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US judge rejects school yoga ban after parents claim it ‘promotes Eastern religions’

29 08 2013

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By Marty Graham/REITERS

A California judge refused on Monday to block the teaching of yoga as part of a public school’s physical fitness program, rejecting parents’ claims that the classes were an unconstitutional promotion of Eastern religions.

Judge John Meyer acknowledged that yoga “at its roots is religious” but added that the modern practice of yoga, despite its origins in Hindu philosophy, is deeply engrained in secular U.S. society and “is a distinctly American cultural phenomenon.”

He also said the Encinitas Unified School District had developed its own version of yoga that was not religious but distinct and separate from Ashtanga yoga.

“A reasonable student would not objectively perceive that Encinitas School District yoga does advance or promote religion,” he said.

While school district officials were pleased by the ruling, the lawyer for the parents said they probably will appeal.

“If yoga is a religion and has religious aspects, it doesn’t belong in the public schools,” said Dean Broyles, who represents Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock, whose two children opted out of yoga for physical education. “There is a consistent anti-Christian bias in these cases and a pro-Eastern or strange religion bias.”

Encinitas, about 20 miles north of San Diego, began a pilot yoga program in one of its nine elementary schools in 2011. About 40 to 45 students – out of the 5,500 in the district – were taken out of the classes by their parents.

The Sedlocks filed suit against the district in February, arguing that yoga is inherently religious and asking teaching of the classes be banned. The parents claimed that children who opted out of the program faced bullying and teasing.

Their suit expressed concern that the school district had implemented the program with a $500,000 grant from the Jois Foundation, which promotes Ashtanga yoga.

The case was the latest twist in a broader national clash over the separation of religion from public education that has seen spirited debate on issues ranging from the permissibility of student-led prayer to whether science instructors can teach alternatives to evolution.

The plaintiffs objected to eight-limbed tree posters with Sanskrit characters that they said were derived from Hindu beliefs, as well as to the use of the Namaste greeting in class and several yoga poses said to represent worship of Hindu deities.

But by the start of the 2012-2013 school year, the Sanskrit and Namaste had been eliminated from the program, and poses had been renamed with “kid-friendly” descriptions, poses now called gorilla, turtle, peacock, big toe, telephone and other terms, according to testimony. The lotus pose, for example, is called criss cross apple sauce in Encinitas schools.

However, the plaintiffs’ expert, professor of religious studies Candy Gunther Brown, testified that yoga practice indoctrinates Hindu religious practices whether the individual knows it or not.

Brown cited research suggesting yoga practice changes the user’s brain and thoughts, a sort of gateway drug to the occult, Meyer said.

The judge did not agree with her, saying, “Dr. Brown has an obvious bias and can almost be called being on a mission against yoga.”

School district Superintendent Timothy Baird applauded the ruling, and pointed out that the district had been represented for free by lawyers provided by parents whose kids take yoga in the district.

“We always want our parents to be happy and we try to work with our parents on everything we do,” Baird said.

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Open letter to City Council and Police Department of Raleigh, North Carolina, USA

26 08 2013

FEEDING HOMELESS APPARENTLY ILLEGAL IN RALEIGH, NC

Members of Love Wins Ministries talking with an officer of Raleigh Police Department who threatened them with arrest of they would distribute food to the homeless.

Members of Love Wins Ministries talking with an officer of Raleigh Police Department who threatened to arrest them in case they would distribute food to the homeless.

 

In the morning of Saturday, August, 24, members of Love Wins Ministries showed up at Moore Square in Raleigh just as they were doing each weekend for the last six years. They provide, without cost or obligation, hot coffee and a breakfast sandwich to anyone in need.

On that morning three officers from Raleigh Police Department prevented them for performing their noble charitable work. According to the reports, an officer told the the members and volunteers of Love Wins Ministries, that they will be arrested if they attempt to distribute food.

Members and volunteers asked the officers for permission to disperse the food which was ready for distribution to the over 70 people who had lined up, at the square and were waiting to eat, but officers refused.

