Interfaith News Roundup - June 2017

Interfaith News Roundup 

June 15, 2017

Tourists, Billboards, and ‘Just War’ Theory

Kuala Lampur, Malaysia – Photo:    AllWorld Exhibitions

Kuala Lampur, Malaysia – Photo: AllWorld Exhibitions

Muslim tourists have been finding Europe and America difficult to visit. Many have turned to Malaysia, a small, upscale country that has gone out of its way to welcome international Sunni Muslim tourists. It is 60 percent Muslim itself, so providing visitors with faith-friendly facilities is no problem, and the 40 percent non-Muslim population share largely friendly relations with their Islamic neighbors.

Malaysia is not entirely free from the disease of religious extremism. Three months ago TIO reported the kidnapping of Rev. Raymond Koh, two other Christians, and a Shia Muslim preacher. (Shia Islam is not officially recognized in Malaysia.) They still are missing.

Muslims and others are enraged by an anonymous billboard appeared in Indianapolis, Indiana claiming that Mohammed was a rapist and killer. Indiana Republican Senator Todd Young came out strongly condemning the billboard, and local leaders are challenging whoever funded the project to go public.

Three hundred Dalits, sometimes known as “untouchables,” converted to Buddhism last October in Gujarat, India. They did so to escape the travail of being the lowest caste in a still highly caste-conscious Hindu culture. Recent terrorist acts against Dalits have accelerated such conversions in recent years.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the governor of Jakarta, photographed with Muslim students – Photo: Wikimedia,    Alisabanaok, Cc.3.0

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the governor of Jakarta, photographed with Muslim students – Photo: Wikimedia, Alisabanaok, Cc.3.0

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the governor of Jakarta, Indonesia was convicted of blasphemy last month and sentenced to two years in prison for comments he made via social media in September, challenging Muslim hard-liners who argue that a verse in the Qur’an prohibits Muslims from voting for a non-Muslim. Indonesia has a reputation for being an interfaith-friendly country, but the conservative judiciary is steering the country in a new direction.

Religion News Service sponsored a program at the National Press Club on ‘just war’ theory and cybersecurity, which has become a major threat in so many ways. How much cyber violence does it take in order to justify responding with violence? Along with the usual arguments about the ethics of just war theory, this new arena has the added huge difficulty of discerning who the enemy is in cybercrime. ‘The other’ who cannot be seen!

Two men in Portland, Oregon died defending two women who appeared to be Muslim. Religion News Services’ coverage of the tragedy uses phrases new to this religious news bloodhound. Author Emily McFarlan Miller writes of “eclectic spirituality” and “secular altars” in telling the story. Portland has more not-affiliated-with-any-religion citizens than any other city in America, but Portland citizens clearly have not abandoned their spiritual selves.

U.S. Vice President Pence met with Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of Moscow, who chairs the Russian Orthodox Church’s external relations department, at a Billy Graham Evangelistic Association conference on what Franklin Graham called the “genocide of Christians” in the world. Hilarion says that Russia and the U.S. need to set aside their political differences to defend Christians, particularly in the Middle East. He feels “very positive” about the relationship between the Orthodox and Evangelistic communities and their shared anti-LGBTQ attitudes. Graham’s group spent $4 million bringing 600 from 136 countries to the gathering. Just because it is interfaith, don’t label it liberal too quickly!

Improving the World

David and Karen Eubank with their children Sahale, 16, Suuzanne, 14, and Peter, 11, next to their armored ambulance in Mosul. – Photo: Washington Post, Family Photo

David and Karen Eubank with their children Sahale, 16, Suuzanne, 14, and Peter, 11, next to their armored ambulance in Mosul. – Photo: Washington Post, Family Photo

The Washington Post story begins, “The Eubank family has a guiding principle — if other families are forced to live in war zones, there should be no issue with theirs being on hand to help.” To this end, this American family is living in the Mosul, a war zone, where David works the front line to rescue civilians fleeing the battle. His wife Karen manages food distribution and supplies for fleeing citizens, and their three children help with the mission while being home-schooled. The Eubanks have taken on similar service in Burma, the Sudan, Iraq, and Syria. They are a singing family, joyful at the work they feel called to fulfill.

