Interfaith Groups Use Music to Connect Across Difference

A choir performs at the Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County’s International Diversity Day concert in May 2017.

The Bainbridge Island North Kitsap Interfaith Council has been organizing annual concerts for fourteen years.  However, quite recently, the concerts have evolved.  What started out as a choir concert has turned into something much larger.

During the first concerts, different choirs would participate throughout the festival, performing different songs, before gathering together at the end for a combined piece.  When Tiffny Weighall took over planning the festival four years ago, she transformed it into a festival with different types of musical expression.  

Continue reading “Interfaith Groups Use Music to Connect Across Difference”

Living in Community is Hard, and Thank God for That

By Jaya Priya, Kashi Ashram Cooperation Circle

Living in community is hard. Anyone who tells you differently hasn’t done it. That said, the places of difficulty are also the places of beauty. In each other we see our own reflection and are presented with the frequent opportunity to learn about ourselves. Often, this learning is experienced as judgment of either ourselves or the other. But sometimes, when equipped with the right tools and an open heart, we might experience compassion instead. This is the gift that satsang (spiritual community) offers us every day; an opportunity to build a compassionate relationship with ourselves and others. The opportunity to practice.

If we consider ‘being in relationship’ as a space for our practice, then we also understand that ‘communication’ is what allows us to pass meaning between us in relationships. Living in an intimate community, communication becomes the center of daily life. I find the words of M. Scott Peck to capture this connection accurately: “The words “communicate” and “community”, although verb and noun, come from the same root. The principles of good and bad communication are the basic principles of community building. And because people do not naturally know how to communicate, because humans have not yet learned how to talk with each other, they remain ignorant of the laws or rules of genuine community.”

Taking this a step further, we might also consider the inevitability of conflict as the greatest opportunity for our practice. Recently, I learned that there are a number of communities and schools that have come to terms with this truth and created containers (whether they be physical spaces or practices) that they call “fight rooms”. Like all of our other basic needs, such as sleep or eating for which we build bedrooms and kitchens, conflict too has its space: hence the fight room. Although the name may be misleading, they are not spaces for violence. Instead, these are spaces for the intentional and conscious engagement of conflict that are more likely to result in a restoration of relationship and a deepening of understanding. To achieve this, they are designed around a set of agreements on ‘how we will be together’ which draw from philosophies such as Nonviolent Communication and Restorative Justice.

At Kashi, for the past year and a half we have been employing listening circles as a means to work on our communication skills and build community and connection. This particular form of listening circles comes from the field of Restorative Justice. Based on our experiences with circles, we more recently realized that the tools of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) might be a natural complement to our efforts to build understanding and compassion among our satsang.

As a result, over the weekend of November 11th – 13th, Kashi hosted a three-day workshop on Nonviolent Communication with professor and facilitator, Mikhail Lyubanski. Mikhail’s work is broadly focused on conflict and restorative responses to conflict. Since 2009, he has been facilitating, teaching, and writing about Restorative Circles and Nonviolent Communication. Thanks to Mikhail’s generosity, Kashi was also able to hold trainings for all of our staff, our board members, and our swamis, in addition to the open weekend workshop. I was able to participate in all of the sessions with Mikhail, and feel inspired to share with you a bit about what we learned and how I foresee this work impacting Kashi in the future.

Traditionally, NVC is characterized as a philosophy and practice based on historical principles of nonviolence – the natural state of compassion when no violence is present in the heart. It is both a practice that helps us to see our common humanity and a concrete set of skills, which help us create life-serving relationships and communities. According to Mikhail, Kit Miller’s (director of the Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence) description captures the essence of this practice most acutely. Kit says, “NVC is a spiritual practice masquerading as a communication tool”. Based on my own experiences over this powerful weekend, I would agree.

Over the course of the weekend we explored the personal practice of NVC, but we also looked into its use in our relationships and in our community. To do this, Mikhail focused us on the following: (1) the importance of walking towards conflict (2) how principles of NVC can be used as “inner work” to deepen self-connection (3) strategies for moving from judgment to connection during challenging encounters (4) ways to find a win-win during conflicts and heated interactions (5) the underlying meaning of “hard to hear” messages and (6) how NVC can be used as a tool in group decision-making.

