The World Faith Blog

World Faith: The Interfaith Service Network

Youth Bridging Religious Differences 29 May , 2012

On May 26, 2012 Interfaith Youth in Action (IYA) / World Faith Pakistan (WFP) and the Youth Development Foundation organized a bus tour visiting places of worship in Lahore. 58 young people from the country’s different faiths groups participated in the tour which aimed at advancing interfaith relations and cooperation. The bus tour is a practical tool to foster interfaith understanding among religiously-diverse youth which is a determinant for peace and development in Pakistan.

The tour provided a unique experience and opportunity to visit different places of worship and to learn more about the beliefs, practices, and customs of the local faith traditions. The group visited a church, a mosque, a Baha’i temple, a Hindu Mandir, and a Sikh Gurdwara.

The youth of each community welcomed the participants and the religious leaders briefed them on their faith traditions, their history and conflict situations. Following this, the participants had the opportunity to ask additional questions in a Q & A session.

Anila Noor, Participant: Through this event I made friends with people from the Christian, Hindu, and Sikh community which never happened in my life before. Through these friendships we will contribute to build bridges between Pakistan’s different religious groups and we will try to inspire others to engage in interfaith activities.

Shahid Ghouri, Founding President of IYA/WFP: Through this event we provided a safe space for religiously-diverse youth to share information about their own faith and to learn more about other faith traditions. This is an important step to reduce common religious misconceptions and to advance interfaith relationships.

Fr. Ashraf Gill, Catholic Youth Director: The youth should get the chance to solve continuing interfaith differences by engaging in implementable interfaith activities, rather than interfaith seminaries or conferences which take place in an artificial environments, and which turned out to be of little efficiency in the Pakistani context.

At the end of the day all participants had the chance to share their feelings with the group and to explain what they have learned during the day. They were encouraged to make recommendations for future interfaith dialogue.

Recommendations:

  1. Young people should get a better chance to use their potentials and their creative ideas for interfaith dialogue and ecumenism. (Christian participants)
  2. Religious leaders should better include youth to solve ongoing religious gaps to promote peace and development in Pakistan. (Muslim & Hindu participants)
  3. Interfaith groups should be introduced in every educational institution in order to educate, interact, and to develop relations among religiously-diverse youth. (All participants)

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Occupy Yourself 30 January , 2012

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Nearly a decade ago, I had the fortune of reading American Holocaust by David Stannard, which detailed the horrific conquest of Native American culture behind the “founding” of America. I found the very framework of my own cultural understanding thrown asunder. I realized that the “American Dream” had been largely birthed from a nightmare of unimaginable proportions.

I felt like I had been lied to, that the real fabric behind all the myths and legends of America was something else entirely that what I had absorbed as a open-minded youth in school. I now wanted to know what the truth really was, what truth really meant, and how to grasp a truth whose meaning would not be elusive or steeped in hypocrisy.

My own search for truth took me through many experiences and personal experiments into social justice and progressive philosophy into the realm of the spiritual, where I now live as a monk of the Hindu tradition in New York City. Yet I feel my journey is far from complete, as the bridge between the spiritual and activist spaces within my mind, heart, and soul feels unwalked to me. I want to know how I, as a monk, as a truth-seeker, with an open heart, can help to effect the kind of change we need in this world which is not ephemeral, which is linked to the eternal.

This disconnect came to the fore for me as I observed the march forward of the Occupy Wall Street movement over the past few months, its nucleus at Zuccotti Park just a short walk from my own monastery. I felt both a great inspiration for the courage and clamor of the huddled masses defying the fortress of inequality, yet I also felt a distance, a certain aloofness. I couldn’t connect, or find a deep personal motivation to become involved, to put my own body on the line.

As a monk, committed as much as I am to the inner spiritual journey, to the revolution of the heart, the realm of the politic feels incomplete without the consideration of the big picture. I am having a hard enough time occupying myself, knowing that unless I rend asunder my own greed, how can I make any impact taking on the forces of avarice that dominate our world? As great as the carnival spirit of OWS was and is, I desire a deeper connection, a clear bridge between our determination and our divinity.

A recent piece by Dylan Ratigan at the Huffington Post, titled “This Thanksgiving, Occupy Yourself”, helped to crystallize some of my own feelings and hopes with our grand new social justice movement. Dylan boldly challenges our own conception of the “villain” in the struggle that we face, asking us to look within the precepts of our own heart and being.

He writes:

I would point to the concept of the villain itself as the villain. For a villain, “the other”, lets us avoid dealing with the dark part that resides in each of us.

We all have dark thoughts — individually and as a nation. Fear, lust, anger, jealousy, deceit drive much of our decision-making. Yet, these are parts of ourselves we run away from. As a society, we have crafted a culture and set of institutional arrangements to deny this part of ourselves. This is why it has taken so long to even admit we have a problem of wealth inequality. It’s the denial of the dark part of ourselves.

But diabolical energy is part of human spirit, because we are dualistic beings. You cannot know honesty without knowing deceit, good cannot exist without evil, and life is not life without death. Our challenge is to reconcile all of these forces as they all exist in each of us. Any institutional arrangement that denies this, that relies on images of perfection bereft of the shadow, will inevitably be dominated by the very forces of that darkness. Namely fear of the shadow, ironically.

He quotes from Deepak Chopra’s The Shadow Effect:

We have been conditioned to fear the shadow side of life and the shadow side of ourselves. When we catch ourselves thinking a dark thought or acting out in a behavior that we feel is unacceptable, we run, just like a groundhog, back into our hole and hide, hoping, praying, it will disappear before we venture out again.

