Thursday, December 19, 2013

A City In The Philippines Just Gave Us The Most Powerful Example Of Interfaith Cooperation

In September, Zamboanga City in the Philippines was ravaged by an armed conflict between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the local government. The battle created tension between local Christians and Muslims, but when the fighting ended, members of both religious groups joined forces to pick up the pieces, the Inquirer Mindanao reports.

Rumi's Death Anniversary 2013: Sufi Saint's 'Wedding' With God Remembered On Seb-i Arus

December 17 is the 740th anniversary of the death of the Sufi poet Rumi, whose Persian writings are considered to be a pinnacle of mystical art that transcends religious, cultural and ethnic boundaries. Also known as Mevlana, he died on December 17, 1273 in Konya, Turkey, where he is entombed below the Mevlana Museum.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Turkish Syriac Catholic patriarch launches ‘Fruits of Dialogue’

Tuğba Mezararkalı

“Diyaloğun Meyveleri” (Fruits of Dialogue), a book by Deputy Patriarch of the Turkish Syriac Catholic Church Yusuf Sağ, was launched at a reception held at Taksim Green Park Hotel in İstanbul on Tuesday night.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Students strengthen spirituality on campus

By Liliana Frankel

This week, Sharples lit a menorah and sidelined the condiments bar to make room for a Christmas tree. These religious symbols were praised as festive, and widely appreciated once people found the condiments bar again. However, such prominent displays of faith on campus are rare. Although mentions of Quaker values are as routine in school functions as the “God Bless America” at the end of the State of the Union, students have noted that more in-depth discussions of spiritual matters are generally avoided.

Too Good to Be True

Emre Celik

When was the last time you heard that?
I've heard it a few times -- here's the story.
I am now in my fifth year in Washington, D.C., having immigrated from Australia. Here I have had the pleasure and responsibility of presiding over the Rumi Forum, an organization dedicated to interfaith and intercultural understanding. As part of my position I have the good fortune to travel and talk about issues relating to pluralism, social cohesion, and peaceful coexistence.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Hanukkah 2013: Dates, Rituals, History And How-Tos For Celebrating The Festival Of Lights

Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, is celebrated for eight days beginning at sundown on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013. On the Hebrew calendar, the dates are 25 Kislev to 2 Tevet in the year 5774.

Intercultural Affairs Council Augments Campus Dialogue

By Nicole NG

Five years after its creation, the Intercultural Affairs Council has been staying true to its purpose of creating open and inclusive campus dialogue.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Getting to meet, understand the other: the path to peace

Michael Swan

Interfaith dialogue doesn’t start with an exchange of creeds or comparison of theologies. It begins with friendship.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Evangelical scholar reflects on role of faith in public life

A question and answer session with Richard Mouw, president emeritus of Fuller Theological Seminary during a recent visit to Utah Valley University.

Matthew Brown

During two decades as president of one of the world's largest theological seminaries, Richard Mouw has a long list of accomplishments. And at the top of the list is his work in interfaith relations between evangelicals and those of other faiths.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Christian's journey through Islam

Jonas Yunus*

Brussels - All over the globe, the Muslim community finds itself caught in the middle of strenuous societal debates. With Islamophobia on the rise in the West and extremism in the name of Islam growing in the East -evidenced by sectarian violence in countries like Egypt, Syria and Pakistan - the debate is often presented as a clash between Western values and Islamic fundamentalism. Few people are aware however, how much internal debate is going on within the Muslim community itself. Old ideas are challenged, new groups are forming and all sorts of evolutions take place that do not fit the crude dichotomies of "secular versus religious" or "democracy versus Islam" that politics and the media so often adhere to when discussing current events.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Post Ramadan Lesson: Two Boys Forgo a Royal Feast

Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Once upon a time a King went out to hunt on a very warm day in the Fall of 2007. After a few hours he felt very hot and tired, so he decided to stop for lunch. His servants unpacked a large picnic basket they had brought with them and set up a table.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Hospitality, Community, and Friendliness

Mollie Griminger*

Originally published in KidSpirit's God issue. In her essay for the Global Beat, Mollie reflected on whether people with different conceptions of God could live together peacefully, using her community as an example.

