Monday, December 31, 2007

More From The Pew Research Center

Released by the Pew Research Center, September 25, 2007:

(This from a nationwide survey of 3,002 adults, August 1-18 of this year.)
  • 51% stated that they know very little, or nothing, about Mormons
  • 62% stated that the Mormon religion is very different from their own
  • 53% have a favorable opinion of Mormons, but that is much less than the 76% favorable rating for Jews and Catholics
  • The most common one-word impressions of Mormonism was “polygamy, bigamy, cult” despite the fact that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints banned polygamy almost a century ago

and it isn't just the Muslims and the Mormons who are misunderstood:

  • Only 38% (overall) believe that the Pope has done a good job promoting relations with other religions

The Bottom Line:

Although the acceptance rate among Protestants, Catholics and Jews has improved slightly in the U.S., the acceptance of adherents of non-traditional U. S. theologies is generally poor and is frequently based on incorrect understandings of their belief systems and scriptures.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Prayers for Pakistan

As the assassination of Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto continues to send shockwaves around the world, we ask that all who read this entry hold the people of Pakistan in their thoughts and prayers. The destabilization of the situation in Pakistan, and the danger that this instability will expand throughout the region, is a concern to us all.

On a personal note, we pass on this email which we received on Thursday night from a Common Tables member in Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan (due to the instability in Pakistan we are not releasing the member's name):

To all at Common Tables,

Thank you for the message and prayers. Last night we were in Karachi and heard the news at the office. Members of the family had gone to attend a friend's mother's funeral service, which ended rather abruptly when someone got an sms (from Dubai) about the news...and there was a hasty exit of 70 or so women who had gathered. (This was a ladies only gathering) And my wife and a colleague were in the car and they saw the rising mayhem in the City centre...and while we in the office were worried about them (she was to pick me on the way home) the mobile phones went off the air...which created even more stress... but sms worked...and they arrived at the office where on the TV we watched the unfolding chaos and sadness in the madness.... and then the news and the sheer awfulness of it hit home... all this was 7 pm (local time) ...we stayed till 9 pm when we got word that the roads have eased (a little) and the time to take a quick decision, and a quicker dash home had come...so at 9 :45 pm we decided to do so...and on the way we saw:...burnt cars, trucks, tires, cabs, broken bill boards, and many cars which had been abandoned on the road because they ran out of gas ...and many many stones and broken pieces of glass... but without any incident, or threat of harm, we reached home at 10.35 pm...and heaved a sigh of relief.

My driver lived in an area where he had to just walk to...and sadly he reached home at 2 am. But he was safe and called at that time to say so (as he had been told to do).

The city is quiet today...everyone is watching the Bhutto funeral arrangements on TV. All shops are closed. There is some panic buying of foodstuffs but otherwise, we expect things to creep back to some sort of order in the next few days.

Many many people stayed the night at their offices. or factories, as there was no way any transport could make them reach their homes.But most people are calm...there was no honking or hooting of horns on the entire journey last night... despite the traffic jams of over four hours.

This might give you a view from the ground. For what it is worth.

Thank you for the message...and giving me this opportunity to write all this.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Friday's Food for Thought

Benazir Bhutto (1953–2007) was a "brave woman" and a "warrior without borders for peace," Israeli President Shimon Peres, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, said Thursday.

Appropriately, we have selected a couple of quotes from Benazir Bhutto for this week's "Friday's Food for Thought":

"You can imprison a man, but not an idea. You can exile a man, but not an idea. You can kill a man, but not an idea."

"Every dictator uses religion as a prop to keep himself in power."

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Boston Police and Sikh American Community Achieve Landmark Partnership

Common Tables salutes the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Boston Police Department for their efforts to create cross-cultural awareness on Sikh religious practices . . . an outstanding example of the type of training that can prevent cultural misunderstandings.

