Monday, May 31, 2010

My summer trek for the interfaith movement begins with a wonderful weekend in San Jose, and the tragic news of the Freedom Flotilla

I just returned from a wonderful weekend in San Jose, CA, which brought together outstanding leaders of the interfaith community who shared their vision of a world in which people of diverse faiths work together for justice and peace.

Pictured here are two of the panelists, Zahra Billoo (left) and Ellen Grace O'Brian (right). Rabbi Elisheva Salamo couldn't have her picture taken because of Shabbat. Below are the two Quakers who made this weekend possible: Donna Poulos and Jeff Kroeber of San Jose Meeting. (Wild, silent applause!)

Over 50 people showed up for a delicious potluck meal and an inspiring panel discussion, which included a talk by Rev. Ellen Grace O'Brian, Founding Ministear of the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment, San Jose, and member of the Board of Trustees of the Council of PWR, Zahra Billoo, Program and Outreach Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an activist attorney committed to social justice and community, and Rabbi Elisheva Salamo of Keddem Congregation, Palo Alto, who taught Jewish culture at Catholic high schools and attended PWR. We had a lively discussion about what we could do to promote interfaith understanding. I was esp. pleased to meet a couple of Catholic high school students (one of whom was a Muslim!) who want to do interfaith youth projects in their community.

During our Quaker meeting for worship on Sunday, a woman gave an inspired prophetic message. She said that during Memorial Day, we should remember not only soldiers who have died fighting to defend US interests, but also peace activists who sacrificed their lives for peace. I thought of Ben Linder (killed by contras in Nicaragua), Rachel Corey (killed by Israelis intent on destroying a Palestinian home) , Tom Fox (killed by religious fanatics in Iraq), and now the Turks killed by Israeli commandos while trying to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Upon learning of this brutal attack on peace activists, I went to the Israeli embassy to join protesters who included Muslims, Christians and Jews. I was pleased to see my dear friend Dick Platkin, a founding member of LA Jews for Peace, and Marcy Winograd, a Jewish peace activist running for Congress against Jane Harman. I was glad to stand in solidarity with people of conscience who oppose the siege of Gaza and other Israeli war crimes.

I will be writing my elected officials tomorrow calling for a condemnation of Israel's brutal attack on unarmed ships in international waters, which is clearly a violation of international law. I will demand that those responsible for this crime be brought to justice.

I also want an end to the siege of Gaza and an end to the occupation of the West Bank so that Palestinians can enjoy the same freedoms and the same rights enjoyed by Israelis--the right to travel to and from their homes without being harassed, the right to buy land and build homes in their homeland just like Israeli Jews, the right to travel to and from their homeland without having to seek permission from Israeli authorities--in short, the rights that free men and women deserve. As our Declaration of Independence says, all human beings "are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights...."

Palestinians are condemned when they resort to violence, but the Freedom Flotilla is clearly an effort to use Gandhian nonviolence to bring about justice. We need to give these brave nonviolent soldiers for peace our support.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Remembering Kathleen, and Looking Towards the Future

A year ago today my beloved wife Kathleen breathed her last breath and went home to God at the City of Hope. During this year I have experienced great pain, but also great joy--the pain of losing my soul mate and best friend, and the joy of knowing that her spirit still lives and inspires me and others to draw closer to God and to show kindness and love to all around us. I never see a beautiful flower, or a child, or a homeless person, without thinking of Kathleen and her deep, tender love for all God's creatures. A day never goes by in which I don't seek her wisdom and guidance, and feel her presence in my heart. She taught me how to live like a Christian, how to love like a Christian, and how to face life-threatening illness and death like a Christian. A day never goes by without my saying: Thank you, God, for Kathleen!

But it has become clear to me that I need to move on with my life, and that a new chapter is opening up. I am blessed that I have the resources to work full-time as a volunteer interfaith peace activist. I am grareful that I can give back to my Quaker community in many ways since Friends have given me so much during my times of trial and tribulation.

This summer I plan to travel once more in the ministry, carrying a concern about interfaith peacemaking to Friends throughout the USA, from San Jose to Princeton, NJ.

Beginning Memorial Day weekend, I will drive nearly 7,000 miles and give presentations at Quaker venues all around the country: San Jose, Phoenix, Intermountain Yearly Meeting, Colorado Springs, Boulder, Billings (MT), Sioux Falls (SD), Minneapolis, Friends General Conference in Bowling Green, Ohio, etc. I plan to drive all the way to Pendle Hill, visiting family and Friends in Philadelphia and New Jersey, and then drive back to California in time to give two presentation at Pacific Yearly Meeting. It will be a full and exciting summer.

Yet there is also a poignant side to this trip. Two years ago, Kathleen and I planned to make a similar two-month road trip before going to Pendle Hill to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. But God had our plans, and we went on a cancer journey instead.

Now I will make the cross-country trip without her physical presence, but I won't be alone. Her spirit will be with me, along with that of many Friends. I have a support committee consisting of three dear Friends: Stan Searl, Diane Manning, and Kathy Forsman. They will be my "virtual elders," holding me in the Light, and being available for me to share my joys and concerns as I travel. Santa Monica Friends Meeting and my many interfaith friends in LA will also be holding me in prayer as I make my journey of faith across the USA. Your prayers will also help.