Armenian church on Akdamar Island hosts first baptism in 98 years

Armenians from Turkey and around the world have descended on Akdamar (Akhtamar in Armenian) Island on Lake Van for an annual Divine Liturgy on the island’s 10th-century church, which was reopened to occasional prayer in 2010 after a hiatus of close to 100 years.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sukkot 2013: The Welcoming, Glorious Jewish Feast of the Tabernacle Explained

The Jewish Feast of the Tabernacle, Sukkot, in 2013 begins at sundown on Wednesday, September 18, and ends at nightfall September 25. The Festival of Booths, as Sukkot is also known, is observed from the 15th to the 21st of the Tishrei in the Jewish year of 5774.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Reflection on the Yom Kippur Liturgy -- Repentance Through Acts of Righteousness

Ron Kromish

As we approach the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which comes at the end of ten very special days called "the days of Awe," I am mindful of how much the liturgy of our special High Holiday prayer book is not simply particularistic. It is not intended for the Jewish People alone -- it is also universalistic, with implications for all human beings, and for us, as Jews, for our relationship with all humanity, not just our own tribe. Moreover, it is also clear that the theme of justice pervades our worship, implying that our concern for fair treatment for all human beings flows directly from the prayers that we recite. In other words, our liturgy requires that we behave as a people whose destiny is inextricably woven with the destiny of all humanity and whose ideal of justice is not merely for ourselves but for everyone.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Diyarbakır church to display Armenian legacy

One of Diyarbakır’s most famous churches, the Armenian church of Surp Giragos, is set to become a city museum hosting artwork and artifacts depicting the Armenian history in the city.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Ramadhan and Fasting

Özgür Koca*

Ramadhan, the ninth month of lunar calendar, is a time of joy, generosity, compassion, and breaking bread with others.

At the heart of Islamic belief stands the reality of God, the One, who is at once transcendent and immanent, greater than all we can conceive or imagine yet closer to us than our own consciousness. From the realization that this world is a message from God, a desire flows forth to establish a link between human spirit and God. Religious practices such as fasting, supplications, prayers in its myriad forms, and charity serve precisely to this purpose of relating human spirit and its creator. As such, fasting, although in different forms, exists in almost all religious traditions. Jews practice fasting on Yom Kipur, it is an integral part of Hinduism, Buddhists monks and nuns frequently practice it, many Christian denominations practice it and so on.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Rosh Hashanah 2013: The Jewish New Year Explained

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is celebrated in 2013 from sundown on Sept. 4 to nightfall on Sept. 6. The Hebrew date for Rosh Hashanah is 1 Tishrei 5773.

Though Rosh Hashanah literally means "head of the year," the holiday actually takes place on the first two days of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, which is the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar. This is because Rosh Hashanah, one of four new years in the Jewish year, is considered the new year of people, animals and legal contracts. In the Jewish oral tradition, Rosh Hashanah marks the completion of the creation of the world.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Francis calls for prayer and fasting for peace in Syria

Thomas Cox

Imploring peace in Syria, Pope Francis Sunday called peace makers around the world to fast and gather for prayer next Saturday, Sept. 7th.

He said prayer services will be conducted in St. Peter’s Square beginning at 7 PM and lasting to midnight.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Martin Luther King Jr.'s Faith Background Key To His Drive For Justice

Lauren Markoe and Adelle M. Banks

WASHINGTON (RNS) Fifty years to the day after Martin Luther King Jr. knocked on the nation’s conscience with his dream, religious leaders gathered in a historic church to remind the nation that he was fueled by faith.

Later, in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial where King thundered about America’s unmet promises, King’s children joined the likes of President Obama and Oprah Winfrey to rekindle what Obama called a “coalition of conscience.”

Friday, August 23, 2013

Fourth Mass held at Sümela Monastery

The Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew celebrated Mass at Sümela Monastery in the Black Sea province of Trabzon on Aug. 15.

