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December 2011

Diversity@work Conference – Toronto

On November 9th 2011, Skills for Change presented its third annual diversity@work conference at the KPMG corporate head office in Toronto with Senator Don Meredith as the morning keynote speaker. Nearly 200 of Canada’s leading employers, HR professionals and leaders from numerous community- and faith-based organizations attended the event.

Middle East and North Africa Religious Leaders Reject Violence Commit to Cooperation among Muslims, Christians and Jews to Build Peace

Marrakech, Morocco -- Senior religious leaders from across the Middle East and North Africa rejected violence and called for deepened multi-religious collaboration as the region undergoes historic transformations. They committed to stand in solidarity with all vulnerable communities, to advocate for full religious freedoms across the region and to call on all religious believers to become a united force to help ensure that governments honor the full rights, protect and serve all of their citizens without exception.

Views of Violence: Abu Dhabi Gallup Center Report

A widespread belief concerning Islam emerged and solidified in the minds of millions after the 9/11 attack by Al Qaeda operatives. It has been strengthened since by senseless deadly attacks on military and civilian targets, all in the name of Islam. This belief states simply that Islam, at the heart of its teachings, is a violent religion. Its own sacred text is believed to promote and even demand death to those who do not believe and follow the way of Islam.

Conversely there are those who believe that there are politically motivated groups operating from Islamic countries that hide behind their interpretations of the Quran. And it is these groups who act violently, not on behalf of Islam, but on behalf of their own political and social agendas.

Rita Semel’s 90th Birthday

San Francisco’s new mayor came to the 7:00 am interfaith Thanksgiving Prayer Breakfast this year. So did the city police chief, the fire chief, half the city’s supervisors, San Francisco’s own Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, and 400 clergy and lay leaders. For a prayer breakfast in San Francisco?!

It was also the 90th year birthday party for the woman who made such an event possible. The theme for the day tells the story – “Healing the World: Honoring the Work of Rita Semel.”

Compassion, Charity, and Interfaith Culture

Karen Armstrong’s The Great Transformation (2007) suggests that compassion became a dominant theme in human experience for the first time between 800 to 200 BCE, called the Axial Age by German philosopher Karl Jaspers. Armstrong notes that over this 600-year period a religious revolution occurred in four different regions of the world: Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism on the Indian sub-continent; Confucianism and Taoism in China; monotheism in the Middle East; and philosophical rationalism in Greece. In each case we discover ancient traditions calling followers to compassionate, ethical behavior.

TIO at the American Academy of Religions

For anyone interested in religion, the American Academy of Religion annual meetings are an embarrassment of riches. What was new in San Francisco this year as 10,000 scholars, students, publishers, and advocates gathered was the unprecedented presence of interfaith studies. Professor Diana Eck from Harvard’s Pluralism Project, who served as president of AAR 2005-06, helped legitimize interreligious studies academically. Five years later the progress is encouraging for anyone interested in bridge-building among religious, spiritual traditions. Interfaith workshops, panels, and receptions punctuated the all four days of meetings last month.

Looking Back at TIO’s First Year

Gratitude is the word underlining The Interfaith Observer’s first year. Dozens of people have gone out of their way since January 2011, when TIO was no more than a dream, to make TIO a unique publication systematically exploring a set of issues critical to humankind’s future.

Best Practices for Interreligious Ministry

In addition to adequate theological grounding on how to situate the religious other within the framework of one’s faith tradition, there are certain attitudes, virtues, and skills that would appear to be crucially needed in being able to creatively relate to, engage, and cooperate with religious others. In an excellent volume specifically addressing the subject, Catherine Cornille has laid out humility, commitment, interconnection, empathy, and hospitality as five such key elements to be nourished and cultivated in this regard.

Translating Kalema - Images that Speak a Thousand Words

As a little girl, I learned that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” I learned wrong. Words are indeed powerful. As a wordsmith, I know what we say and how we say it can change how you feel about yourself or another. Words can be as sharp as a knife and heavy as a brick. Words can and often do hurt. Yet, if words can hurt, they can also inspire. The adage that a picture is worth a thousand words compels me and led to the notion of an interfaith photography competition.

What Excites Me about Interfaith Work?

This article grew out of a presentation Bettina Gray made at a meeting of interfaith leaders attending the November 2011 meetings of the American Academy of Religions/Society of Biblical Literature. The session focused on innovative interfaith activity and was organized by the Coexist Foundation.

A Timeless Woman with a Timely Message

The Brahma Kumaris (literally, daughters of God) community has its spiritual roots in Hinduism but is a new religious movement, led by women. ‘Brothers’ are welcomed in supportive roles. Known by their friends as BKs and headquartered in central India, these sisters share the gentle discipline of Raja Yoga meditation with millions around the globe, welcoming all religious traditions as authentic expressions of faith and practice.