INTERFAITH NEWS FROM 2012.....

Muslim leaders in Australia responded quickly and effectively to  a Facebook posting at a Sydney mosque which declared it “haraam” or sinful for Muslims to celebrate Christmas with their Christian friends. Read more

Shopkeepers, secularists and Muslim leaders have supported the Italian Catholic bishops in their efforts to keep Sunday as a day of rest. The broad consensus is that a common day of rest is something that benefits everyone, not just believers.  Read more

In June 2013 Christians and Jews together will commemorate the life of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini by planting a forest of trees near Tiberias. It is the first time a project of this kind is being promoted by rabbis and Jewish scholars in Italy. Read more

Interfaith dialogue came to life in a special way for nine Muslims and nine Catholics from the Diocese of Broken Bay in Sydney, who participated recently in an Interfaith Study Tour to Istanbul and Rome. See Facebook page.

A dialogue committee of representatives from the Anglican Communion and from Al Azhar Al Sherif in Cairo, meeting in November 2012 for the first time since the January 2011 Revolution in Egypt, has praised the al-Azhar Declaration on the Future of Egypt which promotes the need to guarantee the rights and responsibilities of all citizens. Read more

The inauguration ceremony for the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) - an  initiative of His Majesty King Abdullah, supported by the governments of Austria and Spain, with the assistance of the Holy See as Founding Observer - took place in Vienna on 26 November 2012. Read more  For KAICIID website click here

A Report Mapping Social Cohesion 2012 from the Scanlon Foundation, Monash University, contains a study of public discussion of ethnic, cultural and religious diversity issues in Australia. Read the Report

Cardinal Angelo Scola, Archbishop of Milan, has told audiences in London that “a pragmatic approach” to the mixing of cultures and peoples in the West has proved to be inadequate, and that “it is crucial today that we show the contribution that religious communities have to offer towards the construction of a good life both personal and social.” Read more

Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Muslim leaders met with US President Barak Obama during his historic visit to Myanmar  in November 2012. Read more

In a lecture delivered at Heythrop College, Cardinal Angelo Scola, President of Oasis, considers four common areas for development awaiting Christians and Muslims: religious freedom, economic crisis, secularisation and ethical issues. Read more

Three 15-year old Catholic students will join three Jewish students to give special readings from Anne Frank's Diary at Sydney's annual Kristallnacht Memorial Service in November. Read more

According to commentators, the newly elected Coptic Pope Tawadros is a leader open to learning from youth, is noted for his positive interfaith relations and is not likely to be personally as politically involved as his predecessor, Pope Shenouda.  Read commentaries one,  two and three.

“Bearing the Light: Honoring Our Spiritual Foremothers” a powerful interfaith celebration of the courage, wisdom and love of the women who have gone before us, will mark the inauguration of the Women’s Task Force of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions on 3 November at the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel on the campus of the University of Chicago, Illinois. The Women’s Task Force seeks to assure that women's voices are heard at the vital nexus of women's issues, religion, and spiritual leadership.

Cornelis Hulsman, editor in chief of the Arab-West Report, discusses relations between Christians and Muslims in Egypt today against a background of centuries of mistrust and tensions, Western colonialism in the 19th and 20th centuries and recent events in Egypt, in his Bjoern Bue’s Human Rights Memorial Lecture delivered in Norway.

The shooting of 14-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl by the Taliban in retaliation for her insistence on the right of girls to be educated calls for a revised reading of the Koran, says Ruby Hamad.  Read more

Muslim leaders in Sydney have successfully called for calm in the wake of violent protests against a controversial film about Prophet Mohammad. Read more

The World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Centre for Inter-religious Dialogue of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization (Tehran, Iran) held their sixth dialogue meeting on the theme “Inter-religious Dialogue and Society: Ways, Means and Goals” in Switzerland in September 2012. They issued the following communique

More than 200 religious leaders convened in Bangkok and Pattani, Thailand in September 2012, to address the role of religion and interreligious cooperation in resolving conflicts and building peace in the ASEAN region. Read more

Prime Minister Julia Gillard says the violence seen at a Sydney protest against an anti-Islam film has no place in Australia, and several Australian Muslim organizations – the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia and Affinity Intercultural Foundation -   have univocally condemned it. Read the Affinity statement here. Waleed Aly gives a psychological perspective. Political journalist Paul McGeough discusses the incident in its historical context

Haifa Al Kaylani, founder of the Arab International Women’s Forum (AIWF) in the UK recognizes that there is no economic and social development without women playing a significant role, including in the Arab world.  Read more

Recognizing that some of the core values championed by the Prophet Muhammad were justice and working together for the common good of the community, Citizens UK and Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) have recently launched the publication A  New Covenant of Virtue: Islam and Community Organizing, by Ruhana Ali, Lina Jamoul and Yusufi Vali, which contains essays on the Quranic motivation for Islamic engagement in multi-faith community building. 

