Sharing Vocations – January 2011

It is our pleasure to present you with the third issue of our Sharing Vocations leaders’ newsletter. Inside you will find:

Request for Prayer

We include in our prayers Rabbi Rene Shmuel Sirat, Chief Rabbi of France and wish him a full and speedy recovery from his recent illness.

Achievements and Accolades

In June 2010, the Jathedars of the five Takhats (seats of authority) of the Sikh Dharam, as well as the President of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee – an ‘apex’ organisation representing some 24 million Sikhs globally, collectively conferred upon Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh, the rare and prestigious title of ‘Bhai Sahib Bhai’  – ‘(Honourable) Brotherly Leader’ –at Akal Takhat, Amritsar, India. 

The honour was bestowed in recognition of his work in faith propagation through intra and interfaith fields coupled with his outstanding contribution towards the conservation and restoration of Sikh historical shrines.  This is the first time in history that a Sikh from Europe has been awarded the title.

Leaders’ Milestones

September, 2010

In September, Dr. Mustafa Ceric, the Grand Mufti of Bosnia-Hezegovina visited Jordan to be a speaker at the Fifteenth General Conference of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Amman, Jordan on the topic of ‘The Environment in Islam’. The Institute honoured Ceric when they named him as number 43 of the 500 most influential Muslims today.
As part of his visit to Jordan, Ceric visited the offices of the ‘SunniPath (Qibla) Online Islamic Academy’ in order to encourage those active in the important work of education.  He was accompanied by Dr. Abdul Nasir al-Basal, the President of WISE University and Qibla senior Shariah Board of Advisors member.  His visit inspired the team of educators and he was described as ‘a man of incredible experience and knowledge’.  He discussed Islam and the West with the faculty and described the problems that Muslims face in Bosnia.

November, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI sent a delegation to Istanbul Nov. 30 to mark celebrations of the Feast of St. Andrew, the traditional patron of the Orthodox Church. In a message delivered to Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the Pope urged greater efforts towards unity and praised the patriarch’s “promotion of Christian values” on the world stage. “In a world characterized by increasing interdependence and solidarity, we are called to proclaim the truth of the Gospel with renewed conviction, and to present the risen Lord as the response to the most profound spiritual questions and aspirations of the men and women of today,” the Pope said. “In order to carry out this great enterprise,” he added, “we must continue along the path towards full communion, showing that we have already united our strengths for a shared witness of the Gospel before the people of our time.” The Pope’s message was carried by Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. He led the delegation that took part in a special liturgy presided over by Patriarch Bartholomew, at the Church of St. George at Fanar. Patriarch Bartholomew responded with a moving acknowledgement of the work of Pope John Paul II in creating better relations between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches and a plea for greater Christian unity in the future.

November 21 – 23, 2010
His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Swami Atmapriyananda were key figures in the seminar Mind and Life XXII: Contemplative Science: The Scientific Study of Contemplative Practice on Human Biology and Behaviour at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi, which explored some of the rich Indian philosophical and cultural heritage, including the Vedanta, Jain and Yoga traditions. His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave an inspired speech about the importance of this dialogue as an expansion of the contemplative traditions that modern scientists are studying. Swami Atmapriyananda gave an overview of Indian traditions and explained how they are connected not so much by dogma, but as a means of investigating reality. His Holiness concluded the meeting by thanking the organizers and the host country of India. He said he believed there is great potential for growth, that the cultural atmosphere is ripe for collaborative work in the realm of Contemplative Science.

November-December, 2010

Members of the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders played a prominent role in the recent All-India Interreligious Dialogue Training Seminar conducted by the Elijah Educational Network in conjunction with Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar. Shrivatsa Goswami spent three days with participants, contributing to a range of learning sessions and sharing his own faith and interfaith journeys with them. Bikkhu Sanghasena was also in attendance for the opening days of the seminar and expressed his regret at not being able to stay longer. He had a seminar of his own to arrange! Khandro Rinpoche and Timothy Gianotti both thrilled participants by being present even when they could not be in Amritsar. Each of them made an extended presentation by Skype video and were able to engage with their audience and to respond to questions most effectively through the use of this technology. Linking to the seminar through audio only were members of the Elijah Steering Committee. Although this was not as effective as video, the breadth and depth of their discussion had a deep impact on the 25 members of the Indian group, who represented 12 universities and diverse religious affiliations including Sikh, Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim and Jain.