To conclude our event, we explored the meaning of “financial coresponsibility” and what that meant for our relationships in the practical context of economy. One of the tenets of the Nonviolent Communication movement is that we are all responsible for how things go—whether in an interpersonal encounter or at a learning event like this one. With that in mind we designed the community event so that it was accessible to everyone (there were no fees for entry). However, to cover the costs and make future events like this possible, expenses were disclosed and, toward the conclusion of the event, participants were invited to consider the benefits of their learning and decide what they would like to contribute. As a learning community, we collectively pooled our resources and came to agreements about how to distribute those funds. What I came to learn through thisprocess was that it was not only about the financial resources circulating, but about the open space we created for expressions of gratitude and meaning to pass between us. Again, a focus on relationship.

Looking into the future, I am personally inspired to learn what conflict has to teach me within my own self, as well as within my community. I trust that our work with listening circles has equipped us with enough mutual understanding and practice in deeply hearing one another, that we are prepared to engage the juiciness of conflict with curiosity and compassion. In the words of Dominic Barter (founder of Restorative Circles), “Conflict is the river.”

Interfaith Organizations Step Up To Heal a Divided Nation

It is the day after the United States presidential election and much has changed since Americans went to bed last night. There is no doubt that interfaith organizations have always brought people together across lines of difference. This leadership is so needed today and in the days to come. 

For many of us, this outcome deeply affects our social change work and generates a lot of emotions and questions of “Now what?” For many, these emotions and questions are overwhelming. 

Throughout this contentious presidential election, interfaith organizations have served to support and connect members of their communities in the spirit of peace, justice and healing. This work continues. Interfaith groups are stepping into their roles as healers and have planned peaceful gatherings of solidarity across the nation with the hopes of creating spaces for community members to work through these questions of “Now what?” 

At this moment, let us be gentle with ourselves as we process the outcomes of this election. When we are ready, let us look to the interfaith peacebuilders listed below (and beyond) to give us #TangibleHope through their planned actions, and to set examples for what peacebuilding looks like.

National Level

CHARTER FOR COMPASSION:

The Charter for Compassion is hosting a “discussion about compassion and how we are called to act following a US election season that has brought out strains of racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and bigotry. How can we heal? How are we called to action? What can we bring to the mission of making compassion a luminous force?” When: Nov 10, 2016 11:30 AM in (GMT-8:00) Pacific Time (US and Canada). Click here to register for the call.

SHIFT NETWORK :

The Shift Network is calling for a Day of Healing and Reconciliation to heal after an election season of unprecedented bitterness. “We are calling upon our country to come together in a spirit of unity, forgiveness, and solidarity so that we can better address the challenges our nation faces.” They will host a live and online event on Sunday, November 13 from 3-5 pm EST. Tune in here. We want to open up an authentic dialogue and explore the difficult questions head on, like “How do we begin to heal?” and “How can we move forward together?” or “What power do we really have?” with Philip, Emily and YOU! In concert with this, there are also 11 local events happening across the country. Find out how you can plan one here

Thursday, Nov. 10 at 5 pm (PST), they will also hold a “Beginning the Path To Healing & Reconciliation” call. You can join by clicking here. They will be beginning an authentic dialogue to explore difficult questions head on, such as “How do we begin to heal?” and “How can we move forward together?” or “What power do we really have?”

We come together as Americans who are committed to embody our national motto of E Pluribus Unumand engage in respectful political discourse rather than warfare.

We assemble to heal the wounds of the election, recommit to our country’s greater good, and mend the divisions that are threatening to tear us asunder.

We will create an inspiring event in our nation’s capital that will be broadcast to gatherings in communities around the country. We will invite local leaders to join in this day of healing and reconciliation.

We also call upon our nation to engage in actions that bridge divides.

We will unify through uplifting music and pray together, honoring the many faiths that make our country great. We will share words of wisdom, rituals of forgiveness, and appreciative moments.

We will go beyond party labels and divisions of class, race, religion, and gender to remember that we are one American family and that all of us are needed in order to fulfill our country’s promise.

FAITH IN PUBLIC LIFE

Forty prominent interfaith leaders — from Jim Wallis to Imam Talib Shareef — joined a post-election conference call to heal the nation. Wednesday night, each of these leaders offered a prayer of healing. 

SHOULDER TO SHOULDER:

Shoulder to Shoulder, along with a coalition of Muslim, interfaith, and civic groups across the country, issued a nationwide call asking Americans of all faith, racial and political backgrounds to commit to working with each other post-elections to build a more united country, regardless of who got elected on Tuesday. The campaign, titled #OnNovember9, asks all Americans to go on social media the day before the election and share the actions they will take to take to reduce the tensions brought about by this divisive election cycle. Their #OnNovember9 pledges will serve as a reminder to all Americans that we can, and must, work together to rebuild our nation’s unity and #RestoreCivility.

