April 2020

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NEWSLETTER  –  APRIL 2020

Islamic Network Promoting Solidarity with Asian AmericansAsians
Islamic Networks Group – ING is hosting a two-part Facebook Live webinar series on how to show solidarity with our Asian American neighbors, in partnership with Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA). Part 1: The Asian American Community is Hurting: How You Can Take Action. Wednesday, April 8, 2:00 to 3:00 pm PT. Part 2: History of Discrimination Against Asian Americans: What We Need to Do About It Now. Wednesday, April 15, 6:00 to 7:00  pm PT. Click here to learn more.

Interfaith Discussion to Be Held on Zoom on April 8
On Wednesday, April 8, the monthly Interfaith Discussion sponsored by the Interfaith Council of Central Florida will be held from 7:00 to 8:30 pm on Zoom. The topic is “Disasters and Plagues, Both Ancient and Modern: How Does Your Faith Tradition View Them?” Were/are such things sent by God as punishment or warning? If yes, are all such events God-ordained? If only some are divinely orchestrated and the others are just natural phenomena, how can we tell which category any given event belongs in? And if they’re sent by God, how do believers in a merciful, compassionate and loving God harmonize such pain, death and destruction with an all-powerful, all-loving Divine Being? Those are just a few directions the discussion may go. To join the discussion, click https://zoom.us/j/426996325. Or dial +1 646 558 8656 and enter ID 426 996 325#. The monthly 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. Everyone is invited to attend via Zoom. For more information, phone 321-228-4599.

LDS Church Asks All Faiths to Join in Day of Prayer/Fasting
MormonThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is extending an invitation to those of all faiths to unite in a Worldwide Day of Fasting and Prayer, Friday, April 10, to seek divine blessing so the current coronavirus pandemic will be controlled, health restored, caregivers protected, the economy strengthened and life normalized. Fasting, a voluntary abstinence from food, is an ancient religious practice used to develop spiritual strength and to be a sign of devotion.

HUA to Host Webinar about Yoga/Contemplative Dialogue
Question: Will we return to our “old selves” and our “‘familiar normal” after the coronavirus pandemic? Or will we transform ourselves in fundamental ways that we don’t yet know? Hindu University of America will host a free online webinar on Saturday, April 11, at 10:30 am, which will introduce students to a “Healing Sangha,” which is designed to enable them to come together in a contemplative space, where they learn to listen to themselves and each other in a new and self-reflective way. If you’re interested in participating in this free webinar, please contact Hindu University by email or by phone at 407-275-0013.

Op-Ed Says House-of-Worship Carve-Out Bad for Religion
In an op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel on April 6 (online April 5), James Coffin, Executive Director of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida argues that the carve-out for houses of worship in Governor Rick DeSantis’s stay-at-home order does not remove what would otherwise be an infringement on religious freedom. Rather, it actually does injury to religion as a whole because it damages religion’s public image. Read the article here or here. Also writing in the Sentinel, columnist Scott Maxwell argues something similar, under the title “Shut down the churches? The good and godly ones shut down themselves.” Read Maxwell’s article here.

GPFF Making Films Available at Website for Screening
swamp 2The coronavirus has changed what a lot of organizations have been doing to benefit the public. Fortunately, many of those organizations have found creative ways to continue making their contribution, though it has to be done in a different manner. One organization that has adjusted its mechanism while still continuing to pursue its mission is the Global Peace Film Festival. Instead of screening selected films at local venues between its annual festivals, GPFF has worked with other film-connected entities to make screenings available right from the GPFF website. Currently two documentaries are there for the public’s free viewing: The Committee and Don’t Drain the SwampThe Committee is a documentary about the little-known Florida Legislative Investigative Committee of the State Legislature from 1956-1965. Florida Senator Charley Johns chaired the committee, which sought to root out communist and homosexual teachers and students from state universities. It was successful in either firing or expelling more than 200 suspected gay and lesbian citizens. Don’t Drain the Swamp, directed by Vicki Nantz, was screened at the 2017 Global Peace Film Festival. The swamp is one of the most valuable ecosystems on earth and is vital to the health of the planet. So why would anyone—even metaphorically—want to “drain the swamp?” Click here to watch either of both films. And mark the 2020 dates for the GPFF on your calendar right now: September 28 to October 4.

