Exhibit Showcases Muslims Who Saved Jews in Holocaust

When learning about the Holocaust in school we always talked about all of the kind Christians who hid Jewish families in their homes to prevent them from being sent to concentration camps. However, less discussed in history classes are the Muslim families who did the same thing! In London a exhibit, photos and stories will be displayed educating the public and preserving the history of these families.

Read all about it on BBC!

Hardaga family

Photo Credit: BBC

While history is always important to preserve, it is especially important to remember this special relationship between Muslims and Jews, mainly in Bosnia. Currently there is tension between Muslims and Jews, causing there to be varying opinions on how Muslims should view the Holocaust. Fiyaz Mughal, co-author of the Role of Righteous Muslims describes the religious tension:

“One of the main drivers of the project is that there are some small sections in Jewish communities who are trying to rewrite history and say that Muslims overwhelmingly helped the Nazis. And on the other side, there is a small section of the Muslim community who do not want to talk about the Holocaust for the sake of not wanting to build up an empathy with Jewish communities. That is unacceptable, because factually it’s untrue.”

That’s why the exhibit is there: to build bridges. If history is displayed for all to see, accurately showing their inspiring stories, then it sets an example for current religious leaders to follow so that they can work together. If the people during the Holocaust could set aside their differences and work out of love rather than hate, then today’s religious people can form similar friendships. This really is a great example for all of us regarding interfaith dialogue, not just Muslims and Jews. I just wish I was in London to be able to see the exhibit!

Faith-Based Programs in the Middle East Help the Jordan River

The environmentalist group, Friends of the Middle East is currently doing a faith-based initiative to clean and preserve the Jordan River, one which is crucial to so many religions in the area. This effort is aiming to bring together the three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity) in the area to not only see their similarities, but combine their resources to preserve a river which is so important to all of them.

Photo Credit: PlanetSave.org

Read more about the JR Faith Based Advocacy Program!

The fact of the matter is that the Jordan River is far more polluted than any religion wants to admit. According to a Huffington Post article the river is no longer suited for baptisms, due to “severe mismanagement.” Pollution and agricultural runoff stay in the water and flow through the river, making any sort of activities in the river like swimming or baptisms potentially dangerous for the thousands of pilgrims who come each year. This is a devastating blow for the religions, especially Christianity who believes Jesus to have been baptized in that water centuries ago. However all of the Abrahamic religions see the importance and worth of the river, making it’s cleanliness a serious topic for religions.

What this organization is doing is truly phenomenal. In an area of the world where the climate is one of religious tension rather than cooperation, this group is encouraging religions to see the shared value in the environment that they live in and worship in. By making this issue one that is important for everyone to talk about and making a difference, it is also opening the doors for more religious dialogue and cooperation in the future. It is my hope that more groups in the Middle East follow suit, making religious dialogue the norm.

Gay Marriage & Religion: Let’s Not Make Another Scapegoat

With the Supreme Court rulings that are happening today, a lot of attention is being given by the media to the one group who is assumed to be against it: religious people. There is always a picture being painted of the religious using their faith as a weapon to bully the LGBT community with. An editorial in the New York Sun entitled “Prejudice or Religion?” gives an interesting perspective, coming to the defense of the religious in some cases.

Photo Credit: upi.com

Read “Prejudice or Religion?” here.

It is clear that this issue is surrounded with a lack of exploring new or opposite perspectives, like most political issues people are passionate about. I think that is why I enjoyed reading the editorial so much; even though it had made points that I don’t agree with, it made me look at the whole situation through a different perspective. Even though I’m Christian, I didn’t think about how this cause could be seen as alienating the religious groups who are following their religious doctrine.

“It will be no triumph if due process and equal protection are extended to same-sex couples at the expense of those who regard as sacred the laws brought down from Sinai and the religious rulings that have been made by the sages.”

