March 2015

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Shia Leader in Iraq Issues Rules for EngagementGrand Ayatullah Sayyid Ali Husaini Sistani 4
Shia_Islam_gold_40x40Ayatollah Sayed Ali Al-Sistani, Iraq’s most influential Shia spiritual leader, has issued a comprehensive and strongly worded reminder to Iraq’s Shia resistance fighters concerning the moral and spiritual standard they must meet. Ayatollah Sistani is followed by millions of Shia Muslims throughout the world and has played a major role in reducing sectarian violence in Iraq during the past decade. Because of his role, Ayatollah Sistani was nominated in 2006 to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, and numerous tributes have been paid by non-Muslims concerning his efforts to bring about peace. Read his proclamation here.

1,300 Young Muslims Protect Synagogue in Oslo
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Some 1,300 young Muslims in Norway organized a symbolic “ring of peace” around Oslo’s only functioning synagogue while Jews inside participated in their Shabbat services on Saturday, February 21, reports the This act of interfaith solidarity came just six days after a terrorist fired randomly into a cafe where a meeting on freedom of expression was under way on February 15 in Copenhagen, Denmark, attended by controversial Swedish cartoonist/journalist Lars Vilk, whose depictions of the prophet Muhammad angered Muslims worldwide and set off a firestorm in 2007. Vilk was unhurt, but another attendee was killed. Later that same day, the terrorist gunned down a Jewish man providing security at a Copenhagen synagogue before eventually being shot to death by police. “This [the ‘ring of peace’ in Oslo] shows there are many more peacemakers than warmakers,” said Zeeshan Abdullah, 37, one of the event’s organizers. Ervin Kohn, speaking on behalf of the Oslo Jewish community, expressed gratitude that the young Muslims had stood up “to this degree against anti-Semitism.” He added that that “this fills us with hope, particularly as it’s a grassroots movement of young Muslims.” Norway, with a population of 5.2 million, has about 1,000 Jews and 200,000 Muslims.

Sunday Assembly Gaining Foothold in OrlandoSunday Assembly 2
Since its Central Florida launch in September 2014, Sunday Assembly, a meet-up and program for non-theists–agnostics, atheists, humanists–has been active in the region. It’s most recent meeting was Sunday, March 1, from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm at theEastmonte Civic Center (830 Magnolia Dr., Altamonte Springs, Florida 32701). Sunday Assembly advertises itself as “a deity-free, progressive group that meets to hear great talks, sing songs and celebrate the wonder of life. It’s a service for anyone who wants to live better, help often and wonder more.” The March 1 event featured special guest Derek Schorsch, Professor of Psychological Science at Valencia College. His topic was “Believing is Seeing.” Also, Karen Avizur spoke about Generation Atheist OrlandoLearn more on FacebookCheck here for details of future Sunday Assemblies.

Sikhs Releasing Animated Movie Kaur on March 3
Guru Nanak Dev jiFirst a little background: Sikhism has been around for about 500 years and is the fifth-largest of the world’s major religions. Right from the beginning, one of the tenets of the faith established by Guru Nanak, the religion’s founder, was the equality of all people–both within and between humanity’s various groupings, and that includes males and females. Thus Sikhs have always been strong defenders of women’s rights and equality, meaning that it seems appropriate that the Sikhs are releasing a new animated “Story of Courage and Equality” on March 3 as part of the lead-up to International Women’s Day. The movie highlights the leadership role of one of the Sikhs’ famous female forebears–Mai Bhago–and encourages young women today not to settle for less than their full potential. The movie, in English, is titled Kaur, which means princess, sikhism2 3and will be available for viewing online after its release on March 3. Concerning the movie’s title: To highlight the equality and dignity of everyone, Gobind Singh, the 10th Guru of Sikhism, declared that Sikh women should have as their last name Kaur (princess) and Sikh men should have as their last name Singh (lion). Thus the frequency with which you encounter those names today.