Nearly 20 years after the Fundamental Agreement between Israel and the Vatican State, a soon to be completed Fiscal Agreement will further the continuing reconciliation process between Christians and Jews which began with Nostra Aetate at the Second Vatican Council. Read more

In a hopeful sign for the future of democracy in Egypt, President Muhammad Mursi has nominated 4 assistant-presidents who are generally representative of the community and will have their own portfolios -  Copt Samir Marcos as assistant-president for democratic change, Dr. Pakinam Sharqawi, an independent and female professor of political science at Cairo University, Muslim Brother Dr. Essam el-Haddad,  foreign relations, and Dr. Emad Abdel Ghaffour, associated with the el-Nur Party, integration (or unity) of society.  They all will obtain an office in the presidential palace and all can form their own team. Read more

The World Council of Churches (WCC) Commission of the Churches on International Affairs will be holding an international hearing on “Misuse of the blasphemy law and religious minorities in Pakistan” from 17 – 19 September 2012 at the Ecumenical Centre, Geneva. A UN side event will take place on 18 September from 13.00 – 14.30 at Place de Nations. See a program for the event and a background document.

It is not the religion of Islam, but sectarian and opportunistic men who utilise clan and religious politics to marginalize women and their prospects of political inclusion,  says Somali sociologist Cawo Abdi.    Read more

The July 2012 issue of Current Dialogue published by the World Council of Churches focuses on “Christian Self-Understanding in the Context of Islam.” A copy can be found here

The month of Ramadan in Australia has been an opportunity  in many places for people of different faiths to share food and build community as they come together for an Iftar meal,  the breaking of the fast each evening.  Here is the story of one local high school in Sydney.

The U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, Miguel H. Diaz argues that to understand the world we must understand religion in addressing the global challenges of the 20th century. Read more              Also read more about the “Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group” which is part of a US program to amplify the voices of civil society activists, including religious voices, working with government to address common goals.

An interfaith group composed of leaders from various religious traditions has issued a statement titled "Interfaith Declaration to Improve Family Health and Well-Being" which describes family planning as a moral imperative. Read more

The Patriarch of the Melkite Church in Egypt, Gregorios III, has emphasized Egyptian Christians' national loyalty, as well as their need for guaranteed human rights. Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi has met with Christian leaders assuring them he intends to "ensure the rights of citizenship of all Christians in Egypt." Read more

After participating in an eight-month “Sharing Sacred Spaces” program, eight faith communities in Chicago have signed a solidarity pledge. Read more

The Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches has sent a congratulatory letter to Dr Mohamed Morsi, the newly elected president of Egypt.

Catholic  leaders have reacted to the Egyptian presidential election results. Read more

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki has reassured a meeting in Tunis that the Jasmine Revolution is not driven by Islamic fanaticism, but by democracy and a desire to integrate the religious rights of communities and the rights of individuals. However, the situation in each country is different. Christian representatives stressed the need for societies to be based on equality and a capacity to guarantee tolerance and mutual respect for differences. Read more

Now that the Egyptian presidential election has been declared in favour of Muslim Brothers candidate Muhammad Mursi, in order to achieve an optimal outcome, Christians and others need to engage in dialogue with the Freedom and Justice Party, says Cornelis Hulsman, Editor-in-Chief of the Arab-West Report.   Read more

Cornelis Hulsman, argues that the best post-election political outcome for Egypt would be for the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt’s ruling military to agree to work together towards economic growth and welfare for all Egyptians.  Read more

The situation in Israel and Palestine is not a religious struggle but, rather, it is about human rights and equality: about land, water and access to work, education and worship, say the churches of the United States in their 2012 statement Call to Action: US Response to the Kairos Palestine Document. Read the Kairos Palestine 2009 document here

Mary Ann Pevas, Professor Emeritus at Winona State University, reflects on the current economic and political situation in Egypt as people wait for the election results. Read more

A landmark Christian-Muslim Peace Summit has opened in Beirut against a regional backdrop of conflict in Syria and chaos in the Egyptian elections.  Read more  For details of the first Summit held at Washington national Cathedral in 2010 click here.  

The first free election in Egypt's history has captured headlines worldwide with its unexpected runoff between a Mubarak regime figure and a Muslim Brotherhood leader. Less known is the meeting between 17 Coptic evangelical leaders and five Muslim Brotherhood counterparts to craft  a joint statement of common values, which both sides agree the new Egyptian constitution and government should uphold.  Read more

After a year of new forms of political engagement, why do Copts still face the same ‘bitter choice’ of old regime vs. Islamists? Jayson Caspar reflects

A month before its official opening on 22 June, workers are adding the finishing touches to the biggest Buddhist Temple in Europe, with a church, a synagogue and a mosque in the same environmentally-friendly complex, just outside Paris.  Read more

On Sunday 10 June, people from eight different religious and spiritual communities in Chicago will sign a pledge symbolizing their ongoing commitment to solidarity in forging relationships of friendship and trust and in spreading this effort to the wider community.  Read more

Over 100 senior religious leaders from Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, and other religious communities committed to forming an action-oriented network to launch a multi-religious campaign on child survival and maternal health in Nairobi, Kenya in May 2012. Read more

As Mark LeVine reflects on the relations between the revolutionaries, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Army in post-election Egypt he sees a  revolutionary road that is still wide open as it stretches into the future. Read more

A Catholic Copt reflects on possible outcomes of the Egyptian elections, 23-24 May 2012. Read more

Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Commission responsible for Christian-Jewish relations, has reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s teaching that Jews are participants in God's salvation as “theologically unquestionable.” Read more

Jews and Christians have shared their visions for a just economic order at a meeting of Delegations from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Holy See.  Read more

Misreporting on the subject of Egypt’s Christians has the potential to cause great harm, says Cornelis Hulsman of the Arab-West Report, who provides a comprehensive account of the context in which Egypt’s Christians find themselves after the January 25 Revolution.   Read more    View Powerpoint pictures.

