The World Faith Blog

World Faith: The Interfaith Service Network

San Francisco Chronicle: URI Celebrates World Interfaith Harmony Week 2 February , 2011

As popular uprisings roil the Middle East and North Africa this week, a revolution of a different kind is just beginning to take shape. Tuesday marked the start of the first annual United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week, February 1-7. Crowded amidst a dizzying array of UN days, weeks, month, even decades, this designated week stands out as the first global-level acknowledgment of the importance of interfaith cooperation and understanding to world peace and prosperity.

Initiated by King Abdullah II of Jordan, the week is a chance for interfaith advocates, religious and government leaders, and people of all walks of life to celebrate the common ground they share as people of faith and conviction and take a united stand against violence in the name of religion.

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From The Star (UK): Tree Planting Helps Keep the Faith 27 January , 2011

PEOPLE from all different religious backgrounds came together for a symbolic ceremony in a South Yorkshire town – planting trees to show their unity.

The event, organised by the One Town, One Community initiative in Rotherham, was held in Boston Park, where whitebeam, golden rain, walnut, Himalayan birch, Kashmir rowan, medlar and Turkish hazel were planted.

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From The Daily Emerald: Interfaith Prayer Service celebrates diversity during the holidays 6 December , 2010

The board members behind Eugene’s Interfaith Prayer Service view the holiday season as a time for religious tolerance, understanding and dialogue.

Since it was created in 2001, the Interfaith Prayer Service has been bringing various religions together once a month to share their religious beliefs and practices.

“Interfaith is not trying to blend religions,” Interfaith board member Bill Harris said. “We try to share our religions and practices (and) find out the similarities and sincerities towards them.”

The theme for December’s service is “Lights of Peace and Fellowship.”

Harris, who is coordinating the December service, said that the light represents all the various manifestations of God and that peace and fellowship represent the embrace of each other’s differences.

Interfaith promotes tolerance at every monthly service. The nonprofit brings nine to 10 different religious representations to each service, though they try to bring Christian, Muslim and Jewish representatives to every gathering.

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From The Huffington Post: Hanukkah and Interfaith Dialogue: Increasing Our Shared Light

On the first night of Hanukkah this year, I found myself in an unusual place. I was supposed to be at a Jewish communal event hosted by Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren. But at the last minute I was asked by the Indonesian Ambassador, Dino Patti Djalal, to participate in an interfaith panel which included one of the leading Muslim clerics of his country, Dr. Din Syamsuddin. Dr. Syamsuddin is the president of Muhammadiyah, an organization of 29 million Muslims that sponsors a wide range of social and educational programs in Indonesia and more than a dozen universities. Also on the panel was Rev. Michael Livingston, a Presbyterian and former president of the National Council of Churches who is now heading up their initiative to fight poverty.

The fact is that I only accepted the invitation because of a remarkable speech I heard given by Ambassador Djalal a week earlier as part of an international conference sponsored by the Center for Interfaith Action on Global Poverty (CIFA). The organization was unveiling a new initiative to increase the engagement of faith communities in health and development efforts around the globe.

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From Patch: Muslims, Christians and Jews Gather to Give Thanks 30 November , 2010

Last week, about 200 Muslims, Christians and Jews gathered for the Twenty-Seventh Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service sponsored by a local “interfaith dialogue group,” Peace by Piece. Peace by Piece welcomes those interested in efforts to “bring together the peoples of the Middle East in the spirit of peaceful coexistence.”

Peace by Piece was formed by members of Burke Presbyterian Church, Congregation Adat Reyim and the Institute of Islamic Worship and Turkish Studies to “promote dialogue, joint worship, and friendship among its members.” Staff representatives from St. Mary of Sorrows Catholic Church also participated in the event.

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From CNN’s Belief Blog: My Take: How real interfaith dialogue works 29 November , 2010

I’ve thought for some time that if more Americans had personal contact, even friendships, with their fellow Americans who are Muslims there might be less mistrust and misunderstanding about the role Islam plays in their lives.

The years have convinced me that interfaith dialogue, particularly the one-on-one variety, is a more viable way to break down barriers between people than large-scale efforts.

Now, before we go any further: Yes, within a worldwide population of more than 1 billion Muslims (which include a few million in the United States) there are those who, for a variety of reasons, hate the United States, would do it harm or support such action.

But when the subject comes up, the American Muslims I’ve met – whether they were born here, emigrated from traditionally Muslim nations or converted from other faiths – remark how America, even amid the tensions of recent years, affords them the freedom to live, work, study and raise their children, as their neighbors do, and, importantly, worship in the way they choose, as their neighbors do.

