ABTS (Lebanon) peace-building initiatives promote understanding between Christians and Muslims

Lebanon (MNN) — The more tragedies and hardships that hit countries and cities, the more communities splinter, drawing dividing lines and focusing on themselves. But even during trying circumstances, the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) looks to build bridges and foster friendship between Christians and Muslims through its Institute of Middle East Studies’ (IMES) peace-building initiatives.

Chief academic office Martin Accad explains that these peace-building initiatives remain distinctive because they put faith at the center.

“The purpose is to allow your faith values [to] inspire living together across faith traditions and working together towards the common good,” he says.

Reconciling Communities

Included in these initiatives is the Friendship Network of Church and Mosque Goers. For the past two and a half years, IMES has worked to build a network of leaders across Lebanon that can bring people of both faiths together.

“With this group of 25 to 30 people, we explore themes around friendship,” Accad explains.

The pandemic meant these groups had to stop meeting, but the health crisis combined with a severe economic downturn means unity and cooperation are more important than ever. Accad says the friendship network is using relief funds to help both communities. The network has had Christian and Muslim leaders take food packs to families together.

“We want to demonstrate that in times of crisis, faith leaders, out of their values, are able to think beyond the wellbeing of their own community,” he says.

Accad also explains delivering these food packages serves two important purposes.

“We will have an impact in certain families that we are reaching out to, but most importantly, we will be demonstrating that people of faith can collaborate together toward the common good,” he says.

“It doesn’t mean that all religions are equal. It doesn’t mean that we are trying to say that there are no differences. On the contrary, true dialogue and peace building is based on the recognition that we are different, and we can collaborate together despite our differences.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM MNNONLINE.COM

Faith and Values: ‘Interfaith’ work means everyone gets a seat at the table

I recently had an exchange with someone who was concerned about my approach to interfaith work.

As the executive director of SpokaneFāVS, my job is more than religion reporting. Through our journalism, commentary and the FāVS Center (our 1-year-old faith and nonfaith community center), our goal is to foster community dialogue and educate people about the beliefs that make up this great city.

One of the glorious things about Spokane is its religious diversity. Besides hundreds of Christian churches, we have two Sikh gudwaras, and strong Muslim, Buddhist, Baha’i and Hindu communities – to name a few. We also have an increasing number of atheists, agnostics and nones (those with no affiliation).

To me, interfaith work means bringing all those voices to the table.

The term ‘interfaith,’ though, has become loaded because many seem to associate it only with progressives.

And that’s where the above-mentioned exchange comes in. This person couldn’t understand why we would have conservatives and/or Evangelicals sitting at our table – people who saw LGBT issues and Black Lives Matter differently than them.

On the flip side, I’ve also had people question why we have atheist writers. My argument to them is the same.

I reminded them that interfaith work (or faith and nonfaith, as I prefer) can’t be exclusive. We can’t preach inclusivity, and then leave groups out who have different views from us. (Extremists would be the exception).

FāVS has worked hard to become a gathering place for all beliefs, which of course means not everyone sees eye to eye.

And I think that’s wonderful.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW

Racial Justice and Interfaith Cooperation

Another opportunity for an interfaith coalition to come together and move forward together for a just world.

Eboo Patel July 14, 2020

Recently, my Muslim family joined a Hindu family and a Jewish family at a protest for racial equity near our home on the North Side of Chicago. A couple of days ago, my older son and I went to an event on the near South Side with fellow Muslims. As we talked about the verses of the Qur’an and the values of Islam that inspired our involvement, I made sure to point out the people wearing crosses around their necks, the clergy with collars or kippahs, the religious scripture prominently displayed on several signs. On the way back, I talked about how Sikhs were setting up makeshift kitchens to feed protesters, a sacred practice called langar. 

I want my kids to know from an early age that racial equity is an interfaith movement. It is imperative across religious traditions, and therefore a site where people from different faiths meet, get inspired by one another, deepen their own convictions and advance a cause that we view as a sacred command. 

I was considerably older than my children are now when I realized the powerful relationship between racial equity and interfaith cooperation. In fact, I remember the exact moment. It was early December of 1999 and I was at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Cape Town, South Africa. I had gone largely for personal reasons, namely because my own spiritual journey had been deeply influenced by multiple religious traditions. But then Nelson Mandela spoke, and what he said changed everything. 

