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Archive for the ‘Inter-Culturalism’ Category

Open Letter to Dr. Ben Carson


by: on September 21st, 2015 | 8 Comments »

Dear Dr. Carson,

I write to express my disappointment at best for your statements on the NBC Sunday broadcast of “Meet the Press” on September 20, 2015. Host Chuck Todd raised the controversy surrounding Donald Trump’s failure to correct an audience member in a town hall meeting in New Hampshire last week who asserted that President Obama is a Muslim, and then he advocated for the forceful deportation of Muslims from the U.S. Todd then asked you about your take on the controversy, to which you replied that a Muslim should not become president of our country: “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”

As a highly educated person, as a candidate for the presidency, and as someone who has co-authored, along with your wife Candy, a book titled A More Perfect Union: What We the People Can Do to Reclaim Our Constitutional Liberties, you should have a more enlightened understanding of our nation’s foundational document.

In the book you write generally about the “basic principles” of the Constitution and how “they relate to our everyday lives.” You go on to state: “I believe that making a difference starts with understanding our amazing founding document, the U.S. Constitution.” You assert that both you and Candy wrote the book to “help defend” the Constitution “from those who misinterpret and undermine it.”


Help Wanted to Pressure US Embassy Official


by: on August 13th, 2015 | 16 Comments »

A friend of mine, Eritrean-American journalist Michael Abraham, is without resources or means of subsistence in Nairobi because a white US Embassy official will not give him the proof of his US citizenship that he needs to work as foreign correspondent or obtain emergency assistance from media rights groups as a journalist in distress having lost everything in the bloody South Sudan war. He has been offered both employment and assistance, if he can show his passport.

He can’t, because his passport is being held by a hotel manager who will not give it back until he pays the money he owes the hotel. But without a job, he can’t repay the hotel.

The embassy is refusing to provide a temporary proof of citizenship which would enable him to get a job as journalist. Isn’t that illegal? What can Michael do from here? Is there anyone reading this with the legal knowledge to give him free advice?

Here’s the whole story, which appears to be yet another tale of a white official acting racist. I have written it up as a press article, but I haven’t yet found any publication interested. When there is another unarmed Black citizen shot every few days in the US, I guess no one is up for paying attention to a Black citizen being blackballed by our embassy thousands of miles away. But if you have any legal advice, please do email me. The story in full:


KKK Posing as Victim of “Cultural Genocide”


by: on July 9th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

An group protests a KKK rally by holding up signs delcaring love.

In Athens, Atlanta in September, 2007, a group protests a KKK rally. The Klan is discussing holding another rally in response to the anti-Confederation flag movement. Credit: CreativeCommons / 57allison.

For literally decades, calls have gone out by civil and human rights advocates to remove of the battle flag of the Confederacy from public sites like state capitol grounds and other government buildings. This movement gained enormous momentum recently following the brutal racist murders of nine parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charlestown, South Carolina by an avowed white supremacist.

On his Facebook page, the 21-year-old gunman posed for pictures wearing a military-style jacket with insignia patches of flags of apartheid South Africa and white ruled Rhodesia (today known as Zimbabwe). In another picture, he waved a Confederate battle flag, and in another, he stood holding a burning American flag. In addition, he wore a T-shirt with the number 88 printed on the front, he had 88 Facebook friends, and he scribbled that number in the South Carolina sand. “H” is the 8th letter of the alphabet, and in white supremacist circles, “88″ symbolizes “Heil Hitler.”


Pope Francis’s Encyclical and the Coming of Age of Creation Spirituality


by: Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox on July 6th, 2015 | 1 Comment »


Aerial shot of melting glaciers.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Doc Searls.

Pope Francis’s recent encyclical boasts a title borrowed from the famous poem to Brother Sun and Sister Moon by his namesake, Francis of Assisi. “Laudato si’”, which translates as “Praise Be to You”, carries a message and a spirit that echoes much of the soul of St. Francis. Humans around the world are eager for some moral voices to stand up and be counted, so beset are we by multinational corporations and their lobbyists and their media moguls who, like secular popes, declare infallibly each day what is and is not news while they pad their corporate pockets with dark money raised by an avalanche of consumer goodies most of which feed the world unnecessary goodies. Surely this is one reason the Dalai Lama has the following he does. And it is the reason Pope Francis is being heard by more and more people around the world and why, borrowing from his idol, Pope John XXIII, he addressed this encyclical on climate change and ecology to all persons of the world, Christian or not, believers or not.


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


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:


In-Between “Racialized” Category of European-Heritage Jews


by: on June 19th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

An older Jewish gentleman.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Thomas Hawk

Sometimes I don’t know which side of the wall I’m on.
—Wladylaw Szpilman, The Pianist

On numerous occasions, I have attended the annual National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s “Creating Change” conference, bringing together grass-roots activists from throughout North America as well as other countries around the world. At one of the conferences in the early 1990s, I was a participant in a well-attended workshop titled “Activists of Color/White Activists Dialogue” facilitated by two highly-respected activists: a woman of color and a white Christian man.

