The World Faith Blog

World Faith: The Interfaith Service Network

Q&A with Board Member Zeeshan Suhail 15 July , 2013

Filed under: Press — Michelle Earhart @ 10:42 am

Get to know Zeeshan, part of UNICEF Pakistan and the World Faith board, in this Q&A from UNICEF:

 Why did you want to work with UNICEF?  

I was always very passionate about children and youth. When I found out about a consultancy within the UNICEF Pakistan office, I promptly applied and was delighted to join the organization.

What’s something your colleagues don’t know about you?

My colleagues don’t know that I’m the winner of an American TV show called “Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?”

Learn more about Zeeshan here.

 

 

 

Interfaith Appalacia – The First Jew I Met 18 April , 2013

Filed under: Blog Post,Chapter Reports,News,Press — Michelle Earhart @ 2:55 pm
The First Jew I Met
Excerpt from a story by Chad McKnight, Outdoor Education Coordinator 
 
Read the complete story in the upcoming Interfaith Appalachia Journal, a collection of testimonies, stories, and art from participants and IA community members.

“…[David's] views were so much different than mine. Not just his religion, but everything. I eat every kind of meat there is, he is a vegan. I am a very conservative republican, he is a liberal democrat. I carry a gun in the woods; he has never shot a gun, and spends most of his time on concrete. I am an orthodox Christian, he is a liberal Jew. How in the world can we get along with each other much less how could I help him bring about world peace?

“Even though it sounds like we would have nothing in common, we quickly became very good friends, and my reservations were eased. I also realized that religion is not worth having, if you don’t share it. Working with IA has given me the opportunity to share what I believe with people I would have never even met otherwise. It also has given me a chance to dispel some of the negative stereotypes about us hillbillies. I have been working with IA from day one, and recently became the Outdoor Education Coordinator, which allows me to show off the beauty of Harlan County to many more people.”

 

Interfaith Harmony Week with World Faith 10 April , 2013

Filed under: Blog Post,Chapter Reports,Interfaith Issues,Pictures,Press — Michelle Earhart @ 2:52 pm
Six chapters of World Faith participated in the UNAOC’s World Interfaith Harmony Week this year! Here are some pictures of  two of the amazing events:
WF Indonesia organized two events: a discussion of religious perspectives in peacebuilding, and a Peace Dance. The discussion brought Muslims, Christians, and Hindus from the Interfaith Women’s School together to talk about the peace-building process in post-conflict areas. Many participants were able to express their thoughts as victims and survivors of the Poso conflict, and together, participants brainstormed how they could use religion to counteract political conflicts in their communities. The women who gathered hope to talk with 100 houses of worship in 2013 in order to show the Poso community that religions can work together to build peace.
InterfaithHarmonyWeek3InterfaithHarmonyWeek7
Later in the week, a Peace Dance invited over 100 women and children from 24 villages in Poso to come together and dance for an hour. The dance not only brought together an interfaith group to campaign against violence on women and children, but was the first movement in a public space in Poso where women and children could campaign against violence.
Peace dance 3Peace dance 2
WF Pakistan also organized two events. The first was a panel discussion on the scope of interfaith dialogues in Pakistan, which had over 75 attendees. The second was the “Diversity Tour to Worship Places”, a model which seeks to bridge gaps between youth of different faith and backgrounds. 25 young people visited Muslim mosques, Hindu mandirs, Sikh temples, and Protestant and Catholic churches. At each location, participants were given a tour by the hosting faith’s youth, and then given the chance to hold a dialogue with hosting faith leaders  about the site and the traditions, symbols, history, and commonalities of the particular faith.
pic285295_10200586446565920_1234038046_n
 

Frank Fredericks at Clinton Global Initiative 29 March , 2013

Filed under: News,Press — Michelle Earhart @ 2:09 pm

Clinton Global Initiative recently interviewed Frank Fredericks about what it’s like to launch a startup in: The Stories Behind The Startups: Frank Fredericks, CGI University Class of 2008.

The biggest perk of social entrepreneurship? The freedom, according to Frank, who enjoys his autonomy as executive director of World Faith. “The best part of starting my own organization is being able to tinker, question, and innovate everything, and never having to say ‘that’s just the way it is’ and accept that it can’t be changed,” he said.

