Moving to the World Council of Churches in Geneva
Yes, it is now official. In less than a month, I will move to Geneva, Switzerland and begin work as the Director of Inter-religious Dialogue and Cooperation.
Reflections on current and critical issues by a Christian engaging in interfaith relations
Here is the NCC press release and pictures from the religious leaders' press conference held on Wednesday, September 26th in Washington DC to call for an interfaith fast to call for an end to the war in Iraq. On October 8th in local communities around our nation people will fast during the day and come together in interfaith gatherings in the evening to break the fast. Please go to http://www.interfaithfast.org/ for details, to post information on a local event and to search for events in your area. On that page you will also find an organizing tool kit that includes bulletin inserts on fasting and organizing interfaith events. Please click the mail icon at the bottom of this post to email this post to a friend: http://www.interfaithfast.org/
The September 2007 issue of the NCC Interfaith Newsletter is now available. It features informatin on:
1. The Interfaith Fast on October 8th. See www.interfaithfast.org
2. Information about the Interfaith Relations Commission's initiatives:
a. Missiology of Jamestown Consultation
b. Restarting the Jewish Christian Dialogue Table
c. Planning for a Muslim Christian Dialogue Table
3. Article on Why IRD spent millions on mailing Epharaim Karsh's Islamic Imperialism to churches.
4. Two book reviews: Eboo Patel's Acts of Faith and Madeline Albright's Mighty and the Almighty
Read or download the newsletter here: http://www.ncccusa.org/pdfs/IFRsep07newsletter.pdf
The 44th Annual Convocation of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) meeting at Chicago over the Labor Day weekend, honored me with the Interfaith Unity Award at the Interfaith Unity reception on Sunday, September 2. As she presented the award, Dr. Ingrid Mattson, president of ISNA spoke of NCC's commitment to stand in partnership and solidarity with the Muslim community through some of the most difficult times of discrimination and prejudice they've faced, particularly since 9/11. Click here for the NCC press release
Dr. Ingrid Mattson, President of ISNA presenting the Interfaith Unity AwardThe citation on the glass plaque reads:
The other strain of radicalism in the Middle East is Shia extremism, supported and embodied by the regime that sits in Tehran. Iran has long been a source of trouble in the region. It is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism….We will do well to remember the rhetoric that came out of this White House prior to the attack on Iraq. Remember Colin Powell’s weapon’s laboratories in semi-trailor trucks, and Condaleeza Rice’s smoking gun “mushroom cloud!” And the president says, again, “We will confront this danger before it is too late.” These are fighting words, folks. Does anyone believe that Bush will leave office without a confrontation with Iran? It is time for people of faith to stand up together.
And Iran’s active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust. Iran’s actions threaten the security of nations everywhere. And that is why the United States is rallying friends and allies around the world to isolate the regime, to impose economic sanctions. We will confront this danger before it is too late.
Do you remember February 15, 2003? It was a month before the war in Iraq began and people across the world came together in local communities for candlelight vigils for peace. Although, it didn’t stop us from going to war, it was one of the most poignant demonstrations of people power that I had seen in a long time. Many other such community events have taken place both centrally in Washington DC and in local communities. Recently, Christian Peace Witness (a coalition organized by Rick Ufford-Chase) brought together over 3000 people to Washington DC, on the fourth anniversary of the war in March.
On October 8th, we have the opportunity continue this tradition, but do it together with religious communities other than our own. We are calling local communities to come together and participate in an “Interfaith fast,” calling us from “conquest to community; from violence to reverence.” We seek to join with the Muslim community who would already be fasting on the "Night of Power" the holiest day of Ramadan. I am attaching our framing document for your review.
We are working on two ways of expanding this focus:
1. As we fast from food, we will call on all armed forces and militias to “fast” from killing at least for one day, reminding them that Ramadan calls for a fast from violence as well. We are currently seeking the support of international religious leaders to give this call more traction.
2. Considering Oct. 8th a beginning, we will seek to educate people in our religious communities about electing a president and representatives who are committed to ending this war and to peaceful means of resolving conflicts.
Our next steps are the following:
1. Set up a website that has capacity to receive listings of events from local communities and announce them
2. Prepare and publish material that teaches people about the spiritual discipline of fasting and
provides strategies for getting together with people in other religious communities.