In the past, Love Wins Ministries had a good working relationship with the Raleigh Police Department. As they new that the use of the park itself required permission, they were distributing the food on the sidewalk and always cleaned up after themselves. They have operated, unmolested, under this assumption for the last six years. It is not clear what caused sudden change in the conduct of the Raleigh’s Police Department.

No representative from the Raleigh Police Department was willing to state which law or regulation they broke or why they are just of a sudden being prevented from feeding hungry people after six years of friendly and cooperative encounters with the Department,

According to the reports, when they asked the officer for a reason why, he refused to answer and stated,  “I am just telling you what is. Now you pass out that food, you will go to jail.”

Helping the person in need, being kind to one another is a God given right to any person anywhere in the world. No Government permission should be needed for offering a hungry person cup of coffee and a simple meal.

Citizens who are actively helping community should be awarded for their selfless work and shouldn’t be treated like criminals.

I sincerely hope that City Council and Police Department of Raleigh, NC, will reconsider their policies and find the way how to continue creative and constructive cooperation with the members of Love Wins Ministries.

Jura Nanuk,
CERFI President & Founder





Mormon Missionaries dominate a basketball game

21 08 2013

On this blog we already featured a Catholic priest on a skateboard so why not share the news about Mormon Missionaries playing basketball?

Not sure what exactly happened, but apparently couple of Mormon Missionaries wanted to play some ball in the short break during their daily missionary routine. They set up a candid camera and invited local boys for a game. In their white shirts and ties they looked like easy game and in the beginning they even pretended be one. But not for long.

The video appears to have been originally uploaded in Youtube by Jared Allen. He wrote this description of the video:

“My cousin Cole, a missionary in Dallas Texas, has been dying to play some street ball and got the chance. After playing it cool asking to play because they are “Just some white boys”, they were allowed to play and tried to make it look like they weren’t that good. That is until they started to play. Turn up the volume and laugh hysterically. Cole proves that white boys can jump.”

“Go to 1 Minute to see the best part.”

“Best part of the story is that one of the guy’s daughters ended up getting Baptized.”

MormonOf note: Back in May of 2012, Sports Illustrated named Jabari Parker, who is a Mormon, “the best high school basketball player since LeBron James.” FamousMormons.net has a list of other notable Mormon basketball stars.

To find more about Mormons and their religion, we recommend a series of videos titled I am a Mormon from Mormon.org





Bosnia’s ‘Euro-Islam’ on show during Ramadan

9 08 2013
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People walk in downtown Sarajevo main square after a sundown prayer. ©AFP

By Rusmir Smajilhodzic

In Bosnia, which prides itself as the home ground of “European Islam”, religious fervor and relaxed joie de vivre live easily side by side, even during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, AFP reports.

While many Sarajevans strictly observe the Ramadan fast, the cafes in the cobbled streets of the Bosnian capital’s Ottoman old town still abound with tourists and locals alike.

Young veiled women walk by, crossing others with hair blowing wildly in the wind, as Bosnians’ beloved beer flows freely — and not just for visitors.

“Bosnian Muslims have lived in a European context, politically and legally, for a century and a half,” since what is modern day Bosnia became part of the Austro-Hungarian empire at the end of the 19th century, said Dzevad Hodzic, a professor of ethics and philosophy at the Sarajevo Faculty of Islamic Studies.

Apart from a radical fringe, which emerged during the Balkans wars of the 1990s, Bosnian Muslims tend to keep religion a private matter, in line with what has become known as “European Islam” or “Euro-Islam”, he said.

The term, which emerged during the 1990s and is still the subject of debate, generally refers to an Islam where religious duties are held as compatible with so-called “European” values including human rights, rule of law and gender equality.

Some even call it a “made in Europe” Islam that fully embraces separation of church and state, unlike some North African, Middle Eastern or predominantly Muslim countries where Islam is the state religion.

The faith of Bosnian Muslims was forged by “a lay outlook on the world, one that is not opposed to religion but makes a distinction between religion as part of the moral, private, spiritual and family domain, and the state, which is separate from one’s faith,” explained Hodzic.

