All posts by JamesBarrens

Scarboro Missions Provides Interfaith Resources for Christian Congregations

Interfaith resources for Christian congregations

Dear Christian colleagues committed to interfaith dialogue:  below find some useful resources for  your interfaith work.

Interfaith toolkit for Christian congregations (Presbyterian Church – USA)

This toolkit contains numerous resources to enable Christians to engage with other faith traditions. Included among the kit’s many features are “how to” resources, guidelines for multifaith prayer, brief introductions to world religions, reflective materials on interfaith relationship-building and guidelines for bilateral dialogues e.g. Muslim-Christian, Jewish-Christian, Buddhist-Christian.

Understanding Islam: A Resource & Study Guide for Christians

Entitled “That we may know each other”, this document was produced for congregations of the United Church of Canada but can be useful for other Christian denominations. The purpose of this resource is to help Christians understand Islam and Muslims as well as to deepen Christian self-understanding. The inclusion of a handy study guide makes this document eminently useful and practical.

Understanding Hinduism: A Resource and Study Guide for Christians

Entitled “Honoring the Divine in Each Other”, this document was produced for congregations of the United Church of Canada but can be useful for other Christian denominations. The purpose of this resource is to help Christians understand Hinduism and Hindus as well as to deepen Christian self-understanding. The inclusion of a handy study guide makes this document eminently useful and practical.


Paul McKenna

Scarboro Missions Interfaith Dept.

2685 Kingston Road

Toronto, Ontario

Canada M1M 1M4

Tel. 416-261-7135 ext. 296

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
The Dalai Lama


Representatives of the 13 religions featured on the Scarboro Missions Golden Rule Poster



International Conference of Christians and Jews Statement on the “Holydays”

22.04.2016  International Conference of Christians and Jews

Dear Members of the ICCJ Family,

As I mentioned in my Easter greetings, this year we have the somewhat unusual situation of the celebration of Passover by our Jewish friends (beginning on April 22) significantly separated from when our Christian friends observe Easter in the both the West (March 27) and the East (May 1).

I thought this separation provided an opportunity to share some distinct thoughts on each of these holydays that are so central in their respective ways for Jews and Christians. Regarding Easter I considered how the Gospel passion narratives are read liturgically during Holy Week (read my reflections on Easter 2016 on ICCJ’s website). Here I’d like to reflect on the impact of Pesach outside the Jewish community.

Preparing for the ICCJ annual conference here in Philadelphia in July has brought to my mind once again the crucial importance of the Exodus story for African American Christians. The sentiment expressed in the Passover Haggadah that “In every generation, each of us should feel as though we ourselves had gone forth from Egypt” was lived out viscerally by Africans enslaved in European colonies in North America and later in the United States. Although they were forced to adopt the Christian faith of their masters, that tradition — deeply rooted in biblical Israel — conveyed the subversive perspective that the God of Israel is a God of freedom: freedom from captivity and freedom from death.

Before and during the American Civil War, Philadelphia had the largest population of “free blacks” in the United States. The whole of Pennsylvania, situated near the boundary between the anti-slavery “Union” and the pro-slavery “Confederacy,” was a major milestone on the “Underground Railroad,” a clandestine network of waystations and secret routes to speed fleeing slaves away from the southern states and into the north.

The Christian hymns composed and sung by African Americans in the context of slavery expressed their hopes and fears for the future. Using somewhat “coded language,” they sang about Moses going down to Pharaoh to demand, “Let my people go!” They sang, “Follow the drinking gourd” (the constellation of the Plough, Big Dipper, or Great Bear) northward across the Jordan Rivers in their path to a land of freedom. They sang “Swing low, sweet chariot” about rescuing angels helping them in their flight to the Promised Land. Of course, they read Israel’s story through Christian lenses and also sang “Precious Lord, take my hand,” closely identifying their own suffering with the suffering of Jesus on the cross (a motif vividly and horribly reprised in the “lynching era” from around 1880-1920).

It is one thing to read about the musical legacy of African slaves and their descendants in the “Negro spirituals.” It’s another to hear it. Click on this link for the pleasure of seeing and hearing the Rev. Velva Maia Thomas speak and sing movingly about this tradition and its coded messages of hope and faith in a two-minute video.

What does this story of the African American spirituals tell us? Among other things, to me it is a reminder that the Passover traditions are a gift of God to the People of Israel, but they are a gift that extends beyond the Jewish community in many, many ways. The annual celebration of the Seder inspires more people than only those sitting around the table in Jewish homes.

And on behalf of the ICCJ Executive Board, the greeting of Chag Pesach Sameach to our Jewish friends this year also conveys gratitude for the faithfulness of Jews in commemorating God’s saving deeds every year in rituals that have blessed the lives and prayers of literally billions of people in far-flung parts of the world.

