June 2013


[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 jim@interfaithfl.org.]

1. The Nuns on the Bus “are back on the road, driving for faith, family and citizenship.” Those words come from the website of NETWORK (http://www.networklobby.org/bus), “a Catholic leader in the global movement for justice and peace, [which] educates, organizes and lobbies for economic and social transformation.” Between May 28 and June 18, Nuns on the Bus will traverse at least 6,500 miles, visit some 15 states and participate in 53 events in 40 cities. “Our message is clear,” they say: “We need commonsense immigration policies that reflect our values, not our fears. Congress must act now!” Central Floridians may join the nuns on Sunday, June 2, for a mass at 6:00 pm, and a “friendraiser” and forum at 7:30 pm, at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church, 526 North Park Avenue, Winter Park, FL 32789. Monday, June 3, the nuns will be at the Hope CommUnity Center, 1016 North Park Avenue, Apopka, FL 32712 for about an hour, beginning at 4:00 pm. For more detail contact Sister Ann Kendrick at 407-880-4673 x 228; annksnd@gmail.com.

2.  “Friends Talking Faith.” The Reverend Bryan Fulwider, Rabbi Steve Engel and Imam Muhammad Musri will shift gears slightly for their next “Friends Talking Faith” radio show. Their guest will be David Williamson of the Central Florida Freethought Community (http://cflfreethought.org). David, a passionate advocate for the separation of church and state, was the chief organizer of the distribution of atheistic literature in several Orange County public high schools on May 2. So is there any common ground to be found between atheists and the faith community?  Tune in to WMFE 90.7 FM on Sunday, June 2, at 6:00 pm. You might be surprised by some of the issues discussed and conclusions reached. Learn more about the radio program and listen to archived broadcasts at http://thethreewiseguys.com.

3. Sojourners’ Comment Covenant. The website of the Christian social-advocacy organization Sojourners has comment guidelines that would be good for all discussions, whether religious or secular, and whether online or face-to-face. Their guidelines include: (1) I will express myself with civility, courtesy and respect for every member of the Sojourners online community, especially toward those with whom I disagree, even if I feel disrespected by them. (2) I will express my disagreements with other community members’ ideas without insulting, mocking or slandering them personally. (3) I will not exaggerate others’ beliefs nor make unfounded prejudicial assumptions based on labels, categories or stereotypes. I will always extend the benefit of the doubt. For more detail about Sojourners, go to http://sojo.net.

4. Interfaith Discussion, June 12. Do you Like to hear how those from a background different from your own view things? Do you enjoy the free exchange of ideas? Then you should enjoy “How ‘green’–how tuned into the responsibility for earth stewardship–does your faith tradition encourage you to be?” That’s the topic to be addressed by the Interfaith Discussion Group, which 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. For directions to the meeting place, go to https://interfaithfl.org/?page_id=241.

5. Speaking of Caring for the Earth . . . Over the past few months the Orlando Sentinel has been sounding the alarm about the state of Florida’s springs and rivers. The Center for Earth Jurisprudence at Barry University is adding its voice, warning that, despite seemingly good regulations and oversight, the situation is deteriorating–because the regulation and oversight aren’t as good as they seem. To learn more about what we’re facing, go to http://earthjuris.org/2013/05/wekiva-basin-bmap-the-illusion-of-regulation/.

6. Special Events at Sikh Society of Central Florida (2527 S.R 426/Aloma Avenue, Oviedo, FL 32765; http://www.orlandogurdwara.com). June 14 to 16, Sikhs will observe the Martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth of the ten gurus under whom the Sikh faith developed. Guru Arjan Dev was the guiding spirit of the movement from 1581 to 1606 CE. His major achievements included the composing and compiling of the Guru Granth Sahib (the holy scriptures of Sikhism) and construction of the Shrine of Amritsar in Punjab, now known as the Golden Temple. Both achievements strengthened the foundation of the Sikh faith. But his growing popularity among Hindus and Muslims, due to his preaching of a universal message of harmony, was not appreciated by the Mogul King Jehangir, who, on a pretext, arrested Guru Arjan Dev and ordered his execution by torture. Commemorative services will be conducted on Friday and Saturday nights, June 14 and 15, from  7:15 to 8:30 pm, followed by a community meal. On Sunday, June 16, the service will be conducted from 11:30 am to 2:00 pm, followed by a community lunch. Visitors are welcome and should feel free to join any of the services for whatever time fits your schedule. For more information go to http://sikh-history.com/sikhhist/gurus/nanak5.html.

7. Religious Landscape Changing in Canada. In 2001, 2 percent of Canadians were Muslim. In 2011, the figure had risen to 3.2 percent–an increase of 60 percent in 10 years. In 1971, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists accounted for 2.9 percent of arriving immigrants. Among arrivals between 2001 and 2011, that figure had risen to 33 percent. The most dramatic demographic change is among those claiming no religious affiliation, going from 12.6 percent in 1991 to 24 percent in 2011. Jews account for about 1 percent of the population. Christianity, still the dominant religion in Canada, is seeing a decline in all denominations, with the possible exception of Orthodox Christianity. For more detail go to http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/a-leap-for-some-faiths-but-many-canadians-are-losing-their-religion/article11804628/.

8. Religious Landscape Changing in Britain Too. If current trends continue,  less than half of the British population will label themselves Christian 10 years from now. Already, less than 50 percent of Britain’s youth describe themselves as even nominal Christians. Fifteen percent fewer British-born Britons called themselves Christians in 2011 than in 2001. With the growth of other faith traditions, and the decline of Christianity, secularists argue that since Christianity has dropped below “critical mass,” their case for for doing away with a state church is all the more compelling. For more details, go to http://wwrn.org/articles/39840/.