LIVING ROOM CONVERSATIONS: 

Living Room Conversations provides a structured format for having conversations that actually get somewhere. The idea is to assemble a group of people with different perspectives and have a rich, meaningful conversation. Following the election, they have released a special “What’s next after the election?” conversation guide that people across the country can try in their own homes. 

URI NORTH AMERICA:

The United Religions Initiative in North America held space, Wednesday morning, for Cooperation Circles and Affiliates to share feeling and explore question. As a family of interfaith leaders across the US (and Canada!!), let us create a safe space to listen to each other’s feelings and begin exploring the questions:

Arizona

SUN DEVILS ARE BETTER TOGETHER: 

The interfaith club at Arizona State University will host a bi-partisan evening of dialogue on Tuesday, November 15 to discuss “the best way to be advocates for the well-being of one another” in this social climate. RSVP here. 

California

NETWORK OF SPIRITUAL PROGRESSIVES: 

The Network of Spiritual Progressives is hosting a strategy conference, in honor of Tikkun’s 30th anniversary celebration, called “Now What – After the Election?” This interfaith organization is inviting partners and non-partners alike to consider new approaches to transform consciousness and honor activists.

MARIN INTERFAITH COUNCIL:

The Marin Interfaith Council is hosting an event called “Interfaith Gathering in Prayer for Our Country” on Wednesday, November 9th at Congregation Rodef Sholom. For more information, click here.
It’s been a hard election season on many levels. The rhetoric has been divisive and polarizing. We come together tonight to sing, to pray, and to reconnect. Bring your neighbors, bring your kids, bring your soul, bring your heart. We join together in love and blessings for the future of our community and country.We hope to see you there. And whether or not you can join us, please continue to hold each other, our nation, and our entire world in your prayers.

WORLDWIDE FORGIVENESS ALLIANCE:

The Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance is looking past November 8th and onto Nov.16th when they will be hosting a Forgiveness Circle in honor of healing and unity. When: Wednesday November 16th – 7 to 9 p.m. For more information, click here

This has been the most brutal, obscene Presidential campaign ever – the worst we’ve ever experienced in over 50 years of voting. The level of hatred, distrust, lying, racism, misogyny, ignorance, hypocrisy, violence, anger, frustration and just plain madness has divided this country into warring factions within each party, creating a volatile cocktail that threatens to blow this society to smithereens. It’s been a constant barrage of baggage hurled into our faces, beating our beings into submission.

Hopefully, it will all be over by Tuesday November 8th… then the healing can begin.

Let’s begin the process of mending this society and ourselves with a Forgiveness Circle. In this setting, we listen deeply to that which is crying out to be heard. We each have a voice to express our deepest pain, our greatest hope, our peace, our forgiveness, our love. This Forgiveness Circle is not a debate, nor a lengthy discussion of issues. As in the Buddhist Tonglan tradition, we breathe in the pain and breathe out the love in our hearts. We hear the hurt, we breathe forgiveness and let go of the hurt, wiping the slate clean, returning to stillness, returning ourselves back to wholeness, we love unconditionally. Ho’oponopono and other forgiveness methods as appropriate will also be applied. 

Ohio

INTERFAITH WITTENBERG

On a college campus in Springfield, Ohio, Interfaith Wittenberg gathered with nearly 100 students from the college community for a candlelight unity vigil.

“Tonight was about love, compassion and caring. It was about community and finding hope and strength to continue forward. This was a moment to not be alone, when some perhaps felt more alone than ever before,” the group shared on Facebook

The students read an anti-racism statement, said short prayers and there was a time for people to speak words of hope (from their hearts, from quotes and from scripture).

 Maryland

MONTGOMERY COUNTY FAITH COMMUNITY ADVISORY BOARD:

The Montgomery County Faith Community Advisory Board‘s Interfaith Community Liaison Rev. Mansfield “Kasey” Kaseman called members to reaffirm their commitment to their social change work in a message of solidarity that was sent Wednesday. You can read excerpts of the message below. 

As people of faith we need to be listening from the heart and responding with compassion. We need to be praying for our elected officials that they gain a sense of divine justice and understand it to be a perquisite to peace. Let us pray for their welfare and the capacity to seek forgiveness, insight and strength beyond their own.

