July 2020

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Sikh Woman Graduates from West Point–a Milestone
​From the New York Times website: “When President Trump took the stage on Saturday [June 13] to deliver the commencement speech at West Point, one of the new Army officers he addressed was an Indian-American woman breaking a barrier as old as the 218-year-old military academy. . . . The woman, Anmol Narang, 23, a newly minted second lieutenant, became the first observant Sikh to graduate from the United States Military Academy, a milestone that comes as racism appears to be on the rise within the military’s ranks and as Sikhs still face discrimination in some of its branches. . . . Lieutenant Narang, who grew up in Roswell, Georgia, said military service was always in her blood. “My grandfather was in the Indian Army,” she said in an interview. “It was always a big part of my life and something I was always interested in.” She recalled mailing her application to West Point from a hotel in Hawaii during her junior year in high school. She had just visited the Pearl Harbor National Memorial and felt inspired to serve. . . . While Lieutenant Narang is the first observant Sikh to graduate from the academy, she is not the first Sikh cadet to do so.”

Orange County Looking for Covid-19 Test-Site Volunteers
The Orange County Director of Medical Services has reached out to community groups in search of potential volunteers at testing sites. The demand is immense. More sites are opening and an increasing number of volunteers are needed. Here are the details:

  • Testing Site: Barnett Park
  • Beginning of Assignment: July 8, 2020
  • Ending of Assignment: TBA
  • Operating Hours: 8:00 am to 1:00 pm (volunteers need to be on site by 7:30 am).
  • Orientation and Training: 10:00 am, Tuesday, July 7, at Legacy Middle School (11398 Lake Underhill Road, Orlando, FL 32825)
  • Duties:

—Traffic Control: This team will be in charge of guiding traffic through the appropriate lanes (pre-registered and non pre-registered) and will provide masks and hand sanitizer.
—Administrative Support/Registration: This team will gather registration information (if not pre-registered) and consent form. No contact with applicants)
—Logistics: This person will facilitate access to supplies/information and coordinate nutrition needs
—Driver: This person will be available to assist with areas of need and drive supplies as needed)
Those interested should contact Karen Ross, Special Programs Manager, Human Resources Division, by phone (office 407-836-5819; mobile 407-222-0791) or by email.

The Right to Breathe Is a Basic Human Right, Sikh Says
JasbirJasbir Singh Bhatia, a past president of the Sikh Society of Central Florida and a long-time member of the Executive Committee of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida, in a letter published in the Orlando Sentinel of June 25, shared his perspective on the death of George Floyd: “My eyes tear up every time I replay the video in my mind: A man is lying flat on the road with a police officer’s knee pressing down on his neck. Three other officers are present. Numerous onlookers are watching in horror as the man on the pavement begs, “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” Just how much knowledge is required to know that a man who can’t breathe will soon die? I don’t know what crimes George Floyd may have committed. But I do know that a fair trial is a basic human right. And more basic still is the God-given right to breathe. Various Scriptures tell us that God creates humans from the earth’s elements and then infuses his own spirit through the breath. But George Floyd was fatally robbed of breath by a fellow human whose specific role was to protect life and property. I greatly appreciate that every day police officers put their lives in danger to play that protective role. I can imagine the suffering caused to their family and near and dear ones when an officer is killed. Likewise, I can’t imagine the heartbreak among loved ones when anyone is wantonly killed by the police. So when it happens, it’s not unreasonable to demand that police departments rigorously review policies and procedures in an effort to ensure that such a thing never happens again. Anywhere.”

BJC Hosts Interview on White Supremacy, U.S. Christianity
On Friday, June 26, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty hosted a conversation on race and U.S. Christianity, which featured author Robert P. Jones and journalist Adelle M. Banks. The event was broadcast live from the National Press Club studios in Washington, D.C. Jones, the CEO and Founder of PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute), is a leading commentator on religion, culture and politics. He is the author of the forthcoming book White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity as well as the book The End of White Christian America, which won the 2019 Grawemeyer Award in Religion. Banks, the interviewer, is production editor and a national reporter for Religion News Service. In addition to reporting on topics such as Christians, Christianity, religion and race, Banks also is a photographer and occasional videographer for RNS. In responding to Banks’s questions, Jones told of growing up both Christian and white, outlining how little he knew about our nation’s racial history and how little he understood about the deep-seated racism that permeates much of Christianity. Click here to watch a recording of the program on BJC’s YouTube channel. The conversation is well worth watching.

Exhibit: ‘Uprooting Prejudice–Conversations for Change’Davis
“The missed opportunity for conversation is the missed opportunity for conflict resolution.” Those are the words of Daryl Davis, legendary blues musician, anti-racism activist and the man around whose life experience and mission the Holocaust Center is creating an exhibit that will be open to the public in September. Davis’s anti-racism activism was kicked off by a chance meeting with a member of the KKK back in the 1980s. Davis, an African American, asked the KKK member how the white supremacist could hate him as an African American when he didn’t even know him. Over the course of many years, Davis has bravely befriended many members of the Ku Klux Klan. His persistent and deep conversations with white supremacists have led to more than 200 individuals leaving the white-nationalist movement — with many of them giving their robes to Daryl. The coming exhibit will focus on the hope-filled activism of Daryl Davis and the power of peace building via courageous and thoughtful dialogue. But between now and September, the Holocaust Center is inviting its allies “to make an investment of time in your own personal learning.” Through a series called “Strategies for Action,” the public is invited to free bi-weekly programs (which began the week of June 22), which focus on topics such as the roots and history of racism, how to be an ally for racial justice and how to recognize our own personal biases. Click here to learn more about the coming exhibit. To learn more about the Strategies for Action series, phone the Holocaust Center (851 North Maitland Avenue, Maitland, FL 32751) at 407-628-0555. (Photo courtesy of Daryl Davis)

Baptist Joint Committee Disagrees with Court’s Decision
​On Tuesday, June 30, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue that if government-controlled funding is provided to any private school, it must also be provided to religious private schools. Many hailed the decision as a great victory for religious freedom. However, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, one of the nation’s longest-serving advocacy groups for religious freedom, sees it quite differently. BJC General Counsel Holly Hollman noted that “the decision’s high concern for equal treatment of religious schools disregards the distinctiveness of religion in our constitutional order and contradicts the special treatment that religion rightfully receives to keep government from influencing and interfering with it. . . . The more that religious schools are treated just like all other private schools, the harder it is to justify and defend the special accommodations they receive, including in their hiring and firing practices, admission policies and curriculum choices.” Click here to read more about why the BJC is expressing concern about the long-term religious-freedom implications of the court’s decision. To be put on the BJC’s email list, click here.

‘Veggie Tales’ Creator’s Video Goes Viral–for Good Reason
RaceFrom the Religion News Service website: “Bob the Tomato wants you to care about racism. . . . Earlier this week [posted June 19], Phil Vischer—creator of ‘VeggieTales’ and voice of Bob the Tomato in the popular Christian animated series—posted a now viral video called ‘Race in America’ that attempts to answer the question: ‘Why are people so angry?’. . . . Filled with graphics, photo montages and factoids—and a few comic asides—that make the concept of systemic racism accessible for all ages, the 17-minute tutorial had garnered more than 2.8 million views by Friday (June 19). . . . “The average Black household has one-tenth the wealth of the average white household,” Vischer said in the video. ‘This didn’t happen by accident. It happened by policy.’ In an interview with Religion News Service, Vischer said he designed the video to reach ‘white Christian America that wants to know what’s going on but just doesn’t have time or easy access to the data.’”

Interfaith Discussion to Be Held via Zoom on July 8
On Wednesday, July 8, the monthly Interfaith Discussion sponsored by the Interfaith Council of Central Florida will be held on Zoom from 7:00 to 8:30 pm. Topic for the discussion is: “Concerning social justice and the mass protests of the past few weeks: What does your faith tradition teach about being involved in such activism?” Does your faith mandate participation? Recommend it? Discourage it? Prohibit it? Or do the specific circumstances determine the level of obligation to get involved or to avoid involvement? Those questions—and others generated by them—will be the focus of the evening’s discussion. Please log in a few minutes early. Here are the details of the Zoom Interfaith Discussion, which is being hosted by Baha’is of Orange County East on Wednesday, July 8, at 7:00 PM:
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 834 6828 6041
Password: 537979
Dial by your location
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
+1 929 205 6099 US (New York)
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. For more information, phone 321-228-4599.

Theologian-Professor Says Movies Offer Insight into RacismGarrett 2
From the Religion News Service website (June 10), quoting an article by Greg Garrett (professor of English at Baylor University, theologian in residence at the American Cathedral in Paris and author of two dozen books, including the new A Long, Long Way: Hollywood’s Unfinished Journey from Racism to Reconciliation): “The ghosts of Hollywood racism marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, and again in the past two weeks as much of the country has marched, argued and agonized over the killing of George Floyd. . . . If you want to see how Hollywood movies and America’s history—especially its history of racism and white supremacy—are linked, watch Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, a film I’ve taught often in the past two years. In the course of its two-hour-and-16-minute run time, Lee’s 2018 movie shows how American movies since The Birth of a Nation in 1915 and Gone With the Wind in 1939 still resonate in our national conversations on race and prejudice. BlacKkKlansman even suggests that, as William Faulkner said, the past is never dead; it’s not even past. . . . But to help us wrestle with our current moment, it’s worth looking at two films that represent important phases in Hollywood’s depiction of what Jim Wallis has rightly called America’s original sin.” Garrett goes on to provide a substantial list of movies by and about African Americans that can teach us in this “hard present.” Click here to view his recommendations and the balance of his article.

Eboo Patel Shares Book List for Pandemic Summer Reading
The Founder and President of the Interfaith Youth CoreEboo Patel, writes: “In the midst of a pandemic and widespread protests, it may seem out of step to have a summer reading list. But reading is one of the best ways I know to increase compassion for other life experiences, to increase knowledge, and to more fully become the person I want to be in the world. The list below represents authors from many different backgrounds whose beauty of prose and poetry have much to offer our world today. So, here they are in no particular order.” Click here to read the list, a brief overview of each book and why it’s being recommended.

Love Is Showing up to Labor for Justice, Sikh Activist Says
KaurFrom Valarie Kaur’s official website: “How do we labor for the world we want when the labor feels endless? Valarie Kaur—renowned Sikh activist, filmmaker, and civil rights lawyer—declares that revolutionary love is the call of our time, a radical, joyful practice that extends in three directions: to others, to our opponents and to ourselves. It enjoins us to see no stranger but instead look at others and say: You are a part of me I do not yet know. Starting from that place of wonder, the world begins to change: It is a practice that can transform a relationship, a community, a culture, even a nation. . . . Kaur takes readers through her own riveting journey—as a brown girl growing up in California farmland finding her place in the world; as a young adult galvanized by the murders of Sikhs after 9/11; as a law student fighting injustices in American prisons and on Guantanamo Bay; as an activist working with communities recovering from xenophobic attacks; and as a woman trying to heal from her own experiences with sexual assault and police violence. Drawing from the wisdom of sages, scientists and activists, Kaur reclaims love as an active, public, and revolutionary force that creates new possibilities for ourselves, our communities and our world. . . . See No Stranger is a practical guide to changing the world, a synthesis of wisdom, a chronicle of personal and communal history—all joined together by a story of awakening. Revolutionary love is medicine for our times. It just might be our best chance for our collective future.”

Survey: Most Aren’t Ready to Return to Religious Services
From the website of Religion News Service: “A new study examining Americans’ response to COVID-19 shows that with the exception of white evangelicals, a majority of Americans are not comfortable returning to in-person religious services. . . . The results of the survey suggest that despite political pressure to reopen houses of worship—from President Donald Trump as well as leading conservative Christians and religious liberty advocates—Americans aren’t quite ready to take a seat in a sanctuary. . . . The survey from the American Enterprise Institute showed that 64% of Americans said they were ‘somewhat uncomfortable’ or ‘very uncomfortable’ attending in-person worship. . . . Even among those who reported their congregations offered in-person worship in the past week, 56% of respondents said they chose not to go. . . . ‘We’re seeing among lay people a significant amount of discomfort in going back to formal in-person religious practices, said Daniel Cox, a research fellow at AEI who led the study. ‘People are equivocating and uncertain about whether they feel comfortable attending.’”

New RNS Series Seeks to Light the Path to Anti-RacismEddie Gaude 2
Anthea ButlerReligion News Service has launched a new series with academic and activist Simran Jeet Singh titled, “Becoming Less Racist: Lighting the Path to Anti-Racism.” Singh writes: “There are moments in history where societies reach breaking points, no longer able to ignore the ills that plague them. We are living in one of those moments currently, and it feels as exciting as it does scary. We have the opportunity to confront our errors and reform our structures, but we better get it right. Collective reckoning does not come around often.” Recently Singh interviewed Anthea Butler (photo left), Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Graduate Chair at the University of Pennsylvania, and Eddie S. Glaude Jr. (photo right), Chair of the Department of African American Studies and the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University . Click here to watch the first five interviews. And if you’re interested in keeping up-to-date on this new series, click here and subscribe to the RNS newsletter for the series.

GPFF to Host Two Creative Conversations with Film MakersGPFF
With the coronavirus still changing how we live our lives, many public-service organizations are continuing to pursue creative ways to make a positive contribution. The Global Peace Film Festival is continuing to make the free viewing of selected films and other high-interest programming available right in your own home. At 7:00 pm on Wednesday, July 8, viewers are invited to a “GLO Conversation with Gail Mooney.” Mooney is the director of the film Opening Our Eyes (GPFF 2011), which introduced audiences to ordinary people around the world who are making a difference in their communities. Mooney’s already-in-the-pipeline new film will introduce viewers to extraordinary women who are breaking barriers in male-dominated professions. As she readied the film for the festival circuit, the pandemic hit, and festivals were cancelled or postponed. In response, Mooney came up with an innovative way to bring her latest film—Like a Woman—to audiences around the country. During the July 8 conversation she’ll discuss her past work as well as the inspiration for her latest film. Click here to registerBut there’s another intriguing conversation! Fr3der1ck Taylor, director of Counter Histories: Rock Hill (GPFF 2018), will also be featured in a conversation with the director. The prestigious Cannes Festival and Market, whose original dates were postponed by the pandemic, selected Counter Histories: Rock Hill, which tells the stories of nine young black men exercising their power to change history. Fr3deR1cK brought a unique vision to bear in recounting the events which unfolded in Rock Hill, South Carolina, in 1961. His approach vividly connects the past to the present: Students at a small Baptist College, frustrated with the lack of progress, try a different tactic. Their approach brings national attention and inspires changes in strategy beyond Rock Hill. Today we again are witnessing young people rising up and striking new paths in the journey toward realizing a more just and equitable society. Fr3deR!cK’s film has traveled around the world bringing its message of struggle and progress. Take advantage of this opportunity to catch up with him and hear him discuss what’s coming next. Click here to register.

Interfaith Council Director to Speak at UUUF and FUMCO
Jim Coffin 2018-1Pastor James Coffin, Executive Director of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida, will speak via Zoom for the worship service at the University Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at 10:30 am on Sunday, July 12. The title of his presentation is: “The Naming of Cats—and Other Difficult Matters.” Coffin says concerning his presentation: “In his poem ‘The Naming of Cats,’ T.S. Eliot declares that such naming is ‘a difficult matter.’ As I recently perused his poem, I began to think not just about cats’ names but about a lot of other intriguing implications concerning the names, words and labels we attach to things both animate and inanimate. Join me on July 12 for a stream-of-consciousness journey into the significance of how we use such descriptors and delineators.” Go to the UUUF website for information about how to log on to the presentation either on Zoom or YouTube Live. Coffin will also speak via Zoom for the NU Class at First United Methodist Church Orlando at 9:15 am on Sunday, July 26. His presentation is titled: “Calamities, Catastrophes, Covid-19 and Other Things that Show How Really Ticked-Off God Is . . . Or Not.” Coffin argues that a frightening number of those who believe in a Divine Being are all too ready to assume that every calamity is God-manufactured and God-managed. Such believers are equally ready to point the finger of blame at the human groups they’re absolutely certain are the ones who’ve stirred up God’s wrath. Go to the web page of the NU Class for instructions concerning how to log on, watch the presentation and be a part of the discussion.

Promise Keepers to Host Free Simulcast July 31, August 1 
Promise KeepersThe well-known Christian organization Promise Keepers will be conducting a free simulcast event on July 31 and August 1, which will feature a lineup of well-known Christian speakers such as John Gray, T.D. Jakes, Mark Batterson, Bob Goff, Tony Evans, Sam Rodriguez, A.R. Bernard, James Robison, Miles McPherson, Benham Brothers, Steve Arterburn, Greg Stier, Jimmy Evans and more. Worship leaders for the event will include Michael W. Smith, Danny Gokey and Phil Wickham. Advertising for the event states: “More than ever, America needs a revival of godly men. Our nation faces problems that can only be overcome when men of integrity—promise-keeping men—fulfill their destinies as godly husbands, fathers and leaders.” Click here to register for this free Friday-night-and-Saturday event.Conference Presentations Just Released in Book FormHUA--Book
Three years ago, Hindu University of America (5200 Vineland Road #120, Orlando, FL 32811) conducted a two-day conference on the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo and his impact on the world. Following the conference, the presentations were compiled and edited. And in June 2020, the Bloomsbury Press released the final product: a book titled Indian Philosophy and Yoga in the Contemporary World. The publisher’s advertising blurb reads: “Indian philosopher, poet, mystic and Yogi, Sri Aurobindo, argued that human society has evolved throughout history and is destined to move towards better organization of life. Applying his ideas to problems confronting the world today, this collection presents an in-depth exploration of Aurobindo’s evolutionary philosophy and Integral Yoga. . . . Written by an international team of scholars and practitioners, each chapter takes a theoretical aspect of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy, positions it alongside policy debates on the individual and the state and explains its practical and educational benefits. Contributors discuss his vision of unity in diversity, shed light on his poetry and offer a comprehensive view of his concept of ethics as well as his metaphysics of consciousness. They examine his contribution to the Indian response to post-Enlightenment modernity and reveal how his philosophy illuminates some of the fundamental problems of our times, offering possible solutions. . . . By presenting the first sustained discourse between Sri Aurobindo and the contemporary world, this collection addresses the relevance of his philosophy for everyday life and highlights the lasting work of this important 20th-century Indian thinker.” The 2017 conference was organized by HUA faculty member Dr. Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra (photo), who shepherded the entire project through to completion and wrote the book’s introduction, titled “Foundation of a Practical Spiritual Philosophy.” Click here to see a 30-minute documentary that uses the words of Sri Aurobindo to explain in philosophical and religious terms his view of Indian life and culture.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 contribution to: Interfaith Council of Central Florida, PO Box 3310, Winter Park, FL 32790-3310. Thank you for your assistance.

Quaker Reflection
The One who sits on the throne says,
“Behold, I make all things new.”
Such opportunity
such possibility
such potential.
So much awaits us
the world has opened to us
by closing down.
We can rethink and reframe everything.
We can build out a new life
a new way of seeing
a new way of being.
“Behold, I make all things new,”
if we allow it.

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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/

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