February 2016

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UN Passes Resolution Regarding Human Rights in IranUN Logo
From Baha’i World News Service: In December 2015 the United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution addressing the overall human rights situation in Iran, expressing concern not only about religious persecution but also the government’s frequent use of the death penalty, failure to uphold legal due process, restrictions on freedom of expression and ongoing discrimination against women and ethnic minorities. The resolution followed a month (November 2015) in which 20 Baha’is were Bahai_stararrested by the Iranian authorities. The Iranian government also carried out a series of coordinated shop closures, affecting some 28 Baha’i-owned businesses. When passing the resolution, the UN expressed “serious concern” about such religious discrimination in Iran, along with other continuing human rights violations, including “ongoing severe limitations and restrictions on the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief.”Clergy Gender Wage Gap Greater Than U.S. Average
Religion News Service reports: “New national data reveals that women clergy earn 76 cents for each dollar earned by male clergy. This is substantially worse than the national pay gap of 83 cents [for each dollar earned by males]. The clergy pay gap is even more stark when compared to similar occupations. . . . Up until this year, national data on the clergy pay gap was unavailable. . . . This year, however, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the national median income for both male and female clergy. . . . The BLS reports weekly earnings, which generally show less of a gender gap than annual earnings. According to the BLS, in 2014 male clergy earned $1,007 per week; female clergy earned only $763. This is a $12,000 difference in annual earnings.”
Man Who Vandalized Sikh Gurdwara Apologizes
Sikh Gurdwara One week—and the realization that a substantial prison term might be looming on your horizon—can bring a lot of things into focus. Just ask 21-year-old Brodie Durazo, who on December 6, 2015, was vandalizing the Sikhs’ Gurdwara Singh Sabha (temple), in Buena Park, California, and seven days later, on December 13, was standing in front of the congregation apologizing for his actions. “Not only did I disrespect you, your religion and your beliefs, but I also disgraced myself, my family and my Christian beliefs, and our Highest Power, as well,” Durazo said. “There isn’t even the right amount of words to explain my apology . . . and how deeply sorry I am.” Although the Sikh congregation accepted his apology and extended their forgiveness, on January 11 of this year Durazo was charged with one felony count of vandalism of a religious property and two misdemeanor counts each of vandalism under $400. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of three years in state prison. Click here to read more about the incident and the full transcript of his apology. The first Sikhs to come to the United States settled in California about 130 years ago. Central Florida has two Sikh gurdwaras: Sikh Society of Central Florida in Oviedo and Gurdwara Nanaksar in Kissimmee.Hate-Motivated Killings/Kidnappings Hurt African Locals
At first glance, it might seem that the only victims of the al Qaeda terrorist attacks carried out in Burkina Faso the latter part of January were the westerners who were killed or kidnapped. In reality, the victim list includes a large number of the poorest of the poor of Burkina Faso’s citizens. Those killed during al Qaeda’s attack on a hotel in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso’s capital, included Michael James Riddering, an American missionary who, with his wife, Amy, ran an orphanage and women’s center. Also killed were six Canadians on a short-term missionary trip to work with the Ridderings. And it has been announced that Australians Ken and Jocelyn Elliot (both in their 80s) have been kidnapped by a branch of al Qaeda. The Elliots founded a medical center (see video) in the northern village of Djibo in 1972. Dr. Elliot has been a surgeon in a region where basic, life-saving procedures would be unavailable without his hospital’s work. Robbing the locals of a loving, caring, self-sacrificing physician means these already-disadvantaged people will have to bear the brunt of what has been caused by al Qaeda’s hate.

Should Tax-Payers Pay for Church Playground Upgrade?
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case in which a Missouri church is demanding the right to have the government pay for its playground upgrade because, they argue, the playground is used for non-sectarian purposes. It’s a case that’s of particular interest to those who closely follow church-state-separation issues. Click here and click here to read more about the case and the arguments being put forward.

Christian Group Weighs in on Suggested Muslim BanBaptist Joint Committe logo
From the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty: “Even before Donald Trump called for ‘a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,’ the problem of religious scapegoating was destined to continue as a major theme into the new year and beyond. The outrageous proposal inspired quick condemnation from a variety of angles, including that of the BJC. Executive Director Brent Walker responded: ‘Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. is un-American, unworkable, counterproductive and embarrassing. It’s no more than disgusting demagoguery — exploiting popular fear and fanning pervasive anti-Muslim bigotry for political gain. Americans deserve better than this from those who seek to lead.” Click here to read the full article.