How easy is it for us to be so focused on one oppressed group that we don’t even think about how what we say might affect another? When comments are made about how the Bible is wrong and insinuate that those who follow it are prejudiced, isn’t that doing what the LGBT movement is protesting? I myself am part of a population of people of faith who believe in equality for people regardless of sexual orientation. We are out there, we exist! In short, we need to respect each others beliefs and experiences, be open to conversations instead of debates. If we want equality and tolerance we need to show that towards all people, even those who we might not agree with, and not isolate entire groups of people who we feel embody these opinions.

While watching the events of today unfold, I am going to encourage myself and others to be sure to continue to work towards equality and respect for all people, including the religious. Demonizing entire religions for their teachings, like demonizing groups of people for their sexual orientation, is not what equality is all about.

Let’s not pass the torch of oppression from one group to another.

Interested in watching the events of today unfold? Listen or read the arguments on the Supreme Court website.

“Is the Book Better than the Movie?”: Hollywood and the Bible

Photo: History Channel

Rising in popularity is the show “The Bible,” where different episodes are different stories from the Christian text. I’m finding this phenomenon of Hollywood recreating the Bible to be very interesting, and am reminded of the controversy surrounding the film “The Passion of the Christ” when it was released. It seems that film adaptions of the Bible are becoming more and more popular as time goes on. What does this mean for religions in general?

Watch the video on ABC News here!

Religions around the world have sacred texts, believed by the followers to be divinely inspired and crucial to following the religious doctrine. Christianity is one of these religions, and we see the Bible being used to condemn movements and groups of people in our country as well as inspire people to do incredible good. Although we are a country who prides itself on separation of church and state, it is obvious that Christian ideals are woven into our society.

That being said, I find it interesting that the show “The Bible” has been getting so many views and (according to the ABC clip) positive attention. My instinct would tell me that there would be a lot of resistance and a lot of negative press for it. Is our society having a change of heart?

In the clip, someone was describing how great it was to be able to watch the show and then look it up in the Bible. Let’s be honest though, how many times have students watched the movie instead of reading the book for class? I know I personally just saw the movie “The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” and so I don’t really feel the need to go and compare it to the book. Could this be a new way that people could start to treat the Bible, just watching the movie?

Now is the Hollywood takeover of the Bible something that could happen to other religions? I have a feeling that a film adaptation of the Quran is not in our future, but what about film adaptations of Hindu texts? The story of the Buddha? Maybe one will be the next History Channel miniseries…

One positive thing about the show is that it brings the content and spirit of the Bible to non-Christian viewers. Someone who isn’t Christian would probably be more apt to watch a television show than sit down and read the whole Bible. Could this promote more interfaith cooperation? I guess time will tell.

Since the show is so new, I think all we can do right now is speculate. But I’m really curious as to whether the age old statement will ring true: “The book is always better than the movie.”


Pope Benedict’s resignation – Will the faith line change?

My first post is well timed with today’s big news: Pope Benedict’s shocking resignation at the end of this month.

Read the New York Times article.

I, like many people (religious and non-religious) around the world found this to be very shocking. Since it’s been 600 years since the last resignation, clearly this doesn’t happen everyday. Due to his poor health, the leader of the Catholic Church decided to resign, but his resignation left me with more questions than answers. One of the biggest questions is the one I think is on everyone’s minds: What does this mean for the church?

Having Benedict resign so abruptly makes it so that the church has a bit more time to start finding a replacement pope. But the decision they make can really affect the future of the church. Will the church choose a more liberal pope, or continue with the conservative theology of Benedict, known as “God’s Rottweiler?” From an interfaith perspective, Benedict did not have the best relations with other faiths, making different comments and actions over his 8 years to offend different religious groups. (This Toronto Star article gives a brief synopsis of some of these conflicts.) This is an opportunity for the interfaith work started in the Vatican II council to really move forward, if the right pope is picked to oversee it.

In essence, I see this as an opportunity to change the course of history, especially regarding interfaith cooperation. This could be a great change in favor of interfaith or it could become another hurdle that the movement jumps over. I am holding my breath until Easter, hoping that they make the right choice. But regardless of the pope, religious pluralism will still continue and Catholics will still have a space at the table.