When the workshop began, the woman outlined the agenda for the next one-and-one-half hours: the workshop would concentrate on the concepts of “race” and dialogue across racial divides, and include two separate panels of participant volunteers: one composed of four people of color, the other of four white people. Panel members were to each, in turn, answer four questions put to them by the facilitators, first the people of color panelists followed by the white people panelists. The questions were: 1. “What do you love about being your racial identity?” 2. “What has been difficult for you growing up this racial identity?” 3. “What do you never want to hear said again about or seen done to people of your racial identity group?,” and 4. “How can people of other racial groups support you and be your allies?”

As she explained the intended focus and agenda, great confusion came over me: Should I volunteer? Well, maybe, but I really can’t because I’m not sure if either of the categories on which the panels are organized include me. I know for certain that I am not eligible to volunteer for the “persons of color” panel. But, also, I feel as if I somehow don’t belong on the “white persons” panel either. Maybe I should just listen to the panelists, which I did.

But, what caused my bewilderment? What got in my way of self-defining as “white”? From where was this feeling of not-belonging on either panel, or my feeling of in-betweenness coming? Thinking back, I came to realize that it stems, I believe, from both personal and collective experience.


The Pope Might Save the Planet… if You Would Join an Interfaith Effort to Support His Direction!


by: on June 18th, 2015 | 5 Comments »

A portrait of Pope Francis.

Credit: Alberto Pizzoli via Getty Images.

The Pope issued a powerful letter to the world today, called Laudato Si, in which he called upon the people of the world as well as the members of the Catholic Church to make saving the planet from environmental destruction the major and urgent focus of our activity in the 21st century. And he highlighted how climate change will be particularly destructive to the poor. I want to share with you the following piece I wrote, which appeared on the front page of the Huffington Post today. If you prefer, you may read it there. Please never say “I didn’t know what to do in face of the environmental crisis,” because we at Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives are inviting you to become involved with us in some very specific steps you could take! Please read the article below!

Warm regards and blessings,

- Rabbi Michael Lerner

Pope Francis’ Laudato Si plea for environmental sanity and a serious recommitment to the Bible’s call for humanity to be stewards of this planet earth just might make a huge difference by puncturing through the emotional depression that keeps most of the people of the earth paralyzed in face of the growing crisis.

It is not that people don’t know about the environmental crisis that keeps us stuck in our current situation. It is rather that most people are unable to see any way out of the mess that global capitalism has created for us. Feeling hopeless about the possibility of the kinds of fundamental transformations needed to save the planet, much of humanity has chosen the ostrich strategy: deny the problem, and focus instead on getting as much as one can for oneself in the decades ahead as the planet whimpers under the increasing destructiveness of the capitalist imperative to growth without limits and accumulation of money, power or things as the only meaning to life. Yet it is this very growth and accumulation of things, produced at the expense of the earth, that guarantees earth-destruction if not of the planet than at least of its life-support-system that makes human life on it possible.


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


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?


Thinking About Open Borders


by: Antoine Pécoud on June 8th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

An abstract painting of a map without borders

Open borders may be an unrealistic goal, but it is one that deserves some contemplation and discussion. Credit: CreativeCommons / Fons Heijnsbroek

The free movement of people across state borders is a taboo in international political debates. Borders, it is often argued, would play a decreasing role in a globalising world. And indeed, there is strong support for the free circulation of goods, capitals, services or information. But when it comes to people, this no longer applies. The idea that human beings could be free to move from one state to another, choosing where they want to live, is usually dismissed as unrealistic. The unchallenged assumption is that peoples’ access to countries other than their own should be carefully monitored and controlled.

Opening state borders to human migration would certainly be no easy scenario. It would constitute a complete upheaval in the world’s organisation and raise more than a few fundamental questions. But does this prevent us from at least thinking about this scenario? Many of today’s realities used to be deemed ‘unrealistic’, from the abolition of slavery to gender equality. Yet, even those who are deeply dissatisfied with today’s world rarely consider this particular scenario. The United Nations repeatedly calls for many goals that are hardly ‘realistic’ – world peace, ending poverty, and so on – but never mentions open borders. The same could be said of NGOs. Most of them, even those that are actively engaged in the promotion of migrants’ rights, take migration control for granted. In other words, many objectives exist that are extraordinarily difficult to achieve yet are never rejected as illegitimate. The free movement of people is not one of them.


Color Me?


by: Jeffery Vogel on June 5th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

Black and white photograph of surgery.

"Emphysema and lung cancer don't discriminate, we all bleed red, and when a surgeon cuts through our various skins our vital organs are all the same." Credit: CreativeCommons / Iulian Circo.

Growing up in the 1950s as a white person in an all white, mostly Jewish neighborhood in Flatbush, Brooklyn, I had essentially no contact with darker complexioned people from different ethnic groups. It wasn’t until I started working in hospitals as a respiratory therapist that I began to have consistent personal contact with people of various ethnicities and skin colors both as co-workers and patients. In a society that emphasizes our differences, working in a hospital has brought me face to face with issues and facts that unite us all. In the context of human illness, pain and death, our nation’s long and tragic obsession with skin color seems absurdly superficial. Emphysema and lung cancer don’t discriminate, we all bleed red, and when a surgeon cuts through our various skins our vital organs are all the same.