“My Non-Christian Neighbors” Series Concludingwppc 2

Winter Park Presbyterian Church (400 South Lakemont Avenue, Winter Park, FL 32792) is approaching the end of its series “Getting to Know My Non-Christian Neighbors.” The series is designed to help attendees learn about other faith traditions/worldviews. Still to be featured are: Humanism/Atheism (March 3) and Judaism (March 10). Each night the speaker will take 25 minutes to present an overview of the main features of her or his faith tradition/worldview. (The goal is information, not proselytizing.) Then the audience will have 25 minutes to ask questions. Plan to attend this open-to-the-public and free-of-charge event. In fact, invite your friends to jiccfoin you. The programs, which run from 6:30 to 7:20 pm, are sponsored jointly by Winter Park Presbyterian Church and the Interfaith Council of Central Florida.

Hindus Set to Celebrate Second-Biggest Holy DayHinduism 2
Starting on the evening of March 5 (the date varies from year to year), Hindus throughout the world will begin celebrating the second-most-significant holy day/holiday of Hinduism–Holi. It’s a jubilant festival that celebrates spring, color, friendship, family, forgiveness, reconciliation, good food and much more. And it’s also celebrated by many who aren’t Hindu but who’ve been influenced by Hindu customs and culture. Click here for a more detailed description of this high point on the Hindu calendar. 
Colloquium Speaker to Focus on Human Grit
Dr. Angela DuckworthAdventist University of Health Sciences is again inviting the public to enjoy the speakers they’ve lined up for this academic year’s University Colloquium. All speakers will address the theme “Resilience.” The second presenter of 2015 is Dr. Angela Duckworth, who will address the questions “Who succeeds in life? Is it simply those among us who are gifted and talented in our pursuits? Or, is aptitude merely ‘potential’ if effort and interest are not sustained over time?” In her presentation, Dr. Duckworth “reviews her research on grit, the tendency to pursue challenging goals over years with perseverance and passion. She describes the predictive power of grit for performance in the National Spelling Bee, graduation from West Point, graduation from the Chicago Public Schools, and a variety of other contexts. Next, she describes current work on the underlying motivational, cognitive, and behavioral mechanisms explaining what makes gritty individuals different from others. Finally, she summarizes her current thinking on how we can cultivate grit in ourselves and in others.” The presentation will be on Monday, March 9, at 7:00 pm at Florida Hospital Seventh-day Adventist Church (2800 N Orange Avenue, Orlando, FL 32804). Those wishing to attend must RSVP at Eventbrite.

World Baha’i Community Launches New WebsiteBaha'i
Baha’i World News Service reports: “The website of the worldwide Baha’i community at has been launched in a new version, representing the latest stage in the development of an official presence on the Web that extends back to 1996. The site explores the beliefs and writings of the Baha’i Faith and presents the experience of those throughout the world who, inspired by theBahaullahteachings of Baha’u’llah, are striving to contribute to the betterment of society. . . . The revised site highlights two broad sections–‘What Baha’is Believe’ and ‘What Baha’is Do’. . . . The section entitled ‘What Baha’is Believe’ aims to organize a selection of central beliefs of the Baha’i Faith into a few thematic areas, such as The Life of the Spirit, God and His Creation, and Universal Peace. ‘What Baha’is Do’ explores how Baha’is, together with those who share their aspirations, are working for social progress.”

“Friends Talking Faith with The Three Wise Guys
3 Wise GuysHear 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 March features a four-week series on women in honor of National Women’s History Month–“Women: Life, Love and Leadership”:

  • March 3: Faith and Religion: “Women Faith Leaders”–Rev Kathy Schmitz and Sister Ann Kendrick, guests
  • March 10: Faith and Society: “Women’s History and Health”–Ms. Molly MacGregor and Dr. Jenna Tosh, guests
  • March 17: Faith and Society: “Women in Politics and Education”–Orange County Mayor Theresa Jacobs and Stetson President Wendy Libby, guests
  • March 24: Faith and Society: “Women in Business”–Ms. Shari Sandifer and Ms. Noelani Cornell, guests
  • March 31: Faith and Religion: “Who Killed Jesus?”–Dr. John Dominic Crossan, guest

