The World Faith Blog

World Faith: The Interfaith Service Network

Love Your Neighbor: An Inspiring Story of Two Friends 14 November , 2012

World Faith founder Frank Frederick’s latest article on the Huffington Post:

As a Christian, I reflected over the years as what it means to “love your neighbor.” When I lived in rural America, outside of Portland, Ore., this seemed like a much easier feet. Our nearest neighbor lived a few hundred yards away. I’d have to walk a mile in any direction to find someone we didn’t know.

Now I live in New York City, and my “neighbor” is someone I don’t know. My city, neighborhood and block are filled people who don’t know me, don’t are to know me, don’t look like me, talk like me, smell like me, think like me, and have no desire to change that fact. This is true to the extent that I haven’t yet caught the names of the couple who are subletting the apartment next time ours. In short, I literally don’t even know my literal neighbors. I find that it’s pretty hard to love people you don’t even know. And sometimes, we all, myself included, use that as an excuse to not even try.

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One day, Brendan, a young but rising DJ in New York, was coming home to his Brooklyn apartment when a homeless woman asked him for money. He said, honesty, that he had no money. By the end of the week, she asked two more times, and each no he answered “no.” Finally she frankly replied, “you better not, because every day you say no.” Inserting some rational thinking into an otherwise awkward conversation, he proposed, “I am on my way to a job interview. If I get the job, I will take you out for Chinese food.” This promise yielded a friendship that neither were prepared for — that changed the trajectory of their lives, both forwards toward each other.

Brendan got the job. But their friendship didn’t just end with Chinese food. They built a friendship of mutual support, spending their birthdays, holidays and tough times together, over a period of eight years. When Brendan’s heater broke, she made him a blanket. Two days later when he told her that he had lost his job, she disappeared, returning minutes later, bringing him groceries, and which continued to do throughout the winter. Even with so little, she never hesitated to give back.

Over these years, Jackie moved from the streets and subway stations, into a halfway house, YMCA, and is now moving into an apartment. To celebrate this occasion, Brendan wanted to do something special for Jackie. He went with her to Target, and helped her to pick out everything she’d need for an apartment, starting a registry. Then, he set up a campaign to raise the money to pay for the registry (now closed), along with an awesome video telling their story. While their original goal was to raise $500, the campaign went viral and they’ve raised more than $6,000, and are now looking to use the extra funding to support other women in need.

Brendan isn’t a Christian, and this isn’t about out-Jesusing each other. It’s not even a challenge to only Christians, but everyone who struggles with the desire to be a stakeholder in their community, yet are overwhelmed by the reality of living out that desire.

I met Brendan from my music business days, through our work with Lady Gaga (him as her DJ, me as her manager), long before I got involved in non-profit work. Yet he reminds me that having a dayjob with a mission doesn’t relieve us of the challenge of being loving neighbors, for the few within miles, or the thousands within blocks. Similarly, loving our neighbors, whether next door or at our door step, doesn’t require a change in profession, just a willingness to speak, to listen and to give. May Brendan’s story challenge us this week to step out of comfort zone, and find a new way to honor, serve and love the people around us.

Check out the original posting here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/frank-fredericks/love-your-neighbor-inspiring-story-of-two-friends_b_2127070.html

 

Dalai Lama to Host Washington D.C. Peace Festival in July 28 June , 2011

WASHINGTON (RNS) The Dalai Lama will visit Washington next month for an 11-day peace rally that is being billed as
“the largest gathering for world peace in history.”

The July 6-16 “Kalachakra for World Peace” aims to “amplify the profound, unshakable commitment of (the Dalai Lama) to values such as love, compassion, wisdom and interfaith harmony,” according to publicity materials.

The first day of the event will mark the Dalai Lama’s 76th birthday.

Event activities include dancing, chanting of prayers and teachings by the Dalai Lama on Tibetan Buddhist principles. Like other events hosted by the Dalai Lama, Buddhist monks will create a colorful and detailed sand mandala, or mural, that will be swept away to illustrate the impermanence of life.

 

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Gimme That Old Time (Native American) Religion 9 June , 2011

About a week ago, I participated in a series of talks my local church sponsored called, “Gutsy Women of Faith.” My assignment was to go through my just-published book, “Indian Voices: Listening to Native Americans,” choose a number of Native women who had spoken to me about faith and discuss them.

Like everything connected to Native Americana, at least in my view, things were complicated.

For starters, I realized I had never specifically  asked any of the women, or men, about their beliefs. Instead, they themselves broached this most personal subject, as they broached many, many other personal subjects, such as their backgrounds. Read: non-Native grandparent or parent or spouse. As I glanced up from my computer screen to my frequently consulted Map of American Indian Nations, whose land base looks to comprise about one percent of the United States, I realized that virtually every person I interviewed had spoken about faith, either in terms of religious practice or beliefs. (This is unlike the majority of my non-Native friends, who rarely bring up the subject.)

 

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Learning From My Neighbors: A Sikh’s Interfaith Journey

While growing up as a kid in northern India in the early 1980s, I fondly remember one of my best friends in high school, Sher Ali Khan. He was a devout Muslim.

While in 9th grade, Sher Ali called me over to his home for the Islamic festival of Eid. The food at the table was overflowing and beautifully decorated. But a dilemma faced me soon. All the meat on the table was halal — a special religious technique of preparation of meat in the Islamic faith that I as a Sikh was forbidden to eat, due to the Sikh Rehat Maryada (Principles of Sikh Living). So I chose to stay a silent vegetarian that day partaking only of vegetables and sweets.

