Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events
Sunday, November 9
Dr Wayne Baker presents “United America.” Birmingham Community House, 380 South Bates, Birmingham, 7:00 PM. See Flyer Below!
Sunday, November 16
Interfaith Leadership Council presents “Marriage and Divorce Across the Faith Traditions.” See Flyer Below!
Sunday, March 8th
“Empowering Women” a WISDOM and National Council of Jewish Women joint program – Details forthcoming
“Marriage and Divorce
Across the Faith Traditions”
A panel discussion sharing and comparing
Religious Rituals and Practices
Our interfaith panel will include:
Jewish: Rabbi Jennifer Kaluzny, Temple Israel
Muslim: Gigi Salka, Muslim Unity Center
The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints: Polly Mallory
Roman Catholic: Rev. Kurt Godfryd, Archdiocese of Detroit
Sunday, November 16th, 3:30 PM – 6:00 PM
St. John’s Episcopal Church
26998 Woodward Avenue, Royal Oak, MI 48067
(corner of Woodward & 11 Mile Road)
Cost $10 per person. Light refreshments available.
To register, please visit the IFLC website www.detroitinterfaithcouncil.com
And click on the EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS tab on the top of the homepage.
Questions? Contact the Rev. Bob Hart at 248-703-0389. You can also pay at the door!! This discussion is the third part of a series about life cycle events across faith traditions.
WISDOM Presented Five Women Five Journeys at
Bethel United Church of Christ in Waterford.
From Left to Right are:
Diane Coin, Anjali Vale, Parwin Anwar, Peggy Dahlberg, Padma Kuppa, and Sheri Schiff
For booking Five Women Five Journey at your house of worship or organization, go to www.interfaithwisdom.org and click on 5 Wpmen 5 Journeys at the top of the webpage.
SPREITZER CONTINUES TO WALK THE TALK OF INCLUSION
Detroit Free Press
Growing up in Livonia in the 1960s, Steve Spreitzer remembers his dad making racist remarks about African Americans, yelling at the TV whenever he saw boxer Muhammad Ali. But in elementary school, Spreitzer was taught by African-American nuns and a teacher who was Jewish, exposing him to a world beyond the prejudices of his home. Those experiences helped shape Spreitzer, now 58, to become one of metro Detroit’s leading diversity and interfaith leaders. “If you don’t have a meaningful encounter with the other – racially, religiously – your life will be much more difficult,” Spreitzer said. Spreitzer of Plymouth was named this month as the new CEO and president of the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, a group founded in 1941 that’s one of the oldest continuously-run organizations promoting racial and interfaith harmony in metro Detroit. Spreitzer has worked with a wide range of religious leaders and diverse communities in his decades, first with the Catholic Church and later with the Michigan Roundtable, where he has worked 17 years. Spreitzer’s appointment comes at a time of renewed interest in the issue of diversity in suburban police departments across the U.S. in the wake of unrest in Ferguson, Mo., following the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old African-American man by a white police officer. The population of Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, is 67% African American but only 6% of its police officers are African American, 3 out of 53 total. It’s an issue that Spreitzer has dealt with at the Michigan Roundtable for years. As program director, he helped create a discussion several years ago about the lack of diversity in suburban police departments, such as Canton. Like other suburbs in metro Detroit, Canton has a growing nonwhite population, but “most suburban police forces are either all or overwhelmingly majority white,” Spreitzer said. “Ferguson should be a wake-up call to suburban communities around Michigan to really take a hard look at how they recruit, how they hire, how they retain, how they treat a diverse police force,” he said. “It set off a national debate about the diversity of suburban police departments and treating people fairly.” On Friday, the Roundtable will help host a discussion at the Charles Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit titled “Race and Policing: 1967 Detroit to 2014 Ferguson: Illuminating Our Past to Understand Our Present.” It will include ALPACT (Advocates and Leaders for Police and Community Trust), a group of law enforcement and community leaders that meets monthly and is currently cochaired by Spreitzer. Spreitzer also worked on helping promote diversity in the Plymouth-Canton school district, helping get 25 minority educators hired after meetings with school officials and community leaders.
