The average percentage of global youth trusting religious leaders is now in the single digits. This “mass exodus” is becoming a pervasive challenge for a lion’s share of the world’s major faith traditions while leaders grapple, struggle, and investigate. Even framing the issue is problematic and poses controversy. So how can the claim religious leaders are performing best in South Africa to connecting to youth be considered credible?
Viacom International, the media corporation owning MTV networks and numerable communications platform is spearheading an ambitious research endeavor. “The Next Normal” plans to be the largest, sharpest, and most comprehensive survey of Millennials (Gen-Y, predecessors to “Digital Natives) in the world. In April, research conducted by the project reported a comprehensive look at the generational character on religion, spirituality and faith nation by nation.
Some of the most significant findings include South African millennials having the most trust for religious leaders of any nationality, and that Japanese and Saudi Arabian Millennials are the most inflexible in terms of individualism and choice in religious matters.
Most significant of all is that these numbers are powerful and help plot the future of interfaith around the world.
The study shows,
In exploring Millennial attitudes toward religion, faith and spirituality across the globe, we found that overall, this generation believes that everybody should have the right to choose their own religion. But their openness and tolerance are also marked by distrust in organised religion, as well as distinctions between faith and spirituality in some countries.
On average, only 9% of Millennials say they trust their religious leader and only 10% name “religious leader” among the top 5 inspirational people or bodies of people in their lives (compared to 19% for celebrities and 14% for sports stars). In terms of trust in religious leaders (who could be anyone from a local priest, preacher, imam or rabbi to the Pope), South Africa comes out strongest with a score of 29% trust – still a relatively small minority – followed by USA on 24% and Turkey on 17%.
Trust in religious leaders is lowest in France (2%), Japan and Spain (both 3%).
The New Digital Age Google forcecasts shows us that via the internet, humans will increasingly utilize their virtual passports to meet on the social web. This creates unprecedented and uncontrollable influences on millennial attitudes, and may reveal why, some unexpectedly, the youth of certain nationalities are shifting longstanding views on religion.
Considering the parallel, but alternate universe existing on and off the world wide web, Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt recently shared a shocking measure of our day and age. In North Korea, he met women conducting traffic that have become YouTube sensations for their strange, revealing clothing and mythical relationship with the supreme leader. Yet, these women don’t have the slightest notional understanding of YouTube, let alone the internet. Nowadays, the web enables geophysical outsiders unprecedented access into clues about what makes any nation’s people tick.Cultivating Online What We Do Face to Face
The Parliament of the World’s Religions is the one global event where these relationships can be built organically through personal encounter, with the intentional and expressed purpose of cultivating international bonds of harmony through interfaith understanding. Historically, youth have made remarkable contributions to the Parliament, and leave changed for life. The difference for the next Parliament is that these meeting will have already happened through introductions on the web.
Can we gauge the meaning of all this, and should we? Does the Parliament answer to the youth exodus? The results of this survey is consistent with the reports flurrying in from all corners of the world in our Global Listening Campaign. These sessions conducted by Parliament Ambassadors have uniquely national flair, but express one sentiment that is resoundingly the same: have we lost our youth? How can we get them back?
The Parliament’s answer is simple: engage online, and act proactively to talk with youth. If confidence is greatest in favor of South African faith leaders, it must mean that faith leaders deliver on their promises and in an age of expecting results, they must act on their word.
Do you find this to be true? How do religious institutions answer to the attitudes of youth to engage millennials in religious and spiritual communities inclusive to all living generations? What can the Parliament do?
Young adults take note that the North American Interfaith Network’s annual Connect conference offers substantial discounts when registering by June 15. This year’s events mark the 25th anniversary of the North American* organization planning on August 11 – 14 dates in Toronto with the banner “In Diversity is our Strength.”. Read more…
*This article has been updated from a previous version which incorrectly stated that NAIN is a Canada-based organization. The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions congratulates the North American Interfaith Network on its rich 25-year history of engagement across the continent. We apologize for the error and are pleased to promote this important work.
A Hero of Mine
All of us can look back over our lives as educators and identify people who have been significant role models. One of those persons for me has been Huston Smith. Perhaps the most important American scholar of religions for five decades, Smith was born the son of Methodist missionaries in Dzang Dok, China, where he spent the first seventeen years of his life. Now ninety-three and confined to a chair in his assisted living apartment in Berkeley, California, the old gentleman— eyes sparkling—”banters in Chinese with his friend, Mr. Lin, the maintenance man” (Lisa Miller, “Huston Smith’s Wonderful Life,” The Daily Beast, 2009).
I had read and admired Smith’s premier work, The Religions of Man (1958) many years ago, a book that has sold more than 2.5 million copies and been reprinted over sixty times. My own life experience for twenty-five years, living and working in the religiously plural and multicultural world of Java, Indonesia, caused the book I had read in my seminary class in world religions to be fascinatingly illustrated in the lives of my neighbors, friends, and acquaintances of many faiths.
But it was the chance to meet Huston Smith personally that made such a profound impact upon me. While attending a conference entitled “The World’s Religions after 9-11″ in Montreal, Canada, in 2006, I sat very close to the front of a huge convention hall to hear him address thousands of conferees from all over the globe. Unable to stand at the podium, Smith was seated at a table at center stage. With a gentle demeanor and voice projection dimmed by age, he still had no trouble holding the audience spellbound.
At the conclusion of the session, I rushed to the platform to meet him, and rather than tower above this seated and frail world religions giant, I knelt beside his chair, took his hand, and said, “Dr. Smith, you are one of my heroes.” Without pausing, he smiled and replied, “And if I knew you I’m sure that you would be one of my heroes too!”
I’ve thought about that response many times. Here was a man who has spoken all over the globe, been a close friend of Aldous Huxley, Joseph Campbell, and the Dalai Lama, held teaching posts at Syracuse University, MIT, and Berkeley, written more than a dozen important books, studied and observed ritual practices of Vedanta Hinduism, Zen Buddhism, and Sufi Islam for more than a decade each, and has been the subject of numerous articles, books, dissertations, and an award-winning PBS series with Bill Moyers, now affirming me as a person who would inspire and instruct him in some way, if only we were able to know one another better. This humble spirit, desire to keep on learning, and willingness to affirm others are secrets to the man’s greatness.
