Wednesday, September 22, 2010

International Day of Peace Celebration, and Then Some

Yesterday I set out to attend the re-dedication of the peace pole on the campus of Dominican University. Our local Dominican Sisters, colleagues in Marin Interfaith Council, do this each year. In the past, when my friend Sister Marion headed the order's Social Justice Committee, I have been an active participant. This year, when the event was announced at an MIC clergy luncheon, I spoke with Sister Marion, who's now retired, about participating; she said that whoever was in charge had already formulated all their plans and that I should just show up. Well, I did, but, I'm embarrassed to say, I had written the event in my calendar as taking place at noon when in fact it began at 11 am. So I arrived just as they were concluding.

In 1981, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution declaring an International Day of Peace, and in 2001, it adopted the resolution declaring September 21 of each year International Day of Peace. This year's theme is "Youth for Peace and Development."

Since its inception, Peace Day has marked our personal and planetary progress towards peace. It has grown to include millions of people in all parts of the world, and each year events are organized to commemorate and celebrate this day. Events range in scale from private gatherings to public concerts and forums [sic] where hundreds of thousands of people participate. Anyone, anywhere, can celebrate Peace Day.

International Day of Peace is also a Day of Ceasefire -- a day in which armed conflict is meant to be stilled; a day on which we appeal to combatants to observe a ceasefire; a day on which we reaffirm a commitment to non-violence and the peaceful resolution of disputes.
Last night I missed most of the nightly news I usually watch, but I suspect there were hostile engagements taking place yesterday in spite of the best intentions of those of us who seek to promote peaceful resolutions to conflict.

What was extra special about this year's ceremony was that the words that roughly translate to "May peace prevail on Earth" in the local Coast Miwok** language were to be added. "Hiya aa puli suta weyyatto."* The pole was blessed by the Coast Miwok and all others who were there. Until yesterday, the pole bore those words in English, French, Spanish, and Arabic.***

The assembled people exchanged peace greetings in Arabic: As-salaam aleikhum, Wa-Leikhum As-salaam; Hebrew: Shalom aleichem, Alechem shalom; Serbo-Croatian: Mir nek bude tebi, Nek tebi bud emir; Chinese:Hun pink ban sway nee, Ban sway nee huh ping; Masai/African: Wenna kanta laf-fi, Laf-fi la Bumbu ("God gives peace. Peace is something special."); German: Frie de sei mit Dir, Und mit Dir sei Frie-de; and Coast Miwok: Puli sutammi mikkoni.

In addition to offering prayers for peace from different religious traditions, people sang several songs from song sheets provided by the Sisters. There were the usual, such as "Let There Be Peace on Earth,"to the Pagan-ish "Circle Round," by Linda Hirschhorn, to the utterly wonderful John Lennon song, "Imagine." This last included an additional verse written by fifth grade students at Cornell School in Albany, California.

Imagine that our leaders
Would listen to our voices
And instead of riches
They cared about our choices
Imagine all the people
Caring for the earth...
There is good news in that even though I was late arriving I did meet someone I had hoped to meet there. She is Joanne Campbell, a Tribal Council Elder with the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. Graton Rancheria is comprised of Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo peoples. I invited her to participate in the third annual People of the Earthconference at the Interfaith Center at the Presidio of San Francisco in November.**** As soon as I have more concrete information to give her, I'll follow up on this invitation.

The Dominican Sisters of San Rafael's report on this event, with lots of photos, is here.

* * * * * * * * * *

During the afternoon I attended Marin Interfaith Council's Annual Meeting, where we did a lot of thanking of various individuals for their work,reviewed the budget, and officially installed Fu Schroeder of Green Gulch Zen Center as MIC's representative to the Marin Community Foundation.

* The "s" in the word "suta" should be underlined, not an option in this blog program.

** Coast Miwok people greeted Francis Drake when he first landed on the shores of Marin County in 1579 and other Europeans who entered what it now San Francisco Bay. See "Big Time."

*** While we American Pagans all speak English, and most perform their rites in that language, given the spirit of the annual re-dedication, I would imagine the sisters might consider adding these words of peace in Gaelic, assuming some Druid group involved in interfaith activities were to propose it.

**** Unfortunately, there is no announcement on the ICP website nor any flier for this yet. Watch my FaceBook page for updates.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Lutheran ordination, from Michelle

I called a former Sunday school teacher (from the Lutheran church, my parents' tradition) for professional advice. She is a pastor now with a social justice ministry in Camden. As many of you know, I work in youth ministry. I thought she might have suggestions for service projects.

The NJ Synod of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) will ordain three women on Sunday, and one of them is out as living in a same-sex committed relationship. My contact told me this is a first...I do not know if it is the first for NJ Synod or ELCA. I'll post a link to an article if I come across one. I might go to this ordination myself, depends on how much time I have on Sunday after work at the Unitarian Universalist church.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Strange Conversations

As some of you may already know, I am a founding member of one of the newest Cooperation Circles of the Multi Region of the United Religions Initiative. Our goal is to tell the "grass roots" stories of Peace, what it looks like, how it happens and what results it can have.

