Multifaith has a place for everyone

T K Barger, Toledo Blade, May 03

Before moving to Toledo, I worked in Philadelphia as a chaplain in a hospital. When patients and their families asked about my religion, I usually said that I was there as an interfaith chaplain. My role was to provide comfort and help in a time of crisis, to minister to people of many faiths and no faith.

I gave spiritual and emotional support to Muslims, Hindus, Pentecostal Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Wiccans, and people of many other faiths different from mine, and to people with no religion. Our shared concern was health, and sometimes death. I helped to make a faith connection occasionally, and at other times the person-to-person tie was all that was needed. Faith labels were minor.

Last Sunday, as Blade religion editor, I took part in the annual banquet of the MultiFaith Council of Northwest Ohio. Having become accustomed to the term “interfaith,” I was interested to learn more about “multifaith.”

Judy Lee Trautman, who is co-chair of the MultiFaith Council board along with her husband, Woody Trautman, said, “We chose the name MultiFaith when we started this [in 2003] because at the time, locally, most of the interfaith groups were mostly Christian, occasionally with a Jewish representative as well, and we wanted to reach more broadly than that. So we used the term multifaith. We include here locally at least a dozen different faith traditions, and we wanted that.”

One other aspect of multifaith that I recognize is that the term includes the individual faith journey, recognizing that we can be multifaith in our lives. There are people born to Baptist parents who take their parents’ faith and live that way all their lives. Others, and I’m one, have their parents’ church as children, take another when older, maybe have a period of not being “churched,” and continue as faith seekers rather than finders throughout life.

Some find that more than one faith at the same time is what works for them. I provided pastoral care to more than one person who identified as both Buddhist and Roman Catholic.

Read the complete article here.

Dalai Lama decries Buddhist attacks on Muslims in Myanmar

Ian Simpson, Reuters, May 07

Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Tuesday decried Buddhist monks’ attacks on Muslims in Myanmar, saying killing in the name of religion was “unthinkable.”

The Dalai Lama, a foremost Buddhist leader, told an audience at the University of Maryland at the start of a U.S. tour that the root of seemingly sectarian conflict was political, not spiritual.

“Really, killing people in the name of religion is unthinkable, very sad. Nowadays even Buddhists are involved in Burma,” another name for Myanmar, with monks attacking Muslim mosques, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate said after delivering the Anwar Sadat Lecture for Peace at the university.

“I think it is very sad,” he said, adding, “I pray for them (the monks) to think of the face of Buddha,” who had been a protector of Muslims.

Read the complete article here.

Anti-Blasphemy Protests in Bangladesh Turn Violent

Jim Yardley and Julfikar Ali Manik, New York Times, May 06

Violence erupted across Bangladesh on Monday as Islamist fundamentalists demanding passage of an anti-blasphemy law clashed with security forces, leaving a trail of property damage and at least 22 people dead after a second day of unrest.

For nearly two weeks, Bangladesh’s feuding political parties and Islamic movements have essentially called a truce as the country reeled from the collapse of the Rana Plaza building, which has left 661 people dead, a figure expected to rise as work crews continue clearing the wreckage. Five clothing factories operated inside the building, and the disaster has focused global attention on unsafe conditions in the garment industry.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had called on Islamic hard-liners to postpone their planned march — described as Siege Dhaka by supporters on social media — but they refused. The march was organized by Hefajat-e-Islam, a group of Islamic hard-liners who have called for Bangladesh’s Constitution to be drastically amended with a 13-point program that would ban intermingling between men and women and punish by execution Bangladeshi bloggers accused of blaspheming the Prophet Muhammad.

Read the complete article here.

Television must embrace all religions, Archbishop of Canterbury says

Hannah Furness, The Telegraph, May 07.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, has said television must celebrate all faiths openly, without hiding behind “closed doors”.

If it fails, he warned, broadcasters and viewers could be setting off down a “dangerous road” where ignorance and prejudice were cultivated.

Writing in the Radio Times this week, he said it was “essential” to showcase religions other than Christianity to allow a multicultural society to flourish.

Archbishop Welby, a former oil executive enthroned at Canterbury Cathedral in March, said adults who had received little religious education at school could be reliant upon the television to learn about other faiths.