Islam was repressed here with all other religions during the 1945-1990 communist period. It was given a new impulse, however, during the devastating inter-ethnic war of 1992-95 that pitted Bosnia’s Muslims, majority Orthodox Christian Serbs and traditionally Roman Catholic Croats against each other.

‘Euro-Islam’

But even during the bloodletting, a cynical joke going around illustrated the relaxed attitude that underlies Bosnians’ approach towards religion.

“How do you recognise a Muslim?” it asked. “He’s the one who does not go to the mosque. Then how do you recognise a Serb? Well, he’s the one who doesn’t go to church”.

The end of communism and the horrors of war did see a “clear re-Islamisation” in Bosnia, noted a French Balkans specialist Xavier Bougarel.

The vast majority of Sarajevo’s residents, 80 percent according to various estimates, are today Muslim, a number far higher than before the 1992-95 conflict — and its demographic consequences — when the city was famously more mixed.

Overall, Muslims represent some 40 percent of the estimated 3.8 million inhabitants of Bosnia. They are mainly Sunnite and usually adhere to the kind of moderate Islam introduced by the Ottomans.

“The tradition of Islam in Bosnia is also strongly influenced by the Sufi brotherhoods, a mystical tradition in Islam known for its tolerance. Sufism holds that religion is a deeply personal experience for everyone,” Hodzic said.

While many Bosnian Muslims flocked to the nearest mosque in the morning for the first of prayer of the day during the fasting month, an equally large number stayed home to pray with their family.

On a typical morning during the holy month, believers gathered in the courtyard of the old Sumbulusa mosque on a hill overlooking Sarajevo.

Before taking off their shoes to enter the building as tradition requires, some turned towards the cemetery where former neighbourhood imams lie buried to recite a quick prayer for the dead, hands turned to the skies.

“This special month triggers wonderful emotions in the faithful, we say here that you should enjoy every Ramadan like it will be the last,” young imam Edin Spahic said.

Far from the contemplation at the Sumbulusa mosque, it was business as usual back at the outdoor cafes and restaurants in downtown Sarajevo.

Many Bosnian Muslims, even if they are not particularly religious, do abstain from drinking alcohol during Ramadan in line with religious precepts. But beer-loving Bosnians tend to catch up both on the Eid al-Fitr feast that marks the end of the fasting month … and the rest of the year.

For more information see: http://en.tengrinews.kz/religion/Bosnias-Euro-Islam-on-show-during-Ramadan–4151/





VATICAN: The Francis Revolution is underway, not everyone is pleased

8 08 2013
People greet the Pope as he visits the Varginha slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 25, 2013. Photo by Associated Press.

People greet the Pope as he visits the Varginha slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 25, 2013. Photo by Associated Press.

VATICAN CITY — The Francis Revolution is underway. Not everyone is pleased.

Four months into his papacy, Francis has called on young Catholics in the trenches to take up spiritual arms to shake up a dusty, doctrinaire church that is losing faithful and relevance. He has said women must have a greater role – not as priests, but a place in the church that recognizes that Mary is more important than any of the apostles. And he has turned the Vatican upside down, quite possibly knocking the wind out of a poisonously homophobic culture by merely uttering the word “gay” and saying: so what?

In between, he has charmed millions of faithful and the mainstream news media, drawing the second-largest crowd ever to a papal Mass. That should provide some insurance as he goes about doing what he was elected to do: reform not just the dysfunctional Vatican bureaucracy but the church itself, using his own persona and personal history as a model.

“He is restoring credibility to Catholicism,” said church historian Alberto Melloni.

Such enthusiasm isn’t shared across the board.

Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, had coddled traditionalist Catholics attached to the old Latin Mass and opposed to the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council. That group greeted Francis’ election with concern – and now is watching its worst fears come true. Francis has spoken out both publicly and privately against such “restoratist groups,” which he accuses of being navel-gazing retrogrades out of touch with the evangelizing mission of the church in the 21st century.

His recent decision to forbid priests of a religious order from celebrating the old Latin Mass without explicit authorization seemed to be abrogating one of the big initiatives of Benedict’s papacy, a 2007 decree allowing broader use of the pre-Vatican II Latin liturgy for all who want it. The Vatican denied he was contradicting Benedict, but these traditional Catholics see in Francis’ words and deeds a threat. They are in something of a retreat.