Let us reaffirm our responsibility as people of faith to be welcoming refugees, protecting the environment, advancing quality healthcare for all, addressing social-economic inequities, and confronting all forms of racism including xenophobia, homophobia, Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

What could be more important for ourselves and what greater contribution might we make during this political transition than demonstrating our unity in the midst of diversity and the power of love being far greater than all forms of loveless power?! We have an extraordinary opportunity to be sources of light and rays of hope.

Shalom, Salaam, Namaste, Om Shanti, Satsriakal, Peace

Kasey

Utah

UTAH CITIZENS SUMMIT

The Utah Citizen Summit consists of an All Day Session and an Evening Dialogue & Awards Ceremony focused on “Utahns Coming Together.” You can find more information here

Washington

COMPASSIONATE ACTION NETWORK:

The Compassionate Action Network‘s Chief Compassion Officer, Karli Anne Christiansen, is encouraging folks to be gentle with themselves and practice “radical self-care” in the face of “election fatigue.” The organization shared the following message and resources: 

“Election fatigue” has many of us feeling overwhelmed and anxious, with more than half of American adults reporting moderate to very significant levels of stress. No matter what happens at the polls today, we all might benefit from what one of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott, calls radical self-care.

“Radical self-care,” she writes, “is what we’ve been longing for, desperate for, our entire lives – friendship with our own hearts.”

How can we practice radical self-care during a season so fraught with tension that the Washington Post recommends “emergency election meditations?” UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center offers three helpful strategies for finding the good during a stressful election. My advice: Care for yourself this week the way you would care for someone you love very much. Rest your body and mind when you’re tired. Call someone who makes you laugh. Watch this baby goat video as many times as you need to. (I’m up to three times so far today). Remind yourself that we’re going to be okay, no matter what happens, because there are people like you in this world. I trust so deeply in your goodness.

Finally, if you are in or near Seattle, please consider joining us Sunday, November 13th for a special Compassion For Your Body event featuring gifted bodywork practitioner David Melman. I’ve included the details below, and I hope to see you there.


If you know of any other post-election interfaith initiatives promoting peace, justice and healing – let us know at northamerica@uri.org. 

Interfaith Dinner Dialogue Deemed a Delicious Success!

To no surprise, the InterFaith Works Cooperation Circle’s InterFaith Dinner Dialogues event was a delicious success!

Fifteen host homes and faith community venues welcomed 150 guests on Sept. 22 for the annual InterFaith Dinner Dialogues program. Participants gathered over a meal and discussed a number of thought- provoking questions, with the diverse guests offering their personal thoughts about faith and spirituality. A trained facilitator guided and moderated the dialogue, so participants felt comfortable sharing their thoughts.

Dialogue hosts provided a simple vegetarian dinner, as eating together is a symbolic act of tolerance, respect and understanding, as well as an outward expression of unity among those with varied beliefs and religious traditions. Food and dialogue were the connection as all 15 facilitators ended with the question,

“How do we begin to accept others’ faith and beliefs despite how they differ from our own?”

The Dinner Dialogues have been very successful, as participating attendees have asked for the dialogue to continue.

 


To find out more about dialogue program and event participation opportunities, contact the El-Hindi Center for Dialogue at 315-449-3552, or email cwd1@interfaithworkscny.org.

Cooperation Circles Celebrate International Day of Peace

 

URI North America Cooperation Circles and Affiliates are ready to celebrate International Day of Peace (IDP) 2016! The theme for IDP this year is “The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Building Blocks for Peace.” Our network is building off of these blocks for peace by creating moments of #TangibleHope that strengthen the ideals of peace, both within and among their diverse communities.

Click through this slideshow to see what they’re up to! You can also check out the URI North America IDP Program Bank to find inspiration for IDP celebrations in your community for years to come. If you have an event to report, click HERE to submit it and qualify for a trip to the United Nations for World Interfaith Harmony Week!

 
 

You can also check out events happening all around the world, hosted by URI CCs and others, on this map produced by URI Cooperation Circle UNIFY.

A Requiem of Hope

 

“What gives you #TangibleHope in the world today? How do your values and/or belief systems come into conversation with this #TangibleHope?”

Shirin Ganji, Member of the Newmarket and Area Interfaith Council

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Verily, with hardship comes ease (Qur’an 94:5)

In my faith, I am reminded that misfortune is only a challenge of your character, and that there is rarely any difficulty that is not followed by relief. However, when faced with adversity, hope becomes questionable. It becomes the product of a constant self-struggle of whether to move forward or remain stagnant. But most of all, in any given moment it can be conjured up and it can be temporary.

