April 2013

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


Interfaith Activists Encouraged by New Pope
Pope Francis and Interreligious Relations
Leo D. Lefebure, Parliament of the World’s Religions Blog, March 14, 2013

Then Cardinal Bergoglio (r.) participating at an interfaith event in Argentina.On March 13, 2013, the Conclave of Cardinals of the Catholic Church elected Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina as the 266th Pope, bishop of Rome, and successor to St. Peter. For the first time in history, the newly elected pontiff chose to be called Francis, a name with significant resonance for the poor and for interreligious relations.

Francis of Assisi … has a special significance for interreligious relations because he visited Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil at Damietta in Egypt during the Fifth Crusade, seeking peace in a time of conflict …

Pope Francis has had deep experience in interreligious relations in Argentina … Regarding interreligious discussions, then-Cardinal Bergoglio wrote: “Dialogue is born from an attitude of respect for the other person, from a conviction that the other person has something good to say. It assumes that there is room in the heart for the person’s point of view, opinion, and proposal. To dialogue entails a cordial reception, not a prior condemnation. In order to dialogue it is necessary to know how to lower the defenses, open the doors of the house, and offer human warmth” (my translation)…

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Unprecedented Orthodox-Roman Catholic Engagement
Orthodox Leader at Pope Inauguration ‘a Sign of Immense Hope’
Anglican Community News Service, March 18, 2013

Bartholomew I
Photo: Wikimedia
The news that the leader of the Orthodox Church will attend the inauguration of the new pope is being described as an historic moment for Christianity.

According to a report in Asia News, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew’s decision to attend the March 19 installation mass in Rome is the first time such an event has taken place since the Great Schism of 1054.

The Rev. Alyson Barnett-Cowan, director for Unity, Faith and Order, facilitates the Anglican Communion’s global dialogues with other Christian world communions. Speaking from Rome, she said, “It is a sign of immense hope for the unity of Christians everywhere that the Ecumenical Patriarch, the leader of the Orthodox Church, will attend the inauguration of Pope Francis, the first time since the split of Eastern and Western Christians over a thousand years ago.” … 

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Time Running Out on Anti-Poverty Goals
Clerics Say Millennium Development Goals Must Be Reached
Trevor Gruny, Religious News Service, April 8, 2013

With fewer than 1,000 days left to meet the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, religious leaders from the G-8 countries are pushing heads of government to renew their efforts to meet the anti-poverty benchmarks by 2015.

The MDGs are eight development targets that were established following the Millennium Summit of the United Nations in 2000 and include targets on reducing extreme poverty, improving child mortality and combating HIV/AIDS.

In an April 5 letter to the Financial Times, the 80 religious leaders said “meeting the targets is possible but only if governments do not waver from the moral and political commitments made over a decade ago.” …

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KAICIID Announces Major Interfaith Program in Africa
Launch of Multi-Religious Collaboration for the Survival and Wellbeing of Children in Uganda
KAICCID Press Release, March 15, 2013

At the announcement of KAICIID’s new program.Representing the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID), in strategic partnership with Religions for Peace (RfP), and in close cooperation with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), KAICIID Secretary-General Faisal Bin Abdulrahman Bin Muaammar announced the launch of an innovative programme to promote dialogue among religious leaders, strengthening multi-religious collaboration: Multi-religious Collaboration for the Survival and Wellbeing of Children (MCC Programme) in Uganda.

KAICIID developed this initiative as part of the promotion of dialogue among religious leaders. Africa, specifically Uganda, was selected as the location to pioneer this initiative, working across religious and cultural boundaries and including multi-lateral cooperation by governments and civil society…

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Fratricide in the Land of Cain and Able
An Ancient Sunni/Shia Rift Shaping a Modern Middle East
Global Post, A Special Report, March 2013

Graphic: WikipediaBiblical tradition holds that northern Iraq is the land of Cain and Abel.

And from this rugged patch of earth to Baghdad and from Fallujah to Ramadi and all across post-war Iraq, the biblical parable of fratricide seems to be playing out in a contemporary context: Muslim brothers killing Muslim brothers.

Spates of violence between the Sunni and Shia have been rising steadily in Iraq in recent months. On the 10th anniversary of the US-led war in Iraq, it seems the Shia-led government is facing increasing resistance from a restive Sunni population. There are reports of bombings and demonstrations and counter-crackdowns by Shia authorities. The Sunni minority is increasingly intent on making it clear that they have suffered a decade of discrimination, and that they are simply not going to take it anymore.