It’s great to see Frank get recognition for his work with World Faith! You can read the full article here.

 

Congratulations Shahid, Acumen Fund’s Pakistan Fellow! 8 February , 2013

Filed under: Blog Post,News,Press — Michelle Earhart @ 4:37 pm

Shahid Remat, our own director of World Faith Pakistan, has just been selected for Acumen Fund’s inaugural class of Pakistan Fellows! He is one of only twenty people chosen for leading a “unique project with large-scale social impact in Pakistan.” The program will provide the opportunity to develop leadership skills, advance personal social change projects, and connect with the global community.

We are very proud of Shahid. World Faith Pakistan runs the Women Adult Education Center, which has helped many women gain literacy, life, and livelihood skills, and the Interfaith Center, educating interfaith youth and helping them visit places of worship. See some pictures of the Women Adult Education Center in one of our previous blog posts.

Read more about the Acumen Fund and Shahid’s selection here.

 

Faith Inspires: World Faith Demonstrates How Religion Can Work For Peace 22 June , 2012

Filed under: News,Press — Nele @ 10:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

This week’s Faith Inspires highlights World Faith, an NGO whose mission is to “counter religious extremism and strife by demonstrating how faith can inform work for unity and peace, rather than hate, war, and division.”

Frank Fredericks, World Faith’s founder and executive director, founded the organization in New York City after seeing first-hand the human cost of religious conflict in Egypt and Lebanon. Noticing that it was primarily young people who were the perpetrators and victims of violence, Frank wanted to promote interfaith cooperation by “mobilizing religiously-diverse young people to serve their communities in local development projects.” The result: World Faith. World Faith believes in “dialogue through action” and today their projects range from women’s empowerment, education, and HIV/AIDS sensitization to economic justice, peace-building, and environmental issues.

Originally founded as a campus club at New York University in 2006, World Faith has grown tremendously in the last six years. World Faith has taken a grassroots approach, and formed partnerships with local NGOs in South Asia, Middle East, Africa and around the United States. As of now, it has 17 chapters in 14 countries. In 2011, more than 500 activists volunteered over 16,000 hours in 10 countries and impacted the lives of over 50,000.

Originally posted on HuffPost Religion http://huff.to/KRra7W

 

Youth and Students Engagement in Peace-Building through Dialogue 16 April , 2012

Filed under: News,Press — Nele @ 10:00 am
Tags: ,

The root of DIALOGUE is the Greek “dia” and “logos”, which means “through meaning”. Understanding Dialogue with Discussion, in Dialogue people are seeking for a more complete picture of reality rather than breaking it down into fragments or parts as happens in Discussion. Having Dialogue is not about convincing others of certain point of view; there is no emphasis on winning, but on learning, collaboration and a synthesis of different points of view instead. Dialogue is towards a community-based culture of cooperation and shared leadership. Thus, a Dialogue of Life is one of the best ways to express ourselves for mutual understanding. Without Dialogue the world would be either silent or suffered from misunderstanding voices.

Why Dialogue with other Religion? This is a burning question of the present time. Religious pluralism has been a wealth of the Asian continent; on the other hand, it has been a fertile ground for conflicts and communal violence. Although supposed to be a personal and community belief of love and peace, religion by vested interest turns out to be an erupting volcano, causing countless sufferings to the toiling masses and the already marginalized.

There must be a clear understanding that the many conflicts and problems happening around in the present world are not caused by religions themselves, but a misuse of religious ideology. Moreover, religion should not be a tool to draw boundaries, but a spirituality to overcome barriers for an inclusive ground. Looking into the social, economic, political and cultural context, youth and students should realise that Dialogue is a way to move forward to build a just society.

Though the initiation of such Dialogue is religion-based, it relies on justice for all, no matter believers or non-believers. A true Dialogue is for the abundant life of all. Peace could not be seen without Justice, which could be achieved only when everyone respects all people and everyone can Dialogue with each other. Last few year I am working with the youth and students and I believe harmony should be pursued and dialogue be practiced at the individual and grassroots levels. Living in the political tension of “minority” and “majority”, facing discrimination even by the legal instrument, and feeling insecure though there was increasing legislation of national security policies, youth and students should read the signs of time and be an instrument to develop alternatives and cultivate just peace. We have to consider that dialogue is a part of life and an ongoing journey for a person to have holistic grow. Dialogue should be a sustainable process with humanity and an integrated approach.