However permanent or fleeting hope may be, it is, above all, empowering. In my experience, it has assisted me through moments of grief and distress.

Recently, I was on a road trip to Las Vegas, in which my purse with all my belongings including my passport, driver’s license, health card, SIN card, and credit cards were all stolen. Instantly, the desire for adventure came to an abrupt end, shrouding the night with concern and worry as I had a return flight to catch the next day. My friends accompanied me through this turn of events, and assisted me in every possible way. They inspired me to find hope in the matter and aided me in all the necessary procedures about reporting a stolen passport.

After searching all night, and slowly losing confidence in the search, they held my hands and each prayed with me for my safe return home. We each came from different backgrounds and belief systems but regardless, it ignited a beautiful expression of intent. It calmed me down, and deep in my heart everything felt like it was going to all wrap up nicely.

I retrieved a temporary passport from the Canadian embassy and managed to board a domestic flight to San Francisco, only to be faced with another road block. The airline had told me that, in order to go home, I was going to have to wait a day and cash up $2000. Out of fear of not being able to afford the trip back home I broke into tears in the middle of Union Square.

While sobbing in public, a homeless man from across the street made his way to the flower booth just outside the subway and purchased a flower. He offered me the flower and said: “Please don’t cry, everything will work out. I promise.” A man who seemed to have nothing consoled me in an attempt to spark optimism amidst a seemingly dark situation. I thanked him dearly, hopped on the train and called my booking company to get on the next plane to Toronto. Eventually, everything worked out! I got back home safely, and a month later, to my surprise, the Las Vegas airport sent me my purse with all of my belongings, as someone had returned it to the airport.

Throughout this experience, my hope was cultivated by the friends and strangers, from different identities, who supported me in my time of need. The questions of what I believe and who I believe in is left out of the equation. This is what inspires hope in me and in humanity: when we focus on the problems in front of us, and learn to lend a hand to every person who needs it.

What gives me tangible hope today is the collaboration between different faith groups and communities assisting each other in times of chaos and turmoil. Just as I was offered assistance through my journey, others require the same kind of treatment. Acknowledgement of this cause already insinuates a certain degree of awareness and how important it is to spread hope around the world.

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Shririn Ganji is the co-founder of the Undergraduate Religious Studies Student Association, geared toward historical understanding of different religions and a more practical understanding of how religion is integrated in the public sphere. She received an Honors B.A from the University of Toronto, specializing in World Religions and Philosophy. She derives most of her inspiration learning about the various religions and cultures that exist in the world, and how many of these traditions are linked, and intertwined together.

Every Tuesday, the #TangibleHope Diaries series features responses from North American grassroots peacebuilders on what gives them tangible hope in the world today. See you next week! Learn more here.

 

What’s Love Got To Do With Dismantling Islamophobia?

What’s Love Got To Do With Dismantling Islamophobia?

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Islamophobia in the United States is not new. However, studies compiling FBI data, such as the one conducted by Georgetown’s Bridge Initiative, state that, today, U.S Muslims are five times more likely to be the victim of a hate crime than they were before 9/11 – a startling statistic, to say the least. For Rev. Will McGarvey and the Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County (ICCCC), a United Religions Cooperation Circle, the antidote to this fear and hate based sentiment is simultaneously simple and complex: love.

 In a conversation with Rev. Will McGarvey, he reminded me that more than half of Americans who say they hate Muslims have never actually met a Muslim. The Reverend and his colleagues have set out to change this statistic, by implementing a“Love Your Muslim Neighbors” program in California’s San Francisco Bay Area, where “loving” your Muslim neighbor is not passive, but rather an active commitment.

Over the course of nine “Love Your Muslim Neighbor” events held at a variety of different Christian congregations, the ICCCC has initiated and facilitated crucial discussions on some of the major misconceptions regarding Muslims, with up to 200 participants. The interreligious exchanges vary from panel discussions hosted by American Muslims of different ethnicities, religious sects, gender identities, and so on, to more intimate and informal conversations where non-Muslim community members voice curiosities they have always had but have never known how or whom to ask.

Changing the hearts and minds of people is no easy feat – but it can be done. At one of the events, a community member shared that she feared all American Muslims wanted to implement Sharia Law. However, upon engaging with her Muslim neighbors at one of these events, she realized her information sources had completely misled her.


