A CALL TO ACTION: Help disaster relief efforts in the aftermath of devastating earthquake in Nepal

26 04 2015


Central-European Religious Freedom Institute invites individuals and groups to help disaster relief efforts in the aftermath of devastating earthquake in Nepal. Please click the Red Cross banner below to donate funds to Red Cross in Nepal. Any donation, doesn’t matter how small is welcomed and will be much appreciated.



Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu come together to write book on happiness

18 04 2015
His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu exchange greetings on the Archbishop's arrival at Kangara Airport at the start of a seven day visit to collaborate on a book on joy in Dharamsala, India on April 18, 2015.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu exchange greetings on the Archbishop’s arrival at Kangara Airport at the start of a seven day visit to collaborate on a book on joy in Dharamsala, India on April 18, 2015.

New Delhi, April 18 — The Dalai Lama is collaborating with Archbishop Desmond Tutu for a new book that explores the topic of joy, publishers Penguin Random House said on Thursday.

The two spiritual leaders are set to meet in Dharamshala later this month for the Buddhist leader’s 80th birthday celebrations where they will work together to create “The Book of Joy,” themed on “finding enduring happiness in an uncertain world.

The meeting allows for the two Nobel Peace Laureates to spend a week together in “deep dialogue and playful laughter as they share their experience of how to find joy in the face of life’s challenges.”

Set for 2016 publication, the book is in the form of a series of dialogues, reflecting the extraordinary friendship of the authors, who call each other “spiritual brother.”

Hutchinson, part of Penguin Random House UK, has acquired the UK and Commonwealth (ex-Canada) English language rights to the book.

“The ultimate source of happiness is within us,” the Dalai Lama said in a statement. “Not money, not power, not status, which fail to bring inner peace. Outward attainment will not bring real inner joyfulness. We must look inside,” he said.

Archbishop Tutu added, “Sometimes life can be challenging and we can feel lost. But the seeds of joy are born inside each of us. I invite you to join His Holiness and me in creating more joy in our world.” The pair of spiritual leaders are inviting people to ask questions about joy and happiness they most want answered on the authors’ Facebook pages. The most popular will be addressed during the meetings in Dharamshala this month.

Video footage of the answers will also be shared later, publishers said. Archbishop Tutu has encouraged people to “Send us your questions and help us write ‘The Book of Joy.'” The book would be co-written by Doug Abrams, who has worked with Tutu on previous books, and who will conduct the interviews.

“While happiness is often seen as being dependent on external circumstances, His Holiness and the Archbishop believe that joy comes from an internal state of being. They will share how joy animates our lives and leads ultimately to a life of greater meaning and purpose and greater love and contribution,” Abrams said.

Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu regarded as an world statesman, was a prominent leader in the crusade for justice and racial conciliation in South Africa. The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso known as ambassador of peace had for many years developed dialogue with scientists, in psychology, neurobiology, quantum physics and cosmology that has led to a collaboration between monks and scientists in trying to help people achieve peace of mind.

Five children from five faiths

13 04 2015


In the short film “Five,” director Katina Mercadante follows five 5-year-olds as they get ready, leave home and attend prayer services. Viewers see the children, who live around the world, carefully pull on their best clothes, wash up and travel with their parents to their respective houses of worship.

Katina Mercadante

Katina Mercadante

The children come from vastly different religious and cultural backgrounds — they are Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist and Christian. But when they reach their destinations, settle into stillness and close their eyes for prayer, the similarities are striking.

Mercadante, a 30-year-old filmmaker from San Francisco, grew up in the Self-Realization Fellowship, a Hindu tradition that teaches that all religions hold aspects of the divine. She said she feels that this upbringing gave her the ability to find beauty in many different religious traditions — and she wants others to see that, as well.

“Life isn’t just about money or possessions,” Mercadante said. There is an internal and spiritual life that we all have that is a really important of being a human and existing. And it doesn’t matter where you get that from.”

