Muslim-Hosted Forum Addresses Terrorism, Sharia
Muslims in Southwest Orlando met on Friday evening, December 4, at the Muslim Academy of Greater Orlando to engage with the larger community in discussion of mutual concerns and to clarify misunderstandings about a number of issues. Speakers included Muslims, law-enforcement officers, legislators and faith-community representatives. The event was organized by Dr. Mohammad Akhtar, president of the Muslim Council of America, and moderated by James Coffin, executive director of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida. Two of the topics addressed by Muslim speakers were the teachings of Islam about violence (especially terrorism) and the role of Sharia. Presenters also noted that Muslims aren’t alone in their having to face marginalization. It has happened at other times in American history to other groups—Catholics and Jews being prime examples. With the forum coming only two days after the San Bernardino terrorist killings, media covered the event well. Some of the reports can be viewed/read here, here, here and here.
MCCJ Decries Recent Rhetoric Re Muslims
The Miami Coalition of Christians and Jews (MCCJ) released a statement on December 8 decrying the anti-Muslim rhetoric that vilifies Muslims and suggests that they should be banned from entry into the United States. The statement reads: “A founding principle of the United States of America is freedom of religion. Participants in the mission of MCCJ to foster mutual understanding represent the diversity of many faith traditions and countries of origin typical of our nation. Thus, we vigorously oppose both any kind of religious litmus test for persons wishing to enter this country and the blanket condemnation of adherents of a particular religion. The recent public vilification of Muslims by political candidates is unacceptable and wrong. The perceived threats from any refugees and immigrants can be addressed by our nation’s current laws and policies applied judiciously and equitably. We call upon all people to stand together in rejecting language and proposals, as well as actions, that fuel division and hatred within our communities.” (The MCCJ is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization, and neither endorses nor opposes candidates for political office.)
Christian College Professor’s Employment Uncertain
Wheaton College political science professor Larycia Hawkinsunleashed a firestorm when she posted a picture of herself on Facebook (December 10) wearing a hijab to show solidarity with America’s Muslims—who have increasingly become recipients of threats, intimidation and violence following the ISIS-inspired massacre in San Bernardino, California, on December 2. But the hijab isn’t what got this tenured professor suspended: It was her accompanying comment that Christians and Muslims “worship the same God.” The college administration sees it otherwise and views her having made such a statement to be out of line for a Wheaton College professor. An array of onlookers disagree—both from a theological and a procedural perspective. Although all faculty at Wheaton College must sign a comprehensive Statement of Faith and a Community Covenant, the identity of Islam’s deity isn’t discussed in those documents. So why, many argue, should a teacher be censured or terminated for making such a statement? Read the perspective of one alumnus here. Wheaton College is a private American four-year Evangelical Protestant Christian liberal-arts college in Wheaton, Illinois, near Chicago. The college was founded by abolitionists in 1860.
Muslims Raise $100,000 for San Bernardino Victims
According to a December 8 media release from the Council on American-Islamic Relations Florida: “In the wake of the tragedy in San Bernardino, American Muslims have come together to give back in an inspiring way. Housed on the crowdsourcing platform LaunchGood, Muslim individuals raised over $100,000 in only five days for families of the 14 dead and 21 wounded San Bernardino victims. Muslims United for San Bernardino set an initial goal of raising $50,000 to assist with the immediate needs of the victims’ families. It reached its initial goal within 48 hours and has since been funded by over 800 individual donors. . . . The fundraising campaign is similar to a July 2015 crowdsourced campaign, in which Muslims raised over $100,000 to help rebuild black churches in the South following the shooting of nine people at a church in Charleston and a spate of arsons.”
Muslims Host Meeting to ‘Bridge the Gap’
Seeking to advance constructive dialogue regarding issues of common interest and concern related to the continued challenge of terrorism and hate, the American Muslim Leadership Council, on December 16, hosted a meeting in Kissimmee of leaders from 17 Islamic centers in Central Florida, representatives of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida, the president of the Greater Orlando Board of Rabbis, a county commissioner and officials from an array of law-enforcement agencies representing city, county, state and federal agencies. The meeting, titled Bridge the Gap, was closed to the media to ensure candor in the comments. However, participants addressed the media at the conclusion of the gathering. Some of the media reports of the event can be accessed here, here, here and here.
