Seeking Dialogue, Cooperation
A lot of the publicity religion has received lately has been negative. The media spotlight has focused on religion as a source of conflict, sparking tensions between religions. Various opponents of religion emphasize the relationship between religion and violence as a reason for humanity to evolve away from antiquated superstitions and toward rational, scientific worldviews. Certainly and sadly, such tribalism and violence are tragic realities of the human condition that permeate religion as much as other realms of human existence.
Against this backdrop, it is worth bringing awareness to current trends among religions toward increasing cooperation and dialogue with each other. Considering the long histories of many of the world’s religions, interreligious dialogue is a relatively new phenomenon, only gaining real momentum in the last 100 years. While there have been exceptions throughout history, previous interactions between religions tended toward condemnation of other religions, declarations of the absolute truths of one’s own religions, missionary efforts to gain converts, and precursors of the religious violence we see today. But, a variety of circumstances and events occurred over the course of the 20th century to bring religions to see commonalities with each other in the increasingly secularized world and their need to participate in the work of global conflict resolution
This friendlier mood among religions is found today at both the local level, in organizations such as Interfaith Works in Olympia, and at the global level. One project happening now is an initiative among religious organizations to designate 2011-2020 as an official United Nations Decade of Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace. One aspect of this vision is to coordinate the efforts of religious communities with those of the UN in their many shared goals of human development, education, eradication of poverty, environmental sustainability, and promoting a culture of peace.
Whether this initiative is successful in attaining its goal or not (there has not yet been an official news announcement that the decade has been designated as such), the process itself has been successful in drawing a number of religious organizations together including the Council for the Parliament of World’s Religions, United Religions Initiative, Interfaith International, Temple of Understanding, and representatives from Baha’i, Buddhism, Christianity (including the World Council of Churches), Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism. -source.
Christians in the USA are in for a rude awakening. While American Christians are busy naming and claiming all of God’s blessings to enrich their own lives, Christians across the globe are being persecuted, imprisoned, separated from their families, tortured and killed for their faith. Do you honestly think the Church in America is exempt from these things? If so, you have fallen asleep and desperately need to be awakened! It is time to put down selfish desires and pick up our crosses.
Yes, and ALL who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
–2 Timothy 3:12
Church of England Moves to Approve Gay Bishops, Conservatives Protest
The Church of England has decided to drop its ban on gay clergy in civil partnerships seeking to become bishops, as long as they make a promise to remain celibate. Conservative Anglicans, however, insist celibacy would be difficult to enforce, noting that the decision undermines church doctrine on marriage.
"The House has confirmed that clergy in civil partnerships, and living in accordance with the teaching of the Church on human sexuality, can be considered as candidates for the episcopate. There had been a moratorium on such candidates for the past year and a half while the working party completed its task," the Right Rev. Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, said in a statement on Jan. 4 on behalf of the House of Bishops of the Church of England.
The Rev. James added that the House has deemed it would be "unjust" to exclude from consideration for the episcopate anyone who lives their lives in full accordance with the Church's teachings on sexual ethics and personal discipline.
"All candidates for the episcopate undergo a searching examination of personal and family circumstances, given the level of public scrutiny associated with being a bishop in the Church of England. But these, along with the candidate's suitability for any particular role for which he is being considered, are for those responsible for the selection process to consider in each case," the Bishop of Norwich affirmed.
Conservative evangelical Anglicans, however, have said that they will seek to overturn this decision in the Church's ruling general synod, BBC News shared. -Source
Pope: Bartholomew I, Hope to Unite Eastern Churches and Rome
(ANSAmed) - ANKARA, MARCH 25 - The Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I who attended last week the mass inaugurating the pontificate of Pope Francis, believes the reunification of the Orthodox and Rome Churches 1,000 years after the Great Schism of 1054 is possible, the Turkish press reports.