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From The Economist: One nation, with Aunt Susan

AT A time when Americans are worried about their crippling political divisions, it is pleasing to report that two social scientists, Robert Putnam of Harvard University and David Campbell of the University of Notre Dame, have just written a book that examines a powerful source of American unity. Perhaps unexpectedly, the unifying force they focus on is religion.

America’s religiosity has been extensively documented and should surprise no one. It is, Sarah Palin said in her own new book this week, “a prayerful country”. More than eight out of ten Americans say they belong to a religion. More Americans than Iranians (four out of ten) say they attend a religious service nearly once a week or more. What is a surprise—or should be, when you think about it in the way Messrs Putnam and Campbell have—is that religion in America is not more divisive. They argue in “American Grace” (Simon & Schuster) that religion gives Americans a sort of “civic glue, uniting rather than dividing”.

The unifying impact of religion would not be so puzzling in a country where people were pious but where there was only one dominant religion—Catholic Poland, say. Americans, by contrast, hold intense religious beliefs but belong to many different faiths and denominations. That should in theory produce an explosive combination. So why doesn’t it?

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From The Washington Post’s “On Faith” Blog: Faith and development: exploring the link

The trains run exactly on time in Switzerland, and when it snowed in Bern last week the streets were plowed instantly. The cows trek down from their summer pastures to winter stables on a well established timetable. So it should come as no surprise that Switzerland’s international development programs are run with meticulous care. What’s perhaps somewhat more surprising is that Switzerland has been one of the leaders globally in a thoughtful and probing approach to the question of why religion matters when it comes to fighting poverty.

Last week a conference in Bern reflected on a decade-long exploratory project that has tackled three provocative questions: why does religion matter, what should we do about it, and how? A hundred people, from the government and a range of private organizations, most of them linked to Christian churches, met for a day-long discussion that was open and informed. I was there to bring some international experience.

The starting puzzle is why, when religion is so obviously a powerful force in the world’s poor societies, the very word “religion” has long been essentially taboo in almost all Swiss official debates and even academic literature on development. Some reasons are pretty obvious: European traditions of separation of church and state are especially strong, and good civil servants squirm when the word is mentioned. Other reasons are more complex and are a link to new questions about how to address religion in contemporary Europe. The rise of different forms of fundamentalism, across the Muslim world but also Christian fundamentalism in Switzerland itself, inspire concern that borders on fear. And delving into religion, without much background or a sound framework, can be bewildering because the topic is so complex and full of conflicts and contradictions. Is religion a cause of wars and disputes? How can we distinguish saints and inspired leaders from false prophets, putative terrorists, and outright crooks? Can religion indeed be the force for social justice and world peace that its advocates so passionately claim?

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From Defend the Prophet: Muslims, Christians, and Jews pray together for rain in the West Bank

Unseasonably dry weather in the Holy Land region, with no predictions of rain in the near future, has led a group of about 60 local Jewish and Muslim religious leaders, plus one Christian, to join in praying for rain.

Rabbi Yehuda Stolov of the Interfaith Encounter Association, which helped organize the gathering, said that the prayers on Nov. 11 were not only a plea to God for much-needed rain but also showed the commonality that the residents of the region shared.

The Christian involved was a Roman Catholic priest from Bethlehem.

“They are joint needs. They [the people] need the same things, and they ask for them from the same God,” Stolov told ENInews.

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From Patch: Where faith is concerned 23 November , 2010

Many locals know me to be either somewhat religious or spiritual. Some aren’t aware of the difference between spirituality and religion. Some don’t know and don’t care. Because of this it is hard to get articles such as this published in a mainline news service.

When it comes to the news, only what is trending seems to get published. Although many people secretly have some sort of belief in a Divine Being, most are afraid to share their faith openly, unless they are members of an established religious organization. Because of this reservation topics such as this rarely get published in the mainline news columns, unless of course there is trouble in the house of God.

Obviously when it comes to one’s faith it’s gets very complicated. People have their own interpretation of God, religion, and how it is to be practiced. What’s behind so many different practices?

What determines one’s belief? Is it something that truly improves one’s life or is it merely tradition? You would think that practicing a faith would make people more tolerant and inclusive of others rather than creating more division. Wouldn’t it be better if people could sit down together and break bread?

Perhaps it is not coming together that individual faith groups wish to achieve. They may only want to worship with people who think exactly like them.

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