December 2011

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

US Interreligious Worship Increases, but Slowly

Interfaith Worship Doubled Since 9/11, But Remains Low

Piet Levy: Religion News Service, September 7, 2011

(RNS) Interfaith worship services have doubled in the decade since the 9/11 attacks, according to a new study released Wednesday (Sept. 7), even as more than seven in 10 U.S. congregations do not associate with other faiths. …

The survey by an interfaith group of researchers found that about 14 percent of U.S. congregations surveyed in 2010 engaged in a joint religious celebration with another faith tradition, up from 6.8 percent in 2000.

… National Muslim groups tried to build bridges to other faiths, who in turn “reached out in new ways to be neighborly,” he said. Reform Jewish congregations led the way, with two-thirds participating in interfaith worship and three-quarters involved in interfaith community service. …

… The study shows most of the 11,077 congregations surveyed reported no interfaith activity, a finding that troubled the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, president of Washington-based Interfaith Alliance. …

…”The reality in our nation now is we have a major problem with Islamophobia, and that fear is being fed by people in large enough numbers that we need probably 10 times as many people involved in interfaith discussions and actions,” Gaddy said. [Read More …]

Religious Advocates Go Professional

Religious Advocacy Groups in Washington, D.C. November 21, 2011

The number of organizations engaged in religious lobbying or religion-related advocacy in Washington, D.C., has increased roughly fivefold in the past four decades, from fewer than 40 in 1970 to more than 200 today. These groups collectively employ at least 1,000 people in the greater Washington area and spend at least $390 million a year on efforts to influence national public policy. …

… The study finds that about one-in-five religious advocacy organizations in Washington have a Roman Catholic perspective (19%) and a similar proportion are evangelical Protestant in outlook (18%), while 12% are Jewish and 8% are mainline Protestant. But many smaller U.S. religious groups, including Baha’is, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, also have established advocacy organizations in the Washington area. In fact, the number of Muslim groups (17) is about the same as the number of mainline Protestant groups (16). And the largest category today is interreligious: One-quarter of the groups studied (54) either represent multiple faiths or advocate on religious issues without representing a specific religion. [Read More …]

Jewish Seminary Joins Toronto’s School of Theology

An American Journey of Clergy Beyond Borders

Charles Lewis Nov 25, 2011 – National Post (Toronto)

Rabbi Roy Tanenbaum marvels at the idea that the first mainstream Jewish seminary in Canada will be housed inside a Catholic school of theology and be part of seven Christian schools that comprise the Toronto School of Theology.

“I have never heard of a situation like this in the world in which a Jewish seminary is among Christian theological schools and seminaries,” said Rabbi Tanenbaum, president of the recently founded Canadian Yeshiva & Rabbinical School.

“The creation of this school really marks the coming of age for Canada’s Jewish community.”

[Read more ...]

Major Investment in Interfaith Studies

Center for Interfaith Studies boosted by $1M in donations

Democrat and, December 8, 2011

Nazareth College has received a total of $1 million in donations to support the school’s Center for Interfaith Studies and Dialogue and the related academic department… The center has been renamed the Brian and Jean Hickey Center for Interfaith Studies and Dialogue in honor of the Pittsford couple who donated $500,000 to the program… The International Institute of Islamic Thought, based in Herndon, Va., also donated $500,000 to fund the new IIIT chair of interfaith studies.

Muhammad Shafiq, executive director of the Center and a religious studies professor at Nazareth, has accepted the post… The IIIT donation was a challenge grant conditioned on a matching donation, which the Hickeys provided. The International Institute of Islamic Thought, a nonprofit cultural and educational organization, has provided funding to the interfaith center in the past. [Read more ...]

