March 2013 - From Toddlers to Millennials - Reimagining Interfaith Community

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

Dalai Lama, Religious Leaders Celebrate Vivekananda’s 150th Birthday

“On World Religion: Diversity not Dissension” Online, March 9, 2013

The fourth session of “On World Religion: Diversity not Dissention” is available online: His Holiness the Dalai Lama in conversation with Dr. Karan Singh, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, and Rev. Mpho Tutu, moderated by Mrs. Anindita Balslev during the program, in celebration of the 150th Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) in New Delhi on 9 March, 2013.

Francis of Assisi Was a Christian-Muslim Peacemaker

Pope Francis and the Future of Catholic-Muslim Relations

Daniel Tutt, Huffington Post, March 15, 2013

St. Francis of Assisi by Jacques Le Goff Graphic: Wikipedia

St. Francis of Assisi by Jacques Le Goff Graphic: Wikipedia

When I first heard that Jorge Mario Bergoglio chose the name Pope Francis after Saint Francis of Assisi, it made me hopeful for the future of Catholic-Muslim relations. A lot is made of St. Francis' legacy of weaving spirituality with universal compassion for all animals, for the environment, and of course with his solidarity with the poor. But very few know of what bold steps St. Francis took to ending the fifth crusade, an act that took him into the palace of the Sultan of Egypt…

Much has already been said in the media since the pope's inauguration and much will be said about St. Francis. The Vatican stressed the pope's own life of austerity and simplicity, as well as his love for the poor as values that are akin to St. Francis' own life and message. While it is true that St. Francis was a great advocate for the poor, the truth is that we find in St. Francis' life something of an everyman Saint, but if we read into St. Francis' life and work, we find a surprising series of connections that speak to us today more resolutely than ever. 

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Fundamental Shift in Roman Catholic Interreligious Perspective

Scoring Pope Benedict XVI on Interreligious Relations

Leo D. Lefebure, Board Trustee, Council for a Parliament of the World Religions

Pope Benedict XVI Photo: Wikipedia

Pope Benedict XVI Photo: Wikipedia

On Monday, February 11, 2013, Pope Benedict surprised many people throughout the world by announcing that he would resign from the papacy, effective 8:00 PM (Roman time) on February 28, 2013. While Benedict’s decision astounded many, he himself had already publicly stated that if a pope were no longer able to carry out the responsibilities of the office, he had the option, and possibly the obligation, to resign…

In the transition from this pontificate to the next, there will be substantial continuity regarding interreligious relations. Pope Paul VI (pope from 1963 to 1978) and the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) established the fundamental relationship of the Catholic Church to other religious traditions today, which any future pope will continue.

Reversing centuries of frequent interreligious conflicts and misunderstanding, the leaders of the Catholic Church publicly expressed their respect for other religious traditions and their desire to cooperate for the sake of shared values. Both Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI repeatedly reaffirmed this policy, as future popes will also be expected to do.

Nonetheless, Benedict has had a reputation for stirring up controversy in interreligious relations.

Faith Redefined Geographically

The Influence of Latin America, Africa and Asia on Religion

Bill McKenzie, Dallas News, March 6, 2013

The Global South Graphic: en.wikipedia

The Global South Graphic: en.wikipedia

Texas Faith panelists are discussing today the influence that the Global South, which means Africa and Latin America, are having on religion in general. Asia is part of this discussion, too, because of the spread of religion across South Korea and other nations … the influence these regions have on religion, including the doctrines that get espoused, is really significant. And not only within Christianity. Asia and the Global South also influence Islam, to name one other example.

A big part of the influence stems from the way holy texts get interpreted. Within Christianity at least, believers in Asia, Africa and Latin America tend to be more traditional and orthodox in their reading of Scripture. That has an effect beyond the pew, too. The way they read Scripture influences larger public discussions.

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How We Understand God Figures Directly in How We Treat Our Planet

Concepts of God Are Evolving to Meet Earth Crisis, Assert Theologians

World Council of Churches, March 3, 2013

How we understand God figures directly in how we treat our planet and its inhabitants, asserts a group of theologians in the newest issue of The Ecumenical Review.

Entitled Ecumenical and Ecological Reflections on the God of Life, the issue is guest-edited by Ernst M. Conradie, senior professor in the Department of Religion and Theology at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa, where he teaches systematic theology and ethics.

“Our constructions of God often reflect and legitimize destructive power relations in society. At the same time our resistance to forces of death may be fueled by our confession of God as the origin and mystery of life,” explained Conradie. “Much is at stake in our notions of God, and the contributions gathered here capture some of the most exciting reflections in this area.” …

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United States Authorities Rapped for Ignoring Religious Abuse

U.N. Faults U.S. for Failure to Prosecute Abusive Clerics

Caleb K. Bell, Religion News Service, February 20, 2013

The U.S. is failing to pursue and prosecute clergy guilty of child sexual abuse, according to a recent United Nations committee report.

The U.N.’s Committee on the Rights of the Child, in a little-noticed Jan. 25 report, urged the U.S. to “take all necessary measures to investigate all cases of sexual abuse of children whether single or on a massive and long-term scale, committed by clerics.”

David Clohessy, the director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, described national efforts to deal with child-molesting clergy as “woefully inadequate.”

“There has been and continues to be too cozy a relationship between religious and governmental figures,” Clohessy said…

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Religious Violence Plagues Pakistan

Pakistan Mob Torches Christian Man's Home for Alleged Blasphemy

Zaheer Babar and Rebecca Santana, HuffPost Religion, March 9, 2013

PakistanGraphic: en.Wikipedia

PakistanGraphic: en.Wikipedia

LAHORE, Pakistan — Hundreds of people in eastern Pakistan rampaged through a Christian neighborhood Saturday, torching dozens of homes after hearing reports that a Christian man had committed blasphemy against Islam’s prophet.

Blasphemy is a serious crime in Pakistan that can carry the death penalty but sometimes outraged residents exact their own retribution for perceived insults of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. Pakistan is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim and people of other faiths, including the nation's small Christian community, are often viewed with suspicion.

The incident started Friday when a young Muslim man accused a Christian man of committing blasphemy by making offensive comments about the prophet, according to Multan Khan, a senior police officer in Lahore… But Akram Gill, a local bishop in the Lahore Christian community said the incident had more to do with personal enmity between two men – one Christian and one Muslim – than blasphemy… 

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Reevaluating Linguistic Judgmentalism

Scholars Seek to Reclaim a Dirty Word – Secularism

Kimberly Winter, Religion News Service, February 27, 2013

A conference at Georgetown University in Washington this week focused on cleaning up what many Americans consider a dirty word — secularism.

Jacques Berlinerblau Photo:

Jacques Berlinerblau Photo:

The goal of the conference, called “Secularism on the Edge,” was, in part, to define what secularism is and what it is not. It drew participants from France, Israel and the United States — all countries with strong secular and religious strains.

“(Secularism) is a guarantee of two things: freedom of religion and freedom from religion,” said Jacques Berlinerblau, a Georgetown professor, conference organizer, and author of “How to be Secular.”

“In a perfect world, it balances the citizen’s need of those two fundamental rights.”

Secularism is not, Berlinerblau continued, a synonym for godlessness or atheism or any other form of anti-religiousness. Secularism is interested in maintaining government’s disinterest in religion, he said…

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