“Be smart. There will be time in the future for people to sort what Vatican II means and what it doesn’t mean,” the Rev. John Zuhlsdorf warned his traditionalist readers in a recent blog post. “But mark my words: If you gripe about Vatican II right now, in this present environment, you could lose what you have attained.”

Even more mainstream conservative Catholics aren’t thrilled with Francis.

In a recent interview with the National Catholic Reporter, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput said right-wing Catholics “generally have not been really happy” with Francis.

To be sure, Francis has not changed anything about church teaching. Nothing he has said or done is contrary to doctrine; everything he has said and done champions the Christian concepts of loving the sinner but not the sin and having a church that is compassionate, welcoming and merciful.

But tone and priorities can themselves constitute change, especially when considering issues that aren’t being emphasized, such as church doctrine on abortion, gay marriage and other issues frequently referenced by Benedict and Pope John Paul II.

The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, used the word “gay” for perhaps the first time in its 150-year history on Wednesday, in an article marveling at the change Francis has brought.

“In just a few words, the novelty has been expressed clearly and without threatening the church’s tradition,” the newspaper said about Francis’ comments on gays and women. “You can change everything without changing the basic rules, those on which Catholic tradition are based.”

The biggest headline came in Francis’ inflight news conference on the way home from Brazil this week, when he was asked about a trusted monsignor who reportedly once had a gay lover.

“Who am I to judge?” he asked, when it comes to the sexual orientation of priests, as long as they are searching for God and have good will.

Under normal circumstances, given the sexual morality at play in the Catholic Church, outing someone as actively gay is a death knell for career advancement. Vatican officials considering high-profile appointments often weigh whether someone is “ricattabile” – blackmailable.

But Francis said he investigated the allegations himself and found nothing to back them up. And that regardless, if someone is gay and repents, God not only forgives but forgets. Francis said everyone else should too. By calling out the blackmail for what it is, Francis may well have clipped the wings of an ugly but common practice at the Vatican.

Francis also made headlines with his call for the church to develop a new theology of women’s role, saying it’s not enough to have altar girls or a woman heading a Vatican department given the critical role that women have in helping the church grow.

While those comments topped the news from the 82-minute news conference, he revealed plenty of other insights that reinforce the idea that a very different papacy is underway.

_Annulments: He said the church’s judicial system of annulling marriages must be “looked at again” because church tribunals simply aren’t up to the task. That could be welcome news to many Catholics who often have to wait years for an annulment, the process by which the church determines that a marriage effectively never took place.

_Divorce and remarriage: He suggested an opening in church teaching which forbids a divorced and remarried Catholic from taking communion unless they get an annulment, saying: “This is a time for mercy.”

_Church governance: He said his decision to appoint eight cardinals to advise him was based on explicit requests from cardinals at the conclave that elected him who wanted “outsiders” – not Vatican officials – governing the church. Francis obliged, essentially creating a parallel government for the church alongside the Vatican bureaucracy: a pope and a cabinet of cardinals representing the church in each of the continents.

And then there was Rio.

From the moment he touched down, it was clear change was afoot. No armored popemobile, just a simple Fiat sedan – one that got swarmed by adoring fans when it got lost and stuck in traffic. Rather than recoil in fear, Francis rolled down his window. Given that popes until recently were carried around on a chair to keep them above the fray, that gesture alone was revolutionary.

He told 35,000 pilgrims from his native Argentina to make a “mess” in their dioceses, shake things up and go out into the streets to spread their faith, even at the expense of confrontation with their bishops. He led by example, diving into the crowds in one of Rio’s most violent slums.

“Either you do the trip as it needs to be done, or you don’t do it at all,” he told Brazil’s TV Globo. He said he simply couldn’t have visited Rio “closed up in a glass box.”

