Megan Sweas

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Interfaith Group Speaks Out in Wake of Santa Barbara Shooting Spree

by Megan Sweas 05-30-2014

An interfaith gathering of 15 organizations spoke out against gun violence Thursday. Religion News Service photo by Megan Sweas.

An interfaith group representing 15 organizations spoke out against gun violence Thursday in the wake of last week’s deadly shooting spree in Santa Barbara.

Religious organizations have lobbied for stricter gun control in the wake of mass shootings, and this latest effort was no exception.

“We are here this morning to stand with the multitude of groups across the United States who are advocating for sensible, common sense laws to limit the effects of gun violence,” said Steve Wiebe, co-chair of the Abrahamic Faiths Peacemaking Initiative. “Our faith traditions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — spur us to peaceful solutions as we recognize the inherent worth of each individual life.”

Elliot Rodger killed six and injured 13 others in Santa Barbara on Friday before dying by an apparently self-inflicted gun wound. The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office reported that deputies found three semi-automatic handguns in his car. All three were bought legally.

Sultans of Satire Aims to Bridge Gaps with Muslims, Arabs Through Comedy

by Megan Sweas 10-31-2012

LOS ANGELES — Unshaven and wearing a black hoodie and cap, Omar Elba looked out from the lectern, surrounded by a gold cross and organ pipes. "Moses, you are my nizzle fo' shizzle," said the Egyptian-born Muslim comedian, doing his best to channel Snoop Dogg.

It's a joke he's done before, but never in a church.

The unique setting of their performance inside Westwood Hills Congregational Church wasn't lost on any of the performers at the Sultans of Satire comedy show. Yet the sacred stage didn't keep them from swearing or talking about sex, although it inspired more jokes about growing up Jewish, Muslim, and Christian than one might typically hear during stand-up.

"I don't know whether to tell jokes or tell you my confessions," Elba said, opening up the show.

Parents Take Teaching Hinduism Into Their Own Hands

by Megan Sweas 05-29-2012
Hindu monks on the banks of the Ganges River on September 17, 2008 in Varanasi,

Hindu monks on the banks of the Ganges River on September 17, 2008 in Varanasi, India. Image via Tracing Tea / Shutterstock

SANTA MONICA, Calif. --- Children are usually the primary complainers about Sunday school, but when Mudita Bahadur started looking for excuses not to take her children to the Hindu temple on Sunday, she knew she had to make a change.

"One, it's dogmatic and two, it's inconvenient," she said of the Hindu classes held a 45-minute drive away from her home in Santa Monica, Calif.

Bahadur decided to take her children's religious education into her own hands. For the past three years, she and other Indian parents have been teaching their children about religion in each other's living rooms.

The do-it-yourself approach permits them to instill pride and progressive values in a traditional manner, the parents say.

Unable to Work, Indian Immigrant Women Turn to Spiritual Practices for Comfort

by Megan Sweas 05-11-2012
A woman chanting at Bharat Soka Gakkai. Image by The India Today Group/Getty Ima

A woman chanting at Bharat Soka Gakkai. Image by The India Today Group/Getty Images.

LOS ANGELES -- Even though she met her husband through an arranged marriage, Pooja Sindhwani considers herself a modern woman. She worked in interior design in her native India for four years, and she and her husband spent a year getting to know each other before their wedding. When she followed her husband to Houston, she wasn't worried about adjusting to life in the United States.

"You feel you're going to a country that offers opportunities," Sindhwani said, "you expect that things will work out."  

Except when they don't.  

Unable to land a job in Houston, Sindhwani slipped into depression. Like thousands of Indian women, she was issued an H-4 "dependent spouse" visa that did not allow her to work.  

Sindhwani's husband was a highly skilled foreign worker, sponsored by a U.S. company on an H-1B visa. The Indian women who marry highly skilled workers also tend to be well-educated professionals. Many think it will be easy to transfer from a dependent spouse visa to a work visa.  

The constant rejections from companies that couldn't sponsor her work visa took a toll on Sindhwani.