Each month TIO shares a few of the more interesting interfaith stories from recent news.
Saudis Fund Austrian Interfaith Center
U.N. Chief Says Crises Show Need For Interfaith Amity
The violent crises in Syria, Gaza and Mali show how important it is for different religions to work together to promote understanding rather than sow hatred, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said on Monday. Addressing the opening of a new Saudi-backed interfaith centre in Vienna, he said the Syrian conflict was “taking on troubling sectarian dimensions” and “unrest (continues) between Israelis and Palestinians.” … “I fully support your vision of religion as an enabler of respect and reconciliation,” he told about 800 religious officials and activists meeting in the Austrian capital to discuss how to promote better understanding among faiths.
Named after Saudi King Abdullah, the new centre is a welcome boost for bridge-building between faiths in an era of financial austerity but has drawn criticism because Saudi Arabia enforces a strict Islamic code and bans non-Muslim religious practice.
Related Associated Press story, “Saudi-Backed Religious Center Opens in Austria.”
Religious Interaction on the Internet
Ask Not What Religion on the Internet Can Do for You...
Paul Raushenbush, Huff Post Religion, November 27, 2012
Want to know something, anything? Want to find out what day Hanukkah starts? When Mussolini was born? How many eyes a common housefly has? Want to know if someone is gay? Why Sikhs wear turbans? Wondering if God exists?
Ask the Internet.
Yeah, you can ask the Internet all those things and most people have asked an even more eclectic set of questions during their time on the web. The Internet has become our anonymous (ish) oracle that we turn to with our shaman search engines named Google or Yahoo. And they will use their carefully guarded magic formula and point us toward answers – some of which will be clear (Hanukkah starts on Dec. 8; Mussolini’s birthday is July 29) and others, such as “Does God Exist” will provide a mix of responses and requires a bit more work.
The point is that most of us go to the Internet to “get” things such as knowledge, purchases, experiences or communication. But this consumer based approach leaves out an important element that is within the DNA of the Internet. The World Wide Web is meant to be a place of take and give. A place where we don’t just passively receive what is there but are active participants in creating the answers we ourselves are seeking…
Philippines-Based Disaster Relief Helps in New York
Philippines-Based Megachurch Rallies in Times Square for Superstorm Sandy Relief
Religion News Service, November 21, 2012
In the devastating wake of Hurricane Sandy, the Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ) hosted an International Aid for Humanity event in New York City on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012.
The Philippines-based church’s charitable arm, the Felix Y. Manalo Foundation, made a total donation of $150,000 to the New York City Police Foundation, the FDNY Foundation, Bellevue Hospital Center and Coney Island Hospital – all of which were adversely affected by the huge storm.
The event was attended by noted local and international dignitaries and an estimated 3,000 volunteers from the Church. The volunteers also handed out “goodwill bags” containing survival essentials to the homeless and others in need…
New Report Details Global Prejudice Against Atheists
Atheists Around World Suffer Persecution, Discrimination – Report
by Robert Evans, Reuters, December 10, 2012
The study, from the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), showed that “unbelievers” in Islamic countries face the most severe - sometimes brutal - treatment at the hands of the state and adherents of the official religion.
But it also points to policies in some European countries and the United States which favour the religious and their organisations and treat atheists and humanists as outsiders.
The report, “Freedom of Thought 2012”, said “there are laws that deny atheists’ right to exist, curtail their freedom of belief and expression, revoke their right to citizenship, restrict their right to marry.” …
The Need to End Religious Intolerance
Our History of Religious Intolerance Must Come to an End
By Rev. Gary Hall, Ambassador Thomas Pickering, and Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf
Huff Post Religion, November 30, 2012
Although religious freedom is enshrined in the Bill of Rights, religious intolerance still exists in this country. Thanksgiving reminds us that the Pilgrims came to America to escape religious persecution. But the Puritans did not welcome other religions into their colony. All through American history, most religions arriving on our shores have had to fight suspicion and intolerance.
Look at Catholic and Jewish Americans. They faced widespread discrimination and demands that the doors to America be closed to them. Even so, some anti-Semitism and anti-Catholic sentiment persists, but both communities are thriving today. Now it’s Muslim Americans who grapple with persistent challenges to their loyalty as Americans.
Since 9/11, bias toward American Muslims has been fueled by fear of terrorism and ignorance about Islam as a religion and tradition. Well-funded individuals and groups fan this intolerance by spreading distortions and sowing distrust. They aim to exclude Muslims from American civic life.
Lost in all of this are the contributions Muslims have made, from our intellectual life to military service and – more importantly – the loyalty and support that America’s 7 million Muslims have shown since 9/11 to help build and defend the United States.
