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Archive for the ‘Interfaith’ Category

Sacred Space, at the Corner of Boylston and Berkeley


by: on April 26th, 2013 | 2 Comments »

At Boylston and Berkeley, 8:00 a.m., Monday April 22

Two days after the Boston Marathon bombings, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick was asked in a public radio interview if there would be a permanent memorial to the victims of that horrific act. Patrick understandably felt it was too early to speculate about such a memorial – this was before the dramatic lockdown of Boston and surrounding communities. He went further to say that the most fitting tribute would be to return next year with the biggest and best marathon ever.

That surely would be a testimony to the city’s spirit, but it seems the governor, as a good technocrat, was missing the point. Fact is, people were already finding makeshift ways to memorialize the event. And if past atrocities are a guide, they’ll eventually find a permanent space for that solemn purpose.

If I didn’t know this already, I’d have found out just by standing for a few minutes near Copley Square this past Monday morning, at the intersection of Boylston and Berkeley streets.

Boylston, a crime scene, was still closed at the time. But people stood silently on a sidewalk at the corner, leaning against a police barricade in front of a popup memorial. They gazed at the flowers, flags, candles, handwritten notes, and other items left by anonymous people. They stared at three white crosses in the center of that growing memorial – in remembrance of the three who perished in the twin bombings of April 15. The shrine to eight-year-old Martin Richard was teeming with Teddy Bears, balloons, and children’s books.


The Price of a State Religion


by: on April 24th, 2013 | 15 Comments »

The gloves are finally off: according to a poll, one third of Americans want a state religion. Two hundred years after the United States was created by men and women fleeing the stifling rule and religious persecution of their homes, we have come full circle by expressing a desire by some to return to a state sanctioned religion. No surprise that the preferred state religion is Christianity. Reflecting on the reasons for such a supposedly non-American public opinion, the pollsters wonder if it could be “reflective of dissatisfaction with the current balance of religion and politics”. In my mind, however, the results of the poll point to some deep-rooted issues, which instead of being dismissed as inconsequential because it could never actually happen, should be analyzed to understand the thought process of millions of the population.


Boston Attack a Test Case for Interfaith Relationship Building


by: on April 17th, 2013 | 16 Comments »

Courtesy Facebook

The nation is still reeling from shock after Monday’s attack on the Boston Marathon. Gun violence notwithstanding, this is perhaps the first real terrorist attack on US soil after 9/11. Understandably emotions have been running high; no surprise then, that as the events unfolded many people, including the media, jumped on the “Blame the Muslims” bandwagon. The New York Post famously inflated casualty numbers and reported that a Saudi man was apprehended as a suspect by the police. Social media was inundated by predictions of guilt and accusations of violent jihad, at the same time as the Muslim community mobilized to condemn the attacks.


Day of Action to Close Guantanamo


by: on April 11th, 2013 | Comments Off

Today, April 11, is the National Day of Action to support the Guantanamo hunger strikers and to call for Guantanamo to be closed. This effort is sponsored by Witness Against Torture and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.

Find an action near you and/or call President Obama urging him to fulfill his promise to close Guantanamo. There are phone numbers below, along with a script for callers to use. Support the hunger strikers and end indefinite imprisonment without trial. Close Guantanamo now.

What you can do:


What Pope Francis Might Mean for Christian-Muslim Relations


by: on April 3rd, 2013 | 9 Comments »

Pope Francis with Foreign Diplomats, Credit REUTERS/Tony Gentile

The news out of the Vatican seems to be getting more and more fascinating every day. An avid researcher of all religions – and especially interested in all things Catholic because of my educational ties with convents – I have been following the abdication of Pope Benedict and the election of Pope Francis, and all that’s happened in between these two major events, with great interest. When Benedict resigned, I felt a moment or two of incredulity, because it’s practically unheard of. Then I followed the whole voting process, including the betting, with bated breath. And I haven’t been disappointed, for Pope Francis is proving to be an absolute gem in so many ways. As I said, fascinating news… even though I’m a Muslim.


Petition for Int’l. Solution to African Refugee Crisis


by: on April 1st, 2013 | 5 Comments »

I’ve signed this petition, as have a wide array of public figures, artists and academics from across the political spectrum and of a variety of faiths — including such accomplished historians as Israel’s Yehuda Bauer, Canada’s Irving Abella, and David S. Wyman in the U.S. Israel’s initial welcome reception of African refugees has become unwelcoming and even ugly, as their numbers have grown precipitously. I begin with a note from Dr. Rafael Medoff, director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, who initiated this petition (email him or contact the Wyman Institute to add your name):

As you know, Israel has been at the center of international controversy over its handling of African refugees who have been arriving at its border.

The interfaith petition below is intended to be signed by religious leaders of all faiths, scholars in all fields, organizational leaders, and political and cultural figures from around the world–we seek a broad cross-section of distinguished individuals to demonstrate the breadth of support for this effort. Once we have a sufficiently large and impressive body of signatories, we will present it to individual governments and press for its adoption.