He began by pointing out into the cape, towards Robben Island, where he spent over 25 years in prison and uttered these words: ”I would still be there if it were not for the Christians, the Jews, the Hindus, the Muslims, the Baha’is, the Quakers, those from indigenous African religions and those of no religion at all, working together in the struggle against apartheid.”

Marcel Proust famously said that the true journey of discovery was not in seeing new landscapes but in developing new eyes. It felt like Mandela had given me new eyes. In South Africa, a movement of racial equity had been a site for interfaith cooperation. I had taken a range of courses on race in college, but my explorations into faith had been largely private, and mostly about my own personal spirituality. The idea that racial equality could be advanced through interfaith cooperation was brand-new and totally inspiring.

FULL ARTICLE FROM INSIDE HIGHER ED

Can Muslim college students heal divisions in the US?

Amid rising Islamophobia, Muslim students show greater tendencies towards interfaith goodwill, a recent survey suggests.

by Saba Aziz

Musbah Shaheen left war-torn Syria in 2013 to attend college in the United States.

As the then-19-year-old from Homs settled into student life at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, he was often asked about the conflict and life in Syria.

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The conversations in hallways, classrooms and cafeteria with professors and fellow classmates also turned into more personal questions about his faith, he said.

“The biggest challenge for me in college was navigating the assumptions that people made about my religion,” Shaheen told Al Jazeera.

Some were surprised that he did not have a beard, others that his sister did not wear a veil or that he ate meat. He felt like an outsider – misunderstood and stereotyped.

US college pluralism story

Musbah Shaheen is currently doing a PhD at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio [Photo courtesy: Musbah Shaheen] 

“I don’t want anyone to feel this way, so I engaged in interfaith dialogue as a student leader, and that shaped my entire work life after college,” the now-26-year-old said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA

Towson’s Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies seeks to make Baltimore a model religious city

After listening to Dr. Benjamin Sax lecture during a mini-course entitled “Crossroads in Jewish-Christian Dialogue” earlier this month, it’s the turn of a group of mostly senior citizens to speak.

Seated around a dozen or so tables in the library of the Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies in Towson, they are asked to discuss weighty ideas in the context of Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza’s critique of historical religious dogma and doctrine.Ads by TeadsADVERTISING

“Spinoza opened the door to interpreting other religions individually,” Sax, the ICJS Jewish scholar, said of the 17th-century, Jewish-educated philosopher who eventually joined a Mennonite sect. “He talked about the universality of religions and about recognizing an opinion, rather than a fact.”

The attendees were urged to mull over that idea along with many others offered by Sax, with the burning question being what would happen to religious institutions if the masses, a la Spinoza’s philosophy, interpreted sacred tracts on their own.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE BALTIMORE SUN

With coronavirus, Abrahamic faith practices must change. Here’s why |

The advent of the Coronavirus has compelled our three Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — to rethink how to maintain our ability to come together to express our beliefs and practice our religious rituals. Through the use of online technologies and social media platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, Instagram and YouTube, millions of home-bound American Jews, Christians and Muslims have been able to take part, despite the lockdown, in religious services, study sessions and celebrations of sacred and uplifting holidays — Passover,Easter and Ramadan.

Are these changes going to be temporary inconveniences or a new way for our faithful to participate?

Clearly, online religious services and celebrations will continue as a central component of our repertoire at least until a foolproof COVID-19 vaccine is made widely available. Yet it is no secret that our faithful are hungering for a rapid return to in-person services where they can experience and share their faith in ways hard to replicate on Zoom. We all want to accomplish that — the question is how to do so safely and responsibly.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NORTHJERSEY.COM

Religious heads breach Cyprus divide for virus prayers

WireAP_c75c23a33db944cbab3785186603bebf_16x9_992Christian and Muslim religious leaders reached out Friday across the divided island of Cyprus in a rare show of unity for prayers to overcome the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Archbishop Chrysostomos II, head of the Cyprus Orthodox Church, Turkish Cypriot Mufti Talip Atalay and the Armenian and Maronite religious leaders issued the joint call.