Center for Peace Director to Speak at UUUS Jan 31
Chaaban BassemBassem Chaaban, Director of the Center for Peace at the Islamic Society of Central Florida will speak at the10:30 am service at the University Unitarian Universalist Society (11648 McCulloch Road, Orlando, FL 32817) on Sunday, January 31. According to Chaaban, the Center for Peace works to promote understanding and acceptance among people of various faiths and backgrounds. The Center’s mission is not to proselytize and convert, he says, but to live by an “initial revelation of education” and follow the exemplary life of the Prophet Muhammad—one full of compassion, respect, and love for others. Chaaban will discuss how “an attitude of gratitude” is an important characteristic for a fulfilling and satisfying life.

February 1-7 Is The World Interfaith Harmony WeekWorld Interfaith Harmony Week
And just what is The World Interfaith Harmony Week? It’s a global initiative, first proposed by King Abdullah II of Jordan, that was unanimously adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on October 20, 2010, proclaiming the first week of February of each year as The World Interfaith Harmony Week. The initiative provides a platform when all interfaith groups and other groups of goodwill are reminded that the common values they hold far outweigh their differences.

Hindu Population in United States Currently 2.23 MillionHindu
According to the Pew Research Center, the Hindu population in the United States stands at 2.23 million—at least that was the number it reported in May of 2015. Hinduism is tied with Buddhism as the nation’s fourth-largest religion. There’s an interesting interactive website that allows you to look at where the highest ratios of Hindus to general populace reside in the U.S. Spoiler alert: Just in case you’re wondering where Orlando, Florida, falls in the sequence, it’s number 20. There are 296 Hindus per 100,000 in Orlando. However, in San Jose, California, there are 2,383 Hindus per 100,000.

Friends Talking Faith with The Three Wise Guys
3 Wise Guys 2Hear 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 February features the following:

  • February 2Faith and Society: Raising Children—Secular vs. Religious Muslims in America
  • February 9: Faith and Ethics: The Death Penalty
  • February 16: Faith and Science: Organ Transplant and Donation
  • February 23: Faith and Religion: Religious Questions from Children

The Three Wise Guys to Speak at Valencia College East
The program’s title is “Friends Talking Faith: Making Sense of Turbulent Times.” The date is Tuesday, February 2. The time is 7:00 pm. And the location is the Performing Arts Center, Valencia College East Campus (701 North Econlockhatchee Trail, Orlando, FL 32825). With society being bombarded by terrorism, gun violence, racial/cultural tensions and more, the year 2015 proved to be turbulent. And 2016 is starting in similar fashion. Join Imam Muhammed MusriRabbi Steven Engel, the Rev. Bryan friends-talking-faithFulwider and special guest Professor Rachel Allen (Coordinator of Valencia College’s Peace and Justice Institute) as they discuss these important issues and consider ways the world’s major religions can offer insight and coping strategies. A Question-and-Answer time will follow the presentations. This is a free event, but an RSVP is requested. It can be by email or by phone (407-273-2300 ext 112).

Islamic Society of Central Florida Teaching About Islam
The Islamic Society of Central Florida has an array of options for any non-Muslims who wish to learn more about the teachings of Islam—whether it’s a matter of a one-event overview, a visit to the mosque or participation in a longer, more-comprehensive series. Click here to see the options.

Interfaith Music-and-Prayers-for-Peace Service on Feb 7
praying hands bwThe Interfaith Council of Central Florida is partnering with Valencia College’s Peace and Justice Institute to invite those of all faiths and no faith 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 music_notes 3College (1800 South Kirkman Road, Orlando, FL 32811). The program will feature components from the Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Unitarian Universalist faith traditions. Everyone is welcome.

Interfaith Series to Begin in Casselberry on Feb 8
The public is invited to a one-hour, once-a-month series of presentations on different faiths, which will be held at 3:00 pm on the second Monday of each month, at the Lake of the Woods Clubhouse (300 Carolwood Point, Fern Park, Casselberry). The series is titled: “Parallel Beliefs—A Comparative Study.” Dates and speakers are: February 8, Rabbi David Kay, of Congregation Ohev Shalom, on Judaism. March 14, Dr. Claudia Schippert, Abbot at Orlando Zen Center, on Buddhism. April 11, Rev. Karen Egerton, of Emmanuel Episcopal Church, on Christianity. May 9, Bassem Chaaban, of the Center for Peace at the Islamic Society of Central Florida, on Islam. For more information, phone 321-228-4599Click here for directions.

