Peace Chanukah offered as interfaith celebration in Taos, New Mexico

Bringing together speakers from all faith traditions to reflect on peace in this season, Peace Chanukah is the only interfaith ceremony of its kind in Taos. It has become a favorite holiday gathering for many Taoseños. All are welcome to participate in the event which includes the lighting of Chanukah candles, storytelling and song.

This year, Peace Chanukah takes place on Wednesday (Dec. 17), on the second night of Chanukah for 2014. The program begins at 5:30 p.m. and ends at 7 p.m. There is no cost to attend, and everyone is welcome. Those who are able are encouraged to bring nonperishable food items to the event as part of a collection for The Shared Table and the Taos Coalition to End Homelessness. St. James Church is located at 208 Camino de Santiago.

“The purpose of Peace Chanukah is to bring people from all walks of life, all faith traditions (or none), and all our various racial/ethnic/cultural groups together to sing songs and give prayers for peace and good will,” said organizer Bette Myerson. “Especially at this time of year it’s important to be joined together as one human family. Religion has been the pretext for too many divisions (including wars) over history. We want to reverse that trend.”

Speakers at this year’s gathering include Pastor Steve Wiard (El Pueblito United Methodist Church), Sean Murphy (Zen Buddhist), Mya Coursey (Unitarian Congregation of Taos), Rev. Susan Varon (interfaith minister – Unity of Taos), Fr. Mike Olsen (St James Episcopal Church), Janet Burstein (Hindu), Heyam Khweis (Muslim) and Diana Rico, who will speak on Catholic perspectives on peace and justice.


Christians and Muslims Gather at Egypt’s al-Azhar University to Condemn Islamist Terrorism

topicCairo/Aleteia ( – Muslim and Christian theologians agreed to promote the concept of brotherhood among Christians, Muslims and adherents of other religions in the face of terrorism carried out in the name of Islam.

Last week, Al-Azhar, the highest authority for Sunni Islam, convened an international conference on terrorism at al-Azhar University in the Egyptian capital on Wednesday and Thursday (12/10 and 12/11). The conference brought together 600 Islamic and Christian theologians from 120 countries and included several patriarchs or their representatives. The conference was led by both Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II and the Grand Imam of al-Azhar Mosque, Sheikh Ahmad al-Tayyib.

Participants stressed a priority of applying the “moderate way” of Islam. The meeting centered on the necessity of teaching the correct concept of “Jihad” and opposition to brainwashing the youth who are fighting alongside the Islamic State group.

Though the conference condemned terrorism in the name of Islam, which distorts the true face of the religion, al-Azhar issued a statement formally rejecting the labeling of Islamic State fighters as apostates. The publication Asharq al-Awsat explained that the practice of one Muslim declaring another to be an apostate–takfirism–is controversial within Islam. “While this is something that is actively practiced by Islamist groups like ISIS, it is generally rejected by adherents of mainstream interpretations of Islam,” the publication said.

“Al-Azhar rejects the takfirism of ISIS…. Because takfirism cannot be applied to any believer, regardless of his sins,” Al-Azhar said in a statement in response to comments made by the Mufti of Nigeria during the counter-terrorism conference.

In their closing statement, participants said that “terrorizing the safety of civilians, killing the innocent and attacking holy places are all crimes against humanity, and Islam severely condemns such acts.” Muslims, Christians and followers of any other religion in the Middle East are brothers and citizens who are caretakers of the same land, the conference concluded, noting the long history of coexistence in the Middle East. The conference pleaded with Christians not to leave but to stand steadfast until the current storm passes. Hostilities against Christians and the faithful of other religions through false piety are considered disobedience to the true teachings of Islam, it said.


Hindu group plans religious conversions of Muslims and Christians in India at Christmas

RELIGION-121214eLUCKNOW (Reuters) – A Hindu priest-turned-lawmaker vowed on Friday to convert hundreds of Muslims and Christians to Hinduism on Christmas Day, despite a police investigation into an earlier round of conversions.

Religious conversions in multi-faith India are threatening to sow fresh discord as Muslim groups and opposition parties accuse organisations tied to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party of trying to undermine the nation’s secular foundations.

This week, police said they were investigating a case in which Muslim slum-dwellers complained they had been tricked into a Hindu conversion ceremony in Agra, lured by the promise of cheap government rations and voter identity cards.

But Yogi Adityanath, a four-time member of parliament from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, said an even bigger ceremony to convert Muslims would be held in the northern town of Aligarh as scheduled and that it was an entirely voluntary affair. “We have been doing this every year for the past 10 years. It’s not a conversion, its a homecoming,” he said, adding that the families signing up for the ceremony were originally Hindus.