A couple of months later, he was over at our home for dinner and we had cooked meat without any religious preparation. Since the meat was not halal, Sher Ali became a vegetarian for that meal.

At that time I thought that our religions were getting in the way of our friendship. But as I reflect on it now, it seems that we were learning how to negotiate our religious differences.

 

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Finding Meaning in the Death of a Teacher

Physically awkward, socially uncomfortable, mechanically rigid, and not balding, but conclusively balded, having lost it and pointing it out with a toupee. For high school students, that’s blood in the water. We’d regularly tease him; our pre-calculus class in particular was famed for its brazenness (and be sure we reveled in that notoriety). But because he wasn’t the type of teacher — or the type of man — who knew how to push back, he’d end up all but asking for more. I mean, he was a math teacher wearing a toupee. Did he expect differently?

One day, during passing time between classes, someone opened the door to our room and tossed a toupee into the room. While he was lecturing. I still remember how quickly everything stopped, as we watched the toupee fall to the floor, rather like a leaf, and our teacher’s voice first stumbled and then seemed to be sucked out of existence, leaving behind an unbelievable silence so perfect we could not imagine it hadn’t endured forever. If the room itself could be embarrassed, then the air was red in the face.

 

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WF Board Member Featured in the HuffPost: Jews and the Need For God: Modern Lessons from Moses Maimonides 3 January , 2011

Judaism is an action-oriented religion. We have, according to the Talmud, 613 Commandments — not just a top-10 list. In rabbinic courts, your actions can be praised or punished. Faith is a means to achieve just ends, prayer as a way of connecting to the Source of Creation so that we can better play our part in its ongoing unfolding.

But what if you can achieve those same just, creative, Jewish ends without faith as a means or a motivation? Do you need God if you observe the 613 Commandments (or reinterpret and reapply them as so many modern Jews do)? Do you need God if you consider prayer an act of introspection — one that changes the way you understand your actions, much as your believing counterparts do? Do you need God if you love the Torah as a national treasure of the Jewish people — but one written and conceived of by our ancestors rather than the Divine?

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From The Huffington Post: Beginning Again: How America and Muslim Majority Societies Can Re-Engage 26 October , 2010

The recent controversy over Juan Williams’ choice of words underscores just how little progress has been made since I sat in a packed Cairo University auditorium last June, witnessing firsthand President Barack Obama dazzle and inspire a cross section of Egyptian society.

His now famous address, titled the “New Beginning,” energized Egypt and the wider region, but more than a year later, tensions between the United States and Muslim majority societies are far from eliminated. Two wars, a sputtering Middle East peace process and the continued threat of al-Qaeda inspired violence present difficult hurdles to fostering trust.

The most powerful first step leaders can take to rebuild partnership between Muslim communities and the U.S. is to resolve these acute conflicts and end terrorism.

However, leaders cannot put global engagement on hold until these complex problems are solved. In spite of these challenges, governments and civil society on all sides must take an interactive holistic approach to move the relationship forward.

Here is what we must do:

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From The Guardian: Reach out to those without faith, too 19 October , 2010

Filed under: Interfaith Issues — Administrator @ 7:55 am
Tags: , , , ,

Most people would accept that religion can be an extremely divisive force. You don’t have to subscribe to theories of “the clash of civilisations” to note that religious fanaticism is a continued source of conflict in the world. But in the modern era there is a counter-trend that tends to be overlooked: that of dialogue and conciliation between faiths.

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From The Huffington Post: ‘Evangelical Atheists:’ Pushing For What? 18 October , 2010

Last Friday, a New York Times headline declared: “Atheists Debate How Pushy to Be.” This ongoing debate among atheists — “Just how much should we confront the religious?” — is nowhere near resolution.

Last year when I visited Minnesota to spend the winter holidays with my family, I spoke with a Christian friend about my budding efforts as an atheist promoting religious tolerance and interfaith work. She too was excited about the idea of bringing people together around shared values in spite of religious differences, but near the end of our conversation she asked me a pointed question: “I’m a little confused. Isn’t part of being an atheist trying to talk people out of their faith?”

She’s not the first to ask me that. In fact, it’s one of the questions I get most often. It seems that becausemany vocal atheists cite “the end of faith” as their goal, atheism is often perceived as being actively anti-religious to the point of being almost evangelical.

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RF USA and The Huffington Post

From World Faith Executive Director featured in The Huffington Post: The Tennessee Mosque and the Struggle for Religious Freedom

Murfreesboro, a small city you’d pass in a few minutes while taking Interstate-24 out of Nashville to Chattanooga, has never been a town of much interest to the rest of the country. Other than temporarily being Tennessee’s capital (1818-1826) and hosting the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Stones River in 1862, it has remained largely out of the limelight of American affairs.

But Murfreesboro made national attention recently when a local mosque announced a plan to build a new Islamic center to tend to the needs of it’s growing community. Despite being in the community for 30 years, the plan led to large protests, a 20,000-person petition to stop construction, vandalism and, most recently, an arson attack that has frightened the Muslim community throughout middle Tennessee. The rise of anti-Muslim sentiment has revealed itself through the region, with a mosque being rejected for a building permit in Brentwood, Tenn., and another suffering vandalism in Nashville.

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