INTERFAITH NEWS FOR 2011

RELIGIONS IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE

Women have sometimes been left on the sidelines of the Arab Spring, writes Raghida Dergham. But there is now a rare opportunity for religious women as well to seize the moment and change the region for good. Read more

From December 11 to 13, the fourth annual Alliance of Civilizations Forum took place in Doha, Qatar. Amidst the buzz of conversation some were asking about the usefulness of  the term “alliance of civilizations” as a deliberate contrast to the  notion of a “clash of civilizations.” They questioned whether one can in fact talk generally about civilizations and cultures in today’s complicated world of multiple identities and with the complex religious dynamics now at work in the Middle East region. Read more  

In the aftermath of the elections held in Morocco on November 25 in which the big winner was the PJD (the Justice and Development Party), defined as ‘Islamist’, Father Marc Boucrot, Secretary general of Catholic teaching in Morocco, describes the latest events in his country. Read more  

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman share the 2011 Nobel Peace award for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work.  Read more

In Pakistan, Christians and Muslims together call for "human rights for all."  Read more

Brahma Kumaris, Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders have expressed their common concern of caring for the environment at an interfaith rally held at the Kings Park Stadium, Durban on 27 November 2011.  Read more

Religious groups need to be part of a robust civil society in which they undertake political action for the common good, creating a healthy relationship between the individual, the state and the market, argues Luke Bretherton. Read more

Dr. Mary Ann Pevas OP, professor emerita and Middle East expert at Winona State University, shares her perspective on recent events in Egypt. Read her previous letters – one, two and three

In his post-African Synod exhortation, Africae Munus, Pope Benedict XVI has called on Catholics to persist in their esteem for Muslims and for believers to work together to banish every form of discrimination, intolerance and religious fundamentalism. Read extract

Religious leaders from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, and Turkey have rejected violence and called for relationships of “mutual care” as the region undergoes historic transformations. Read more   Read a summary of their statement

Despite some recent attacks on Christian churches in Indonesia, the solid improvement in relations between Christians and Muslims during the last 15 years is probably the strongest capital for Indonesia’s future, writes Prof. Dr. Franz Magnis-Suseno, an Indonesian Jesuit. Read more

Assisi 2011: On 27 October a train full of religious representatives from all over the world, invited by Benedict XVI, left Rome to go to Assisi for a day of pilgrimage and prayer for peace, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the meeting desired by John Paul II in the town of St. Francis. Read words of Benedict XVI and view video here

There was a capacity crowd on October 9th at the Multi-faith forum on Environmental Ethics which the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC) co-hosted with the Hindu Council, Faith and Ecology Network and Multi-faith Chaplaincy at UWS Sydney. Read more

The Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC), an organization which brings together people from all of the major religions in Australia, has written to the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference expressing their concern about the anti-climate change views of a prominent religious leader in the Catholic Church. Read more 

In Tunisia, an Islamist party, Nahda, has won a handsome victory at the polls and it seems it will govern together with a host of secular parties. Women have won 44% of the seats. Read more

Yemen's Tawakul Karman, an Islamic woman journalist, is one of three women awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011. Read more here and here

A Faith Friendly Charter has been developed by members of the Multifaith Chaplaincy at Flinders University and affirmed by the Multifaith Association of South Australia. See also Geoff Boyce, An Improbable Feast: The Surprising Dynamic of Hospitality at the Heart of Multifaith Chaplaincy (Lulu.com, 2010).

Rabbi Ted Falcon, Pastor Don Mackenzie, and Imam Jamal Rahman have become known as the “Interfaith Amigos” for their interfaith work since Sept 2001. Read more

Faith leaders are taking their HIV prevention message to an African sports tournament in Mozambique. Read more 

A global message of solidarity and peace on the 10th anniversary of the 11 September terrorist attacks was given when a priest and an imam together read aloud from the Bible and the Qur’an in Aberdeen, Scotland. Read more        Muslims around the world have joined people of other religions and of none to condemn terrorism and other forms of violence. Read more

The campus of the Claremont School of Theology in California has celebrated the launch of Claremont Lincoln University. Claremont, a Methodist institution dating back to 1885 partnered with the Islamic Center of Southern California, the Academy for Jewish Religion and the International School for Jain Studies to create a groundbreaking course of study, earning it the title of the world’s first interreligious university. Claremont Lincoln will train students for leadership as rabbis, imams and pastors in many Christian denominations.

