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

primopiano_7362

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.

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.

In its final statement Thursday, the AFI members vowed “to seek to serve those of other faiths and no faith” and condemned those who “use the name of God, or the teachings of Abraham, to incite bloodshed or to oppress others.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS SERVICE 

At Christmas, Christians and Muslims take time to talk about loving Jesus, and each other

GettyImages_460629094.6(RNS) — In the immediate aftermath of the 2016 presidential elections, when we felt the country needed a message of unity and hope, the Rev. Andy Stoker, of First Methodist Church in Dallas, and I released a video on Facebook about our friendship called “An Imam, A Pastor, and A Dream,” in hopes that it would inspire others.

It spread rapidly online, with millions of views within the first few days. Those who commented saw in that five-minute clip the type of connection they wished to see in their own communities.

Little did we know just how far it would reach. Shortly after its release, I got a phone call informing me that ISIS had made a video about our video. In theirs, they referred to me as “the Apostate Omar Suleiman” and called for their followers to assassinate me [dfw.cbslocal.com].

I was unnerved by the news, but I knew I had to tell Andy what had happened before he found out through some other source. When I called, he not only didn’t shy away, he began the conversation that led to our next effort together. We decided in the wake of ISIS’ threat that we weren’t going to let any fools stop us from being brothers. Not here, and not thousands of miles away.

That spring of 2017, we began offering a month-long class about Jesus in Islam and Christianity. For four weeks, our Christian and Muslim communities came together to discuss Jesus in our respective faiths. The pews at First United Methodist were full, according to the Reverend Andy Stoker.

The tranquility and bonds formed over that month had captivated us all. At the end of our last session there wasn’t a dry eye in the church.

Rev. Andy and I had started with the birth of Christ, then went on to his life, ending with our differences on the meaning of the crucifixion, then finally came to Jesus’ second coming. In the first two weeks, we found little difference in how our two faiths viewed Jesus in birth and life.

Jesus is no ordinary figure to Muslims. He is one of the highest prophets and messengers of God, born of a virgin, chosen as the one to restore justice to this earth in its final days, and distinguished in the hereafter with a special place in paradise. He is mentioned in the Quran 25 times, with an entire chapter named after his honored mother, Mary.

Muhammad said about his relationship to him, “Both in this world and in the Hereafter, I am the nearest of all the people to Jesus, the son of Mary. The prophets are paternal brothers; their mothers are different, but their religion is one.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS SERVICE

Mohammed Al Samawi: How Interfaith Activism Became, and Saved, His Life

Sitting opposite Mohammed Al Samawi at a West Hollywood coffee shop, it’s hard to cov1-1355x858imagine the Yemeni refugee dodging bullets and squads of al-Qaida fighters to escape civil war in 2015. But then a police car, sirens screaming, zooms by. Al Samawi is shaken. He recalls his first American Fourth of July when he saw fireworks and ran, thinking it was an airstrike. And when a helicopter hovers over the café, he looks around nervously. The trauma he experienced during his harrowing escape, made possible by a collection of people he met through his interfaith work — many of them Jews — is still with him.

In 2015, the once-simmering civil war began to boil in Yemen between Houthis (Shiite rebels from the north) and President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi’s forces, backed by Sunni groups, including Saudi Arabia. The Sunni network also included al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Al-Qaida squads began to target anyone they perceived to be an enemy, including Shiites in Aden. As someone from the north with a Shiite background who was engaged in interfaith activism and had dialogue and cooperation with Jews and Israelis, Al Samawi suddenly found himself the target of death threats. And the battle for cov-fox-hunthis life began. 

FULL ARTICLE FROM JEWISH JOURNAL 

Charter of New Alliance of Virtue: Read full text

webRNS-Alliance-Virtue1-020718Charter aims to build global peace, based on tolerance and religious freedom

Abu Dhabi: A group of the world’s most respected Islamic scholars, faith leaders joined by experts from governments, and representatives of civil society organisations signed on Tuesday a new charter to build global peace, based on tolerance and religious freedom.

Launched and endorsed during the final day of the sixth Assembly of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies in Abu Dhabi, the “New Alliance of Virtue”, aims to elevate religious freedom, cooperation, and tolerance from mere possibilities to necessary ethical commitments and legal obligations, especially in relation to the protection of places of worship whose attacks have threatened freedom of religion in many parts of the world. This initiative draws direct inspiration from the earliest traditions of Islam.