“It took meeting a real Muslim, or a few of them, to understand that there’s an Islamophobia industry in our culture that perpetuates these lies about Muslims,” said Rev. Will McGarvey.


The “Love Your Muslim Neighbor” events are just one of the many ways URI Cooperation Circles and other interfaith peacebuilders across Canada and the United States are creatively and impactfully invoking the type of change that is most difficult to sustain: change within hearts and minds.

The list of solidarity events is heartwarmingly long and includes programming, such as the Silicon Valley Interreligious Council‘s “Hands Around the Mosque” gathering, which brought over 250 community members together to demonstrate solidarity with their Muslim neighbors, the Interfaith Center at the Presidio‘s panel discussion: Political and Religious Extremism: Creating an Effective Response, the Missoula Interfaith Collaborative‘s recent partnership with “Standing Alongside America’s Muslims” and the Sun Devils are Better Together‘s continuous “Meet a [Insert Faith Tradition]” campaign promoting interreligious relationships, among many others.

Sun Devils Are Better Together
© Sun Devils Are Better Together

Moving forward, Rev. Will McGarvey hopes to partner with other places of worship, particularly Masjids (mosques), so that relationships among community members can deepen and the program’s reach can expand.

If you are interested in hosting, collaborating with, or learning more about “Love Your Muslim Neighbor,” contact Rev. Will McGarvey with the Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County by emailing eye4cee[at]gmail.com. For more information on the program, click here and to watch a “Love Your Muslim Neighbor” panel discussion, click here.


Written by Anissa Abdel-Jelil, URI North America’s Communications and Outreach Coordinator.

PHOTOS: Cooperation Circles Celebrate World Interfaith Harmony Week!

World Interfaith Harmony Week is upon us and URI Cooperation Circles across North America are celebrating. Click on each image below to scroll through the galleries and share in these exciting events. To find out more about upcoming events, click here.

Project Harmony

Location: Irvine, California
Host Cooperation Circle: Hope in Life Foundation
Participating Cooperation Circles: S.A.R.A.H. and Compassion Action Network

 

Appreciation & Meditation

Location: San Francisco, California

Host Cooperation Circle: URI Global Support Staff Deepening the Journey

Compassion Games

Location: Around the World
Host Cooperation Circle: Compassion Action Network
Participating Cooperation Circles: S.A.R.A.H., Silicon Valley Interreligious Council, Interfaith Works, Women Transcending Boundaries, Abbey of Hope, Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County, 9/11 Unity Walk, Interfaith Chapel at the University of Rochester

“Over 30 teams around the world submitted nearly 100 reports showing that well over 50,000 people were served through the Compassion Games in this seven day coopetition. This is just what got reported, and most players don’t report. No one will know for sure the impact of all this interfaith kindness and caring that was unleashed, and continues to be unleashed, on our precious world.” Click here to review the Compassion Map!

Mosque Visit & Interfaith Cafe Conversation

Location: Rochester, NY
Host Cooperation Circle: Interfaith Chapel at the University of Rochester
Participating Organizations: Student Association for Interfaith Cooperation

Mosque Visit: “The interfaith student group hosted a visit to the Islamic Center of Rochester (ICR) on Sunday, February 1. Fifteen non-Muslim students visited the ICR and learned about Islam from the youth group at the ICR. They observed prayer, toured the center and engaged in interfaith dialogue with the members of the ICR youth group. For all but one of them, this was the first time they had ever visited a mosque or spoken to Muslims.”

Interfaith Cafe: “The Student Association for Interfaith Cooperation teamed up with the University’s Pride Network to sponsor an evening of interfaith conversation at our weekly Interfaith Cafe on the issue of the intersection of LGBTQIA identity and religion. Given that religions are typically seen as hostile to the LGBTQIA community and that the issue of LGBTQIA inclusion is often avoided in interfaith conversations, SAIC wanted to offer an opportunity for that kind of dialogue to occur. We were delighted to see students at the Interfaith Chapel for this conversation who usually avoid anything remotely religious. The conversations were lively and informative and students learned about religious traditions where the LGBTQIA community can safely pursue their religious life.”

 

 

Discussion: Building Compassion

Location: Sunnyvale, California
Host Cooperation Circle: Silicon Valley Interreligious Council (SiVIC)

“As the afternoon progressed, we embarked on a group discussion with brothers and sisters from different faiths sharing their religion’s view on compassion as part of an event hosted by SiVIC’s and the Pacifica Institute in celebration of World Interfaith Harmony Week and as part of theCompassion Games’ Interfaith League.” Read More.

