Interfaith News Roundup - January 2013

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

Bhagavad Gita Invoked in U.S. Congress Swearing-in

Tulsi Gabbard, First Hindu in Congress, Uses Bhagavad Gita at Swearing-In

Jaweed Kaleem, HuffPost Religion, January 4, 2013

The Bible and Torah have long been used at swearing-in ceremonies for members of Congress and have been joined by the Quran in more recent years, but this week marked the first time the Bhagavad Gita was used.

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu to join either chamber of Congress, used the sacred text from her faith in a ceremonial swearing-in conducted by Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio).

“I chose to take the oath of office with my personal copy of the Bhagavad-Gita because its teachings have inspired me to strive to be a servant-leader,..

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1.1 Billion Self-Identify as “No Religious Affiliation”

The ‘Nones’ Now Form the World’s Third Largest Religion

Kimberly Winston, Religions News Service, December 18, 2012

A new report on global religious identity shows that while Christians and Muslims make up the two largest groups, those with no religious affiliation — including atheists and agnostics — are now the third-largest “religious” group in the world.

The study, released Tuesday (Dec. 18) by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, found that more than eight in 10 (84 percent) of the world’s 7 billion people adheres to some form of religion. Christians make up the largest group, with 2.2 billion adherents, or 32 percent worldwide, followed by Muslims, with 1.6 billion adherents, or 23 percent worldwide.

Close behind are the “nones” — those who say they have no religious affiliation or say they do not believe in God — at 1. 1 billion, or 16 percent…

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Atheists Grow, Christians Decline in England and Wales

Christianity in Britain Losing Ground to Islam, Secularism

Trevor Grundy, Religion News Service, December 11, 2012

Canterbury Cathedral Photo: Wikipedia

Canterbury Cathedral Photo: Wikipedia

CANTERBURY, England (RNS) New figures from the 2011 Census show that the number of people who identify as Christians in England and Wales has fallen by 4 million over the last 10 years.

The data shows that numbers fell from 37.3 million in 2001 to 33 million last year.

The statistics came as the outgoing archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, claimed that English cathedral congregations are growing dramatically, challenging the claim made by secularists that the Church of England is fading in Britain.

Figures from the 2011 Census show the number of people declaring themselves to be atheists rose by more than 6 million, to 14.1 million…

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Trust in Religious Leaders at 9% Among Millennials

Religion, Faith and Spirituality for Millennials

by Christian Kurz for, January 9, 2013

This report comes from a research team studying ‘Millennials’ (those born between 1980 and 2000) at Viacom, the international entertainment conglomerate.

In exploring Millennial attitudes toward religion, faith and spirituality across the globe, we found that overall, this generation believesthat everybody should have the right to choose their own religion. But their openness and tolerance is also marked by a distrust in organized religion, as well as distinctions between faith and spirituality in some countries.

On average, only 9% of Millennials say they trust their religious leader and only 10% name “religious leader” among the top 5 inspirational people or bodies of people in their lives (compared to 19% for celebrities and 14% for sports stars). In terms of trust in religious leaders (who could be anyone from a local priest, preacher, imam or rabbi to the Pope), South Africa comes out strongest with a score of 29% trust – still a relatively small minority – followed by USA on 24% and Turkey on 17%. Trust in religious leaders is lowest in France (2%),Japan and Spain (both 3%).

Overall, we see religion still having some hold among Millennials in…

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Latino Muslim Population Growing

Latino Muslims Carving a New American Identify

Erika L. Sánchez, Al Arabiya News, December 12, 2012

Marta Khadija Photo: Al Arabiya

Marta Khadija Photo: Al Arabiya

Of Mexican heritage, Marta Khadija, president of LALMA, La Asociación Latino Musulmana de América (The Latino Muslim Association of America - LALMA), converted to Islam in 1983. She had been unhappy with her spiritual life and when she moved to the United States, her Muslim friends began sending her Islamic texts and she visited a mosque. Emotional and powerful, this experience gave her peace.

Another Latino American, writer, innovator and self-identified indigenous Muslim, Mark Gonzales, bases much of his work on the issue of identity. Gonzales, who is of Mexican and French Canadian descent and was raised Catholic, began to explore Islam after practicing Christianity in a very deep way. He says, “In that process, I realized I didn’t like the idea of a gate keeper.” At that time he was also working on restorative justice with families who were deported after 9/11. He began building relationships with people practicing Islam and converted …

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Raised on More than One Religion

‘Mixed Religion’ as Identity: Who Are These People?

Susan Katz Miller, HuffPost Religion, December 11, 2012

This week, we learned of 23,000 people in England and Wales classified as having “Mixed Religion.” This news comes from the United Kingdom’s Office on National Statistics, which just released new numbers on religious identity from the 2011 government census…

But as someone who was born into an interfaith family and raised my children with two religions, my eye was drawn to the new evidence of people claiming more than one religion in their lives. Who are these “Mixed Religion” folks? How many of them are born Christians or Jews who find Paganism or Buddhism equally compelling? How many of them are in long-term relationships and find themselves practicing their spouse or partner’s religion as well as their own? And how many of them are adults raised with more than one religion in interfaith families? …

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What Does Religious Education Mean Today?

Educating Religious Leaders for a Multi-Religious World

Anantanand Rambachan, CPWR Trustee, December 20, 2012

Multi-religious Leadership Education Taskforce

Multi-religious Leadership Education Taskforce

The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions was pleased to facilitate an interfaith gathering of 17 key leaders, representing 10 different faith traditions to explore the preparation and role of religious leaders in an increasingly interreligious world. The meeting was held on October 7-8, 2012 in California at the Claremont School of Theology of Claremont Lincoln University.

