Interfaith

Image via RNS/Yonat Shimron

In 2010, when he first gave the opening prayer, the U.S. religious scene was far from idyllic.

Image via RNS/Islamic Networks Group

At a time of growing assaults and intimidation of Muslim Americans, the Islamic Networks Group has partnered with 70 interfaith organizations to launch a “Know Your Neighbor” campaign. The effort is intended to encourage individuals and groups to encounter people of faith different from their own.

Bobby Ross Jr. 5-26-2017

Image via RNS/Reuters/Eduardo Munoz

“If I’ve got money, and it’s easy for me to get over and give them money, I do,” Thun said. “What the Lord taught me is, I have a responsibility to give. What they choose to do with the money is between them and the Lord, and he can work with them in regards to stewardship.”

Image via RNS/NJ Advance Media/Aristide Economopoulos

“Now think about it, especially right now, with apparent one-party rule in our government: Congress and the president could pass comprehensive immigration reform tomorrow if they wanted to,” Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark told an audience of journalists meeting in Brooklyn on May 17. “They could bring nearly 12 million people out of the shadows — if they wanted to."

Karyn Wiseman 5-08-2017

Image via Benoit Daoust/Shutterstock.com

Through the Sisters of Salaam Shalom, Jewish and Muslim women are coming together to discover their similarities and bond together as friends and fellow travelers in the world. They are finding common ground, language, or customs to be bridges to relationships. They are not allowing the world to separate them.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany

The global growth of Islam, and in particular the rise of Islamic extremism, have forced recent popes to set out, with increasing urgency, a strategy for engaging the religion.

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The sanctuary, designed by Newman Architects of New Haven, Conn., provides a space for sharing, a place for those from different faith traditions, values, and cultures to meet and engage in dialogue, and to nurture the Lynn University community.

Image via RNS/CCAR

Anti-Semitic incidents have been rising in the U.S. in the past few years, and many Jews and others fault the Trump administration for only belatedly calling out anti-Semitism, and for failing to explicitly denounce those who have heralded his election as a victory for white people.

And Jewish and Muslim groups have banded together in unprecedented ways, in recent months, as mosques and Jewish institutions have been targeted.

And that is the point of Believer — to use Aslan’s hip-deep immersion in some obscure corner of the faith world to show that people of different religious persuasions — even the ones generally considered marginal, dangerous, or just plain “out there” — have more in common than they know.

“Are we going to have to worry about ICE agents swooping down on our clients on distribution day?” he said. “What if my congregation chose to offer sanctuary to an immigrant facing deportation? Would we have to worry about immigration officers and sheriff’s deputies kicking down our front door?”

Bishop Mark Beckwith, who heads the Episcopal Diocese of Newark in New Jersey, says at least 10 of the 100 congregations in his diocese have parishioners who are affected by the new policies. He described a heightened sense of urgency as his diocese investigates what its collective response should be.

“What is so upsetting about this is we don’t know what a safe space is,” he said, citing uncertainty about whether the traditional status of churches as sanctuaries will be respected. “We need to move as fast as these executive orders are moving. That’s the challenge. We are grounded in our biblical faith and we need to respond.”

Elizabeth Welliver 2-08-2017

The Quran teaches that “verily with hardship, there is relief.” I have found relief in community with Muslim sisters and brothers, with whom I share common virtues and a common future. I love them not despite of my faith, but because of it. After all, Jesus was a Palestinian refugee who loved his neighbors, even those who did not share his Jewish faith. As a Christian, I have no choice but to do the same. 

Hussein Rashid 1-25-2017

RELIGION IS AN EASY language for people to use to define conflict. The people most willing to speak about what religion demands are the ones least likely to be invested in the sacrifices religion requires. They want the power that they believe they can claim through religion.

Those same voices who engage in this idle worship now hold the reins of power in the U.S. government. And they seek to exterminate Muslims. There are concerns of a Muslim registry and internment camps. More extreme fears consider other types of camps, imagining a return of the Holocaust. These fears are not unfounded, nor are they out of character with what President Trump’s advisers and appointees have said.

Yet these parallels are so powerful that I think it may be difficult for them to be realized. What I think is more likely in the near term is a different historical parallel. At the waning of another empire, the Colosseum became a space where individuals were martyred for what they believed, for entertainment.

An individual loss may be horrible, but the individual’s community may still believe it is safe. But death can come by a thousand cuts. The lion that chooses one life at a time remains a ravenous beast—the whole community will be vilified and will eventually die, just not quickly. And that beast will need a new food source.