This article is from:
Washington, D.C. - December 11, 2007: The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), the nation’s oldest and largest Sikh American civil rights organization, concluded a highly successful year-long campaign to train the entire Boston Police Department (BPD) on Sikh religious practices. The over 3,000 BPD officers join the 95,000 trained by SALDEF across the nation.



Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis remarked: "This program has provided officers a tremendous opportunity to broaden their knowledge of the cultural and historical factors impacting the Sikh community. The city of Boston is a melting pot of diversity. Therefore, it is critical that our officers are exposed to a curriculum that includes cross-cultural awareness that strengthens community relations and prevents cultural misunderstandings."

Beginning in January 2007, SALDEF New England Director Navjeet Singh and a group of dedicated community activists and volunteers have been training law enforcement officers every week to increase cultural awareness of the Sikh American community and develop an ongoing partnership between law enforcement and the community.

"It’s important that police leaders in our community are aware of and have an understanding of the diversity in the City of Boston," said Mr. Singh. "The completion of this training is a first step in working more with our fellow Americans to ensure they understand who we are and what we believe."

The training is part of SALDEF’s Law Enforcement Partnership Program which has trained over 95,000 law enforcement officers over the past eight years. In 2007 alone, SALDEF training efforts have already reached over 14,000 law enforcement officers in cities across the nation including Washington, DC; Columbia, MO; Des Moines, IA; Greensboro, NC; Charlestown, WV; Portland, OR; and Pittsburgh, PA. Additionally, all 43,000 Transportation Security Officers in the United States will view On Common Ground by year's end as part of their mandated training.

SALDEF would like to thank the U.S. Department of Justice and acknowledge the Boston volunteers: Satnam Singh, Sarbjit Singh Thiara, Kanwaldeep Singh Arneja, Jaswant Singh Chani, KaviRaj Singh, and Achint Kaur, for their dedication to ensure this training endeavor was carried out to its successful conclusion.

If you would like to conduct a similar training in your area, please contact SALDEF at training@saldef.org or (202) 393-2700.

Monday, December 24, 2007

In God's Name

Monday's Media Review

In God's Name: A Two Hour, Prime Time CBS Special

As we summarize our thoughts following last night’s CBS prime time special “In God’s Name”, the first thing that comes to mind is the need to give a big round of applause to CBS and the Naudets. It isn’t often that we find such spiritual questing in network prime time. At a minimum, they deserve praise for tackling a big idea.

The project represented, in one sense, a bet that there is enough spiritual hunger in America to make the numbers work for CBS. Here at Common Tables we are hoping that proved to be the case – that “In God’s Name” did at least as well in the ratings as the normal cheesy holiday fluff which dominates programming this time of year.

Given the scope of the project, we feel the Naudets did an admirable job of creating a beautiful portrait showcasing a dozen human variations of this thing we call faith. The program flowed well and did a good job of presenting images and ideas which have the potential to awaken the viewer to new possibilities.

Some random observations about the program:

First, the scope of the project really requires more air time. It is a noble effort, but we hope the ratings are strong enough to justify a future miniseries.

Second, it was fascinating to see how, even through the veil of translation, each of the leaders exudes their own kind of charisma – from the Dalai Lama's playful smile to the Archbishop of Canterbury's thoughts on morality.

Finally, the efforts to openly discuss religion in the context of intolerance, terrorism and violence, while of necessity a bit superficial, represent a “good start”. We have seen the issues presented from the perspective of self-styled religious extremists ad nauseam. Let us all hope for future programming which expands these topics from the broader point of view of the religious mainstream.

“The idea is to show the things that unite us, rather than divide us, and to give a sense of progression through the day — and through the questions we ask," said 34-year-old Jules Naudet. Given the time restraints of a two hour special, it seems to us that “In God’s Name” did an admirable job of doing exactly that.