British essayist Pico Iyer, in his introduction to Smith’s autobiography, Tales of Wonder:
Adventures in Chasing the Divine, quotes Henry David Thoreau, who wrote: “To set about living a true life is to go [on] a journey to a distant country, gradually to find ourselves surrounded by new scenes and men” (“Foreward,” HarperOne, 2009, xi). That philosophy is certainly mine, as it has been Huston Smith’s. Journeying to distant countries, finding myself surrounded by new scenes and people—these experiences are the learning laboratories that have changed my own life. Myencounters with serious followers of other faith traditions have made me a better Christian. Their devotion to God, as they understand God, and their commitment to living according to God’s ethical Way, as they perceive it to be, have challenged my own devotion to God and desire to live on the Way. Experiences with the Religious Other and the lessons I have drawn from them—how visibly these threads of meaning seem to lead back to this elderly hero of my choosing.
Smith is often asked why he is a Christian, after his having admired, studied, and practiced elements of so many other faiths throughout his lifetime. Bill Moyers also asked him that question.”Because I know my need for forgiveness,” Smith said with great honesty. Raised as a Christian in China, but a student of all the world’s great wisdom traditions, he says “he will never be anything but a Christian. ‘You subtract Christianity from Huston Smith, and there is no Huston Smith left’” (Quoted in Miller, The Daily Beast). And that, too, is a perspective that I claim for myself. The more I learn about religions and religious people in distant places and next door, the more admiration I have for the world’s wisdom traditions—yet, paradoxically, the more committed I am to my own Christian path.
One of the ways Smith explored religious meaning is frequently cited in articles about him. He was at Harvard University participating in psychedelic experiments with Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (also known as Ram Dass). He was also engaged in the Harvard Project, which sought to raise spiritual awareness through the use of entheogenic plants. But Smith, the Methodist missionary kid and forever Christian, looks back on that period of research with a singularly orthodox eye, claiming: “The goal of spiritual life is not altered states, but altered traits” (www.circlesoflight.com).
What a truism for guiding my days! When all of my ongoing study is finally completed, when academic pursuits, world travel, and busy schedules are reduced to simple days spent confined to a chair in assisted living, will people be able to look at my life—as they most certainly do look at Smith’s life today—and judge that my traits were clearly altered by my faith and exemplified in the way I conducted my spiritual life? I pray so.
Dr. Rob Sellers, CPWR Trustee. Sellers is Connally Professor of Missions, and Professor of Missions Ministry at Hardin-Simmons University in Texas.
The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions in partnership with the DePaul University Office of Religious Diversity is convening a special one hour solidarity circle for interfaith leaders to meet Catholic priest, Padre Alejandro Solalinde, and his Caravan Opening Doors To Hope.
Solalinde is traveling the U.S. with a large group of victimized migrants turned activists who have experienced human rights abuses in Mexico. The story of 70,000 Central American brothers and sisters disappearing over the last few years, while Solalinde has been imprisoned and arrested for his work operating a network of shelters is shocking. We are helping share this story and honor his bravery.
NOTE: This event is being produced to connect university-level Interfaith leaders with Padre Solalinde’s entourage, but we are inviting you as guests of CPWR.
In this hour we will…
-Hear words from Mexico’s 2012 Human Rights Award recipient
Watch a short film documenting the reality of the migrant train in Mexico
-Welcome Amnesty International to recognize the work of Padre Solalinde
-Share our blessings and offerings to the migrant activists
-Extend our wishes for peace and security to the caravan
-Personally connect Chicago’s young interfaith leaders with a hero to a humanitarian crisis
TO ATTEND: All are welcome, but for seat reservations contact email@example.com
DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATE – JOB OPENING
The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions (CPWR) has a rich history and current efforts in working with communities of spirit and faith to foster harmony and engagement to bring about a just, peaceful and sustainable world. CPWR is looking for a Development Associate.
The small staff and volunteers work together to carry on the initiatives with the help of an engaged board, and the development associate would work with the Executive Director and others. The scope of the work includes researching and developing resource opportunities with foundations, corporations, individuals and religious groups. Work would also include writing proposals, arranging appointments and events, and follow through with donors. The Development Associate works with Board committees, and shares the mission of CPWR with visitors and events.
Desired skills: articulate, with both written and oral communication talent, some experience in fund raising, positive personality, computer and internet skills.
Salary at the early end of comparable jobs. Job available immediately.
CPWR is an equal opportunity employer.
For consideration, send a resume and cover letter to Stephen Avino (Stephen@parliamentofreligions.org)
Interfaith Youth Core Founder Eboo Patel published a response this week to a Religious Dispatches essay critical of Interfaith as a cure for religious violence. Supporting a notion that Interfaith cooperation has not standardized political values or beliefs across the Interfaith diaspora. Patel asserts differing political positions do not hinder a healthy interfaith community where the shared value is peace and co-existence. Further, he dispels the charge that Interfaith cooperation by default lobbies any “X” political tactic. In Patel’s view, both conservative and progressive political activism follows naturally of many interfaith collaborations, but do not justify a case that value-based outreach stands for the “ends” of Interfaith as a “means.”
Some years back I met the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Nechervan Barzani. One of the first things he did was thank me for the American military intervention that he described as freeing his people from oppression. I informed him that many of my friends viewed the Iraq War as profoundly unjust and protested vociferously against it.
Barzani was rendered speechless for a moment. When he finally spoke it was to say, through clenched teeth, that the only thing unjust about the war that removed Saddam Hussein was that it didn’t happen sooner.