When he was younger, Spreitzer thought about becoming a priest, but later got a master’s in social work, and then worked for Catholic dioceses in Lansing and Detroit on the issue of criminal justice. Working with prison chaplains, he engaged with Muslim and Jewish leaders, the start of his interfaith work.
Over the past decade, he has helped support Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, and other groups when they face discrimination. On Monday, he stood with Muslims on the steps of Dearborn City Hall in a rally against ISIS, saying that Islam “is a religion of peace.” In 2005, Spreitzer came out in support of non-Christians who initially weren’t allowed to participate in the National Day of Prayerevent at Troy City Hall.
“Steve was the voice at the other end of the line when I reached out for help a decade ago because of being excluded from a potentially Christian-only, city-sponsored prayer event in Troy,” said Padma Kuppa, an interfaith activist in Troy, with the Hindu American Foundation. “He continues to walk the talk of inclusion … trying to help people understand that diversity of perspectives is what will allow us to build equity.” Last month, the foundation awarded him the Mahatma Gandhi Award for the Advancement of Religious Pluralism.
Tom Costello, the past CEO and president of the Michigan Roundtable, said of Spreitzer: “He’s honest and earnest. He has a great passion for his work. The stakeholders in the community … respect him.”
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Barbara McQuade said that “Steve has a quiet dignity that is powerful. Because of the respect Steve commands, he can facilitate a discussion involving very strong and different opinions where everyone’s voice is heard in a meaningful way.”
Spreitzer says his goal is to continue the Michigan Roundtable’s tradition of inclusion, to create “places where all people are welcome and treated fairly.”
Reema Abbasi and a glimpse of Pakistan’s Hindu past
Historic Temples in Pakistan: A Call to Conscience” is a book-length attempt to record in pictures the history of an Islamic country’s Hindu past, especially as extremist activity mounts against Pakistan’s religious and ethnic minorities, including Ahmadis, Christians, Sikhs and Shia Muslims.
Reema Abbasi, the book’s author, travelled the country to write this narrative of about 40 old religious sites, including Hindu temples in the jagged terrain of the western state of Balochistan. She also visited the Thar desert and the Indus River valley in the state of Sindh, as well as Karachi, Lahore, Punjab and dangerous stretches of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, along the border with Afghanistan.
Born a Pakistani in the Netherlands, she went to school in England, college in Karachi, and then worked as a journalist. A self-described “spiritual Muslim,” she has aspects of most religions in her home, such as an idol of Sai Baba, the cross and quranic verses.
“In the last 10 years, I have been focusing on socio-political [reporting] and then the whole hardliner issues here, and sectarianism. Not in the cities, but in upper north where there are pockets of extremists and terrorists. Given that climate, the kind of issues that were arising at the time and what I was writing about – I think that was the part towards this [book].
“[The shrines] were spellbinding. For me some of the structures were imbued with so much energy. … These places continue to bring so much together and serve multiple functions in their own capacity – their shelters, their inscriptions, their half-way houses for travelers, they provide relief to homeless. So in their very being they are doing so much. I think that’s the beauty of all ancient faith. Mosques do that, churches do that. That’s where all ancient faiths merge. It is very important to celebrate that kind of unity in diversity, rather than deny it,” Abbasi told India Insight in a telephone interview from Karachi.
“This book concentrates on Pakistan’s fraying social order and the sad prospect of it bringing about its own destruction by documenting Hindu places of worship, major festivals, prominent orders of priesthood…,” she writes in the book’s introduction, which is dotted with Urdu poetry on faith and identity.
Pakistan’s Hindus, Christians, Ahmadis and Shi’ite Muslims make up about less than 5 percent of the nation’s 180 million people. In a recent report, the U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom said the government failed to adequately protect minorities.