Bothaina Kamel, an Egyptian Muslim activist who has championed the cause of minority groups in Egypt, including Copts, is the first woman ever to announce her candidacy for Egypt’s highest office in the September presidential elections. Read more

Charges faced by human rights activist Asmaa Mahfouz who is to be brought before a military court in Egypt have stimulated the Muslim Brotherhood to speak out for the first time against military trials for civilians. Read more

An imam and a priest led the prayers at the funeral of one of the first victims of the Norway  massacre, Bano Rashid, an 18-year-old former refugee  from Iraq - a "potent symbol" of Norway's inclusive cultural mores. Read more

The Australian Football League Peace Team – an AFL team of Palestinians and Israelis, from Muslim, Christian and Jewish backgrounds were in Australia in August to compete in the AFL International Cup with 17 other teams from around the world. Read more about the AFL Peace Team here  

A team of people from the Together for Humanity Foundation is taking part in the City2Surf fun run in Sydney on14 August.  Together for Humanity is an inclusive organisation comprised of predominantly Christians, Jews and Muslims which educates children and adults to replace prejudice with mutual respect and cooperation. Visit the Foundation’s website here To support them on August 14 visit the City2Surf fundraising page

Writing for the Human Rights Office of the Pontifical Mission Society, Arab-West Report Chief Editor Dr. Cornelis Hulsman draws on his study of Christian-Muslim relations, particularly in Egypt in recent decades, to provide an accurate account of the current situation which he finds is often misrepresented by both Christians and Muslims.

Millennials with a mission: young people impatient for social change are increasingly becoming leaders in transcending religious boundaries in places such as Nigeria and Egypt, writes Frank Fredericks, Executive Director of World Faith Read more

A statement of the International Executive Committee of the World Council of Religions for Peace —“Restoring Dignity: A Commitment to End Violence against Women”— has called for multi-religious cooperation to eliminate violence against women.

What role do women of faith play in peacebuilding? A recently authored report by the United States Institute of Peace and the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs on "Women in Religious Peacebuilding" published in 2011 seeks to answer these questions and set the stage for further inquiry. Read more   

When billboards carrying the slogan 'Jesus: a prophet of Islam' were erected in Sydney by an Islamic group which wanted to encourage Christians and Muslims to find common ground, it caused some controversy. Reverend Ian Powell decided to reply with his own sign. Afterwards the two men met in a public discussion

“Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World: Recommendations for Conduct” - a document containing recommendations for respectful behaviour by those wishing to share their Christian faith with others - has been jointly released by representatives of the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue (PCID) of the Roman Catholic Church and the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA).  Read more here    Read the Full Text

Over sixty Egyptian Muslim and Christian religious and civic leaders met from June 13-16 in Alexandria and Cairo to discuss how to lessen sectarian tensions. The talks were led by Nigerian Imam Mohammed Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye, widely known as “The Imam and the Pastor.” Read more

Leaders from the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC), a multifaith network, met  with Prime Minister Julia Gillard in support of the carbon tax on 1 June. Read more

Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye, who were  once enemies in a violent conflict in Nigeria but who now work together to promote peace in their country, will conduct a workshop aimed at promoting much needed peace among Egypt's Christian and Muslim communities between June 9 and 19.  They were the subject of a 2008 documentary entitled "The Imam and the Pastor." Read more View picture report

A gift of $50 million will transform the Claremont School of Theology, a theological school of the United Methodist Church situated near Los Angeles, into a unique multireligious consortium, a place where rabbis, ministers, imams and other religious leaders can each be educated in their own traditions, side by side, but also with classes in common.

Women of faith are vital peacebuilders in many situations of conflict in the world,  and their absence from the literature may say more about the “lenses” being used than about their contribution. Ms. Jacqueline Ogega, Director of the Women’s Mobilization Program for Religions for Peace  has written a report Religion and the Power of Women to add to the literature about how women of faith are taking effective action as peacebuilders.

The Australian Human Rights Commission, in association with the Australian Multicultural Foundation, RMIT University and Monash University, has published a major research and consultation project on Freedom of Religion and Belief in the 21st Century. It includes Supplementary Papers giving a Muslim, a Jewish and a Christian perspective on gender and religion.

Poverty and ignorance are among factors hindering the smooth transition to democratic rule in Egypt.  However, the churches too need to discover their own essence and allow a more active role for the laity, says F. Rafiq Greiche, Director of the Catholic Church’s Press Office in Egypt. Read more

In advance of the upcoming G8 Deauville Summit (France, 26-27 May) and the G20 Cannes Summit (France, 3-4 November) world religious leaders have urged governments to invest in peace by addressing global changes such as climate change, the economic crisis and extreme poverty. Read more

Both Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Jewish leaders have condemned the attack on West Bank settlement Itamar that killed 5 members of an Israeli family.

Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish and Hindu faith organizations have called for prison reform in a public statement in the lead up to the New South Wales state election on 26 March. Read statement here.

In March 2011, Religions for Peace in Partnership with the United States Institute of Peace co- hosted an inter-religious roundtable about post-conflict reconciliation - “Buddhism and Reconciliation: Truth, Justice, and Healing in Post-Conflict Asian Societies” Singapore.  Read more...

