Interfaith News Roundup - October 2012

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

National Council of Elders Challenges People of Faith & Practice

The Greensboro Declaration Signed

September 12, 2012

National Council of Elders in session.

We are the National Council of Elders. We are veterans of the Civil Rights, Women’s, Peace, Environmental, LGBTQ, Immigrant Justice, Labor Rights and other movements of the last 60 years. We have come together in Greensboro, the birthplace of the Sit-in Movement in 1960, to birth a movementthat can share the torch of freedom, justice, peace, and non-violent action with those who have risen anew in the 21st century.

We are moved by a shared sense of national and global crisis and the resultant suffering being inflicted on millions of people in our nation and around the world. As this declaration will attest, our country is gripped by an interlocking, multi-layered economic, educational, social, political and moral crisis. This is part of a worldwide crisis that reflects the end of the industrial era…

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President Obama Addresses Free Speech and Religion

Obama at the U.N.: A New Religion Doctrine

Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service, September 25, 2012

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Tuesday (Sept. 25) gave a forceful speech at the United Nations, in which he challenged much of the world’s assumptions about free speech and religion.

Here are five points from his address, which together, add up to as close to an Obama Doctrine on Religion as we’ve seen:

  1. Blasphemy must be tolerated, however intolerable
  3. The idea that the U.S. protects even vile speech, so ingrained in American culture, seems counterintuitive to much of the world. It’s an especially tough concept when speech targets a religion, but Obama argued that restrictions on speech too often become weapons to suppress religion — especially the rights of religious minorities. “Given the power of faith in our lives, and the passions that religious differences can inflame, the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech,” Obama said …

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Millennium Development Goals Renewal Sought

New UN Conversation on Post-2015 MDGs

Roger Eaton, United Religions Initiative, October 7, 2012

Monica Willard speaking at the U.N.

Monica Willard of the United Religions Initiative U.N. Cooperation Circle reports that faith based organizations (FBOs in UN Speak) are being brought in to advise on a post-2015 reworking of the MDGs. We are looking now for a possible funding level of post-2015 MDGs at 10% of the level of military expenditures. Given the sky-high levels of military funding, 10% would be a huge amount of money towards the goals. 

Monica also reports that the Millennium Declaration from 2000 is being brought forth front and center as a basis for the new discussion and that is a thrilling development, since “without the values, human rights and peace, there can’t be successful, sustainable development.” Here is the list of values from the Declaration: Freedom, Equality, Solidarity, Tolerance, Respect for Nature, and Shared Responsibility. Each has a short paragraph description ...

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Native peoples are concerned about the effects of abandoned uranium mines on or near their lands. These types of problems in terms of disrespect toward Native American land are the main issues about which Native American leaders have approached the White House of late.

U.S. Tribal Leaders Raise Concerns with Feds

Native American Leaders Share Concerns about Sacred Sites

Scott Theisen, AP, August 13, 2012

The Obama administration on Monday began reaching out to Native American political and spiritual leaders to address concerns over the protection of sacred sites on federal land.

Tribal leaders said they’re frustrated. Some feel consultation between the federal government and tribes has become just a formality despite promises by the administration to improve discussions.

About four dozen tribal leaders from New Mexico, Arizona and elsewhere packed a meeting room in Albuquerque for the first of a few listening sessions planned by the U.S. Interior Department …

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Religious Freedoms Increasingly Threatened

Restrictions on Religion Rise in United States

Greg Johnson,, September 22, 2012

To the surprise of few who follow religion closely but to the chagrin of many even casual observers, researchers at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life documented a disturbing rise in restrictions on religion in the United States between mid-2009 and mid-2010. The U.S. was one of only 16 countries to record a rise in both government restrictions and social hostility toward religion. This was the first time in the course of Pew’s research the U.S. saw a rise in both measures.

Unsurprisingly, Islamic governments and governments in heavily Muslim nations imposed the most restrictions on religion. Egypt, Indonesia, Maldives, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan were the five most restrictive nations in the Pew survey. Iran (6th) and China (10th) also severely impeded citizens from freely exercising faith …

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Nancy Davis, a cancer survivor, speaks to a room filled with women on how to handle unexpected challenges in life. Photo: Kathe Espinili

Mormons Sponsor Women’s Interfaith Gathering

Interfaith Conference Draws 500 Women to Irvine

Stephanie Weldy, Orange County Register, September 18, 2012

Women representing more than 25 faiths congregated Saturday morning at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints campus for the inaugural Irvine Women’s Interfaith Conference.

The conference – which intended to create a sense of unity among local women of different backgrounds and religions – was open to women ages 18 and older in Irvine and bordering areas.

