Muslims and Christians team up to help homeless

muslims-and-christiansFaith groups are working together to care for street sleepers and other vulnerable people in the run-up to Christmas.

Muslim and Christian groups in Britain are joining forces to help the country’s homeless and other vulnerable groups during the Christmas period.

Organisations including Muslim Aid, the Al-Khair Foundation, Streetlytes, and churches across the English capital of London are expanding their efforts by providing meals and shelter packs to rough sleepers.

Their aim is to make sure those most in need are protected from cold weather and hunger during the holidays when many shops and services are closed or operating at reduced capacity.

More than 100 homeless people attended a Christmas dinner event organised by the groups at the Church of St Stephen and St Thomas in Shepherd’s Bush, west London.


READ MORE: UK families open doors to refugees


Alongside the seasonal staple of Turkey, volunteers dished out servings of South Asian dishes such as biryani.

“As Muslims, Islam teaches us that we can’t go to bed on a full stomach while our neighbour goes hungry,” said the Al-Khair Foundation’s Syed Hussain, as he managed a stall stacked with containers full of food.

“We’re working with people of all different backgrounds to show that Muslims care and we want to solve the problems facing everyone, not just our own.”

Streetlytes volunteer Chris Hatch, a Presbyterian priest, explained that while many of those working to help the homeless were religious, the project was not “inherently faith-based”.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA 

A Medieval Antidote to ISIS

21akyol-master768ISTANBUL — THE recent massacres in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., demonstrated, once again, the so-called Islamic State’s ability to win over disaffected Muslims. Using a mixture of textual literalism and self-righteous certainty, the extremist group is able to persuade young men and women from Pakistan to Belgium to pledge allegiance to it and commit violence in its name.

This is why the Islamic State’s religious ideology needs to be taken seriously. While it’s wrong to claim that the group’s thinking represents mainstream Islam, as Islamophobes so often do, it’s also wrong to pretend that the Islamic State has “nothing to do with Islam,” as many Islamophobia-wary Muslims like to say. Indeed, jihadist leaders are steeped in Islamic thought and teachings, even if they use their knowledge to perverse and brutal ends.

A good place to start understanding the Islamic State’s doctrine is by reading Dabiq, the digital English-language magazine that the group puts out every month. One of the most striking pieces I have seen in it was an 18-page article in March titled “Irja’: The Most Dangerous Bid’ah,” or heresy.

Unless you have some knowledge of medieval Islamic theology you probably have no idea what irja means. The word translates literally as “postponing.” It was a theological principle put forward by some Muslim scholars during the very first century of Islam. At the time, the Muslim world was going through a major civil war, as proto-Sunnis and proto-Shiites fought for power, and a third group called Khawarij (dissenters) were excommunicating and slaughtering both sides. In the face of this bloody chaos, the proponents of irja said that the burning question of who is a true Muslim should be “postponed” until the afterlife. Even a Muslim who abandoned all religious practice and committed many sins, they reasoned, could not be denounced as an “apostate.” Faith was a matter of the heart, something only God — not other human beings — could evaluate.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

Interfaith events expand in wake of 2016 election

interfaith_banner-1200x500It’s getting real in a whole new way for Americans involved in local, regional and national interfaith movements.

Donald Trump’s election is seeing to that.

Religious folk who thought they had an uphill battle against sporadic prejudice, here and there, are wondering if anti-Muslim bigotry may soon be codified and methodically applied across the nation.

“What the president-elect has spoken about during this election cycle should have alarmed every American, and every Baptist, who cherishes religious liberty,” said Mitch Randall, an ardent proponent of ecumenical and interfaith efforts and pastor of NorthHaven Church in Norman, Okla.

“Every person has a right to worship, or not worship, their God as their conscience dictates.”

Randall said he spoke with the imam of an area mosque about this topic during a recent gathering of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches.

“I let him know personally if he needs a Baptist minister to stand beside him, then I would be glad to do that,” Randall said.

And he isn’t alone in making such a pledge.

‘I support your right of religious freedom’

“It’s a message that’s being delivered in cities like Boston, where 2,600 people poured into a mosque Sunday night for an interfaith service, and Nashville, Tenn., where residents created a chalk mural of support outside a mosque,” the Christian Science Monitor reported this week.

The message was also communicated in Phoenix, Ariz., where the mayor and hundreds of others lined up to purchase food from a Lebanese baker whose store was vandalized.

InterfaithEvent: A number of interfaith events have been held around the nation since Donald Trump's election. Religious leaders pledge support of Muslims. (Photo/Creative Commons)

The support has also come from sources some would consider unexpected.

“I’m here today, to say as a Southern Baptist, I want you Muslims to know, I love you, I care about you, I support your right of religious freedom,” Bob Roberts said in remarks included in the article. Roberts, who is from Keller, Texas, made the comments in a mosque in Washington D.C. “I will stand with you, and there are many of us.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM BAPTIST NEWS 

Interfaith Hope in Baltimore

iwj_baltimore

by Zafir Ahmed

Last month, I heard hope, felt peace, and saw love. These emotions were quite contrary to what  I had the morning after this year’s election. I remember feeling really confused and insecure about what the future held for me, a young Muslim living in America. About a month ago, members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community here in Baltimore decided to have an interfaith session at their mosque, on the 20th of  November, to respond and find solutions to the host of emotions that have been generated because of the election and to unite against all forms of hatred. Despite this Sunday being one of the coldest days of the year, the turnout for the event was much greater than expected. Under one roof  were people sitting shoulder to shoulder, who on the outside, seemed to have very little in common. The only thing uniting them was a yearning to unite a country that seemed to be tearing apart.

