Category Archives: Ecumenical

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

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)

Indiana U. Study: Faith-Based Community Organizing Can Be A Model



BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Anti-Muslim rhetoric in political campaigns and panic about terrorist attacks have raised questions about how Muslim Americans can avoid being marginalized and find pathways to become more integrated into the nation’s civic life.

One such pathway, according to a recent study by an Indiana University researcher, may be through involvement in faith-based community organizing coalitions. These coalitions bring together groups from different religious backgrounds to address social, economic and political issues.

Brad R. Fulton, assistant professor in the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the lead researcher for the study, said such coalitions can help integrate marginalized individuals into the larger society, and they promote a compelling narrative that poor and working-class communities can improve their quality of life through broad-based organizing.

“This model has promise,” Fulton said. “It’s already in place, and it’s designed to be inclusive and to help people who are underrepresented and marginalized to have a voice and to be known.”

Read full article here.

Chief Rabbi of France presents “Declaration for the Upcoming Jubilee of Brotherhood” to Paris Archbishop


From the International Council of Christians and Jews:

ICCJ logo

“A New Jewish View of Jewish-Christian Relations

“What’s next for Jewish-Catholic ties”



Outstanding essay from The Times of Israel by Zion Evrony, Ambassador of Israel to the Holy See and former Ambassador to Ireland.

“What’s next for Jewish-Catholic ties”

“When I go to meetings in the Vatican, as I pass the Swiss guards and walk across the beautiful marble floors, I sometimes think about the long path we Christians and Jews have traveled in the past 2000 years and especially the last 50 years: from rejection and denial to recognition, dialogue and friendship…” (November 15, 2015)

Inner Light Ministries celebrates “An Evening with Dolores Huerta”


Dolores Huerta

Inner Light Ministries, Romero Institute, Resource Center for Nonviolence, and Barrios Unidos recently held “An Evening With Dolores Huerta,” celebrating the life and contributions of the social justice icon, co-founder, along with Cesar Chavez, of United Farm Workers. The event took place at Inner Light Center in Soquel, CA.

“More than four decades on, Jewish dialogue with Orthodox Christians still fragile”



“Jewish and Orthodox Christian clerics and scholars posing with the Israeli ambassador to Greece, Irit Ben-Abba, at an interfaith dialogue commemorating 25 years of formal relations between Israel and Greece. (Embassy of Israel in Athens)”

Excellent Jewish Telegraphic Agency article by Gavin Rabinowitz about ongoing challenges to Jewish-Orthodox Christian dialogue. (JTA November 12, 2015)

From the Gamiliel Foundation: “ACT-Syracuse Ends Solitary Confinement for Youth”


GAmaliel Cell

From the Gamaliel Foundation website and blog:

“While New York State is still at odds over whether to treat 16- and 17-year-olds like youth or adults in its prison system, some 35 young people won’t have to face solitary confinement in Syracuse’s county prison anymore.

“In the end, leaders of ACT-Syracuse who announced a news conference where they would begin witnessing on the issue by entering a 6-by-9-foot solitary confinement “cell” did not need to spend a week, or even a day, in the cell to make their case.”

Read 10/29/2015 post by “Gordonhere.

PICO National Network conducts “40 Days of Faithful Action”


PICO Action

From the PICO website:

“Pope Francis’ visit to our country during such a time of such racial and economic turmoil, creates a great opportunity to reawaken the moral conscience of our nation. That’s why we are stepping into the breach and acting on his message of inclusion and liberation for all of God’s children.

“No longer can we sit idly by, allowing the greed of our economic and social policies to set the moral compass of this country – producing what Pope Francis calls the “economy of exclusion”, using the misery and dehumanization of dark skinned bodies as a tool for building wealth.

“Join us for 40 Days of Faithful Action: Take part in over 50 different vigils and actions across the country, in online petitions and prayers, in Twitter actions, and more”