Does Pope Francis Believe Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?

1417951816032.cachedDuring a recent visit to the former capital of the Ottoman Empire, the pope labored mightily to bring Islam into dialogue with Christianity. But does he really accept that God is God?
At the famous Blue Mosque during a papal visit to Istanbul, Pope Francis stood beside the grand mufti of Istanbul and prayed for two minutes, bowing his head, closing his eyes. At the end of his prayer, the grand mufti whispered aloud: “May God accept it.”

One can’t help wondering: Did the grand mufti doubt that God would accept a prayer from the head of the Roman Catholic Church? Indeed, does Francis, or any Christian, genuinely accept that God is God, whether his name be Allah or God?

As in previous visits to Islamic countries, the busiest pontiff in recent memory had labored mightily in Turkey to bring Islam into dialogue with Christianity: not an easy thing, although both are Abrahamic religions, in theory accepting the notion that God revealed himself to Abraham and his descendants.

A long-running argument exists over whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God. In my view, they certainly do. The creator—he or she—brought the world into being. The gender business interferes in odd ways, as the Arabic word for God is apparently quite neutral, whereas God is often seen as masculine in the Judaic tradition, the ultimate patriarch, as in Psalm 89: “Thou art my father, my God.” The situation is complicated by Christianity, where Jesus becomes the son of God, though his equal as well, having a place beside the Holy Spirit as part of a Trinity—with equal weight on each foot of the tripod. (To many outside Christianity, this looks a bit like polytheism!)


Muslim-Christian cooperation vital in tackling ISIS

mosul-christians-Praying-ReutersFor many months, I have entertained the conceit that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi reads my column. More recently, the conceit is that he reads my mind. Let me explain. Last month, I flew to Rome to participate in the third Catholic-Muslim Forum as a member of the delegation of Muslim scholars and intellectuals. We met with our Catholic colleagues in the forum – 12 theologians and scholars headed by Cardinal Jean-Louis Toulan.

Our delegation was headed by Dr Seyyed Hossein Nasr, the most influential American Muslim scholar, and included the grand mufti of Kosovo, the former grand mufti of Bosnia, the former Algerian minister of higher education, the chairman of the Indonesian Council of Ulema, an Argentinean intellectual and community leader, and scholars from Libya, the UK, Canada and Italy.

The forum is one of the fruits of the Common Word Initiative, launched in 2007 as an open letter to then-Pope Benedict XVI and leaders of all the major Christian denominations. It was composed by Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan and signed by 138 Muslim scholars and intellectuals, including the grand muftis of seven countries, ranging from Egypt to Russia.


Interfaith dialog: understanding around the table and the world

interfaithjpg-522de8b641eff2c6(a thoughtful opinion piece reflecting the practice of inter-faith dialogue in a New Jersey community)

By Larry Snider

Last Sunday was a good day. That’s the day I drove my family to the West Trenton Firehouse ballroom to attend the celebratory dinner of Eid Ul Adha and pre-Thanksgiving offered by the Muslim Community of Greater Trenton and Yardley, Pa. While the dates did not exactly correspond — it took place after the Eid and before Thanksgiving — the sentiment was to bring the community together to share a meal and much more than a plate of food.

As the U.S. re-engages in a war against Islamic extremism, it is sometimes difficult to understand and accept the presence of the Islamic faith in our community. It is necessary for all of us to look a little closer, to comprehend a little more and maybe even to communicate with neighbors on both sides of the Delaware River whom we haven’t yet had the opportunity to meet. We are afraid of what we don’t know.


Islam, Christianity share some beliefs, traditions

imag523Islam and Christianity both come out of the same Abrahamic tradition and share some similar beliefs and ethics.

Both traditions believe in Jesus, but what they believe about Jesus divides them sharply.

Muslims believe Jesus was a major prophet of God, one in a long line of prophets that includes Noah, Abraham, David, and most importantly, Muhammad, the final prophet.

Both Muslims and orthodox Christians believe Jesus was born of a virgin and performed miracles during his earthly life.

Muslims reject the heart of the Christian message, that Jesus died on the cross to pay for the sins of mankind, and was resurrected from the dead. They believe he did not die, but that it was made to appear that he died.

Both believe he will come again at the end of the age.

But while Christians believe he will set up a kingdom that he will rule forever, Muslims believe he will marry, live a normal life, and die a normal death.