We are interested in hearing your feedback – your thoughts about this groundbreaking, prime time special.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

From The Pew Research Center

Released by the Pew Research Center, September 25, 2007:

(This from a nationwide survey of 3,002 adults, August 1-18 of this year.)
  • 58% stated that they know very little, or nothing, about Muslims
  • 70% stated that the Muslim's religion was very different from their own
  • 53% had a favorable opinion of Muslim Americans but only 43% had a favorable opinion of Muslims in general, and that is down from 47% in March of 2002
  • The most common one-word impressions of Islam was “fanatic, radical, terror”

In our activities within the interfaith community, we have found Muslims to be a warm, loving, heart-centered people; however, this study tells us that few Americans have had an opportunity to get to know people of the Islamic faith.

And that is what we at Common Tables are all about - breaking bread with and getting to know people from communities which feel disconnected from our own.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Muslim American Society

It came to our attention yesterday that the Muslim American Society has a link to the Common Tables Blog on their site! We can't begin to tell you how much excitement that caused around here!!

We have a number of Muslims who we personally value as special friends. Of perhaps greater importance is that, based on our responses and feedback over the past several months, there are literally millions of Americans - and millions more globally - who would like to dialogue at a grass-roots level with members of the Muslim community.

Remember: As a global family the problem isn't that we can't get along, it's that we often just don't!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hindu Prayer to Open New Mexico Senate

Newswire Services
December 17, 2007

Santa Fe - New Mexico State Senate of USA will have its first Hindu prayer containing Sanskrit mantras on January 28.

Rajan Zed, a prominent Hindu chaplain, will read the historic opening prayer from ancient Hindu scriptures before New Mexico Senate in Santa Fe on this day. After first delivering in Sanskrit, he will then read the English translation of the prayer.

According to reports, no Hindu has delivered opening prayer in New Mexico State Senate since its formation. Sanskrit is considered a sacred language in Hinduism and root language of all Indo-European languages.

Rajan Zed will recite from Rig-Veda, the oldest scripture of the world still in common use, dated from around 1,500 BCE, besides lines from Upanisads and Bhagavad-Gita (Song of the Lord), both ancient Hindu scriptures. He plans to start and end the prayer with "OM", the mystical syllable containing the universe, which in Hinduism is used to introduce and conclude religious work.

Reciting from Brahadaranyakopanisad, Rajan Zed plans to say "Asato ma sad gamaya, Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya, Mrtyor mamrtam gamaya", which roughly translates as "Lead us from the unreal to the Real, from darkness to Light, and from death to Immortality."

Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has no datable beginning but some scholars put it around 3,000 BCE. It has no founder, no one authoritative figure, and no single prophet or holy book. One of its scriptures, Mahabharata, is the longest poem ever written, comprising over 100,000 couplets. Hinduism in North America was introduced in 1830s with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau studying Hindu scriptures like Upanisads and Bhagavad-Gita. Vivekananda made a strong impression at World's Parliament of Religion in Chicago in 1893 and he then founded Vedanta Society. Protap Chunder Mozoomdar of Brahmo Samaj delivered his first American address on September 02, 1883 in Concord, Massachusetts.

New Mexico State Senate is composed of 42 members, with each district having a population of about 43,300. New Mexico, which has the lowest water-to-land ratio in USA, was the home of first atomic bomb. Native Americans have been living in New Mexico for about 20, 000 years and it has the oldest public building of America, The Palace of Governors in Santa Fe, built in 1610.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

IN GOD's NAME - A MAJOR TELEVISION EVENT

This release from CBS Entertainment:

"IN GOD' S NAME," A MAJOR TELEVISION EVENT ADDRESSING SOME OF THE MOST CHALLENGING AND PROFOUND QUESTIONS OF OUR TIME, WILL BE BROADCAST SUNDAY, DEC. 23 ON THE CBS TELEVISION NETWORK

