WATCH: ‘The Racial Divide: Time For Change’ Town Hall – faith and mental health focus

WASHINGTON (ABC7) — On Tuesday night, WJLA broadcasted a live virtual town hall addressing affairs of race relations with a focus on faith and mental health issues.

ABC7 News anchors Jonathan Elias and Michelle Marsh moderated the one-hour virtual panel discussion with religious leaders and mental health experts from the Washington, D.C. region.

The discussion centered around the COVID-19 pandemic and the nationwide protests and calls for justice, and how those have impacted our mental health in terms of stress, anxiety, and depression. Our panelists discussed how to move forward in a better direction together and provided resources for help.ADVERTISING

RELATED: The Racial Divide: ABC7 hosts second town hall, tackles mental health concerns

Panelists and special guests who appeared:

You can watch our first Racial Divide: Time For Change Town Hall, which aired on June 9, HERE.

Take a look below at the topics that were discussed:

FIRST HALF OF THE TOWN HALL: STRESS, ANXIETY, AND DEPRESSION RELATED TO COVID-19 AND THE ROLE OF FAITH LEADERS

Faith leaders discuss what they’re hearing from their congregation in terms of stress, anxiety, and depression related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the toll is taking on people and affecting their ability to return to church.

FULL ARTICLE AND VIDEO FROM WJLA.COM

Muslim World League secretary-general honored for interfaith work

  • US officials, American Jewish leaders award Dr. Mohammed Al-Issa for combatting anti-Semitism
  • He vowed that the MWL would “keep on until there is no more antisemitism and racism”

NEW YORK: Former Saudi Minister of Justice Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa was awarded the first ever Combat Anti-Semitism Award for his work in the interfaith community and his fight against anti-Semitism and religious intolerance.

The virtual ceremony on June 9 was co-hosted by the Combat Anti-Semitism movement and the American Sephardi Federation. Senior US diplomats, UN officials and leaders of the American Jewish community all hailed the interfaith work of Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL).

Al-Issa has been the MWL secretary-general since 2016 and has forged several alliances with Jewish, Christian and other religious committees across the world.

He recently led a high-level delegation to Auschwitz in January of this year and announced several historic initiatives to counter extremism, guarantee religious freedom and improve human welfare, spreading the virtues of inter-religious understanding. He has been described by the US Department of State and other major international agencies as one of the foremost proponents of moderate Islam in the world today.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ARAB NEWS

A Diversity Institute Teaches Iraqi Students About Religious Minorities

A new institute in Iraq that aims to change the country’s discourse toward religious minorities through educational programs for Muslim students and clerics has published its first curricula.

The Institute for the Study of Religious Diversity, the first of its kind in Iraq and the Middle East, was established nearly a year ago by Masarat, a Baghdad-based nonprofit nongovernmental organization that focuses on minorities, collective memory studies and interfaith dialogue, in cooperation with a number of universities and civil-rights groups.

The new curricula are a series of textbooks on non-Muslim minority faiths, which include Mandaeanism, Yazidism, Judaism and Christianity, that will be used in a new course that was taught for the first time this year. All of the curricula were designed by experts, academics and leaders within the groups they describe.

Initially, the focus will be on teaching students of Islamic seminaries (both Sunni and Shia) in traditional religious institutions and students of Islamic sciences faculties at some of Iraq’s public universities. There are plans to expand the course to media and journalism students, too.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL FANAR

From Islam to Buddhism, faiths have long encouraged stewardship of nature

In most major religions there is scripture encouraging the protection and care of nature.  From Buddhism to Christianity, Hinduism to Islam, faiths recognize the need for environmental stewardship and urge followers to be caretakers of the planet and its biodiversity.

Spiritual leaders play an important role in sharing religious practices and passages so that followers can live a more sustainable lifestyle respecting the 8 million species we share our planet with.

That message was echoed by World Environment Day 2020, which fell on 5 June. The celebration cast a spotlight on the services nature provides us—from food to medicine—and highlighted that, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, life on earth would not be possible without nature’s bounty.

Here are how seven faiths remind us how we are connected to nature.