Source: Huffington Post

Ash Wednesday Explained: The Meaning Behind The Dust

19 02 2015
A Catholic nun uses ash to mark a cross on the forehead of a child in observance of Ash Wednesday at The Redemptorist Church at suburban Paranaque city south of Manila, Philippines Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015. Ash Wednesday marks the start of the Lent, a season of prayer and fasting before Easter. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

A Catholic nun uses ash to mark a cross on the forehead of a child in observance of Ash Wednesday at The Redemptorist Church at suburban Paranaque city south of Manila, Philippines Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015. Ash Wednesday marks the start of the Lent, a season of prayer and fasting before Easter. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Religion News Service – Chances are you’ll see a bunch of folks walking around with schmutz on their foreheads this Wednesday (Feb. 18). The ‘Splainer asks what having a dirty forehead has to do with being a Christian and why this ritual is gaining in popularity.

Q: Excuse me, but why do you have dirt on your forehead?

A: Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the day many Christians mark as the first day of Lent, the time of reflection and penitence leading up to Easter Sunday. Clergy all over the world dispense ashes, usually made by burning the palm fronds distributed on last year’s Palm Sunday, making the sign of the cross on the bowed foreheads before them. As they “impose” or “dispense” the ashes, the pastor or priest reminds each Christian of Genesis 3:19: “For dust you are and to dust you shall return.”

Q: Well, that’s cheerful. Why would anyone want to start a workday on such a downer?

A: It isn’t intended to be a downer. It’s supposed to be a reminder that our lives are short and we must live them to the fullest. OK, maybe it’s a little bit of a downer — that verse from Genesis is what God said to Adam and Eve when he expelled them from the Garden of Eden for their sins. But there’s a big party the night before Ash Wednesday. That’s Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday,” a secular observance that evolved out of “Shrove Tuesday,” the last hurrah – usually marked by eating of pancakes or other sinfully sweet foods – before the solemnity and penance of Lent set in.

Q: OK, so don’t invite me over for dinner until Lent is over in 40 days.

A: Fun fact: Lent is actually longer than 40 days. There are 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, but most churches don’t count the Sundays as part of Lent.

Q: I thought only Catholics marked Ash Wednesday?

A: Not anymore. It used to be true that Catholics made up the lion’s share of people celebrating Ash Wednesday. But today, most “liturgical churches” — those with a regular, calendar-based liturgy, or set of rituals and observances — mark the day, including Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Lutherans and other Protestants. Some evangelicals are even beginning to get into the spirit as Baptist churches in Alabama, Texas and Arkansas have smeared some ash in recent years. But the majority of evangelical and Pentecostal Christians don’t observe the day, and neither do Mormons.

Q: Do you have to go to church before or after work to get your ashes?

A: Not anymore! Many churches, ministries and clergy offer “ashes to go,” which can range from dispensing ashes on subway and train platforms, on street corners and other urban crossroads. Some enterprising Christians even offer ashes in a drive-thru.

Q: I don’t remember reading about Ash Wednesday in the Bible. Where did the practice come from?

A: That’s true; there is no mention of Ash Wednesday in the Bible. But there is a tradition of donning ashes as a sign of penitence that predates Jesus. In the Old Testament, Job repents “in dust and ashes,” and there are other associations of ashes and repentance in Esther, Samuel, Isaiah and Jeremiah. By the 10th century, the monk Aelfric tied the practice, which dates to the eighth century, to the period before Easter, writing, “Now let us do this little at the beginning of our Lent that we strew ashes upon our heads to signify that we ought to repent of our sins during the Lenten fast.” By the 11th century, the practice was widespread throughout the church — until Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer, threw the practice out in the 16th century because it was not biblically based. There’s no Lent in the Bible, either, though many Christians see it as an imitation of the 40 days Jesus spent fasting and battling with Satan in the desert.

Q: When can you wash the dirt off your face?

A: No one is required to keep the ashes on his or her face after the ritual. But some Christians choose to, perhaps as a reminder to themselves that they are mortal and fallible, while others may choose to leave them on as a witness to their faith in the hope others will ask about them and open a door to sharing their faith.

