Interfaith News Roundup - October 2013

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

The Collapse of Syrian Religious Pluralism

Five Faith Facts on Religion in Syria

Jay Loschky, Washington Post, September 25, 2013

Syria has been embroiled in civil conflict for more than two years, with little end in sight. And, by some observations, religious intolerance and inflexible identities are a major reason why. The plethora of religious groups and actors in Syria and their ever-shifting relationships make the country a confusing place even for the most seasoned of regional experts.

As we analyze this complex situation, it’s important to ask: What are the most important religious dynamics shaping the Syrian conflict? What are the core interests of Syria’s religious groupings? And how easily can the country’s jumbled politico-religious landscape be demystified? Here are five keys to understanding the role of religion in the Syrian conflict.

1. Prior to the conflict, Syria was a regional beacon of religious tolerance.

Though it may be difficult to see now, Syria has historically been a successful example of co-existence in the Middle East…

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Hindu-Muslim Riots near New Delhi

31 Killed in Indian Religious Violence

Shivam Vij, Christian Science Monitor, September 9, 2013

A military curfew was called following the communal violence in Muzaffarnagar. Photo: Rajeesh Kumar Singh/AP

A military curfew was called following the communal violence in Muzaffarnagar. Photo: Rajeesh Kumar Singh/AP

Hindu-Muslim violence 80 miles from Delhi in Muzaffarnagar in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, has left 31 dead and 40 more in the hospital raising fears of a return to widespread communal violence. 

The riot is one of the biggest cases of Hindu-Muslim violence in India this year. India’s home minister said today that the country had seen 451 incidents of violence between religious groups so far this year, as compared with 410 incidents in all of 2012.

The increasing violence is reminiscent of the bloody riots in Gujarat state in 2002 that left more than 1,000 people dead, according to official estimates. Such large-scale Hindu-Muslim violence seemed to have ebbed since then – until this year…

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Violence Against Christians in Pakistan

Pakistan Christians Issue Call for Protection

Declan Walsh, New York Times, September 23, 2013

Christian worshipers in Peshawar attended a special Mass on Monday at All Saints Church. Some of them were there on Sunday when a bombing left 85 dead. – Photo: Muhammed Muheisen/Associated Press

Christian worshipers in Peshawar attended a special Mass on Monday at All Saints Church. Some of them were there on Sunday when a bombing left 85 dead. – Photo: Muhammed Muheisen/Associated Press

With its Muslim-style minarets topped by a large black cross, the All Saints Church in Peshawar has for more than a century offered a daring architectural expression of Muslim-Christian harmony and cohabitation.

This is how the Taliban destroyed it: two suicide bombers rushed the church doors as worshipers streamed out on Sunday. One attacker exploded his vest inside, the other just outside.

The death toll had risen to 85 by Monday evening, when Christians across the country protested the worst atrocity their community has suffered in Pakistan’s history…

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Muslims Protect Worshiping Christians in Lahore

Human Chain Formed to Protect Christians during Lahore Mass

Aroosa Shaukat, The Express Tribune, October 6, 2013

Lahore – The Muslim and Christian communities came together during Sunday mass in a show of solidarity in Lahore.

Hand in hand as many as 200-300 people formed a human chain outside St. Anthony’s Church adjacent to the District Police Lines at the Empress Road, in a show of solidarity with the victims of the Peshawar church attack two weeks back, which resulted in over a 100 deaths. The twin suicide attack on All Saints church occurred after Sunday mass ended and is believed to be the country’s deadliest attack on Christians.

Standing in the small courtyard of St. Anthony’s Church, as Mufti Mohammad Farooq delivered a sermon quoting a few verses of the Holy Quran that preached tolerance and respect for other beliefs, Father Nasir Gulfam stepped right next to him after having conducted a two hour long Sunday service inside the church. The two men stood should to shoulder, hand in hand as part of the human chain that was formed outside the church not just as a show of solidarity but also to send out a message, ‘One Nation, One Blood.’ …

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Responding to Religiously Motivated Street Violence

Our Resolve in the Face of Terror and Hate

Satpal Singh, Huffington Post, September 24, 2013

Dr. Prabhjot Singh – Photo: Vimeo

Dr. Prabhjot Singh – Photo: Vimeo

A Sikh Professor at Columbia University in New York City, Dr. Prabhjot Singh, was attacked Saturday evening during a walk near his house. The attackers called him ‘Osama’ and ‘terrorist’ while attacking him.