“We are thankful to our government for its sensitiveness on the freedom of faith,” said Bartholomew during the Mass, which was the fourth such Mass held in the historical Sümela Monastery.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Rumi and Emerson: A Bridge Between the West and the Muslim World

Craig Considine

The writings of Jalalud'din Rumi, the 13-century Sufi Muslim philosopher from modern-day Afghanistan, and the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the 19-century Christian transcendentalist from Boston, Massachusetts, are filled with lessons that enrich every human soul. Rumi's and Emerson's similar thoughts on religious tolerance, love and care for the soul can help bridge the ever-growing chasm between the West and the Muslim world.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Hinduism's Suggestions for a Peaceful Coexistence

Gadadhara Pandit Dasa

We all want to become free of stress and anxiety and live peaceful and happy lives. We try so hard to avoid anxieties, but somehow they find themselves into our lives. It is very natural for us to hanker for and work towards a perpetually happy existence. Rest assured, this is achievable. All it requires is a shift in consciousness.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Ramadan is ending, but fasting endures

Nadeem Badshah

Eid is finally here. Long hot days made Ramadan tougher for British Muslims this year, but fasting is growing in popularity.

No food or drink for around 18 hours, waking up at 3am each morning – and all during the hottest summer in years. This has been the challenge for British Muslims over the past four weeks of Ramadan, the month of fasting. Over the next couple of days Muslims worldwide will celebrate Eid to mark the end of this period when the body and mind has been tested to its limits.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

In redemption days hoping for better

Arzu Kaya Uranli

“If the brain and the belly are burning clean with fasting, every moment a new song comes out of the fire. The fog clears, and a new energy makes you run up the steps in front of you.”
-Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi

Pope Francis' Ramadan Greetings For Eid Al-Fitr Sets Interfaith Example

Yasmine Hafiz

Pope Francis personally reached out to Muslims around the world with Id al-Fitr greetings for the holiday that concludes the holy month of Ramadan. While the message has been traditional since 1967, usually the greetings are sent by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, except for Pope John Paul II's similarly personal good wishes in 1991.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Celebrating the Spirit of Ramadan from Turkey to America

Joshua W. Walker

Growing up the son of a protestant pastor and valuing the role that my Christian faith plays in my own life, it often comes as a surprise to my friends when I tell them that Ramadan is among one of my favorite religious holidays. While Christmas and Easter are seminal to my faith tradition and represent some of my fondest memories growing up, they are one-day celebrations that in the American modern era sometimes lack the communal feel that the holy month of Ramadan offers in the Muslim world.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

[The Outsider] A peaceful Ramadan for three

Elsie Alan

We are more than halfway through Ramadan 2013. While the world at large gets more and more out of control, our little corner of Turkey has remained peaceful and observant.

You haven't seen many quieter places than our little village is now, believe me. Even the all-summer-every-summer picnickers at the castle are low key, quietly setting up their little barbeques to heat the soup and grill the meat for iftar (fast-breaking meal). After iftar, the music being played outdoors -- sometimes from car radios, sometimes from live musicians -- is heavy on the Turkish and Kurdish folk music and light on rap music and the other THUMP, THUMP, THUMP beats so beloved by young men with very strong woofers in their automotive sound systems.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Tolerance and Dialogue in Fethullah Gülen’s Writings (3)

Yetkin Yildirim* and Madeline Maxwell**

(Cont’d from part 2)

Gülen’s Vision for the Future

Gülen’s purpose for discussing tolerance and dialogue is the achievement of a more peaceful coexistence among the diverse communities and religions of the world. It is this vision of peace that underlies his writings. Gülen believes that striving for peace in the world through tolerance and dialogue is essentially God’s work: “Muslims will lose nothing by employing dialogue, love and tolerance. Muslims continuously seek the approval of God; this is the greatest gain of all” (Gülen, 2004, p. 52). Doing God’s work is what fuels Gülen’s commitment to peace, and he maintains a hopeful and positive perspective on the future of the world:

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Gülen’s Inclusive Perspective As A Catalyst for Global Peace

The basic values that mark the twenty-first century are modernism, pluralism, individualism, and religion. Some claim that modernity embraces individual and social life as a whole, and that it has created new forms of religious, cultural, and political pluralism. There is no doubt that the world today is in need of dialogue between cultures and civilizations more than at any other time; this is of the utmost urgency.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Ramadan Wishes From A Muslim To A Catholic Will Warm Your Heart

Yasmine Hafiz

This family has shown the entire Internet the best way to celebrate the holy month of Ramadan.
A Reddit user posted this picture on July 11, 2013, captioned, "I'm Catholic, but I received this from a coworker this morning - happy Ramadan!"