Pope Francis blesses a child as he rides on the popemobile to celebrate mass in Rio de Janeiro Sunday July 28, 2013. Hundreds of thousands of young people slept under chilly skies in the white sand of Copacabana awaiting Pope Francis’ final Mass for World Youth Day.(AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)

Pope Francis blesses a child as he rides on the popemobile to celebrate mass in Rio de Janeiro Sunday July 28, 2013. Hundreds of thousands of young people slept under chilly skies in the white sand of Copacabana awaiting Pope Francis’ final Mass for World Youth Day.(AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)

Pope Francis (C) salutes the crowd as he arrives for his general audience in St Peter's square at the Vatican on May 22, 2013. AFP PHOTO by GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images.

Pope Francis (C) salutes the crowd as he arrives for his general audience in St Peter’s square at the Vatican on May 22, 2013. AFP PHOTO by GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images.

Pope Francis (C) waves to faithfuls gathered in St Peter's square at the Vatican upon his arrival on June 12, 2013 for his weekly general audience. Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images.

Pope Francis (C) waves to faithfuls gathered in St Peter’s square at the Vatican upon his arrival on June 12, 2013 for his weekly general audience. Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images.

Pope Francis welcomes a group of children who traveled on a special train from Milan and arrived at the St. Peter station at the Vatican, Sunday, June 23, 2013, to meet with the Pope. During the traditional Angelus blessing, one of the most cherished traditions of the Catholic Church, the pope spoke off the cuff, telling young people in the square to not be afraid of "going against the current." Photo by Gregorio Borgia/Associated Press.

Pope Francis welcomes a group of children who traveled on a special train from Milan and arrived at the St. Peter station at the Vatican, Sunday, June 23, 2013, to meet with the Pope. During the traditional Angelus blessing, one of the most cherished traditions of the Catholic Church, the pope spoke off the cuff, telling young people in the square to not be afraid of “going against the current.” Photo by Gregorio Borgia/Associated Press.

Pope Francis blesses a child as he leaves in his papamobile after the Holy mass with the ecclesial movements for Pentecost Sunday on May 19, 2013 at St peter's square at the Vatican. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images.

Pope Francis blesses a child as he leaves in his papamobile after the Holy mass with the ecclesial movements for Pentecost Sunday on May 19, 2013 at St peter’s square at the Vatican. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images.

In this photo made available by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis welcomes a group of children who traveled on a special train from Milan and arrived at the St. Peter station at the Vatican, Sunday, June 23, 2013, to meet with the Pope. During the traditional Angelus blessing, one of the most cherished traditions of the Catholic Church, the pope spoke off the cuff, telling young people in the square to not be afraid of "going against the current." Photo by Associated Press/L'Osservatore Romano.

In this photo made available by the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis welcomes a group of children who traveled on a special train from Milan and arrived at the St. Peter station at the Vatican, Sunday, June 23, 2013, to meet with the Pope. During the traditional Angelus blessing, one of the most cherished traditions of the Catholic Church, the pope spoke off the cuff, telling young people in the square to not be afraid of “going against the current.” Photo by Associated Press/L’Osservatore Romano.





PHOTO ESSAY: Eid Al-Fitr – a celebration at the end of Ramadan

6 08 2013

One of the most joyous days in the Islamic calendar, Eid al-Fitr, also known as Eid ul-Fitr or Eid, is a celebration that marks the end of Ramadan (a holy month of fasting observed by Muslims). This year Eid al-Fitr will most likely be observed on Thursday, August 8, 2013. It is celebrated on the first day of Shawwal, the 10th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Traditionally, the observance begins with the sighting of the new moon.

To mark the beginning of Eid and in accordance with the Sunnah, or practices of the Prophet Muhammad, many Muslims wake up early in the morning and pray Salat ul-Fajr, or the pre-dawn prayer. After brushing their teeth, taking a bath and wearing perfume, they have breakfast before heading off to perform special congregational prayers known as Salaat al-Eid. Many Muslims recite the takbir, a declaration of faith, on the way to the prayer ground and give special charitable contributions known as Zakat al-Fitr.

Eid al-Fitr is a day of great merriment and thanksgiving. Muslims celebrate by gathering with friends and family, preparing sweet delicacies, wearing new clothes, giving each other gifts and putting up lights and other decorations in their homes. A common greeting during this holiday is Eid Mubarak, which means, “Have a blessed Eid!”