Attack on Sikh Motivated by Bigotry, Ignorance or Both
A 68-year-old Sikh wearing a turban was attacked before dawn on Saturday morning, December 26, in Fresno, California, while he was waiting for a ride to work. According to police, two white males in their 20s approached in their vehicle and began cursing the man, Amrik Singh Bal. Bal tried to cross the street to get away, but the men backed their vehicle into him, then got out and attacked him, breaking his collar bone and badly bruising his face and upper body. During the assault, the police said, one of the suspects yelled: “Why are you here?” Since the assailants haven’t been apprehended, it’s hard to know their motives. In several similar cases, the attackers assumed the victim was Muslim. However, as one Sikh leader in California appropriately noted, portraying hate crimes against U.S. Sikhs as mere cases of mistaken identity is problematic. Not only is an attacker’s motivation often hard to discern, but such categorizations have a way of legitimizing the perceived original intent and diminishing the brutality of the crime. Hateful behavior is hateful behavior, no matter who the intended recipient is.
Friends Talking Faith with The Three Wise Guys
Hear the varied perspectives of the Rev. Bryan Fulwider, Rabbi Steve Engel and Imam Muhammad Musri as each week they discuss how faith impacts both the simple and the complicated aspects of life. Friends Talking Faith with The Three Wise Guys airs on Tuesdays at 6:30 pm on 90.7 WMFE FM in Orlando. Tune in on your radio or listen online. You can also listen to any show already aired. The Friends Talking Faith schedule for January features the following:
- January 5: Faith and Politics: Muslims in America
- January 12: Faith and Religion: The Devil and Evil in Faith Traditions
- January 19: Faith and Religion: Authority in Religious Traditions
- January 26: Faith and Religion: Religious Questions from Children
Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
Mark Elliott, executive director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, reports that Florida Governor Rick Scott has already broken the record for the most executions by a Florida governor and has planned the nation’s first execution of 2016 for Oscar Bolin, Jr., on January 7. Scott has also ordered Michael Lambrix to be executed on Thursday, February 11, at 6:00 pm. Lambrix claims to have acted in self-defense. Of the two key witnesses against him, one has now recanted and the other gave inconsistent statements to police. Click here to read Amnesty International’s “Urgent Action” request seeking clemency for Lambrix—which has since been denied. Since executions resumed in the 1970s, Florida has executed 91 people. During that same period, 26 people have been exonerated and released from Death Row. That’s a mistake rate of more than one exoneration for every four executions. FADP urges all Floridians to contact Governor Scott to ask him to suspend all executions—phone: 850-488-7146; and/or email: Rick.email@example.com. FADP is a coalition of organizations and individuals united to abolish the death penalty in Florida. FADP works to build a strong, diverse statewide grassroots movement, which: opposes executions, supports reforms aimed at reducing the application of the death penalty until it is abolished, protects the humanity of all persons impacted by the death penalty, educates Floridians about the death penalty, provides concrete action steps for individuals and groups. Direct questions to Mark Elliott.
MLK Interfaith and Multicultural Service on January 10
On Sunday evening, January 10, the public is invited to join an array of religious and civic leaders at the Orlando City Hall (400 South Orange Avenue, Orlando, FL 32801), where everyone will receive a commemorative T-shirt and glow stick. A “candlelight” vigil and march will leave City Hall at 6:00 pm (so arrive earlier), and proceed to Shiloh Baptist Church (604 West Jackson Street, Orlando, FL 32805). There the city’s annual MLK Interfaith and Multicultural Service will be conducted, featuring the Rev. Bryan Fulwider as keynote speaker. Rev. Fulwider is one of the Three Wise Guys on the radio program Friends Talking Faith (Tuesdays at 6:30 pm on WMFE 90.7 FM) and chair of the executive committee of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida. The theme for the 2016 event is “Creative Maladjustment and Divine Discontent,” based on creative phraseology used by Dr. King in some of his presentations. Sponsored by the Interfaith Council of Central Florida and the City of Orlando Mayor’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission, the event provides a natural catalyst for dialogue with children and youth about the history of the Civil Rights Movement, the contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the advances made and the challenges that still remain. Spread the word concerning this truly special celebration and learning opportunity. For a photo collage of the event in 2015, go to the website of the Mayor’s MLK Commission.
United Way Seeking Volunteers at 2-1-1 Center
Heart of Florida United Way is recruiting groups or individuals from organizations—including faith-based organizations—to adopt a day of the week from January 11 to April 8 to assist as Tax Scheduling Volunteers in the United Way’s 2-1-1 Center. Shifts will be from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm, and from 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm, Monday to Friday. Brief training will be provided, and no former experience is required. For more information about the program and how it helps the community, or to register as a volunteer or group of volunteers, contact Ashley Pruitt by email or phone (407-849-2372) no later than January 11.
