The Parliament Blog

Announcing Parliament Grants to Strengthen Grassroots Interfaith Movements

 

Inviting Grassroots Interfaith Organizations to Grow with the Parliament

Let’s Strengthen Our Movement Together.

The Parliament of the World’s Religions will be awarding several grants to interfaith organizations in the United States, ranging from USD $5,000 to $30,000 on a competitive basis.

Priority will be given to initiatives seeking to expand their communication reach and connecting with guiding institutions (media, government, etc.), as well as initiatives seeking to counter hate and prejudice while fostering empathy and compassion.

However, any organization is free to apply.

Awards will be announced after July 1, 2015.

Apply by June 20 to stake your claim in funding your grassroots interfaith movement!

The Parliament of the World’s Religions Awards Three of Burma’s Leading Monks at Norway’s Nobel Institute

“These extraordinary monks challenge the widespread perception that all Buddhist monks clamor for violence against the Rohingyas,” Parliament Chair Imam Malik Mujahid said presenting the awards to Burmese Buddhist leaders His Holiness Rev. Seindita, His Holiness Rev. Withudda, and His Holiness Rev. Zawtikka.

Three Buddhist monks returned home to Burma last week from the Nobel Institute with World Harmony Awards, presented by the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

Former Prime Minister of Norway Kjell Magne Bondevik of the Christian Democratic Party joined Imam Malik Mujahid, Chair of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, in awarding the monks at the opening of the Oslo Conference to Stop the Systematic Persecution of Burma’s Rohingya.

“These extraordinary monks challenge the widespread perception that all Buddhist monks clamor for violence against the Rohingyas,” Mujahid said presenting the awards to His Holiness Rev. Seindita, His Holiness Rev. Withudda, and His Holiness Rev. Zawtikka.

The World Harmony Awards recognized acts of “fostering compassion, kindness, and harmony among faith communities in Myanmar,” where more than one thousand Rohingya Muslims survived violence by being protected inside of Buddhist monasteries.

Rev. Seindita proclaimed, “they will have to kill me first,” before allowing aggressors to harm the Rohingya masses.

In his remarks, Mujahid said that the three honorees personify the Golden Rule- describing it as both the maxim of the interfaith movement, and also the beacon of all peace and justice movements.

“The Buddha proclaimed that we must love and care for all creatures. The Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, said that none of you are truly believers unless you wish for another what you wish for yourself. These teachings are at the heart of all our faiths, where the beauty of religion is rooted.”

He continued, “While fear, anger and hate rises in America and communities around the world, people of compassion are rising to demonstrate neighborly loving relationships. We must become our brother’s keeper.”

The Parliament was a co-sponsor of the meetings held at the prestigious Norwegian Nobel Institute and Voksenaasen Conference Center in Oslo, Norway.

Participants from 16 different countries, including Rohingya activists, Buddhist monks, Christian clergy, and Muslim leaders from Myanmar converged with genocide scholars to adopt a statement pressing for immediate international action.

The two-day conference concluded with an additional call to action from seven Nobel Peace Laureates, describing the plight of the Rohingya as nothing less than a genocide.

The Parliament plans to further highlight the bravery of interfaith activists challenging genocide in the region in a plenary focusing on war, violence and hate speech at the 2015 Parliament this October in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Background information on the conference: The conference was co-organized and co-sponsored by the following organizations. However, the communiqué was adopted by the attendees of the conference without any approach to the respective organizations.

Justice for All, Burma Task Force USA; Parliament of the World’s Religions; Refugees International (USA); International State Crime Initiative (ISCI) Queen Mary University of London; Harvard Global Equality Initiative (HGEI); Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI).

Imam Malik Mujahid, Chair of the Parliament of the World’s Religions served as Co-Chair

Links to transcripts and images

The Oslo Conference statement can be accessed by visiting BurmaMuslims.org.

Link to the official transcripts of the recorded messages including that of Archbishop Tutu and George Soros

Link to their video recordings

Links to some of the news coverage:

Parliament Stands with Pope Francis in His Global Effort on Climate Change

PARLIAMENT STATEMENT ON THE ETERNAL WORLD TELEVISION NETWORK’S
ATTACK ON POPE FRANCIS FOR HIS UPCOMING ENCYCLICAL ON CLIMATE
CHANGE

The recent attack on Pope Francis’s integrity and credibility regarding climate change and integral ecology during a recent broadcast on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) is deeply disturbing. The Pope’s imminent encyclical on climate change and integral ecology, from all indications, will be rooted in fundamental Catholic understandings about creation that go back for centuries. In addition, he has consulted with a wide array of scientific and moral experts through the Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Sciences. The charge that he is being “duped” on the issue of climate change is entirely without foundation.