Parts of the book mirror this anxiety, like a visit to the Balmiki Temple located in a nondescript street in Lahore, the capital of Punjab.
Hindus, Christians and Sikhs congregate at the shrine of Balmiki, deity of the untouchable caste. The devotees come together in the belief that renders their respective religions “irrelevant to humanity”. Muslims also join them on important festivals. A cross is also seen inside the temple.
The utopia turns out to be a facade when Abbasi writes that the Hindu residents are expected to adopt Muslim names or Christianity to “avoid upheaval”. Followers of Balmiki, the author adds, consume chicken and fish to avoid being “conspicuous”.
In her travels, Abbasi stopped at shrines that faced backlash from Muslims because of the destruction of the Babri Masjid in India by a Hindu group.
She contrasts stories of desecration of temples, whether due to a backlash or land disputes or commercial gain, with visits to shrines that represent a fusion of faiths, untouched by social disturbances.
One of the reasons why minorities are worried is because of Pakistani blasphemy laws. The Ahmadis, for example, are not recognized as Muslims in Pakistan. The Supreme Court has ordered the government to look after the minorities, and its human rights panel says conditions are worsening.
In far-flung Balochistan rests an idol that is revered by Hindus and Muslims. Umerkot, the birthplace of Emperor Akbar, becomes the symbol of a “confluence” of Hindu god Shiva and an important part of Mughal history. In the central chamber of a colourful temple is pictured a stone shivling, believed to be present during a visit by Humayun, father of Akbar. The shrine attracts many Muslims for “curative purposes or to ask for a child”. And close to Umerkot is the only Ram temple in Pakistan, situated in a Hindu-majority town. In a Sunni Muslim town, more than 200 km from Karachi, Dalit Hindus and Muslims worship a Hindu saint who embraced Islam to embody Hindu-Muslim brotherhood. Such instances of the fluidity and opaqueness of faith abound in this book. Particularly striking is the image of Muslim men in skull caps worshipping Kali inside the Kalka cave in Sindh, which attracts Hindus, Muslims and Christians from all over the subcontinent.
As Iraqi Christians in U.S. Watch ISIS Advance,
They See ‘Slow-Motion Genocide’
By Samuel G. Freedman
Bishop Francis Kalabat of Mother of God Chaldean Catholic Church in Southfield, Mich., wants help for Chaldeans in Iraq, whose churches have been destroyed and monasteries attacked.
SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – Early on Wednesday morning, the sonorous sound of Aramaic rose from the pews of Mother of God Chaldean Catholic Church here. More than a hundred worshipers had gathered well before the 10 a.m. Mass, and they were already chanting morning prayers in the language of their Lord.
Above the altar and crucifix, light flooded through a stained-glass window that depicted Mary and the baby Jesus standing on fertile fields threaded by two rivers. As everyone present surely knew, these were the Tigris and Euphrates in Iraq, the nation from which these Chaldean Catholics had begun coming to Detroit more than a century ago.
As it happened, one day earlier, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria had released a video of the beheading of Steven Sotloff, an American journalist. Two weeks earlier, the Islamist militants of ISIS had reported a similar murder of another American reporter, James Foley.
So when Bishop Francis Y. Kalabat walked quietly from a side door into Mother of God’s sanctuary, it was with a grim sense that maybe now, finally, he and his flock would no longer be howling into the abyss. As he had written last month in an open letter that was posted in the church’s lobby, “We wish to scream, but there are no ears that wish to hear.”
For the last decade, in fact, the Chaldean Catholics of Iraq – members of an Eastern Rite church that is affiliated with Roman Catholicism while retaining its own customs and rites – have been suffering at the hands of the same kind of terrorists who killed Mr. Sotloff and Mr. Foley. During that period, the total Christian population of Iraq, the largest share of which is composed of Chaldean Catholics, has dropped to about 400,000 while as many as a million, by some estimates, have fled.
