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 

‘Wells of Hope’: Christians, Muslims fighting trafficking together

Wells of Hope” is the title of a documentary, released on Friday in Rome that shows the work done by women of different faiths to combat human trafficking in countries affected by war in the Middle East.

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By Linda Bordoni

Produced by Aurora Vision and filmed in Jordan, “Wells of Hope” is a documentary film presented by Talitha Kum, the worldwide network of consecrated life against trafficking in persons, founded by the International Union of Superiors General.

It tells the story of Shaima, a Syrian girl who fled the war in her country only to have her hopes, and ultimately her life, taken from her in the cruelest of ways.

Talitha Kum coordinator, Sister Gabriella Bottani, was on hand for the film launch at Vatican Radio together with its protagonists and with the film’s director, Lia Beltrami.

Sr. Gabriella said she approached Aurora Vision, a non-profit communications organization committed to spreading a positive message of peace, dialogue and hope, because she believes no stone is to be left unturned in Talitha Kum’s tireless battle against human trafficking.

FULL ARTICLE FROM VATICAN NEWS

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 

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 

The Use Of Anthropological Mediation In Interfaith Dialogue – Analysis

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The West believed in the 1970s that, with modern societies becoming more rational, belief was going to fade. The idea that modernity and religion cannot mix, was very widespread.

The rise of fundamentalisms, the fall of the Berlin Wall, terrorist violence, have created a new climate, heightened new fears, and spread confusion in people’s minds. As a result, religion now occupies a central place in debates previously dominated by revolutionary themes and Marxist ideology. The new challenges require intellectual clarification in favor of a dialogue of religions still to be created.

What can be the place of philosophy and anthropology in interfaith dialogue? What mediating, critical and propositional roles can it play within this context, particularly through its anthropological reflexions?

Religion is not only an ecclesiastical concern, but also and above all scientific

The religious question is not only an ecclesiastical concern, but also and above all scientific. This is why the construction of the object of this argument must have recourse to socio-historical facts and analyzes. In fact, religion, during Antiquity, foreshadowed socio-political organization. This is reflected in the election of the people of Israel to the promised land. From there, the Israelis, followers of a divine conviction, settled on this land promised to their father, Abraham, and confronted a Palestinian people who once enjoyed a presence there. And since then, permanent vicissitudes will make the Middle East a powder keg. 

Among these changes, the birth of Christianity following the message of Jesus, seals the salvation no longer of an elected and chosen people of God, but of all humanity irrespective of social status, color or origin. In contrast, emerges Islam, through the Prophet Muhammad who challenges Judaism, but also Christianity, not as a religion, but because its followers have turned away from the word of God by falling into “the mistake”.

In this way, Islam presents itself as a social and political-religious force in the face of Christianity. This is why thinkers according to their intellectual schemes, rightly or wrongly, speak of the war of religions or the war of civilizations which often leads to socio-political and theological confrontations. To this must be added the creation of the State of Israel by Jewish de-diasporization, following “combatant Zionism”, in response to “pogroms” in Russia and anti-Semitism in Germany, which will relaunch the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in suspension with direct consequence, the implication of the world.

FULL ARTICLE FROM EUROASIAREVIEW

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