By Leo D. Lefebure
Board Trustee, Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions
In 2007, a group of 138 Islamic scholars from a wide range of traditions issued “A Common Word between Us and You,” a public letter addressed to the leaders of the Christian world, including Pope Benedict XVI and a long list of others. The letter proposed the biblical teaching of love of God and neighbor as a common heritage uniting Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and invited further dialogue based on this shared principle. There have been a number of earlier international gatherings that have discussed this proposal at the Vatican, at Cambridge University, Yale University, and at Georgetown University. On April 24, 2013, Georgetown University, the Jesuit university in Washington, DC, which serves as the North American site for the Common Word Project, hosted the most recent Common Word Conference, focusing on “The Boundaries of Religious Pluralism and Freedom: The Devil is in the Detail.”
The opening panel, chaired by Richard Cizik of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, explored the question: “Are There Limits to Religious Freedom that Religions Agree On?” The statement introducing session proposed the premise, “Few dispute the value and centrality of religious freedom,” and then went on to pose the question of whether religious traditions can “agree to limitations on blasphemy, building churches, and missionary work.” Professor David Law of Washington University in St. Louis reflected on the question in light of globalization, noting two opposing views. According to Thomas Friedman’s model, globalization is a “happy” process of convergence upon increasingly shared values, largely those of Western constitutional democracies. According to the competing model of the late Samuel Huntington, globalization is a process of polarization with growing conflict over values that are incompatible. Law suggested that while there is some evidence for the model of convergence, there are also problems with this interpretation. Combatting the stereotype that only Muslim majority counties have blasphemy laws, Law noted that the constitution of Ireland contains laws against blasphemy. Law suggested that there are many exceptions to Friedman’s proposal, but he also rejected Huntington’s suggestion that the main polarization is the West against the “Other.”
Thomas Farr, who served as the first director of the U.S. State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, rejected the premise of this session that “few dispute the value and centrality of religious freedom.” Farr maintained that there is no consensus on religious freedom either in the United States or in Western Europe or in the rest of the world. He noted the controversial questions surrounding blasphemy, building churches, and proselytizing and mission activities. He strongly defended the right of religious minorities to erect houses of worship, and to share their religious views in a non-violent, non-coercive manner. He suggested that the most successful democracies allow for freedom of religious expression, including proselytism. He objected to violent responses to the expression of religious opinions. He noted the difficult but important change that the Roman Catholic Church went through in its view of religious freedom, and he cited the teaching of The Declaration on Religious Freedom (Dignitatis Humanae) of Vatican II, that the Catholic Church demands the right of religious freedom not only for itself but for every other religion.
Farid Esack, a South African Muslim theologian who is professor at the University of Johannesburg, agreed with Farr that the premise of the session was faulty. Esack proposed that the devil is not just in the detail but in the subject of religious freedom and in the notion that “religions” can agree. He said that there is no “Islam” to make an agreement; there are Muslims who can agree. He acknowledged that many in the Muslim world do not affirm the value and centrality of religious freedom. He suggested that there is often a selective application of concern for human rights, noting that during the apartheid era in South Africa, there was widespread condemnation of the practice of detention without trial; but today the United States, the United Kingdom, and other nations use this same practice because of their deep anxieties regarding terrorism. He suggested that building churches and missionary activity are embedded in a larger ideological project, and he noted that this was true of dawa activity sponsored by Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the former government of Libya, where the propagation of Islam was linked to ideology.
In another panel focusing on religious pluralism and the Arab Spring, Professor Abdulaziz Sachedina of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, reflected on the status of religious scriptures in the Arab spring. He supported and encouraged the new exegetical moves to appropriate the Qur’an to promote civil religion and society, with tolerance of others as equals. He lamented that often interreligious declarations are crafted by the upper-level leaders but never reach the grass-roots communities. He stressed the vital importance of the training in seminaries; many people are connected with their local religious leaders and reflect the values and attitudes instilled by these local leaders. Much of the new exegesis of the Qu’ran is very academic and is not reaching the ordinary people. This creates problems for pluralism and peaceful, harmonious co-existence.
The next speaker, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, the retired Archbishop of Washington, DC, began by saying, “Wow!” to Sachedine’s remarks. He noted that “the way forward changes all the time,” pointing out that just recently there have been many changes in religious leadership: there is a new Catholic Pope, a new Coptic Pope, a new Catholic Coptic leader, a new Archbishop of Canterbury—all since October 31, 2012, when this conference was originally scheduled. Cardinal McCarrick observed that many recent events are very worrisome, from the Boston bombing to the kidnapping of the two archbishops in Syria to countless other tragedies. He agreed with Sachedine that if we deal only with the elites, we may not know what is going on among ordinary people. The cardinal cautioned that a single election does not make a democracy, and acknowledged that the United States has only a very limited ability to promote change in other cultures: “We are neither coach not captain, but we have a change to become coach.” Dalia Mogahed, the former executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, acknowledged the difficulty of getting accurate data in some countries and stressed the importance of United States support for democratic transformation in the Middle East.
In another session that focused on issues of gender, Kathleen Moore, Professor at the University of California Santa Barbara, described how Islamic women in the diaspora are active in feminist issues, challenging patriarchy with a hermeneutics of equality. Many Muslim women in the United States seek to transcend the polarity between freedom of self and the restrictions of the Islamic tradition by reinterpreting the Qur’an, the hadith (reports concerning Prophet Muhammad), and fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). Merve Kavakci-Islam, originally from Turkey and now professor at George Washington University, stressed that the suffering of women in the Islamic world is not homogeneous. She challenged the imposition of Western models, such as secularization, on Muslim majority countries such as Turkey. Margot Badran of Georgetown University reported on her extensive experience in Egypt since the revolution in 2011. She proposed that what divide Egyptians is not religion but authoritarian politics and corruption. She observed that the most vulnerable groups, women and Christians, are also the most symbolic. Badran claimed that while there are politically motivated incidents involving women and Christians, there is not a general sectarian or a Muslim-Christian problem in Egypt at the present time. There are efforts to repeal the legislation of 1923 regarding the minimum age for marriage, as well as other efforts to undo the gender gains of recent years, for example by requiring women to have the permission of their husbands to travel abroad. Badran encountered many young Egyptian men and women who are “more determined than ever” to combat patriarchy and to establish gender equality under the law. These people want to make Egypt “its own type of democracy,” not in imitation of other nations.
