Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events
Thursday, May 2nd 8:00 AM – 10:00 AM
National Day of Prayer at The Congregational Church of Birmingham
1000 Cranbrook Rd., Bloomfield Hills MI
See Flyer Below
Thursday, May 2nd 5:30 – 8:30 PM
WISDOM Annual Dinner
See Flyer Below
Thursday, May 9th 8:30 AM – 4 PM Women Confronting Racism Conference
Intersectionality in the 21st Century at Baker College, Auburn Hills Campus
See Flyer Below
Monday, May 13th Exploring Religious Landscapes Lecture
7:00 – 9:00 PM at Congregation Beth Shalom
Female and Convicted – What Ways Might Religious Faiths have roles?
See Flyer Below
Exploring Religious Landscapes – Correction on date – flyer should say Monday May 13th!!
Young Leaders for Peace teach us
to make room for difference
This past December I accompanied a group of international students from an organization called Rondine Citaddella della Pace to the United Nations in New York. Rondine is a little Italian village nestled in the heart of Tuscany that for over 20 years has hosted young men and women from war zone and conflict areas around the world. These energetic ambassadors for peace went to the United Nations to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to launch a new global effort entitled the Leaders for Peace initiative. This initiative seeks support from the 193 member nations of the U.N., asking world leaders to set aside just a fraction of their defense budgets to support the youth of Rondine in their desire to build bridges of understanding, overcome human differences and foster youth-led popular diplomacy. Central to this diplomatic initiative is the invitation to face our neighbors through embodied accompaniment and reconcile ourselves with those we have socially constructed as our “enemies.”
I first became acquainted with Rondine through my official diplomatic role as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See. On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and in remembrance of the lives lost on that day, I invited these young men and women to come to Rome to share their memories of this tragic event and to offer their transformative visions for a more humane future. I still vividly recall the lively conversations that ensued with members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See. Over the years, I have remained in touch with the group and regularly travel to Italy to contribute to their bridge-building efforts, especially with respect to helping Rondine students explore the valuable contribution that religious leaders and religious traditions can offer to the work of human reconciliation. I often share with the youth of Rondine practices of hospitality that emerge from religious traditions and some that are rooted in biblical texts.
A famous fifteenth century Russian icon of the Trinity depicts the hospitality that the biblical figures of Abraham and Sarah offer to three migrating strangers that come to their home (Genesis 18). The iconographer, Andrei Rublev, artistically links this story of hospitality to the central Christian teaching that affirms the Triune mystery of God in his icon. God, conceived within Christian traditions, is a God of extravagant hospitality, a God who migratesfromand forthe sake of love, offering life where life has come under threat. Rublev captures this theme of hospitality by depicting three distinctive angels “facing” one another in an open circle, reclining at a common table and sharing life-sustaining resources. In Christian tradition, these angels represent the three divine persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), and the orientation each person has toward the other suggests the Christian teaching that no one person, whether we think of divine or human persons, can exist alone as an island. The icon serves as a powerful reminder that we were created as one human family to exist in communal relations that affirm human differences. Through right relationship and encounter with others, we express and realize ourselves as God’s children, as icons of the God of life.
The story of the hospitality offered by Abraham and Sarah teaches us something important about the ethical values of daily accompaniment, interdependence and overcoming the fear of strangers. The story invites us to consider that the persons we wall off from our circle of relations, demonize and consider enemies might hold the key for our humanization. Capturing a central biblical motif – the reversal of the host-guest relationship – the story of the hospitality of Abraham and Sarah speaks to what happens when we open our homes to receive our estranged neighbors. The youth of Rondine learn this lesson well because the project intentionally chooses and welcomes estranged youth into a common home in order to discover the humanity of those characterized as the “enemy”- those we have declared “strangers” “aliens,” “illegals, “dangerous” and “foreigners” in our own lands.
In his book The Dignity of Difference, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks argues that “Nowhere is the singularity of ethics more evident than in its treatment of the issue that has proved to be most difficult in the history of human interaction, namely the problem of the stranger, the one who is not like us.” Sacks notes that “the Hebrew Bible in one verse commands, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’ but in no fewer than 36 places commands us to ‘love the stranger.’ ” In the New Testament, Jesus continues to teach and practice this central biblical motif. Above all, Jesus invites us to see God in the face of all our neighbors, and preferentially in those who suffer from various forms of personal and social illness (Matthew 25). As a faithful Jew, Jesus’ words and actions capture what Sacks rightly underscores is a central teaching of the Hebrew Scriptures, namely, “to make space for difference.”