The seminar was held at the Nishkam International Centre in Amritsar, the setting of the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders’ meeting in 2007. Dr Balwant Dhillon and Mr Sukhbir Singh were key contributors to the organization of the seminar and provided Sikh warmth and hospitality. The Bhai Sahib, Mohinder Singh, who had not planned to be in India at this time, was called over to perform official duties and deliver personal condolences and thus was able to join the program in person, too.

 December 6, 2010

Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp participated in a high-level gathering of European Muslim and Jewish Leaders in Brussels organized by the New York-based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding as well as the Jewish World Congress (JWC) that brought together some 50 leaders of Jewish and Muslim communities in Europe.

The group discussed a common statement which calls for closer cooperation between the two communities in Europe and steps “to ensure that Jews and Muslims are able to practice our respective faiths fully and unimpeded by intrusive, discriminatory and unfair governmental regulations.” It urges “cooperative projects to succor the poor and homeless of all backgrounds, to help protect new immigrants who are threatened by hatred and xenophobia, and to heal the environment, bringing together Muslim and Jewish youth for joint programming.” Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp, who is  President of the Jacob Soetendorp Institute for Human Values, The Hague, The Netherlands spoke on the topic ‘Plans for Jewish-Muslim cooperation on a European Level in 2011’

December 15, 2010

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, who is rector of Ss Cyril and Methodius Postgraduate and Doctoral School of the Russian Orthodox Church, celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist at the Patriarchal Metochion of the Chernigov Wonderworkers. The following day, an announcement of the US premier of his St Matthew Passion was made.
St. Matthew Passion NY City Premiere, February 7, 2011, with Carlo Ponti, Jr. Conducting
The English-language U.S. premiere of the St. Matthew Passion, by Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, will debut in New York City on February 7, 2011. This original and fresh work of sacred music—which has received standing ovations from huge audiences in Moscow, Rome, Melbourne, and Toronto—will be presented at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle. Maestro Carlo Ponti, Jr. will conduct the performance, with The Salomé Chamber Orchestra, famed soloists soprano Mary Mackenzie, mezzo-soprano Ana Mihanovic, and tenor Timothy Parsons, and the New York Virtuoso Singers prepared by Harold Rosenbaum.

2010-2011

Bikkhuni Kusuma
spent much of 2010 travelling, first for two months travelling from the East to the West Coast of the USA presenting meditation retreats and Buddhist talks, then in Malaysia for 2 months conducting a 9 day retreat in Vipassana meditation and also many K. Sri Dhammananda memorial talks. While travelling, she held numerous discussions with scientists and doctors on subjects such as karma and rebirth and ‘non-self’ nature.

Now she has settled down to work on two projects to build two hostels for Nuns and Women in Colombo.  Bikkhuni humbly invites funds for these two projects. (read more)

Making headlines

Rabbi David Rosen has been busy in the past month and his remarks have been widely reported in the European media. First he was forced to repudiate comments and attitudes attributed to him by Loonwatch.com, which was itself based on a distorted article printed in the European Observer. Rabbi Rosen is well-known for his commitment to interfaith dialogue and the Islamophobic sentiments attributed to him were grossly misleading. On a more positive note, he was able to welcome a letter from the Greek Orthodox Church leadership reaffirming the “longstanding dialogue” and “close cooperation” between the church and the Jewish community. The letter to Rabbi David Rosen, AJC International Director of Interreligious Affairs, came in response to AJC’s condemnation of a high-level priest, Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus for his anti-Semitic remarks last week on national Greek TV. “Such unfortunate comments have no place in our hearts and minds,” wrote Metropolitan Emmanuel of France on behalf of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. “The language of hate and mistrust will find ways to be heard. This, however, should not become an obstacle in our sincere and fraternal cooperation.” Rabbi Rosen expressed appreciation for the letter, and reiterated that “It is the responsibility of the church leadership to condemn and uproot anti-Semitism.”

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