Program Provides Way to Better Health for Adults 50+
LivingSmart 3A recently developed health program called LivingSmart promotes independence, self-management and a healthy lifestyle by addressing the risks identified by health professionals who serve various categories of adults 50+. These include: Mid-lifers (age 50-64), who lead busy lives, often neglecting their own health and failing to recognize signs of the onset of chronic disease. Early retirees, who assume a more relaxed lifestyle but are experiencing demise in health due to aging. Older seniors, who are perhaps assisted by a caregiver for nutrition and meal-planning management, safe exercise and social support. Physically handicapped individuals, with or without a caregiver. LivingSmart is a program that can be used effectively and inexpensively by faith communities to enhance the lives of those in their congregations who are growing older. To learn more, check out the LivingSmart website or contact Linda Royer by email or phone (407-637-0292).

What Form of Government Comports with Your Religion?religion vs government
“What is your faith tradition’s view of government? Should government control religion? Should religion control government? If the latter, whose religion should do the controlling? And what about those with no religion? Or should government and religion be totally separate?” Come prepared to discuss these questions and more on Wednesday, February 10, 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.

Major Study Says U.S. Millennials Less Religious
Mike-Hout-NYUAccording to the Pew Research Center: “While the U.S. public in general is becoming less religious, the nation’s youngest adults are by many measures much less religious than everyone else. Indeed, one of the most striking findings in the recently released Religious Landscape Study is that Millennials (young adults born between 1981 and 1996) are much less likely than older Americans to pray or attend church regularly or to consider religion an important part of their lives.” Why? Click here to read the reasons suggested by Michael Hout, Professor of Sociology, New York University. Hout, who has spent years studying generational and religious changes in the United States, is the author or co-author of a number of books, including Century of Difference: How America Changed in the Last One Hundred Years.

Muslim Documentary to Be Screened February 11Love is a verb 2
The documentary Love Is a Verb is being screened for the first time in Central Florida, sponsored by the Atlantic Institute. The film’s message is clear: Love should be spread through action. Which is what the majority of Muslims are trying to do, according to the movie. Because of sensational international terrorist attacks by radicals, and because journalism doesn’t typically focus on the positive actions of ordinary people, many Americans have no idea of the kind of humanitarian, community-building activities in which millions of Muslims are engaged. So the public is invited to learn more by coming to this one-night-only screening of Love Is a Verb, on Thursday, February 11, 6:30 to 7:25 pm, at Regal Winter Park Village Stadium 20, (510 North Orlando Avenue, Winter Park, FL 32789). Those planning to attend are urged to buy their tickets in advance to ensure the movie is scheduled for the largest venue at the Winter Park Village Theaters. That way, no one misses out. Click here to buy tickets.
Adventist Forum Speaker To Look at Issue of Suffering
tonstad-sigveThe Central Florida Adventist Forum is inviting the public to two lectures that address the overarching theme of “A Post-Holocaust, Cosmic Perspective on the Problem of Suffering.” The first presentation, at 7:00 pm on Friday, February 19, is titled “A Shocking Distinctive in Christian Theology Gone Missing.” The second lecture, at 3:00 pm on Saturday, February 20, is titled “Hearing Holocaust Voices in Pre-Holocaust Times.” Both presentations will be at the Florida Hospital Seventh-day Adventist Church (2800 North Orange Avenue, Orlando, FL 32804). A question time will follow each presentation. The speaker is Dr. Sigve Tonstad, a Norwegian who’s both a medical doctor and a theologian. He earned his medical degree from Loma Linda University in California and his PhD in New Testament Studies from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Both lectures are free. For more detail, contact the event organizers by email.

Holocaust Center Speaker: ‘Is History Repeating Itself?’
The Atlantic Institute, the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida and the Interfaith Council of Central Florida are partnering on a program titled “Is History Repeating Itself? Jewish and Muslim Immigrant Experiences in America.” In what ways were the experiences of Jewish immigrants to the United States in the early 1900s and leading up to World War II similar to those faced by Muslim-Americans—particularly immigrants—today? The program will be held Thursday , February 25, 2016, at the Holocaust Center (851 North Maitland Avenue, Maitland, FL 32751), with an informal antepli 6reception at 6:00 pm followed by the program at 6:30 pm. The main presenter will be Imam Abdullah Antepli, Chief Representative of Muslim Affairs at Duke University. As one of only 11 full-time Muslim chaplains on a U.S. university campus, he has a sense of urgency about Jewish-Muslim relations in general, and in particular on college campuses throughout the United States. Also participating will be Mitch Bloomer, Resource Teacher at the Holocaust Center, and Pastor Jim Coffin, Executive Director of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida. The program is open to the general public and there’s no cost to attend. Click here to RSVP.