PRIMETIME SPECIAL INCLUDES EXTRAORDINARY FOOTAGE OF 12 OF THE WORLD'S MOST INFLUENTIAL RELIGIOUS LEADERS, ALL FEATURED IN A SINGLE BROADCAST FOR THE FIRST TIME

FILMMAKERS JULES AND GEDEON NAUDET RETURN TO THE NETWORK WITH THEIR FIRST PROJECT SINCE THE MULTIPLE AWARD-WINNING FILM "9/11"

IN GOD'S NAME, a CBS primetime special produced in association with the acclaimed French filmmakers Jules and Gedeon Naudet, will explore the complex questions of our time through the intimate thoughts and beliefs of 12 of the world's most influential spiritual leaders. These diverse and powerful voices offer provocative, compelling and enlightening perspective on myriad issues in our post-9/11 world, including the rise of terrorism, fanaticism, intolerance and war. The two-hour special will be broadcast Sunday, Dec. 23 (9:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

On the day of the terrorist attacks in September 2001, Jules and Gedeon Naudet were caught in the collapse of the World Trade Center. Jules was shooting inside when the South Tower fell. "On Sept. 11, we faced death and thought we had lost each other," said Jules Naudet. "This harrowing experience was the first step in a journey that would take us around the world searching for answers to the meaning of life."

The brothers' quest took them to Egypt, England, India, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, Russia and the Vatican, as well as Illinois and South Carolina.

"We chose these 12 leaders because of the vast number of believers - more than four billion - that their faiths represent," said Gedeon Naudet. "We also wanted to explore the diversity of spirituality in our world today."

The program marks the first time that this distinct group of leaders has appeared in one broadcast. These spiritual beacons speak out about violence and hatred and reveal their own thoughts about faith, peace, unity, tolerance and hope. Viewers will see them in intimate settings, including their homes and personal places of worship. Ultimately, through the eyes of these 12 very different religious figures, the filmmakers discover the common ground among believers around the world.

The 12 leaders featured in this special, in alphabetical order, are:

o Alexy II, Patriarch of Moscow and head of the Russian Orthodox Church
o Amma (Sri Mata Amritanandamayi), a Hindu spiritual leader
o Pope Benedict XVI, head of the Roman Catholic Church
o The Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso), spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists
o Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, a prominent Shiite Muslim leader
o Bishop Mark Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and President of the Lutheran World Federation
o Michihisa Kitashirakawa, Jingu Daiguji (High Priest) of the Shinto Grand Ise Shrine
o Yona Metzger, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel
o Dr. Frank Page, President of the Southern Baptist Convention
o Imam Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar and a prominent Sunni Muslim leader
o Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar Sri Akal Takht, the Sikhs' highest authority
o Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Church of England

IN GOD'S NAME is produced by filmmakers Jules and Gedeon Naudet and CBS News' Susan Zirinsky, who last collaborated as the executive producers of the Peabody and Emmy Award-winning film "9/11" for the Network. Mark Koops of Reveille, which represents the Naudets, serves as an executive producer. Also for CBS News, Nancy Kramer and Peter Schweitzer are the senior producers on the project, Mead Stone, Mike Vele and Basil Pappas are the producer-editors, Susan Mallie is the producer and Sarah Prior is the associate producer.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Dalai Lama in Amritsar Joins Religious Heads to Promote Love

Written by Harjot Singh
World Sikh News
Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Dalai Lama gave a keynote address at Guru Nanak Dev University on Wednesday morning (India time) on how can religions share their wisdom. "Our planet is in desperate need for love, forgiveness and inter-religious harmony. This meeting of leaders and scholars from around the world will explore how the wisdom of our traditions can help achieve these things."