 

 

WIHW at the United Nations: Multi-religious Partnership for Sustainable Development

Location: New York, New York
Host Cooperation Circle: The United Religions Initiative at the United Nations

“Speakers inspired us with their stories, projects and personal events that highlighted the importance of interfaith harmony in their lives and their work. Peace, human rights, poverty, equality of women, education, health and the environment are shared goals and hopes among people of all faiths and countries. The event highlighted the role of multi-religious and multi-sectoral partnerships in achieving the proposed Sustainable Development Goals.” Read More.

World Interfaith Harmony Assembly: “Commonalities Within Our Diversity”

Location: Syracuse, New York
Host Cooperation Circles: InterFaithWorks and Women Transcending Boundaries

“Perhaps you’ve heard it said: “Religion must die for mankind to live.” (Religulous, 2008)….After last Sunday’s World Interfaith Harmony Assembly (WIHA), I smiled thinking that statement couldn’t be more wrong! Celebrating the United Nation’s annual observance of World Interfaith Harmony Week, the sanctuary of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Syracuse, my church, was filled with a kaleidoscope of different faith communities. On February 8th, the colors of our stained glass windows were bested by the colorful community assembled within. Muslims joined with Christians, Jews joined with Muslims, Mormons joined with Lutherans, Hindus, Sikhs, Sudanese Christians, Zen Buddhist monks joined with Unity; all to express our Commonality Within Diversity.” Read More. 

World Interfaith Harmony Week Celebration in Surrey

Location: Surrey, British Columbia
Host Cooperation Circle: Global Clergy Association Vancouver, BC

“WIHW celebration is an appeal for active and ongoing dialogue , for the creation of a just, peaceful and sustainable future. It is an endorsement by religious leaders for creating harmony and fostering peaceful environment.He further said that this celebration in Laxminarayan Mandir sets the stage for further interfaith collaboration and cooperation to cultivating harmony in diverse religious communities of Greater Vancouver.” Read More. 

World-interfaith

Interfaith Celebration!

Location: Surrey, British Columbia
Host Organization: Surrey Interfaith Council
Participating Cooperation Circles: Global Clergy Association Vancouver, BC, InterSpiritual Centre of Vancouver Society CC and URI Vancouver CC

Peace Flags

Location: Brunswick, Maine
Host Cooperation Circle: Abbey of HOPE

Abbey of HOPE hosted a World Interfaith Harmony Week Observance with people from Jewish, Christian, Interfaith, Earth Based spirituality and Scientology joining together to reflect, sing and make peace flags.

Interfaith Worship

Location: Seattle, WA

Host Cooperation Circle: Interfaith Community Sanctuary
Participating Cooperation Circles: The Interfaith Network of Washington CC, Compassionate Action Network International

“To kick off World Interfaith Harmony Week, we held an interfaith worship service at the Interfaith Community Sanctuary with Rabbi Ted Falcon and Imam Jamal Rahman (The Interfaith Amigos), Ann Holmes Redding (Abrahamic Reunion West), Jon Ramer (Compassion Games International), John Hale (Compassion Seattle, Northwest Interfaith Community Outreach), and Rev. Karen Lindquist (Interfaith Community Sanctuary, The Interfaith Network). We collected cans of soup for our local food bank as part of the Compassion Games International “Souper Bowl 2015.” Throughout the week we supported more gatherings to celebrate WIHW including a restorative justice gathering, a dinner at Seattle University, and a “Sun Up Our Sanctuaries” workshop about installing solar panels on our Houses of Worship.”

 

Souper Bowl of Kickoff Luncheon

Location: Phoenix, AZ
Host Cooperation Circle: Arizona Interfaith Movement

“The Arizona Interfaith Movement kicked off the week with their “Souper Bowl Kickoff Luncheon” to help tackle hunger! As many celebrated the 49th Super Bowl game, we remained mindful of those without a bowl of soup to eat.”

Interfaith Leadership Summit

Location: Washington, DC
Host Organization: InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington
Participating Cooperation Circles: 9/11 Unity Walk

Cooperation circle puts spotlight on human trafficking

“Be aware of people in vulnerable emotional situations,” said Reverend Alison Hendley of the First United Methodist Church in San Rafael.