Churches have been destroyed, monasteries attacked, entire cities purged. Congregations have been bombed during worship. The bishop of Mosul, Paulos Faraj Rahho, was abducted and executed by Al Qaeda in Iraq six years ago. So the recent atrocities visited upon Iraqi Christians by ISIS are nothing remotely new. All that is new is an awareness of them outside the Chaldean-American enclaves of San Diego and metropolitan Detroit.
“It’s almost like waking up to a burning house,” said Bishop Kalabat, 44. “The first thing I think about is, ‘How do I get my family out?’ You don’t have time to say, ‘I’ve been working on this house for 30 years, this is the house I was going to retire to.’ You have some neighbors taking out a hose to help. But we need the Fire Department.”
Putting it another way, Bishop Kalabat turned from metaphor to recent history. “The bad things we look back at now – the Iran-Iraq War, the first Gulf War, the embargo, even six months ago,” he said. “We’d take all of that over today.”
His intensity is not merely the product of Chaldean self-interest, of special pleading. Paul Marshall, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, has been tracking the persecution of Iraq’s religious minorities, who include members of Syriac and Armenian Catholic and Orthodox denominations, as well as such non-Christian groups as Yazidis and Mandaeans.
Thus, though Mr. Marshall’s résumé would not state it quite this way, he is an expert in comparative calamity. And in his well-informed view, there is a very real possibility that, except for the relative refuge of Iraqi Kurdistan, Christianity may essentially cease to exist in a country to which the apostles brought the Gospel in the first century. Of the present situation, he wrote in an email, “It is the worst in modern history, and probably in history period.”
The vast tragedy of Chaldean Catholics in Iraq today stands in painful contrast to the success story of their coreligionists in the United States. First drawn by assembly-line jobs in Henry Ford’s auto factories, and after World War II compelled to leave Iraq by a succession of coups, Chaldean immigrants scaled the educational and occupational ladders into the upper middle class. By now, many of the Detroit area’s approximately 175,000 Chaldeans live in the prosperous Oakland County suburbs.
Since the recent round of persecution began in 2004, and especially after this year’s lightning advance of ISIS fighters across the Nineveh Plain, the Chaldeans here have sought to leverage their material comfort and political savvy on behalf of their endangered brethren.
Both clergy and lay leaders have met with officials in the White House, Congress and the United Nations. Congregants have donated several hundred thousand dollars for humanitarian aid. There have been prayer vigils, rallies, the announcement of scholarship funds and an “Adopt a Refugee” program.
The Chaldeans here have been pushing for practical, realistic forms of American involvement: creation of a protected zone and safe-passage corridors for Christians still in Iraq; an increased number of refugee visas and streamlined approval by State Department and Homeland Security screeners for Christians trying to reach America. Yet it seems to have taken the videos of two journalists being decapitated for much of the nation to finally heed the warning cries from places like the Mother of God Church.
“We call this a slow-motion genocide,” said Auday P. Arabo, the lay spokesman for the St. Thomas Chaldean Catholic Diocese. “It’s unfortunate people don’t feel it until it hits home. But I guess it’s human nature that you only see what’s happening in the mirror.”
Bishop Kalabat was appointed by Pope Francis to his position – making him one of two Chaldean Catholic bishops for the United States – in early May. Soon after, he traveled to Iraq to meet with Christian refugees in the Kurdish town of Ankawa. More than 10,000 of them, soon to exceed 40,000, had taken shelter in schools and churches.
“What’s happening to us?” Bishop Kalabat said he recalls being asked. “Where’s our government? Where’s the U.S.? Where’s the world? Where’s the church? Where’s God?”
As he recounted those questions in his office the other day, Bishop Kalabat reached into his shirt pocket and extracted a crucifix.
“We are called the Church of Martyrs,” he said. “That’s our pain and our saving grace. Our faith isn’t a theory. It’s not a set of teachings. It’s a person and we’re called to be like him. When I look at this evil, I want to be Rambo. But that won’t do any good. We carry the cross for a reason.”
