author. He is President of the World Congress of Faiths, Co-Founder of the Three Faiths Forum, and a Peace Councilor.”

Planning this Year for TIO 2.0

This month marks the fiftieth issue of The Interfaith Observer (TIO), and the time has come to take a breath and a break from ‘business as usual.’ For the next five months, from March through July of 2016, TIO will look back and gather the work by and about five of our most prolific writers, one a month. Next month, we will feature the work of Marcus Braybrooke.

Winter Light

Bittersweet may be the best word for the final months of 2015. The international gathering of leaders in Paris took climate change more seriously than ever before, a major step forward in terms of what is required. But the climate agreements were punctuated by violent massacres in Paris and San Bernardino and by the ongoing chaos in the Middle East, which has never been more toxic.

Finding the Light

The struggle to find consensus in addressing a warming planet, the violence that infects our lives so many ways, the tempting xenophobia that fuels more violence, the growing flood of refugees … Mother Earth and her peoples are having a rough go at living together these days.

Changes at The Interfaith Observer (TIO)

Editing TIO for the past five years has been a cascade of blessings for me, particularly being involved with more than 350 students, writers, and activists of all ages bent on creating a peaceful, diverse, inclusive global interfaith culture. I’m excited as ever about the coming year – with a few changes, TIO should become a better publication.

Can Things Get Better for Us All?

Trying to understand the scope of the word ‘interfaith’ is a never-ending exercise these days. Religion itself, in a remarkable turn-around, is taking center stage in the mainline media day after day.

Developing Interfaith Education, Starting with the Heart

Compounding the growing global refugee crisis, news this summer suggests the possibility of leaving behind a generation of Arab youth who have lost their schools and universities to war. Rob kids of their education and beware the consequences. Globally, of course, this horror extends far beyond Arabs and should serve as a wake-up call to educators everywhere about education and the future.

Religion in the News

As the one who compiles the “Interfaith News Roundup” (the stories of note found in TIO’s monthly aggregation), my sense is that mid-year 2015 is actually a relief, better than we have any right to expect. Bad news still abounds, particularly religiously related conflict and severely constricted religious freedom for millions. But a new cascade of nightmare stories didn’t show up again this month. The tragic exception was the terrible murder of nine people attending Bible study at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, casting the shadow of racist terrorism across the year. A silver lining was how it evoked one of Barrack Obama’s most powerful speeches, one that will go down in American history. (You’ll find text and video links in the Roundup.)

Welcoming Vicki Garlock, New TIO Correspondent

More than 300 writers with a passion for interfaith culture have made TIO what it is today – a monthly treasure-chest of interfaith news and opinion. Representatives of dozens of religious, spiritual traditions, nationalities, and ethnic backgrounds have generously, freely contributed their work. You can find photos and short bios of each one here. More than 1,000 articles have been published in the past four years, testimony to the import of the interfaith culture emerging all over the world.

Learning to Appreciate South Asian Religion

What the Middle East is to Abrahamic traditions (particularly Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), South Asia is to Dharmic traditions (particularly Jainism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism). And while life is a messy mix of the good and the bad for all of us, historically the Dharmic religions have a much better record of interreligious tolerance and mutual respect and appreciation than do the Abrahamic traditions.

Creativity and the Spirit

The notion supporting this month’s issue is that the ‘arts,’ defined broadly, mediate ‘spirit and truth’ in ways religion cannot, particularly if you take religion to be doctrine, rules, and organization. Of course religion uses the arts in all sorts of ways, which muddies and makes more complex the relationship between our creative energies and what we hold to be true and important. Indeed, for the ancient Greeks as with most indigenous traditions, painting, sculpture, dance, music, and story emerge out of ritual and spiritual practice, where the artist and practitioner are one and the same.

Beyond the Doctrine of Discovery

The Doctrine of Discovery which emerged from the Papal Bulls of 1452-1493 may be the most destructive ‘doctrine’ ever promoted by a religious institution, though few know about it today. For much of the 15th century the pope was the most powerful man in Europe, and these papal documents “provided legal sanction and promoted Christian conquest, colonization, and exploitation of non-Christian territories and peoples the world over,” as a report in this issue of TIO puts it.

A Higher Collaborative Imperative

Focusing on ‘collaboration’ in an interfaith publication may seem redundant. All interfaith activity is collaborative, you might say. Collaboration is ‘who we are’! True enough. But we need to notice how we practice what we preach. We live in the midst of siloed interfaith organizations, many of whom don’t know each other and have weak relations with faith organizations as well. Institutionally we lack the connective tissue that will give the interfaith movement its real identity and voice(s). We’re badly in need of seeing the larger picture.

Turning to Joy

The beating heart of the universe is holy joy.” – Martin Buber

When religion and violence are endlessly discussed, analyzed, and carelessly conflated, it behooves us to take time to notice how joy tends to be a defining element in interfaith and interspiritual relationships. Not just a kum-by-ya sense of shared well being and friendship, but deeper, a ‘holy joy,’ to use Buber’s language, on entering a world where the ‘other’ is treasured rather than feared. Here is a world where you and the other can appreciate the gifts and wisdom in each other and be mutually enriched, an unexpected banquet to enjoy.

Mastering Dual Identity

In Changing Faith: The Dynamics and Consequences of Americans’ Shifting Religious Identities (2014), Darren Sherkat writes the following:

Immigrant religion is not merely a sideline. “Real America” is not western European sectarian Protestantism. Real America is defined, produced, and reproduced by waves of diverse immigrant groups assimilating into or accommodating with a dominant Anglo-dominated culture.

How Many Computers Do We Need?

We’ve come a long way since 1958 when Tom Watson, then IBM chairman, infamously said: “I think there is a world market for about five computers.”  Indeed, computers and the World Wide Web have been so absorbed into our lives today that they’ve become like water is to fish. Ubiquitous, all around us, and quite taken for granted. They’ve changed the way we live, how we think and what we think about, how we’re entertained and how we plan for the future. Also, how we worship, what we believe, and how we practice spirituality and treat one another.