Jews Facing Increased Harassment WorldwideJudaism 2
According to an article posted on the website of The Atlantic, the number of countries in which Jews face hostility from governments or society is at a seven-year high. The article stated that it’s relatively easy to determine if “governments ban people from worshipping or arrest those who won’t denounce their faith.” It’s more difficult to measure “general feelings of ill-will—the sense that you’re not welcome here,” which is what a recent Pew Research Center report examined. Its findings: “Last year, Jews were harassed by governments or members of their communities in 77 out of the 198 countries and territories included in the study, or 39 percent. That represents a sharp increase over the last seven years. . . . The level of discrimination was most stark in Europe. Jews experienced harassment in 34 of the region’s 45 countries, or 76 percent—by comparison, members of the group were only harassed in 25 percent of countries in the rest of the world. Muslims also experienced widespread harassment in Europe, with incidents happening in 32 out of 45 countries, or 71 percent—in the rest of the world, this only happened in 34 percent of countries. . . . But what’s different about the discrimination faced by Jews and Muslims is that, in general, Muslims face discrimination Judaism 2 5

from both governments and communities, while ‘Jews tend to be harassed by individuals or groups in society rather than governments,’ said Peter Henne, one of the authors of the report.” The Pew Research Center report also addressed hostilities faced by other religious groups in a number of places.

What Does Florida’s Religious Picture Look Like?Religions
According to the website, here’s what Florida’s religious landscape looks like in percentages of the total state population: White Evangelical Protestant, 17; White Mainline Protestant, 13; Black Protestant, 11; Hispanic Protestant, 5; Other Non-White Protestant, 1; White Catholic, 11; Hispanic Catholic, 10; Other Non-White Catholic, 1: Jehovah’s Witness, 1; Mormon, 1; Orthodox Christian, 1; Jewish, 2; Muslim, 1; Buddhist, <0.5; Hindu, <0.5; Unaffiliated, 21; Unitarian Universalist, <0.5; Other Religion, 1.

Interfaith Series Continuing at Retirement Community

To foster interfaith understanding, the Interfaith Council of Central Florida is coordinating a series of presentations at the Brookdale Island Lake retirement community (formerly Chambrel; 160 Islander Court, Longwood, FL 32750). The first two of the eight presentations in the series have been delivered (Hinduism and Baha’i). On Friday, March 6, Rabbi David Kay of Congregation Ohev Shalom in Maitland will speak, and on Friday, March 20, Dr. Ishaq Zahid of the Islamic Circle of North America will speak. Each presentation will last about 25 minutes, followed by another 25 minutes of questions from the audience. Each presentation will address three questions: “How does your faith promote human dignity for all and work to eradicate prejudice and bigotry?” “What does your faith teach about humanity’s moral/spiritual obligation to help those who are less fortunate?” “What is the role and what are the forms of prayer within your faith tradition?” Subsequent presentations will be on April 3, 17 and May 1, 15. The presentations are free of charge and the public is invited to join the Brookdale residents for the series.

Christian Symposium to Focus on Faith and Race
Bread for the WorldBread for the World and Faith in Florida are jointly sponsoring a “Symposium on Faith and Race” on Friday and Saturday, March 6 and 7, at First UnitedFaith in Florida 2Methodist Church of Orlando. The symposium will culminate on Saturday afternoon with a march at 4:30 pm from Orlando City Hall to FUMCO, followed by an interdenominational, interracial worship service. Featured preacher for the service will be the Rev. Dr. James Forbes. The public is invited. Get details here about registration, cost, schedule and who to contact for further information.

Guang Ming Offering “CliffsNotes” for Buddhism
BuddhismWere you one of those who didn’t want to read every word on every interminable page back in your college classes? Were you hooked on CliffsNotes? Then you’ll love the quick overview Guang Ming Temple 2

provided in Buddhism 101, a page on the website of the Guang Ming Temple (6555 Hoffner Ave, Orlando, FL 32822). Don’t expect to come away as an expert after this quick overview of the world’s fourth-largest religion/life philosophy. But it will give you some helpful insights and an understanding of Buddhism’s undergirding principles.

