April 2013


1. Hindus to Host “Festival of India.” On Saturday, March 30, from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm, the Hindu Society of Central Florida (1994 Lake Drive, Casselberry, FL; http://www.hindutempleorlando.org) will host its annual Festival of India. Admission is free, although a fee of $5 per car will charged for parking. Celebrate India’s culture, arts and cuisine. The event will feature music, Indian classical and folk dances, games and shopping. Stalls will include jewelry, clothes, saris, henna tattoos, handicrafts, and lots of good food from different regions of India. For more detail, contact the Hindu temple office at 407-699-5277.

2. Easter Seating Limited, Arrive Early. March 31 is Easter Sunday (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter), a high day of spiritual celebration for Christians. Services in churches both large and small will feature special decoration, pageantry, high-quality music and a generally exuberant spirit. For those not of the Christian faith who’d like to visit a church, Easter can be an interesting time to do so. Just be sure to get there early–because you’ll be competing for a seat not only with regular attenders but with a large crowd of “CEOs” (Christmas-Easter Only!). No doubt most faiths experience a similar spike in attendance on high holy days. But do others have such an impressive acronym to identify their infrequent attenders?!

3. Remembering the Holocaust,  April 7. The Holocaust Center is sponsoring its annual Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day, http://history1900s.about.com/cs/holocaust/a/yomhashoah.htm) on Sunday, April 7, at 4:00 pm at the Jewish Community Center (851 Maitland Avenue, Maitland, FL 32751 ). The public is invited to this admission-free event. Yom HaShoah commemorates the lives of the six million Jews and others who died during the Holocaust, also honoring the Survivors, Liberators and Rescuers, seeking to keep their memories alive. The event’s featured speaker, Louise Borden, has written a book about Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat credited with saving up to 100,000 Jewish lives–all the while risking his reputation, his safety and, ultimately, his own life in order to rescue strangers. For further detail, phone: 407-628-0555 or email info@holocaustedu.org.

4. “Friends Talking Faith.” The Reverend Bryan Fulwider, Rabbi Steve Engel and Imam Muhammad Musri will discuss the importance and role of humor in religion. Tune into their monthly radio program on WMFE 90.7 FM, on Sunday, April 7, at 6:00 pm. Learn more about the program and listen to archived broadcasts at http://thethreewiseguys.com.

5. “Religion 101” Series to Feature Unitarian Universalism. On Tuesday, April 9, at 7:00 pm at the Holocaust Center (851 North Maitland Avenue, Maitland, FL 32751), the Reverend Kathy Schmitz (http://www.orlandouu.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=203&Itemid=206) will present an overview of Unitarian Universalism. For more detail, go to the Holocaust Center’s website http://www.holocaustedu.org/events/community_presentations/. On May 7, all eight of the series presenters will serve on a panel answering you questions about religion in general or a faith tradition in particular.

6. Have Opinions–Will Share Them. That would be an apt name for the Interfaith Discussion Group that meets from 7:00 to 8:30 pm on the second Wednesday of each month at Adventist University of Health Sciences (http://www.adu.edu) on Florida Hospital’s main campus. Our topic for April 10 is: How much should those of faith use governmental legislation to make others do what those of faith think is right? Does your faith tradition address this matter directly, indirectly or nor at all? For details of the meeting and directions, contact jim@interfaithfl.org.

7. Sikhs to Celebrate Baisakhi April 12-14. Baisakhi is a harvest festival that has from ancient times been celebrated like a New Year’s Day in Northwestern India, particularly in the state of Punjab. The celebration symbolizes prosperity and freedom from hunger. However, when Sikhs celebrate Baisakhi in their gurdwaras (temples), it has the added symbolism of liberty–freedom from the oppressive bondage of the old social order under the caste system, which was prevalent in India for more than two thousand years. It was on Baisakhi in 1699 that Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru, created Khalsa (see http://www.sikhs.org/khalsa.htm). So Sikhs observe Baisakhi as the birthday of Khalsa. It was on that day that Sikhs were asked to wear the 5K’s (see http://www.amritsar.com/The%20Five%20K.shtml), which includes unshorn natural hair and the turban. On both Friday and Saturday nights, April 12 and 13, from 7:30 to 9:00 pm there will be a spiritual service including a community dinner at the Sikh Society of Central Florida at 2527 West State Road 426 (Aloma Avenue) in Oviedo (http://www.orlandogurdwara.com). On Sunday, April 14, the service will run from 11:30 am to 2:00 pm, followed by a community lunch. Visitors are welcome. They may join any of the celebrations for whatever length of time is convenient for them. For more detail about Baisakhi, go to http://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Baisakhi.