Islamic Center of Orlando to Host BBQ for Community
The Islamic Center of Orlando is hosting an interfaith, everyone-in-the-community-is-invited barbecue on Saturday, February 27, beginning at 1:00 pm, at 11543 Ruby Lake Road, Orlando FL 34786. The entire community is invited, whatever their faith, to this family-oriented, let’s-get-acquainted event. The Islamic Center of Orlando urges you to extend this invitation to your neighbors, coworkers, congregation—everyone. The event’s goal is to build good relationships, stronger friendships and a better community by inviting those of all faiths and no faith to come together to “break bread” together. Please RSVP no later than Friday, February 26, either by email or by phone (407-285-7790).

Changing Times: Today’s Attitudes Differ from Yesterday’s
According to the Pew Research Center: “Americans’ opposition to a gay or lesbian candidate has dropped by 20 percentage points since 2007, when a Pew Research Center poll found that nearly half of Americans (46%) said they would be less likely to support a gay candidate. Only a quarter of adults (26%) now say they would be less likely to support a gay or lesbian presidential candidate. Among Republicans and those who lean Republican, the share saying that they would be less likely to support a gay or lesbian candidate for president has dropped from 62% in 2007 to 38% today.”

HOPE Helps, Inc., to Host 5th Annual Sham Rock N’ RunHope Helps 3
Runners, fun-lovers, those who care about the less-fortunate in our community, please note that on Saturday, March 5, at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church (2021 West State Road 426, Oviedo, FL 32765), HOPE Helps, Inc., will host its Fifth Annual Sham Rock N’ Run 5K. Click here for more detail. Then mark your calendars to ensure you don’t miss out on any of the fun.

‘NS’SF to Host Annual World-Premiere Gala March 5
NSSF logo 2The “Negro Spiritual” Scholarship Foundation will host its annual World-Premiere Gala and its Let It Shine Challenge (charitable appeal) at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando (5601 Universal Boulevard, Orlando, FL) on Saturday, March 5, at 6:00 pm. The event includes a Prelude Reception, Awards Recital, Dinner Hour and Champagne Afterglow. Proceeds go to support music education, training and tuition assistance for college students nationwide. Featured guest will be soprano Stephanie Washington, premiering new work by composer Paul Gutweniger. A native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Ms. Washington received her Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance at Oberlin Conservatory of Music before studying with Carol Vaness at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. With numerous awards, performances and accolades to her credit, Miss Washington is certainly a new American voice of great merit. The audience will be limited to 300 guests, so don’t wait to purchase your individual seats. Although you might also want to check the various levels of sponsorship.

How Can the Faith Community Help OCPS?
How can the faith community help Orange County Public Schools? Let’s count the ways. And after our counting, there will still be many ways we haven’t yet suggested. But for starters, let’s look at two ways. First, OCPS want parents effectively involved in their children’s education. To aid in that process, they’ve developed the OCPS Parent Academy, which helps OCPS 2parents be more helpful in the life of their students. And faith leaders and houses of worship can help by urging parents to take advantage of this excellent resource. Click here for the schedule, themes and locations of upcoming Parent Academies. Then urge parents to participate. Second, OCPS is looking for community entities to “adopt a school.” Faith-based entities are more than welcome to play this role—as long as they function in a non-proselytizing manner designed to merely help the school. Those faith-based organizations that are already involved in the program know how rewarding it is. Those who haven’t yet become involved can learn more by clicking here.

Save the Date for Multi-Faith Workshop: Nov 13
The New Age Group at the Hindu Society of Central Florida is inviting everyone to save the date of November 13, 2016, for its fifth annual Multi-Faith Workshop. The program will begin at 1:30 pm.

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.

Buddhist ReflectionBuddhism 4
“Believe nothing on the faith of traditions, even though they have been held in honor for many generations and in diverse places. Do not believe a thing because many people speak of it. Do not believe on the faith of the sages of the past. Do not believe what you yourself have imagined, persuading yourself that a God inspires you. Believe nothing on the sole authority of your masters and priests. After examination, believe what you yourself have tested and found to be reasonable, and conform your conduct thereto.”—



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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  https://interfaithfl.org/Betty Alter, Newsletter Production and AdministrationPlease 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 betty@buildingus.org.