Philip A. Cunningham

ICCJ President

Civil Rights Leader John Lewis to Keynote Pulitzer Centennial Event Hosted by Poynter Institute

From The Pulitzer Prizes:


“The Voices of Social Justice and Equality” will highlight the achievements of journalists and others who produces Pulitzer Prize-winning work in the service of civil rights, social equality and democracy.

Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, a legendary civil rights leader and an organizer of the Selma Bridge March in 1965, will deliver the keynote address at the main Poynter event on Thursday, March 31, at the Palladium Theatre in St. Petersburg, Florida. Through photography, fine arts, live music and dance performances, the work of civil rights-era Pulitzer winners will be showcased.

The following day, Friday, April 1, 2016, Poynter teachers and invited experts will lead a series of workshops designed to enlighten and inspire the next generation of Pulitzer winners. About 20 former Pulitzer Prize winners will be joining the two-day program.

March 31 – April 1, 2016

Hosted by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies


Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network: “Pittsburgh Police Reform Benefits From Structural Approach”

From the Gamaliel Network website:


Posted by: Gordon on 1/26/2016
PIIN Public Safety Task Force

Top, PIIN kicked off its public safety task force campaign “From Marches to Measurables” in February 2015; bottom, Police Chief Cameron McLay reported back at the group’s public meeting in November on progress made in restoring police-community trust. 

Leaders of Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network, PIIN, began planning their campaign to improve public safety in Pittsburgh more than a year ago.

At the one-year anniversary of a kickoff public meeting where they called on the police and community to “Move from Marches to Measurables,” last February, they say the campaign has changed not just policing in Pittsburgh, but the way they look at their organizing work as well.

Rev. DeNeice Welch, chair of PIIN’s spiritual leaders caucus and current chair of Gamaliel’s Ntosake national women’s leadership table and Darlene Figgs, chair of the PIIN Public Safety Task Force, reflected on the campaign recently.

At the end of 2014 PIIN leaders knew they needed to do something. Distrust between the police and community was at an all-time high. The ACLU was suing Pittsburgh’s police department because since 2001, only 23 out of about 530 police officers hired were African-American, or about 4%, although the city is 26% black. Their chief had recently gone to jail and the official overseeing police had recently resigned. News from St. Louis, New York, Cleveland and elsewhere was even worse.

“Our caucus was rocked by events,” Welch says. “We got a new public safety director, new chief of police and the events in Ferguson all happened at the same time.”

With input from the ACLU and a researcher at Pitt Law School they formulated six demands for Police Chief Chief Cameron McLay:

  • Relationships: quarterly open, structured community forum every quarter beginning June 2015
  • Training: annual trainings to include implicit bias, racial reconciliation and procedural justice up and down within the bureau beginning in 2016
  • Recruitment and Hiring: measurable diversification of the Pittsburgh Police Bureau based on accurate demographics of the city of Pittsburgh beginning in 2016
  • Tracking: data collection and interpretation as a standard means to improve overall policing, police accountability and better policy, effective immediately
  • Policy: drafting Pittsburgh Police Bureau’s policy on body worn cameras by June 2015
  • Accountability: participating in PIIN’s November 2015 Public Action Meeting to report back on progress

The chief agreed to work with them on the demands at that February meeting , but they knew implementation would be the hard part. What happened next, though, was the surprise: after a group of leaders and staff from PIIN attended Gamaliel’s Race and Power summit in June, they realized that they needed to look at the deeper structures and systems that had in many ways pitted the police department and the community against each other.

Focusing on structural racism

The Gamaliel Race and Power Summit in June opened Figgs’ and Welch’s eyes to a new way of looking at the campaign, one that focuses squarely on structural racism, instead of ignoring issues of race or addressing them obliquely. “When we were back at the February meeting we hadn’t been to Detroit,” Welch says. We were attacking the structures without knowing we were attacking the structures.

“Before the summit, we would have demanded that the police force recruit African-American candidates [for the force] and walked away,” Welch adds. “But now we know candidates of color cannot survive the culture that exists within the police force”—and it’s going to take training and constant monitoring to shift the culture as needed.

Figgs and Welch say they and other PIIN leaders and staff learned more about implicit bias and saw how some affiliates’ leaders were looking at themselves and their own organizations to interrogate their own backgrounds of internalized oppression and white privilege, and the impact of these influences on their work together.

While meetings with local police commanders proceeded throughout the year, the Public Safety Task Force leaders, a group of about 30 from across the city and suburbs about evenly divided between whites and people of color, organized a series of fishbowl conversations to look at themselves: white task force members would discuss a question amongst themselves while African-American members listened, then the two groups flipped roles. Facilitated debriefing sessions followed.

The work helped strengthen the group, and helped them to understand that just hiring more officers would not be enough to make the change they want. “The culture doesn’t support them being there,” Welch says. “As a result, over 50 percent of the African American officers are retiring and we have nobody in the pipeline to replace them. There’s a1907 civil service law that the police department and police union has been using to discriminate against people of color. Now we know to go after that – rather than just pushing for more recruits of color.”