The mayor of New York announced a 35-percent increase in hate crimes in the city in the month following the election. During that time there were 43 hate crimes documented. In December, a Muslim Metropolitan Transportation Authority worker wearing her uniform and a hijab was pushed down a flight of stairs at Grand Central station, and a Muslim police officer was threatened, in front of her teenage son, with having her throat slit. In August, two Muslim leaders were shot to death after leaving prayers at their mosque. For years, the New York police department has spied on Muslims where we pray.

West Point graduate stands in dress uniform with beard and turban

West Point graduate, Bronze Star Medal recipient and Sikh soldier Capt. Simratpal Singh in his military uniform with the approved religious accommodations of turban and beard. Photo courtesy of Becket Law

New Army regulations will allow soldiers to wear turbans, beards and hijabs under most circumstances, reflecting a change Sikhs have sought for years.

“Based on the successful examples of Soldiers currently serving with these accommodations, I have determined that brigade-level commanders may approve requests for these accommodations,” wrote Secretary of the Army Eric K. Fanning in a Tuesday (Jan. 3) memo.

In March, the Army concluded that permitting beards for medical reasons but banning them for religious reasons is a discriminatory bar to service for Sikhs, who are forbidden by their faith to cut their hair and beards.

Eboo Patel 12-21-2016

Imagine receiving this message on your voicemail: “Dear Mr. Gonzalez, we regret to inform you that your heart surgery has been canceled. The medical professionals scheduled to perform it, Doctors Sarna and Latif, have discovered that they have serious disagreements about Middle East politics. Consequently, they are refusing to work together. We will do our best to find you other doctors, before your condition becomes fatal.”

Seem far-fetched? In my mind, it is the logical outcome of the manner in which many Jewish and Muslim groups have chosen to engage each other in recent years. Or, rather, not engage.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Enrique De La Osa

Pwint Phyu Latt is a Muslim peace activist in Burma who sought to promote interfaith relations with Buddhists, the nation’s religious majority. She was sentenced this year to two years in prison and two more years of hard labor.

Gulmira Imin is a Uighur Muslim in China who led the 2009 Uighur protests against its communist government. She has been in prison ever since.

the Web Editors 11-29-2016
A man in a cowboy hat holds a sign of support outside of a mosque in Irving, Tx

Normand stood outside the mosque for several hours, his message of support and solidarity offering a striking counter to the more than 800 incidents of harrassment and hate crimes that have reportedly occured since Election Day.

Olivia Whitener 8-02-2016
Interfaith Leadership

Interfaith Leadership

“WE CAN'T PUT cheese on all of the hamburgers for dinner, and can you please say ‘Dear God’ not ‘Dear Jesus’ when you pray?” These were instructions I gave to my dad before a birthday party in elementary school, worried that my new Jewish friends would not feel comfortable in our Christian home. Because I grew up in a religiously diverse area, I was cognizant of differences in religious practice before I knew the beliefs behind my own Christian rituals.

This is how my journey of interfaith learning and leadership began: by inviting my friends from school over to play and making sure they had something to eat. In his book Interfaith Leadership, Eboo Patel defines interfaith experiences as those “where people with diverse faiths interact, and their faith identities are somehow involved.” We weren’t just religiously diverse students sitting next to each other at school sharing our crayons—we were in each other’s homes, and that meant our faith identities were exposed and explored.

Interfaith Leadership outlines three questions that come up in interactions with people different from you: Who am I? Who are you? How do we relate to each other? Through stories of his experiences and those of friends from different faiths, Patel, founder of Interfaith Youth Core and a Sojourners columnist, shows us the process of becoming an interfaith leader who builds bridges and strengthens communities. He explains theories behind interfaith work in a way that is easy to understand, applying them directly to daily interactions and conflicts. For a short primer, Interfaith Leadership could be the most helpful tool for anyone striving to develop “positive, constructive, warm, caring, cooperative engagement” (aka “relationship”) with others.

Auschwitz. Image via BeeZeePhoto / Shutterstock.com

Siavosh Derakhti, a young Swedish Muslim honored in Europe and the U.S. for his campaign to counter anti-Semitism, always explains his motivation by invoking David.

Franklin Graham. Image via Paul Sherar / RNS

Pope Francis is once again making headlines for comments declaring, as he has before, that Islam is not “terroristic” and that all religions, including Catholicism, have “fundamentalist” splinter groups that can commit violence.

The pontiff made his comments during a flight back to Rome on July 31 from Poland, where he was presiding over the church’s triennial World Youth Day festival.

Image via REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/RNS

A vortex of hatred is sweeping across the globe, from a nightclub in Orlando to an airport in Istanbul to a restaurant in Dhaka.

At its center are individuals who wrap their savagery in the cloak of Islam. But these terrorists — perhaps 50,000 to 100,000 of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims — are a perversion of the faith. They do not represent the Islam beloved by moderates like me.

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