All religions speak about peace and harmony through forgiveness and reconciliation. Religions are positively teaching us to love neighbours including ‘enemies’. However, looking at the present situation, it is quite different and sometimes showing the opposite indications. Some people or groups even misunderstand and misuse religion. Today we are facing the same situation and struggle. Understanding that through religions, cultures are defined and spiritually inspired in history, we must acknowledge the historical fact that there are many different religions. Exclusivism is neither a solution nor an alternative, and we must stop the wider world to continue spreading this vicious circle of insanity. We must meet them, not in the old way, but with understanding and respect of their spirit of self-affirmation. Realising this burning issue, it is urgent to work with the students of different faiths and eventually build up an inter-faith students’ network. Peace through dialogue is a key to uphold justice, which is the passionate desire to motivate people to work towards peace.

All people are unique  masterpiece creation. We are born to be independence with human dignity, the aggregate rights and freedoms of all. As understood in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” This includes freedom to change religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance (Article 18). At the same time, everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms without distinction or discrimination of any kind including religion.

As one of the religions, the Vatican Council in the Catholic Church declares that every human person has a right to religious freedom. It means that all people are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to her/his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others within due limits. (Declaration on Religious Freedom, Dignitatis Humanae on the Right of the Person and of Communities to Social and Civil Freedom in Matters Religious promulgated by His Holiness Pope Paul VI on 7 December 1965).

After the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), the Catholic Church became more open for dialogue between different religions. Based on clear, specific and precise guidelines rooted in the teachings of Nostra Aetate (Vatican Council II), the Catholic Church understands inter-religious dialogue with a definite meaning. In her practice the Church approaches inter-religious dialogue in different ways: reciprocal communication, attitude of mutual respect and friendship, constructive common action, obedience to truth which transcends all and respect for freedom of conscience.

Pope John Paul II said, “The unity of all divided humanity is the will of God”. The Catholic Church in Asia (FABC 7th Plenary Assembly, Jan 2000) regards inter-religious dialogue as a priority in local Churches. The Federation of Asian Bishop’s Conference (FABC) is very much concerned about inter-faith issues; therefore, the Church encourages every Christian to enter into dialogue with other religions. The goal of dialogue is to bring both partners within closer reach of complete salvation. A continuation of awareness-raising and advocacy should be pursued.

In the past, the global community understood peace as the absence of conflict and war. However, in Pope Benedict XVI’s message of World Day of Peace entitled “IN TRUTH PEACE”, peace embodies its own truthfulness because of its undeniably “intrinsic and invincible truth” (no. 3) for reasons that peace corresponds “to an irrepressible yearning and hope dwelling within us.” (nos. 3, 6) Second, the truth about peace is that it is “the fruit of an order which has been planted in human society by its divine Founder…which must be brought about by humanity in its thirst for ever more perfect justice.”

Presently,  I am working with the Youth Net which is interfaith youth network. During our meetings we feel and every one we realize that religious freedom is basic human rights. Respect to religion is an attitude for justice. So inter-faith issues, developing network with different faiths and organising training on inter-religious dialogue are given priority. Youth and students must continue to play the prophetic role to denounce any unjust practices. There must be efforts on critical study of the current realities and effective strategy-planning for structural changes to ensure fairer and non-discriminative means of distribution of the world resources amongst all people and all nations of different religions. The intellect and skills of students should be developed along with Dialogue. Hence, the necessary condition of Dialogue is a mutual respect for the identity and belief of each party and the elimination of any impediments. The intention of Dialogue is not to create one common religion, but harmony with diversity.