Here, we round up some of the best photos of Eid 2012 celebrations across the globe.

Pakistani Muslims offer Eid al-Fitr prayers at the Badshahi Masjid Mosque in Lahore on August 20, 2012. Millions of Muslims across Asia began celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday on August 19, with a month of fasting giving way to feasting, family reunions and raucous festivities. (Arif Ali - AFP/Getty Images)

Pakistani Muslims offer Eid al-Fitr prayers at the Badshahi Masjid Mosque in Lahore on August 20, 2012. Millions of Muslims across Asia began celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday on August 19, with a month of fasting giving way to feasting, family reunions and raucous festivities.
(Arif Ali – AFP/Getty Images)

Pakistani Muslims offer Eid al-Fitr prayers at the Badshahi Masjid Mosque on August 20, 2012. (Arif Ali - AFP/Getty Images)

Pakistani Muslims offer Eid al-Fitr prayers at the Badshahi Masjid Mosque on August 20, 2012.
(Arif Ali – AFP/Getty Images)

Kashmiri Muslims offer Eid al-Fitr prayers at Hazratbal shrine in Srinagar on August 20,2012. (Rouf Bhat - AFP/Getty Images)

Kashmiri Muslims offer Eid al-Fitr prayers at Hazratbal shrine in Srinagar on August 20,2012.
(Rouf Bhat – AFP/Getty Images)

An Indian Muslim caretaker removes carpet after Eid-al-Fitr prayers at the Shahi Jama Masjid Mosque in the Walled City of Ahmedabad on August 20, 2012. (Sam Panthaky - AFP/Getty Images)

An Indian Muslim caretaker removes carpet after Eid-al-Fitr prayers at the Shahi Jama Masjid Mosque in the Walled City of Ahmedabad on August 20, 2012.
(Sam Panthaky – AFP/Getty Images)

Indian Muslim devotees offer Eid al-Fitr prayers at the historic Taj Mahal in Agra on August 20, 2012. (Strdel - AFP/Getty Images)

Indian Muslim devotees offer Eid al-Fitr prayers at the historic Taj Mahal in Agra on August 20, 2012. (Strdel – AFP/Getty Images)

An Indian street vendor sells food to Muslim faithful after Eid al-Fitr prayers near the Jama Masjid Mosque in the old quarters of New Delhi on August 20, 2012. (Roberto Schmidt - AFP/Getty Images)

An Indian street vendor sells food to Muslim faithful after Eid al-Fitr prayers near the Jama Masjid Mosque in the old quarters of New Delhi on August 20, 2012.
(Roberto Schmidt – AFP/Getty Images)

A Muslim family prays on the first day of Eid al-Fitr at Niu Jie Mosque to celebrate Eid al-Fitr on August 19, 2012 in Beijing, China. (Lintao Zhang - AFP/Getty Images)

A Muslim family prays on the first day of Eid al-Fitr at Niu Jie Mosque to celebrate Eid al-Fitr on August 19, 2012 in Beijing, China.
(Lintao Zhang – AFP/Getty Images)

Indian Muslims stop to enjoy traditional sweets after offering Eid al-Fitr prayers in Kolkata on August 20, 2012. (Dibyangshu Sarkar - AFP/Getty Images)

Indian Muslims stop to enjoy traditional sweets after offering Eid al-Fitr prayers in Kolkata on August 20, 2012.
(Dibyangshu Sarkar – AFP/Getty Images)

Indian Muslims stop to enjoy traditional sweets after offering Eid al-Fitr prayers in Kolkata on August 20, 2012. (Dibyangshu Sarkar - AFP/Getty Images)

Indian Muslims stop to enjoy traditional sweets after offering Eid al-Fitr prayers in Kolkata on August 20, 2012.
(Dibyangshu Sarkar – AFP/Getty Images)

Bangladeshi Muslims offer Eid al-Fitr prayers at the National Mosque of Bangladesh, Baitul Mukarram in Dhaka on August 20, 2012. (Munir Uz Zaman - AFP/Getty Images)