They urged “all other religious and faith community leaders in Cyprus and all sisters and brothers of faith to join them in prayer and action to fight this pandemic together”, in a statement issued by an interfaith group of the stalled UN-sponsored peace process.

They made a special mention of “all doctors, nurses, medical, paramedical personnel and all caregivers who are struggling daily to confront the consequences of this virus”.

They also called on the faithful to “pay very serious attention” to the strict social distancing measures enforced on both sides of the island’s UN-patrolled ceasefire line.

Both the Greek Cypriot-administered south and the Turkish Cypriot have closed schools and shut down clubs, bars, restaurants, prohibited indoor leisure activities and banned all competitive sports.

FULL ARTICLE FROM FRANCE 24 

Muslim, Christian scholars gather in Istanbul

Ibn Haldun University in Istanbul brings together Muslim and Christian scholars to discuss philosophy, theology

ISTANBUL

thumbs_b_c_3f6b9fa701c95542129d2e4273d1e7d8Istanbul’s Ibn Haldun University brought together Muslim and Christian scholars in the symposium — titled Muslim-Christian Scholars’ Works on Philosophy and Theology.

Located in the historical Suleymaniye district of Istanbul, the university organizes the symposium on March 9-12, 2020. In the symposium, Muslim and Christian scholars will discuss and share their current researches from a philosophical and theological perspective.

Professors Kelly James Clark, Burhan Koroglu and Enis Doko will chair the symposium in which workshops on philosophy and science will also be organized.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Doko said academics from various universities will discuss relations between theology, science and philosophy.

“Together with scholars from Turkey, the U.S. and Malaysia, we will have the opportunity to discuss religion and science from both Muslim and Christian perspectives,” he said.

Doko added that one of the main purposes of the symposium is to increase collaboration between Muslim and Christian academics, and they want to work together both in academic and cultural works.

The symposium is in English and it is open for participation to academics, students and enthusiasts of the subjects.

In the first session of the symposium, Prof. Kelly James Clark gave a speech — titled Religion and Violence: This is Why We Fight, pointing to the fact that philosophy and social sciences are closely related.

“The way to solve our disagreements is dialogue. We should focus on our prejudices. Neither all Muslims nor all Christians in the world have the same way of thinking,” Clark said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AA.COM.TR

‘It’s fun – everyone is different’: the Jewish school that unites all faiths

At a primary school in London, children from Jewish, Muslim, Christian and no-faith backgrounds learn about cultural diversity and tolerance ‘through a Jewish lens’

5589Samuel’s favourite Jewish festival is Pesach, or Passover, which commemorates the exodus of Israelites from slavery in Egypt. The 10-year-old enjoys taking part in the seder, or ritual feast, which marks the start of the holiday. “The food is nice, and we sing songs and tell stories,” he said.

This is unusual because Samuel comes from a Colombian Christian family. He and dozens of other non-Jewish children attend an orthodox Jewish school in north London, where he wears a kippah, learns Hebrew and says Jewish prayers day.

“If you teach non-Jewish children about the Jewish faith, they’re likely to have a positive attitude later in life,” headteacher Gulcan Metin-Asdoyuran – who is from a Turkish Muslim background – told the Observer.

The school, which is affiliated to the United Synagogue, a union of modern orthodox synagogues in the UK, is split almost equally between Jewish and non-Jewish pupils. Among the non-Jews are Christians, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses and children of no faith. The teaching and support staff are equally diverse.

Head teacher Gulcan Metin Asdoyuran
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 Head teacher Gulcan Metin Asdoyuran, who is of Turkish Muslim heritage. Photograph: Antonio Olmos/The Observer

Alongside the national curriculum, the 117 pupils have two hours of Jewish studies each week. They learn about other faiths “through a Jewish lens”, said the head, who is known as Ms Metin. They recently visited a mosque; trips to a Buddhist temple and a Sikh gurdwara are planned. The school uniform includes kippot for boys and modest dress for girls; they eat kosher food; repeat Jewish blessings through the day; celebrate Jewish holidays; and finish early on Fridays ahead of Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE GUARDIAN (UK)