The sectarian tensions in Iraq take on a regional context with neighboring Iran backing the Shia government, and neighboring Saudi Arabia taking the side of the Sunni.

This flare-up of Sunni-Shia tensions that emanates from Iraq is rippling out in waves across the Middle East…

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Proactive Muslim Interfaith Activists in Morocco
Out of the Spotlight, Moroccan Islamic Party Promotes Interfaith Dialogue
Hind Al-Subai Al-Idrisi, Common Ground News Service, March 12, 2013

Morocco’s Hassan II MosqueLike other countries in the Middle East, Morocco witnessed a popular movement that fell short of a revolution. But citizen demand for government reform did lead to a number of changes. These changes included a referendum over a new constitution, limiting the Moroccan monarch’s authority, as well as elections, which led to a victory for the Justice and Development Party, an Islamic political party.

While many people feared an Islamic political party might not respect the faiths of non-Muslim nationals, Morocco is showing its commitment to promote coexistence between Moroccans of different faiths under the Justice and Development Party.

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A Deeper Dialogue at Passover
A Very Different Interfaith Seder
Paul Scham, The Daily Beast, April 1, 2013

Last week, I joined about 40 other Jews, Muslims, and Christians at a third Passover Seder. Now, I realize some Jews (especially Israelis) would consider that a cruel and unusual punishment, but I assure you it wasn’t; in fact, I subject myself to it every year.

Traditional foods for Passover SederEven more unusual than the company was the venue – a mosque. In fact, the Seder took place at one of the largest and most influential mosques in the country, the ADAMS Center (an acronym for the All Dulles Area Muslim Society), in Northern VA, not far from D.C. The participants came from a variety of backgrounds: secular and religious Muslims, Jews affiliated with various groups, some Christian pastors and laypeople. The theme was peace and two states, but by no means did we see eye to eye on everything. 

This was the tenth time this Seder has been held, and the fifth at ADAMS. I’ve been involved since the beginning, because the main organizer, Andrea Barron, is an old friend of mine, whom I met in Israeli-Palestinian peace work in the early days of the First Intifada. But this isn’t your usual anodyne interfaith Seder, where all is prescribed by ritual and controversial topics are avoided. Far from it.

Andrea (and her collaborators) designed the Seder to maximize discussion of what unites us — and what divides us. She introduced discussions of modern plagues, such as religious extremism, terrorism, and ecological factors…

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The Good & Bad News about Interfaith Marriage
Interfaith Marriage: Across the Aisles
The Economist, April 10, 2013

In the crowded annals of marital spite, a 2010 divorce in Illinois — involving a Roman Catholic man and a Jewish woman and lavishly covered by the local press — stands out for the irreconcilable nature of its core dispute. The husband converted to Judaism and promised to raise any children as Jewish, but later changed his mind, saying that his unbaptised daughter risked not going to heaven. He had his daughter baptized and e-mailed his wife a photograph of the event — an action that earned him a court order and threats of prison should he take his child to church again. (Joint religious rights were granted in the divorce settlement.)

Yet American rates of inter-faith and inter-denominational marriage are rising, to the point where 45% of marriages in the past decade have involved either two religions or Christian doctrines that clash seriously (that rate includes unions spanning the evangelical and mainstream Protestant traditions — when all Protestants are lumped together, the mixed-marriage rate is 36%). Many are models of tolerance and creativity…

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A Mystic Path for Us All
Labyrinths: A Sure Path to Amazement
Pat McCaughan and Sharon Sheridan, Episcopal News Service, March 20, 2013 

David Joyal and his son, Aidan, stamp patterns on the path of a labyrinth as part of an intergenerational project. Photo: Sharon SheridanThe Rev. Robert Wyatt has “never met a labyrinth he hasn’t walked,” and each “metaphorical journey” brings deeper, sometimes surprising, revelations.

“When I first walked it, it occurred to me that it never helped to look more than one step [ahead],” recalled Wyatt, rector of St. Helena’s Episcopal Church in Burr Ridge, Illinois, which boasts a 30- by 30-foot square labyrinth.

He had another realization: Two people on the path at the same time can offer an important point of reference. And a third: “If you just stay on the path you’ll always get to the center. It’s not a maze, it’s a path to the center and back out to the world.”

Labyrinths may be located indoors or outside and vary in size and shape…

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