As an interreligious organization the Parliament does not involve itself in the internal affairs of particular religious and spiritual communities. But we are convinced that the climate change issue transcends particularistic religious boundaries and we see Pope Francis as serving all humanity and the entirety of creation through this forthcoming encyclical. Hence we stand with Pope Francis in his global effort on climate change.

POLICE AND JUDICIAL ABUSE OF LAW AND FREEDOM: a Public Statement by the Parliament of the World’s Religions

POLICE AND JUDICIAL ABUSE OF LAW AND FREEDOM

A Public Statement by the Parliament of the World’s Religions

Recent and recurring events across the United States that have raised questions about the role and responsibilities of the police and judicial officials and the permissible latitude of their actions within the law should be cause for serious reflection, including religious reflection, on how both order and freedom must be honored in contemporary society.

Law as an operative principle and expression of order serves an essential role in both sacred and secular realms, just as freedom plays a key function on behalf of change in these spheres. In both religious and civic life, order and freedom have a universal character, which assumes an equality of application. The breaking of law and the abuse of freedom invite disruption and even disintegration in the lives of individuals and societies.

Those entrusted with the provision of law enforcement and the protection of freedom, therefore, play extraordinarily important functions for human beings and in human communities. The duties assigned to judicial and police officers include not just the enforcement of the law but also the provisions for public safety, the promotion of peace, and the protection of individual and group rights. In carrying out these fundamental functions and often times dangerous duties, these public servants deserve respect and compliance.

But public agents of law and freedom cannot themselves engage in the violation of laws or the excesses of freedom and still expect to receive respect and compliance. These public agents cannot be permitted to be exceptions to the provisions of laws and freedoms that apply universally to those they are called to serve. More importantly, such violations and excesses by public agents of law and freedom have disastrous consequences for the social order, for the common good, and for human flourishing in its many forms.

The recent events of this kind in the United States must be addressed by both religious and civic communities. This is especially the case when the violation of laws and the excesses of freedom by public agents continue to be directed against members of groups who have historically been subject to abuse by overt actions or neglect.

Besides the growing number of individual incidents of injury and death by police officers against persons of color, a recent media report told of a million and a half African American men who were missing in the United States because of early deaths and incarceration.

The Parliament of the World’s Religions decries this condition of abuse and neglect across the world and in the United States. The Parliament calls on people of faith and conscience everywhere to join together in interfaith movements committed to the universal and equal protection of just laws and human freedoms and to a non-violent mobilization for justice, compassion, and peace.

Watch Oslo Conference on Myanmar’s Systematic Persecution of Rohingyas

The 3-day Oslo conference to stop genocide in Burma is sponsored by the Oxford University Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), the Harvard University Global Equality Initiative, Parliament of the World’s Religions, Burma Task Force USA, Justice for All, Refugees International, and the International State Crime Initiative at Queen Mary University of London.

The Parliament of the World’s Religions invites the interfaith community around the world tune in Tuesday, May 26, 2015 beginning 3am USA EST for the live stream of the Oslo Conference to stop genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Burma/Myanmar.

Government officials, media, and scholars will spend 3 days together May 26 – 28 at the Nobel Institute converging with pastors, imams, and monks. The time-sensitive conference aims to lift international attention toward solving the increasing persecution and suffering of the stateless Muslims who are ethnically linked to the Rakhine Burmese state.

Messages of support will air from a growing bloc of concerned world leaders and Nobel Laureates including philanthropist George Soros, Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire, and political heads from neighboring nations Malaysia and East Timor. These humanitarian calls for justice will implore the global community to understand the persecution of Rohingyas in the style and scale of other recent genocides.

Parliament Chair Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid will inaugurate the conference he hopes will empower the global interfaith community to help save Rohingya lives and prevent genocide.

“As hate, anger and fear is rising around the world, it is important that people of compassion feel the pain of peaceful Rohingyas who have become stateless and homeless in their own ancestral land,” said Mujahid, Co-Chair of the Conference and chair of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

Click to Watch: the Live Streaming begins 26th May 2015  U.S.A.: EST: 3:00 AM


About the Rohingya Crisis for Media and Global Viewers

The Norwegian Nobel Institute &
Voksenaasen Conference Center in Oslo

End Myanmar’s systematic persecution, deprivation and destruction of the Rohingyas. George Soros, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire, José Ramos-Horta and Dr Mahathir Mohammad will join the call to be made by genocide scholars, human rights researchers and activists at the Oslo Conference on May 26.

The conference will push for an end to Myanmar’s “slow genocide” in the Western commercial, diplomatic and military engagement with the SE Asian country.

Oslo, Norway: Over the last 10 days, the world has watched with horror and disbelief the news reports about mostly Rohingyas from Myanmar drifting in over-crowded vessels in the Andaman Sea, half-starved, disease-stricken and dying.

