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

Religious violence is on the rise. What can faith-based communities do about it?

interfaithReligious violence is undergoing a revival. The past decade has witnessed a sharp increase in violent sectarian or religious tensions. These range from Islamic extremists waging global jihad and power struggles between Sunni and Shia Muslims in the Middle East to the persecution of Rohingya in Myanmar and outbreaks of violence between Christians and Muslims across Africa. According to Pew, in 2018 more than a quarter of the world’s countries experienced a high incidence of hostilities motivated by religious hatred, mob violence related to religion, terrorism, and harassment of women for violating religious codes.

The spike in religious violence is global and affects virtually every religious group. A 2018 Minority Rights Group report indicates that mass killings and other atrocities are increasing in countries both affected and not affected by war alike. While bloody encounters were recorded in over 50 countries, most reported lethal incidents involving minorities were concentrated in Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, India, Myanmar, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Hostilities against Muslims and Jews also increased across Europe, as did threats against Hindus in more than 18 countries. Making matters worse, 55 of the world’s 198 countries imposed heightened restrictions on religions, especially Egypt, Russia, India, Indonesia and Turkey.

How is it that religions – which supposedly espouse peace, love and harmony – are so commonly connected with intolerance and violent aggression? Social scientists are divided on the issue. Scholars like William Cavanaugh contend that even when extremists use theological texts to justify their actions, “religious” violence is not religious at all – but rather a perversion of core teachings. Others such as Richard Dawkins believe that because religions fuel certainties and sanctify martyrdom, they are often a root cause of conflict. Meanwhile, Timothy Sisk claims that both hierarchical religious traditions (such as Shi´ism) and non-hierarchical traditions (such as Buddhism) can both be vulnerable to interpretation of canon to justify or even provide warrants for violent action.

 Religious violence has been rising for years

FULL ARTICLE FROM WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM 

In violence-hit Burkina Faso, love wins for interfaith couples

BURKINO FASOOuagadougou, Burkina Faso – It happened more than 20 years ago, but Inoussa Bouda remembers it as if it happened yesterday.

Waiting at a bus station on his way to his grandparents, he saw a beautiful woman cross the road.

“I was thinking, ‘I don’t know which bus she’s taking, but even if she’s going to the other side of the country, I don’t care – I’m taking the bus with her.'”

Bouda was delighted to find out that the woman was taking the same route as him. The two started talking and the conversation sparked a relationship. Nine years after first meeting on September 29, 1998, in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, they got married.

“At the beginning, our families were against the marriage, but when they realised how much we loved each other they gave up,” Bouda said, smiling.

The 45-year-old entrepreneur, a Muslim, and his wife Alida, a Christian, are an interfaith couple, which according to Burkina Faso’s census, make up approximately 10.4 percent of all married couples in the country. Their three children all have a Christian and a Muslim first name and attend both mosque and church with their parents.

“I see the girls getting up on Sundays and getting ready to go to church, but our boy is still sleeping,” Alida Bouda says, sitting by her husband.

“When his father goes to the mosque he always gets ready on time. It makes me think he’s going to be a Muslim.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA 

Indian protesters hold interfaith prayers at Shaheen Bagh

indian protestsAnti-CAA demonstrators from all faiths pray for withdrawal of law and communal amity at women-led epicentre of protests.

New Delhi, India – A Hindu priest lights up a sacred fire and chants from his scriptures, surrounded under a large tent by dozens of Muslim women, some sporting vermillion on their foreheads – a gesture of reverence usually displayed by the Hindus.

The priest was participating in an interfaith prayer ceremony held on Thursday at New Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, a Muslim-dominated neighbourhood in India‘s capital, where an all-women sit-in has turned into the epicentre of nationwide protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

The CAA fast tracks Indian nationality for non-Muslims from three Muslim-majority neighbouring countries – Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan – who came to India before 2015.

Opposition parties and critics say the CAA violates India’s secular constitution by making religion a marker of citizenship, and have challenged the law in the Supreme Court.

Faced with an ongoing National Population Register (NPR) and a proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) across India, Muslims, who form 15 percent of India’s 1.3 billion population, fear the steps are aimed at marginalising them.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA

Religions can be part of the solution for peace, not the problem, faith leaders say

VATICAN CITY (RNS) — When John Lennon wrote his hit song “Imagine,” eliminating religions and the divisions they entail was in his view a necessary condition for “living life in peace.” A meeting of religious representatives in Rome this week made the case for shifting that paradigm.

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The Abrahamic Faiths Initiative group united 25 religious leaders representing millions of Christian, Muslim and Jewish faithful to discuss practical ways of promoting peace and fraternity at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome Jan. 14-16.

Attendees included Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue; Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, president of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies; Riccardo di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome; and the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem and all Palestine.

Many peacemaking efforts have failed because they didn’t consider the religious implications of their initiatives, according to Sam Brownback, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for religious freedom, who also attended.

“I think the world is crying for this movement,” Brownback told Religion News Service in an interview on Thursday (Jan. 16), adding that even though the world might not want to talk about religion, the matter cannot be ignored.

“If we’d involved the religious actors 30 years ago in the Middle East peace negotiations and discussions, saying ‘OK, this is what we are thinking about, what do you think? Help us build the peace,’ we might be somewhere today,” he said.

“We still don’t have peace in the Middle East and the prospects don’t look particularly good.”

Brownback underlined that Christian, Muslim and Jewish faithful all source back to Abraham, creating a communality that can be built upon. “I just think the people who would divide have gotten out ahead of the people who would unite. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do,” he said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PRESBYTERIAN OUTLOOK 

Abu Dhabi Marks Interfaith Effort a Year after Pope’s Visit

Youannis Lahzi Gaid, Mohamed Hussein El-Mahrassawy, Mohamed Mahmoud Abdel SalamABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – Interfaith leaders gathered on Monday in Abu Dhabi to mark one year since Pope Francis’ historic trip to the Arabian Peninsula, a visit that saw leading Muslim clerics gather alongside the pope to promote co-existence.

The United Arab Emirates has worked to promote itself  over the past year as a beacon of religious tolerance, despite it’s hard limits on political speech. The majority of the country’s population are not Emirati Muslim citizens, but foreigners, millions of whom are Christian and Hindu.

Abu Dhabi hosted Monday’s meeting to showcase its continued efforts in promoting interfaith dialogue as it prepares to break ground this year on a compound that will house a mosque, church and synagogue side by side. The Abrahamic House of Fraternity project is due to be completed in 2022.

In the neighboring emirate of Dubai, an unmarked villa has already been turned  into a synagogue.

Expat worshippers pray in front of St. Mary's shrine at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Oud Metha, as Catholics  await a historic visit by Pope Francis to the United Arab Emirates, in Dubai, UAE, Jan. 18, 2019.
FILE – Expat worshippers pray in front of St. Mary’s shrine at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Oud Metha, in Dubai, UAE, Jan. 18, 2019.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia, along with other Gulf states, have been expanding their outreach to Christian groups, like evangelicals, and Jewish organizations. The effort coincides with a broader alignment of political interests and ties emerging between Gulf Arab states and Israel, which share a common foe in Iran.

A U.S. rabbi, a representative of the Catholic church and a trained sheikh from Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the revered 1,000-year-old seat of Sunni Islamic learning, attended Monday’s briefing where they discussed ongoing interfaith efforts.

Senior Rabbi at the Washington Hebrew Congregation, Bruce Lustig, insisted his participation on this visit was “apolitical.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM VOA NEWS