Within and outside of our borders, we have witnessed what happens when we fail to make space for difference. Consider a culture that precipitates the violence inflicted on faith-filled communities of Sikh Temple of Wisconsin; Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina; Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Minnesota; First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in Texas; and Tree of Life Congregation in a Pennsylvania synagogue. Consider the recent terrorist attacks in New Zealand that killed 50 Muslims in two mosques. We also fail to make room for difference when fellow Americans and our leaders dehumanize and ridicule desperate children and families seeking to cross our southern border in search of life. And we fail to make room for difference when we do not protect the bio-diversity of our planet and insure the survival of our Common Home for the sake of future generations.
At this time of growing threats, inhospitality and violence, Rondine’s youth-led Leaders for Peace initiative models a rejection of what Pope Francis has called the “globalization of indifference” and offers instead an option to make room for difference. As Pope Francis underscored in his message to Rondine at the Vatican before their voyage to the U.N., “only through dialogue can trust be created,” a dialogue rooted in the encounters of daily living. Indeed, what makes Rondine’s peace-building efforts a recipe for success in local and international relations is their invitation to embrace convivenza, an intentional commitment to a culture of encounter lived daily by coming together with others and their distinct differences for the sake of building the common good. These young ambassadors have much to teach us about tearing down ideological “walls” that divide and polarize us.
Every time I go to Rondine I look forward to teaching the young women and men how the stories and wisdom of our many religious traditions can contribute to building peace. But I always leave Rondine having learned much more from the personal stories and the embodied witness of these young men and women who choose to create safe spaces where strangers are no more and where humanity can be welcomed in its great diversity. Embracing their practice of hospitality – a personal and daily commitment to inclusive and just accompaniment – offers a hope that it is possible to overcome poisonous discourse and violent actions that divide our human family. Are we, in the ordinariness of our lives and in the spaces we exercise leadership, willing to listen to these young ambassadors and learn how to discover our own humanity in the faces of our estranged neighbors?
[Miguel H. Díaz is the John Courtney Murray University Chair in Public Service at Loyola University in Chicago. He was ambassador to the Holy See during the first administration of President Barack Obama.]
Imam: ‘Allah’s Plan’ Fulfilled When Synagogue
Hosts Muslim Prayers After Fire
The Muslim congregants of a Manhattan mosque closed after a fire were not without a place to pray on Friday. “Allah had a better plan,” the imam said, after a nearby synagogue opened its doors to them.
The tense situation turned into a beautiful moment for both the Islamic Society of Mid-Manhattan and Central Synagogue, a historic New York congregation. The mosque was temporarily closed a few days earlier after a fire started in a restaurant on the first floor of its building. Friday is the holiest day in the Muslim week, and Muslims traditionally gather for prayer in the early afternoon, called Jummah.
On Friday afternoon, the imam had been hoping that the fire department’s investigation of the building would be done in time for Jummah. Outside the mosque, several members of Central Synagogue, which is just one block east, had already gathered to welcome them in, as they had done last Friday. When it became clear that the growing crowd of congregants waiting to go inside would likely be turned away, the Central members invited them to the synagogue, according to Rabbi Stephanie Kolin, a rabbi at Central. Over the next several minutes, more than 600 Muslims walked a block east to Central, and filed into the synagogue’s indoor pavilion, leaving their shoes in the hallway. A facilities manager at Central located a hand-washing station for the Muslim congregants, as hand-washing is a part of Jummah prayers.Kolin said that the Islamic Society’s imam spoke about how he had a plan for how to conduct that day’s prayers, marking one week since the massacre of Muslims at two mosques in New Zealand. Central’s hospitality left him in awe – he called it “one of the most blessed moments of my life in New York.” He told the attendees that this was a moment they would talk about with their children and grandchildren. He said the moment showed that “light can come out of darkness.”
The sentiment brought many of the people in the room to tears, Kolin said.
“It was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen in my life,” she said.
Watch the imam’s sermon below. Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, the leader of Central, posted on Facebook that the moment was one of her community’s holiest moments.