Whiplash Over Episcopal Church’s Friendship with Muslims
Pasadena Church Gets Threats Over Muslim Convention
KTLA.com News, December 6, 2012
An Episcopal church in Pasadena has been getting hate mail over its decision to host the annual convention of a Muslim American civil rights group.
All Saints Church in Pasadena will host the Muslim Public Affairs Council’s 12th annual convention on Dec. 15, which is expected to draw about 1,000 people.
A united front of various religious leaders held a news conference at All Saints on Tuesday as a show of solidarity. The famously-liberal church is used to criticism, but church officials say they’re taken aback by the messages they’ve received about the convention.
One of the threats compared Muslims to Nazis and called them “Body Snatchers,” according to Rev. Susan Russell, senior associate for communications at All Saints.…
See Rev. Susan Russell’s reflection on an “Interfaith Advent” in this issue of TIO.
Creating Peace after War in a Galilean Village
A Tree Grows in Mghar
by Nomi Teutsch, ICCI (Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel), December 4, 2012
In 2005, the village of Mghar in the north of Israel was overtaken with violent conflict between the Christian and Druze populations. Last week, I got to witness just how far this Galilee town has come since then, as I took part in a large-scale and inspiring inter-religious celebration there.
Over 40 religious leaders of the Christian, Druze, Muslim and Jewish faiths came together at the Mghar High School in a joint initiative by ICCI and the Division of Religious Affairs within The Ministry of the Interior. The leaders modeled for students that having a strong religious identity need not prevent them from forming respectful connections with those who are different.
The day got off to a good start with socializing among the diverse clergy members, and a parade in which students welcomed the religious leaders with drums and flags…
Pakistani Prime Minister Reaches Out to Sikhs
Raja draws parallels between Sikhism, Islam
The Nation, December 3, 2012
LAHORE - Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on Sunday drew parallels between Sikhism and Islam,stating that both Muslims and Sikhs shared identical values and cultural heritage.
“The most common value is “Tawheed” - the Oneness of God, and “we have to promote and strengthen these relations,” he observed while addressing an international seminar and cultural programme ‘Aj Sikh Qaum Kitthey Kharri Hai?’ organised by Dyal Singh Research and Cultural Forum(DSRCF) in connection with the 544th birthday celebrations of Baba Guru Nanak, here at a local hotel.
The Prime Minister said that the Sikh and Muslim communities of the Sub-continent had identical values and cultural heritage and could come closer together on the basis of these commonalities.
Muslims & Evangelicals in UK Agree on Interfaith Wedding Guidelines
How Christians and Muslims Can Marry – the Official Guide
by Jerome Taylor, The Independent, November 25, 2012
Christian pastors and Muslim imams have come together to draw up guidelines detailing advice on how to deal with inter-faith marriages.
Although marrying between faiths is entirely legal in Britain, couples often face resistance and hostility, both from family members and religious leaders. Occasionally both Muslims and Christians feel pressure to convert to another’s faith in order to avoid fallouts and ostracism.
The new guidelines by the Christian-Muslim forum reinforce the need for religious leaders to accept inter-faith marriages and warn that no one should ever feel forced to convert. The publication of the document, which will receive a high-profile launch at Westminster Abbey today, is significant because those supporting it include imams from the more orthodox Islamic schools of thought and evangelical Christians…
Feeding the Hungry and Their Pets
Humane Society of the United States Announces the Fill the Bowl Project for Faith Communities
Religion News Service, November 15, 2012
The Humane Society of the United States has initiated its Fill the Bowl Project, a new way for congregations to help pets and their families by adding pet food and supplies to holiday collection drives.
“During the holidays, churches collect food, clothing and toys for families in need,” said Christine Gutleben, senior director of The HSUS faith outreach program. “Millions of these families have pets, and including pet food in donation drives is another significant way we can bring relief and joy to others during the Christmas season. Fill the Bowl provides a wonderful way for churches to help keep families and pets together.” …
National Muslim Leader Joins Humane Society Council
President of Islamic Society of North America Joins the Humane Society of the United States’ Faith Advisory Council
Religious News Service, November 16, 2012
The Humane Society of the United States is pleased to announce that Imam Muhammad Hagmagid Ali, president of the Islamic Society of North America, the nation’s largest Muslim organization, has joined The HSUS Faith Advisory Council.
Imam Magid is the 14th member of The HSUS Faith Advisory Council, which formed earlier this year.
“Imam Magid’s participation on The Humane Society of the United States’ Faith Advisory Council highlights a history of Muslim compassion for animals,” said Christine Gutleben, senior director of The HSUS faith outreach program. “We look forward to working with Imam Magid to engage other Muslim leaders and communities in the work of protecting animals.” …