The conference offered an important international forum for exploring many challenges in interreligious relations. Much needs to be done to spread knowledge of such efforts and to invite more and more people to become involved.
The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions is pleased to welcome all to a kickoff Interfaith celebration of our 20th anniversary! Partake in spiritual music, prayer, and conversation to look back on the 1993 Parliament of World Religions and move forward to a harmonious interfaith future! Attendees are welcomed to share in Langar (a meal) directly following the celebration.
When: Saturday, May 11 | 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. (Meal to follow)
Where: Sikh Religious Society | Palatine Gurdwara Sahib | 1280 Winnetka Street | Palatine, IL 60067
Hosted by: CPWR & The Sikh Religious Society
Our life experiences are shaped and colored by violence. Whether we are dealing with a child caught in the cross fire of gang activity or violence against our religious community or that of our neighbors, transformative leadership demands that we bring compassionate and proactive responses to the tragedies of our day and age. Transformative leadership also demands listening to the stories of those impacted by violence, looking critically at our own faith traditions, and strategizing on how we as religious communities can partner for the sake of peace.
The Council for the Parliament for the World’s Religions Faiths Against Hate Campaign and SCUPE (Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education) present “Touched By Violence, Partnering for Peace” on May 22, 2013 at the American Islamic College in Chicago, IL. We are sponsoring this one day workshop for leaders, clergy, and people who are called to make a difference by transforming hate and violence into partnerships for peace.In this workshop we will…
• Share stories of how we have been touched by violence.
• Explore how our faith traditions may legitimize violence in our communities.
• Build partnerships with others leaders touched by violence.
• Learn strategies for dealing with the aftermath of violence.
• Commit to bold actions for peace in and across our communities.
Day: Wednesday May 22nd, 2013
Time: 9:00 am – 5:30 pm
Cost: *Standard Registration $100, Student Registration $60 (with student ID)
Place: American Islamic College | 640 W. Irving Park Rd. | Chicago IL 60613
*Workshop fee includes registration, materials, breakfast and lunch.
Download the flyer here.
The United Nations Alliance of Civilations and the International Organization for Migration are announcing 2013′s PluralPlus Youth Video Festival contest open to ages nine through 25 on the topics of migration, diversity and social inclusion. Instruction for entries due June 30, 2013 is found on the Plural+ site.
Share This: Call for entries Arabic - Chinese - French - Spanish The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations ( UNAOC) and the International Organization for Migration ( IOM) again invite the world’s youth to submit original and creative videos focusing on PLURAL+ themes: migration, diversity and social inclusion. Recognizing youth as powerful agents of social change in a world often characterized by intolerance, and cultural and religious divisions, PLURAL+ invites youth to address key challenges related to migrant integration, inclusiveness, identity, diversity, human rights and social cohesiveness, both at local and global levels. Young people up to 25 years old are invited to submit short videos of five minutes maximum in length. Michele Klein-Solomon, IOM Permanent Observer to the United Nations, said, “PLURAL+ videos touch very sensitive issues in a very real way. They look at the realities that people are facing. We like to see young people expressing their profound ideas in a manner that allows the opening of a dialogue.” Jordi Torrent, UNAOC Project Manager, Media and Information Literacy, added: “PLURAL+ videos fit very well in this very relevant conversation: how to build more inclusive societies where we can all live together in harmony.” PLURAL+ supports young people’s expression of their opinions by providing them with a variety of media platforms and distribution networks, including broadcasts, video festivals, conferences and events around the world. PLURAL+ also reinforces the firm belief of IOM and UNAOC that youth are powerful and creative agents of social change. A prestigious international jury will select three winners in each age categories (9-12, 13-17, and 18-25). All the winners will be invited to New York, all travel expenses paid, to present their work at the PLURAL + 2013 Awards Ceremony at the Paley Center for Media on the 5th of December 2013. Mariana Araujo, a member of the PLURAL+ 2012 international jury commented, “For me PLURAL+ is the best link between intercultural dialogue and intergenerational justice. I can’t imagine a better way to understand the other but through their own eyes and listen with their ears. With these videos I can internalize their emotions and realities through their stories.” PLURAL+ 2013 deadline for video submission is 30 June, 2013. Early submissions are encouraged. Further information, including guidelines, regulations, awards, and the entry form can be found at the PLURAL+ website at: www.unaoc.org/pluralplus You can watch PLURAL+ 2012 winners here PLURAL+ is organized by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and the International Organization for Migration with the collaboration of many international partners, including: Red UNIAL, Gulen Institute, MTS Travel, SIGNIS, Global Block, Humanity Without Borders Foundation, Television America Latina, Universal Forum of Cultures Foundation, NEXOS Alianza, CHINH India, Turkish Cultural Center of New York, COPEAM, Institute for Leadership Excellence,Without Borders Film Festival, IAAI GloCha, Doha Center for Media Freedom, CNTV Chile, Amara, Scalabrini International Migration Network, IUEDESP Spain, Balkan Media Education Centre, Waging Nonviolence USA, IOM Migration Research and Training Centre Korea, Anna Lindh Foundation, United Nations Television, RAI TV Scuola, Royal Film Commission Jordan, GoodnessTV, Cine y Salud Spain, AFS Intercultural Programs, UNESCO Associated Schools Network, and the Paley Center for Media of New York. For more information, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
by Rev. Anne Benvenuti, PhD
Board Trustee, The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions
© April 2013
The “Nones” are the largest and fastest growing segment of the population on the religious landscape in America, according to the most recent Pew survey. In just the last five years, this group of willfully unaffiliated people has grown from 15% to 20% of the population. They are people who have no religious affiliation, and who don’t want one. Yet only 5% of those surveyed call themselves atheists. In other words, the Nones include many people who, while they don’t want a religious label also don’t want the traditional secular-rationalist-humanist label. 28% of them have practiced yoga, and I wonder how many of them have meditated. That question wasn’t asked. But 60% of these people feel close to the natural world. The majority of the Nones are white people who were raised in religiously affiliated homes. Beyond this, they cut across many of the more common culture divides; they are people with college degrees and people without a college education; they have incomes over 75K, as well as incomes under 30K. In this they defy traditional interpretations, that people who go to college outgrow a childish intellectual dependency on religion, and that poor people lean on religion to support them in living with poverty and its attendant adversity. And it’s especially noteworthy that the Nones are disproportionately young: they’re people who grew up on a socially networked planet, not a religiously networked town.