He argued it was therefore essential to broadcast a range of religious beliefs to help them understand their neighbours, colleagues or friends.

Read the complete article here.

Protesting Interfaith? The Importance of Advancing Our Dialogues

Simran Jeet Singh, Huffington Post, Apr.25

I had never before seen anyone protest an interfaith gathering. But yesterday as we walked out of our hotel in Kiev, Ukraine, a small group of protestors stepped forward to verbally and physically harass our group consisting of religious leaders and foreign dignitaries. The protestors belonged to the Ukranian Orthodox Church and were angered that representatives of their Christian denomination, including Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III, were mixing with followers of other religious traditions.

We hurried onto our bus and traveled to our session, and upon arrival we discovered that
more protestors were awaiting our arrival outside the Parliament of Ukraine. I was fortuitously seated next to Anne-Marie Lizing, who currently serves as the Honorary President of the Senate of Belgium, and we discussed at length the profound challenges to social progress that exist in our modern world. Among other insights, she remarked that such experiences are valuable benchmarks that reinforce the importance of programs like the assembly in which we were taking part — the Kiev Interfaith Forum. She advised that there is much work to be done in nurturing a pluralistic and ecumenical global society and that we cannot take this task too lightly, especially in the context of our modern world.

Read the complete article here.

Faith and Marriage

John Turner, Patheos, Apr.18

Interfaith marriage is skyrocketing in contemporary America. A generation ago, around fifteen percent of Americans married outside their faith, which probably mostly meant Catholics marrying Protestants. Now, according to Naomi Schaefer Riley, the rate is forty-two percent. As Americans continue to delay marriage and drift away from their parents and religious upbringings during their young adulthood, it seems reasonable that soon most Americans will marry outside their religion.

This, according to Riley, has major implications for couples and religious institutions, which she explains in her just-published ‘Til Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage is Transforming America. Riley’s book is a very readable blend of survey data (she commissioned a nationwide Interfaith Marriage Survey with the help of the University of Notre Dame’s David Campbell) and anecdotes. She begins with her own. Having grown up in a Conservative Jewish household, she married a man who had left his family’s Jehovah’s Witness faith. They are raising their children Jewish.

For religious institutions, interfaith marriage has rather devastating consequences. The children of these marriages are “less likely to be observant members of their faiths.” Churches and synagogues have been hoping that inactive young adults will return to their childhood faiths after they begin having children. Riley’s book suggests that churches stand to lose many of those young adults permanently.

The news isn’t all bad, of course. Our larger society benefits in important ways from intermarriage, which promotes assimilation and religious tolerance. Protestant parents whose daughter marries a Mormon might initially express strong disapproval. Nevertheless, they are likely to develop warmer feelings not only for their son-in-law but for his church. Interfaith couples also grow in their capacity to more honestly negotiate the pluralistic society in which they live: “interfaith marriage may awaken people to the fact that religions are not all the same, that the particulars of practice and belief do matter, and that not all interfaith conflicts can be solved with the placement of a menorah next to a manger.”

Read the complete article here.

Parliament Of The World’s Religions Survives Financial Crunch

Adelle M Banks, Religion News Service, Apr.16

With the help of pagans, Jains and people of a range of other faiths, the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions has raised more than $144,000 in two weeks using a crowdsourcing campaign in a desperate bid to survive a financial crisis.

The Chicago-based interfaith network was recently ordered by a U.S. court to pay $276,000 in expenses related to its 2004 meeting in Barcelona, Spain. Deadly train bombings in Madrid months beforehand prompted a drop in expected attendance. The council took out a loan and was involved in a lengthy dispute about how to make up for lost revenue.

Mary Nelson, the interim executive director of the council, said the group had raised about half of the funds needed, but individuals and groups who took part in its crowdsourcing campaign have apparently helped her organization survive.

Two pagan groups alone raised more than $16,000. A Jain board member raised $6,300.

Support across the interfaith spectrum included the National Council of Churches, which has had its own financial troubles and urged its member organizations that are affiliated with the parliament to help out. Leaders in like-minded work also wrote personal checks.

