The World Faith Blog

World Faith: The Interfaith Service Network

Chaplain Meets With Tanzanian Religious Leaders 8 August , 2011

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, August 4, 2011 — – Rabbi (U.S. Navy Captain) Jon Cutler, director of Religious Affairs for Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), traveled to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, July 18 to 21, to meet with religious leaders and discuss a future trip and a regional religious leader dinner.

The visit included meetings with representatives from several faith groups, including Pentecostals, Muslims, Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Seventh Day Adventist and Assemblies of God.

“I’m here to get a better understanding of the religious landscape of Tanzania,” said Cutler. “Religion is the very fabric of African society and we want to partner in building upon religious pluralism and diversity. The power of religion is such a significant factor in solving problems that face East Africa.”

One of several topics discussed was Cutler’s future visit to Dar es Salaam during Ramadan, the annual Islamic month of fasting.



Poll: American Jews and Muslims share common values 3 August , 2011

NEW YORK (JTA) — Muslim and Jewish Americans share common values on key questions, according to a Gallup poll.

The poll, released Tuesday, found that the Muslim Americans exceeded Jewish belief in religious pluralism and in the fairness of elections, and also in support of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — 81 percent for Muslims, 78 percent for Jews.

Jews and Muslims also were the only religious groups surveyed in which a majority backed President Obama.

Jews were the least likely group, besides Muslims, to question the loyalty of Muslims, with 70 percent of Jewish Americans denying that Muslim Americans sympathize with the al-Qaeda terrorist group and 80 percent agreeing that Muslims are loyal to the United States. They disagreed, however, on whether Muslims spoke out enough against terrorism, with 28 percent of Muslims and 65 percent of Jews saying that Muslims were not vocal enough. The 65 percent put Jews in the middle of the religious groups surveyed.



The Power of Unity: Religious Pluralism in the U.K. 6 July , 2011

Every year two thousand Jews in Britain head for a University in the middle of the country for Limmud. This is a cross community education experience with hundreds of different workshops on Jewish religion, life and culture which happens to take place over the Christmas holiday period. It feels wonderfully countercultural to be learning Judaism when the rest of the country is enjoying the rather secularised British Christmas. The University obligingly takes down the Christmas trees and the tinsel for us and a corner of England becomes Jerusalem for a week.

Generally though Britain is a multicultural society. The Government’s National Curriculum requires children to experience religious education throughout their school career. This begins, even in places where there are hardly any Jews, with children in most elementary schools lighting Hanukkah candles, learning about Diwali, the Hindu festival and Eid, the Muslim end of Ramadan, together with putting on the school Nativity Play telling the birth narrative of Jesus. It means that the majority of British children, even if religion plays very little part in their own family life, end up knowing a little about all of the larger religious groups in the country.



Learning From My Neighbors: A Sikh’s Interfaith Journey 9 June , 2011

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.




The Aspen Institute and Interfaith Youth Core to Co-Host “America the Inclusive” on Building Robust Community Partnerships to Aid Youth 28 March , 2011

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Justice and Society Program at the Aspen Institute and the Interfaith Youth Core will host an invitation-only conference, America the Inclusive at the Institute’s Washington, D.C. offices, onMarch 30.

Growing out of concern over the increasingly polarized conversation about religious diversity in the media and the public arena, the Conference will focus on the core American value of freedom of religious expression, and our long heritage of welcoming and including peoples of all faiths into the American experience. Models for youth and community organizations with a track record of success in building American identity from diverse cultural heritages, and innovative approaches that balance respect for religious identity with inclusion in the mainstream will also be addressed. READ MORE


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.




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?




From RocNow: Despite multiple faiths, we are ‘better together’ 15 November , 2010

“Better together.”

Before our trip to the White House, this simple slogan seemed empty to us. However, after attending the Interfaith Youth Core’s Leadership Development Conference in Washington, D.C., this became our mantra, our belief that in order to become empowered and effective as interfaith leaders, we have to break barriers and work in harmony with one another.



From The New York Times: On an Indian Reservation, a Garden of Buddhas 1 November , 2010

ARLEE, Mont. — On a rural American Indian reservation here, amid grazing horses and cattle, a Buddhist lama from the other side of the world is nearing completion of a $1.6 million meditative garden that he hopes will draw spiritual pilgrims.

“There is something pure and powerful about this landscape,” said Gochen Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche, the 56-year-old Tibetan lama, as he walked down a gravel road on a sunny fall day. “The shape of the hills is like a lotus petal blossoming.”

Richard Gere has not been seen house shopping here — yet. But on the land of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes, a 24-foot statue of Yum Chenmo, the Great Wisdom Mother, has risen in Mr. Sang-ngag’s farm field. Nearby, in his old sheep barn, amid rubber molds and plaster, some 650 statues of Buddha sit in neat rows, illuminated by shafts of light pouring in through broken boards.

It seemed the perfect setup for a clash of two cultures when Mr. Sang-ngag, a high-ranking Buddhist lama, came to this remote part of Montana a decade ago, liked the landscape feng shui and bought a 60-acre sheep ranch. At the foot of the towering, glacier-etched Mission Mountains — not unlike his native Tibet — he and a band of volunteers began building a Garden of 1,000 Buddhas to promote world peace.




From The Washington Post’s “On Faith” Blog: Tipping the scale in DC

300 strong, they came. Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, and non-believers, marked by their differences but united in their commitment to work with one another towards building a world where interfaith cooperation is a social norm.

Last week, 200 undergraduate students and 100 staff allies gathered in Washington, D.C. for Interfaith Youth Core’s inaugural Interfaith Leadership Institute. These student leaders are part of a growing network of young people around the world changing the conversation on faith and social action through the Better Together campaign. From the mountains of Young Harris, GA to the sandy beaches of Los Angeles, CA, they came ready to learn, share stories, and take action.