Kolin said that having the Islamic Society pray in Central was deeply powerful.
“I feel like I’m still integrating it,” she said. “I’m still a little shaking from the spiritual power of what happened.” Kolin said she spoke at the end of prayers at the invite of the Islamic Society’s leader, and spoke about how the attack on the mosques in New Zealand and the attack on the synagogue in Pittsburgh are part and parcel of the same violent ideology.
“These attacks on our communities are one and the same,” she said. Kolin’s words at Central were met with a round of applause from the Muslim guests.
A Muslim woman gives away a free hijab to guests attending the Ponsonby Masjid Mosque during an open service to all religions on March 22, 2019 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Hannah Peters/Getty Images)
A week after the mass shooting that killed 50 worshippers at two Christchurch mosques, women of all faiths from across New Zealand donned hijabs to show solidarity with the Muslim community. Speaking with CNN, non-Muslim women who participated in the “headscarf for harmony” campaign on Friday said they wanted to make it clear that no one should feel unsafe or unwelcome because of their religion.
“We wanted to show our children that just because we may not belong to the same religions, or we may look different, we are all equal,” Izzy Ford, 45, told CNN. “I know days, weeks, months will go by and we will remove our scarves and be back to our lives, and for our Muslim community they will continue, but for this moment in time we want to show them we are them, we love them, and they are our family.”
“I’ve heard of Muslim women who are scared to go out wearing their hijab after the shooting and I don’t think anyone should be afraid to be themselves or practice their culture or beliefs in New Zealand,” added Mal Turner, 28.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the campaign didn’t enjoy universal support. Its detractors included those who believe the hijab is a symbol of the oppression of women. In many countries where women lack the same fundamental rights as men, critics noted, women do not have the choice of whether or not to wear a headscarf.
But supporters of the campaign argued that it was Islamophobic to suggest that women who choose to wear the hijab are embracing oppression – and that conservative sects of Judaism and Christianity have their own strict rules about what women of those faiths are allowed to wear.
Sikhs aim to plant million trees as ‘gift to the planet’
Global project will mark 550 years since birth of religion’s founder, Guru Nanak
From the Guardian
Sikhs around the world are taking part in a scheme to plant a million new trees as a “gift to the entire planet”.
The project aims to reverse environmental decline and help people reconnect with nature as part of celebrations marking 550 years since the birth of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak.
Rajwant Singh, the president of the Washington DC-based environmental organisation EcoSikh, which is coordinating the Million Tree Project, said he wanted to mark the anniversary in a significant way.
“Guru Nanak was a nature lover. [He] had talked about nature as a manifestation of God and many of his writings talk about how we need to learn lessons of life from nature.”
One of Guru Nanak’s hymns, which many Sikhs recite as a daily prayer, includes the lyrical line:”Air is the teacher, water is the father, earth is the mother.”
Singh said he hoped the project would motivate Sikhs – especially the young – to improve their relationship with nature and would be seen more broadly as “a gift to the entire planet”.
The Sikh diaspora has taken on the challenge and tens of thousands of trees have already been planted. These are mostly in India – the majority of the world’s Sikh population lives in the state of Punjab, which is planning to plant 550 saplings in every village – but also in the UK, US, Australia and Kenya.
Sikh Union Coventry has started planting native trees, shrubs and flowers such as hazel and hawthorn at Longford Park, and is exploring locations in schools, parks and recreation areas. Palvinder Singh Chana, the chair of Sikh Union Coventry, said: “As Sikhs, our connection to the environment is an integral part of our faith and identity. Future generations will benefit from the fruits of our labour, symbolising peace, friendships and continuity for generations to come.”
EcoSikh is also working with Afforestt, an organisation that trains people to design and build small native forests that grow quickly and are a sustainable part of the ecosystem. Singh said more than 1,800 of these forests were planned across the world, and that the million tree target would be achieved by the time of Guru Nanak’s birthday in November.
North Dakota lawmakers open
floor session with Hindu prayer
North Dakota senators heard what was likely the first Hindu prayer to open a legislative floor session in the state’s history Monday.
Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism based in Reno, Nev., gave the opening prayer in English and Sanskrit. Wearing an orange robe, he told senators to work “with the welfare of others always in mind.”
Zed, who was born in India, said his appearance was meant to be educational.