Thursday, July 25, 2013

With a Single Forefather, Muslims and Jews Can Work Together

Rabbi Marc Schneier
Co-authored with Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool*

As Nelson Mandela endures a grave illness with the same courage and dignity he evinced throughout his life, including the 27 long years he was held prisoner, Minister of Public Services Malusi Gigaba said recently that in his present weakened state, Mandela "is uniting the nation without even saying a word."

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Church That Embraces All Religions and Rejects ‘Us’ vs. ‘Them’

Samuel Freedman

LYNNWOOD, Wash. — Clad in proper Pacific Northwest flannel, toting a flask of “rocket fuel” coffee typical of Starbucks’ home turf, Steven Greenebaum rolled his Prius into a middle school parking lot one Sunday morning last month. Then he set about transforming its cafeteria into a sanctuary and himself into a minister.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Prominent figures gather together at GYV iftar dinner

Distinguished spiritual leaders in Turkey, politicians, artists, diplomats, businesspeople and journalists came together for an iftar at İstanbul's Four Seasons Hotel on Thursday night for an event held by the Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV).

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Archbishop Makgoba: Turkey's religious tolerance answer to extremism

Turkey has an important message for religious fundamentalist as it is an exemplary country showing the world that people of different faiths can live with one another, Thabo Cecil Makgoba, South African Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, says.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Ramadan 2013: Facts, History, Dates, Greeting and Rules of the Muslim Fast

What are the dates of Ramadan?

Because the cycle of the lunar calendar does not match the solar calendar, the dates of Ramadan shifts by approximately 11 days each year. In 2011, Ramadan began on August 1st. In 2012 Ramadan began on July 20th. In 2013, Ramadan is expected to begin on the evening of July 8th with the first full day of fasting on July 9th.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Being Shaped by Ramadan

Fethullah Gülen

At this time when we experience occasions of much sorrow and some contentment, we sense the promise in the advent of Ramadan, the month of mercy and forgiveness. In the climate of this month of light, we feel both spring and autumn at the same time in our inner worlds, seasons of lovely expectations and longing.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Muslim Jewish Conference Meets In Sarajevo To Combat Islamophobia And Anti-Semitism

Paul Brandeis Raushenbush

Students and young professionals from around the world have gathered in Sarajevo, Bosnia to exchange experiences and fight prejudice and hatred. They represent different cultures and races and speak dozens of languages, but they share either one of two identities: they are all Muslims or Jews.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

First “Families Meeting” series concludes with a spectacular night

The first series of “Families Meeting” project, intended to bring together the members of diverse cultures, faiths and ethnicities and let them get to know each other, by Intercultural Dialogue Platform (KADIP) in cooperation with Foundation of Solidarity (DIDADER), came to an end with a final gathering at Syriac Catholic Church.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

My Town Is a Living Laboratory of Pluralism

Rabbi Joseph Meszler

In my small town of Sharon, Mass., there is a great deal of love, a good dose of hatred, and a lot of ambivalence. It is emotionally exhausting keeping up.

In the past year, our town's different synagogues, churches and prominent mosque have come together to collect food for a food pantry on Thanksgiving, stuff backpacks for poor children on MLK Day, share music in an interfaith concert and pray for victims of gun violence. We have also had a brick thrown through a church window with anti-Semitc graffiti because of the church's pro-Zionist stance, and Rev. Pat Robertson came to town to slander the Quran as "a book of hate." And then there are people who just want to be left alone and don't want to get involved.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Muslim and Jewish Leaders Unite to Combat Hatred

Rabbi Marc Schneier*

Secretary of State John Kerry performed an important public service on May 20 by personally announcing the release of the U.S. State Department's 2012 Report on Religious Freedom, which contains the disturbing findings that anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are on the rise in countries around the world. Bad news is never welcome, yet Secretary Kerry deserves praise for highlighting the dangerous growth of anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim bigotry and for making a compelling case that both Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are closely related pathologies that should be opposed by people of conscience everywhere.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

York mosque counters EDL protest with tea, biscuits and football

Ann Czernik

Demonstrators who had gathered to protest at Islamic centre accept invitation to take refreshments and open a dialogue

A York mosque dealt with a potentially volatile situation after reports that it was going to be the focus of a demonstration organised by a far-right street protest movement - by inviting those taking part in the protest in for tea and biscuits.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Oklahoma Muslims Aid In Tornado Relief In Bid To Build Bridges

Omar Sacirbey

(RNS) Oklahoma is probably one of the tougher places to be a Muslim in America, but Muslims have stepped in to help with the cleanup of a massive tornado that killed 24 people.

