April 2012

Each month TIO shares a few of the more interesting interfaith stories from recent news.

Interfaith Community Called to Account on Climate

It’s Time for Interfaith Moral Action on Climate Change

Bill McKibben, Huffington Post, April 9, 2012

There are lots of types of people who have been taking action on climate change over the last several years: environmentalists (of course), students and young people, community-based groups, labor activists, indigenous peoples, Appalachian and Gulf Coast residents, ranchers and more. Among them, importantly, have been people from the many different denominations that make up the broad religious community in the United States.

[McKibben protesting Keystone XL. Photo: treehugger.com]

It was personally inspiring to me when several dozen people of faith took action…


Saying No to Trafficking

Religious leaders press Village Voice on sex ads

Annalisa Musarra, Christian Century, April 2, 2012

WASHINGTON – Religious leaders on Thursday (March 29) delivered more than 230,000 signatures to the office of Village Voice Media, demanding the company shut down the adult advertising section on its website, Backpage.com, where advertisements for sex with underage minors have appeared.

“As a mother and as a member of the clergy, I am outraged by Village Voice Media’s continued refusal to shut down Backpage.com’s adult section, even after being confronted with evidence that girls and teens have been advertised for sex on the site,” said the Rev. Katharine Henderson, president of Auburn Seminary and a leader of the petition.

Leaders from an array of religious groups, including Jews, Sikhs, Baptists, Hindus, and Muslims, have joined together in the fight against sex trafficking. …


You can also review a video on this story.

Dying for the Cause

Tibet Self-Immolation Wave Among History’s Biggest

Gillian Wong, Huffington Post, April 2, 2012

BEIJING – Dozens of Tibetans have set themselves on fire over the past year to protest Chinese rule, sometimes drinking kerosene to make the flames explode from within, in one of the biggest waves of political self-immolations in recent history.

But the stunning protests are going largely unnoticed in the wider world – due in part to a smothering Chinese security crackdown in the region that prevents journalists from covering them… the Tibetan self-immolations have so far failed to prompt the changes the protesters demand: an end to government interference in their religion and a return of the exiled Dalai Lama.


Religious Freedom Monitored Globally

Tajikistan Joins “World’s Worst Religious Freedom Violators”

Eurasian.net, March 20, 2012

Tajikistan has been added to a US government list of the world’s 16 worst abusers of religious freedom. … The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), funded by Congress, has censured Tajikistan for “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief,” naming the country one of it’s “countries of particular concern.” In a report released March 20, USCIRF says Dushanbe “suppresses and punishes all religious activity independent of state control, and imprisons individuals on unproven criminal allegations linked to religious activity or affiliation.”


Interfaith Reconciliation Efforts in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan Senior Religious Leaders’ Peacebuilding Applauded

Religions for Peace, Tokyo, Japan, 28 March 2012

A high-level multi-religious delegation from Sri Lanka met with Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba today to discuss post-war reconciliation and peacebuilding efforts in Sri Lanka. The delegation consisting of Sri Lanka’s senior-most leaders from Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian communities was led by the Sri Lanka Council of Religions for Peace (RfP Sri Lanka), one of the 90 inter-religious councils affiliated to Religions for Peace, the world’s largest coalition of religious communities dedicated to advancing common action for peace.


Love-letters for the Middle East

Iranians and Israelis Call for an End to Fear

Sahar Namazikhah, Common Ground News, 27 March 27, 2012

Washington, DC - Iranians and Israelis should mark 14 March 2012 on their calendars – it is the day that the “Israel loves Iran” campaign began to unify the voices of Israelis and Iranians through the path of peace, despite the messages of war that political leaders have conveyed. 

Since last week, inspired by Israeli graphic designer and teacher Ronny Edri’s “Israel loves Iran” campaign, Iranians as well as members of other nations have reframed the narrative of war to one of a “love bomb”. 


