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Palestine at the Crossroads

Jun30

by: Stuart Rees on June 30th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

A piece of the boarder between Israel and Palestine.

Credit: CreativeCommons / gnuckx.

At its national conference at the end of July, the Australian Labor Party will be voting on a motion to recognize the State of Palestine. The outcome may be symbolic, yet it could mark a shift in a country where politicians of any persuasion have been so intimidated by the Israel lobby that they find it difficult to challenge the stereotype that Israel is a democracy and Palestinians are simply Arabs who can’t be trusted. This cowardly attitude has been maintained because successive Australian governments have tried to curry favor with Washington and do whatever the White House wants.

Polls show that a clear majority of Australian citizens support the human rights of all Palestinians and regard it as imperative that Palestinians should have a homeland of their own.

Given that the Labor Party could form a government at the next election, its representatives need to catch up with public opinion. They need to become far more aware of the living conditions faced by Palestinians such as those living on the West Bank, in East Jerusalem, in Gaza and in Lebanese based refugee camps.

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Hoping for Rain- Biblical Understanding of Cosmic Order, Human’s Nature and Drought

Jun27

by: Rabbi Belle Michael on June 27th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

A photograph of Lake Mead (Arizona/Nevada) in the midst of a drought.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Chris Richards.

As we all heard, 2014 set record for being the hottest year in a decade; in fact scientists say that every year in the past few decades set a record for being the warmest year. We know it for fact now; our planet is getting warmer each year.

Some scientists are still trying to figure out the causes for Global Warming while others study the effects of Global Warming on extreme weather events such as heat waves, hurricanes and droughts. As to the drought in California, so far no scientific link between Global Warming and the drought was found. Research has shown contradicting evidence and thus, contradicting conclusions.

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Weeding Roses in Kabul

Jun26

by: Martha Hennessy on June 26th, 2015 | Comments Off

Doves released in Afghanistan as they observe the 2007 International Peace Day.

Peace doves fly on the grounds of the historic Hazrat-i-Ali mosque, in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan. The doves are part of a campaign launched by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in observance of the International Day of Peace in 2007. Credit: CreativeCommons / United Nations Photo.

June 19, 2015

Kabul–Outside the windows of the room where I sleep, here in Kabul, the Afghan Peace Volunteer (APV) women’s community maintains a small walled garden filled with roses. The community plants tomatoes, cilantro and greens. An apricot tree grows in one corner, a mulberry tree in another. The prayer call, chanted from a nearby mosque, awakens me just before dawn. Light appears in the sky around four, and soon after, the doves and neighborhood children begin to write my essay for me. Normal activities and routines persist here in Afghanistan, despite the decades of war and impoverishment. Military helicopters roar through the skies as sounds generated by ordinary work day tasks fill the air: the whine of a machine cutting sheet metal mixes with a jingle played by an ice cream cart rolling down the street.

Zarguna, Khamed, and Zahidi host Kathy and me in this house of peace. Because of intensified security concerns, we step outside only occasionally, generally once a day, to visit the APVs Borderfree Center. During my last visit here in 2013, we were much more relaxed about walking through the neighborhood for errands.

The youth, now studying in secondary schools and universities, run several thriving projects and teach at the Borderfree Center for street children.

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Sacred Activism: A Meditation on Inner Transformation

Jun25

by: Shaikh Kabir Helminski on June 25th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

A bay at sunset.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Yetto.

To be a contemplative is to focus the heart on the Absolute Reality that gives meaning to life; to be a spiritual activist is to be engaged in the social world without losing the perspective of that heavenly Absolute Reality.

To be an activist is also to be a realist, to realize that many people are tied primarily to the materialistic plane, the secular world, the outer appearances. And yet no sane human being is entirely without a sense of values, an inner life which, if we are honest, is the key to happiness.

The contemplative faces that inner world of values directly and draws strength and wisdom from it http://samedayessays.org/term-paper/, but no human being is devoid of those inner values, no matter how confused, egotistical, or negative they may be.

The gap between the religious world and the secular world seems to be growing larger; both sides seem to lack a way to communicate with each other. This is one of the greatest challenges of our times. The secular world views the many disparate beliefs and the conflicts among them and wants no part of it. The religious world, suspicious of the freedoms claimed by the secular world, looks at the erosion of values and morals and sees religion as something that can protect the moral nature of humankind.

But there is a third perspective, and this may be the hope of the future. This third perspective recognizes the limitations of all religious beliefs, but without discarding the core values of spirituality. It also recognizes how much the secular world sacrifices to the idols of consumerism and materialism. But it respects secularism for not imposing a single interpretation of belief upon society and for allowing the freedom to choose one’s own lifestyle.

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Canonize Junipero Serra? Really?

Jun23

by: Matthew Fox on June 23rd, 2015 | 2 Comments »

Alter for Junipero Serra.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Art4TheGlryOfGod by Sharon.

American peoples learned of Pope Francis’ decision to canonize Father Junipero Serra (1713-1784) during the papal visit to the United States in Fall. Serra is the Franciscan missionary who oversaw the colonial system of missions in California. The news of his prospective canonization is sad for what it says about Church ignorance – after all these hundreds of years – of Native American accomplishments; it is also sad for what it reminds us about the history of Christian missionizing. A Native American from California recently wrote me that “by virtue of this canonization of a conqueror, the pope has declared war on Native Peoples, globally.”