I’d like to suggest that many of the Nones have “gotten off the bus,” an expression that refers to travelers who want to escape pre-packaged tourism so that they can discover a place as it “really” is. I know a lot of Nones and many of them are Alls. They celebrate the Winter Solstice, and Easter sunrise, they may do yoga or meditate, and they give thoughtfully to charities, all in no particular order, but depending on where they are, how they feel, what seems to be called for. They resist labels produced by media-saturated culture to represent certain predetermined sets of characteristics. They distrust such prepackaged beliefs, and also distrust religious institutions that are so often corrupt and hypocritical. Yet they value human spiritual heritage, often in great variety, and many of these people are more comfortable in a variety of religious settings than they would be in only one.
As a Trustee of the Parliament, I feel it is very important to acknowledge the Nones, and particularly the Alls among them, to notice that they have gotten off the bus and don’t want to get back on. They are not looking for certainties. The old definitions are not relevant for them. Atheist? No. Agnostic? No. Believer? No. They live in verbs more than in nouns; they are more about experience itself and less invested in beliefs about experience.
My best guess is that the Nones, and especially the Alls among them, express a vital spiritual pulse in the contemporary human world; one that samples spiritual practices, just as people sample the music and cuisine of many cultures. I’ve seen many religious eyes roll at the notion that people are sampling religion like hors d’oeuvres. I’ve heard religious people say that this cannot possibly be a path of spiritual depth, selecting from the menu the most delectable items while eschewing the solidly nutritious, wanting the pleasures of spiritual comfort without the disciplines of communal practice. But, I ask, why make such negative attributions to our fellow humans, especially when we know well the struggles of relating old institutions to an ever-changing world? Once the familiar critique from those who practice solely within specific religious institutions has been stated—and I think it worth a listen– where are we?
I think that we are on a new page, in a new chapter; maybe we are in a new book. For the first time in the history of human psyches, human life is global as a matter of course. At the same time, this global planet is suffering from the collective impact of the human species. It might well be this context that makes the traditional religious issues seem trivial, tribal, and irrelevant. A very legitimate question might be, “Who cares what you believe, much less about religious in-fighting, when we are on the brink of ecological disaster?” Perhaps those who carry forward the religious institutions should seek in the depths of our heritage the wisdom that is relevant to the global and ecologically threatened context in which humans, indeed, all species now live. We should expect to bring forward something of value for this utterly new context, and we might need to accept that many people will engage our traditions on their own terms, not on ours.
As an Episcopal priest I think it is time to welcome conversation with the Nones, and to welcome spiritual practice with the Alls. It is time to listen and to see the way that the Nones can so easily incorporate the All of humanity’s spiritual heritage. We may offer to the Nones and Alls from our own religious heritage, but we need to respect them for what they are too. They invite us to get off the bus, to experience the contemporary world as it really is, a place in which increasing numbers of people are not only comfortable in mixed cultural settings, but who are themselves multicultural individuals living in a multicultural world. We can at least consider that some of the Alls are genuinely interfaith individuals, bringing religions into a new and global era in human history.
The Dalai Lama, self-proclaimed feminist and Spiritual leader of Tibet, recently sat down with British journalist Cathy Newman. “I would be pleased if my successor was female,” the Dalai Lama said.
But the bigger problem is the Dalai Lama doesn’t get to choose who takes on his Buddhist baton. In fact, I also asked him if he could “do a Pope”, and quit when he gets too old and frail. The answer was no.
A new leader emerges after a search by the high lamas. Traditionally, they search for a child born around the same time as the current Dalai Lama dies. It can take several years, and involves looking out for a number of mysterious signs. They might have a dream about where thenext Dalai Lama comes from. Or if the current incumbent is cremated, the high lamas might watch which direction the smoke blows in, or go to a holy lake – Lhamo Lhatso – in central Tibet and watch for a sign from there.
But in theory, whereas Catholic women are categorically excluded from becoming Pope, Buddhism is rather more enlightened. The Buddha himself was the first religious founder after the Jains who allowed women into his order, and that was more than two and a half thousand years ago. In practice, though, women weren’t given the same opportunity to educate themselves as men, so the idea of a woman being installed as Dalai Lama was as notional as the sign from the lake.
Digging through misinformation circulating online during last week’s coverage of the Boston marathon bombing was a harrowing process, and it was exhausting. Media pieces that denounced Islamic terrorism in the body of the article were often given sensationalized headlines implicating Islam in the Boston bombs.
In the piece, “10 Essential Points About the Boston Marathon Bombers,” blogger Omid Safi of What Would Mohammed Do? aptly deconstructs the points of mass confusion surrounding American Islamaphobia, Chechnya, the Tsarnaev brothers, and the Boston marathon bombing. Safi begins,
“Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the second suspect in the horrific Boston Marathon explosions has been apprehended. Presumably, we can take a break from round-the-clock coverage of the chase that has consumed the nation. Less than 24 hours ago, no one had heard of the Tsarnaev brothers. That’s almost literally true: even their uncle had not heard from them in years. Now they are macabre celebrities whose every online trace is being analyzed for any clue as to what might have led them to commit such atrocities. The breathless analysis of the 24-hour news media continues to offer theories and half-baked motivations even when the basic facts have not been yet gathered.