Bipul Alite Gonsalves  is Executive Secretary for Programmes, The National Council of YMCAs of Bangladesh, National Director, Y’Net, Interfaith Youth Network, and Regional Coordinator, EASY Net (Ecumenical Asia Pacific Students and Youth Network)

Originally posted on: http://www.theindependentbd.com/faith/104981-youth-and-students-engagement-in-peace-building-through-dialogue.html

 

Mustafa Abdullah on Story Line 11 April , 2012

Filed under: News,Press — Nele @ 10:00 am
Tags: , , ,

Mustafa Abdullah talks with Miranda Kingsley Kelly.  Mustafa is Egyptian-American and President of World Faith Winston-Salem, a multi-faith organization.  Mustafa reflects on his experience as a Muslim-American living in a post-9/11 world and discusses his motivations to help shape the community consciousness regarding world religion.

 

To listen to Mustafa´s story visit: http://www.storylineproject.org/stories

 

Youth Redefining Interfaith Activism Globally 16 March , 2012

Filed under: News,Press — Nele @ 10:00 am
Tags: , ,

by Frank Fredericks

I’ve never found an easy way to explain how an evangelical Christian from rural America came to found an interfaith youth organization with chapters across the world. It began in the summer of 2006.

It was past midnight when I flew into the airport in Alexandria, Egypt, not knowing a word of Arabic. My host from Couchsurfing, an international hospitality club, whom I’d never met, was waiting beyond customs. I was having a Tower-of-Babel moment at the immigration desk. “Enta men fain?” he said.

“I don’t speak Arabic… Do you speak English?” After a few rounds of this, an Egyptian in line behind me, hearing me try out different languages, came to my rescue, translating my Italian into Arabic.

I came to Egypt to do independent research on Christian-Islamic relations. I was under-prepared. As a student at New York University, my friends were puzzled by my move. I was studying Music Business and managing an unknown singer named Stefani Germanotta (who later donned the stage-name Lady Gaga), so I was better known for booking rock acts than religion.

Those who know me better recognized the pivotal role my faith as an evangelical Christian has for me, and know of my insatiable curiosity about “the other.” What started as a month-long trip became a lifetime journey.

Birth of a Notion

That visit to Egypt, observing both interfaith collaboration and some rare instances of violence, inspired me to pursue interfaith work. A month later, I moved to Cyprus for the summer, working the night shift as a cook in a small restaurant in Larnaka, a small and calm town on the Cypriot coast. A month later the Hezbollah-IsraelI War broke out. With the Beirut Airport bombed, the U.S. evacuation of Lebanese Americans was conducted by boat to the nearest port… Larnaka.

My relaxing beach summer rapidly unraveled as I volunteered with the U.S. State Department’s efforts to evacuate more than 10,000 people in eight days. I left on the last plane of evacuees, returning to the U.S. in mid-August. If Egypt inspired me to do interfaith work, the Lebanese evacuation gave me a sense of urgency.

Back in New York, I became determined to join the interfaith world. I met with several organizations but was troubled: the “interfaith” events I attended were primarily religious leaders talking about their different points of view. Remembering the conflicts I saw in Egypt, it was primarily young people, both as victims and perpetrators of violence. I became convinced that old people talking can’t counter young people taking action. As expected, I didn’t win too many allies early on with this perspective.

That fall we had our first “World Faith” meeting at NYU. My best friend Florentina, her dorm mate Vinita, a Hindu student, a Muslim freshmen named Tanzila, who read about us on Facebook, a Bahraini student named Dalal I’d met the week before, my friend Rob, who lived next door in our dorm, and I got together. I was idealistic, but not convinced that the sixof us were enough to change the world.

Being “social entrepreneurs” means taking great risks to create positive social change. In this vein, World Faith is run by volunteers, some of whom serve fulltime. They serve without salaries, though the ultimate goal is to generate a sustainable level of support for local chapters and the global network.

The Early Years

I became an Interfaith Youth Core Fellow, meeting interfaith leaders like Eboo Patel and Joshua Stanton, graduating from New York University, and working on World Faith nearly fulltime. This entailed traveling the world to find like-minded young people to start World Faith chapters in places like India and Lebanon.

Up to this point, World Faith was largely a story about me. From here on, I suddenly became a small part of the World Faith story.

Abdul Shakeel Basha still recalls when the Babri Mosque in Mumbai was demolished, leading to widespread violence across India. He showed up at a relief camp for victims with a plan to volunteer for five days. He stayed for five years. When the similar religiously fueled violence broke out in Gujarat that left thousands dead, he moved to Gujarat to volunteer in relief efforts, at times putting his own life at risk.

