Faith leaders react to mob at Capitol with prayers, calls for end to violence

From prayers to calls for Trump to halt rioters, some statements react to a sign of a divided nation with cries for peace.

(RNS) — As a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday (Jan. 6), American religious leaders reacted quickly to a chaotic and unprecedented scene.

From succinct prayers to calls for Trump to ask the rioters to halt, the faith leaders’ statements mostly appealed for unity. But some who have affirmed the current president expressed their support for protesters they considered to be peaceful or made unsubstantiated claims that members of the mob might be related to far-left leaning militants of the antifa movement.

“Disobeying and assaulting police is a sin whether it’s done by Antifa or angry Republicans,” tweeted the Rev. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Dallas. The Rev. Franklin Graham speculated, apparently without substantiation, that those who invaded the Capitol building were related to antifa.

For his part, Trump, in a brief video posted on Twitter but later removed by the platform, empathized with the mob but also asked them to leave.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS

Suburban religious leaders hosting interfaith prayer service Sunday

Suburban faith leaders will come together to host a virtual interfaith prayer service for World Peace Day at 2 p.m. Sunday, January 17.

Eboo Patel, founder and president of the nonprofit Interfaith Youth Core, will deliver the keynote address. Patel is a noted Muslim community leader and speaker on issues of religious diversity, civic engagement, and the intersection of racial equality and interfaith cooperation.

The event is organized by the Naperville Interfaith Leaders Association, Congregation Etz Chaim and Congregation Beth Shalom and co-sponsored by various faith communities.

For more information, visit napervilleinterfaith.org/worldpeaceday or mail WorldPeaceDay@NapervilleInterfaith.org.

FULL ARTICLE FROM DAILY HERALD (CHICAGO)

People of non-Christian faiths discuss views of the holiday season

Despite the steps towards religious inclusion during the holidays –– such as the phrase “Happy holidays” as opposed to “Merry Christmas” –– this time of year in the Western world is still typically dominated by Christmas. With holiday specials, festive music and the time off from work or school, Christmas affects every facet of American lives in December.

Even so, there are many families and individuals in the U.S. who, due to their own religious backgrounds and beliefs, do not celebrate Christmas.

Junior linguistics major Jimmy Kieu said his Buddhist family does not really participate in the holiday.

“For my family specifically, we do not necessarily do anything special for Christmas,” Kieu said. “It’s just a day off…Like, it’s literally just like every other Saturday.”

Despite the increased commercialization of Christmas, junior psychology major Hamza Syed said as a Muslim, he still does not see it as a secular holiday.

“Christmas has always seemed like a very Christian thing to me that has been made an American thing,” Syed said. “Which for America to be the melting pot of the world, I feel like [it should] either celebrate all different religious holidays or none of them.”

Roey Shoshan is the executive director of Hillel at the University of Georgia, an organization that fosters the creation of a Jewish community at universities. For him and for much of the Jewish community, this time of year is defined by the celebration of Hanukkah.

FULL ARTICLE FROM REDANDBLACK.COM

Non-Christian faiths welcome Christmas easing of Covid rules

Representatives of faiths that have been unable to gather for religious festivals this year because of the pandemic have welcomed the fact that Christians will not have to experience “the same disappointment and deflation” they did.

The Muslim festivals of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, the Jewish holy days of Passover, Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year) and Yom Kippur, and Diwali festival of lights celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains were among those hit by lockdown restrictions, with people forbidden to worship together or join family and friends to mark the occasions. Easter was also affected last spring.

On Tuesday, Boris Johnson outlined plans for Covid measures to be relaxed so that people could celebrate Christmas together, with as many as three different households allowed to mix for five days over the festive period.

Imam Qari Asim, chair of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, said he was pleased Christians would be able to enjoy “this special time of year, which provides an opportunity for people of all faiths and beliefs to reconnect with family and friends”.

He added: “It is a relief to know that those celebrating Christmas will not endure the same disappointment and deflation that Muslims experienced at the last minute cancellation of Eid celebrations earlier in the year.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE GUARDIAN (UK)

Muslim, Christian communities share more similar ideologies than most realize

Over the past several weeks at our church, I have been teaching an adult class on the history and teachings of Islam. We have looked at the life and example of the Prophet, Muhammad. We have examined portions of the Quran. We have studied some of the historical interactions of the Islamic community with both the Christian and Jewish communities around them.

As we have looked at the beliefs of our Muslim sisters and brothers, my class and I have been amazed at how closely their spiritual goals, beliefs and practices match up with ours. Yet, this similarity should not be a surprise. Jews, Muslims and Christians all trace our roots back to Abraham. Likewise, along with Christians, Muslims accept the virgin birth of Jesus, and Mary (Jesus’ mother) is spoken of fondly in the Quran. Even more, within the Quran there is a recognition of the kinship of Islam with Judaism and Christianity.

Unfortunately, because of the human influence within each of our faiths, our shared history over the past centuries has fluctuated from moments of acceptance and cooperation to prejudice and persecution. Sadly, we Christians are just as guilty for the negative aspects of our historical relationship as are our Jewish and Islamic brethren. We are like siblings who, too often, refuse to get along with one another, even as we all work toward the same end: Living out our faith in our day to day lives, following the way of our God.