3. Hold a press conference with top religious leaders towards the end of August in Capitol Hill and concurrently run ads in New York Times and other newspapers.
4. Organize local religious communities.
You are our key contact in the local religious communities. Without your support and engagement this event will fall flat. Therefore I want to ask two things from you at this time.
1. Sign the attached document, both on your own behalf and for your organization (If necessary do it first on your behalf and organization later.) Reply to this email with your endorsement and we will include you in the list of signers. (The first page of a growing list of signers is included in the document.)
2. Agree to help organize religious communities in your network for Oct 8th.
I want to convene a conference call on Wednesday, August 8th at 2:00 p.m. (Eastern) of those who agree to organize local communities to both work together and check in with our progress. Please let me know if you would agree to participate. We will also do so in the first weeks of September and October.
Please write or call me if you have questions. My contact information is below.
Thank you for your participation in this important work. Please write me if you have questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Framing Document and a partial (and growing list) of signers is below.
FROM CONQUEST TO COMMUNITY, FROM VIOLENCE TO REVERENCE,
AN INTERFAITH FAST TO END THE WAR IN IRAQ
Just as Isaiah called the People Israel to hear the Yom Kippur fast as God's call to feed the hungry, just as Jesus fasted in the wilderness, just as Christians through Lenten fasting and Muslims through Ramadan fasting have focused on spiritual transformation, just as Mohandas Gandhi, Cesar Chavez and others drew on fasting to change the course of history, so we call on all our communities of faith to draw now on fasting as a path toward inner spiritual transformation and outward social transformation.
American culture, society, and policy are addicted to violence at home and overseas. In our time, the hope of a decent future is endangered by an unnecessary, morally abhorrent, and disastrous war. Ending this war can become the first step toward a policy that embodies a deeper, broader sense of generosity and community at home and in the world.
Millions of faithful Americans in local communities across the nation who believe in changing the course of our nation’s priorities from conquest to community and from violence to reverence.
This fall, in an unusual convergence, many of our faith traditions share a season of sacred self-assessment and self-transformation. This holy season includes the month of Ramadan and the Night of Power (Islam); the High Holy Days and Sukkot (Judaism); the Feast Day of Francis of Assisi and Worldwide Communion Sunday (Christianity) and Pavarana / Sangha Day (Buddhism).
Since each of our traditions recognizes the power of fasting as a spiritual discipline, we call on all people of faith to join in a fast from dawn to dusk on Monday, October 8.
During the months of August and September, we will prepare and publicize educational material that religious leaders can use to prepare their congregations to
1. appropriately relate with religious communities other than their own, and
2. learn the spiritual discipline of fasting as a transformational exercise, making clear the distinction between transformational fasting and the abusive use of fasting for the sake of a false sense of beauty and body-image
We invite individuals or small groups to begin the discipline by fasting one day a week, in the months prior to October 8.
Sundown, Sunday, October 7: Gather in intentionally interfaith events across the United States to pray and to break bread together.
On Monday, October 8th
Have a simple meal before dawn, committing to fast throughout the day as a sign of your commitment to move our core values from conquest to community and from violence to reverence.
While fasting, many of us in cities as New York, Chicago, San Francisco and in local communities across the United States will take part in public vigils, inviting community leaders and elected officials and candidates for the presidency to join us as we commit to take immediate action to end the war. In Washington DC, religious leaders will gather to fast together and engage in a public action to draw attention to the nation-wide events that will take place that day.
At sunset: We will eat together once again to break bread in public places as a sign of our commitment to work together for peace and an end to violence. This shared meal will be a sign of our covenant with one another – as individuals and as communities - to stand against the war in Iraq, and to work with one another to stand against violence in our communities and around the world. (Communities should be aware that for Muslims, later in the evening there will be large-scale gatherings for the Night of Power, commemorating the first revelation of the Quran. Shared break-fast meals should be scheduled so as to take account of these gatherings.)
Post Events -- A Season of Commitment:
As a practice of our covenant, we encourage local communities to continue in regular fasting, praying and holding vigils for peace and to take specific actions through the election cycle to stand together against the war in Iraq and against all of the ways in which violence is destroying our communities.