“As Oklahomans, we’re part of this community, and our hearts just break for what happened,” said Adam Soltani, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, one of several Muslim groups collecting donations.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Imams Visit Auschwitz, Nazi Death Camp, Pray For Holocaust Victims

Jaweed Kaleem

Muslim leaders from across the globe paid tribute Holocaust victims this week during a visit to Auschwitz, the former Nazi concentration camp, where they prayed at the Wall of Death for those who were killed by genocide and suffered under violent anti-Semitism.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Doumanis On Muslim - Christian Coexistence

Margarita Papantoniou

N. Doumanis, an academic in Australia of Greek descent, wrote the book, Before the Nation: Muslim-Christian Coexistence and its Destruction in Late-Ottoman Anatolia.

The book answers questions, such as: What kind of life did Greeks have under the Ottoman Empire? Why were so many Greek Orthodox Christians living in Asia Minor before 1912? Why did so many Greeks migrate to Asia Minor during that period?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Humanity needs a touch of magical interfaith dialogue

Arzu Kaya Uranli

I grew up in a Western, secularist, modernist educational system in Turkey. Then, when I was a young teacher fresh out of college, I was appointed by the Turkish government to teach literature in a religious school that was geared toward raising imams and religious lecturers for mosques.

Orthodox Easter Resurrection: The Gift of Liberation and Call to Compassion

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew*

While many Christians celebrated Easter over a month ago as a result of differing calendar calculations, Orthodox Easter takes place much later this year, falling on May 5. Thus, at midnight on Saturday, May 4, the night that our fourth-century predecessor on the Throne of Constantinople, St. Gregory Nazianzus, described as "brighter than any sunlit day," some 300 million Orthodox Christians will swarm churches to hear the words: "Come, receive the light!"

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Patriarch Bartholomew to lead Orthodox Easter celebration on Gökçeada

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I is going to lead the Orthodox celebrations of Easter on May 5, for the first time on the island of Gökçeada (Imbros), where the patriarch was born and raised.

“As you know, there will be a Greek school opened there in September and Patriarch Bartholomew is quite happy with it, so he will be there for the religious celebration,” said Dositheos Anagnostopulos, spokesperson for the İstanbul-based Greek Orthodox Patriarchate headed by Bartholomew, spiritual leader of about 300 million Orthodox Christians around the world.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Please Don't Blame My Friends For Boston

Matt Dulka*

As the tragedy unfolded in Boston, many prayers welled up in me but one kept surfacing. I hoped and prayed that the terrorists would not be Muslim. I'm not sure that would have been my prayer a year ago or even entered my consciousness as a concern. But as the news broke that the suspects were Muslim, my heart sank and I became worried for my Muslim friends in San Jose and others around the country that they would be become the targets by association of people's rage and distrust. Why would that be my concern now when it wasn't much of a concern before?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

3 Reasons Interfaith Efforts Matter More Than Ever

Eboo Patel

In the wake of the Boston attack and manhunt, I've been getting a lot of messages about how interfaith efforts matter more than ever, and I've sent out a volley of tweets expressing the same sentiment myself. So, does this view hold up to analysis, or is it just a surface salve for a really deep wound?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Gülen among TIME magazine's 100 most influential people

Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen has made it onto Time Magazine's list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

This is the 10th year the magazine has listed its 100 most influential people shaping the world.

This year, the magazine put seven cover portraits of “TIME 100” honorees who it said reflect the “breadth and depth of our list.” They include Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, musician and businessman Jay Z, actress Jennifer Lawrence, politician Rand Paul, inventor and entrepreneur Elon Musk, Chinese tennis player Li Na and Bollywood star Aamir Khan.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Mimouna: A Tale of Two Neighbors

Emine Meral*

I am not too familiar with other cultures, but in Turkish culture, referring back to the wisdom of our ancestors is quite popular. It’s amazing to see the countless beauty you can find if you do the research and dig a little deep.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Sacramento church will celebrate Easter at Muslim center

Bill Lindelof

A large Sacramento Christian congregation soon to be without a home will celebrate Easter at an Islamic center.

Spiritual Life Center of Sacramento, whose lease expires March 31 at a downtown church, will be conducting Easter services at the Sacramento Area League of Muslims (SALAM) property near American River College.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

How Is the White House Seder Different From All Others?

Devra Ferst

First Family and Friends Put Own Spin on Passover Tradition

For a president of the United States, the personal is inevitably political. But there is one annual event at the White House that truly is personal for its current chief resident — or at least as personal as anything can be in the most watched building in the country.

President Obama's Easter Message

Statement by the President on Easter Weekend:

For millions of Americans, this is a special and sacred time of year.

This week, Jewish families gathered around the Seder table, commemorating the Exodus from Egypt and the triumph of faith over oppression. And this weekend, Michelle, Malia, Sasha and I will join Christians around the world to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the hopeful promise of Easter.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

It's (usually) good to talk

DOES it matter whether the leaders of different religions know each other? One of the best arguments for bringing champions of faith into the same room (or Swiss mountain village or Baroque schloss), and encouraging them to converse is a rather negative one, but still persuasive. In a world of looming inter-cultural strife, such conversations create resilience. Set-piece meetings among robed gentlemen (and a few long-suffering ladies) won't by themselves solve the world's problems, or even the world's inter-religious strains. But they do establish networks that can limit the damage when really bad, or potentially bad, things happen.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Official Vatican text of the Pope's Easter Sunday speech

Pope Francis
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Following is the official English language translation provided by the Vatican of Pope Francis' Easter Sunday message, delivered in Italian from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica.Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, Happy Easter! Happy Easter!

How Easter and Passover Can Make Your Family Happier

Bruce Feiler*

Over the next week, tens of millions of people will do something so familiar it's easy to forget how radical it is: They will commemorate the worst moments of their past. For Jews, the occasion is Passover, in which they relive their four centuries of slavery in Egypt. For Christians, the occasion is Easter, in which they painstakingly mark the trial and crucifixion of Jesus.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Pope Francis Urges Dialogue With Islam; Help For Poor In Address To Diplomats

Philip Pullella*

Pope Francis (Photo: AP)
VATICAN CITY, March 22 (Reuters) - Pope Francis urged the West on Friday to intensify dialogue with Islam and appealed to the world to do more to combat poverty and protect the environment.

Speaking in Italian, the new pontiff said richer countries should fight what he called "the spiritual poverty of our times" by re-forging links with God.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Happy Nowruz: How We Celebrate the Persian New Year

Mahshad Khosraviani*

For most people, March 20 is just another day on the calendar. Another Wednesday of morning coffees, rush hours, late meetings and daily chores; But for Persians around the world March 20 is a day of celebration, feast and joy. The first day of the spring season marks the Persian New Year, also known as Nowruz -- that is a combination of two Persian words: no, which means "new," and rouz, which means "day." Together they mean "New Day." The exact beginning of the Nowruz occurs when the season changes from winter to spring on the vernal equinox.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pope inaugurates his reign with Mass attended by Patriarch Bartholomew

Pope Francis inaugurated his papacy with a Mass in front of hundreds of thousands of people including foreign leaders in St. Peter's Square on Tuesday, a crowd which also included İstanbul-based Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Places of worship open doors for interfaith tour

A synagogue, temple, cathedral, mosque, parish church and Salvation Army Corps in south Cardiff will be opening their doors on Tuesday to help locals learn more about the faiths in the area.

The Grangetown district enjoys huge cultural diversity, with the latest stats from the 2011 Census showing that nearly 39% of residents are Christian, 23 % Muslim, 4% Hindu, 1% Jewish and 0.7% Sikh and 0.7% Buddhist.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Pontiff receives high marks for interfaith efforts

Ann Rodgers

Pope Francis (Photo: AP)
VATICAN CITY — As Pope Francis begins to lead the worldwide Catholic Church, accolades are pouring in from people of other traditions who knew him as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Argentina.

“His humility drew my attention,” Sheik Mohsen Ali, an Islamic leader in Argentina, told the Buenos Aires Herald. He “always showed himself a friend of the Islamic community.”

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Vatican's Jesuit moment: At the cutting edge

WHETHER you admire them or fear them, the Jesuits have a great mystique. Now that a pope has emerged from the Society of Jesus, for the first time in its five centuries of history, fascination with them is bound to grow. We can all expect to hear a lot of good and bad things about the Jesuits in the days and weeks to come.