THE 2015 PARLIAMENT WILL BE IN
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH IN OCTOBER 2015
Salt Lake City, USA – Sept 9, 2014 – The Parliament of the World’s Religions announced today that it will bring the world’s largest and most historic interfaith gathering to Salt Lake City in October 2015, marking its return to the United States for the first time in 22 years.
What: 10,000 attendees from 80 countries and 50 religious and spiritual traditions
When: October 15 – 19, 2015.
Where: Salt Palace Convention Center, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
“The Parliament is the largest summit of interfaith activists around the globe which provides listening, learning and sharing opportunities,” says Imam Malik Mujahid, Chair of the Parliament Board of Trustees.
AJC event celebrates ties with Hindus
Jewish-Indian artist Siona Benjamin
addresses the AJC and Hindu-Jewish Coalition event,
which focused on the friendship
between the two faith communities.
Friendship between Jews and Hindus was the theme of a celebration of Indian-Jewish artist Siona Benjamin, held Aug. 26 at the Princeton home of Judith Brodsky and Michael Curtis. The event – which included a film screening, Indian delicacies, and displays of Benjamin’s paintings and shawls – was organized by the American Jewish Committee Central NJ region and the Hindu-Jewish Coalition. Launched in December 2013, the coalition’s goal is “building bridges between the two communities, working together on areas of common interest, and helping each other with areas of individual interest,” said AJC Central NJ president Michael Feldstein. Coalition cofounder Marc Citron of Princeton, an attorney, through contact with his many Hindu clients, had come to realize how much the two communities had in common. “What I’ve discovered are the similarities rather than the differences – education, family, loyalty, and an immigrant root here in the United States,” he told NJJN. Of the approximately 80 people present Aug. 26, about a dozen were members of the Hindu community. Benjamin, a member of India’s Bene Israel Jewish community, grew up in in Bombay (now known as Mumbai), where her mother ran an English-language school and her father owned a shipping company. Benjamin attended a Catholic middle school and a Zoroastrian high school, schools that offered the best English education available. She studied at an art school in Bombay, and later earned two master of fine arts degrees in the United States. She has lived for years in Montclair.
The evening featured a screening of a rough-cut version of the documentary Blue Like Me, which tells the story of Benjamin and the Bene Israel community she grew up in. In the film she speaks of how her work blurs the boundaries between different religions. The film came about almost serendipitously, Benjamin told the audience. Filmmaker Hal Rifken had come to interview her for a film about ethnic artists, but decided to put that film on the back burner and make a film concentrating on her. “It is not just about my work,” she explained. “It is a bigger picture about what Michael [Feldstein] said before – about bridging cultures and using art and my art as a vehicle to talk about these bridges.” Some of the footage from the film came from Benjamin’s Fulbright project. Following the terrorist attack in 2008 on the Chabad House and the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai, Benjamin applied for a Fulbright scholarship to photograph her community in India. “I am being asked repeatedly – ‘Are there real Jews in India?’ – and I thought I would be able to address this through this project,” she said. Today only about 4,000 Indian Jews remain of a community that was once 30,000 strong. She estimated that 60,000-70,000 Indian Jews live in Israel; some left because of economic reasons, while others were responding to the call of Zionism. An only child, Benjamin recalled how sad she was when her cousins and playmates left for Israel. Her parents, however, were comfortable economically and did not emigrate. “They didn’t want to go to Israel and start from scratch,” she said.