It is particularly sad that the first American pope ever, one who has caught the attention of millions for his efforts to cleanse the church of its sins and society of its “narcissism” and social and economic inequities, and who has actively sought the perspectives of the faithful, would be so blind to the history of indigenous peoples on two continents, and deaf to the protests of indigenous and non-indigenous Christians alike. And it is sad that as many nations and peoples await the pope’s encyclical on Eco-theology and Climate Change that still another stake would be driven into the indigenous legacy of respect for nature that is so central to their spiritual tradition and to the survival of the planet as we know it today.

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For the Sake of Heaven

Jun23

by: Melissa Weininger on June 23rd, 2015 | Comments Off

Close up of a flame.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Oliver.

According to reports, when a young stranger walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church last Wednesday night, the senior pastor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, invited the young man to sit next to him so that he would feel welcome. It was literally an article of faith that the church should embrace the young man, though he was not a regular member of the community, though he was white in a historically black church. These things didn’t matter to Pinckney and the other members of the Bible study group that met that night. What mattered to them were tenets of faith and the standards of their community, a congregation built on the premise of inclusion, particularly inclusion of the marginalized and rejected.

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Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus Welcomes Pope’s Encyclical on Climate Change

Jun22

by: Sunita Viswanath and Christopher Fici on June 22nd, 2015 | Comments Off

An aerial shot of Herbert Volcano Caldera.

Credit: CreativeCommons / U.S. Geological Survey.

In his recent eco-encyclical (ecology and economy) Laudato Sii (“Praised Be”), Pope Francis invited every person on the planet into dialogue on the many pressing ecological issues facing humanity – and their impact on the poorest people of the world. The reality of climate change “represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day” (#25). Humankind is responsible for care of the natural world, and that responsibility extends toward protecting poor and vulnerable people and our children and grandchildren.

Pope Francis made five key points in this teaching document, a new foundation of Catholic teaching on the environment:

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The Villain’s Advantage

Jun19

by: Norman Allen on June 19th, 2015 | 7 Comments »

I walked across Washington, DC, after the shooting in Charleston and was struck by how many good people I know. I spent the morning with a young playwright eager to bring his view of the world’s interconnectedness to an audience. I ran into a school counselor who was a great help to my family during a difficult time. And I chanced upon a former colleague who finds joy in teaching science to struggling high school students.

Gun control activists march in Washington, DC, January 2015.

Gun control activists march in Washington DC, January 2015. Credit: Creative Commons / Elvert Barnes Protest Photography

Living in Washington, I’m constantly meeting such people. My friends include advocates for education, arts funding, marriage equality, voting rights and affordable housing. The city overflows with folks eager to make a difference. This week, though, I was struck by how easy it is to bring all that potential to a sudden and tragic end.

Not usually one to categorize human beings as “good” or “bad,” I do recognize that some people have a more positive view of the world. They see the potential for goodness in others, and they work at http://samedayessays.org/book-report-writing/ to nurture and strengthen it. And there are people who do the opposite. For a myriad of reasons, they live in anger and take an aggressive stance to the world around them.

Both groups hold enormous power. The folks able to see the good in people bring that goodness forth. The student who has been beaten down by life and chooses aggression as a defense is transformed by the teacher who recognizes that student’s unique potential and has the patience to wait for it to emerge. Similar scenarios are repeated in a million ways every day.

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Stop the Canonization of Friar Serra, Patron Saint of Colonizers and Racists!

Jun17

by: Matthew Fox on June 17th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

Statue of Junipero Serra in profile

Credit: CreativeCommons/ millerm217.

Do we really need a Patron Saint of Colonizers? A Patron Saint of Racists? That is what is at stake in the dangerous canonization of Father Junipero Serra (1713-1784) that the Vatican is threatening during the papal visit to the United States in Fall 2015. We must stand with indigenous people everywhere and resist loudly this grave injustice. The native people I know are furious and fuming and for very good reasons. As one Native American leader named Toypurina put it, “by virtue of this canonization of a conqueror, the pope has declared war on Native Peoples, globally.”

Pope Francis has the support of many vis-à-vis his efforts to critique our failing economic system, clean up the Catholic Church, and pronounce about eco-theology and climate change. We all wish him well and extend him our prayers, but this canonization issue could seriously mar those efforts, as well as his soon-to-be-released encyclical on ecology. After all, indigenous wisdom, unlike most Western religion, has never forsaken the sense of the sacredness of the cosmos. Why continue to insult indigenous peoples? Isn’t their wisdom needed more than ever for an environmental awakening today?

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Jewish Beliefs About GMOs

Jun11

by: Robyn Purchia on June 11th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

A beautiful green field of wheat.
Credit: Flickr / Miran Rijave.

Like most environmental issues, the growing supply of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food raises many concerns. Although GMO crops can feed more people, they also put people’s health at risk and degrade the environment. Small farmers can make more money growing and selling more crops, but buying GMO seeds gives corporations a lot of power over these small farmers. Along with these ethical concerns, religious groups must also wrestle with the theological issues GMOs raise.

When religion tries to apply ancient texts to modern technology there is rarely a clear answer. Application of Jewish laws and ethical traditions has burdened the GMO debate with numerous contradictions. In figuring out Jewish beliefs on GMOs we may be left with only one theological question: Can humans make God’s creation more perfect?

Jewish Law as it Applies to GMOs

Consistent with the principle that anything not expressly prohibited by God is permitted, Jewish law, or halacha, generally takes a permissive position on GMO food. But just because halacha doesn’t expressly prohibit GMO food, doesn’t mean it’s entirely silent on the issue.

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