As a start in that direction we have begun a series of dialogues called "The Witch and the Preacher's Kid". Each month we will be having a half hour dialogue loosely based on a particular topic. This month we kicked off our program with the topic of Evil and what it looks like from a Christian and from a Wiccan perspective. This program does not suppose to speak for every Christian nor every Pagan but really is only a dialogue between two friends who have found deep kinship despite our different religions.

This dialogue is available for listening at our web site at Think Peace Media and Communications Network. Here we invite comments from the listeners in the form of arguments and agreements which we will then discuss on the following months' shows.

I highly encourage participation in this dialogue from everyone interested in exploring religious concepts and having fun while they are at it.
In Her service
Rachael Watcher, National Interfaith Officer, Covenant of the Goddess

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Circle of Hands: A Multifaith Celebration of Diversity and Friendship

On Friday, September 10, 2010 between 5:00 - 6:30 pm, people from religious communities from around the Silicon Valley gathered at the Jim McEntee Plaza at the Santa Clara County office building, 70 W. Hedding, San Jose, CA, to demonstrate our support of religious freedom and to celebrate the relationships we have built with one another.

My estimate is about 200 peopled joined us as a variety of faith leaders spoke prayers and exortations to peace and compassion and respect.  A priest I spoke to thought it more like 400 people. It was a good turn-out in either case.

The space where we met is at a lovely circular dove mosaic created just this year as a "Gathering Place for Peace" in honor of the late Jim McEntee.  McEntee was Director of Human Relations for the County of Santa Clara for 27 years and did much to develop the relationships between different religious and ethnic communities that allowed us to meet in friendship today. McEntee's widow, Ann, was among the celebrants.

We opened with a "Blessing Bell Chant" from Shifu Jian Di of the Chung Tai Zen Center of Sunnyvale. He had along a young monk with a stunning voice who carried us all to a place of peace and blessing for all beings in all worlds.

The Rev. Rebecca Kuiken, the Director of the Interfaith Council on Economics and Justice (WPUSA) was the MC for the event.

Opening remarks were offered by Rev. Chuck Rawlings, the Executive Director of the Santa Clara Council of Churches and by Supervisor Dave Cortese of the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors. Supervisor Cortese mentioned that he has kept the Ramadan fast in solidarity with the Muslim community for the past four years.

Multifaith prayers were then offered by Rabbi Melanie Aron of Congregation Shir Hadash in Los Gatos; Girish Shah, Interfaith Coordinator of the Jain Center of Northern California; Rev. Alan Jones of the Campbell United Methodist Church; Fr. Francisco Rios of St John Vianney Catholic Church of San Jose; and Shifu Jian Di, Abbot of the Chung Tai Zen Center of Sunnyvale.

The next section were leaders speaking of their hopes - Imam Zaid Shakir,  co-founder of Zaytuna College in Berkeley; Ben Field of the South Bay Labor Council; Shafath Syed of the South Bay Islamic Association; and Delorme McKee-Stovall, Manager of the Office of Human Relations of Santa Clara County.

I admit I was particularly moved by Ben Field's hopes for a world where Walter Reuther's fight for social change for the downtrodden is realized.

Then Samina Sundas, Founding Executive of American Muslim Voice, got us all into a concentric circles whilst Andrew Kille, of Interfaith Space; Ann McEntee and Rowan Fairgrove, of Covenant of the Goddess led a litany Rev. Kille had written.

I wanted to share this line:

We bring the wisdom of our religious heritage -- our scriptures, our traditions, our teachers and sages, our ancestors, our devotion, our faithfulness and prayers. (Response: We are all one family)

I thought he did a lovey job of capturing many different traditions with that collection of heritages.

Another particularly lovely line:

We bring a hospitality that opens space in our hearts, giving us a willingness to welcome the "other" to make the strangers a guest, and to turn the guest into a friend. (Response: We are all one family)

Then Imam Alauddin El Bakri offered Asr (late afternoon prayer) and Shifu Jian Di led a Dedication of Merits Chant and Rev. Rebecca Kuiken offered us Deep Peace.  The Muslims then put out mats and shared afternoon prayer, folks visited and accepted the lovely scarves that the Muslim community had brought as Eid gifts for us all.

I chatted with Samina who said that she thought that the media was responsible for giving this little guy in Florida, Terry Jones,  too much attention... just like they gave this little guy Osama ben Ladin too much attention and a megaphone to spew hate. She didn't think either was a good representative of their respective faiths. I thought that was a brilliant analysis.

If you want to follow Andrew Kille at he blogs about San Jose Interfaith matters. He will probably have something to say about today's gathering too. 

Bright blessings,

Rowan Fairgrove