Little attention has been given to the nature of leadership or leadership education across religious and spiritual traditions. Still less is known about the role of multi-religious considerations in the preparation of religious leaders in most religious and spiritual communities.

This group will gather again in the spring 2013 in New York to continue its study of the nature of leadership and leadership education across religious and spiritual traditions... 

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Extreme Weather: Climate Change or an Act of God?

Poll: More than One-third of Americans See Signs of End Times in Extreme Weather

Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service, December 28, 2012



More than a third of Americans believe the severity of recent natural disasters is evidence that we are in the “end times” described in the New Testament — a period of turmoil preceding Jesus’ Second Coming and the end of the world.

“There is a significant proportion of Americans who see these phenomena through a theological lens,” said DanielCox, research director at the Public Religion Research Institute, which released a poll on religion and climate change Dec. 13 in partnership with Religion News Service.

“It’s hardly a fringe belief. It’s nearly four in 10 Americans who are embracing this,” Cox said.

The conviction is particularly strong among white evangelical Protestants (65 percent), and less common among Catholics (21 percent) and the religiously unaffiliated (15 percent). Overall, 36 percent of Americans see signs of the end times in Mother Nature’s fury…

But a majority of Americans connect recent extreme weather to climate change, according to the poll, which was conducted between Dec. 5-9, about six weeks after Hurricane Sandy wrecked havoc on the mid-Atlantic coastline…

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Vatican Seeks Interfaith Support Opposing Gay Marriage

Pope Signals Interfaith Alliance Against Gay Marriage

Philip Pullella, Reuters, December 21, 2012

Pope Benedict on Friday signaled the Vatican was ready to forge alliances with other religions against gay marriage, saying the family was threatened “to its foundations” by attempts to change its “true structure.”

The pope’s latest denunciation of gay marriage came in a Christmas address to Vatican officials in which he blended religion, philosophy, anthropology and sociology to illustrate the position of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Vatican has gone on the offensive in response to gains for gay marriage in the United States and Europe, using every possible opportunity to denounce it through papal speeches or editorials in its newspaper or on its radio station …

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Religions for Peace Delegation Meets with Syrian Opposition

Multi-religious Cooperation a Vital Key to Peace in Syria: RFP Delegation Meets with the President of the National Syrian Coalition

Religions for Peace, Cairo, Egypt, December 31, 2012

Al Khatib and William Vendley

Al Khatib and William Vendley

His Excellency Ahmed Mouaz Al Khatib, President of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, received the Religions for Peace (RFP) delegation and stated: “Today, all Syrians are in anguish and the most innocent are the most vulnerable.” He added: “Multi-religious cooperation in Syria is a central key to peace and reconciliation.” “Syria is for all Syrians,” he noted. “Syria is a garden of diversity and it is respect for—even joy over—this diversity that defines Syria. Each religious community is called to protect and assist themembers of all other communities. The new Syria must protect all its citizens and its legacy of religious diversity.” 

His Eminence Dr. Mustafa Ceric, the immediate past Grand Mufti of Bosnia-Herzegovina and an International Co-President of RfP, and Dr. William Vendley, Secretary General of RfP, co-led the delegation to meet President Khatib on 31 December 2012. Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi, a senior representative of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), represented the RfP—ISNA partnership in the delegation. “The partnership with ISNA has been invaluable,” noted Dr. Vendley…

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Growing Antisemitism in Hungary is Protested by Jewish, Christian Visitors

ICCJ Delegation Dismayed to See Antisemitism Live and Well in Hungary

Rabbi Ehud Bandel, International Council of Christians and Jews, December 7, 2012

Hungarian Parliament Photo: Wikipedia

Hungarian Parliament Photo: Wikipedia

A delegation of the International Council of Christians and Jews arrived in Budapest to examine the situation of antisemitism in Hungary just two days after Marton Gyöngyösi, deputy of the Hungarian right-wing Jobbik party, delivered a hate speech in the Hungarian Parliament in which he called for making lists of Hungarian Jews who pose a “risk to national security”.

The visit, which was planned long before this recent worrying development, was initiated by the ICCJ Board in order to show our solidarity and support for our Hungarian member organizations: the Hungarian Council of Christians and Jews and the Hungarian Christian-Jewish Society, and to meet with leaders of both the Jewish and Christian communities in an attempt to learn first-hand about the current situation in Hungary.

During all its meetings, it became clear to our delegation, that Antisemitic discourse is gaining more and more legitimacy and acceptance within the present Hungarian society and Hungarian politics…

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Gun Control Becoming a Religious Cause

Religious Leaders Push Congregants on Gun Control, Sensing a Watershed Moment

Laurie Goodstein, New York Times, December 19, 2012

Very. Rev. Gary Hall Photo: Episcopal News Service

Very. Rev. Gary Hall Photo: Episcopal News Service

Religious leaders across the country this week vowed to mobilize their congregants to push for gun control legislation and provide the ground support for politicians willing to take on the gun lobby, saying the time has come for action beyond praying and comforting the families of those killed.

A group of clergy members, representing mainline and evangelical Protestants, Catholics, Jews and Muslims, plans to lead off the campaign in front of the Washington National Cathedral at an event on Friday timed to mark the moment a week before when a young gunman opened fire in a school in Newtown, Conn.

The cathedral will toll its funeral bell 28 times, once for each victim, including 20 children, 6 teachers and school administrators and the mother of the killer, as well as the gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, who shot and killed himself.

“Everyone in this city seems to be in terror of the gun lobby. But I believe the gunlobby is no match for the cross lobby,” said the Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the Washington National Cathedral, in an impassioned sermon on Sunday that has become a rallying cry for gun control. People in the cathedral’s pews rose and applauded…

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