To the Marin County faith leaders gathered together for a program on human trafficking, the message was clear: human trafficking is happening here; it’s happening now; and people of faith must do something about it.

Nearly 40 Christian, Mormon, Pagan, Jewish and Buddhist leaders gathered for the event on October 21 at the First Presbyterian Church in San Rafael, California. The event was organized by the Marin Interfaith Council, a United Religions Initiative cooperation circle.

“There is no greater mitzvah [commandment] than the redeeming of captives,” said Rabbi Stacy Friedman of Congregation Rodef Sholom as she lead the group in a textual study of the Torah.  She emphasized that the Medieval Jewish Philosopher Maimonides said everything – even a Torah scroll – should be sold to redeem captives.

She said that, in our community, these captives are those being trafficked for sex or labor.

Diana Doubleday, a leader of the Marin Organizing Committee and a member of Congregation Rodef Sholom, encouraged participants to put aside the notion that trafficking victims come from other countries: in 2012 the California Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Work Group determined that 83% of sex trafficking victims they identified were U.S. citizens.

“Sex trafficking is starting to surpass drug trafficking because [traffickers] can sell a girl over and over again,” said Lynn Bauer of Fairfax Community Church.

Doubleday said people who become victims of trafficking all have one thing in common: they are vulnerable.

“Be aware of people in vulnerable emotional situations,” said Reverend Alison Hendley of the First United Methodist Church in San Rafael.

The most common places to find victims are in the sex, restaurant, construction,  hospitality, agriculture, landscaping, fishing, manufacturing and home care industries, said Bauer.  Doubleday said people should follow their gut and report anything that doesn’t seem “right” by calling the Human Trafficking Hotline at: 1-888-373-7888.

“Preach on this issue!” she encouraged. “And we can exponentially increase awareness.”

Awareness, or community education, is one of three approaches she recommends to tackled human trafficking. The other two are legal prosecution and victim services.

There are no shelters in Marin County for victims of trafficking.

 

Follow this link for a factsheetlist of resources (or these Look Beneath the Surface resources) on human trafficking. If you want to share best practices about how your interfaith group can address the issue of human trafficking, contact the Marin Interfaith Council by following this link.  You can also comment below!

Fighting Ebola: An update from URI West Africa

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By Emmanuel Ivorgba
URI Regional Coordinator, West Africa

The 2014 Ebola epidemic is the largest in history, affecting multiple countries in West Africa. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 5,000 people have died already in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, from a total of about 9,000 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola. A few cases were reported in Nigeria and a single case in Senegal; but these cases were contained quickly, with no further spread in these countries.

“It is clear … that the situation in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone is deteriorating, with widespread and persistent transmission of (Ebola),” the WHO stated last week.

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YAD in collaboration with its German partner, Fambul Tik e.V, has shipped 32 hospital beds with matrasses and 3 palettes of medical stuffs to Sierra Leone.

The origin of this virus, especially in West Africa, is a subject of debates and conspiracy theories. One thing however is certain: thousands of human beings have been infected, many have died already,If drastic measures are not taken, many more may get infected and die. Everyone one of us are effected, either directly or indirectly.
One of our newest cooperation circles, Youth in Action for Development (YAD), based in Kenema District in Sierra Leone, is leading URI’s action against Ebola in the region. In collaboration with its German Partner, Fambul Tik e.V, YAD has, in the last three months, shipped 32 hospital beds with mattresses and three palettes of medical supplies to Sierra Leone. A second shipment of 35 beds and more medical supplies is currently underway. These beds and medical supplies are being delivered to various health posts in Kenema district, including Kenema city itself.

Recently, Nigeria and Senegal were officially declared “Ebola Free” by the World Health Organization but the situation in neighboring Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone remains very critical.

The President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf sent out a passionate letter appealing to leaders and citizens of the world to rise and help humanity in pain in West Africa. In the letter, she says, “Ebola is not just a health crisis – across West Africa, a generation of young people risk being lost to an economic catastrophe as harvests are missed, markets are shut and borders are closed. The virus has been able to spread so rapidly because of the insufficient strength of the emergency, medical and military services that remain under-resourced and without the preparedness to confront such a challenge.”

The current number of clinics and Ebola treatment facilities are not adequate.

According to the Liberian President, one thing is very clear here, the fight against Ebola is a fight in which the whole world must show concern because we all have a stake. This disease respects no borders. The damage it is causing in West Africa, whether in public health, the economy or within communities is already reverberating throughout the region and across the world.