Dr. Singh has dedicated his life to improving the life and health of underprivileged communities at the local and the global level. His high impact work has helped thousands across rural sub-Saharan Africa and has been published in world-renowned journals such as the Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine. This is a man whose mission in life is as far removed from that of terrorists as possible, yet he became a target of those who are angered at the acts of terrorists.

While acts of terrorists inflict loss of life and limb, these are their means to anultimate goal that goes beyond such mayhem. Beyond the death of innocents, their ‘victory’ lies in shaking the foundation of a free society…

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Women Welcomed as Priests in Hindu Temple

India Widows Appointed Hindu Temple Priests

Habib Beary, BBC News India, October 7, 2013

Lakshmi (left) and Indira were trained in scriptures for four months.

Lakshmi (left) and Indira were trained in scriptures for four months.

Bangalore – Two widows have been ordained as priests in a centuries-old Hindu temple in the southern Indian city of Mangalore in Karnataka state. Lakshmi and Indira formally began performing rituals at the Kudroli Shree Gokarnanatheshwara Temple on Sunday.

Hundreds watched the ceremony and musicians played as the widows entered the temple in a grand procession.

The move is considered revolutionary in a society where widows are seen as inauspicious and normally shunned.

“It is a historic moment. We will get more widows tobecome priests,” said Janardhana Poojary, former federal minister and the man behind the reform…

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Jefferson Defended Muslim Human Rights

Our Founding Fathers Included Islam

Denise Spellberg, Salon, October 5, 2013

Thomas Jefferson didn't just own a Quran – he engaged with Islam and fought to ensure the rights of Muslims

[He] sais “neither Pagan nor Mahamedan [Muslim] nor Jew ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the Commonwealth because of his religion.” Thomas Jefferson, quoting John Locke, 1776.
- Excerpted from Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an

At a time when most Americans were uninformed, misinformed, or simply afraid of Islam, Thomas Jefferson imagined Muslims as future citizens of his new nation. His engagement with the faith began with the purchase of a Qur’an eleven years before he wrote the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson’s Qur’an survives still in the Library of Congress, serving as a symbol of his and early America’s complex relationship with Islam and its adherents. That relationship remains of signal importance to this day.

That he owned a Qur’an reveals Jefferson’s interest in the Islamic religion, but it does not explain his support for the rights of Muslims. Jefferson first read about Muslim “civil rights” in the work of one of his intellectual heroes: the seventeenth-century English philosopher John Locke. Locke had advocated the toleration of Muslims—and Jews—following in the footsteps of a few others in Europe …

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When a Baptist Minister and a Hindu Monk Fall in Love

An Unexpected Interfaith Marriage

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughn, The Herald Sun, October 9, 2013

Introducing Saffron Cross: The Unlikely Story of How a Christian Minister Married a Hindu Monk (Fresh Air Books) by J. Dana Trent

CHAPEL HILL - J. Dana Trent and Fred Eaker spent their honeymoon in India, but the sights they saw were unique to the interfaith couple. Trent, an ordained Baptist minister, and Eaker, a Hindu who spent five years as a monk, honeymooned at an ashram outside New Delhi. An ashram, Trent explains in her memoir, is a Hindu temple, monastery and residential community that usually accommodates pilgrims, including them. Their India honeymoon is described in detail in the first chapter of “Saffron Cross: The Unlikely Story of How a Christian Minister Married a Hindu Monk,” including the lack of, shall we say, expected romance…

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Breaking Bread for Interfaith Friendship

Foodtrucks Encourage Interfaith Unity

Leigh Jacobson, Daily Trojan, September 30, 2013

It’s not easy to bring together two religions — especially Judaism and Islam. At USC, however, all it takes is a little communication and some good (kosher) food.

Starting this Wednesday, an interfaith initiative co-sponsored by Chabad USC and the Muslim Student Union is bringing two kosher food trucks to campus multiple times a week…

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