Muslims helping to rebuild Christian school in Kashmir

Bangalore, India (ENInews). Muslims in Kashmir, in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent, are supporting the re-building of a Christian school that was destroyed by fire during anti-Christian violence one year ago.

“What happened here is certainly wrong and it should not have happened. I can assure you that our people will not allow it to happen again,” Munshi Mukhtar Ahmed, a Muslim teacher in a government school in the town of Tangmarg, told ENInews on 20 September.

On 13 September, 2010, the Tyndale Biscoe School was the target of Muslims protesting a reported desecration of the Quran in the U.S. that marked the ninth anniversary of the 11 September 2001 terror attacks. The school is in the town of Phulwama and is run by the Church of North India (CNI), the dominant Protestant denomination in North India.

Two dozen Muslim protesters were killed by security forces and over 100 injured. There are about four million Muslims in Kashmir and 5,000 Christians.

“The burning of the school was a big loss for the local (Muslim) community and they are still feeling the pinch of it,” said Ahmed. The church-run school has about 450 students, almost all of them Muslims.

Rajinder Kaul, the school’s principal, told ENInews that the school was reopened later in a dilapidated building belonging to the government health department.

Kaul said that the school in June shifted to temporary prefabricated cubicles at the same compound where the former school, built in wood in the elegant Kashmiri architectural style, had been reduced to ashes.

“The arson was led by a mob from outside … They did not know the damage they have done,” Gulam Mohammed Bhat, a Muslim on the school management committee, told ENInews after a 20 September meeting to plan the school’s reconstruction.

“We are happy that the [Muslim] community has deplored what had happened,” CNI bishop Pradeep Kumar Samantroy of Amritsar told ENInews. “Our loss has been heavy. But the most important thing is that we have been able to rebuild peace,” said Samantroy.

The government of Jammu and Kashmir is contributing to the school rebuilding. Bhat said that local Muslims will volunteer to help during construction of the new school building.

– Muslims helping to rebuild Christian school in Kashmir, Anto Akkara, ENINews, September 20, 2011 — © Ecumenical News International. Published in Religion News Blog by permission.

Southern Baptist leader leaves mosque coalition

A leader of the Southern Baptist Convention has withdrawn from a coalition that supports the rights of Muslims to build mosques in their communities.

Richard Land, the head of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said he heard from many Southern Baptists who felt the work of the Interfaith Coalition on Mosques crossed the line from defending religious freedom to promoting Islam.

“I don’t agree with that perception but it’s widespread and I have to respect it,” he told The Associated Press.

The Coalition was formed last year as an initiative of the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish group that fights discrimination.

Research resources on Interfaith Activities and Interreligious Dialogue

Interfaith group seeks to protect California deserts

Seven religious leaders climbed out of their vehicles on a recent weekday and scattered on foot across Whitewater Canyon northwest of Palm Springs. They were looking for clues to the character of the prophets said to have used the wilderness as a gateway to spiritual awakenings.

It didn’t take long for members of the newly formed Desert Stewardship Project, an interfaith coalition dedicated to protecting the vast expanses of arid California, to find what they were seeking, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Moses met the Lord in the form of a burning bush on a mountain in the Sinai desert. Jesus prayed in the desert for 40 days before beginning his ministry. The prophet Muhammad meditated in a cave on the desert mountain of Hira, where the Angel Gabriel recited the Koran to him.

The coalition’s members — churches, synagogues, mosques and cultural organizations mainly in the Inland Empire — are linked by the spiritual connections between their local desert landscapes and the parched sacred grounds that have nurtured some of the world’s great religions.

Their mission is to spur more congregations to take on issues affecting desert lands, vistas and waterways and help provide what Burklo described as “a new dimension and depth” to the conversations about them. The areas of interest include alternative energy development, mining, recreation, military exercises, transportation corridors and proposed national monuments. [Read more...]

German Protestant head says a European Islam needed for dialogue

Europe A European form of Islam needs to develop before a meaningful interfaith dialogue can take place on the continent, the new leader of Germany’s 24 million Protestants has said.

“We are only at the beginning of a serious inter-religious discussion on a theologically high level and that is because there are problems with finding counterparts,” the Rev. Nikolaus Schneider says. [Read more...]

Muslims in Spain campaign to worship alongside Christians

Muslims in Spain are campaigning to be allowed to worship alongside Christians in Cordoba Cathedral — formerly the Great Mosque of Cordoba.

Today, at the original Cordoba mosque in Spain, there is no call to prayer, only the ringing of church bells. That’s because the former mosque is now a working Catholic cathedral, performing a daily mass.

It’s been a Cathedral since Spain’s Christian monarchy conquered Cordoba in the 13th century, but the site remains significant for Muslims as a symbol of Islam’s golden age of learning and religious tolerance. The Mosque of Cordoba was once famed for allowing both Christians and Muslims to pray together under the same roof.

Now, some Muslims are trying to repeat that history. Mansur Escudero, a Spanish convert to Islam, is leading the movement that is pushing for the right of Muslims to pray at the Cordoba Cathedral.

“I don’t think it’s important for Muslims. I think it’s important for humankind,” Escudero says. “We think this is a beautiful paradigm of tolerance, knowledge, culture. People of different religions living together.”

See also: Do Muslims, Jews and Christians worship the same God? [Read more...]

A priest at Pendle Witch Camp

You can learn a lot from pagans, Mark Townsend suggests: “I’m actually a priest of the Church of England – but with a difference. Though I’m still in “holy orders”, I now work full time as a magician, writer and retreat leader. I’ve been described as a “priest at the edge”. My latest book, The Path of the Blue Raven, describes my own encounters with the Pagan traditions of this land and what great treasures I’ve learned from them.” “I’ll always be a priest. It’s where it all began, and the beauty of the unpolluted Christ-message is still enough to send shock waves of love rippling down my spine. But when I spend time with pagans and absorb the openness, warmth, magical-power and sheer delight in being human, I catch a glimpse of what the church ought to, and (perhaps) could be like.” See also: Neo-Paganism: Is Dialogue Possible? [Read more...]