“We are the oldest religion in the world,” he told reporters before his prayer. “(People) misunderstand us, but they don’t know everything about us.”
Zed was the first Hindu to conduct the opening prayer in the U.S. Senate in 2007, according to The Associated Press, an event that was interrupted by Christian protesters. He said he has given the prayer in more than a dozen state Legislatures and requested to come to North Dakota.
Hinduism is the world’s third-largest religion with about 1.1 billion adherents. There were only about 340 Hindus in North Dakota as of 2014, according to the Pew Research Center.
Legislative Council Director John Bjornson couldn’t confirm whether Monday was the first time lawmakers started their session with a Hindu prayer without undertaking an exhaustive historical review. But several longtime officials in the Capitol couldn’t remember it happening before.
Zed will read the invocation in the North Dakota House Tuesday.
Salt Lake City mayor designates April as Sikh Awareness and Recognition Month
SALT LAKE CITY – Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski issued a proclamation this week recognizing April as Sikh Awareness and Recognition Month and designating April 13 as Vaisakhi Day.
Community leaders believe that the designation will increase awareness of the growing Sikh community in Utah and help celebrate an important time for the religion.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, who was the first Sikh public official in Utah, helped draft the proclamation.
“I am very supportive of it,” said Gill, who was born in India and has been a Sikh for his entire life. “I think this is a great recognition.”
April was chosen for Sikh Awareness and Recognition Month because it is one of the holiest months of the year for the faith.
“April 13 or 14 is the day of Vaisahki,” Gill explained. “That is when the tenth Guru, our prophet, introduced the baptism of the Khalsa. It is a very big day for the folks in the Sikh faith, and it really brought everyone together.”
Vaisakhi is the Sikh New Year, commemorating the birth of the faith in 1699. Now the yearly event is a huge celebration which presents an opportunity to recommit to one’s faith. The Sikh Temple of Utah on Redwood Road will be hosting a celebration to commemorate the holiday this year on April 14.
“They’ll have their prayers and a communal service where they feed everyone who comes there as a part of their community service,” Gill explained. “I would encourage people to go to the Sikh Temple on the 14th around noon and be part of the festivities.”
To read the rest of this article, view facts about the Sikh religion, and to view a video, please go to the following website:
ERLIN (JTA) – For the first time in a century, Germany’s military will have rabbis as chaplains. Defense Minister Dr. Ursula von der Leyen announced this week that her ministry will appoint Jewish chaplains to the Bundeswehr, based on recommendations from the Central Council of Jews in Germany, the umbrella organization that represents the approximately 100,000 members of Jewish communities nationwide.
In addition, a treaty on the military chaplaincy will be negotiated between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Central Council of Jews, as it was for Protestants and Catholics decades ago.
Von der Leyen and Council President Josef Schuster are among those who will address a high-ranking conference that begins Wednesday, on both the history of Jewish chaplains in the German military, and the expectations of such a chaplain today.
According to the Central Council, the future German military rabbi or rabbis will work both in a pastoral capacity, and in instructing soldiers of all religious backgrounds, “enriching their ethical education… with a Jewish contribution.”
German soldiers are not required to identify their religion. The Defense Ministry estimates that about half have done so, and estimates a total of 300 Jewish enlistees, in addition to about 3,000 Muslims, 41,000 Catholics and 53,000 Protestants. Christian military chaplains were introduced to the Bundeswehr about 60 years ago.
After the end of World War II, Jewish military chaplains in Allied armies served in Displaced Persons camps and later served their own troops stationed in post-war West Germany. Some opened their military congregations to participation of Jews in Germany, even bringing back Reform Judaism – a movement with roots in Germany. After the unification of east and west Germany in 1990, many Allied troops left the country, and with them the Jewish chaplains.
Now it will be the Bundeswehr itself that will introduce Jewish chaplains. And as part of NATO operations and peacekeeping missions, the military may call on the rabbis to travel to areas where German soldiers are stationed; according to news reports, the rabbinical candidates will have to undergo security clearance. No appointment date for the rabbinical chaplain has been given.
There reportedly also will soon be imams appointed as military chaplains, although there will be no treaty with the Federal Republic of Germany, since instead of having a single representative body for Muslims in Germany, there are several.
This story “German Military To Have Jewish Chaplains For First Time” was written by Toby Axelrod.