The ten essential points (visit What Would Mohammed Do?) cover what those surrounding the suspect personally thought about them, the elder brother’s alienation from Americans, the lack of knowledge of those reporting on Islam or Chechnya in the 24/7 news cycle, the dangers of social media, the privilege issue of white Americans vs. any others, hate crimes against Muslim Americans, the political motivations of Islamaphobic America, the Islamic word on terrorism, and the evidence proving a disconnect between Muslim life and the lifestyle of the Tsarnaev brothers.
The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions released these statements in the newsletter and on CPWR social media channels in response to the April 15, 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon.
During the FBI search for the second suspect, widespread misinformation circulated like a virus on the Internet implicating Islamic extremism in the crime. The older brother, suspect number one, died after sustaining fatal injuries in a gunfight with the police the night before. He was identified as an immigrant from Chechnya, This led to violent and hateful backlash against peaceful Muslim-Americans. The Parliament responded on Friday, April 19:
What do Martin Richard’s words, “No more hurting people, peace,” really mean?
We are mourning the injuries and loss of life sustained in the Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent events. But we condemn the way in which media and the public have so quickly targeted Muslims. What we know:
Several Boston Muslims were beaten this week, including a Muslim physician, before images of the suspects surfaced.
Yet, Muslims have been helpers and healers. Muslims have been running the Boston marathon for years. Working in the center of catastrophe, Muslims were first responders, surgeons operating on victims, and doctors supervising chaotic emergency rooms,
Interfaith action must be immediate to challenge generalizing Muslims.
The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions would like to help share resources for Interfaith action. Please notify email@example.com, Faiths Against Hate Coordinator, with any useful tips.
Thank you for standing in solidarity. Peace.
On Tuesday, April 16, 2012 in response to the bombing at the Boston marathon the prior day:
The Council that convenes the Parliament of the World’s Religions reels in the pain felt worldwide because of yesterday’s tragic bombing. We share our deepest sympathy for those who’ve lost life and limb, their families, and the City of Boston. For many still fighting to stay alive, we stand with you.
The Parliament of the World’s Religions commits to channeling the energy of love and prayers into unyielding action against violence.
We honor the runners whose beautiful journeys, many in tribute to the slain of Sandy Hook Elementary, were robbed of their triumphant finish. Their strength and determination exemplified heroism yesterday when running through that harrowing scene to aid the wounded. We must not let the hope they give us all become tarnished by violence.
We hope that the culprits are found and apprehended soon. Whether terrorists are domestic- or foreign-born, we must not abide five years passing before identifying perpetrators, such as transpired after the 1996 Olympic Games bombing in Atlanta, GA. Naming the guilty parties is critical to restoring a sense of security, but we also emphasize that perpetrators of violence should be included in your prayers. This act is strong and healing.
The Interfaith movement must move to show that there is another way. Interfaith prayer vigils and worship services can unite us, but we must also be organized to mediate the ongoing hate fear and anger into positive human relationships.
It is our duty to intervene in the blame game. Communities and individuals of all religious, faith, and spiritual backgrounds must act in harmony to promote peace. It is imperative to break this cycle of violence that is fueled by fear. Every tragedy divides us when we see an enemy in our faith neighbor. This Boston bombing, like the Madrid train bomb, and September 11 have cultivated a pervasive fear. It hurts us all.
In this spirit we continue a year-long campaign to combat hate. Our nationwide Faiths Against Hate initiative moves to mediate hate, fear, and anger through common goals of peace into positive human relationships. Through webinars, social networking, and day-long trainings, Faiths Against Hate is equipping faith leaders and all who are called to make a difference in this uphill movement. Constructively empowering communities to act courageously with new tools can stop these brutal acts against humanity.
The council that convenes the Parliament of the World’s Religions recently announced an urgent financial challenge putting the largest and oldest global Interfaith organization into jeopardy of closing imminently after April 15.
Plans for moving forward have jumpstarted with relief efforts from Baha’i, Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Native, Unitarian, Jewish, Humanist, Christian, Pagan, Muslim, Buddhist and Spiritual communities. In this rush to rescue the Parliament, friends have raised more than $120,000 of the needed $150,000 in two weeks time.
Funds are flooding in from around the world on the Parliament’s CauseVox funding site with simple messages of hope, faith, and love for the Parliament’s mission. The transformative impact of the Parliament on individual lives, community relationships, and across global networks of spirit and faith can continue. To meet the newest world challenges in critical need of collaborative intervention, just $30,000 remains to move the Parliament into the future.
Many have expressed a desire to give more than their budget permits. If you have stepped up in the last week and would like to stretch your gift, you can contribute more to the Parliament by creating a personal fundraising page on the Causevox website!
Share why you’ve donated, and invite others to join your effort. Use your social media profiles to announce your efforts. Forward e-mails, make calls, send texts. Tell your congregations at worship about the Parliament!
If this gift is your first to the Parliament, know that you can make a difference. With this off our backs, we are freed up! We can continue our important work toward peace and harmony. Please give generously. Tax-deductible donations are being accepted on*:
Together we can finish off this $30,000 debt and enter the new era of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Your gift of at least $100, or whatever you can give, helps move us toward the future.
BE A HOPE BUILDER TODAY.
*Hope Builder donors will receive discounts to the next Parliament event and other local interfaith gatherings.
We are profoundly grateful.
Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid Dr. Mary Nelson
Chair of the Board Interim Executive Director
CPWR is a 501c.3 non-for-profit organization
Christian-, Muslim-, and Jewish-Americans ages 18 through 35 are encouraged to apply to the Ecumenical Institute at the Chateau de Bossey of the World Council of Churches for the “Building an Interfaith Community” seminar course running August 12 – 30 this summer in Switzerland. May 1 is the deadline, and financial assistance is available.
“What can we, as people of faith, do to respond and to overcome the pressing challenges of our time, such as violence and conflict, and build together mutually accountable societies based on respect and cooperation?” This is the question up to 30 young Christians, Muslims and Jews from around the world are to explore during a summer seminar at the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Institute in Bossey.Event details When Aug 12, 2013 09:45 AM to
Programme includes spiritual exposure and sharing reflection on sacred scriptures as well as lectures and workshops on thematic issues.