The Hebrew University-Hadassah Genocide Prevention Program, and the Israeli Association to Combat Genocide, have endorsed this initiative. Would you do us the honor of allowing your name to be added to the list below?

With all best wishes,

Rafael Medoff, rafaelmedoff@aol.com

Israel and the African Refugee Crisis:


Religious Clergy Represent All of Us: A Reponse to the Allegations against Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf


by: on February 7th, 2013 | 6 Comments »

A Westchester County couple has accused Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf of using more than $3 million in donations to the Cordoba Initiative and the American Society for Muslim Advancement for personal purposes. Credit: Creative Commons/World Economic Forum.

What’s the difference between a Catholic priest and an Imam? Although it may sound like the opening line of a joke, both these individuals actually do have a lot in common. For both Catholics and Muslims, priests and imams are prayer leaders, spiritual guides, mentors, teachers and so much more. Even outside of their congregations, they command respect from all who meet them because they wear the badge of religious leadership.

So when someone like that does something unethical or even criminal, we are left with a bad taste in our mouth and a collective cringe. Catholicism has, unfortunately, been dogged with child abuse scandals for a long time; scandals that have plagued and wounded everyday Catholics who aren’t able to see the priesthood in the same light ever again. As a Muslim I often sympathized but hardly ever empathized. Yesterday’s report from the New York Daily News of former Ground Zero Mosque advocate Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf allegedly stealing funds has changed that perception forever, leaving me – and countless other Muslims – reeling with shock. A person viewed by many as the moderate face of Islam in America, so different from the radical Muslim clergy of the Middle East and South East Asia, the Imam was the last person I would have expected to be… like everyone else.


Sadaf Syed: Breaking Stereotypes One Photo at a Time


by: Hassina Obaidy on January 26th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

“Muslims and non-Muslims should realize that we all are just travelers in this temporary world,” photojournalist Sadaf Syed tells me. She adds that we all should act on this realization “by opening up and getting to learn about each others faith, cultures, tradition.”

Photographer Sadaf Syed pays respect to the victims of 9/11 at Ground Zero in New York City.

Since she was two months old, Syed has traveled throughout the United States with her family, exposed to different cultures, religions, and people, including Muslims of different ethnicities. After picking up on many different customs and traditions, Syed became inspired to tell stories about this diverse group of Muslims.

Syed began her photography career with wedding photography and portraiture. Years later, her career shifted to amplifying the voices of people whose stories are seldom heard, giving them the chance to share their journeys, emotions, hopes, fears, abilities, and disabilities. As a visual storyteller, Syed is always looking for ways to inspire and educate people through her photography.

“You’re not a storyteller in words and writing, but you’re a storyteller visually, so you’re always looking to stimulate people visually,” she says.

In 2010, Syed, a Pakistani-Muslim, self-published iCOVER: A Day in the Life of a Muslim-American COVERed Girl, a book about Muslim women breaking stereotypes across the globe. The book features page after page of everyday Muslim women of different ethnicities and backgrounds, presenting photographs of them alongside captivating captions, quotes, and stories.


Weathering Storms + Finding the God In Everything: A Hurricane Sandy Sermonette


by: on November 5th, 2012 | Comments Off

Hurricane Sandy Image c/o Huffington Post

This month has been one of personal, professional, and national shifts, storms, and graces. So much so that I can think of no better way to represent this conflux than by sharing my “sermonette” from last night’s worship service in my young adult ministry program.

In the last 30 days I turned 33, I found some beautiful progress and graces in the world of my ministry work, and struggled at a distance with the pain and tragedy of my home state, New Jersey and our neighboring adjacent-hometown of New York City. I spent my life, at different points, wandering the coastline of the Jersey Shore during summer vacation, hopping through the subway and wandering around the Lower East Side when I cut school as a high schooler (oops!) to sitting in Washington Square Park in between graduate school classes at NYU. Now my middle school in Summit, NJ is a “heating station” and crisis center, the YMCA is where mass showers are being taken, and no one is hopping on the subway to anywhere.

From my personal heart to yours I share the “sermonette” I gave last night to my spiritual seekers in Delray Beach. Blessings and prayers to all who suffer and are lost–in this tragedy and in the world at large. This essay was written for all of you.


Did the Flood Actually Happen?


by: Gabriel Crane on October 12th, 2012 | 3 Comments »

Here at Tikkun we receive many advance copies of books from amazing authors, artists, and activists every day. It’s encouraging to encounter the powerful work our peers are engaged in, not to mention inspiring to see the sheer volume of it. Unfortunately, as with most small non-profits, we are stretched pretty thin and often don’t have the time to read or review the vast majority of what comes in.

One book that did catch my eye this week, though, was a title by Gregg Braden, Deep Truth: Igniting the Memory of Our Origin, History, Destiny, and Fate (you can check it out online here). While I haven’t had a chance to read it through all the way, I was fascinated by Braden’s presentation of emerging scientific evidence that suggests our classic understanding of human history, which posits that civilization developed roughly 5,000 years ago out of the “Fertile Crescent” that spans the intersection of Africa and Asia, is incomplete and flawed.