On 26 May, a high-profile international conference will be held at the Norwegian Nobel Institute and Voksenaasen to bring the Norwegian and EU publics closer to the reality of the Rohingyas. This Muslim minority in Myanmar (Burma) has been so systematically persecuted that they would rather risk lives – including those of their infants and children – than die a slow, collective death.

George Soros, the iconic billionaire and philanthropist, is among the international figures who will offer solidarity and compassion for the Rohingyas. He will join the call for an immediate end to Myanmar’s official policy of discrimination, persecution and destruction of over one million Rohingyas an ethnic group in Western Myanmar. In his pre-recorded address prepared for the conference, Soros states that he too was a Rohingya. “In January, when I visited Burma for the 4th time, I made a short visit to Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State in order to see for myself the situation on the ground… a section of Sittwe called Aung Mingalar, a part of the city that can only be called a ghetto. (There) I heard the echoes of my childhood. You see, in 1944, as a Jew in Budapest, I too was a Rohingya. Much like the Jewish ghettos set up by Nazis around Eastern Europe during World War II, Aung Mingalar has become the involuntary home to thousands of families who once had access to health care, education, and employment. Now, they are forced to remain segregated in a state of abject deprivation. The parallels to the Nazi genocide are alarming,” Soros says.

At the conference, a team of researchers from the International State Crime Initiative, Queen Mary University of London will be presenting their latest findings. In a recent article in The Independent (20 May), the lead researcher Penny Green writes: “The Rohingya have now faced what genocide scholar Daniel Feirestein describes as ?systematic weakening’, the genocidal stage prior to annihilation. Those who do not flee suffer destitution, malnutrition and starvation, severe physical and mental illness, restrictions on movement, education, marriage, childbirth, livelihood and the ever present threat of violence and corruption.”

Such acts compelled former UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar (2008-14), the Argentine legal expert Tomas Ojea Quintana, to observe at the London School of Economics a year ago that in the case of the Rohingyas, “genocidal acts” have been committed by Myanmar. Quintana will be sharing his perspectives in Oslo.

Nobel Peace Laureate, the Archbishop Emeritus Desmond M. Tutu of South Africa, will also address the Oslo conference. He places the responsibility for the Rohingyas’ plight squarely on the Myanmar government. While the government has characterized this as sectarian or communal violence and sought to absolve itself of responsibility, Tutu says there is evidence that anti-Rohingya sentiment has been carefully cultivated by the government itself. “I would be more inclined to heed the warnings of eminent scholars and researchers including Amartya Sen, the Nobel laureate in economics, who say this is a deliberately false narrative to camouflage the slow genocide being committed against the Rohingya people,” Tutu says.

Bishop Tutu will make an impassioned call in Oslo: “As lovers of peace … we have a responsibility to persuade our international and regional aid and grant-making institutions, including the European Union, to adopt a common position making funding the development of Myanmar conditional on the restoration of citizenship, nationality, and basic human rights to the Rohingya.”

The 3-day conference is sponsored by the Oxford University Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), the Harvard University Global Equality Initiative, Parliament of the World’s Religions, Burma Task Force USA, Justice for All, Refugees International, and the International State Crime Initiative at Queen Mary University of London.

Among the Norwegian participants are former Prime Minister of Norway Kjell Magne Bondevik and Morten Høglund, The State Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway.

The Oslo conference is the culmination of a series of conferences – the two previous ones were held at the London School of Economics and Harvard University in 2014 – designed to call attention to the plight of Rohingyas and their decades-long persecution by successive governments in Myanmar.

“As a Buddhist and an ethnic Burmese, I am devastated and ashamed that my own country of birth has been committing mass atrocities that can only be described as a genocide, as spelled out by the 1948 Geneva Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,” says Dr Maung Zarni, exiled scholar and activist. “The UN and Western democratic governments failed Cambodians, Rwandans, Bosnian Serbs and Tamils previously. They are now failing the Rohingyas. Once again, these entities are ignoring an unfolding genocide. It is outrageous that they are mis-framing the Rohingya issue as a “migration” problem, a “communal conflict” or a “humanitarian crisis”. This is because calling Myanmar’s genocide a genocide will disrupt their “business as usual” approach with the Burmese military and ex-military leaders,” he observed.