What Do Others Most Misunderstand About Your Faith?
“What do others most misunderstand about your faith tradition/worldview? Why the misunderstanding? How can adherents set the record straight?” Come prepared to discuss these questions on Wednesday, January 13, at the monthly Interfaith Discussion sponsored by the Interfaith Council of Central Florida. The Interfaith Discussion is held from 7:00 to 8:30 pm on the second Wednesday of each month at Adventist University of Health Sciences (671 Winyah Drive, Orlando, FL 32803) on Florida Hospital’s main campus. The discussions are respectful, open and candid, and the participants represent a variety of faith traditions as well as those who question the validity of faith altogether. For directions to the meeting place, click here. Admission is free. Everyone is invited.
Atlantic Institute to Host ‘Jesus in Islam’ Lecture
The Atlantic Institute is hosting a presentation on Friday, January 15, by Zeki Saritoprak, PhD, about Jesus in the Qur’an and Hadiths. Dr. Saritoprak is Professor and the Bediüzzaman Nursi Chair in Islamic Studies at John Carroll University. He holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Theology from the University of Marmara in Turkey. Professor Saritoprak is the author of Islam’s Jesus (University Press of Florida, 2014) and more than thirty academic articles and encyclopedia entries on topics in Islam. He is currently preparing a book on Islamic spirituality, tentatively titled: Islamic Spirituality: Theology and Practice for the Modern World. The January 15 event (which will be held at 940 South Winter Park Drive, Casselberry, FL 32707) is free, but registration is required. A light dinner will be served, sponsored by the Istanbul Cultural Center Cooking Class. Free Parking is available. The events starts at 6:00 pm with dinner, and will end at 8:00 pm. Please direct questions to the Atlantic Institute.
Memorial Service for Buddhist Monk Dr. Michael Moriarity
A memorial service will be held for Dr. Michael Moriarty—a retired university professor, Buddhist monk and long-time Buddhist member of the Executive Committee and Advisory Board of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida—on Wednesday, January 20, at 7:00 pm at First Unitarian Church of Orlando (1901 East Robinson Street., Orlando, FL, 32803). All who knew Michael are invited to join in this time of reflection and reminiscence.
Video Lecture, Interfaith Discussion January 24
Congregation Beth Am in Longwood is inviting Christians, Jews, those of any other faith and those no faith—and it makes no difference whether they’re clergy or a layperson—to view and discuss the video of a presentation by Dr. Amy-Jill Levine, titled: The Jewish Jesus in Text and Context. Dr. Levine is a professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School and is also an affiliated professor at the Centre for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations, Cambridge, England. The program, to be held at Congregation Beth Am (3899 Sand Lake Road, Longwood, FL 32779) on Sunday, January 24, at 2:00 pm, will include opportunity for clergy response to Dr. Levine’s presentation and for questions from the audience, moderated by Rabbi Rick Sherwin, the rabbi at Beth Am. There’s no charge. “All we ask is that you and those you bring with you come with an open mind, a depth of heart and a sense of humor,” says Rabbi Rick. Direct inquiries to 407-862-3505.
Volunteers 50+ Needed for ‘CATCH Healthy Habits’
Do you like working with children? Like working on a team? Then join CATCH Healthy Habits
, a program in which adults age 50+ and children in grades K-5 learn together the benefits of healthy eating and exercise. Volunteers work in teams of six to eight with children in school settings and other youth organizations. The VOICE program at the Rollins Center for Lifelong Learning
is the local sponsor of this activity for children. All training and class materials are provided free of charge. VOICE is funded through a grant from the Winter Park Health Foundation
to Rollins College. The next free training session will be held at Rollins College on January 27 and 28 from 1:00 to 5:00 pm. Contact Holly Tanyhill by phone (407-646-2459
) or email
for more information and to RSVP. (An RSVP is required.)
GladdeningLight’s 2016 Symposium to Start Jan 29
Theme for the 2016 GladdeningLight Symposium is “The Art of Asking the Beautiful Question.” David Whyte—a man who “enjoys a worldwide following in three normally mutually exclusive areas: the literate world of readings that most poets inhabit, the psychological and philosophical worlds of theological inquiry, and the world of vocation, work and leadership”—will be the featured presenter at GladdeningLight’s 2016 symposium, to be held January 29 to 31 in Winter Park. Returning this year are performance artists Owen and Moley Ó Súilleabháin, brothers from Western Ireland who harmonize a cappella ancient canticles and Gaelic sean nos traditional folk hymns. The brothers will sing and play throughout the weekend. Click here for symposium schedule, cost and how to register. “GladdeningLight is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit spiritual initiative whose mission is to explore transcendent elements of art through hosted conferences, exhibits and public performance, cloistered retreat, and pilgrimage. GladdeningLight is open to all and representative of thoughtful spiritual seekers both inside and outside traditional religious practice.”