In the same vein, Open Doors USA sent out a press release about their successful, bipartisan passage of a U.S. House of Representatives’ bill protecting victims of war. Open Doors said the bill “is exactly the kind of action the United States government needs to provide relief for those victimized through genocide, human rights violations and war crimes by terrorist groups like ISIS. Open Doors USA applauds the unanimous passage of the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act by the House of Representatives.” At this writing, the bill is slated to go to the Senate. All United States citizens are invited to sign your support.

The Vatican has developed its own business accelerator, Laudato Si Challenge, funded privately, which invests $100,000 in new entrepreneurial ventures designed to mitigate climate change. Expert mentorship is built into the program, and the companies commit a 5-8 percent equity share back to the program. Laudato Si Challenge aims to improve the lives of more than one billion vulnerable people and the planet’s vital ecosystems. Doing something about ecojustice rather than simply preaching about it exemplifies the ongoing imagination and goodness of Pope Francis. (The photo at the top of the page is of Rome.)

Both the men and women of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) have been in the news. First, the women. The Trump administration’s immigration policies are running into serious blowback from a community that has been predictably conservative and Republican for years. Mormon women in Utah are outraged at how long-term, productive immigrants in their communities are being treated, as well as the administration’s proposed travel ban. Sharlee Mullins Glenn, who writes books for children, started Mormon Women for Ethical Government and created a website for their cause. About 300 joined as it launched, 3,000 signed on by the end of a week, and 4,000 the next week. They are contacting politicians and the media, marching, and doing everything in their power to bring ethics back into immigration policies and practices in America.

Photo: Instagram, Mormon Women for Ethical Government

Photo: Instagram, Mormon Women for Ethical Government

Men are the church policy decision-makers in the LDS tradition. They have announced that they will be discontinuing their Boy Scouts of America program for ages 14-17 out of a concern over LGBTQ leaders of scout troops. This has generated consternation since Mormons make up one-sixth of all Boy Scouts. The church says it will be developing separate programs for this age group and may later rescind similar collaborative programs with younger boys.

Happily both LDS women and men tend to be significantly involved in direct services to people in need. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) has long been in contention with the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) over the issue of polygamy, which the FLDS practices. What seems different in this denominational conflict today is that the LDS is reaching out in cooperation and support of FLDS communities, not to resolve their disagreement, but to provide aid and support to the generally impoverished FLDS. Caring for rather than fighting with the local ‘other’ – what a novel approach to peacemaking!

With the blessings of the Catholic bishops of India, a New Community Bible has been published which contains extensive footnotes comparing the biblical text with the religions of India, particularly Hinduism, but Islam as well. Verses from the Vedas and Upanishads are quoted in this annotated sacred text. The purpose is not to suggest that the traditions are the same, the bishops insist, but to demonstrate the many similarities among the various traditions. Predictably, this interfaith-friendly sacred text has garnered criticism from conservatives, both Protestant and Hindu.

Dr. Mustafa Ceric, Grand Mufti Emeritus of Bosnia-Herzegovina – Photo: ICD Media Center

Dr. Mustafa Ceric, Grand Mufti Emeritus of Bosnia-Herzegovina – Photo: ICD Media Center

“There is no recipe for success, but there is a recipe for failure. The recipe for failure is violence ‘in the name of Allah.’” So wrote Dr. Mustafa Ceric, Grand Mufti Emeritus of Bosnia-Herzegovina in “An Appeal to the European Muslims: Let Us Have a Common Word with Our Neighbors.” It is a powerful, personal, poignant cry from the heart for the restoration of his religion. Ceric is Honorary President of Religions for Peace International.


Header Photo: Rome – Photo: Laudama Se Challenge