“As hate, anger and fear is rising around the world, it is important that people of compassion feel the pain of peaceful Rohingyas who have become stateless and homeless in their own ancestral land”, said Imam Malik Mujahid, Co-Chair of the Conference and chair of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

Press Contact: Dr Maung Zarni
UK Mobile: +44 (0)771 047 3322
Email: fanon2005@gmail.com

INFO FOR THE LIVE WEBCAST from 0900 – 1730 hr (Norway time) (GMT +2)
:
Check the following sites for the web address for to watch the live webcast:

http://www.burmamuslims.org/

http://burmese.rohingyablogger.com/

http://www.maungzarni.net/

BACKGROUNDER

The Rohingyas are a borderland people who have indigenous roots in the pre-nation state border region along the present day borders of Bangladesh and Western Burma or Myanmar. Their long-standing roots in Myanmar’s Rakhine region run contrary to Myanmar’s official denial and the Burmese public perception. There are an estimated at 1.33 million in Myanmar, and an estimated 1 million in diasporas (in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Australia, Japan, Europe and US.) Their ethnic identity has been fluid over the centuries – just like any other ethnic community in the heartland or border regions of Myanmar. In relation to today’s Rohingya identity, it is notable that British Colonial censuses, colonial anthropological accounts and other colonial official records are typically characterized by categories and groupings that were anchored in the prevailing European racism and pseudoscientific understanding of ?races’, thus their use to deny or discredit Rohingya identity today is highly problematic. The Rohingyas as any ethnic community have the right to self-identify under international law, as was officially pointed out by the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon at the ASEAN Summit in Naypyidaw in November 2014. Importantly, successive Burmese governments after independence from Britain in 1948, both the parliamentary government of Prime Minister U Nu and the military governments of General Ne Win – had officially recognized the Rohingyas as one of the constitutive and indigenous national races of the Union of Burma. The official ethnic identity was chosen by the Rohingya leaders themselves and conferred official recognition by the Burmese governments – as evidenced in the fact that the Rohingyas were allocated thrice-weekly Rohingya language radio program on the sole national radio broadcasting station until 1964, allowed to form associations bearing the name ?Rohingya’, represent their own community in the national Parliament, allotted a separate entry in the official Myanmar language Encyclopedia published by the Government in 1964, and to have a Special District in Northern Arakan or Rakhine State – known as Mayu District – where the population has always been predominantly Rohingya.

Noteworthy is the fact that both the radicals among the Rohingya Muslims and the nationalists among Rakhine Buddhists took up arms and clamored for secession from the Union of Burma, upon independence from Britain. Confronted with the rebellion on two ethnic fronts, Burmese military and the central government of PM U Nu played divide-and-rule vis-à-vis both Rohingyas and the Rakhine throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Rohingyas armed revolt died down as the result of lack of popular support both amongst the Rohingyas themselves and on the part of the then East Pakistan (before Bangladesh). The central government of Burma made concessions to the Rohingya’s demands including the official recognition of the group – both its identity and its native-ness to the pre-nation-state western borderlands of Burma. Rakhine nationalism – a direct product of the Rakhine’s status as a people colonized by the central Burmese kingdoms – remains strong, continuing to vie for greater autonomy, a fair and equitable share of resources and revenues from the hydro-carbon rich and militarily and commercially strategic Rakhine coastal region.

The official persecution of Rohingyas began in earnest in the late 1970s when the Burmese military leadership – once a multi-ethnic and non-discriminatory – turned anti-Christian and, more potently – anti-Muslim. The Armed Forces of Burma or Myanmar has pursued its un-written, but common policy of ?purifying’ or ?cleansing’ the military, especially of higher echelon and strategic positions, of Muslims and Christians. The military leaders openly came to view non-Buddhists, mixed ethnic communities or individuals as ?untrustworthy’ as evidenced by the special address by General Ne Win to the 1982 Citizenship Act drafting committee in the fall of 1981. The Rohingyas have both historical and cultural ties with what was known as East Bengal (latterly part of East Pakistan and since 1973 Bangladesh) and are the only Myanmar Muslim community with a single geographic concentration along the 170-mile stretch of the Bangladesh-Myanmar borders. As such, the military has, since 1970s, come to perceive them as a “potential threat to national security”. Since then, the Myanmar military has adopted the pre-emptive strategy of characterizing the Rohingya presence in Rakhine State as ?illegal migration’ of Bengalis from neighbouring Bangladesh[1]. This is the narrative the Burmese national public has been deliberately exposed to over the past 40 years and has become the justification for the systematic destruction of the Rohingya as a group.

The Buddhist majority’s largely anti-Muslim sentiment and the historical animosities between Rakhine and Rohingya that peaked during the years of World War II, have been mobilized by the military and policy makers to support and facilitate the destruction of the Rohingya by the State. Anti-Muslim and other forms of xenophobia are deep-rooted with the Burmese society. Particularly, there is pervasive popular racism towards other Muslim communities. However, only the Rohingyas as a distinct ethnic group have been singled out for systematic, sustained and most severe forms of state-directed repression and annihilation.