Following is the full text of the Charter.

Preamble

The signatories of this Alliance,

Affirming the shared values of the Abrahamic faiths, as well as the rights with which all human beings are naturally endowed;

Asserting that religions of the Abrahamic family have common and distinct theological and ethical traditions, each of which values human virtues, and each of which requires peace and mutual respect and tolerance in order to flourish;

Asserting that collaboration between people of all religious faiths or beliefs provides an effective vehicle to strengthen the foundations of peace in the world;

FULL ARTICLE FROM GULF NEWS 

Religious fundamentalism is a ‘plague,’ pope says

20191118T1114-31850-CNS-POPE-INTERRELIGIOUS-ARGENTINA_800-690x450ROME – Interreligious dialogue is an important way to counter fundamentalist groups as well as the unjust accusation that religions sow division, Pope Francis said.

Meeting with members of the Argentine Institute for Interreligious Dialogue Nov. 18, the pope said that in “today’s precarious world, dialogue among religions is not a weakness. It finds its reason for being in the dialogue of God with humanity.”

Recalling a scene from the 11th-century poem, “The Song of Roland,” in which Christians threatened Muslims “to choose between baptism or death,” the pope denounced the fundamentalist mentality which “we cannot accept nor understand and cannot function anymore.”

According to its website, the Institute for Interreligious Dialogue was founded in Buenos Aires in 2002 and was inspired by then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as a way “to promote understanding among men and women of different religious traditions in our city and the world.”

The pope welcomed the members of the institute who are in Rome to reflect on the document on “human fraternity” and improving Christian-Muslim relations, which was signed Feb. 4 by Francis and Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, the grand imam of al-Azhar and a leading religious authority for many Sunni Muslims.

“This is key: Identity cannot be negotiated because if you negotiate your identity, there is no dialogue, there is submission. Each (religion) with its own identity is on the path of dialogue,” he said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CRUXNOW

Global Muslim leader brings push for peace and tolerance to meeting with top LDS leaders, other Utah officials

J6QV5WTYZFAW3KHPFKZVRWVP44Every time there has been a terrorist attack perpetrated by Muslims anywhere since 9-11, many Americans demand to know why Islamic moderates don’t condemn such killings by fellow believers.

Of course, Muslim leaders in Utah, across the United States and in other countries repeatedly do decry these acts, but they can’t represent the 1.8 billion adherents on the planet.

Now there’s the Muslim World League, a pan-Muslim organization committed to moderation and nonviolence. It opposes all forms of extremism and the so-called “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West, and works to build bridges with other nations.

The league’s secretary-general, Mohammad Al-Issa, was in Utah this week, meeting with religious leaders, including the governing First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

After his conversation with top Latter-day Saint officials, Al-Issa visited with apostle David A. Bedner and then headed to the church’s Welfare Square west of downtown Salt Lake City.

“What I’ve seen here is a great example of the true meaning of mercy and love to humanity,” the Muslim said in a church news release. “We, all around the world, need to follow this humanitarian [approach] exactly. Also, the whole world needs to get exposed to and learn from these efforts and projects.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE 

THANKSGIVING PRAYERS 2019: PRAYERS FROM CHRISTIANITY, JUDAISM, ISLAM AND OTHER RELIGIONS

Thanksgiving is one of the few major American holidays that cannot be traced back to a particular religious tradition. However, the values Thanksgiving celebrates—the importance of family and friends, the comfort of home and a spirit of gratitude—are shared across most of the world’s major faiths.

Here are prayers from several of the world’s largest religious traditions for the holiday.

Saying grace
A meal-time prayer.GETTY

Buddhism

The following prayer, whose author is unknown, comes from the Buddhist tradition, according to the Jesuit Resource’s multi-faith Prayer Index. While not explicitly connected to the secular holiday, the sentiments expressed make it an appropriate reflection for Thanksgiving.

Meal Time Prayer

This food is the gift of the whole universe,
Each morsel is a sacrifice of life,
May I be worthy to receive it.
May the energy in this food,
Give me the strength,
To transform my unwholesome qualities
into wholesome ones.
I am grateful for this food,
May I realize the Path of Awakening,
For the sake of all beings.

The joys and pains of all beings
are present in the gift of this food.
Let us receive it in love
and gratitude…

And in mindfulness of our sisters and brothers
among living beings of every kind
who are hungry or homeless,
sick or injured,
or suffering in any way.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NEWSWEEK