Speaking at a meeting at the university of Kadir Has in Istanbul, Hurriyet reports, Bartholomew I said he believed 'there is a possibility for the next generations to see the churches of the East and West reunited'. 'This will probably not happen during my life', he added. Bartholomew I, 73, has been since 1991 the spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox church, and last week became the first patriarch of Constantinople to be present at the inauguration of a new pontificate since 1054. Speaking about the new pontiff, Hurriyet reported Bartholomew I as saying that he 'seems very different' from his predecessors and that he 'has the ability' to reform the Vatican. Source
Nigeria Kills 13 Boko Haram Militants as Massacre of Christians Continues
The Nigerian armed forces have fought back against the Islamic militant group Boko Haram, killing 13 suspected combatants in an attack on their stronghold in the town of Maiduguri on Tuesday.
The news was confirmed by the Joint Task Force Operation Restore Order, who said that they lost one soldier in the gunfight, CNN reported. Military spokesman Sagir Musa said that that Boko Haram have been carrying out "incessant callous, brutal, barbaric and impious killings," and Human Rights Watch estimate that the Islamic group, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege," have killed more than 2,800 people in the last several years, including at least 34 since Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, raids on two separate churches resulted in the deaths of 12 worshippers, including a pastor. Another 15 Christians were massacred six days later on Sunday at another church in Northern Nigeria. -Source
Scientology Alien Space Cathedral Built in New Mexico Desert
These giant symbols etched into the desert are a welcoming message to aliens from Tom Cruise's deeply secretive church of Scientology.
The religion, which believes a sinister extraterrestrial being called Xenu brought billions of people to earth in spaceships similar to DC8 airliners, operates a giant underground base hidden deep within the New Mexico desert.
BBC reporter John Sweeney, who famously clashed with Scientologists during a Panorama report in 2007, travelled to the site dubbed Scientology's 'alien space cathedral', to research a new book.
Hidden some 30 miles from the nearest town, the base is reportedly home to a huge underground bunker, built in the 1980's and strong enough to withstand a nuclear holocaust. Deep inside its vaults sealed within titanium caskets, are the original texts of founder L Ron Hubbard on gold discs - the religion's most sacred scriptures. -Source
Attack on Church in Libya Kills Two Egyptian Citizens
Unknown attackers threw a grenade at a Coptic Orthodox Church in Dafniya a town near Misrata Libya. The attack killed two Egyptian citizens and two others were wounded. The other two who were wounded are said to be in stable condition according to Pope Timothy Beshara of the Libyan Orthodox Church. The Pope said that the Church's service center was completely demolished.
Libyan politicians and also security officials expressed outrage at the attack. They vowed to increase security at Egyptian churches in Libya. LANA, the official Libyan news agency, said that the blast took place Saturday. The LANA release said: "Unknown assailants targeted a church building in the town of Dafniya, in Misrata (province), causing the death of two Egyptian citizens and wounding two others.The explosion happened after the mass ended and people were on their way out."
An Egyptian diplomat in Tripoli confirmed that the church of Mar Girgis (St. George) had been attacked on Saturday but that the Egyptian embassy was informed only the next day. He claimed still not to have exact information about what happened but that the blast was in an annex of the church. Vice-chair of the Misrata council said that an investigation was under way. He said: "Explosives experts will determine what happened in the next few hours or days..The reasons are unknown... if it was intentional the number of casualties would have been higher." This is a rather astonishing statement that suggests the explosion was an accident before any investigation is even carried out! -Source
Hindus Laud Austria for Hosting Interfaith Forum
Hindus have welcomed mainly Roman Catholic Austria for hosting two-day high-profile Global Forum in Vienna, bringing together experts from world-over to have intercultural and interreligious dialogue.
“It is a step in the right direction for Austria”, distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed stated in Nevada (USA) today.
Titled "Responsible Leadership in Diversity and Dialogue", this “5th Global Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations (UNAOC)” is being held on February 27-28. It will reportedly revolve around the issues of religious freedom, religious pluralism, interaction among religious groups, media pluralism, migration, integration, etc.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, stressed that despite our seriously different traditions, we should learn to live together in mutual trust and peace. Dialogue would bring us mutual enrichment and help us overcome prejudices passed on to us by previous generations. -Source