[1] In fact, in his now published, formerly ?top secret’ lecture to the National Defense College in early 1990s, ex-General Khin Nyunt, then Chief of Military Intelligence and the 3rd ranking general, had stated the Muslims from Rakhine state were fleeing across over to Bangladesh, in other words, there was only out-flowing of Muslims from Rakhine to Bangladesh, not the other way around.

Parliament Indigenous Task Force Chair to Lead Alberta, Canada Aboriginal Committee for New Government

Parliament Trustee Lewis Cardinal will chair the aboriginal people’s committee of the provincial government of Alberta Canada following the victorious election of the NDP party. Cardinal is also leading the Indigenous Task Force of the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions. Photo credit: Facebook

The Parliament congratulates Board Trustee Lewis Cardinal on his appointment to Chair the Aboriginal Committee for the Provincial government of Alberta, Canada following a victorious election of the NDP party.

Cardinal tells the Parliament he is “so excited to help bring the ideas and strengths of the indigenous peoples of Alberta together more prominently into government.”

Advocating for the rights of First Nations in Edmonton, CA and beyond has long been Cardinal’s passion both professionally and at the Parliament, where he is currently chairing the 2015 Parliament Indigenous Task Force.

Predicting a rise in aborginal voter turnout across Canada, Cardinal shared his insight with the Edmonton Journal before the election that tapping into the concerns of indigenous peoples common to Canada’s general public would be a main driver for an increase in aboriginal voters visiting the polls. Further, more aboriginal names on the ballot helped inspire a greater interest.

The Parliament is encouraged that greater opportunity for aboriginal communities is increasing not just within the political system, but within civil society as well.

Lewis Cardinal has spent most of his professional life in public service. As a communicator and educator, he has dedicated his work to creating and maintaining connections and relationships that cross cultural divides. His long track record of public service includes his involvement with many, many, Human Rights and Social Advocacy Boards. Lewis is also the owner of Cardinal Strategic Communications, a consulting company that specializes in Education, Governance, and Communications. He recently received Canada’s highest Aboriginal recognition award the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Public Service, as well as receiving the Distinguished Alumni Award from Grant Mac Ewan University, the Anti-Racism Award from the Centre for Race and Culture, and the Alberta Centennial Medal for his work in Human Rights and Diversity.

 

 

If We Don’t Teach Peace, What Are We Teaching?

Nonviolence, peace, and justice are not utopian dreams but real and practical ways in which humans can affect the world around them.

Earlier this year, I walked into the university classroom where I teach a course in Peace Studies. Seated in a circle around the room were seniors just shy of graduating. They would soon become doctors, social workers, teachers, community organizers, executives, and leaders.

To open our semester together, I wrote a simple, three-word question on the board.

What is peace?

Silence. Stumped by this tiny question, no one spoke. They did not have an answer, and I would later discover why: It was the first time in their life a teacher had asked them to define peace.

Each year in the United States, millions of students graduate from high school and college, their diplomas certifying years spent studying the principles of science, mathematics, literature, and writing. These are the subjects we value as a society, and therefore we insist that our young people develop knowledge in these areas. Imagine if we graduated seniors who couldn’t read, or do simple math, or write basic paragraphs. Outrageous, right?

Yet these very same students will graduate without ever once studying conflict resolution. During their entire academic career, they will never be required to take a course on making peace, building community, or forgiving an enemy. The principles of violence and nonviolence will not be analyzed, the philosophy of Dr. King will not be discussed, and satyagraha—the practice of nonviolent resistance, which Gandhi called the most powerful force in the universe—will remain ignored.

We are neglecting to teach our students the most fundamental and urgent lesson: how to make peace in the world around them. And by forgetting to do so, we are promoting violence. As my friend and fellow peace educator Colman McCarthy once said, “If we don’t teach our children peace, someone else will teach them violence.”

So each day, in the classrooms where I teach middle school, high school, and college students, I work to counter the violence, spark the conscience, and liberate the thinking mind. I teach peace.

Dismantling the Violence

At the most basic level, to teach peace is to teach that violence does not have to happen.

For too long in the West, we have acted as if violence is inevitable, a natural part of the human condition that sticks to us like the skin on our back. Nonviolence is written off as an afterthought—viewed, at best, as do-nothing-passivity and, at worst, as a long-haired fantasy of Woodstock. Responding to violence with violence is seen as the only practical solution, and the result is greater violence.

But this is changing.