Participants should be between 18-35 years of age, well grounded in their own faiths and be positioned to influence the thinking of members of their wider faith communities after completion of the summer course
By Marcus Braybrooke for The Interfaith ObserverThe Early Years of the Interfaith Movement
The legacy of the 1893 World Parliament of Religions did not live up to the high hopes of its organizers. The dream of a new era of universal peace too soon became the bloody nightmare of twentieth century battlefields and genocide.
Pope Leo XIII officially censured the Roman Catholic speakers at the Parliament and forbade participation in “future promiscuous conventions.” The openness to other faiths shown by many Christians at the 1910 World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh was soon obscured by Karl Barth and Hendrik Kraemer, who stressed the distinctiveness of the Gospel over against religions, which, they proposed, were a futile human effort to reach God.
Yet there was a legacy. The Parliament created awareness among some that there are “wells of truth outside Christianity.” Historian Sidney Ahlstrom said it began the slow change by which Protestant America was to become a multi-racial society. Swami Vivekananda and Dharmapala established continuing Vedanta and Buddhist groups in the United States.
The Parliament also stimulated the academic study of religions. The Haskell lectureship endowment at the University of Chicago brought distinguished scholars of “comparative religion” to the school and enabled Henry Barrows, secretary of the Parliament, to lecture in Asia.
In 1901 the first meeting of the International Congress for the History of Religions (IAHR) was held as part of the Paris Universal Exposition, though this was for the scientific study of religions and not for interfaith dialogue. The distinguished scholar Joseph Kitagawa wrote, “it becomes clear that what the Parliament contributed to Eastern religions was not comparative religion as such. Rather Barrows and his colleagues should receive credit for initiating what we call today the ‘dialogue among various religions,’ in which each religious claim for ultimacy is acknowledged.”
Initial Institutional Developments
IARF activities continue today around the world. This recent gathering was in Andhra Pradesh in India. Photo: iarf.netPlans for another Parliament in 1901, possibly in India, came to nothing – although small scale parliaments were held in Japan and elsewhere. The obvious ‘child’ of the Parliament was the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF), as it is now known, which held its first meeting in 1900. The prime mover was Charles William Wendte, born in Boston in 1844, had helped plan the 1893 Parliament. His parents had come to the United States on their honeymoon and stayed on. Wendte’s father became a Unitarian after being astonished to hear “something sensible from a preacher!” To his delight, his son became a Unitarian minister.
Besides his congregational responsibilities, Charles Wendte built up close relations with the German Free Protestant Union. With the American Unitarians, they were the main supporters of IARF, though among the 2,000 participants at the 1907 Boston Congress were some members of the Brahmo Samaj and a handful of liberal Jews, Muslims, and Catholics. (A longer profile of the IARF will be published here later this year.)
The World Congress of Faith can claim a more distant relationship. Its links with the 1893 Parliament came through the “Second Parliament of Religions,” held in Chicago in 1933, in conscious imitation of the earlier event. The 1933 Parliament, a largely forgotten event, was initiated by Charles Weller and Mr. Das Gupta. Weller, a social worker, started the League of Neighbours in 1918 to help integrate African Americans and foreign-born citizens into American life.
Das Gupta had come in 1908 from India to England. To help remedy British ignorance of India, he organized the Union of East and West. Then in 1920 he accompanied Rabindranath Tagore to the United States. Das Gupta stayed on and restarted his Union of East and West in America. Early in the 1920s he met Weller. Together they merged the League of Neighbours and the Union of East and West to create the Fellowship of Faiths. The Fellowship arranged in several cities meetings at which a member of one faith paid tribute to another faith. It also published a journal called Appreciation.
In May 1929, the World Fellowship of Faiths met in Chicago. This revived memories of the city’s 1893 Parliament and led to a similar event being held to coincide with the Second World Fair in 1933. Twenty-seven gatherings were held in Chicago, with a total attendance of 44,000 people. Preliminary meetings were also held in New York. Bishop McConnell claimed, perhaps unfairly, that the 1933 gathering was an advance on the 1893 event. “The first difference,” he said, “is that instead of a comparative parade of rival religions, all faiths were challenged to apply their religion to help solve the urgent problems which impede man’s progress. The second difference is that the word ‘faiths’ is understood to include, not only all religions, but all types of spiritual consciousness.”
One of those who attended the 1933 Parliament was Sir Francis Younghusband, who three years later arranged the first World Congress of Faiths in London. The minutes of the first planning meeting make clear the link with the World Fellowship of Faiths, which had arranged the Second World Parliament of Religions in 1933. Younghusband soon made clear to Das Gupta that, although grateful to him and the World Fellowship of Faiths, that he – Younghusband – was in charge of the Congress.
The World Fellowship of Faiths described itself as “a movement not a machine; a sense of expanding activities, rather than an established institution, an inspiration more than an achievement. It has never sought to develop a new religion or unite divergent faiths on the basis of a least common denominator of their convictions. Instead, it held that the desired and necessary human realization of the all-embracing spiritual Oneness of the Good Life Universal must be accompanied by the appreciation (brotherly love) for all the individualities, all the differentiations of function, by which true unity is enriched.” This is still a fair description of the interfaith movement.
The 2003 Iranian Nobel Laureate said that the main obstacle for post-revolutionary Arab women is a “patriarchal culture” that imposes a false interpretation on Islam.
NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)– On the sideline of an April 2 conference hosted by Columbia University Law School, Shirin Ebadi, who in 2003 became the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, briefly discussed the consequences of the Arab uprisings on women with Women’s eNews. The Iranian lawyer‘s answers were translated from Persian by her translator Shirin Ershadi.
Q: The Arab uprisings brought hope when they started in Tunisia. We now see that women’s rights are endangered. Have these uprisings been a good thing for Arab/Muslim women?