Those receiving the “Franklin V. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Awards” in 2012 include Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople for his efforts in promoting religious freedom, dialogue and environmental concerns, Ela Ramesh Bhatt, a Gandhian practitioner of non-violence and self-reliance, and Hussain al-Shahristani, Deputy Prime Minister for Energy in the Iraqi government, for his lifelong commitment to democratic values, and his extraordinary efforts to help transform Iraq into a free, prosperous and stable democracy.   Read more

Beauty and Women are celebrated at an Inter-Faith Art Exhibition hosted by St. John the Baptist Church in Maadi, Egypt.  Read more

More than two hundred scholars and practitioners of ecumenical and interfaith dialogue have gathered at the Assisi2012 Conference to think "outside the box" in a project aimed at re-energizing the ecumenical and interfaith movements. Read more

The Jewish community residing in South Korea has opened its first synagogue. Read more

Egyptian Christians are mourning the death of Coptic Orthodox Pope and Patriarch Shenouda III, a charismatic reformer and an advocate of Christian rights in a predominantly Muslim country. He passed away on Saturday 17 March at the age of 88. Read more

Recommendations which stress the importance of developing people in each faith tradition who have expertise and experience in both their own faith traditions and interfaith dialogue and for strengthening women’s participation have emerged from the Sixth Regional Interfaith Dialogue which took place in Semarang, Indonesia, 11-15 March 2012. Read more For Semarang Plan of Action click here

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, reflects on Christian-Jewish relations in Israel.  Read more

What happens when Christians partner with rabbinical students and commit to a sustained and in-depth study of scripture? Read more about the Jewish-Christian Encounter through Text

In the continuing drama of the Arab Spring, Dr Ahmad al-Tayyeb, the  Sheikh of al-Azhar, Egypt’s premier Islamic institution, has issued a document on basic freedoms needed to serve as the basis of the new constitution. The document lists freedom of belief, opinion, expression, scientific research, and art and literary creativity. Read more

Queen Elizabeth II, in a remarkable speech at a Multi-Faith Reception at Lambeth Palace to commemorate her Diamond Jubilee, says the Church has a role in protecting the free practice of all faiths. Read more

Muslim baroness Sayeeda Warsi, as head of a British government delegation  to future Vatican diplomats, argues that  “Europe needs to be more confident and more comfortable in its Christianity,” and in order to achieve social harmony people “need to feel stronger in their religious identities and more confident in their creeds.” Read more

Buddhist leader, Rev. Chuch Ohen Lee, the only woman speaker at a celebration of Interfaith Harmony Week at the United Nations, has stressed the need to include women’s perspectives "in all levels of decision-making including religion and interfaith dialogue.” Read more

In the face of escalating civil war in Syria, fr Paolo Dall'Oglio from the monastery of St Moses near Damascus sees interreligious dialogue and democratic development as integral to the emergence of a functioning civil society. Read more

The Greek Catholic Patriarch in Lebanon has called for an Arab Christian-Muslim summit in the wake of the developments in the Arab world as well as an inter-Christian summit to decide on an Arab Christian response to historical developments in the Arab world. Read more

The key role played by young people during the transformations in the Arab world throughout the past year was a recurrent theme for the World Council of Churches (WCC) Christian-Muslim consultation on Christian Presence and Witness in the Arab World held in Lebanon in January.  Read the full text of the communiqué

Sheikh Hamdi, a Salafi parliamentary candidate in the Egyptian elections, has gained the endorsement of the local Coptic Orthodox priest of his village, Fr. Yu'annis.  Read more

Christians and Muslims are uniting in Nigeria to reject the violence advanced by the terrorist group, Boko Haram. The violence has also been condemned by Australian Muslims in a statement

The influential Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt says it will set up groups to guard churches during the Coptic Christmas in January in a bid to prevent deadly attacks on Christian places of worship. Read more

The Affinity organization has marked a decade of community service in the area of inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue across Australia with celebrations including a Reception in Sydney Town Hall and a concert by the Whirling Dervishes. Read newsletter here

The Interfaith Observer (TIO) is an electronic journal newly created to explore interreligious relations and the interfaith movement. In providing historical perspectives, current interfaith news, and maps and sign-posts for newcomers, it will offer a context to explore and respond to the new religious world around us. Website: http://theinterfaithobserver.org/