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January 2012

The Fiery Force that Sparkles in Everything

What is the positive core at the heart of who I am? My response: “You are I, recognizing the fiery force that sparkles in everything.”

Declaration of Indigenous Peoples at Durban Climate Change Talks

Dear Friends,

Greetings of peace and blessing from URI Africa.

Indigenous people participating in the Conference of Parties (COP17) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban , South Africa from November 28 to December 9, 2011 have released the following Declaration demanding that their rights be respected, protected and fulfilled.

In peace,
Mussie Hailu

United Religions Initiative Conference in Mogadishu on Resolving Religiously Motivated Violence

Greetings of peace, light and blessing from URI Africa. Hope this finds you in peace and good health.

“Meaning” Brings Everyone to the Table

Human beings, gifted with consciousness, have no choice but to explain, at least to ourselves, what life means. Even “meaninglessness” qualifies as a definition of meaning, as when Shakespeare’s King Macbeth cries out that life “is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Easy for the King to say. Prey to his own worst instincts and reduced to violent tyranny, Macbeth’s “nothing” comes between hearing that his partner in crime, Lady Macbeth, has committed suicide, and his own beheading.

Ice-breakers, Dancing, and Meaning Making

During the ice-breaker at a recent interfaith gathering, we each shared our ‘faith journey’ with the group. We were mostly strangers. The facilitator had created a set of cards, each with a simple line drawing of something from everyday life. She asked us to choose a few of the cards to illustrate our faith journeys. Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Pagans, and more, each chose some cards and told their different stories. Then it was my turn.

One Thousand Words on “Meaning”

My source of meaning is God. For me, God is a character in the stories from the Talmud that are the scaffolding of my life. These stories begin with God consulting the angels: Should I create human beings or not? The angels, as argumentative as the Jews telling the story, break into factions and debate the issue. Some argue that human beings will be so morally flawed as to make a mess of the world, others that they will bring healing. While they fight, God sneaks off and creates Adam. The stories continue with God creating human beings in God’s own image. No exceptions. And further, God tells us that we are responsible for shaping that likeness. But how? Just as God clothed Adam and Eve in the garden, so are we to clothe the naked. Just as God buried Moses, so are we to bury the dead. Finally, the story I love the best. The rabbis debated for two and a half years if it was a good after all that humans were created. They finally came to a conclusion: it was a mistake. But, they added, as long as we are here, we ought to watch our ways or, as some would put it, scrutinize our deeds.

What is Most Meaningful in My Life as a Buddhist

Before writing this short essay, I puzzled for some days over what is most meaningful to me, especially pertaining to my Buddhist identity. There are many candidates. I value my relationship with my teacher; I value my sangha or community; I value being a Western Buddhist, which allows me to critically evaluate which aspects of Buddhism to take on and which, such as its sexism and patriarchy, to reject; I value all the training and inspiration I have received over the years.

Starting with Moksha and Karma Yoga

Finding meaning in life is an age-old quest that has perplexed people across geographical frontiers and transcended religious and spiritual affiliations. It attracts the interest of sages, religious scholars, and ordinary individuals alike. From distinctions between faith traditions to individual differences within a single religion to variances in time and space, every person will answer this question their own way, uniquely. It is therefore a quintessentially individual and personal search involving a diversity of perspectives.

Faith and the Journey towards Meaning

In thinking about this short article, I struggled with the question: How do I make meaning out of life? It can be read and answered in many ways from one person to the next. What is meaning, exactly? Still, I admit to being pleased at the invitation, but also for being acknowledged for the six-year journey since converting to Islam, the journey to find and define what brings meaning to my life.

How I Make Meaning of Life

My wife and I drive out of the city.  On the way, we share stories with each other.
We laugh about how complicated and intertwined the tales of our lives have become with each
      other, and with and among the people we know.
We are amazed at how disparate events and people come together over time, in surprising

2011 Look Back

BOB ABERNETHY: As 2011 draws to a close we take our annual look back at what we think were the most interesting and important religion and ethics stories of the year. We begin with a reminder from Kim Lawton of what some of those stories were.

New Harvard Journal Focuses on Comparative Theology

In 2009 three Harvard Divinity School graduate students decided to create a new journal. Their goal? To provide a setting where they and their colleagues could publish peer-reviewed academic papers about “comparative theology.” They did not expect many readers beyond Harvard Yard.

As Iron Sharpens Iron, So Does One Tradition Sharpen Another

Does theology have a role in discussions of spiritual discernment, meaning-making, and concerns about syncretism in contemporary interfaith worlds and culture? Should theologians and theologically interested believers limit themselves to developing and deepening the knowledge of their own tradition, or is there value engaging theologies beyond one’s chosen faith or worldview? Are these endeavors mostly or finally mutually exclusive?

Pluralism - A Home For All Of Us

When non-Christian religious leaders around the world were invited to attend the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago, the letter asked them to come and share the wisdom of their traditions. It also promised that at the Parliament they would be able to perfect that wisdom through Jesus Christ. As the 20th century approached, in other words, the most open, liberal, progressive people of faith in America shared the assumption that their tradition was the truest and most important. Historically, the Catholic doctrine of “extra Ecclesiam nulla salus,” or “outside the Church there is no salvation,” makes the point categorically. But Catholics have had no corner on the notion that salvation is exclusively theirs, a claim ripe for setting people of faith and practice against each other.

When Wiccans & Evangelical Christians Become Friends

For more than 26 years I’ve been doing interfaith work on behalf of Neopagan Witchcraft (often called “Wicca” or “the Craft”). In 1985 I was elected National Public Information Officer for the Covenant of the Goddess (www.cog.org). The job entailed serving as a liaison between CoG and the media, law enforcement, the government, and the interfaith community. I attended my first meeting of the Berkeley Area Interfaith Council, one of the oldest, most diverse interfaith groups in the country, and gradually found myself hooked on interfaith work. Terming out as Public Information Officer, the Covenant created the appointed position of National Interfaith Representative. That has been my role ever since.

The Oneness of the Human Family

A Declaration of Oneness for the Human Family,” drafted by Robert Muller and circulated by the Temple of Understanding, did not ignite the global interfaith response that other foundational documents have inspired. But it underlined and helped articulate an assumption that drives all interfaith endeavour, that there is a unique, connective oneness to the human family, and that every member of the family deserves respect, dignity, and opportunity. Marcus Braybrooke, who participated in the ‘Oneness’ discussions over the years, tells how the idea developed.

Indian Spirituality at T Mobile Los Angeles

I was looking for a new cell phone when I met 27-year-old Maz, a wireless expert who works for T Mobile at a mall in Los Angeles. We started talking about droids and ended up talking about interfaith. I wasn’t surprised. These days interfaith consciousness lies just under the surface of almost every encounter between strangers – especially in LA, culturally and religiously one of the most diverse cities in the world.