Hundreds of colleges and universities across the globe now offer degrees in Peace Studies, with some universities reporting enrollment size doubling in the past few years. At the heart of each program is the declaration that nonviolence, peace, and justice are not utopian dreams but real and practical ways in which humans can live and affect the world around them. Violence and its dynamics are examined alongside the history, philosophy, and principles of nonviolence. The treasure chest of stories is opened, and like some reverse-Pandora’s Box, the ideals of peace-making are unleashed onto classrooms as students study the examples of Cesar Chavez and Vandana Shiva, Dorothy Day and Daniel Berrigan, Gandhi and Gene Sharp.

From a broader perspective, this academic trend towards peace-making is part of the widespread awakening—what David Korten calls “The Great Turning”—happening in response to the problems of our time.

Those problems are many.

The United States leads the First World in the following categories: prison population, drug use, child hunger, poverty, illiteracy, teen pregnancies, firearms death, obesity, diabetes, recorded rapes, use of antidepressants, income disparity, military spending, production of hazardous waste, and the poor quality of its schools (Paul Hawken, who published this list in Blessed Unrest, also points out that the U.S. is the only country in the world besides Iraq with metal detectors in its schools).

For the peace educator, this list is no surprise. Violence spreads like a virus. Contagious by nature, it follows a spiritual law that says that violence plus violence only equals more violence. Violence can never lead to peace, and the more we respond with violence, the more violence we create.

So teaching peace means dismantling this list. One great crowbar comes simply through asking questions.

To Teach Peace is to Teach Gandhi

“Could nonviolence have stopped Hitler and the Nazis?” I ask middle school students in my U.S. history course. Having already examined the philosophy of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., the students create imaginary European nations whose mission is to develop nonviolent strategies to stop invading Nazis. After they present their plans, I tell them about the citizens of Denmark—so many of them teenagers barely older than my students—who monkeywrenched the entire Nazi plan through nonviolent noncooperation.

During our year together, these 12-year olds have surveyed the landscape of U.S. history. But where most history courses ignore the deep tradition of American nonviolence, my curriculum examines Jeremiah Evarts as well as Andrew Jackson, AJ Muste as well as Harry Truman, Henry David Thoreau as well as Teddy Roosevelt. My course features nonviolence alongside every story of violence. Students develop a long exposure to the people in our history who have resisted violence by following their conscience.

“Which is stronger: love or hate?” I ask high school students in my Democracy Studies course. We’ve already finished the biography of Gandhi, discussing at length the ideas behind satyagraha. Gandhi is the Thomas Edison of nonviolence—he switched on our understanding of this universal force more than anyone prior, and to study and teach peace is to study and teach Gandhi.

Gandhi was skilled at civil disobedience, but he was even better at promoting practical solutions. Gandhi resisted injustice by creating alternatives, what he called “constructive programmes.” His favorite was the spinning wheel, which allowed Indians to forgo British cloth while actively spinning their own.

With a nod to Gandhi’s idea, I ask my students to create their own constructive programmes. Find a problem in the world around you, I tell them, and then create its solution. Further freeing them from traditional academia, I liberate the grade book and allow them to assign themselves a grade. They dive in, and create some powerful actions.

 

  • One student handed out copies of Gene Sharp’s revolutionary (and in some countries, illegal) 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action to people on the streets.
  • One student created dialogue between two opposing groups—the mayor and some frustrated citizens.
  • One student served vegetarian pizza to the homeless community in town.
  • One student planted a garden.
  • One student began providing food and clean water to migrant workers crossing the brutal desert. She was arrested for her work.
  • One student began collecting long-distance phone cards for U.S. troops overseas.
  • One student forgave her enemy.
  • One student began to pray and meditate regularly.

Schools do not have to create a formal Peace Studies course. Just like writing or note-taking, it is an academic skill that can be infused into almost any current course.

But when schools do formalize a Peace Studies program, the door opens wider. At the university where I teach Peace Studies, students read a biography of Gandhi and then Michael Nagler’s formative The Search for a Nonviolent Future. We spend many days wrestling over the practice of forgiveness before measuring the effect inner peace has on external circumstances. Understanding the practice of war-making consumes several weeks, as we examine the media’s role in promoting war, the reasons why war gives us meaning (in the words of Chris Hedges), and also a presentation from local U.S. Army colonels.

Peace Studies does not shirk away from opposing viewpoints. It does not practice partisanship. The study of peace is radical in that all are welcome, for peace is about more than politics. I can teach for months without ever speaking about George Bush and Barack Obama or red and blue states. Peace Studies gets underneath the surface, going deeper into what it means to be human.

And that’s why so many students cram into my classroom to take these courses. Not because of me, but because they are so hungry to study peace.

“I Understand What Making Peace Is All About’’

A few years ago, a student of mine who delved as deeply into understanding peace as anyone I’ve ever taught was participating in a march for reproductive rights in Washington. Thousands were there, including the counter-protestors shouting from the barricaded sidewalk. One man in particular caught her attention.