Kathleen, I know, would be pleased that I am making this journey since she had a deep commitment to the interfaith movement. Her Methodist faith was in a loving God who sent his beloved son Jesus to bring hope and salvation to every living soul. I share that faith.

My summer road trip in the ministry will begin Memorial Day weekend (May 29-30), when I give two presentations at San Jose MM. Inshallah, it will end during the final week of July in Claremont, CA, at Pacific YM-- where I will give two presentations, one about interfaith peacemaking and another about Howard and Anna Brinton.

Here's a preliminary itinerary and a description of some of the presentations I am scheduled to give. I am in the process of revising the itinerary this week as I contact various Friends to find out if they are interested in a visit. From the responses I have received from Friends I have contacted so far, I know this will be an amazing adventure. If I am passing near you, and you'd like to get together, please let me know.

Saturday, May 29, 7 - 9 PM, San Jose Friends' Meetinghouse, 1041 Morse St., San Jose, "Building a Local Interfaith Movement, with a Global Perspective." Anthony Manousos, Santa Monica Friends' Meeting, active in interfaith work, attended Parliament of the Worlds' Religions (PWR) in Melbourne last year, is the principal speaker; with Rev. Ellen Grace O'Brian, Founding Minister and Spiritual Director of the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment, San Jose, and member of the Board of Trustees of the Council of PWR, Zahra Billoo, Program and Outreach Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an activist attorney committed to social justice and community, and Rabbi Elisheva Salamo of Keddem Congregation, Palo Alto, who taught Jewish culture at Catholic high schools and attended PWR. Vegetarian Dinner, 5:30-7 PM precedes the event. Ample free parking in large lot across the street. Information, call Donna at 650.428.0832.

Sunday, May 30, 12 - 1 PM, San Jose Friends' Meetinghouse, "Answering that of God in Everyone: Friends and the Interfaith Movement". Anthony Manousos will present a PowerPoint presentation and talk, followed by questions and discussion. If so moved, please join us for worship from 10 - 11 AM, followed by refreshments and then the talk. See above for parking, etc

"Expanding Our Spiritual Horizons through Interfaith and Intra-faith Encounters”

A series of presentations at the Friends General Conference Gathering in Bowling Green, Ohio, sponsored by Quaker Universalist Fellowship
with support from the Christian Interfaith Relations Committee of FGC

Afternoon Sessions (3:15 PM – M, T, Th, Fri)

"God and Allah Need to Talk." Learn how the Abrahamic faiths—Islam, Christianity, and Judaism--are responding to the post-9/11 world in creative, positive ways. See how Muslims, Jews and Christians are coming together at the local level to celebrate, worship together, and build understanding.

"Compassionate Listening and Mutual Irradiation: Quaker Ways to Deepen our Spiritual Awareness of Other Faiths." We will explore various models and techniques for connecting at a deeper level with people of different faith traditions, including t hose who have longstanding unresolved conflicts and misunderstandings. Learn how prayer, ritual, celebration and worship sharing (interfaith cafes) can help to create safe spaces for what Douglas Steere called "mutual irradiation."

“Beyond belief: the future of fundamentalism and Quakerism.” How can we share our faith and work with Friends and others who ascribe to a fundamentalist perspective? If, as Harvey Cox maintains, we are entering the “age of the spirit,” how will this affect the future of Quakerism? Are we ready as a Society of Friends to respond to the spiritual needs of the 21st century? Recommended readings: Sallie King, A Quaker's Response to Christian Fundamentalism (QUF, 2009) and Harvey Cox, The Future of Faith (Harper, NY: 2009).

“What is spirituality and why does it matter?” Spirituality is what unites people of all faiths and is the basis of the interfaith movement. We will explore how our attempts to establish a vision of peace, justice, equality, respect for the environment, are all aspects of our spiritual vision. Recommended reading: Harvey Gilman, What is spirituality? QUF 2009.

Evening Interest Group

The interfaith movement and world peace. In December, 2009, 6,500 spiritual leaders met in Melbourne, Australia, to address the theme: “Hearing each other, healing the earth.” What is the interfaith movement doing internationally and locally to create a more peaceful and sustainable world? What part are Friends playing in this movement? How can the interfaith movement open up our hearts and minds to new spiritual possibilities?

Anthony Manousos attended the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia, and traveled for six weeks among Australian Friends sharing his concern for interfaith peacemaking. He serves on the boards of many interfaith organizations and has given workshops on compassionate listening, interfaith peacemaking and Islam at FGC, Pendle Hill, Quaker Center, and several YMs. He is the author of the pamphlet Islam from a Quaker Perspective and “Friends and the Interfaith Movement” (Friends Journal, March 2007). A member of Santa Monica Friends Meeting, he serves as clerk of his meeting's Pastoral Care Committee and also as clerk of the Peace Committee of Southern California Quarterly Meeting. He also serves on the Board of Quaker Universalist Fellowship and the Christian Interfaith Relations Committee of FGC.