Eboo Patel, president of the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Core, said it was significant that so many people quickly gave a sizable sum to see the organization continue, especially with its trademark large-scale gatherings that attract everyone from Adventists to Zoroastrians.

Read the complete article here.

Boston Interfaith Service Includes Prayers from Obama, and Catholic, Muslim, Jewish Clergy

Jaweed Kaleem, Huffington Post, Apr.18

Quoting heavily from scripture on the endurance of the human spirit and the triumph of good over evil in the face of tragedy, President Barack Obama joined thousands of the faithful Thursday morning for an interfaith service three days after the Boston attacks.

Speaking amid Catholic, Protestant, Greek Orthodox, Jewish and Muslim clergy to a crowd that included the families and friends of victims of the marathon bombings, the president shaped his words around Hebrews 12:1, telling the nation to “run with endurance the race that is set before us,” and 2 Timothy: 1-7, saying that, “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.”

In a city that’s just beginning to recover after three deaths and more than 170 injuries from two explosions at the Boston Marathon Monday, there have been dozens of prayer services and nonreligious vigils every day. But those who lined up in the early morning for Thursday’s gathering at Cathedral of the Holy Cross said attending was a powerful moment in a long journey of healing.

Read the complete article here.

Muslims Find a Welcoming Home in Famously Catholic Ireland

Megan O’Neil, “The Atlantic” in WorldWide Religious News, Apr. 18

A new 60,000-square-foot development is likely to generate friction in any urban setting, much less a mosque in the capital of a historically Catholic country.

And yet a proposal to construct a multi-use Islamic center — including a three-story domed mosque, school, and fitness facility — in the north Dublin neighborhood of Clongriffin has triggered little of the anti-Muslim blowback surrounding similar projects in other parts of Europe and in the United States.

In some ways, the reaction, or lack thereof, is symbolic of the Republic of Ireland’s relationship with its burgeoning Muslim population. It’s one of acceptance – at least on the surface — that is partially rooted in the successful narrative of the country’s earliest Muslim immigrants, many of them university students.

Read the complete article here.

April issue of The Interfaith Observer

The Interfaith Observer, Apr.15

“Who isn’t at the table?”

Interfaith News
Interfaith Activists Encouraged by New Pope – Unprecedented Orthodox-Roman Catholic Engagement – Time Running Out on Anti-Poverty Goals – KAICIID Announces Major Interfaith Program in Africa – Fratricide in the Land of Cain and Able – Proactive Muslim Interfaith Activists in Morocco – A Deeper Dialogue at Passover – The Good & Bad News about Interfaith Marriage – A Mystic Path for Us All

Report: Israeli and Iranian Citizen Peacemakers Finally meet in Illinois
Love between Israel and Iran – History is Made! by Janessa Gans Wilder

TIO In Canada
Canadian News & Resources
Canadian Events & Opportunities

Welcoming Atheists & Humanists into the Interfaith Community

When Who We are Becomes More Important than What We Believe
Offering an Overdue Welcome to the Atheist Community by Paul Chaffee

Unexpected Relationships
Foreword to Faithiest: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious by Eboo Patel

Unexpected Inspiration
A Review of Chris Stedman’s Faitheist by Charles Gibbs

The Case for Collaboration
On Atheists and Theists Together at the Interfaith Table by Chris Stedman

Counter-intuitive Collaboration Protects Us All
Religious Freedom, Meet Secularism – Your Best Ally by Tom Krattenmaker

Buddhist-Christian Dialogue Addresses Secularism
Secular Religion Not an Oxymoron by Ian Harris

Atheists Get Organized
Are Atheists the New Campus Crusaders? by Katherine Don

Building New Bridges
“Interview an Atheist in Church” Takes Off by Kile Jones

Promoting Pastoral Care for Us All
The Case for Atheist Chaplains by Vanessa Gomez Brake

On Becoming a Spiritually Non-exclusive Congregation
Light in the Night Sky by Gretta Vosper



Opportunities – Download a History of the Golden Rule

Discovering What’s Valuable Enough for Our Investment
Why Young Adults Are Disappearing from Our Congregations by Sana Saeed