“Bitch! Bitch! Bitch!’’ he shouted, staring right at her.

Breathing deeply, she put down her sign (it read: “Equal Rights for All”) and walked over to him, smiling softly. She put her arms around him and hugged. Then she walked back, picked up her sign and kept marching.

The story does not end here. Months later, at another march, she spotted him again. Again, she was marching, he was shouting. But their eyes locked, and in that moment, all the animosity melted away. He stopped shouting. He softened. He may have even smiled.

“It was in that moment that I understood what making peace was all about,’’ she later told me.

And that is why I teach peace.

David Cook wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. He lives with his wife and two small children in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he teaches courses on Peace Studies, Democracy Studies, and American Studies. He received his masters degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College, and his work has been featured in The Sun, Geez and truthout.org. He can be reached at david.cook@mail.com.

May 15th, 2015 at 10:18 am

Huff-Post Religion Uncovers ‘The Surprising Sacred Gathering Spaces That Are Moving Into Your Neighborhoods’

Published with permission from Huff-Post Religion. By: Jaweed Kaleem

Twice a week, every Sunday and Monday night, around a dozen New Yorkers gather in long, candle-lit studio apartment nestled between a hair salon and some warehouses in one of Brooklyn’s latest hip neighborhoods. They’re actors, singers, seminarians and new parents, and they sit in groups of six around tables in one of the simplest and most untraditional Christian worship spaces the city has to offer.

St. Lydia’s Church has no pews, no altar, no vestments, no band or choir, and little formality of any kind. Instead, church means drums and chanting, with frequent references to Jesus; breaking bread and drinking communion grape juice; and a long, three-hour homemade vegetarian dinner punctuated by Bible readings, a sermon and frequent talk of what it means to be a young spiritual seeker in Brooklyn. The pastor is ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, but the members themselves range from atheist and agnostic to evangelical, Catholic and Episcopalian.

Worship services at St. Lydia’s church in Brooklyn center around a meal prepared by attendees.

“Growing up, I was really sure in my faith in God and in going to Episcopal church — I loved the liturgy — but my sense was that I would never invite a friend of mine to this kind of worship service because it felt like there were so many barriers everywhere, from the look to the feel to the sounds of the place,” says Emily Scott, 34, who founded St. Lydia’s dinner church five years ago at a friend’s apartment (it more recently settled into its new home in Gowanus). “We try to practice the most basic form of Christianity: bread, wine — grape juice in our case — water, a meal, singing and a community relationship and connection. I preach, but so does everyone else. We learn from each other.”

As fewer Americans identify with traditional religion and more people check the “none of the above” box when asked about their faith, a host of creative, nontraditional spiritual spaces are popping up across the country. They include religious communities that worship and mingle in bowling alleys and cocktail bars, or multi-faith worship centers that intentionally group Muslims, Jews and Christians together. Houses of worship are rebranding, too, hiring architects to design new campuses to appeal to the future faithful.

Traditional churches still dominate the American landscape, but what religious space looks like is undergoing a subtle, gradual shift, with some of the most celebrated new religious communities arising in cities and college towns. The church steeple in the American town square hasn’t gone, but it’s got some company.

“The declining participation of young people in formal religion has led to there being a pressure on elders — and young leaders themselves — to try new things,” said Duke University sociologist Mark Chaves, author of the National Congregations Study, which in its latest 2012 survey found that 9.3 percent of American congregations met in a building other than a church, mosque, synagogue or school — a 1.5 percent increase over 14 years. “There has always been some innovation happening in American religion, of course, but people are trying new things these days.”

Here are a few of the ways the future of faith is playing out in religious spaces.

Read the full article on Huffington Post >

May 12th, 2015 at 3:02 pm

The World’s Religions Bring Compassion to Nepal

Nepalese survivors stand strong as village recovers with aid from the UK Department for International Development. Photo credit: UK DFID.

By Parliament Staff

The Parliament of the World’s Religions stands in awe over the collaborations of faith communities in helping the people of Nepal. Our prayers are with the nation now and always.

In the aftermath of the devastating April 25th, 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal, faith communities are stepping up to coordinate relief efforts. Stories emerging on the first days of recovery illustrate the possibility of human compassion on a mass scale.

Nepalese member of the Parliament’s Ambassador program, Dadhiram Khanal, reports by e-mail that his community is safe after one week without electricity. Over the past few days, Khanal and his family have been collecting relief funds through Alliance for Peace, Education and Development (APED) around the country and elsewhere.