FULL ARTICLE FROM TIMES WEST VIRGINIA

Interfaith appeals for fairer economic system

Webinar highlights Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Rastafari voices calling for action on Just Finance and Reparations

(LWI) – Just Finance is “not just about finance,” but also about values of fairness, equity, trust and honesty, therefore faith communities can bring a vital voice in the search for a more equitable global economic system.

At a webinar, jointly organized by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), the World Council of Churches (WCC), the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) and the Council for World Mission (CWM), representatives of various faith communities spoke about the insights that their religious traditions offer on issues of debt, inequality, reparations and reconciliation.

The online discussion on 2 October, moderated by LWF’s Program Executive for Public Theology and Interreligious Relations, Rev. Dr Sivin Kit, was part of a process known as the New International Financial and Economic Architecture (NIFEA). Its goals include deepening interfaith cooperation in working towards a just and sustainable global economy.

Colonial legacy of commodification

Christian panelist, Rev. Dr Karen Georgia Thompson, Associate General Minister and Co-Executive for Global Ministries for the United Church of Christ in the United States, spoke about the need for churches to examine the ways they have profited from the colonial commodification and exploitation that lies at the heart of today’s economic and social inequalities.

It is hard to talk about financial debt, she said, without first considering the moral debts owed to those who suffered from “enslavement, manipulation of historic truths and lack of equality” during the centuries of colonial expansion by Western nations. “Extraction of human and natural resources from the African continent must be a part of the conversation about reparations,” she insisted.

Christian scriptures, she continued, are full of texts that speak about right relationships reconciliation, forgiveness and restitution. It is in these texts, she said, “that we need to ground these conversations about debt reduction and about restitution.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM LUTHERANWORLD.ORG

MUSLIM COMMUNITY SUPPORTS INTERFAITH GET-OUT-THE-VOTE RALLY

A large canopy tent stood Monday afternoon in a lot adjacent to Redeemer Lutheran Church, 1905 W. Wisconsin Ave. Under it stood rows of metal chairs, carefully spaced six-feet apart in every direction. A forest of red, white, and blue yard signs lined the street urging passersby, VOTE!

The scene was set for the Interfaith Candlelight Rally Kick Off for Early Voting. On the eve of Wisconsin’s two weeks of early voting (Oct. 20 – Nov. 1), a diverse group of religious and cultural organizations brought together faith leaders to “light up Milwaukee” and inspire their communities to vote.

The Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition and the Wisconsin Muslim Civic Alliance lent their support to the effort as sponsors of the event.

Other sponsors included MICAH (Milwaukee Intercity Congregations Allied for Hope), Souls to the Polls, League of Progressive Seniors, Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, Voces de la Frontera, Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Congregation Shir Hadash, Hmong American Women’s Association, MASH, Milwaukee Area Labor Council, Progressive Baptist Church, SEIU, Tikkun Ha-lr and Urban Underground.

Redeemer Lutheran Church served as host. “Redeemer is a great location and we like to host. We pride ourselves on our hospitality,” said Pastor Lisa Bates-Froiland in an interview after the event. “To remind people to vote the day before early voting starts is so close to our mission. As citizens, we are called on to live out our responsibilities as we can.”

By 5:30 p.m., when the rally started in earnest, amid a chill in the air and light snow, more than 150 people of multiple creeds and cultures joined together to share music and speeches, and to raise candles in celebration of the right to vote.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WISCONSIN MUSLIM JOURNAL

Pope, Religious Leaders Pray for Peace and Greater Care for Each Other

Pope Francis, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, Muslim, Jewish and other religious leaders attend an encounter to pray for peace in Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome Oct. 20, 2020. (CNS photo/Paul Haring

ROME (CNS) — The only way to end war and ensure humanity’s survival is “through encounter and negotiation, setting aside our conflicts and pursuing reconciliation, moderating the language of politics and propaganda, and developing true paths of peace,” Pope Francis said.

The pope, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and an international array of other Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh and Buddhist leaders gathered on Rome’s Capitoline Hill Oct. 20 to affirm their community’s commitment to peace, dialogue, fraternity and assistance to the poor and needy.

Before coming together to make their peace pledge, the religious leaders gathered with members of their own faith families to pray, focusing on the theme, “No one is saved alone: Peace and fraternity.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE BOSTON PILOT

Muslim lands staking out interfaith coexistence

The notion of the Arab and Muslim world as a cauldron of perpetual religious strife – and thus a place to avoid – has been a difficult rap to beat. Yet many countries keep defying the myth. The latest may be Sudan. On Sept. 3, its prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, signed an agreement to enshrine the principle of “separation of religion and state” in the constitution. In addition, political parties would not be established on a religious basis.

Sudan joins Tunisia, Iraq, Lebanon, and a few other Muslim-majority countries that are trying to curb their sectarian divisions or the strict imposition of sharia, or Islamic law, on civic and private life. Notions of political equality are rising up, led mostly by youthful protesters who rely on the Arabic term for citizens: muwatinun.

Sudan’s move toward secular governance comes out of pro-democracy protests that felled a dictator, Omar al-Bashir, in April 2019. His three-decade legacy of Islam as the de facto state religion is slowly being overturned in favor of a unifying “civilian state.” An interim constitution makes no mention of sharia. The transitional government has abolished the apostasy laws as well as corporal punishment or flogging of non-Muslims. It allows non-Muslims to drink alcohol. It has banned female genital mutilation, a practice tied to certain religious views of women.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

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