So what can be said about them for certain? They are the largest religious order within the Catholic church, with about 18,000 members, of whom 12,000 or so have undergone a long and rigorous training (at least eight years) to become priests. Since its foundation in 1540, by Ignatius of Loyola, and six of his fellow students at the university of Paris, the Society of Jesus has had a reputation for brains, energy and independence.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

New pope slips out of Vatican for prayer visit, Catholics hail pontiff

Pope Francis, barely 12 hours after his election, quietly left the Vatican early on Thursday to pray for guidance as he looks to usher a Roman Catholic Church mired in intrigue and scandal into a new age of simplicity and humility.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Why Interfaith Dialogue is Urgent

Rev. Dr. Marcus Braybrooke*

Increasingly, we are seeing that our differences can enrich our understanding of God, whose glory transcends all our words and doctrines.

Interfaith work has recently acquired a high profile but mainly for negative reasons. I want to outline what is being done to reduce ignorance and prejudice, but I want to concentrate on the more positive aspects of interfaith work: shared action for a better world, theological discussion, and spiritual exploration.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Matters of Faith: Interfaith prayer in times of trouble

Rabbi Brad L. Bloom

The ultimate irony after the Sandy Hook Elementary School slayings in Newtown, Conn., occurred recently when Pastor Rob Morris of the Missouri Synod Branch of the Lutheran Church was reprimanded by his national leadership for participating in the interfaith service held immediately after the shootings.

According to wire services, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod President Matthew Harrison stated "the presence of prayers and religious readings" was a violation of their policy and teachings.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

UN chief spotlights role of inter-faith dialogue to empower women

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today drew attention to the role of faith leaders in promoting female empowerment, noting that they can help address gender prejudices and support women’s participation in society at all levels.

“People place extraordinary trust in their faith leaders, who have a far-reaching ability to help achieve lasting peace and promote the status of women,” Mr. Ban said in his message to a symposium held in New York.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Remembering four chaplains' selfless heroism

Steve Chawkins

As their torpedoed ship sank in WWII, the Catholic priest, rabbi and two Protestant ministers gave their own life preservers to soldiers and went down praying with those who couldn't escape.

For a long time, the story of the four chaplains was everywhere.

Photos of the four chaplains — from left, Rabbi Alexander Goode, Catholic priest John Washington, Dutch Reformed minister Clark Poling and Methodist minister George Fox — are displayed at the Immortal Chaplains Memorial Sanctuary aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach. (Gary Friedman, Los Angeles Times / Feb. 3, 2013)

In classrooms, posters showed the men of different faiths, arms linked in prayer, braced against the waves engulfing the deck of their torpedoed troop ship on Feb. 3, 1943. They had given their life preservers to frantic soldiers and urged troops paralyzed with fear to jump into the icy North Atlantic before they were sucked down by the sinking ship's whirlpool.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Religion, readability and the presidency: A historic combination

Dan Merica

Washington (CNN) – Employing faith, whether calling for nationwide prayer or healing the nation by quoting scripture, is a presidential tradition as old as the office itself.

Presidential displays of piety, like this, are common 
and historians say they make presidents more relatable.
The nation’s first president, George Washington, was also the first to call for a National Day of Prayer, one of “fasting, humiliation and prayer” to “acknowledge the gracious interpositions of Providence.”

Friday, February 8, 2013

Can religion prevent violence?

Jim Roope

When tragedies happen like the shooting at Newtown, Connecticut, the question of faith often comes up. How can horrible events like that be allowed to happen?

Monday, February 4, 2013

The unwanted truth: The Muslim enemies of Islam

Gokhan Bacik

Islamists (or Islamic groups) have to face a simple reality: There are radical religious Muslim groups around the globe with false interpretations of Islam. The threat of religious radicalism is not simply Western imperialist jargon devised to benefit self-serving Western strategies. It is a fact that various radical Islamic groups have paradoxically served to help bring various aggressive Western policies into being. It is also a fact that radicalism among Muslims has its own ontological source other than the imperialist West.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Amen (again) to faith-based initiatives

John J. DiIulio Jr.*

You probably know that millions of low-income children receive federally-funded free and reduced-price meals in school. But do you have any idea how these same needy children are fed during the summer months when school is out?

