Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Witches working with other faiths to preserve the World's religious diversity

Believe it or not, this is the first time I have ever blogged! I'm sure I'll catch on quickly as we go...

I am in Melbourne with many members of the Covenant, representing the Craft at the Parliament of the World's Religions (see

While many Pagan groups focus on representing their own brand of Paganism, CoG has been doing interfaith work for so long that our focus has shifted somewhat. CoG joined the Berkeley Area Interfaith Council in 1975 and has been engaged in ongoing interfaith work ever since. I personally have been involved in at least two interfaith committee meetings or public events a week for the past 25 years.

By now, we are so well known at the national and international level that many of us have been able to move beyond explaining who we are to taking advantage of the tremendous opportunity that interfaith work offers to put our principles into action in the world. CoG's National Interfaith Representatives are involved in many programs here, but they are not so much about the Craft as they are about how the Craft motivates us to work with those of other faiths towards the common goals of - as the United Religions Initiative puts it so well - "promoting enduring, daily interfaith cooperation, ending religiously motivated violence, and creating cultures of peace, justice, and healing for the Earth and all living beings."

One of my own personal efforts just got two big boosts thanks to a Baptist minister and a young Muslim.

Ten years ago, at the 1999 Parliament of the World's Religions in Cape Town, South Africa, I created the Lost & Endangered Religions as a "Gift of Service". We work with marginalized religious & spiritual communities around the world to help preserve religious traditions in danger of being lost, and we restore, where possible, traditions that HAVE been lost. Most of our ongoing projects are in Turkey, the US, and India, but after the recent creation of a new partnership with the Initiativa Indigena Global, we soon will be expanding into Latin America.

The story of the Lost & Endangered Religions project has been told largely through word of mouth and in presentations at conferences. In fact, as a "Gift of Service", one of the featured presentations at this Parliament will be "The Lost & Endangered Religions Project: Preserving the World's Religious Diversity".

The Rev. Andrew Kille, a Baptist minister from the Interfaith Center at the Presidio (where I serve on the Board and he heads our Interfaith Academy) stepped forward to create a website for us in time for this Parliament, so we could have an ongoing site to which we could refer people and where we could post updates. The space was donated by the ICP (at, but you can get to it directly at:

Check it out!

The ICP has new webcasting capability thanks to Junaid Islam, the nephew of another Board member and old friend, Iftekhar Hai. This technology will be used to webcast our presentation on the Lost & Endangered Religions Project on Sunday, December 6, 2:30pm - 4:00pm (Melbourne time!). That's Saturday, December 5, 7:30pm - 9:00pm (San Francisco time!)

Please tune in!

More to come... (and I'll figure out how to include photos, I promise)

Don Frew
National Interfaith Representative


  1. As much as I applaud the sentiment, I have to wonder how we can defend endangered religions if we don't talk (much) more openly about how they got that way. It did not "just happen".

    This is the problem with "interfaith" work. It involves far too much sleeping with the enemy.

  2. Dear Apuleius,

    Regarding "sleeping with the enemy"... It's vitally important to understand that the Christians (et al.) with whom we work in interfaith are NOT the enemy! Those Christians doing interfaith work are those representatives of their faith who most understand their history of oppression of other faiths, who most strongly feel the need for us to be represented and heard, and who most agree with our concerns. It's not fair to hold them personally accountable for the sins of all Christians and it would cut ourselves off from from powerful allies if we didn't work with them. Besides, almost all of them are wonderful people whom I consider good friends and who have repeatedly gone out on limbs with their own church superiors to defend the necessity for Pagans to be involved in the interfaith process.

    At last night's Opening Plenary, the first speaker was an Aboriginal elder. EVERY local government and religious speaker went up to her to acknowledge her before they spoke, and opened their talks with an acknowledgment of the value of Aboriginal traditions and the tragedy of how they had been treated. No one is ignoring how endangered religions "got that way", but there is a difference between acknowledging this and doing nothing but continually poking the past offenders in the eye.

    BTW, many of the endangered traditions with which LERP works are Pagan traditions endangered by the efforts of other Pagans, as when indigenous Indian traditions are oppressed by Brahmin ones.

    Also BTW, my wife Anna just did a quick count in the Program guide and out of a little over 350 programs at this Parliament, 81 (about 1/4 of the total!) are programs by and for indigenous traditions (including Neopagans), and 22 of those are specifically Australian aboriginal.