Pope Francis and Interfaith Footwashing

One of the strangest traditions in the Christian church is that of washing people’s feet.  Usually when folks outside of the Christian tradition hear about it, they arch their eyebrows and ask “what?”.  My own daughter said “eeew” when she heard about what Pope Francis did.  But footwashing started with Jesus, who washed his disciples’ feet during the Last Supper.  It was meant to show his humility and willingness to serve his followers by taking up a dirty job (think 1st century sandals, dusty roads, and no pavement). Continue reading

Insults and Religion

Much has been made in recent weeks about the insulting of the prophet Muhammad through the crude and slapstick video made right here in the San Gabriel Valley.  I would like to explore this concept of insult a bit, and discover what we can learn through the lenses of various Abrahamic religions.  While this is by no means an exhaustive inquiry, even an introductory look can help people of goodwill get a better sense of the main issues at stake.  My own motivation comes from wanting to understand how insults can affect interfaith and inter-religious work.  I write as a Christian, and do not claim expertise in Islam or Judaism, but hope that these words are an accurate representation of these traditions. Continue reading

Journey to Guatemala

Team Guatemala is having the time of their lives doing good work, building meaningful relationships, and bringing us the pictures to prove it.  Check out some of their shots from their trip! Don’t forget to visit our Executive Director, Steve’s blog, Journey to Guatemala for an in depth look at their activities.

Steve’s Post ILYI Reflections

As I looked out over a group of 60 high school and college students – Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Agnostic, Zoroastrian, and other’s, I thought to myself, “This is the future, or more, accurately, this could be the future.”  These were students who had come for our first ever Interfaith Youth Leadership Initiative, a 3-day event held in conjunction with other various religious and advocacy groups here in Los Angeles.  Did you know that high school students were interested in interfaith work?  The interfaith movement is fairly new on the religious landscape, and it has tended to be populated with older, mostly progressive adherents to their faiths.  But it was amazing to see students with piercings and skinny jeans talking and listening passionately to students of other faiths – “What’s with the hijab?”  “Why do Sikhs wear turbans?”   These students had come on their own in the summer to learn and grow in an utterly unique way.

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Why “Interfaith”?

This is the first of what I hope will be a weekly blog on current issues relating to the interfaith world we live in!  I guess the first thing that comes to mind when you are thinking about interfaith work is “why?”  I mean, why care about doing interfaith work at all, when most of us come from a religious tradition that is quite full of ideas, good work, history, community, etc?  I must say, that is a very good question.  Christians, Jews, Muslims – all the Abrahamic religions have traditions that go back thousands of years.  That’s a lot of history, theology, noble endeavors, questionable decisions, and family connections to dissect.  There are religious holidays, what you were taught as a child, what you are teaching your own children – all of this can take place solely and quite happily within your own religious tradition.  And it is rich, varied, and beautiful all by itself.  So why venture out at all from the world of “faith” to the world of “interfaith”?  I’ll give one answer in this post. Continue reading

Are you trying to “convert” people in interfaith work?

One of the first hurdles one comes to when thinking about doing interfaith work is fear.  People are often scared of what they don’t know, and for many people, the “other” is fearful simply because they don’t know it.  This is especially true with religion.  Many people are wonderfully committed to their religious tradition, which is tremendously laudable.  However for some, that commitment has included a de-legitimizing, or at least a degrading of other religious traditions.  This makes a little bit of sense at first glance:  Why pick one religion over another, if not for your sense that one is a little better, or offers a truer sense of the divine, or will get you to heaven more assuredly?  However, if we dig a little deeper, there are a number of other factors in play, including the impulse to demonize.  Not unlike an insecure person who has to put down those around him/herself to make him/herself feel better, sometimes people in one religious tradition can attack another religious tradition simply to puff up their own.  Why the need to tear down another religion in order to feel good about your own?  I think there are a few possible reasons.  But for our purposes, I’d like to focus on the role of proselytizing in religion. Continue reading