Interfaith

Canadian Prisoners Sue Over Lack of Chaplains

Interior of a prison cell with light shining through a barred window. Photo courtesy RNS/shutterstock.com

Inmates in British Columbia have filed suit to overturn a decision by the Canadian government to cut part-time prison chaplains, alleging that the policy has nearly eliminated prison ministry to minority faiths.

 

“Prisoners do not lose their right to freely express their religious and spiritual beliefs by virtue of their incarceration,” said the lawsuit, which asks the court to declare the policy a violation of Canada’s Charter of Rights and to reinstate minority faith chaplains in British Columbia.

The suit was triggered by Ottawa’s announcement last October that it was canceling the contracts of all part-time prison chaplains to save an estimated $1.3 million. The non-Christian chaplains ministered to Muslim, Sikh, Jewish, and Buddhist inmates, and those who follow aboriginal spirituality.

Pope Francis Calls for Intensified Dialogue with Muslims

RNS photo by Andrea Sabbadini

Pope Francis waves during his inauguration Mass at St. Peter’s Square on Tuesday. RNS photo by Andrea Sabbadini

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Friday called for more intense dialogue between religious leaders, particularly Muslims, as he tries to recalibrate relations between the world’s two largest religious groups.

Speaking in the Vatican’s majestic Sala Regia, the Argentine pontiff said that part of his mission is to connect “all people, in such a way that everyone can see in the other not an enemy, not a rival, but a brother or sister.”

In a meeting with Vatican diplomats and foreign leaders, Francis also reaffirmed the church’s commitment to protect the poor and the environment, an early theme in his young pontificate.

“Fighting poverty, both material and spiritual, building peace and constructing bridges: these, as it were, are the reference points for a journey that I want to invite each of the countries here represented to take up,” the pope said.

Missouri Synod President Apologizes for Newtown Interfaith ‘Debacle’

RNS photo by Pete Souza/The White House.

President Barack Obama attends a Sandy Hook interfaith vigil. RNS photo by Pete Souza/The White House.

The president of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod apologized for his role in the “debacle” that led him to publicly reprimand a pastor in Newtown, Conn., for praying at an interfaith service following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

In the initial incident, the denomination’s president, Matthew C. Harrison, requested an apology from the Rev. Rob Morris of Newtown’s Christ the King Lutheran Church for participating in an interfaith prayer vigil that followed the Dec. 14  shootings. Morris’ role in the vigil broke denominational rules against joint worship with other religions.

Morris complied and apologized — not for his participation, but for offending members of the St. Louis-based denomination. But the president’s request sparked a blaze of criticism — from within the denomination and outside it. Critics charged he was intolerant and insensitive to the town’s grieving residents.

“In retrospect, I look back and see that I could’ve done things differently,” Harrison said in a video posted on the denomination’s blog Sunday. “My deepest desire was to bring unity, or at least to avoid greater division in the Synod over this issue.”

Lutheran Pastor Apologizes for Praying at Newtown Vigil

RNS photo by Pete Souza/The White House

Newtown, Conn., prayer vigil. RNS photo by Pete Souza/The White House

A Lutheran pastor in Newtown, Conn., has apologized after being reprimanded for participating in an interfaith vigil following the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The Rev. Rob Morris, pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church, prayed at the vigil the Sunday following the Dec. 14 shootings alongside other Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Baha’i clergy.

Morris’ church is a member of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, and the denomination’s constitution prohibits ministers from participating in services with members of different faiths.

It’s not the first time a Missouri Synod pastor has been reprimanded for joining an interfaith prayer service; a New York pastor also was suspended for participating in an interfaith service after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

LCMS president Matthew Harrison wrote in a letter to the Synod that “the presence of prayers and religious readings” made the Newtown vigil joint worship, and therefore off-limits to Missouri Synod ministers. Harrison said Morris’ participation also offended members of the denomination.

In 113th Congress: First Hindu, first Buddhist in Senate, and (maybe) first ‘none’

The 113th Congress is the most diverse in U.S. history. New members include the first Hindu, first Buddhist, and the first "none." The Washington Post reports:

The new, 113th Congress includes the first Buddhist to serve in the Senate, the first Hindu to serve in either chamber and the first member of Congress to describe her religion as “none,” continuing a gradual increase in religious diversity that mirrors trends in the country as a whole. While Congress remains majority Protestant, the institution is far less so today than it was 50 years ago, when nearly three-quarters of the members belonged to Protestant denominations.

Read more here.

Why We Have to Take the Saudis’ Interfaith Offer Seriously

© IR Stone / Shutterstock

Illustration: All Religious Temples, © IR Stone / Shutterstock

Presidents, government ministers and religious leaders from around the world gathered in Vienna on Monday Nov. 26 for the gala launch of the King Abdullah Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue.

While Austria and Spain joined Saudi Arabia in establishing the center, it originated in a bold initiative by Saudi King Abdullah. Some years ago, the king convened representatives from all segments of the Muslim world in Mecca to support his call for Islam to engage the other world religions in addressing the social, scientific, and global challenges of our times.

He followed this up with an interfaith conference in Madrid co-hosted with King Juan Carlos of Spain and subsequently brought his initiative to the United Nations in 2008, hosting a gathering of world political leaders that included Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Amid Israel-Hamas Violence, Reconciliation Between Palestinian Christians and Messianic Jews Continues

Christianity Today reports:

As violence flares anew between Hamas and Israel, which is preparing for a ground invasion of Gaza in response to Hamas rocket attacks reaching as far as Tel Aviv, CT checked in with Jerusalem-based reconciliation ministry Musalaha for an update on reconciliation efforts between Palestinian Christians and Messianic Jews.

In 2009, CT reported how three weeks of Israel-Hamas fighting—which killed 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis—left Gaza's beleaguered Christians beginning 2009 in their worst situation since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. However, reconciliation work between Palestinian Christians and Messianic Jews continued.

Read more here.

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