Interfaith Discussion on State and Religion, March 11
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e Interfaith Discussion on Wednesday, March 11, is: “Orange County Public Schools recently modified their policy so that Bibles and other religious materials can no longer be passively distributed at the county’s high schools. Is the new restriction a violation of religious freedom? Is it merely honoring a long-standing agreement that state and religion should stay out of each other’s pockets? Should public high schools be a venue for distribution of religious and/or political materials by outside groups?” The following links provide insight into both the humanist and conservative-Christian perspectives. The discussion group meets 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.

Harbor House Asks You to Walk a Mile in Her ShoesWalk
Harbor House is inviting residents of Central Florida to have some fun–and perhaps experience some pain–to help those in a situation that’s anything but fun and definitely the source of much pain. You’re being invited to “strap on your stilettos or blingy flip flops. On [Thursday] March 12, . . . join us for the 3rd Annual Walk a Mile. Whatever your footwear, ethnicity, religion, age, gender identity or how you dress, you’ll raise awareness of domestic abuse and the resources available to  Walk a Mile 2

survivors through Harbor House of Central Florida. . . . The fun begins 6 pm . . . at the Orange County Courthouse. Your destination is the Orange County History Center. . . .  Walk a Mile in Her Shoes Orlando is a community event modeled after Walk a Mile in Her Shoes®, The International Men’s March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault & Gender Violence, a project of Venture Humanity, Inc. a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.” Click here for more details about the event and how to sign up.

Winter Park Entities Want Your Input About Senior Careseniors

From the Orange County Commission on Aging newsletter: “Rollins College and the Winter Park Health Foundation are conducting research into how the Orlando-area community can better serve the needs of older adults. You’re invited to participate in an anonymous survey to share your thoughts as an older adult living in this area or as an advocate for older adults. Click here to take this 10 minute survey.” By the way, if you’re a senior citizen or are a full-time or part-time caregiver, the newsletter of the Orange County Commission on Aging is an excellent resource. Click here to sign up. It’s free.

Friends of the Wekiva River Hosting Canoe Trip
friends of WekivaExplore Lake County’s spectacular 3,600-acre Lake Norris during a kayak/canoe trip on Saturday, March 14, organized by Friends of the Wekiva River. Lake Norris is rimmed by ancient dwarf cypress trees with gnarled limbs and trunks, serving as home to numerous osprey and their nests. The two-hour water trip will include paddling a stretch of Black Water Creek, which flows from the lake’s southeast end to the Wekiva River. Lake County is providing Friends of the Wekiva River with free blackwater creekuse of canoes for the first four to sign up. All others must bring their own canoes or kayaks. The trip will start at 9:00 am at the entrance to the Lake Norris Conservation Area on the west side of Lake Norris Road, 2.5 miles north of County Road 44A. Click here for detailed directions. Wear comfortable clothing that you don’t mind getting wet, and bring water, sun glasses and a snack. To reserve your spot, call Katie Moncrief at 407-862-5432 or 407-435-8189.

“Negro Spiritual” Scholarship Foundation Hosting GalaNSSF
The “Negro Spiritual” Scholarship Foundation is hosting its World-Premiere Gala at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando (5601 Universal Boulevard) on Saturday, March 14, at 6:00 pm. Proceeds support music education, training and tuition assistance for college students nationwide. “The Foundation is committed to providing music education opportunities to senior high and post-secondary singers, especially those hoping to grow in their appreciation of the Negro spiritual song genre.”  Seating is limited to 300, and a variety of corporate and individual seating options are available. Reserved Seating: WholeNote: $2,400 (eight guests)HalfNote:  $1,200 (four guests)QuarterNote: $600 (two guests). Open Seating: Seating(s) at $200.00. Donations: I am unable to attend but would like to Give a Donation in support of the Foundation’s work.