The Asian Women's Conference on Peace Across Faith Perspectives has met in Jakarta to discuss the implementation  of UN Resolution 1325 recognizing the active role of women in building peace. Read more

The 55th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women has highlighted the pivotal role of Women of Faith as agents of peace. Read more

Bishop Giovanni Martinelli of Tripoli has approached Muslims to ask for protection during the current unrest in Libya. Read more

Attacks against Christians in Egypt may have been orchestrated by an official in the former Mubarak regime, says Cardinal Antonios Naguib, the Coptic Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria. In contrast, the anti-Mubarak protest movement has been marked by tremendous solidarity between Muslims and Christians.

In the Egyptian revolution Muslims and Christians were united, says Samir Khalil Samir in this photo-story.

Slogans and symbols of Muslim-Christian unity were present in Tahrir square. Now Christians and Muslims must work together for equal rights in the new political situation.

In an open letter Ismail Serageldin, Director of the Library of Alexandria, describes Christians and Muslims in Tahrir square "each protecting and respecting the other" and he salutes the great youth of Egypt for the "bedrock of their values"

The new national leaders emerging from Tahrir square are not seeking a religious state, whether Muslim or Christian, but a united, humane, prosperous, truly democratic Egypt for all, says political analyst Marwan Bishara. Read more

Anthony O’Mahoney argues that the fate of Christian minorities will be a measure of progress as political events unfold in Egypt and the Middle East. Read more

Sr Mary Ann Pevas, a Dominican sister who works in USA and Egypt writes that the protesters in Cairo have no religious agenda. Egyptians, Muslim and Christian, are together in this crisis (letter 1). As the protest escalates the army is protecting many sites of cultural importance including the Dominican Priory with its research and study center (letter 2). Young people now must contemplate what it might cost to achieve the change they dream about (letter 3). Letter 4 describes post-Tahrir Square early developments.

INTER-RELIGIOUS DIALOGUE

An Australian gathering, “Pilgrims of Truth, Pilgrims of Peace”, organized by the Catholic Bishops Commission for Church Ministry and the Office for the Participation of Women, took place concurrently with the Assisi gathering of Pope Benedict. Read more

“A genuine encounter with the spiritual dimensions of Hinduism can enlighten and enrich Christian experience and theology” says a communiqué issued by the World Council of Churches after a consultation on “Christian self-understanding in relation to Hindu religion.” Read more   

Representing the 349 member churches of the WCC at the interfaith gathering in Assisi called by Benedict XVI on October 27, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit stressed the need for a “safe space” for all religions to engage in a dialogue, while not shying away from addressing areas of conflict. Read more

Vatican correspondent Francis X. Rocca provides a wide-ranging review of Christian-Muslim relations since the events of 11 September 2001. Read more

El Hassan bin Talal, King of Jordan has written to the Archbishop of Canterbury reflecting on how Christians of the east have always been an integral part of the culture, history and civilization of the Holy Land and urging them to do more to “develop their own story line”.  Read his letter

The Jewish, Christian, Muslim Association of Australia (JCMA) met  together recently at their annual Winter Conference with the theme of hospitality and shared each others’ traditions, texts and rituals. Read more here

The Muslim fasting month of Ramadan begins on August 1 – a  month of growth in friendship and understanding as a wide variety of Australians gather at shared Iftar Dinners with their Muslim friends.  The Melbourne Affinity Intercultural Society has a program of dinners along with its sister organization, the Affinity Intercultural Foundation, in Sydney.

An Australian is among twenty-three students aged 25-35 from more than a dozen nations engaged in the World Council of Churches 2011 summer course “Building an interfaith community” in Switzerland. Read more

"Interfaith September" is an initiative of the Uniting Church in Australia in which during the month of September congregations within the Uniting Church are encouraged to create a community of hospitality, conversation and friendship with people of all faiths throughout their neighbourhood. Read more here

Delegations representing the Vatican and the Royal Institute of Interfaith Studies in Jordan met in Rome May 18-19, 2011 to discuss "human and religious values shared by Christians and Muslims for a common education." Read more here

Egypt's minister of foreign affairs has visited the Vatican on Wednesday 18 May in an attempt to smooth over tensions and improve relations after the highest authority of Sunni Islam, Ahmad at-Tayyeb, and the Cairo-based Research Council of the University of Al-Azhar froze dialogue with the Vatican. Read more

The Qur’an burning in Florida is an act firmly rejected by an overwhelming majority of Christians and Muslims, says the General Secretary of Religions for Peace. Read statement here

Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders in Canada are organizing a unique group tour of sacred sites in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Read more

A new Facebook page launched by The Interreligious Coordinating Council of Israel [Religions for Peace Israel] already has  over 170 users that have “like(d)” the page. Here users can interact with one another and share current events and ideas for interreligious cooperation in that region.

Pope Benedict XVI has made a sweeping exoneration of the Jewish people for the death of Jesus Christ, tackling one of the most controversial issues in Christian-Jewish relations.