Local meetings have been a success. When a Muslim cab driver was shot in the city on Thanksgiving, PIIN leaders were able to connect the head of the local Islamic Center to the right police commander thanks to the relationships they had built over the past year.

Another positive development last year came when the Department of Justice announced it would invest $1 million in the training the group had requested through its National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, one of 6 places in the country selected. Pittsburgh was chosen in part because the creators of the Justice program saw an emerging culture of community-police trust, they told PIIN leaders with whom they met.

In November, McLay had just one request when he attended the group’s public meeting where PIIN leadership declared a new organizational goal: not just to address organizing issues but to build the beloved community, and he had just one request: “Do I get to hold the microphone this time?”

More remains to do. On some issues, like body cameras, they have had to take the pressure to the state Legislature, which slowed them down on that front. In general, the process of focusing on structures and addressing race explicitly takes longer. But they are also being more thorough. The Public Safety Task Force will press on, Figgs says: “We want this to be lasting, not a quick fix.”

“A Sacred Calling, A Pivotal Moment”- A Conversation on the Newest Statements about the Christian-Jewish Relationship

From the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations at St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, PA

“A Sacred Calling, A Pivotal Moment”

A Conversation on the Newest Statements about the Christian-Jewish Relationship

Including the first theological statement by the Catholic Church in 30 years

February 24, 2016 at 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.

Doyle Banquet Hall South, Campion Student Center [campus map]

At the end of 2015, three significant statements from the Vatican, the French Jewish community, and a group of Orthodox rabbis were issued on the relationship between Christians and Jews. The Institute has invited some leading scholars to SJU for a consultation to study these texts, many of whom will join in a public conversation about these fascinating documents. The texts are available at the bottom of the webpage found HERE.




Brooklyn Workshops Train Community Organizers


Members of the Brooklyn Movement Center perform at Between The Door and the Street

By Brooklyn Reader

February 4, 2016, 1:51 pm

Few will argue that there’s been a groundswell– a rising tide, so to speak– in the numbers of Americans desiring to engage in social and political activism.With the fast-changing demographic landscape, the deeply polarized political environment and community-police relations under a microscope, there’s plenty to rail about and therefore more than enough reason to get involved.(more)

Historic Announcement That Pope Francis and Russian Patriarch Kirill Will Meet

Gerard O’Connell | Feb 5 2016 – 7:27am

Pope Francis and the Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia will meet in Cuba on Feb 12. It is the first ever meeting between the heads of the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches, a truly historic event. (more)

Upcoming Events at the Georgetown University Program for Jewish Civilization

The Program for Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University has announced the following events:

Poetry in the Center
A Mini Series

All events will be held on Wednesdays in February at 4pm in the Philodemic Room (Healy Hall 208).

Series convened by: David Ebenbach, Georgetown University

February 3 – David Gewanter, Georgetown University

February 10Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Sara Lawrence College

February 17 – Jehanne Dubrow, Washington College

February 24 – Jaimee Kuperman, Author of You Look Nice Strange Man

Directions to the venue as well as parking information for campus is available at



Reflections of Contemporary Anti-Semitism in Europe
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
6 PM
Riggs Library, Healy Hall
Abraham Foxman
Former National Director, Anti-Defamation League
RSVP is requested. Reception to follow.


Understanding Contemporary European Anti-Semitism
Monday, February 29, 2016
8am – 5pm
Lohrfink Auditorium, Hariri Building

Participants Will Include:

Rabbi Andrew Baker, American Jewish committee
Ira Forman, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, U.S. Department of State
Aleksandra Gliszczyńska-Grabias, Poznan Human Rights Centre
Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, Author of The Devil That Never Dies: The Rise and Threat of Global Anti-Semitism
Floriane Hohenberg, Former Director, Tolerance and Non-Discrimination Department, Organization for Security, and Co-operation in Europe
Jytte Klausen, Brandeis University
Deborah Lipstadt, Emory University
Saskia Pantell, Zionist Federation of Sweden
Ambassador David Saperstein, U.S. Department of State
Esther Voet, Former Editor in Chief, Nieuw Israëlietisch Weekblad


Art in the Center

A Mini Series

All events will be held on Wednesdays in April at4pm in the Philodemic Room (Healy Hall 208).

Series convened by: Ori Soltes, Georgetown University

April 6 – Elaine Langerman,

April 13 – Gerald Wartofsky,

April 27 – Zachary Oxman,


Joliet Diocese Announces Anti-Poverty Grants for Grassroots Organizing

From Joliet, Illinois Patch:

Anti-Poverty Organizations Eligible for Grants

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) is attempting to address the problem of poverty by providing grants to self-help programs initiated and led by poor people. These groups help create sustainable jobs, preserve affordable housing, improve neighborhoods, and enhance opportunities for people so they can find a dignified way out of poverty.

CCHD is funded by Catholics who generously give in a once-a-year collection at their parishes.(more)