We encourage participants to continue to reach out to elected officials and candidates for congress and the presidency, inviting them to fast with us, break bread with us, pray with us, vigil with us, and publicly express their commitment to end this war.
We encourage those who live in states in which primary elections are held to use that opportunity to engage with the presidential candidates in their public appearances about their commitment to end the war
We, religious leaders from several traditions, invite you to join with millions of other Americans by organizing joint interfaith events in your local community on October 7 and 8th, for the breaking of bread, fasting, and breaking our fast together as we covenant together to live out the deepest calling in each of our traditions – the desire for justice and for peace for all people. We offer these suggestions to communities that desire to deepen their witness:
Following the gathering on Oct 7th evening, plan events such as Teach-Ins that may extend to all night events to pray, study nonviolence in our different faith traditions, study sacred texts together, and witness to our opposition to war and violence.
Extend the fast to twenty-four hours – beginning with our interfaith meal together on Sunday evening, or for Christians, beginning on Sunday morning with the celebration of World Communion.
Gather on Monday morning, October 8th, for an inspirational public event that will both highlight the issues and provide motivation as we begin the fast.
Broaden our witness to insist that we stand against all use of torture, as well as to highlight our grave concerns about the growing violence on the streets of our cities and in mass shootings across the country, and about the way in which the media’s obsession with grotesque acts of violence undercuts the most fundamental values of our faith.
Partial List of Signatories
Rev. Robert Edgar General Secretary, National Council of Churches USA
Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, National Director, Islamic Society of North America
Rev. Michael E. Livingston, President, National Council of Churches USA
Executive Director, International Council of Community Churches
Rev. Dr. Stan Hastey, Minister for Ecumenical Relations and Mission Partnerships, Alliance of Baptists
Nihad Awad, Executive Director, Council on American Islamic Relations
Council on American Islamic Relations
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, the Shalom Center
The Shalom Center
Mark C. Johnson, Ph.D., Executive Director, The Fellowship of Reconciliation
The Fellowship of Reconciliation
Kathy Partridge, Executive Director, Interfaith Funders
Pax Christi USA: National Catholic Peace Movement
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Medical Mission Sisters' Alliance for Justice
Herman Harmelink III, Ecumenical Officer, International Council of Community Churches
Elder Rick Ufford-Chase, Executive Director, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship Presbyterian Peace Fellowship
Rev. Jim Winkler, General Secretary, General Board of Church & Society, United Methodist Church
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas
Rabbi Ted Falcon, Ph.D., Bet Alef Meditative Synagogue, Seattle, WA
Fr John Oliver, Cape Town Interfaith Initiative (CTII)
Roberta Wall, Ordained member of the Buddhist Order of Interbeing, Ordained by Thich Nhat hanh
Rev. Dr. Robert L. Brashear, Pastor, West-Park Presbyterian Church, New York City
Virginia Gray Henry, Director, Fons Vitae Publishing and DistributionRabbi Levi Meier, PhD
David L. Hoffman, Coordinator, Humanity Check interfaith peace and reconciliation projectEcumenical Peace Institute/Clergy and Laity Concerned
Parvez Ahmed, Council on American Islamic Relations
The Reverend Dwala J. Ferrell, Executive Director, Petersburg Urban Ministries, United Methodist Church
Jim Rice, Editor, Sojourners magazine
Duane Shank, Senior Policy Advisor, Sojourners/Call to Renewal
Rabbi Gerry Serotta, Chair, Rabbis for Human Rights/ North America
Rabbi Shirley Idelson, Hebrew Union College
Rev Dr Joan Brown Campbell, Chautauqua Institution
Rabbi Phyllis Berman,
Terence Cozad Taylor, Interfaith Paths to Peace
Rev. Jamie Hamilton, Exeter Academy
Rabbi Howard A. Cohen, American Hebrew Academy
Ahmed Bedier, Executive Director, CAIR Tampa
Rev. Sharon Watkins, President and General Minister, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
WHEREAS, Jesus declared peacemakers "blessed" (Matthew 5:9) and scripture reminds us that Jesus lived nonviolently even while suffering, leaving us an example that we should follow in his steps (1 Peter 2: 20-23) and, further, that scripture calls us to "live peaceably with all" (Romans 12:18); and
WHEREAS, many of the earliest and most influential leaders of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) taught war to be utterly at odds with Christian practice, among them Alexander Campbell, who taught, "War is not now, nor was it ever, a process of justice," and Barton Stone, who declared, "Nothing appears so repugnant to the kingdom of heaven as war;" and
WHEREAS, the war in Iraq is not only contrary to the views of Christian pacifism but also is at odds with the traditional standards of just war at several points:
(1) A preventative war is not a just cause, regardless of whether there were weapons of mass destruction in the arsenal of pre-war Iraq. (2) The war was not a last resort. Since the war was not a defensive war calling for immediate violent response, nonviolent efforts of resolution were still possible, and
WHEREAS, on the advice of the President of the United States of America, Congress authorized an attack on Iraq if certain conditions were not met, when the rightful authority charged to examine the veracity of accumulation of weapons of mass destruction is the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a body of the United Nations, and WHEREAS, leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Churches, the Episcopal Church, and mainline Protestant churches in the United States have expressed opposition to the Iraq War and our global church and ecumenical partners have issued statements on the war declaring it to be immoral and contrary to the principles of "Just War;" and
WHEREAS, leaders of the church - for example, Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams - have expressed regret for not doing more to oppose the war in Iraq; and
WHEREAS, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) witnesses to our inclusiveness by encouraging the lively and meaningful discussion of this, and all divisive issues, at every level of our denomination through honest dialogue in which a respect for the faithful viewpoints of others is expected as a matter of both conviction and conscience;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) gathered in Ft. Worth, Texas on July 21 – 25, 2007, after due reflection and a respectful discussion, go on record as conscientiously opposing the war in Iraq as an action inconsistent with the teachings and example of Jesus Christ, and a violation of the traditional standards of just war, and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this General Assembly reaffirm the following statement (included in the letter of February 18, 2006, from the U.S. Conference of the World Council of Churches addressed to the delegates at the WCC Assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil) that "we lament with special anguish the war in Iraq, launched in deception and violating global norms of justice and human rights" ; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that although the General Assembly disagrees with the war in Iraq, we lift up the men and women of the armed forces who are stationed there for their courage and sacrifice and hold them and their families in our prayers; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the General Minister and President inform Disciple chaplains within the armed services about the action taken by this General Assembly regarding the war so that they may prepare to provide this information to service members who seek to know the position of their church; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) affirms the God-given right of conscience and offers moral support to men and women who volunteered for military service but who, on the grounds of Christian conviction, refuse deployment to Iraq, realizing that this action may subject them to military discipline; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the General Minister and President be encouraged to write a pastoral letter to all congregations acknowledging the deep pain this war has caused our country and our church and promoting the ongoing discussion of this war from a theological viewpoint; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that regions of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) be encouraged to institute for ministers with standing and students seeking ordination, education and training in the Christian tradition of "Just War" standards and pacifist perspectives; and
FINALLY, BE IT RESOLVED that the General Minister and President make the President and the Congress of the United States and the Prime Minister and Parliament of Canada aware of these actions to be taken by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), regardless of the decisions the US government chooses to make in relation to the war in Iraq.
1. The jus ad bellum, criteria for entering into to warfare are:
-- There must be a just cause for entering into warfare. Essentially just cause is limited to self-defense or putting a stop to egregious and ongoing injustice.
-- The actions must be guided by right intentions. Right intention pertains to the reestablishment of peace and order, and not to intentions which lead to brutality, vengeance and humiliation for the enemy.
-- A war can be justifiable only when declared by a competent and recognized authority.
-- War can be engaged in only as a last resort. All other possible means of resolving the conflict must be exhausted before war can be considered justifiable.
-- There must be a high probability of success as far as can be determined. "Heroic" lost causes, however just, are not justifiable.
-- The reasonably anticipated good to be achieved by engaging in warfare must be proportionally greater than the destruction to persons, property and culture which will likely result as a consequence of war.
Just War Theory developed by Aristotle, Cicero and Augustine has beencodified in the United Nations Charter, the Hague and the Geneva Conventions.
As Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the Christian Zionist lobby headed by John Hagee ended their convention in Washington DC this week, both mainline Christian and Jewish communities seemed to distance themselves from it.
Dr. Asma Mobin-Uddin, pediatrician, Children's author from Columbus, Ohio and the board chairwoman for the Ohio chapter of the Council for American Islamic Relations wrote a column today in the New York Post on the news for sense of shock and disbelief that persons arrested on charges of terrorism in Australia are not only Muslims but also doctors.
Click to view video of Dr. Mobin-Uddin interviewed on July 5th on
BETRAYAL OF OUR FAITH & PROFESSION
July 4, 2007 -- AS THE investigation of the terror plots in London and Glasgow unfolds, I am experiencing the emotions I often do in hearing that people associated with my faith are involved - incredulity, anger, and outrage that once again, these heinous acts are associated with people professing to be Muslims.
But this time, my sense of disbelief and betrayal reaches a new level as I learn that many of those accused share not only my faith but also my profession.
The thought of physicians treating patients while secretly plotting to kill innocent people sickens and angers me on a new level.
Read the entire article here
Read also the
STATEMENT FROM THE ASSOCIATION OF MUSLIM HEALTH PROFESSIONALS (AMHP) REGARDING RECENT EVENTS UNFOLDING IN THE UNITED KINGDOM
It is with a heavy heart that we read about the affair in the United Kingdom. As we consider these events, we hope to remind ourselves and our peers in the health and the Muslim communities of several things:
We have faith in the British system of justice and hope and expect that all suspects will have a fair trial, without prejudice. These acts in the UK, if found to be truly done by health professionals, are inconsistent with all we believe in as Americans, as Health Professionals, and as Muslims. We call on all people of conscience, whether they be health professionals, Muslims, Americans, or British to consider seriously the damage their actions might cause to innocent people, the societies who would suffer from their actions, and the peoples and groups whom they will be labeled to represent when caught and identified.
If found to be guilty, these men will not be the first doctors to plan or perform heinous acts. If British justice system finds them guilty of these crimes, we put them in a pantheon of heinous physicians performing acts that go against the grain of all we believe in as Muslim Health Professionals. Josef Mengele, Mike Swango, Harold Shipman, and in the UK, John B Adams are small list of psychopaths with medical degrees who have harmed countless numbers of people in defiance of their professional oaths. We make no difference between health professionals who use their skills contrary to the human rights of any individual. Whether it is serial murder or genocide, medical torture for the military, or unethical research for profit, these people are not from us and we are not from them.
We especially call on all health professionals, from all ethnic and minority communities, to look for signs of social isolation within their community, and to openly discuss the issues of terrorism, vigilantism, and violence that have become a cancer in our midst.
Indeed, we remind all health practitioners of their obligations under the Geneva Convention, which ask that we state that "[I, the medical practitioner] will maintain the utmost respect for human life from its beginning even under threat and I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity.”
The Association for Muslim Health Professionals, founded in 2004, seeks to become a leader in improving public health, through methods inspired by Islamic Tradition.
Contact: Janice French, Association of Muslim Health Professionals, (240) 271-7692
Congratulations to Jennifer Butler and our friends at Faith in Public Life for what appears to be a fascinating and comprehensive database of progressive religious leaders and organizations across the US.
"Mapping Faith: The Strength, Diversity and Growth of Faith Groups Seeking Justice and the Common Good" enables activists and reporters to search for progressive faith leaders by issue and by state.
Click here to download the complete report.
The map lauched yesterday is reportedly creating a buzz in the media and blog world and is likely to draw more attention to progressive faith activism.
For more information including a link to the press conference of the launch click here
Dr. Vinoth Ramachandra, a Sri Lankan Evangelical scholar and theologian published a must read article in the "The Nation" newspaper of June 8, 2007. It provides a sharp analysis that is important for all of us concerned with peace in Sri Lanka to consider.
For the second time Islamic Society of North America has invited the Christian ecumenical community to conduct a study seminar at the ISNA convention this labor day weekend August 31 - September 3 in Chicago. 35 - 40,000 Muslims are expected to attend this massive convention.