Christian-and-Muslim Dialogue Set for March 21
SpurgeonThe Spurgeon Fellowship and the Islamic Society of Central Florida are jointly sponsoring a dialogue titled “Christianity and Islam Considered: a Dialogue about the Bible and the Quran.” Dr. James White and Imam Muhammad Musri will be Islamic Society of Central FL 3the featured speakers for the event, which will be held at Reformed Theological  Seminary (1231 Reformation Drive, Oviedo, FL 32765) on Saturday, March 21, from 1:00 to 5:00 pm. Part 1, at 1:00 pm, will address the question “Is the Bible God’s Word?” Part 2, at  3:00 pm, will address the question “Is the Quran God’s Word?” Prior registration is required at Eventbrite. To help coveAlpha Omega 2r Dr. White’s expenses, those who attend are asked to donate $5 to Alpha andOmega Ministries (Dr. White’s ministry) for each electronic ticket requested.

Southeastern Guide Dogs to Host Walkathon
Guide DogsUntil a disability comes close to home, we tend to be unaware of the magnitude of the disruption and limitation disabilities can impose. We also are often unaware of the tremendous positive impact certain services, devices and resources can make in the life of the disabled. Guide dogs are just such an avenue to liberation. And Southeastern Guide Dogs is a non-profit that makes guide dogs available–free of charge. But nothing is truly free. In fact, it costs about $60,000 to raise, train and maintain one guide dog from its birth to retirement (usually at about 10 years of age). The largest single fundraisers for Southeastern Guide Dogs are their annual walkathons. And SGD is inviting you to make a difference by participating in their March 28 walkathon at Baldwin Park. Click here for event details. Experience the satisfaction of having helped make someone’s life better.

Save the Dates–Good Things Are in the Offing!Earthday

(1) Join Valencia College’s East Campus in celebrating Earth Day, on Thursday, April 9, from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. The event, which will feature displays and handouts from an array of environmental advocacy groups, will be held in the Mall Area between Buildings 3, 4 and 5 (see map). More details next month. (2) Discover Wekiva, on Saturday, April 18, from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, will provide opportunity for the serious environmentalist and the casual observer alike to learn in an on-the-site, hands-on way about Florida’s aquifer, springs and rivers and how they all interact–not to mention the web of plant and animal life to which this unique ecosystem is home. Come to Katie’s Landing (190 Katie’s Cove, Sanford, FL 32771) on the banks of the Wekiva River and spend an hour or most of the day. The event is hosted by Friends of the Wekiva River. More details next month.

Interfaith Florida Hosting Climate Conference
climateThe Florida Council of Churches, Unitarian Universalist Justice Florida and a list of other organizations and individuals representing an array of faith traditions are working together to bring to Central Florida a conference on climate, which will be held at Northland Church (530 Dog Track Rd, Longwood, FL 32750), April 10-11. The event includes presentations, movies, workshops, panels, discussions, a field trip and more (click here to see a preliminary agenda). And there’s still a need for brainstormers to help in planning the final details, as well as volunteers to help staff the event once it’s under way. Click here if you’d like to volunteer. Click here to register.

GladdeningLight to Host Sacred Art Pilgrimagegladdening-light-logo
Are you a connoisseur of religious art? Is a visit to an art museum a high spiritual experience for you? Do you love to travel? Do you like visiting the Northeastern United States in the spring? Do you enjoy being around people with similar interests? If you answered yes to the preceding, the GladdeningLight Sacred Art Pilgrimage (May 22 to 25) may be exactly what you’re looking for. The pilgrimage will be led by the former director of New York’s Museum of Biblical Art and current director of the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins CollegeDr. Ena HellerClick here for the full details of what the tour will entail and how you can register for it.

Your Tax-Deductible Contributions Always Appreciated
The Interfaith Council of Central FloridaFriends Talking Faith With the Three Wise Guys radio program, Building US and the just-emerging InterDiversity Institute–all of which work closely together–invite those who are blessed by the contribution we make to the community to help us in return. All contributions are tax-deductible and may be sent to: PO Box 3310, Winter Park, FL 32790-3310. Indicate which of the four entities above you wish to receive the benefit of your gift. Thanks to all whose support has made our activities possible.

Unitarian Universalist Reflectionunitarian
“We are not human because we think. We are human because we care. All true meaning is shared meaning.”
–Forrest Church (Unitarian Universalist, clergy, author) Love & Death: My Journey Through The Valley of The Shadow

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  James Coffin, Executive Director
PO Box 3310, Winter Park, FL 32790-3310
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