Bangladeshi Muslims offer Eid al-Fitr prayers at the National Mosque of Bangladesh, Baitul Mukarram in Dhaka on August 20, 2012.
(Munir Uz Zaman – AFP/Getty Images)

Young Muslim girls show their hands decorated with henna after attending prayers on Eid Al-Fitr at the Regent's Park Mosque in London on August 19, 2012. (Adek Berry - AFP/Getty Images)

Young Muslim girls show their hands decorated with henna after attending prayers on Eid Al-Fitr at the Regent’s Park Mosque in London on August 19, 2012.
(Adek Berry – AFP/Getty Images)

Filipino Muslim women gather to pray celebrating the start of Eid al-Fitr in Manila on August 19, 2012. (Noel Celis - AFP/Getty Images)

Filipino Muslim women gather to pray celebrating the start of Eid al-Fitr in Manila on August 19, 2012.
(Noel Celis – AFP/Getty Images)

Sri Lankan Muslims wash before prayers during Eid al-Fitr celebrations at the Galle Face esplanade in Colombo on August 19, 2012. (Ishara S. Kodikara - AFP/Getty Images)

Sri Lankan Muslims wash before prayers during Eid al-Fitr celebrations at the Galle Face esplanade in Colombo on August 19, 2012.
(Ishara S. Kodikara – AFP/Getty Images)

A Muslim boy prays at the start of Eid al-Fitr at the Peace and Friendship stadium in Piraeus near Athens on August 19, 2012. (Louisa Gouliamaki - AFP/Getty Images)

A Muslim boy prays at the start of Eid al-Fitr at the Peace and Friendship stadium in Piraeus near Athens on August 19, 2012.
(Louisa Gouliamaki – AFP/Getty Images)





Pope Francis sets a good interfaith example

6 08 2013
Pope Francis salutes as he arrives at the Chiesa Del Gesu' in Rome on July 31, 2013. Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images

Pope Francis salutes as he arrives at the Chiesa Del Gesu’ in Rome on July 31, 2013. Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images

By Yasmine Hafiz/Huffington Post

Pope Francis personally reached out to Muslims around the world with Id al-Fitr greetings for the holiday that concludes the holy month of Ramadan. While the message has been traditional since 1967, usually the greetings are sent by the Vatican’s Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Pope Francis explained that he wanted to personally write this year’s message as a mark of his “esteem and friendship” for all Muslims, citing the example of his namesake Saint Francis, who “loved every human being deeply.”

Addressed “To Muslims throughout the World,” the message is an important call to action for peace and tolerance as he proposed reflection on the theme, “Promoting Mutual Respect through Education.” As sectarian and religious tensions continue worldwide, the pope emphasized the importance of respect and need to educate Muslim and Christian youth in a tolerant and loving manner. He said, “We all know that mutual respect is fundamental in any human relationship, especially among people who profess religious belief. In this way, sincere and lasting friendship can grow.”

The pope also offered good wishes to Muslims at the beginning of Ramadan during a visit to the island of Lampedusa in Italy on July 8, saying in a speech, “I also think with affection of those Muslim immigrants who this evening begin the fast of Ramadan, which I trust will bear abundant spiritual fruit. The church is at your side as you seek a more dignified life for yourselves and your families.”

His sincere and friendly greetings will hopefully be warmly received by leaders of the Muslim community, many of whom felt uneasy with the last pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI, after he quoted an anti-Islamic remark in his 2006 Regensburg lecture and sparked worldwide outrage.

“In issuing a personal, heartfelt and meaningful message to Muslims around the world at the end of Ramadan, we see a genuine effort on behalf of Pope Francis to send a message of good will and compassion. Focusing on youth and ‘mutual respect through education,’ Pope Francis underscores the critical components of cohesiveness -– that people of all faiths should respect the other and learn about ‘the other,'” said Farah Pandith, the U.S. Department of State’s Special Representative to Muslim Communities. “His important message of mutual respect will no doubt have a powerful impact on how the next generation of Muslim and Christian youth view and interact with each other.”

Francis is being called “the People’s Pope” for his outreach to many marginalized groups.

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