The Baha’i writings are replete with statements on the importance of the harmony between human life and the natural world. Bahá’u’lláh’s writings are imbued with a deep respect for nature and the interconnectedness of all things, seeing especially in nature a reflection of the divine:

Nature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator. Its manifestations are diversified by varying causes, and in this diversity, there are signs for men of discernment.

Buddhism inspires ecological mindfulness to address the loss of biodiversity. It seeks wisdom through adherence to the Five Precepts, the pursuit of the Noble Eightfold Path, and the understanding of karma. Buddhists find themselves in harmony with nature by acknowledging the interdependence of all forms of life.

At the core of Brahma Kumaris’ work is the understanding of the connection between our consciousness, thoughts and actions, and their impact on the world. It is seen that long-lasting change in any social or environmental system starts with a profound shift in the minds and hearts of people. The current loss of biodiversity is therefore a clear call to transform our awareness and lifestyle, and start caring for all living forms on the planet.

“Our capacity to change ecosystems is proportional to our capacity to change our own consciousness” – Brahma Kumaris

For Christians, biodiversity conservation is a role that is at the heart of their daily lives. In the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, Christians are called to experience the world as a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise, as St. Francis does in the words of the Canticle of Creation:

“Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM UNENVIRONMENT.ORG

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.

More:

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

A Muslim In Rural, White Minnesota On How To ‘Love Thy Neighbor’

Dr. Ayaz Virji was a Muslim living in small-town, white America.

He had left a good job in a leadership position at a successful hospital in Harrisburg, Penn., in order to practice medicine in a rural, underserved area.

Virji says he “had the BMWs, the nice house, but it wasn’t enough for me, I wanted to do more.” Rural America faces a shortage of doctors, with many residents forgoing care and saying locations are too far away. “So I felt like I should do something about that. And it was back to the idea: If not me, then who?” he says.

He moved with his family to Dawson, Minn., in 2014. As far as he knew, they were the only Muslims in town. Virji describes the small city — population 1,500 or so — as filled with “very gracious” people who welcomed the family to the community.

“People there are kind, you know, many of them are far better than I am as a person.”

FULL ARTICLE WITH AUDIO CLIP FROM NPR

Remembering lives lost: Interfaith virtual memorial service honors COVID-19 victims

The numbers appear mind-numbing. More than 100,000 deaths in the United States alone.

Nearly 350,000 worldwide.

A local group aims to find a way to bring those statistics to a more personal level and take a moment to ache for all who have died from COVID-19 in the pandemic.

The four-member Columbus Interfaith, plus four other local houses of worship, will join in hearts to remember and honor the world’s COVID-19 victims in a virtual service via Zoom to be posted online Sunday.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE REPUBLIC (INDIANA)

After 100,000 Covid-19 Deaths in U.S., Interfaith Leaders, Mayors Call for a Day of Mourning and Regret

As we mark the death of 100,000 people in the U.S. from COVID-19, an unprecedented group of 100+ national faith leaders—from Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions representing major denominations, national faith-based organizations, local congregations, and millions of people of faith across the country—call for a National Day of Mourning and Lament. Together, they look to federal, state, and local elected officials to observe Monday, June 1 as National Day of Mourning and Lament, a day marked by moments of silence, lowering of flags, interfaith vigils, ringing of bells, and civic memorials.

This call is being supported by the U.S. Conference of Mayors who represent over 1,400 mayors across the country. Mayors lead on the frontline of the COVID-19 response effort and continue to model critical local leadership amid this difficult time.

Together, interfaith leaders and mayors across the nation will call us to mourn, lament, and honor the dead, acknowledge the unequal nature of our suffering, pray together for the healing of the nation, and recommit to the difficult work ahead.

“I encourage Episcopalians to join with other people of faith this weekend to grieve and honor those who have died from COVID-19,” said Michael B. Curry, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church. “Let this tragic moment not pass without us honoring the many among us who have lost their lives or lost their loved ones and commending them and ourselves to God’s love and peace.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM EPISCOPAL NEWS SERVICE

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