The highlight of the event were speeches made by people of different faiths and backgrounds who gave each other a message of hope and support. A professor of psychology from the University of Maryland Baltimore campus explained how doing good and having a positive interaction with just one person could result in a chain of goodness that will keep on getting longer and longer. He emphasized that it is the duty of every member of society to get to know each other and not just judge the book by its cover. A member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, who also happened to be a former Marine, emphasized that we cannot let America add yet another item to it’s not so proud moments list. Moments in our history when white and black could not sit together, a time when Japanese Americans were put into internment camps, and many others. This event highlighted how much we can all learn from each other. A Jewish woman and a pastor stood at the podium and gave advice to the Muslim youth like they were there very own. The thing that struck me the most was a comment that an audience member made at the end, he said that if the Trump administration makes a Muslims registry then all of us who are not Muslims will register as Muslims as well.

FULL ARTICLE FROM BELIEFNET

Muslims and Christians in Burma still face persecution, U.S. officials warn

– Rohingya Muslims in Burma, as well as Christians, face continued persecution, destruction of homes and places of worship, and threats to their lives, human rights organizations are warning.

Throughout the country’s history, Burmese officials have maintained control “through a divide and rule strategy, pitting Buddhists, Christians, and Muslims against each other,” said Father Thomas Reese, SJ, Chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in a December 13 discussion in Washington, D.C.

“The plight of both Rohingya Muslims and Christians results from successive governments that have both perpetuated and supported religious violations,” Reese continued. “It’s time for Burma to defend religious freedom,” he urged.

Two reports by the organization highlight the abuses suffered by religious minorities in Burma, also known as Myanmar, as well as by practitioners of the majority Buddhist religion who dissent from the mainline practice or government positions.

Christians in the country face discrimination, forced conversions, violence and desecration of churches and Christian communities says the USCIRF Report “Hidden Plight: Christian Minorities in Burma.”

Meanwhile, according to “Suspended in Time: The Ongoing Persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Burma,” members of the Muslim ethnic group are denied basic human rights like food, shelter, water, citizenship, or the ability to move.

The reports come days after international human rights organization Human Rights Watch released an analysis of images taken of a Rohingya village in Rakhine state, which it says link the Burmese army to the arson of the village.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CRUXNOW.COM

American Muslim leaders to Trump: ‘Reconsider and reject’ your bigoted Cabinet nominees

imrsAmerican Muslim leaders on Monday sent an open letter to President-elect Donald Trump, calling on him to “reconsider and reject” some of the individuals he recently named to his administration who have “a well documented history of outright bigotry directed at Muslims or advocating that Muslims should not have the same rights as their fellow Americans.”

The letter, which also heralded the long history of Muslim contributions to American society, did not identify any of Trump’s advisers or cabinet appointees by name. But some of its 300-plus signatories, who ranged from imams and university chaplains to the presidents of Islamic charities and advocacy groups, have previously expressed concern about Trump’s selection of retired Marine Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as a national security adviser, Stephen Bannon as senior counselor, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for Attorney General, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) for CIA Director, and Ben Carson for Housing and Urban Development Secretary — all of whom have publicly criticized Islam or supported policy ideas like a ban on Muslim immigrants or refugees.

The letter read, in part: “[We] are deeply troubled by reports that your team is actively considering proposals that would target Muslims based on religion and violate their Constitutional rights. Advisors and members of your transition team have proposed a registry of Muslim immigrants and visitors to this country. Shockingly, an advisor cited the internment of more than 110,000 Japanese Americans during World War II – one of the most shameful moments in our nation’s history – as precedent for targeting Muslims.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST 

Historic Bridgeport Church to Become Mosque

BRIDGEPORT, Conn.—One of the oldest Christian congregations in this community said it would sell its historic church to a regional Islamic center.

The United Congregational Church said Monday it plans to sell its brick Georgian-Revival style church, built in the 1920s, to the Bridgeport Islamic Community Center for $1 million.

The two groups will also form a partnership to provide community programs including a soup kitchen and a homeless shelter from the site of the current church.

bn-rb957_nybrid_m_20161205165020In recent years, more Muslim communities across the U.S. have begun to engage in the types of fundraisers and social-service projects that Christian congregations and Jewish synagogues often host or organize, said David Grafton, professor of Islamic studies and Christian-Muslim relations at Hartford Seminary in Hartford.

“As the national landscape has become much more suspicious of Muslims, and as Islamophobia has become more common, Muslim communities have consciously engaged in the process to normalize—or become part of the religious landscape of organizing into voluntary associations that form the bedrock of American civil and religious life,” he said.

The lineage of the United Congregational Church dates back to colonial days. It was first established in 1695 and called the Ecclesiastical Society of Stratfield. It later merged in 1916 with another congregation to form the United Congregational Church. Rev. Sara Smith said the Bridgeport church had 3,000 members when the main structure was built, but the numbers have now dwindled to 300. She said it made financial sense for the congregation to look for a new home.

The United Congregational Church will be renting space in another part of Bridgeport until it finds a new space to buy, Rev. Smith said. “We are not dying, we are just moving,” she said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WALL STREET JOURNAL