News of faith communities uniting demonstrate how widespread the service of religion can be in times of disaster; Kathamandu’s Buddhist nuns are gaining international attention for employing ‘kung-fu’ to salvage monastic grounds, while Vatican Radio reports that Nepal’s religions are “united for earthquake victims” and exemplifying interfaith values:

The Venerable Renchen, representative of the Buddhist community, and Manohar Prasad Sah of the ‎Hindu community said: ?We are doing our best, and when religions come together they can meet ‎the basic needs of the people. Solidarity, peace and charity are concepts shared by all.

Love and Assistance Pours in from Global Faith Neighbors

Providing meals to those unable to secure food and water continues pose a significant challenge. To aid earthquake victims, Sikh leaders from The Golden Temple in Amritsar, India are distributing one hundred thousand food packets. Taiwan’s Buddhist leaders have donated food, blankets, and other items to those displaced by the disaster. Meanwhile, Singapore masjids are collecting money to send to Nepal and Iran’s Red Crescent Society is sending 40 tons of relief supplies including tents, blankets, dishware, and moquette to the region. Lutheran World Relief, Adventist Development and Relief Agency, Catholic Relief Services, and Gospel for Asia have sent volunteers to assist crews on the ground in Nepal while World Jewish Relief has announced an emergency appeal campaign for survivors.

The United States government has already pledged $10 million in relief. Nonprofit organizations like Save the Children, The American Red Cross, and others continue their appeal for more donations to send to the region.

At this stage of response, workers of municipal agencies are attempting to recover as many ancient sacred artifacts as possible from the rubble of leveled temples and World Heritage sites in the region, NPR reports.

The disaster is garnering global support, with both faith-based and secular organizations making major strides in providing aid for survivors. The outpouring of monetary donations, relief supplies, and on-the-ground rescue volunteers demonstrates the compassion embedded in all faiths. These efforts represent only the initial steps in providing necessary relief to Nepalese communities, giving a glimpse at what the coming months will hold as the nation moves forward in rebuilding after the tragedy.

Parliament Communications Staff Nafia Khan contributed to this article. 

May 5th, 2015 at 10:41 am

New Pre-Parliament Event Hosts Invited to Apply for Free May Giveaway

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PRE-PARLIAMENT GIVEAWAY IN MAY

Pre-Parliament Event Host Approved in May are Now Eligible to Raffle One

FREE REGISTRATION

to the world’s premier interfaith event

the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Salt Lake City!

Attract Guests to your Pre-Parliament Event by sharing that Parliament registration:

  • Is valued up to $475 USD

  • Includes Access to All Parliament Programming and Plenaries, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Dozens of Luminaries Championing Interfaith around the World

  • May qualify for free homestay in Salt Lake City per financial requirements

  • Is a life-changing experience providing critical training, as well as culturally enriching programming and movement building networking with 10,000 people from 50 faith communities and 80 countries

  • Grants access to the Inaugural Women’s Assembly for Global Advancement, the first platform on a global scale to raise the voices of women in the interfaith movement

Seed a Fundraiser for Your Interfaith Organization

The Parliament encourages hosts* who are qualified 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations or student/university groups promoting interfaith community, peace, justice or sustainability efforts to raffle the complimentary registration as a small fundraiser for your event (up to $10 per ticket).

*Individuals hosting private events are asked to donate raffle proceeds from free registration to support your local interfaith community organization.

One complimentary registration will be honored for each event which is submitted and approved by the Pre-Parliament Coordinator by May 31, 2015, and are scheduled to be held by July 30, 2015.

What to do?

 To participate in the May Giveaway, first submit your event for approval by emailing preparliament@parliamentofreligions.org before May 31, 2015.

To qualify for one complimentary 2015 Parliament registration, your event should host a minimum of ten guests who become new subscribers to the Parliament’s e-newsletter, InterfaithNow. Pre-Parliament event guests should subscribe to the Parliament email updates and newsletter at your event.

The Parliament does not sell the personal information of our registrants or subscribers to any other entities. Access to personal information without obtaining advanced written consent is prohibited by the Parliament.

Once your event concludes, submit photos of the event and the name of your chosen winner to Pre-Parliament staff. The Parliament will register the winner by phone once all steps are validated and approved!

For events of 75 attendees or more, follow the same guidelines for TWO free Parliament registrations!

Promotion Rules: Your friends and networks already subscribed and registered as 2015 Parliament Attendees will not qualify in the May Pre-Parliament Promotion. The Parliament will automatically enter 2015 Parliament registrants for exciting Parliament contests coming this summer! Complimentary Registrations may not be sold at any financial gain and are eligible only to raffle winners of approved pre-Parliament events. Hosts who attempt to sell pre-Parliament promotional registration will forfeit participation in the May giveaway.

We Look Forward to Seeing You and Your Community at the 2015 Parliament in Salt Lake this October 15 – 19 to Reclaim the Heart of Our Humanity!