Quote of the week

9 01 2015

“If your understanding of the divine made you kinder, more empathetic, and impelled you to express sympathy in concrete acts of loving-kindness, this was good theology. But if your notion of God made you unkind, belligerent, cruel, of self-righteous, or if it led you to kill in God’s name, it was bad theology. ”
Karen Armstrong, The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness


Woman thrown out of Paris opera because of Muslim veil

22 10 2014
Daily Mail (20.10.2014) – France’s Socialist government today pledged to toughen up its anti face-covering law after a veiled Muslim woman was ejected from a major Paris opera house.

In an incident which has divided opinion in the city’s liberal arts community, cast members performing La Traviata ‘objected strongly’ to the presence of a woman in the audience wearing a niqab-type veil.

‘A singer spotted her in the front row during the second act,’ said Jean-Philippe Thiellay, director of the Bastille Opera, which was opened by Socialist president Francois Mitterand in 1989.

‘Some performers said they didn’t want to sing,’ said Mr Thiellay, who confirmed that she was kicked out.

There has been a ban on Muslims covering their face in public in France since the introduction of a law in 2011.

Women living on housing estates on the outskirts of major cities like Paris are regularly criminalised with a fine, but this is the first incident of someone being ejected from an artistic venue.

So far unnamed, she is believed to be a well-off woman from a Gulf State, and was attending the performance with a friend.

Referring to a security guard, Mr Thiellay said: ‘He told her that in France there is a ban of this nature, asked her to either uncover her face or leave the auditorium.

‘The man asked the woman to get up, they left. It was unpleasant getting her to leave.

‘But there was a misunderstanding of the law and the lady either had to respect it or leave,’

But other opera lovers in a city historically renowned for its tolerance were less impressed.

‘What possible harm could a woman sitting quietly in the audience with face covered do to anyone?’ said Guy Laurent, a regular at the Bastille Opera.

‘The woman would clearly have felt utterly humiliated by what happened – French culture should be more tolerant.

‘It is not the job of theatres to enforce petty laws.’

The incident happened on October 3, but it is only now that it is becoming a national polemic.

Technically the woman now faces a fine of just over £180, although there is not thought to have been any police involvement.

The woman and her friend were not refunded any of their ticket price.

A spokesman for France’s Ministry of Culture today said it was ‘producing a new set of rules’ to make sure the so-called ‘burka ban’ was better enforced in theatres, museums and other public institutions.

France, which is home to some five million Muslims, was the first European country to ban the full-face Islamic veil in public places.

Belgium followed suit soon afterwards, but there is no veil ban at all in Britain, despite calls by a minority of right wing MPs for one.

Jews, Muslims, and Christians all had holidays on Saturday, October 4th

5 10 2014



The world’s three Abrahamic faiths are bridged their great divide in a pretty wonderful way this Saturday.

Yom Kippur, Eid Al-Adha, and St. Francis of Assisi’s Feast Day all fell on the same date this year — October 4.

In fact, this is the first time the important Jewish and Muslim holidays have overlapped in more than three decades. The last time it happened was in 1981, according to the Times of Israel.

Yom Kippur, which started at sundown on Friday, is a “Day of Atonement” for Jews. Much of the holiday is spent in the synagogues, where people seek to mend their relationship with God and ask for forgiveness from sins.

Muslims will used the day to remember the prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his most treasured possession, his son, in order to obey Allah’s commands.

And Christians were celebrating the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, by bringing their four-legged friends to church for a special blessing.

It’s a time of prayer for all three faiths, according to the Religion News Service. The beautiful Kol Nidre prayer is sung in synagogues on Yom Kippur. Muslims came together to pray in mosques, saying a “takbir,” or “God is great” prayer. For the Feast of St. Francis, faithful Christians may meditate on the saint’s famous “Canticle of All Creatures.”

The best way to respond to this incredibly holy coincidence is by recognizing it for what it really is — a trifecta of awesome.

Think about it: This is an incredible opportunity for Muslims, Jews, and Christians to take a step back and really appreciate the wonderful way that religion makes meaning in people’s lives and to live together in peace.

So Tzom Kal, Eid Mubarak, and blessed Feast of St. Francis!


Source: Huffington Post

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