A: It has been good, but not enough. The voice of Arab women has been heard and that’s why I am saying it has been good; but unfortunately some countries want to retract the rights that women gained in the past. I am very glad that women are resisting. Women will only attain their rights when they learn how to resist dictators and oppressors.
Q: What is the main obstacle for women’s rights in these societies?
A: I think it’s the patriarchal culture. The patriarchal culture uses everything to legitimize itself. In Islamic countries, they interpret Islam in such a way that it is against women, whereas Islam has a different interpretation. With a correct interpretation of Islam, we can respect women’s rights.
Q: The Arab uprisings seem to have energized women to fight for their rights. Can we say that we are witnessing a rebirth of the Islamic feminism?
A: I have issues with “Islamic feminism. ” Feminism means equality of rights between men and women. Then, it is not Islamic. However, a Muslim woman can be a feminist.
Q: Speaking of feminism, we have lately witnessed extreme manifestations of feminism in Muslim-dominated countries, such as the ones inspired by the Ukrainian group Femen. Last month, a young Tunisian woman posted topless pictures of herself online with the words “my body is mine, nobody’s honor” written across her breasts and stomach. What is your take on this type of expression?
A: Here, the issue is the issue of freedom. People have to be free to do what they want to do. Of course, freedom is not unlimited and the limit of everyone’s freedom is the freedom of others. Therefore, if one’s freedom doesn’t hurt the other person we cannot limit it.
Q: In 2009, after the contested reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iranians took to the street but their attempt to defy the regime resulted in a huge crackdown. Can the Arab uprisings be an inspiration for the Iranians who want change?
A: What I can tell you is every day the number of those who oppose the government increases. Iran is like a volcano, any minute the lava may come out. So wait and see what happens.Opposition to Sanctions
During the Columbia University law conference, Ebadi reiterated her opposition to economic sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program.
The lawyer, who in 1970 became Iran’s first female judge, lives in exile in London and fiercely opposes the current Iranian regime. But she said economic sanctions “affect Iranian people and increase the corruption within the government.” Instead she recommended “political sanctions” that would “specifically target” members of the regime and “third countries where Iranian officials enter and have assets.”
She suggested, for example, to “target international satellites that broadcast Iranian propaganda in non-Persian languages. ” She said that today in Iran “16 TV stations hold propaganda of Iran in non-Persian. ” She also recommended sanctioning companies that provide the Iranian government with technology used for repression.
Shirin Ebadi is well-known for her defense of human rights, particularly those of women and children. At an April 2 awards dinner, she received the Wolfgang Friedmann Memorial Award from the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law. Since 1975, the prize has honored outstanding contributions to the field of international law. Ebadi was also honored as a Women’s eNews 21 leaders for the 21st Century in 2004.
Hajer Naili is a New York-based reporter for Women’s eNews. She has worked for several radio stations and publications in France and North Africa and specializes in Middle East and North Africa. Follow her on Twitter @H_NAILI
By CPWR Staff, Adaptation of original Bahrain Interfaith report by Sheikh Maytham Al Salman
According to clergy spanning a world of spiritual beliefs, Bahrain is an island nation half populated by immigrants who live in peace. For Bahrain Interfaith, this captures the essence of diversity and harmony. Easter, a holiday that is most important in Christianity, was the backdrop there for an important snapshot of a Persian country where interfaith is the vehicle for social cohesion.
An Easter party organized by Bahrain Interfaith held on March 29 in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, brought together representatives of several churches in Bahrain, civil organizations, diplomats, and expats spanning the globe from the United States and the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, Greece, South Africa, Kenya, Canada, China, Taiwan, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Lebanon, and Tunisia.
Speeches delivered highlighted positive sentimentality about the fair and religiously open Bahrain. Bryan Condub, an American, began speaking personally of Bahrain with great joy about interacting with various cultures that coexist in a state of peace and security. “I thank the Lord who gave me the opportunity to discover the tolerance and openness of the people of Bahrain and its residents,” Condub began. He continues,
I have visited and worked in 25 countries since I left the United States and did not witness anything like the tolerance and ethnic diversity in Bahrain.
Reflecting on a year of work with Bahrain Interfaith, Condub said that religious extremism is the biggest threat to world peace, and that Easter is not only a Christian celebration, but a festival of humanity.
Pastor Basi Ligethlem of the Rivers of Joy church emphasized the philosophy of Easter and biblical verses of Easter. Concluding a powerful speech, Ligethlem declared, “since twenty years ago I was wandering in the Middle East until I settled in Bahrain and found it already a country of tolerance and peace. Because of its peaceful people and their good manners”.
Sheikh Maytham Al Salman spoke short and simply stating, “Bahrain is an oasis of tolerance and openness, and will remain a model of modesty and coexistence between different religious and ethnic groups”.
Religous groups were asked to invest religious occasions across all religions to spread and establish the principles of peace, compassion, non-violence, civil coexistence, religious tolerance, social justice, and respect for human dignity. Bahraini flutist Ahmed Ghanim delighted guests by saying that the message of music is also peace, love, tolerance and joy.
Historically, Bahrain has been known since ancient times as a welcoming place to newcomers, reinforcing its cultural position and transforming the country into a meeting point for religions and civilizations. Seated in an unsettled region, it became known as a center for peace and tolerance. Manama, the capital, embraces expatriate communities of a multitude of ethnic and religious backgrounds without discrimination. Manama is the first Gulf capital to appreciate and support churches since 1900. Visitors nowadays discover a local character of flexibility, moderation, openness, and welcoming attitudes.
The modern Parliament of the World’s Religions began twenty years ago in Chicago. A 100-year celebration of the first Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1893 became a revival for global interfaith. There and then, we declared the mission we continue today; convening global citizens of spirit and faith, connecting a network of worldwide communities, and enabling the dialogue among us to transform into action. The collective goal over these years?
A just, peaceful, and sustainable world.
Looking back to move forward this year makes now the time to revisit our roots, learn from our history, and step into our future wired for progress.
Sri Chinmoy was