It was an honor to share my perspective as a Jew and diversity professional at Chattanooga’s MLK interfaith service commemorating The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. That event was 7 years ago but my passion for diversity is a lifelong legacy from my father, a US World War II military intelligence officer whose letters describing Naziism reside in Cincinnati’s American Jewish Archives. Having dedicated decades to tikkun olam, Hebrew for ‘repair of the world,’ I resonate to this day to Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s words, “Racism is man’s gravest threat to man – the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.”
Why does the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion field include so little religious diversity training? The cultural awareness and cultural competence inherent in DEI are increasingly embraced as the major tools of the global market place of the future. Yet, there is a black hole of information on diverse religions. The silence is due to a paralyzing sense of being overwhelmed and under-prepared, not to a lack of interest or visibility. Turn on the TV, open a newspaper, or check the internet and religion pops out as a major issue across the planet. Look at the increase in EEOC complaints based on religious expression as well as the growing antisemitism, anti-Muslim and other hate-related trends. Yet, the vacuum of expertise in religious diversity exists in most relationship-oriented sectors of our society: business, education, government, and human services.
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Annual UN Observance Week: Feb. 1-7
The World Interfaith Harmony Week was first proposed at the UN General Assembly on September 23, 2010 by H.M. King Abdullah II of Jordan. Just under a month later, on October 20, 2010, it was unanimously adopted by the UN and henceforth the first week of February will be observed as a World Interfaith Harmony Week.
The World Interfaith Harmony Week is based on the pioneering work of The Common Word initiative. This initiative, which started in 2007, called for Muslim and Christian leaders to engage in a dialogue based on two common fundamental religious Commandments; Love of God, and Love of the Neighbour, without nevertheless compromising any of their own religious tenets. The Two commandments are at the heart of the three Monotheistic religions and therefore provide the most solid theological ground possible.
The World Interfaith Harmony Week extends the Two Commandments by adding ‘Love of the Good, and Love of the Neighbour’. This formula includes all people of goodwill. It includes those of other faiths, and those with no faith.
The World Interfaith Harmony Week provides a platform—one week in a year—when all interfaith groups and other groups of goodwill can show the world what a powerful movement they are. The thousands of events organized by these groups often go unnoticed not only by the general public, but also by other groups themselves. This week will allow for these groups to become aware of each other and strengthen the movement by building ties and avoiding duplicating each others’ efforts.
It is hoped that this initiative will provide a focal point from which all people of goodwill can recognize that the common values they hold far outweigh the differences they have, and thus provide a strong dosage of peace and harmony to their communities.
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Thanksgiving isn’t just food, family, football, and Black Friday. Not that there’s anything wrong with stuffing yourselves and your loved ones and then heading for the couch and TV or the shopping mall. All are fine American traditions celebrating the abundance in our lives, topped off with delicious left overs. But they seem more removed than ever from the holiday’s intended purpose.
That purpose was demonstrated at the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service held at Pilgrim Congregational Church. We sat in the pews listening to the harmonies of a choir made up of talented congregants from faith groups across the city. The graceful music surrounded and filled us as religious leaders representing Baha’i, Catholic, Humanist, Jewish, Muslim, and Protestant communities offered prayers and poems of gratitude and compassion.
When I arrived at Chattanooga’s Second Missionary Baptist Church, A true Southern gentleman, Pastor Paul McDaniel, met me personally met at the door. Born in Rock Hill, South Carolina, Pastor McDaniel has been part of the Southern landscape and its African American community for most of his life. After attending Morehouse College in Atlanta, he received a Masters of Divinity degree from Colgate-Rochester Divinity School and a Masters of Arts degree from the University of Rochester in New York. A Chattanooga resident since 1966, Rev. McDaniel stepped down from his post at the Second Missionary Baptist Church after almost 50 years of service. A larger-than-life figure in the community, I share our conversation in his honor.
The Reverend Janet M. Cooper Nelson is Chaplain, Director of the Office of Chaplains and Religious Life, and faculty member at Brown University where she leads a multi-faith team of 4 Associate Chaplains and 40 Religious Life Affiliates, responsibilities she assumed in 1990 after appointments at Vassar, Mount Holyoke, and The Church of Christ at Dartmouth College.
She is ordained in United Church of Christ and holds degrees from Wellesley College, Tufts University, and Harvard Divinity School where she was awarded the Billings Prize for Preaching, the Rabbi Martin Katzenstein Distinguished Alumni award, and The Peter J. Gomes Memorial Award.
Robyn LeBron is a member and contributor to WorldAnglican.com. She is an interfaith peace advocate and the Manager-Moderator of Interfaith Professionals on LinkedIn where she advances the interfaith movement by connecting interfaith groups to maximize their efforts. Robyn is the author of two books, Searching for Spiritual Unity…Can There be Common Ground? and The Search for Peace in Times of Chaos.
The Rev. Dr. John T. Pawlikowski, a priest of the Servite Order, is Professor of Social Ethics and Director of the Catholic-Jewish Studies Program at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. He served for six years as President of the International Council of Christians & Jews and its Abrahamic Forum and currently holds the title of Honorary Life President. He has authored/edited some fifteen books on Christian-Jewish Relations as well as on social issues such as economic justice, war and peace, and ecological sustainability. He is the former editor of New Theology Review and a member of the editorial board of the Journal for Ecumenical Studies. He is also a founding member of the US Holocaust Memorial Council.