Religious Freedom Commission to Host Facebook Live Event
Mark your calendars: On Wednesday, April 22, from 5:00 to 6:00 pm, the Central Florida Commission on Religious Freedom will host a Facebook Live virtual event titled “Religious Freedom and Ethical Behavior in a Time of Pandemic.” The event, a moderated panel discussion, will feature three speakers representing not only different professions but also different faith traditions. Panelists will address such questions as: What are the challenges of religious observance in a time of isolation? Where should the balance fall between religious rights and social responsibility during a time of pandemic? What role should faith play in creating the moral policies that may determine who gets access to limited medical resources? How can we help prevent moral injury to healthcare professionals who may have to make on-the-spot decisions about who receives life-saving resources and who doesn’t? What relevant lessons can we learn from previous crises such as Ebola in Africa and the 1918 Influenza Pandemic? Can government keep church and state separate and still assist houses of worship along with businesses and non-profit organizations through financial stimulus and other means? More information will be posted on Facebook and elsewhere as details are finalized. Please check these sources so you’ll know have all the necessary detail.

Better Man Event Postponed, But Inspiration Continuesbetter man
The annual Better Man Event, a major Christian outreach to men, has had to be postponed until November 7, 2020, because of the coronavirus. But that doesn’t mean the organizers of BME are sitting back and doing nothing. Where there’s a will there’s a way. Necessity is the mother of invention. So, in the interim, BME has come up with Better Man Moments, in which local Christian leaders are recording brief inspirational messages that can be accessed online. The trademark high-profile, high-energy speakers and musicians are still on tap: They just won’t be here until November 7. Go to the Better Man Event website to buy your ticket and to discover what’s available now as well as what will be available in November.

Articles from Japanese Writer Highlight Buddhism, Shintoism
Dallen Nakamura, founder of the online publication TheTrueJapan.com, recently sent the Interfaith Council of Central Florida a link to an article he’d written on Buddhism that he felt might be of interest to us. Nakamura, who was born in Hawaii, moved to Japan many years ago and “completely fell in love with the culture, the people and the food.” So he started writing about such topics—“creating articles to provide people with useful information in a fun and easy-to-read way.” Of course, Japan is more than just culture, people and food, so his interests range to a wide variety of additional topics as well, including religious practices. Nakamura described last month’s article—titled “Buddhism: A Look Into the Beliefs, Practices & History”— as “thoroughly researched” and “filled with detailed information, images and videos to make the concepts easy to understand for readers.” Check it out. But that was last month. This month we’re privileged to highlight Nakamura’s equally comprehensive and elucidating article on Shintoism. Click here to read and see pictures about Shintoism, a religion that many North Americans know little about.

American Sikhs Host Virtual Vigil, Show Solidarity/Support
On March 30, representatives of several faith traditions—after having logged onto Zoom from wherever they were in the United States, Canada or Afghanistan—participated in a virtual vigil to honor the 25 Sikhs massacred in their gurdwara (temple) by an ISIS gunman in Kabul, Afghanistan, on March 25. The goal of the vigil, in addition to honoring the dead, was also to show solidarity with and support for the persecuted Sikhs, Hindus and other religious minorities still residing in Afghanistan, and to raise awareness of what needs to be done to reduce such bigotry, animosity and violence wherever it exists. The event was organized and moderated by Harbir Kaur Bhatia, daughter of Jasbir and Gunwant Singh Bhatia, who live in Central Florida and who have been active in interfaith engagement for many years. Jasbir Bhatia, the longest-serving member on the Executive Committee of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida, invited James Coffin, the Interfaith Council’s Executive Director, to speak briefly for the virtual vigil. The vigil, which lasted more than an hour and a half, may be viewed both on Facebook and Youtube.