Dr Alan Goshen-Gottstein, founder and Executive Director of the Elijah Interfaith Institute said, "this meeting of the most senior religious leaders in the world takes places at a crucial time in our history. While technologies advances have brought wonderful opportunities, we still see insecurities, violence and hatred. The answer to our most pressing problems do not lie in technology and the material realm alone."

click here to read the full article

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Muslim Scholars Thank Christian Scholars

Muslim Scholars Thank Christian Scholars for Embracing
"A Common Word" (November 26, 2007)

In a news conference, held on Monday (November 26, 2007) at the Cultural Foundation of Abu Dhabi, Muslim Scholars invited and hosted Prof. Dr. Miroslav Volf of Yale’s Center for Faith and Culture in order to thank him and his colleagues for their embrace of the 'A Common Word' document issued last month by over 138 Muslim Scholars.

Muslim Scholars Reach Out to Christian Leaders

Dr Anas Sheikh-Ali officially delivering "A Common Word" to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt Rev. Dr Rowan Williams, in Lambeth Palace on October 11th, 2007.

On October 11, 2007, in a dramatic and groundbreaking display of inter-religious solidarity, 138 of the world’s most senior Muslim leaders wrote to the heads of Christian churches proposing a solid base upon which the two global faiths can co-operate in creating peace and understanding in the world. The letter says that world peace could depend on improved relations between Muslims and Christians. It identifies the principles of accepting only one god and living in peace with one's neighbors as common ground between the two religions. It also insists that Christians and Muslims worship the same god. The letter coincides with the Eid al-Fitr celebrations to mark the end of Ramadan.

The letter, entitled A Common Word Between Us and You compares passages in the Qur'an and the Bible, concluding that both emphasize "the primacy of total love and devotion to God," and the love of the neighbor. With Muslims and Christians making up more than half the world's population, the letter goes on, the relationship between the two religious communities is "the most important factor in contributing to meaningful peace around the world".

This letter represents a truly authoritative call for tolerance, understanding and moderation from some of the world’s most influential Islamic leaders and thinkers. In bringing together Muslims from around the world, and from both the Sunni and Shia, Salafi and Sufi traditions, it also marks an historic achievement in terms of Islamic unity

Thursday, November 22, 2007

HAPPY THANKSGIVING !!!

On this Thanksgiving Day we, the founders of Common Tables, pause to give our thanks for you - the people who have stepped forward to help, each in your own way, as together we create a model which offers the world an alternative to bias, bigotry, racism and religious intolerance. A model in which differences are honored and common ground is celebrated.

"When millions of people gather to break bread and discover common stories, they create space in which new stories can be written."

In a few short months Common Tables has grown from a dream of what might be into a global force impacting the way people interact in 47 countries around the world. Together we are proving that Common Tables is an idea whose time has come, an idea with the power to lower perceived barriers and to promote respect and understanding between traditionally disconnected communities around the world.

"You're pioneers and we need you!" Bruce Feiler, author of Walking the Bible, Abraham, and Where God Was Born.

Thank you for being involved in Common Tables. Of greater importance, thank you for standing in the Truth as you see it. We respect, honor and bow to your path . . . and we give thanks that you are exactly who you are.

On this day of Thanksgiving, we affirm the importance of each of you. We respect and honor each of your paths, and are thankful beyond words to have you as part of the Common Tables family.

You are the best!

With Peace, Love and Blessings,

Dave, Kay, Randy and Sandy
Founders, Common Tables

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Common Tables Around the World

forty-seven different countries have visited our website
in just a few short months !!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Denver Post

WOW! Last week it was a wonderful interview on Colorado Public Radio, this week (yesterday) a terrific article starting on Page 1B of the Denver Post!! Read it here: Breaking of bread, barriers. No doubt about it - Common Tables is creating a real buzz!!!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Common Tables on Public Radio

If you missed our interview on Colorado Public Radio (November 6th on "Colorado Matters"), here's your chance to catch it: Click Here to Listen. Hear for yourself what Randy Harris, one of our founders, and Mark Peters, one of our first members, have to say about Common Tables.

Those wanting a sense of why Common Tables is generating so much excitement should make a point of listening to this interview! (The interview is only about 11 minutes long.)