Why do we do this? Because we are afraid that no matter how hard we try, we will never be able to escape from this part of ourselves. And although ignoring or repressing our dark side is the norm, the sobering truth is that running from the shadow only intensifies its power.  Denying it only leads to more pain, suffering, regret, and resignation. the shadow will charge, and instead of us being able to have control over it, the shadow winds up having control over us, triggering the shadow effect.

This is a deep, deep spiritual meditation, a call to face the injustice we cause to our own heart, to our own self. It echoes the tradition of the Bhagavad-Gita, which tells us that the only real enemy we face is the vicissitudes of our own mind, and which call for us to find a
radical and progressive forgiveness towards those we hope can change for the better in their thought and action.

It is my fervent hope that by occupying the secret yet potentially sacred spaces in my own heart and mind, with the courage supplied to me by the great souls around me in my monastery and beyond, that I will be able to make a humble contribution to the OWS
movement and to all the peoples struggling and striving to fulfill our common destiny as a human family.

If we want to give divine solace to the pain so many people are feeling, not being allowed their inviolable right to the pursuit of happiness, we must learn to face the pain within us, and learn to speak the language of forgiveness and transcendence.

Chris Fici is a writer/teacher/monk of the bhakti-yoga tradition. He has been practicing at the Bhaktivedanta Ashram in New York City since 2009. After receiving a degree in film/video studies at the University of Michigan, Chris began his exploration and study of the bhakti tradition. He currently teaches classes on the culture and art of vegetarian cooking, as well as the living philosophy of the Bhagavad-Gita, at New York University.

 

Hindu Community Makes Its White House Debut 1 August , 2011

Hinduism is hardly new to the United States. Swami Vivekenanda is thought to have first introduced it when he visited as part of the World’s Parliament of Religions at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. He received a standing ovation from the 7,000 people in audience, whom he declared his “Sisters and Brothers of America.”

In spite of Vivekenanda’s reception, subsequent series of lectures, and ultimately the establishment of the Vedantic Society of New York, with satellites in Boston and San Francisco, Hinduism remained a tiny presence in the United States for decades. It was but a demographic trickle. Only after 1965, with the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which eased immigration from India and the rest of Asia to the United States, did the population of Hindus begin to grow. They now comprise a reputed .4 percent of the U.S. Population or, depending on whose arithmetic, 1.2 million people.

And what a population it is! According to the Pew Forum’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, nearly half of Hindus living in the United States in 2009 had a post-graduate degree, by far the highest percentage of any community and five times the national average. As a population, they appear to be socially mobile and rising quickly within American society.

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Dharmic Seva and Vivekananda: The Catalyst to Building Pluralistic Communities 21 July , 2011

The Dharmic American community has an immense, untapped potential to serve at home and abroad. Dharmic Seva can become a catalyst to strengthening and building pluralistic communities. Our ancient expression,Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (The Whole World is One Family) is a key principle driving Hindu American Seva Charities (HASC) as we prepare for the first historic briefing at the White House, followed by the conference at Georgetown University.

The theme of the event is “Energizing Dharmic Seva (Service): Impacting Change in America and Abroad,” and is designed to inspire all toward community service. We will explore ways to further strengthen America through service and honor those within our community who have served, are serving and will serve. We have an impressive slate of speakers coming to share their perspectives.

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Interfaith Services a Growing Trend in US 5 July , 2011

Washington—As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, interfaith relations in the U.S. are taking on new importance. A case in point is the growing momentum of the Faith Shared project, an interfaith initiative designed to promote understanding and respect across all religions through joint services.

Sunday, June 26, saw dozens of events taking place in houses of worship across the country, including the Episcopal Church in the United States of America’s National Cathedral in Washington. Led by several religious leaders, including an imam, a rabbi and a priest, the cathedral service included readings from the Torah and the Q’uran. Similar celebrations took place in more than 70 other churches and 32 other states.

 

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“Gayatri Mantra” Concludes Religious Leadership Seminar at Hartford Seminary in USA 16 June , 2011

Nevada (US), June 16: Weeklong “Religious Leadership in an Interfaith World” seminar ended with “Gayatri Mantra”, the most sacred mantra of Hinduism, at Hartford Seminary (Connecticut, USA).

 Esteemed Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, who participated in the seminar, read the benediction in Sanskrit from Rig-Veda, Upanishads, and Bhagavad-Gita; all ancient Hindu scriptures; and then translated into English. Participants repeated the Gayatri Mantra after Zed.

Reading from Brahadaranyakopanishad, Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, said “Asato ma sad gamaya, Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya, Mrtyor mamrtam gamaya”, which he then translated as “Lead me from the unreal to the Real, Lead me from darkness to Light, and Lead me from death to Immortality.”

 

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Anju Bhargava Huff Post- Holi: Colorful Celebration of Equality 28 March , 2011

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Hindu festivals are communal celebrations through which an aspect of the universal Truth is brought to life. The rituals of the festival are intended to strengthen bonds between and within families and communities.

Holi is celebrated on the Purnima (Full Moon Day) of Hindu Lunar Calendar Month of Phalgun over 2 days.

On the first night an effigy of Holika is burnt to represent the victory of good over evil. Neem leaves are burned to represent removal of bitterness of life, leaving the sweetened medicinal value. It is also a time for cleansing and burning all negativities and trash of the winter in a bonfire.

On the second day spring is heralded colorfully. READ MORE