Shakeel and I met for the first time in 2009. As an activist in Delhi, he was frustrated by the systemic marginalization of poor Indians, especially homeless youth. “They have rights and protections by law,” he explained, “but the very institutions that are supposed to protect and support them actually suppress and abuse them.”

Soon after, Shakeel decided to join World Faith, taking on the social entrepreneurial role of national director for World Faith India. Three years later, he has built two schools in Delhi slums that provide education for 150 children. He’s convinced the local government to hire 14 World Faith volunteers to staff and run these schools, while they work in the homeless communities of Delhi, providing emergency response, finding pro-bono legal help to end unlawful slum demolitions, and mobilizing religiously diverse volunteers to give over 6,000 volunteer hours last year. Shakeel, like all World Faith regional directors, did all this without a salary.

Interfaith Peacemaking + International Development

While Shakeel’s story is truly remarkable, it is no longer unusual. The same social entrepreneurism that inspired Shakeel to build World Faith India, drives thousands of others to build interfaith development and service projects across the world. I’ve been lucky enough to meet a handful, leaders of World Faith chapters in Bangladesh, Egypt, Lebanon, Kenya, Nigeria, and Pakistan, along with leaders in ten other countries we’re talking to. World Faith has essentially doubled in size every year, which is why we feel we are only at the beginning of building a world movement of interfaith action.

World Faith has become a cutting edge of the intersection between interfaith peacebuilding and international development. Too often global challenges intertwine these issues, but we address them separately, as if they weren’t connected.

Take Nigeria as an example. Few places need interfaith peacebuilding more than Nigeria, but peacebuilding itself will not be enough. Specifically, the British Council found that the most significant factor in avoiding a possible Nigerian civil war is providing 25 million additional jobs, primarily for the youth. Essentially, no peacebuilding efforts will end a seeming religious conflict with economic issues at its roots.

Similarly, economic development is dependent on a viable society. Nothing scares away investment and squashes opportunity like communal violence or political instability. Both of these forces, violence and economic stagnation, disproportionately affect the youth. We see this as a global trend. In places like Nigeria, as World Faith Nigeria’s national director Obi Peter attests, peacebuilding and development efforts cannot viably function separately.

Herein lies the problem and the answer. Both peacebuilding and development efforts typically see young people as the problem. It’s a tempting conclusion when you see the young unemployed and the young perpetrating violence. But youth represent the most under-utilized asset in such communities. Entrepreneurism, unused higher education, social and geographical mobility, and widely expansive social networks are just a few of the crucial characteristics that represent the key ingredients to progress. That is why World Faith chapters are each created and led by social entrepreneurs, usually young adults themselves, who mobilize their fellow youth to action. They provide solutions. Are these solutions innovative? Are they really helpful?

Meet Jared Akama Ondieki, the national director of World Faith Kenya, operating as a nonprofit called CEPACET (Center for Partnership and Civic Engagement). Jared witnessed development projects in Kenya failing because they typically only addressed one of the many stacked and intertwined issues. Take the plight of widows at Lake Victoria, near his hometown of Kisii.

Thousands of widows have resorted to the informal industry of buying the day’s catch from the all-male fisherman at the docks. Culturally women aren’t permitted to fish. Reselling the fish at the town market, they often can barely feed themselves and their children. Along with the poverty, the fishermen often require the widows to sleep with them. Most fisherman sell to more than one widow, and many widows have several fisherman they buy from. The result is an HIV rate of 10-40%, much higher than the national average of 6.3%. It’s a challenge that spans poverty, public health, culture, education, and women’s empowerment.

Jared and a group of Muslim and Christian young people in Kenya had an idea. During a closure on the lake due to overfishing, they approached 100 widows who wanted an alternative income. These women and their children moved to a community farm, were taught to farm and harvest seed, and within a year became self-sufficient. They even had loaned money out into the surrounding community. Last week we heard they are breaking ground on a second farm.

With more that 500 activists volunteering over 16,000 hours in ten countries last year, impacting the lives of over 50,000 people, we see a global trend becoming the foundation of a world movement. This is the beginning. World Faith has doubled in impact every year for the past three years. With interest bubbling right now for new chapters in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, North America, and South Asia, I have no doubt about exponential growth this coming year.