April Is Fifth Anniversary of Papal Encyclical Laudato Si
Again this year we reprint the “Prayer for Our Earth” from Pope Francis. The poem, a part of the Pope’s encyclical Laudato Si, is a reflection “on our relationship with our Mother Earth and all our fellow members of the Earth community.” The prayer is as follows: “All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe / and in the smallest of your creatures. / You embrace with your tenderness all that exists. / Pour out upon us the power of your love, / that we may protect life and beauty. / Fill us with peace, that we may live / as brothers and sisters, harming no one. / O God of the poor, / help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, / so precious in your eyes. / Bring healing to our lives, / that we may protect the world and not prey on it, / that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction. / Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain / at the expense of the poor and the earth. / Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, / to be filled with awe and contemplation, / to recognize that we are profoundly united / with every creature / as we journey towards your infinite light. / We thank you for being with us each day. / Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle / for justice, love and peace.” Laudato Si Week will be celebrated this year the week of April 16-24. Click here to learn about more ways you can become involved in responding to “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”

Orlando Stoics Holding Online Discussions Twice Each WeekMarcus Aurelius
In a world of instant gratification and endless distraction, Stoicism seeks to focus the mind and calm the body. During the month of April, the Orlando Stoics will have an online discussion every Monday and Friday night. Each meeting addresses a different topic, book or video. Click here to learn more about the topics discussed by reading about the group’s upcoming and past events. Stoicism is a secular, non-religious philosophy dating back millennia.
Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (illustration) was a Stoic. Stoics of Orlando is more than four years old and has 900+ members. Signing up is free, as are all meetings.

Emerson and Thoreau Discussion Group ‘Meeting’ Monthly
On the first Thursday of each month an Emerson and Thoreau group discusses the books and essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Both men were American Transcendentalists in the 1800s, and their ideas related to individualism, self-reliance and nonconformity in society. They also influenced the Unitarian movement. Learn more or sign up for free by clicking here.

Interfaith Council Asking for Your Help with Funding
If you appreciate what’s being achieved by the Interfaith Council of Central Florida, we would welcome your support. Please send your tax-deductible contribution to: Interfaith Council of Central Florida, PO Box 3310, Winter Park, FL 32790-3310. Thank you for your help.

Poetic Reflections on the Coronavirus Pandemic

In a time of distance
The unexpected always happens in the way
The unexpected has always occurred:
While we are doing something else,
While we are thinking of altogether
Different things – matters that events
Then show to be every bit as unimportant
As our human concerns so often are;
And then, with the unexpected upon us,
We look at one another with a sort of surprise;
How could things possibly turn out this way
When we are so competent, so pleased
With the elaborate systems we’ve created –
Networks and satellites, intelligent machines,
Pills for every eventuality – except this one?
And so we turn again to face one another
And discover those things
We had almost forgotten,
But that, mercifully, are still there:
Love and friendship, not just for those
To whom we are closest, but also for those
Whom we do not know and of whom
Perhaps we have in the past been frightened;
The words brother and sister, powerful still,
Are brought out, dusted down,
Found to be still capable of expressing
What we feel for others, that precise concern;
Joined together in adversity
We discover things we had put aside:
Old board games with obscure rules,
Books we had been meaning to read,
Letters we had intended to write,
Things we had thought we might say
But for which we never found the time;
And from these discoveries of self, of time,
There comes a new realization
That we have been in too much of hurry,
That we have misused our fragile world,
That we have forgotten the claims of others
Who have been left behind;
We find that out in our seclusion,
In our silence; we commit ourselves afresh,
We look for a few bars of song
That we used to sing together,
A long time ago; we give what we can,
We wait, knowing that when this is over
A lot of us – not all perhaps – but most,
Will be slightly different people,
And our world, though diminished,
Will be much bigger, its beauty revealed afresh.
—Alexander McCall Smith

History Will Remember When the World Stopped
History will remember when the world stopped
And the flights stayed on the ground
And the cars parked in the street
And the trains didn’t run
History will remember when the schools closed
And the children stayed indoors
And the medical staff walked towards the fire
And they didn’t run
History will remember when the people sang
On their balconies, in isolation
But so very much together
In courage and song
History will remember when the people fought
For their old and their weak
Protected the vulnerable
By doing nothing at all
History will remember when the virus left
And the houses opened
And the people came out
And hugged and kissed
And started again
Kinder than before!
—Donna Ashworth

Lockdown
Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
But,
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
Sing.
—Richard Hendrick

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  James Coffin, Executive Director
PO Box 3310, Winter Park, FL 32790-3310
|T  321-228-4599   | E  jim@interfaithfl.org
| W  http://interfaithfl.org/Please forward this email to any you feel would be interested. To be placed on the Interfaith Council’s email newsletter list, send your request to contact@interfaithfl.org.