Muslims Broach the Tough Issues

Progressive Muslims Launch Gay-Friendly, Women-Led Mosques

Jaweed Kaleem, Huffington Post, March 29, 2012

At first, the devout Muslims who gathered in a Washington, D.C., conference center seemed like they could have come from any mosque. There were women in headscarves and bearded men who quoted the Quran.

But something was different. While mingling over hors d’oeuvres, they discussed how to change Islam’s future. A woman spoke about fighting terrorism; she had married outside the Islamic faith, which is forbidden for a Muslim woman. A Pakistani man mentioned his plans to meet friends for drinks, despite the faith’s ban on alcohol.

In a corner of the room, an imam in a long gray tunic counseled a young Muslim with a vexing spiritual conflict: being gay and Muslim. The imam, also gay and in a relationship, could easily sympathize with the youth’s difficulties…


Waking Up About Water

A Sermon for Water

Rabbi Jack Bemporad, Rev. Dr. James A. Kowalski, and Susan Barnett, Huffington Post, March 16, 2012

Authors’ note: Faiths for Safe Water is a project that seeks to unite all faiths around the singular religious symbol shared by all: Water. On March 17 at the historic Riverside Church in New York City, the faiths will gather for an informative and entertaining opportunity to learn more about this No. 1 global health crisis and what they can do about it. For more information: FaithsForSafeWater.org.

We don’t honor God when 4,500 children die every day -- but they do -- from the lack of something so simple, each of us takes it for granted: a safe glass of water…

While the last couple of years have seen an increase in awareness about the global water crisis, it’s still the No. 1 killer of children around the globe. Safe water and sanitation remains the greatest under-recognized global humanitarian crisis we face and its impact is staggering. It’s the world’s dirty secret.

Almost a billion people do not have access to safe water globally and 2.5 billion lack the dignity of basic sanitation…


Tourism for the Common Good

Holy Land Tours a New Tool in Peacebuilding

Aziz Abu Sarah and Talia Salem. Common Ground News, March 6, 2012

Jerusalem - Shira Nesher, an Israeli, stands alongside Fakhira Halloun, a Palestinian, as Nesher tells her story about life in a conflict zone to a group of American university students who are hanging onto her every word. “My family members are Holocaust survivors, and as an Israeli I grew up in an environment of fear and conflict. When I was 18, I enlisted in the Israeli Defense Forces, where I eventually became a military tour guide and an educator…”


Michigan High Schoolers Receive Interfaith Funding

Kent ISD receives $22,000 to create Student Interfaith Leadership Council

Monica Scott, mlive.com, March 20, 2012

GRAND RAPIDS - The Laura Jane Musser Fund has awarded a $22,000 grant to the Kent Intermediate School District Diversity Team to create a Student Interfaith Leadership Council to begin in April.

Kent ISD officials say high school students interested in interfaith understanding and religious philosophies now have a unique opportunity to learn about cultures and faith traditions.


Spiritual Perspectives on Animal Care

The Humane Society of the United States Announces Faith Advisory Council

Religion News Services, March 27, 2012

The Humane Society of the United States announces the formation of its Faith Advisory Council. Collectively, the impressive 13-member council includes leading scholars and representatives from a range of religious denominations, faiths and backgrounds.

“Religious leaders have led the way in confronting cruelty to animals, and they’ve always had a prominent place in our organization,” said HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle. “The Humane Society of the United States’ new Faith Advisory Council continues this legacy with a diverse and exceptional group of caring individuals who have committed to providing moral and spiritual guidance for the organization and its supporters.”


Coptic Christians in Mourning

Pope Shenouda III funeral: Egypt’s Copts mourn their ‘protector’

Hamza Hendawi & Maggie Michael, Cairo, UK Guardian, March 20, 2012

Tearful and wearing black, tens of thousands of Egyptian Coptic Christians joined a funeral mass for their patriarch, Pope Shenouda III, led by senior clerics at the main cathedral in Cairo.

St Mark's Cathedral was packed with local clerics, visiting clergymen and dignitaries as deacons chanted sombre hymns and bearded, black-clad priests and monks recited prayers and dispensed incense smoke from censers…