It means constantly adapting to the realities on the ground. They are always unique. But it turns out that the imagination, curiosity, and generosity of young people in every religious tradition, confronting global issues in their own backyard, can create interfaith action anytime, anywhere. It is transformative and contagious and a blessing.

Originally posted on: http://theinterfaithobserver.org/journal-articles/2012/3/15/youth-redefining-interfaith-activism-globally.html

 

Embracing diversity for peaceful cohabitation in American cities 11 January , 2012

Filed under: Press — shivali91 @ 5:30 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Article by World Faith executive director Frank Fredericks

In the 19 November 2011 issue of The Economist, the cover story, called “The magic of diasporas” outlines the benefits of mass immigration, particularly to the West. However the changing demographics in major metropolises can also be a highly destabilising force.

This is especially true in the United States in cities where immigration is high and demographics can change significantly in less than a generation. In some places this has resulted in an increase in hate crimes and communal tensions. Yet some cities handle racial and ethnic diversity better than others and provide valuable lessons for other communities.

One example of this is Queens, one of the lesser known boroughs of New York City. Queens is the most diverse county in America; US Census Bureau statistics suggest that 138 languages are spoken there. Is it a hotbed of racial and ethnic tension? Crime reports suggest surprisingly that it’s not. So how does Queens handle all of this diversity?

In 2010, the state reported only 51 hate crimes in Queens, or .02 incidents per 1,000 people, which is slightly less than the national average. While Queens may be extreme with regards to its diversity and its success at managing diversity, it is not the only such example. London, Kampala, Sydney and Singapore all have strikingly similar stories.

So what keeps these cities from meeting the same fate as our world’s racially or ethnically divided communities? I propose that a lack of an obvious racial or ethnic majority and a loss of communal insularity contribute to functional multiethnic communities.

The neighbourhood of Astoria in Queens, for example, is often associated with its Greek roots; however, the encroachment of other nationalities – Egyptians, Brazilians, Italians, Dominicans, Moroccans, Indians, Colombians, Turks and Chinese – has dissolved any clear majority. What is striking about this diversity is that while Greeks still have a home in Astoria, even in “their” neighbourhood, they cannot avoid interacting with others – bosses, co-workers and friends – from different ethnic communities.

In a place where you cannot eat or work without reaching outside your racial or ethnic community – where community insularity is impossible – the opportunity to isolate yourself and dehumanise another ethnic or racial community becomes difficult. Residents instead have to find constructive ways to interact with one another.

If one way to prevent racial and ethnic tension is increased interaction among groups and the lack of a clear majority, how can cities actively create those types of communities?

While immigration trends and real estate prices play a role in determining where diverse groups choose to live, local government can still play a role in improving racial and ethnic integration.

Schools offer a key opportunity. Schools with multiple ethnic and linguistic groups generate more tolerant youth. A US Commission on Civil Rights report entitled “The Benefits of Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Elementary and Secondary Education” observed that black and white students who attended desegregated schools were “more likely to function in diverse settings later in life.” This can be put into practice simply. Rather than bussing students, simply redistricting school zones can lead to more integrated communities.

However, the responsibility for racial and ethnic integration does not rest solely with the government. Another way to create more interaction among racially and ethnically diverse groups is for businesses to offer products and services that cater to those beyond their own community. In another example from Astoria, one bank employs tellers from different ethnic groups, so that at any moment, they have at least one Spanish, Chinese, Greek and Arabic speaker working. Similarly, the Mexican taco truck on my block that carries a traditional Greek dish is not only widening its clientele but building a more cohesive community. Simply put, people are not only exchanging goods, services and money, but the constant engagement among co-workers, patrons and small business owners across racial and ethnic lines produces relationships, partnerships and humanisation.

Too often, when faced with challenges regarding racial cohesion in metropolises, we focus on communities that illustrate what is going wrong. When we focus on communities that are more cohesive, there are a lot of positive lessons we can learn.

This article was re-posted from Common Ground News: http://www.commongroundnews.org/article.php?id=30854&lan=en&sp=0

 

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 37 other followers