Ancient Christian, Muslim sites under attack in Syria, UN says

imageEdith M. Lederer, The Associated Press 
Published Wednesday, March 12, 2014 4:13PM EDT 

The United Nations warned Wednesday that ancient Christian and Muslim sites in Syria are under attack and demanded an immediate halt to the destruction of the country’s cultural heritage.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and the joint UN-Arab League mediator on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, issued a joint statement citing “alarming reports” that Syria’s heritage is being deliberately targeted for ideological reasons.

“Human representations in art are being destroyed by extremist groups intent on eradicating unique testimonies of Syria’s rich cultural diversity,” the officials said. “Archaeological sites are being systematically looted and the illicit trafficking of cultural objects has reached unprecedented levels.”

The officials condemned the use of cultural sites for military purposes and called on all parties in the three-year conflict to uphold international obligations to protect cultural property.

Six sites in Syria have been designated as World Heritage sites by UNESCO, the UN’s cultural and educational agency, and the officials said some have suffered “considerable and sometimes irreversible damage.”


Religious Law (Especially Islamic Law) in American Courts

downloadMany people worry about the possible encroachment of Sharia—Islamic law—into the American legal system. Oklahoma voters banned the use of Sharia and other religious law, though the Tenth Circuit struck down the ban precisely because it singled out Sharia by name.1 Other state legislatures have considered similar bans.2

But in many of the instances that critics see as improper “creeping Sharia,”3 it is longstanding American law that calls for recognizing or implementing an individual’s religious principles, including Islamic principles. American law provides for freedom of contract and disposition of property at death. Muslims (like Christians, Jews, and the irreligious) can therefore write contracts and wills to implement their understanding of their religious obligations. American law provides for arbitration with parties’ consent.4 Muslims can use this to route their disputes to Muslim tribunals,  just like Christians, Jews, and the irreligious often route their disputes to private arbitrators of their choice.


10 Images of Jewish-Muslim Unity that go Beyond the Headlines

thumbWe’re constantly bombarded by implicit and explicit images of the relationship that Jews and Muslims supposedly have in today’s world.  We are bombarded with the cliched reminder that we “used to get along” but recently have become enemies. We’ve almost become used to it, accepted it as some sort of reality. And, ironically, all these “interfaith” events can often cause us to feel even more disconnected.  They just don’t seem as genuine as a true connection.  It would seem the only people you would need to show such “unity” with is people you don’t get along with. Which is why we need to look deeper.  We need to look wider.  We need to see that “unity” doesn’t mean press.  It doesn’t mean “shows of support”.  It means genuine connection and giving. And the truth is that the world is scattered with that.  The truth is that the press likes to say just one side of the story, likes to focus on conflict.  But there is unity.  There is connection.

All we need to do is look.


Interfaith leader calls for building bridges, not barriers between faiths

1308632PROVO, Utah — Eboo Patel wants to build bridges.

Not big steel structures that span bodies of water or deep, rugged canyons. No, Patel wants bridges between people of diverse religious faiths: Muslims and Jews. Christians and non-Christians. Mormons and Evangelicals. And don’t leave out the atheist and the secular humanists.

“Frankly interactions between people who orient differently around religion can turn into four things,” said Patel, founder of the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Core, which works to foster interfaith work on college campuses. “It can turn into bubbles of isolation. It can turn in to barrier of division, where people emphasize their differences. It can turn into bombs of destruction. Or it can turn into bridges of cooperation.”

In a shrinking world, where diversity of culture and faith is more prolific in communities than ever, and where new democracies are rapidly emerging around the world, bridge building fosters understanding and creates civic cooperation and shared work for the common good, Patel told an audience of students and scholars at Brigham Young University on Tuesday night.



Iowa Women Come Together for a Day of Prayer to Unite Christians and Muslims

bildeWomen of numerous races, cultures and traditions will gather worldwide Friday to encourage interfaith dialogue in celebration of World Day of Prayer.

Susan Wakefield, the chairwoman of ecumenical development for the Church Women United of Johnson County, said the idea of living peacefully together depends on having a cooperative perspective.

“Some of the purposes of Church Women United is to strengthen the visible ecumenical community, and so we want to increase appreciation and respect for women of all ages and traditions,” said Wakefield, who also is a former president of the CWU. “People of different faith traditions can work towards the same goals for peace.”

World Day of Prayer is an international movement of Christian women of many traditions who meet once a year to observe a common day of prayer on the first Friday of March. This year, the Church Women United of Johnson County will host the area’s service in Coralville at Community of Christ, 2121 S. Ridge Drive.

Women from more than 170 countries and regions will host the event. Friday’s Coralville registration will begin at 9:30 a.m., with the service starting at 10 a.m. The event is open to men and women of all faiths.


The Muslim Taxi Driver you want to kill legislation that protects the right of Christians to withhold business services from same-sex couples, here’s one way to do it: Don’t warn people about Christians. Warn them about Muslims.

That strategy was on display in the campaign against Arizona Senate Bill 1062, which would have shielded businesses from discrimination suits if they acted on religious beliefs. Everyone understood that the bill would have allowed conservative Christians to refuse services for a gay wedding. But in Arizona, that wasn’t a strong enough argument against it. So opponents went for the Muslim angle.

Many Americans who talk about religious freedom are really just interested in the rights of conservative Christians. They’re not so keen on Muslims. In fact, they worry about Muslims imposing their beliefs on Christians. Two days ago, in praise of the Arizona bill, Rush Limbaugh complained, “Religious beliefs can’t be used to stop anything the left wants to impose—unless they’re Muslim religious beliefs, and then we have to honor those. But any other religious beliefs are not permitted.”

The first reference to Muslims in the Arizona fight, as far as I can tell, came from the Anti-Defamation League in a letter to state senators and in testimony before a state Senate committee on Jan. 16. If the bill were to pass, the ADL’s assistant regional director told the committee, “A Muslim-owned cab company might refuse to drive passengers to a Hindu temple.”