9. So What About the Religious Landscape in the U.S.? According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, “The U.S. government . . . does not keep track of the religion of new permanent residents.” So the following “are estimates produced by combining government statistics on the birthplaces of new green-card recipients over the period between 1992 and 2012 with the best available U.S. survey data on the religious self-identification of new immigrants from each major country of origin. While Christians continue to make up a majority of legal immigrants to the U.S., the estimated share of new legal permanent residents who are Christian declined from 68% in 1992 to 61% in 2012. Over the same period, the estimated share of green-card recipients who belong to religious minorities rose from approximately one in five (19%) to one in four (25%). This includes growing shares of Muslims (5% in 1992, 10% in 2012) and Hindus (3% in 1992, 7% in 2012). The share of Buddhists, however, is slightly smaller (7% in 1992, 6% in 2012), while the portion of legal immigrants who are religiously unaffiliated (atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular) has remained relatively stable, at about 14% per year.” For more detail, go to http://www.pewforum.org/Geography/The-Religious-Affiliation-of-US-Immigrants.aspx#affiliation.

10. The Religious-Persecution Landscape in South Asia. John Dayal, writing from New Delhi, India, reports that Christians face varying degrees of persecution in each of the seven countries that comprise South Asia–India, Pakistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. But Christians are by no means the only religion to face prejudice and persecution in the region. There is no major world religion that doesn’t face persecution in one of the seven foregoing countries. Muslims and Christians face difficulties in India, a Hindu-majority nation. Christians, Hindus and Buddhists face problems in Bangladesh and Pakistan, which are Muslim-majority nations. Christians and Muslims face difficulties in the Buddhist countries of Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal. The population of the Maldives is so completely Muslim that other faith traditions essentially aren’t present. For more detail go to http://www.hinducurrents.com/articles/share/124164/.

11. Interested in Church-State Issues? Then check out the website Hindu Currents (http://www.hinducurrents.com), which is a service of the Hindu American Foundation (http://www.hafsite.org). In addition to providing Hindu news and Hindu views from around the world, the site addresses human rights, church-state separation, proselytization, interfaith interaction and cooperation, and terrorism. The website provides a wealth of material for the person who’s seeking well-researched and well-presented material that comes from a unique perspective that doesn’t get the attention it should just because the “bigger players” on the religious scene tend to dominate the discussion.

12. 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. Right now is an ideal time to get your faith-based group organized and the details sorted out with OCPS so everything is in place and ready to go for the 2013-2014 school year.

13. Host Homes Needed for International Students. The American Councils for International Education is currently seeking homes in the Orlando area for three international students–a Serbian male, 17, Orthodox Christian; a Bulgarian female, 16, Christian; a Russian male, 16, Orthodox Christian. In many cases, the host home’s religion need not be the same as the international student. For more details, check the download below and/or contact local coordinator Sue Peterson 407-678-4693;  sbpeterson71@gmail.comView as HTML Scan and download.

14. Interfaith Council Members Voice Opinions. The month of May was an unusually “outspoken” time for religious and community leaders associated with the Interfaith Council. If you didn’t see the following four opinion pieces in the Orlando Sentinel, you can access them here.   Muhammad Musri, “Prayers from diverse faiths for our nation”http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2013-05-01/news/os-ed-national-day-prayer-myword-050113-20130430_1_prayers-national-day-higher-ideal.  James Coffin, “Don’t allow proselytizing at public schools”http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2013-05-05/news/os-ed-proselytizing-in-schools-myword-050513-20130503_1_materials-public-schools-interfaith-council. Navtej Singh Khalsa, “One step closer to freedom from fear”: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2013-05-15/news/os-ed-hate-crimes-myword-051513-20130514_1_freedom-sikh-american-legal-defense-fear.  Bryan Fulwider, “A time to speak and a time to be silent”:  http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2013-05-22/news/os-ed-oklahoma-god-myword-052213-20130521_1_scriptures-clergy-conundrum.

15. Interfaith and Interdenominational Not the Same. The term “interfaith” often gets confused with the term “interdenominational.” Interdenominational describes the joint action of various segments of a particular faith–as in Christian denominations. Interfaith describes the joint action between faith traditions–as in the major world religions. When a recent Jacksonville event was billed as an “interfaith prayer breakfast”–and only Christians were invited to participate–it was an unfortunate faux pas (http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2013-05-20/story/jacksonvilles-interfaith-breakfast-includes-only-christian-speakers-what). So remember to use the term “interfaith” when more than one faith tradition is represented–be it Sikhs, Muslims, Jews, Buddhist, Hindus, Bahai’s, Unitarian Universalists or an array of others. Use “interdenominational” when you refer to an assortment of subsets of Christianity.

16. 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.

17. “The Golden Rule in the Public Square” is the title of a presentation to be given at 10:30 am on Sunday, June 30, at the University Unitarian Universalist Society (11648 McCulloch Road, Orlando, FL 32817; http://www.universityuus.org/sunday.php) by James Coffin, Executive Director of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida. The public is welcome. Every major religion of the world espouses some form of the Golden Rule. This near-universally recognized moral imperative rolls easily off the tongue. But actually putting it into practice is a lot more complicated. Especially when it means I may have to give up something I really like because my neighbor doesn’t like it. In light of the Golden Rule, how much right do I have, as a member of the Christian majority and a member of the clergy, to impose my worldview and religious practices on those with a different perspective?

18. Jewish Reflection: ‘When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.”–Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel