March 2020

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Even If You Weren’t There, Enjoy Part of Jan 12 MLK Event
Positive comments continue to come in about the keynote presentation by (Fr.) Rudi Cleare in the Shiloh Baptist Church of Orlando segment of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Interfaith and Multicultural Service on January 12. Click here to read it. Likewise eliciting ongoing positive comment is the highly inclusive prayer offered by Pastor Josh Bell in the City Hall segment of the event. Click here to read that. And also still drawing positive comments is the general organization and planning of the program done by Rabbi David Kay. Kudos to all who made the event so special that it’s still being talked about weeks later.

St. John Lutheran Church Celebrates Interfaith RelationsSt. John
During its 10:15 am worship service on Sunday, February 23, St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church (1600 Orlando Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789) celebrated the blessings it has received by its interaction with a broad range of non-Christian faith traditions. Not only has the congregation sought to build friendships with other faiths, so has the entire denomination—the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. The ELCA, in Churchwide Assembly, voted on August  8, 2019, to adopt a document titled, “A Declaration of Inter-Religious Commitment: A policy statement of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.” The statement outlines the denomination’s obligation to those of other faiths and no faith, based on the teachings of the Bible. When the vote was taken concerning acceptance of the document, it was: 890 (97.48%) in favor, and 23 (2.52%) opposed. Not every Christian denomination has a theologically based document outlining such obligations. And that document was highlighted as part of the interfaith celebration that took place at St. John Lutheran Church on February 23. Muslim Imam Tariq Rasheed of the Islamic Center of Orlando, and other guests of various faith traditions and Christian denominations shared observations, prayed or provided music during the worship service. Steve Beumer (far left in photo), a member of St. John Lutheran who played a major part in organizing the Interfaith Day, is pictured with some of the Muslim visitors who came from Masjid Al Hayy in Sanford.

Muslim Athlete Inspires New Religious-Freedom Bill in Ohio
Muslim runner 3From Religion News Service: “A bill introduced in the Ohio Senate on Wednesday (February 26) to allow student athletes to wear religious apparel without the need for special waivers was inspired by a Muslim teen who was disqualified from a track meet last year due to her hijab. . .  .  Sen. Theresa Gavarone invited Noor Alexandria Abukaram, an athlete and junior at Sylvania Northview High School in eastern Ohio, to the Statehouse to help introduce the bill ending the waiver requirement. The bill has moved to a Senate committee for review. . . .  ‘Freedom of religion is a fundamental right and civil liberty in this country,’ Gavarone said in a statement. ‘My hope is that through this legislation and Noor’s story we will be able to ensure that no one, regardless of religious affiliation, has to choose between playing a sport or their religious beliefs.’ [If the bill passes], [n]o Ohio school or interscholastic organization will be permitted to limit ‘wearing religious apparel when competing … including requirements that participants obtain advanced approval, written waivers or any other permission,’ except in cases in which wearing such apparel could pose a ‘legitimate danger to participants,’ the bill reads.”

Religious-Freedom Summit Speaker Looks at Peace Building
“Building Peace in a Conflicted Society” was the theme for the Fifth Annual Summit on Religious Freedom presented by the Central Florida Commission on Religious Freedom and hosted by First Baptist Orlando on February 27. The keynote speaker, Rev. Dr. Gary Mason, an internationally recognized expert on conflict resolution, shared principles that those in attendance then tested in breakout sessions at their respective tables. Dr. Mason is the founder of Rethinking Conflict, a UK-based nonprofit working in the field of conflict transformation, peace building and reconciliation. His three decades of experience in the Northern Ireland peace process are part of a career committed to the reconciliation and urban redevelopment in West Belfast, which brought together Catholics and Protestants during turbulent years. Emily Block, associate director of Jewish Student Life at Rollins College (who works in partnership with Hillel, an international Jewish student organization), said she found the breakout sessions incredibly meaningful. “It’s easy to be siloed and not engage with those who think differently than you do. Deep conversations about religion, faith and freedom don’t happen too often. It was great to be part of such a discussion. I work with the Rollins College Interfaith Student Council, and I’m excited to take this model of dialogue to our students.”

Tanzania-Focused Charity Says Thanks to Orlando MagicTanzania 2
The Orlando Magic home game on February 28 wasn’t just a game: It was also a fundraiser to help make potable water available to millions in the East African country of Tanzania. The Magic fundraiser was done in conjunction with the faith-based charity Health Tanzania and other interested individuals and organizations. A nation with about 60 million people—roughly three times the population of Florida—Tanzania has about 12 million working-age adults who earn less than 60 cents a day. Only 57 percent of the population has access to safe water. Daily, many women and children walk—sometimes for hours—to some distant source of water for drinking, cooking and washing. And even then it may not be safe water. Diarrheal disease from dirty water and contaminated food is the eighth leading cause of death in Tanzania, and is especially lethal to young children and people in poor health already. Health Tanzania, a tax-exempt (501)(c)(3)) charity, is grateful to the Orlando Magic and the NBA not only for helping to raise much-needed funds but for helping to get the word out about the challenges the Tanzanians face. They also say Thanks to all in Central Florida who responded to the need. Learn more at Health Tanzania’s website.

Interfaith Discussion to Be Held at AdventHealth University
On Wednesday, March 11, the monthly Interfaith Discussion sponsored by the Interfaith Council of Central Florida will be held from 7:00 to 8:30 pm at AdventHealth University (671 Winyah Drive, Orlando, FL 32803), which is on AdventHealth’s main Orlando campus. The topic of the evening’s discussion is: What’s the role of food and diet in the practice of your faith tradition? Are any foods forbidden? Are any foods inextricably associated with your faith? Are any specific foods used in your faith’s rituals? What, if anything, does your faith teach about healthful eating? What is your faith’s teaching about the consumption of alcohol? 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 directions to the meeting, click here. Admission is free. Everyone is invited. For more information, phone 321-228-4599.

Explore Nature: FOWR to Lead Canoe Trip to Lake Norris
Lake NorrisFriends of the Wekiva River will lead a kayak/canoe paddle trip to Lake Norris on Saturday, March 14. After a short paddle on Blackwater Creek, the paddlers will enter Lake Norris, explore the amazing cypress trees, view nesting osprey, then return to the launch site via Blackwater Creek. If the wind is high, the trip could be rated “moderate.”  If the water is flat, it is considered an “easy” paddle. The paddle trip, which will last about two hours, will start at 8:30 am. Bring your own canoe or kayak, or borrow one for a minimal donation. Bring water, snacks, sun screen, hat, insect repellent and water shoes. Meet at Lake Norris Conservation Area (Lake Norris Road, Lake County—seven miles northeast of Eustis and north of CR 44A). For questions, to make a reservation and to learn about canoe/kayak rental, contact Weegie Henry at 407-341-9025 or by email. Reservations must be made by Thursday, March 12.

Film to Be Screened about Areas that Are Misused PoliticallySwing State
The Global Peace Film Festival and the Bertelsmann Foundation are partnering to present the Florida premiere of Swing State Florida, a documentary about three critical Florida communities that will be influential in swaying the 2020 US election—Immokalee, Liberty City Miami and the Panhandle. These communities are used and misused by the political process. They are relied upon for electoral victories, but what do they receive in return? This non-partisan film mixes intimate portraits with expert commentary to give a vision of Florida in the run-up to the 2020 election. The challenges documented in the film present struggles replicated in swing states across the country. The film, which is free, will be screened on Thursday, March 19, at 6:00 pm in the Bush Auditorium at Rollins College. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion.

‘Negro Spiritual’ Scholarship Foundation to Host Annual Gala
The following advertisement is from the “Negro Spiritual” Scholarship Foundation: “The menu is planned… Crisp linens are unfolding, gleaming dinnerware and champagne flutes counted and set aside… Five amazing young awardees (two from senior high schools, three from undergraduate collegiate programs) are bursting with anticipation… Our feature artist (soprano) Deadra Griffeth is humming alluring notes… Accompanying pianists are fingering the ivories to hone their musical skills… Pianos are about to be put in place, jazz musicians are tuning up, trophies and programs are being produced…All We Are Missing Is You! There’s still time to purchase seating and confirm your attendance at our 2020 Commemorative Mable Butler World-Premiere Gala. Saturday, March 21, 6:00 pm, at the Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort (5601 Universal Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819). Click here to purchase tickets online ($200 per person)Click here to email your questions…”

Valencia College Organizing Visit to Guang Ming Temple
Guang MingValencia College is coordinating a visit to Guang Ming Buddhist Temple (6555 Hoffner Avenue. Orlando, FL 32822) on Sunday, March 22, from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm,. Community members are invited to join the students for the event, but everyone must register in advance. The event will include a tour of the temple, presentations on Buddhism and calligraphy, a vegetarian luncheon and more. Through such excursions, Valencia College’s Peace and Justice Institute has for several years sought to educate students concerning the incredibly diverse array of faith communities in Central Florida. The events have given students and community members an opportunity to reduce their ignorance by replacing stereotypes of faith traditions with accurate information based on authentic relationships. For more information about the event, phone 407-582-2291.

Sikh Professor to Speak at Rollins College on March 25
Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh—Crawford Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Colby College in Waterville, Maine—will speak on the topic “Recovering the Feminine in Sikhism,” on Wednesday, March 25, from 5:00 to 6:00 pm at the Suntrust Auditorium on the campus of Rollins College (1000 Holt Avenue, Winter Park, FL 32789). Dr. Singh’s interests focus on Asian religions, feminist issues and sacred art and poetry. She has published extensively in the field of Sikh studies, including books and numerous articles. Her books include The First Sikh: The Life and Legacy of Guru NanakThe Name of My Beloved: Verses of the Sikh Gurus; and Of Sacred and Secular Desire: An Anthology of Lyrical Writings from the Punjab. She lectures nationally and internationally, and has appeared on television and radio in America, Canada, England, Ireland, Australia, India and Bangladesh. Dr. Singh notes that the Sikh sacred text brings together Sikh, Hindu and Muslim voices. Grounded in the one universal reality, it serves as a rich reservoir that we can draw upon in our own divided and polarized global society. But somehow translations and interpretations eclipse the full force of its inclusive content and style. She says she wants readers to use a feminist lens to recover the empowering philosophy and poetics of Sikh scripture by asking: How do we translate and access the spiritual lyrics? How do we hear them so they create arabesques of understanding across genders, cultures and religions?  How do we apply them to the body of our Mother Earth, mata dharati? The event is free, and the public is invited.

Tampa Bay Area Muslim Association to Host Interfaith EventTampa
The Tampa Bay Area Muslim Association is inviting the public to an interfaith dialogue titled “Our Common Journey Towards Human Excellence.” If faith has the power to heal, can religion heal humanity’s great divide? In a time when humans have never felt more socially isolated, fractured and contentious, can the curative effect of religious thought bridge such a deep socio-economic and political chasm? The event will be held on Tuesday, March 24, from 1:00 to 3:30 pm at the Ballroom at the Student Center at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg (200 6th Avenue South). Wisdom teachers from a variety of faith traditions will share, compare and explore the perspectives and possibilities of interfaith understanding. Presenters include Rev. Susan Sherwood, Dr. Frank Tedesco, Rev. Kim Wells, Rabbi Philip Weintraub and Imam Saad Slaoui. The event is co-sponsored by the City of St. PetersburgOpen Partnership Education Network at USF and the Tampa Bay Area Muslim Association.

Mental-Health Film to Be Screened at WholeLife Church
BedlamThe Global Peace Film Festival and AdventHealth University are partnering to present a free Indie Lens Pop-Up screening of Bedlam. Filmmaker and practicing psychiatrist, Kenneth Paul Rosenberg, MD, visits ERs, jails and homeless camps to examine our national mental-health crisis. Dr. Rosenberg follows the poignant stories of people grappling with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other chronic psychiatric conditions, whose silence and shame often worsen the suffering. The screening will be followed by a discussion of the issues raised in the film. The screening will take place on Tuesday, March 24, at 7:00 pm at WholeLife Church (formerly Florida Hospital Church), 2800 North Orange Avenue, Orlando, FL 32804.

Peace and Justice Institute to Screen Film on Resilience
The Peace and Justice Institute at Valencia College is inviting the public to a free screening of the documentary “Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope.” The film will be shown on Wednesday, March 25, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm in Room 226 at Valencia College’s Winter Park Campus (850 West Morse Blvd, Winter Park, FL 32789), followed by a discussion. The documentary delves into the science of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and a new movement to treat and prevent toxic stress. This event is a partnership between the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, the League of Women Voters of Orange County, the Children’s Advocacy Center at The Howard Phillips Center for Children & Families (part of Orlando Health) and the Peace and Justice Institute at Valencia College. The event’s facilitator is Ann Pimentel-Kerr, CAC specialist at the the Children’s Advocacy Center. Documentary Synopsis: “Researchers have recently discovered a dangerous biological syndrome caused by abuse and neglect during childhood. As the new documentary Resilience reveals, toxic stress can trigger hormones that wreak havoc on the brains and bodies of children, putting them at a greater risk for disease, homelessness, prison time and early death. While the broader impacts of poverty worsen the risk, no segment of society is immune. Resilience, however, also chronicles the dawn of a movement that is determined to fight back. Trailblazers in pediatrics, education and social welfare are using cutting-edge science and field-tested therapies to protect children from the insidious effects of toxic stress—and the dark legacy of a childhood that no child would choose.”

St. Luke’s UMC to Screen Documentary on HomelessnessGPFF
On Thursday, March 26, at 11:30 am at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church’s Founders Hall (4851 South Apopka-Vineland Road, Orlando, FL 32819), the documentary Community First: A Home for the Homeless will be screened. A charge of $25 will cover both the film and the meal that will be provided. The documentary tells a story of shifting mindsets to address homelessness, based on core values of relationships versus transactional motivations, and human-centered needs versus program-centered approaches. The documentary, which was shown in the 2019 Global Peace Film Festival, “tells a compelling story with empathy and compassion. More importantly, it will inspire people to make tangible positive changes in their own communities.” The film’s director, Layton Blaylock, will be present for a discussion following the screening. Prior registration is required.

Christians to Host ‘Turnaround Leadership Workshop Mar 28
Healthy ChurchesThe Christian Service Center is partnering with Church on the Drive (1914 Edgewater Drive, Orlando, FL 32804) to sponsor a workshop on Turnaround Leadership on Saturday, March 28, from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. For more information, click here. “I’d like to personally offer you $10 off the $49 individual registration fee,” says Dr. Jack Mercer, Senior Pastor of Church on the Drive. “This discount is something I’m doing on my own as a way to say thank you for your service.” All you need to do is call Church on the Drive at 407-843-0140 and ask for my Administrative Assistant, Jessica Tremmel. She’ll be happy to help you register for the event. Space is extremely limited and this workshop is on a first-come-first-served basis, so please register before Wednesday, March 25.” Dr. Bill Wilson from the Center for Healthy Churches will be the main presenter.

Nonprofit Leaders Urged to Communicate Re 2020 Census
Some things aren’t about religious v. secular. They’re not about Republicans v. Democrats. Or about rich v. poor. Or married v. single. Gay v. straight. And they aren’t about youth v. age. They’re about plain old commonsense. And filling out the your census form falls into one of those it’s-good-for-everybody-so-get-with-the-program categories. And here’s why: A huge range of federal funds are distributed on the basis of population—population as determined by the once-a-decade federal census. It has nothing to do with whether you live in a wealthy state or a bankrupt state. The amount of money your state is going to from the federal government for Medicaid, SNAP, Head Start, Pell Grants, Section 8, highways, public safety and much, much more is determined by the population figures that are established by the census. Sadly, it was determined that in 2010 one percent of households didn’t fill in the census form—which meant that Florida missed out on—get this!—$178 million we’d have otherwise received. Oh, another thing: Florida’s population has grown enough since 2010 that we should be eligible for two more federal congressional seats. But that’s only if the 2020 census confirms what Florida’s government already knows. So go to the 2020 Census website. Learn what to do. Then, as the Nike commercials tell you: Just do it!

Interfaith Yoga Project to Offer Unique Learning Opportunity
The Interfaith Yoga Project is presenting an event titled “Justice Through the Lens of Religion & Inter-Spirituality as Community Care” on Sunday, April 5, from 4:30 to 6:00 pm at the First Unitarian Church of Orlando (1901 East Robinson Street, Orlando, FL). The event will be moderated by Dr. Elizabeth Swart, “Bridging the Color Divide,” USC Adjunct Lecturer, Department of Social Change and Innovation. And panelists will be: Rev. Katrina Jenkins, Dean of Religious Life, Rollins College; Sister Ann Kendrick, Hope CommUnity Center; Dr. Ann Gleig, “American Dharma Buddhism Beyond Modernity”; Dr. Cyrus Zargar, “The Published Mirror: Storytelling & the Pursuit of Virtue in Islamic Philosophy and Sufism.”; Cantor Jacqueline Rawiszer Menaker, Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism American of Cantors; Pastor Josh Bell, Valencia College Peace and Justice Institute. The program is free and the pubic is invited. Click here to register.

Holocaust Center Exhibit: Nazi Persecution of Homosexualspersecution
Between 1933 and 1945, the Nazi German regime promoted racial health policies that sought to eliminate all perceived sources of biological corruption of its dominant “Aryan” race. Among the groups persecuted as threats to the national health were Germany’s homosexual men. Believing them to be carriers of a “degeneracy” that weakened society and hindered population growth, the Nazi state arrested and incarcerated in prisons and concentration camps tens of thousands of German men as a means of terrorizing them into social conformity. “Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933–1945”—a traveling exhibition from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum tracing the sinister path from prejudice to persecution of homosexuality in Nazi Germany—examines the Nazi regime’s attempt to eradicate homosexuality, which left thousands dead and shattered the lives of many more. The exhibit will be at the Holocaust Center (851 North Maitland Avenue, Maitland, FL 32751) from April 10 to August 16. Holocaust Center hours are Monday to Thursday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm; Friday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm; and Saturday and Sunday from 12:00 noon to 4:00 pm. For more information, phone 407-628-0555.

Second Resilient-Community Conference Slated for April 21
The Peace and Justice Institute at Valencia College, The Early Learning Coalition of Orange CountyOrlando Health and other community agencies are partnering to provide “The Second Annual Creating a Resilient Community: From Trauma to Healing Conference” on Tuesday, April 21, from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm at the Florida Hotel and Conference Center (1500 Sand Lake Road, Orlando, FL 32809). The conference—which is designed to benefit those working in the Health, Education, Business, Public Safety, Government, Criminal Justice, Faith and Nonprofit arenas—will feature speakers who are at the cutting edge of practice and research. This community initiative provides a space to discuss the impact of trauma, ways of healing and how Central Florida can continue to build a resilient community. The event will explore community wellness, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and trauma-informed practices that can transform our region into one of prevention, hope, healing and resilience for all. Click here to learn about registration, student rates, scholarship eligibility and continuing education credits.

Japan Writer Sends Buddhism Article to Interfaith Council
BuddhaDallen Nakamura, founder of the online publication, recently sent the Interfaith Council of Central Florida a link to an article he’d written that he felt might be of interest to us. Nakamura, who was born in Hawaii, moved to Japan many years ago and “completely fell in love with the culture, the people and the food.” So he started writing about such topics—“creating articles to provide people with useful information in a fun and easy-to-read way.” Of course, Japan is more than just culture, people and food, so his interests range to a wide variety of additional topics as well, including Buddhism. Nakamura describes his article—titled “Buddhism: A Look Into the Beliefs, Practices & History”— as “thoroughly researched” and “filled with detailed information, images and videos to make the concepts easy to understand for readers.” Check it out. It’s quite likely you’ll wholeheartedly agree wholeheartedly with his assessment.

Faith Leaders Being Invited to Event on Domestic ViolenceDomestic Violence 2
Faith leaders in Orange, Seminole, Osceola and Lake counties are invited to a free interfaith luncheon, presentation and discussion on “Domestic Violence and the Faith Community.” The event will be held from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm on Thursday, April 23, at the Staybridge Suites Orlando Airport (7450 Augusta National Drive, Orlando, FL 32822). Faith leaders are often the first point of contact for someone who’s experiencing abuse. Thus it’s imperative that faith leaders are fully equipped to guide victims in the right direction and working to end this silent epidemic. Religious communities and leaders can be incredibly helpful or incredibly damaging to survivors of abuse. The event seeks to help Central Florida’s faith-based leaders understand the pivotal resource congregants and faith communities can be in preventing and responding appropriately to domestic violence. The luncheon is being organized by Stand Up Survivor in collaboration with the Mercy Foundation. The event is free, but prior registration is required. For more information, contact: Lisa Alexander at 321-430-5307 or; or Aboo Patel at 407-545-0887 or

Muslims Who Are Planning a Community Iftar, Send Details
If your masjid or any other Muslim organization of which you’re a part is planning a community Iftar during Ramadan this year, please send the details to James Coffin, who will see that they’re printed in the April (deadline March 25) and/or May (deadline April 25) Interfaith Council of Central Florida newsletter. Make sure the word gets out so interested community members can learn what Ramadan is all about. And just what is an Iftar? Click here to read how one non-Muslim guest describes how he experienced it. And don’t hesitate to ask your Muslim friends to tell you about Ramadan and Iftars. Likewise, don’t hesitate to ask your Muslim friends when would be the best time to join them at the masjid to actually experience one.

Center for Peace Offering Tour of Spain and Turkey in July
The Center for Peace at the Islamic Society of Central Florida is offering a tour of Spain and/or Turkey the latter half of July. Such excursions, called the “World of Knowledge Tours,” will include world-renowned sites of great historic importance. Learn more by clicking here.

Ginsburg Family Foundation Again Offering Matching Grant!
If you appreciate what’s being achieved by the Interfaith Council of Central Florida, you have an opportunity to make your contributions achieve twice as much. The Ginsburg Family Foundation once again will give one dollar for every dollar someone else gives up to a maximum $50,000. So we ask all our supporters to make their contributions go further by taking advantage of this act of generosity from a family whose help we’ve appreciated greatly over many years. Contributions are tax-deductible and may be sent to: Interfaith Council of Central Florida, PO Box 3310, Winter Park, FL 32790-3310. Thank you for your help.

Hindu Reflection
All differences in this world are of degree, and not of kind, because oneness is the secret of everything.”—-Swami Vivekananda

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