Faith Groups Meet In Italy To Promote Green Pilgrimages

Green Pilgrimage Network Launch in Assisi, Italy

Ecumenical News International , November 2, 2011

Assisi, Italy. Representatives from 15 faith traditions gathered at the Sacred Land Celebration in Assisi, Italy from 31 October to 2 November for the launch of the Green Pilgrimage Network, organized by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) in association with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The delegates hope to implement initiatives such as a car ban on pilgrimage routes in Nigeria, solar panels for a cathedral roof in the United Kingdom, provisions of fresh water for pilgrims in India, and the planting of thousands of trees around sacred sites in Armenia, according to a news release from ARC.

“Cities from China to Norway and faiths from all around the world today commit to making one of the most powerful religious experiences – pilgrimage -- a living witness to a commitment to protect our living planet,” said ARC secretary general Martin Palmer in the release. [Read more ...]

ALSO:Green Pilgrimage Network Handbook in PDF

Religious Leaders Challenge Governments on Climate

Faith Leaders United In Durban Climate Change Action Call, December 3, 2011

Faith leaders have called on decision-makers at the UN climate summit in Durban, South Africa, to act in the interest of humanity and reach an agreement on cutting global greenhouse gas emissions.

With negotiations on legally binding carbon emission cuts yet to make real progress and nations unable to agree on a financial package to help poor countries adapt to the effects of climate change faith leaders have demanded action.

Unveiling the Interfaith Declaration on Climate Change, peace activist Ela Gandhi quoted her grandfather, Mahatma, when she urged delegates to “be the change you want to see in the world.”

She said those in power needed to make decisions which helped conserve the planet for future generations. . . Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Durban, added that the world’s political leaders were in danger of failing humanity…

“We express our displeasure with local and international political leadership which has failed to take decisive steps to make the changes required for the survival of humanity and life on earth,” he said. . . The interfaith declaration calls on governments to act now before global warming does irreparable harm to the earth. It states: ‘We call upon our leaders, those of our faiths, and all people of Earth to accept the reality of the common danger we face, the imperative and responsibility for immediate and decisive action, and the opportunity to change.’ [Read More…]

Interfaith Gardening in Texas

Interfaith’s Veggie Village delivers first harvest

Woodlands Online, Oct 29, 2011

THE WOODLANDS, Texas -- At the first harvest for Veggie Village on Oct. 13, Beth Frantes and Heather Wasaff delivered 6 pounds of Swiss Chard to the Interfaith Food Pantry. What made this particular delivery special is that the beautiful greens were the first harvest grown in Interfaith of The Woodlands’ new community donation garden, Veggie Village. After two years of planning, volunteer and donated labor and contributions from grants, civic groups and hundreds of concerned residents, the donation garden is now coming to life in the form of nourishing fresh food for our neighbors in need.

Veggie Village is located in the Alden Bridge Sports Park on College Park Drive. The primary goal for Veggie Village is to produce fresh food, using organic and sustainable gardening practices, for the Interfaith Food Pantry. In addition, Veggie Village will provide a place where members of the community, including elderly, disabled and children can work together with this natural habitat and offer education in sustainable living, gardening, environment care, nutrition and cooking skills.

Volunteers, both individuals and groups, are still working on several important tasks and ongoing projects. These include construction of a garden shed and arbor, irrigation, accessible garden beds, educational materials, distribution procedures, gardener orientation, and fundraising. To learn more about Veggie Village, visit Interfaith’s website.

International Youth Compete for Faith Video Awards

2001 Faith Shorts 2011 Awards Ceremony

On December 6 2011, the Tony Blair Faith Foundation hosted the Annual Faith Shorts awards ceremony at BAFTA. More than 200 guests joined us including Dawn French, June Sarpong, Lord Puttnam, Omid Djalili, His Excellency the Grand Mufti of Bosnia and Tony Blair.

Tony Blair said: “These young people have made extraordinary films - this is the true face of faith. We need to be open about the other and this film competition has shown that giving young people a global voice has a real impact. Congratulations to all the winners.” Watch all of the winner’s videos on the Faith Foundation’s website. You can watch a video of the complete ceremony. Watch a video of the complete ceremony.