8. Holocaust Center to Host Annual “Dinner of Tribute.” Each spring the “Dinner of Tribute” is the Holocaust Center’s largest fundraiser. This year’s event pays tribute to Helen Greenspun, who’s also the dinner’s featured speaker and a Holocaust survivor who has devoted her life to telling her story so that future generations will know the enormous cost of prejudice and intolerance. (For more details about the speaker, go to http://www.holocaustedu.org/events/dinner_of_tribute1/ .) The event is Wednesday, April 17, at Rosen Plaza, 9700 International Drive, Orlando, FL. Cocktails and auction at 6:00 pm. Dinner at 7:00 pm. For information and reservations, phone 407-628-0555 or email info@holocaustedu.org.

9. Faith-Based Partnering with Orange County Public Schools. Every school in the county needs volunteers and community partners–from elementary schools to high schools to alternative and exceptional education centers. Faith-based organizations make ideal partners (functioning in a non-proselytizing capacity) because of the organizational structure they already have in place. The extra attention and care from school volunteers can inspire students to reach for and realize their dreams. Click here for more ideas on participation: http://library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1104087626041-220/Faith-Based+Ways+to+Partner.pdf. Or if you’re ready to get started, contact Kate Galindo at kate.galindo@ocps.net to be matched with a school in need.

10. Food and Nutrition Services of Orange County Public Schools provided 647,372 meals between June 11 and August 3 last summer at 254 school or community sites. To learn about the Food and Nutrition Services of the OCPS, go to https://www.ocps.net/op/food/Pages/default.aspx. To obtain information regarding participation in the summer feeding program, please contact Shelly Travers Smith at 407-317-3700 x5019 or FSsummer@ocps.net.

11. Religious Demographics Have Dramatically Changed. The Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/13/religion-america-decline-low-no-affiliation-report_n_2867626.html?utm_hp_ref=religion) reports that in the 1930s and 1940s some 5 percent of the U.S. population claimed no religious affiliation. That number has now risen to 20 percent–24 percent of men and 16 percent of women. One third of adults under the age of 30 identify with no religion. Moreover, according the article, “the unaffiliated say they are not looking for a religion that would be right for them. Overwhelmingly, they think that religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and too involved in politics.” The research looks merely at whether or not people associate themselves with particular faiths; it does not measure how spiritual people may consider themselves to be.

12. “Five Scriptures Christians Should Ponder.” That’s the title of the sermon Jim Coffin, executive director of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida, will present at both the 9:00 am and 11:30 am worship services at Markham Woods Church of Seventh-day Adventists (505 Markham Woods Road, Longwood, FL 32779; http://www.markhamwoodschurch.org) on Saturday, April 27. Each service lasts one hour. The public is invited. In his sermon, Pastor Coffin will contend that if more Christians took to heart these five statements from the Christian scriptures, it would significantly improve how Christians relate to those from other faith traditions–and even those of no faith. Direct queries to jim@interfaithfl.org.

13. Persecution of Baha’is and Other Religious Minorities. On March 15, Kenneth E. Bowers, Secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States, testified before the Tom Lantos Human Right Commission of the United States Congress concerning the plight of the Baha’is in Iran (http://tlhrc.house.gov/hearing_notice.asp?id=1246). According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), “more than 500 Baha’is have been arbitrarily arrested since 2005.” Also, since June 2010, “approximately 300 Christians have been arbitrarily arrested and detained.”

14. Two Muslim Invitations: (1) Learn About Islam. On the fourth Saturday night of each month, the Islamic Society of Central Florida hosts an open house that includes a presentation about Islam, a question-and-answer period, an international dinner and a tour of the masjid (mosque). To register, go to http://www.eventbrite.com/org/522308746?s=11006075(2) Building Bridges and Breaking Bread Banquet 2013. The Islamic Society of Central Florida invites the public to a meal before the beginning of Ramadan (the Muslim month of fasting), which focuses on community, compassion and peace. This event, on Saturday, June 29, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm, includes a brief presentation about the significance of Ramadan and a delicious cultural dinner for all guests. To register, go to http://www.eventbrite.com/org/522308746?s=11006075.

15. Buddhist Reflection: “In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.”