No? Then ask Max Finberg, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Finberg will tell you that about 19 million children receive USDA-funded meals in school, but only about 2.3 million participate in the agency’s summer program. He will also tell you that were it not for faith-based organizations by the thousands, the annual summer spike in childhood hunger would be even worse than it is.

Friday, February 1, 2013

St. Boniface Church In San Francisco Lets Homeless People Sleep In Pews

Zoe Mintz

For the city’s homeless, San Francisco’s St. Boniface Church is seen as a safe haven.

The nonprofit known as the Gubbio Project partners with the Roman Catholic church to let the city’s homeless sleep on its pews during daylight hours, even during Mass, and provides a host of services to hundreds of those who are forced to leave when homeless shelters close in the morning, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Building Sandwiches and Interfaith Relationships

Dionysios Koroulakis*

Once a week students from various faith groups such as the Orthodox Christian Fellowship, Knights of Columbus, Catholic Daughters, Jewish Student Association, Muslim Student Association, and Buddhist Meditation Sangha gather in the Village C Alumni Lounge for an industrious 40 minutes of sandwich making. The effort, producing roughly 180 sandwiches a week (at this time), is funded by those students’ own $5 contributions, a symbolic sum to highlight the necessity of personal sacrifice in service, and additional funding from Campus Ministry. Representatives of the faith groups deliver the meals to the nearby Georgetown Ministry Center—a center that cares for the needs of local homeless men and women. The center’s program director recently sent us a humbling message stating, "the sandwiches we pass out are the homeless members’ lunch... they are sometimes the only food they receive during the day," emphasizing the real and immediate difference this project can make in the lives of those without food and homes.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Freedom of Religion and the Right to Be Respected

Amb. Ufuk Gokcen

As the Organization of Islamic Cooperation's Ambassador to the United Nations in New York, I have recently attended for the second year in a row a special commemoration event at the Park East Synagogue in New York in conjunction with the U.N. International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Every year, Rabbi Arthur Schneier, the respected and veteran interfaith dialogue contributor, brings together his congregation with the members of the U.N. diplomatic community, including the U.N. Secretary General, to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust, pay tribute to survivors and underline the commitment of the international community not to allow religious persecution and genocide.

Friday, January 25, 2013

On Mawlid, a new way to honor the Prophet

Mohamed Magid *

When Fatima Hamouma was just eight years old, she had to spend three hours every day walking and standing in line to get water for her family. Then she had to haul her heavy burden back home. Though most of the time, the water was dirty and not safe to drink - her family had no choice. In Niger, an African country that is 90 percent Muslim, Fatima and more than 80 percent of the population in rural areas have no access to safe drinking water. Niger has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world. That’s not surprising. Around the world, the lack of safe water and sanitation is the leading killer of children, extinguishing over 8200 young lives every single day.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The spiritual but not religious likely to face mental health issues, drug use, study says

Dan Merica

spirituality vs. religion
Can being spiritual but not religious lead to mental health issues? The answer is yes, according to a recent study.

The study, published in the January edition of the British Journal of Psychiatry, says spiritual but not religious people, as opposed to people who are religious, agnostic or atheist, were more likely to develop a "mental disorder," "be dependent on drugs" and "have abnormal eating attitudes,” like bulimia and anorexia.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Huntsville's Osher Lifetime Learning class offers history, culture of Islam

Kay Campbell

Gulsum Kucuksari, at left, talks with
Carol Codori and Bill McAlister after
one of the Islam: Rumor and Reality class
she taught for the Osher Lifetime Learning
Institute held in Huntsville at the
University of Alabama in Huntsville.
Kucuksari will teach the class for OLLI
again during the Spring 2013 semester.
(Courtesy of Linda McAlister)
When Gulsum Kucuksari, who was raised as a Muslim in Turkey, came to the U.S., she heard some surprising things about her faith.

“People were telling me about these 77 virgins for terrorists, and I didn’t understand it – in all my life, I have never heard this,” Kucuksari said. "The Quran does not promise virgins for terrorists."

She was describing the class on Islam she teaches for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Huntsville. “I thought it was funny.”

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Prayer Without Words

Katherine Towler

In her poem "Summer Day," Mary Oliver says: "I don't know exactly what a prayer is./I do know how to pay attention..." Simone Weil saw no distinction between attention and prayer. For her, "absolute unmixed attention is prayer."