Muslims and Christians in America
often have the same goals
By Jonathan Owens
Noon prayer service at the American Muslim Center
on Thursday, June 26, 2014. / Jessica J. Trevino/Detroit Free Press
Every year, as the anniversary of Sept. 11 rolls around, I notice an uptick in Islamophobic rhetoric in my community and in the media. Too often, we hear from those who believe the only way that we will ever stop militant extremists who identify with Islam is by annihilating the religion itself. Islamophobia is bigoted and alienates the very people who are our strongest allies in our work to stop religiously motivated hatred and violence – the American Muslim community. My own stereotypes about the Muslim community were tested over Labor Day weekend, when I joined with fellow rabbinical and seminary students for interfaith dialogue at the 51st annual Islamic Society of North America Convention in Detroit. The Muslim Americans were mostly discussing issues that we talk about in our churches and synods and dioceses – a simple change in some of the proper nouns, and there were times I almost thought I was sitting in a Christian conference discussing the issues of the day. I met American Muslims, some born here and others immigrants, who love this country. They came here to seek freedom of religion, to raise their families in peace, to find economic opportunity. I heard conversations about all of our religions working together to maintain our religious identities in an increasingly secular nation. Sessions focused on helping kids get the best education possible, and worrying over young people not coming to the mosques (sound familiar?). I met many American Muslims who are working to find nonviolent solutions for peace worldwide. I saw them take a stand on important issues and listened to them participate in our political process. There are differences between Muslims and Christians in America, theologically and culturally, but what I found is that we often have the same goals. Those who perpetuate Islamophobia don’t want us to see any of this; they want us to believe that the Muslim community is violent and irreconcilably different from the Christian community. They would use the memory of the tragedy of 9/11 to reignite our anger and our fear. But the American Muslims I met have the desire and a unique voice for speaking out against the political misuse of Islam by violent extremists. As global citizens, we should encourage that voice and empower it, working together with all of our neighbors for the good of our world.
There is no better way to honor the sacrifice of those who lost their lives on 9/11.
Jonathan Owens is a master’s of divinity student at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids.
The following is from an article by the Baha’i News Service.
It is against this backdrop of blind religious prejudice fueled by the ecclesiastical leaders that Ayatollah Tehrani became the first cleric of his rank in post-revolutionary Iran to highlight a central Baha’i belief drawn from the most sacred text of the Faith and the right of the community to practice its religion in the country of its origin. The months that have followed have revealed how his gesture has resonated with a deep-seated yearning in people of goodwill everywhere, including leaders from a wide range of religions and denominations, as well as academics, journalists, and human rights advocates both in Iran and around the world. A month after the calligraphic work was gifted, a number of prominent human rights leaders in Iran – for the first time collectively – voiced their public support for the Baha’is and their seven imprisoned former leaders, on the sixth anniversary of their incarceration. Ayatollah Tehrani was present at that meeting, where he stated, “Perspectives have to change… and I think now is an opportune moment for this.” Beyond the boundaries of Iran, Ayatollah Tehrani’s initiative has also inspired positive reactions by certain high-ranking officials in the Muslim world, giving further impetus to the conversation regarding religious coexistence taking shape in their countries. These outcomes have touched the Baha’i community not because of any particular changes for their circumstances within Iran, as recent reports indicate that persecution of the Baha’i community has actually intensified in recent months, but rather because they relate to one of the most cherished aspirations of the Baha’is from the earliest days of the existence of their religion. Over 100 years ago, as ‘Abdu’l-Baha, son of Baha’u’llah and head of the Baha’i Faith after His passing, stopped for one year in Egypt prior to His historic journey to the West, the theme of religious unity featured often in his interactions with prominent individuals and the media. As His journey continued in Europe and the North America, He reiterated in many public addresses that, just as mankind is one, religions are likewise one, and that while in outward form religions are many, their reality is one, just as the “days are many, but the sun is one”. More recently, in its letter to the world’s religious leaders in 2002, the Universal House of Justice identified religious prejudice as an increasingly dangerous force in the world. “With every day that passes, danger grows that the rising fires of religious prejudice will ignite a worldwide conflagration the consequences of which are unthinkable,” It wrote. “The crisis calls on religious leadership for a break with the past as decisive as those that opened the way for society to address equally corrosive prejudices of race, gender and nation.”