Newsletter – March 2016

In this newsletter:
1. Launch of latest Elijah publication
2. Becoming an Interfaith Leader

Dear Friend,
We are proud to announce that the fourth volume of the Interreligious Reflections series, “Memory and Hope: Forgiveness, Healing, and Interfaith Relations,” published by Lexington Press is now available. If you would like to purchase your copy at a special discounted price, please click on the image below.

All volumes in the series are available at a reduced rate. In the United States use code LEX30AUTH15, in the UK and worldwide use code 4M15DOTSON.
The code is to be applied on the ‘checkout’ screen.

In May, 2014, members of the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders gathered at St Ottiliens Monastery just outside Munich to discuss the question of Memory and Hope.  The subject of historical memories as a barrier to good interreligious relations had arisen frequently over the years of Elijah’s work. As Alon Goshen-Gottstein says in the foreword, “Memory is an asset, in that it recalls what is most important in our spiritual life, but in some contexts it is also a burden, or a problem, or a challenge one must contend with, precisely as one seeks to advance towards the goals of a religious tradition. Our religious traditions are complex entities. They include the highest spiritual and moral teachings; they are also the reservoirs of the memories and imprints of the entire range of human realities that religions, as social realities, have manifested in their histories. This includes, among other things, the history of tension between competing religious groups, the imprint of trauma inflicted in the name of religion and the recollection of the various ways in which religion and violence have been related to one another throughout human religious history.”
This volume proposes that within each of our religious traditions are the teachings and the tools to “purify” negative memories of the religious other and to transform them into vessels of hope.

To read a summary of the contribution of our authors from six different traditions, read on:

Meir Sendor – “The Malleability of Collective Memory”
Meir Sendor’s chapter “The Malleability of Collective Memory in Jewish Tradition” makes clear to the reader even in the choice of title that memory is not fixed, nor is it factual in a fundamental positivist sense. The word “tradition” suggests dynamism and the possibility of interpretation. Jewish collective memory addresses painful memories and Jewish history is narrated primarily as a history of oppression. Victimhood fuels hostility. Given the centrality of memory in Jewish consciousness, and especially memory of suffering and victimhood ritualized in prayer and key festivals, Sendor grapples with the challenge of developing a theory of memory that does not keep a Jewish mentality fixed in a mental space of victimhood and isolation.
Sendor focuses his efforts on the dynamics of balancing memory and of balancing remembering and forgetting. Adjustment of religious collective memory involves authority, and requires addressing the authority of scripture or tradition, that has carried forth memory up to the present. Authority must balance authority and alternative religious authority from within tradition must be found in order to temper the negative impact of painful memories.
Flora Keshgegian: “Retrieving and Purifying Memory”
Flora Keshgegian’s “Memory and Hope in Christianity” approaches the subject from a different methodological and ideological perspective. Her paper shares the assumption that memory is never fixed but something subject to transitions. This is why Keshgegian prefers to speak of “remembering”, rather than memory. Memory is always constituted in the present. Instability and change are fundamental to the process of remembering. That remembering is an active process means there is no neutral or objective remembering. What is remembered is intrinsically related to the dynamics of the remembering community, and these in turn open up to political dimensions and perspectives of power.
Anantanand Rambachan: “Hope is Greater than Memory”
Anantand Rambachan’s “Hope is Greater than Memory” provides a Hindu perspective. Memory has a crucial role in Hinduism and many of its key practices hinge on memory. This includes recitation of scripture, personal piety revolving around chanting of a personalized mantra, a constant memorial of divine presence, the celebration of festivals and more. Rambachan suggests that various practices of memorialization are centered around one core principal – recognizing our indebtedness to others and cultivating gratitude and generosity to share with others. Memory also provides the deep logic for the spiritual quest itself. Memory of the Self and the lost truth of its unity with the Divine is the purpose of spiritual practice and the key to spiritual liberation. In this sense, then, the entire spiritual life, ranging from practices to the ultimate purpose of the spiritual life, may be presented in terms of memory.
Rahuldeep Singh Gill: “Memory as Benevolence”
Rahuldeep Singh Gill’s “Memory as Benevolence: Toward a Sikh Ethic of Liberation” proposes that memory operates on two planes or in two dimensions. This dual function of memory addresses two complementary dimensions of the religious life. One dimension concerns the memory of the community and its history. Memory has a role in constructing identity and it is particularly painful memory, the memory of martyrdom and persecutions that helps a group solidify its memory. A second dimension of memory touches upon the recollection of fundamental truths of spiritual reality. Two aspects are noted here. The first is the memory of death, which conditions our awareness of life. The second is our memory of God, which is the focus of spiritual intention and of practice.

 

Muhammad Suheyl Umar: “Repairing Memories”
Muhammad Suheyl Umar’s chapter from the Islamic perspective, “Repairing Memories – Two Case Studies,” tackles the problems of memory and hope by reversing the order of discussion. Rather than laying the emphasis on theory and seeking to illustrate it with a case study (as other authors in the volume do), Umar examines in depth two case studies, and reflects on the principles that inform these case studies. The problem tackled by Umar is the problem of corrupted memory. Changed memory can be the source of religiously motivated violence. Facing the challenge of altered memory, Umar suggests there is a way of retrieving lost memory. Such retrieval can function as a means for reducing religious violence. Recalling historical truth, despite contemporary political pressures, enables the retrieval of lost memory and can lead to significant attitudinal changes between members of diverse religious communities.
Michael von Brueck: Memorialization to cultivate mindfulness”
The final essay in the volume is Michael von Brueck and Maria Reis Habito’s “Memory in Buddhism.”  The first part of the chapter offers theoretical reflections on memory. Here the role of memory in constructing identities is stated most clearly. This function is true for both individuals and collectives. The identity-constructing function of memory is closely related to memory’s dynamism. Memory seems fixed, but in fact it is not. It is ever changing. The authors present a particular Buddhist sensibility of the impermanence and transience of all things. If all things are refracted through memory, then memory itself is a mirror of their impermanence.
This impermanence, however, is encountered, paradoxically, through moments of illusory fixity, required for the sake of stability of identity. Therefore, there is something inherently paradoxical about memory that delivers to us stability and transience, folded into one complicated moment.

Become an Interfaith Leader!

Join us at the
Summer Leadership Institute 2016!

Do you have what it takes to become a leader in interreligious dialogue?
Join the Elijah Interfaith Summer Leadership Institute and explore the meaning
and challenges of leadership in and between religions.  

“Religious Leadership: Ideals and Challenges” 
will be held July 31st-August 11th in Jerusalem.

Early bird discount:
10% off if you register by May 1
CLICK HERE for program and registration details.

 

 

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CLICK HERE to make your contribution.  All donations are US tax exempt.

 

Thank You!

Wisdom enables us to become mindful of the memories and impressions that condition our response to the world. Wisdom enables to respond to the world, not from the dualism of like and dislike, love and hate, but from a vision of the unity of existence and the seeing of the limitless in all beings. Wisdom frees us from responding to the world on the basis of historically formed memories and enables us to do so on the basis of compassion. – Anantanand Rambachan

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