Presenters spoke to nearly 500 people in workshop sessions that covered topics ranging from the uplifting power of community service, to penny-pinching and money saving tips, to emergency preparedness…

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European Circumcision Debate Signals Growing Religious-Secular Divide

Some Religious Leaders See a Threat as Europe Grows More Secular

Jack Ewing, New York Times, September 18, 2012

Four Germans have filed criminal complaints against Rabbi David Goldberg, above, over ritual circumcision. Photo: Gordon Welters

This sleepy town not far from the Czech border, in a hilly corner of Catholic Bavaria, is an unlikely place to find an active synagogue, and an even unlikelier focal point for a controversy that some see as a threat to religious tolerance in Europe and even the place of Jews in Germany.

Rabbi David Goldberg, a jovial 64-year-old Israeli who serves a community of about 400 Jews in Hof, has become an international cause célèbre after four German citizens filed criminal complaints against him with the local prosecutor. His alleged crime, which made headlines in Israel and elsewhere, was performing ritual circumcisions.

The dispute reflects the ever deeper secularization of European life that, in the eyes of some religious leaders, has mutated into a form of intolerance ... 

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Jewish-Muslim Solidarity in Opposing Religious Prejudice

Euro Imams, Rabbis Pledge Zero Tolerance for Hate Preachers

Tom Heneghan and Nicholas Vinocur, Reuters, September 5, 2012

Jewish and Muslim leaders meet in Paris. Photo: Reuters

 Seventy European Muslim and Jewish leaders pledged on Wednesday to show “zero tolerance” to hate preachers of any faith including their own ranks, citing what they called rising religious intolerance on the continent.

Imams, rabbis and community leaders from 18 countries agreed to jointly counter bigotry against Jews and Muslims and combat legal threats to common religious practices such as circumcision of boys and the kosher and halal ritual slaughter of animals.

The two-day meeting brought together Muslim-Jewish teams from around Europe to compare experiences in fighting religious prejudice and report on recent trends against minority faiths.

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Pope Benedict blessing young people in Lebanon. Photo: Reuters/L’Osservatore Romano

Benedict XVI Calls for Pluralistic Society

Pope Calls for Christian-Muslim Harmony in Mideast

Albion Land, AFP, September 15, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI urged Middle Eastern Christians and Muslims on Saturday to forge a harmonious, pluralistic society in which the dignity of each person is respected and the right to worship in peace is guaranteed.

Speaking to political and religious leaders on the second day of a three-day trip to Lebanon, he stressed that people must repudiate vengeance, acknowledge their own faults and offer forgiveness to each other…

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Interfaith Dialogue Comes to Myanmar

Religions for Peace Myanmar Launched to Advance Inter-Communal Harmony

Religions for Peace, September 13

Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Muslim communities in Myanmar together launched the Religions for Peace Myanmar as the country’s first full-fledged representative and action-oriented interreligious body for reconciliation, peace and development. Approximately 100 religious, diplomatic, political and civil society leaders in Myanmar and Religions for Peace international leaders joined the inauguration …

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African Religious Leaders and Conservationists Collaborating

Can Religion Save Africa’s Elephants and Rhinos?

Jason Straziuso,, September 22, 2012

Standing before a pile of charred elephant ivory as dusk covered the surrounding savannah, Christian, Muslim and Hindu religious leaders grasped hands and prayed. Let religion, they asked, help “God’s creatures” to survive.

Poachers are escalating their assault on Africa’s elephants and rhinos, and conservationists warn that the animals cannot survive Asia’s high-dollar demand for ivory tusks and rhino horn powder. Some wildlife agents, customs officials and government leaders are being paid off by what is viewed as a well-organized mafia moving animal parts from Africa to Asia, charge the conservationists.

Seeing a dire situation grow worse, the animal conservation group WWF is enlisting religious leaders to take up the cause …

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Vedanta Society Sponsors New Interfaith Song-Cycle

Premier of Vivekananda Oratorio 150

A. Jean Lesher, Parliament Blog, September 13, 2012

Composer Swami Atmaqvidyananda

Swami Atmaqvidyananda, composer and musical director, led a 20-voice choir in a performance of his “Vivekananda Oratorio 150,″ created in honor of the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, one of the founders of the Parliament of Religions in 1893. The premier was held at the Vedanta Society of Southern California headquarters in Hollywood, Monday, Sept. 3, 2012. The Oratorio lyrics repeat words from Vivekananda’s speeches and writings; it was a 90-minute performance to an interfaith audience in the Vedanta Society’s main worship area …

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Amazing Parable for Understanding ‘the Other’

Photo of Woman with Facial Hair Leads to Conversation, Understanding

Stephanie Gallman, CNN, September 27, 2012

A picture of a woman with facial hair wearing a turban posted to the social media site Reddit has garnered a firestorm of Internet reaction and has taught at least two Ohio college students lessons in graciousness, humanities and religious studies.

The picture was posted five days ago with the caption, “I’m not sure what to conclude from this.”

A 20-year old college student, who asked to remain anonymous, says one of his friends took the photo at a library at The Ohio State University.

He’s “not really sure why,” but after he and his friends shared the picture amongst themselves, he posted it to Reddit.

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