Atlantic Institute to Offer a Taste of ‘Noah’s Pudding’
The Atlantic Institute is inviting the public to enjoy a taste of “Noah’s Pudding,” which is part of Islam’s celebration of two stories that are shared by Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In keeping with the Muslim tradition of celebrating the landing of Noah’s ark as the waters of the flood were drying up, every year volunteers from the Atlantic Institute prepare a dessert that’s made from various grains, nuts, and fruits, and lightheartedly called “Noah’s Pudding” (aka Asure). In the Muslim prophetic tradition, the day Moses and his community were saved from the Pharaoh’s army, and the day Noah’s ark was saved from the flood, is celebrated with fasting—and in modern times with the sharing of Noah’s Pudding. The story of Noah’s Pudding and the customs around how it’s prepared and shared with neighbors and friends are a tradition and not a religious practice. However, it is a pleasant custom that brings people together around a commonly known story. In this context, personnel from the Atlantic Institute will be sharing Noah’s Pudding with members and visitors at St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church (1600 South Orlando Avenue, Winter Park, FL 32789) on Sunday, January 31, at 10:00 am. All who are interested in learning more about the tradition and trying a serving of Noah’s Pudding are invited. Please RSVP if planning to attend.
Interfaith Music-and-Prayers-for-Peace Service
The Interfaith Council of Central Florida is inviting those of all faiths to an interfaith music-and-prayers-for-peace service that will include readings from the scriptures or other writings of Central Florida’s various faith traditions, as well as music and prayers common to those faiths. This one-hour service will be on Sunday, February 7, 4:00 to 5:00 pm, Room 8-111 (ABCD), West Campus, Valencia College (1800 South Kirkman Road, Orlando, FL 32811). The organizers of the event would welcome your emails with program suggestions and the names of possible participants. Mark your calendars and watch for more detail in next month’s newsletter.
First Baptist Church Orlando to Host ‘Better Man’ Event
Men may want to mark their calendars now for a major Christian event—called “Better Man”— to be held at First Baptist Church of Orlando on Saturday, March 12. Inspirational speakers will include baseball-great-turned-Christian-minister Darryl Strawberry, Christian comedian Brad Stine and Christian speaker-writer-broadcaster Dennis Rainey. Click here to view a promotional video and get details on how to buy tickets.
Interfaith Power and Light to Sponsor Action Week
No longer is Interfaith Power and Light merely sponsoring an annual Preach-In to encourage earth stewardship, it’s now encouraging an entire week of activity—during Earth Week, April 15 to 24. So start planning now. Houses of worship may wish to employ celebrations, sermons, service projects, events, nature walks and more throughout the week, focusing on ways we can green our facilities and homes, take action locally, and advocate nationally for positive steps towards a sustainable, 100-percent-renewable energy future. Sign up to receive information and activity ideas around this exciting and potential-laden week. For questions or more information, please contact Kari Kiser.
Local Catholic Organizing 30th-Anniversary Assisi Tour
First, the background: “Pope John Paul II organized the first World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi, Italy, on October 27, 1986. In all there were 160 religious leaders spending the day together with fasting and praying to their God or Gods. They represented 32 Christian religious organizations and 11 other non-Christian world religions.” That’s how Wikipedia describes it. Now jump forward to 2016. To celebrate the 30th anniversary of this spiritually historic event, Louis Canter, music minister at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Kissimmee, is organizing a “Spirit of Assisi” overseas tour that will include the celebrations going on in Assisi to commemorate what happened there in 1986. After January 4, details of the itinerary will be available here.
In 2016, Why Not Make Regular Contributions a Habit?
If you appreciate what’s being achieved by the Interfaith Council of Central Florida and Friends Talking Faith With the Three Wise Guys radio program, why not start 2016 by resolving to contribute on a regular basis to these community-based, community-benefitting activities. It may be every month, once a quarter or annually. And it may be a large contribution or small. But whatever it is, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you played a part in helping to make our community more harmonious and peaceful. All contributions are tax-deductible and may be sent to: PO Box 3310, Winter Park, FL 32790-3310. Or you can click here to contribute online. Thank you for your help.
“Consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship.”—Bahá’u’lláh