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Has the United States Become Judeo-Christian-Islamic?

Posted on 2003/5/18 9:48:02 ( 1065 reads )

Religion News Service

UNITED STATES, May 17, 2003: Leading Muslim organizations say it's time for Americans to stop using the phrase "Judeo-Christian" when describing the values and character that define the United States. Better choices, they say, are "Judeo-Christian-Islamic" or "Abrahamic," referring to Abraham, the patriarch held in common by the monotheistic big three religions. The new language should be used "in all venues where we normally talk about Judeo-Christian values, starting with the media, academia, statements by politicians and comments made in churches, synagogues and other places," said Agha Saeed, founder and chairman of the American Muslim Alliance, a political group headquartered in Fremont, Calif. According to a 1984 scholarly article by religion writer Mark Silk, "Judeo-Christian" wasn't used to refer to a common American outlook of values and beliefs until World War II, when the supposedly Christian Nazis and their death camps made future references to "our Christian civilization" sound ominously exclusive. "'Judeo-Christian,' which in 1952 looked like an incredibly inclusive term, doesn't look very inclusive now," said Silk, now director of the Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College, in Hartford. Conn., in an interview. "So we probably need a new term." Osama Siblani, an influential voice among American Muslims and publisher of the Arab-American News in Dearborn, Mich., takes an even broader view. "I believe we should call this the United States of America, made up of Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, Jews and others," said Siblani. "This stuff about language has to stop. We are all just Americans."

HPI adds: America's founding fathers consciously avoided creating a "Christian nation." Thomas Jefferson, author of the declaration of Independence, authored in 1786 the "Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom," which set strong precedent for the standing of religion in the new country. He wrote that during a debate to adopt the bill, "An amendment [which proposed to insert] the words, 'Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion,' [was rejected] by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mohammedan, the Hindoo and the infidel [any non-Christian] of every denomination."

U.S. Conference Planned on the Impact of Swami Vivekananda in the West

Posted on 2003/5/18 9:47:02 ( 971 reads )


MASSACHUSETTS, U.S.A., May 17, 2003: The Center for Indic Studies, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, is holding a two-day conference on June 28 and 29, 2003, on the "Impact of Swami Vivekananda's Voyage to the West" at the UMD campus. This unique event will bring together academicians, monks of the Ramakrishna order, students, and the general public to discuss Swami Vivekananda's impact on the West along with the relevance of his teachings today and in the future. For additional information on the conference, kindly contact "source" above.

The Sensuous and the Sacred: Chola Bronzes from South India at the Cleveland Museum of Art

Posted on 2003/5/18 9:46:02 ( 990 reads )


OHIO, U.S.A., May 18, 2003: From July 6 to September 14, 2003, The Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) will be the final venue of "The Sensuous and the Sacred: Chola Bronzes from South India," which first opened at the Sackler in Washington, DC. These rarely seen 9th to 13th century temple bronzes were drawn from public and private collections in the United States and Europe for exhibition in the United States. Another show entitled "Indian Temples: Masumi Hayashi Photographs" will also be on view at the museum. Presently the website does not have photos of the Chola bronzes, however, readers may contact the museum via their site for additional information.

Hindu Youth Contributors Sought for Hinduism Today Article

Posted on 2003/5/18 9:45:02 ( 1003 reads )


KAUAI, HAWAII, USA, May 18, 2003: Hinduism Today magazine is planning an article in its next issue on the subject, "Why I am a vegetarian." Hindu youth (age 24 and below) are invited to send a 300- to 500-word essay on the subject. The essay should cover the reasons why you personally chose to remain a vegetarian if so raised (or become one if not), how you have dealt with peer pressure to change, the value of more people becoming vegetarians and/or any other aspect of vegetarianism which you would like to share. Those selected will be published in edited form in an article slated for the October/November/December issue. Deadline is June 15. Please include the essay, a three-line biodata on yourself and a high-resolution passport style photo (300 dpi, at least 2 by 3 inches) and e-mail to "source" above.

U.S. Home to 200,000 People of Indian-Origin Millionaires

Posted on 2003/5/14 9:49:02 ( 1107 reads )


WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S.A., May 15, 2003: The image of the wealthy Non-Resident India (NRI) from America is poised to get a puffy boost following estimates from the investment firm Merrill Lynch that there are 200,000 millionaires of Indian origin in the United States alone. That may seem like a staggering count because out of their total population of 1.8 million, it would mean one in every nine Indians in the US is a millionaire. Company executives clarified in an interview that the count includes not just NRIs but all people of Indian-origin; the estimate was made at the height of the 2000 technology bubble (an important and likely distorting factor) and the definition of a millionaire is broad enough to include all assets including home ownership. Still, the 200,000 Indian-origin "Merrill Millionaires," along with their less wealthy NRIs, carry the median American NRI income to over US$60,000 (compared to the national average of $38,885), making it the wealthiest immigrant group in the United States, say Merrill Lynch executives. The United States has an estimated 2.1 million millionaires, which is less than one percent of its population (about 280 million) compared to the nearly 10 per cent for the Indian-Americans. If the definition of Indian-Americans is expanded to cover all people of Indian origin, it would still suggest a higher percentage of millionaires among the particular ethnic group.

Worshipping at the Altar of Yoda

Posted on 2003/5/14 9:48:02 ( 1096 reads )

Religion News Service

OTTAWA, CANADA, May 14, 2003: May the force be with you. An astonishing 20,000 Canadians declared themselves followers of the religion of Jedi, the guardians of peace and justice in the "Star Wars" movies, Statistics Canada reported May 13 in its final installment of data culled from the 2001 census. Observers agree that declaring Jedi as a faith was a way of many Canadians to thumb their nose at what they felt was an intrusive or inappropriate question. "My religion is my issue, not the government's," said Denis Dion, a 44-year-old produce manager from just outside Vancouver who circulated an e-mail urging anyone who wanted to have fun with Canada's census to identify his or her religion as Jedi. Canadian Press reports the Jedi gag is the latest in a global census trend that has left some statisticians red-faced as the number of Jedis has eclipsed some centuries-old religions. In the United Kingdom, for example, there are more Jedis than Jews. Nearly 400,000 people identified themselves as Jedi in the 2001 census. Only 260,000 said they were Jewish. Just last year, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that more than 70,000 people named Jedi as their faith.

Lutheran Panel Reinstates Pastor After Post-9/11 Interfaith Service

Posted on 2003/5/14 9:47:02 ( 986 reads )


NEW YORK, U.S.A.,May 13, 2003: A Lutheran pastor who was suspended by his church for praying publicly at Yankee Stadium with clergymen of other faiths, including a Hindu priest, after the September 2001 terrorist attacks has been reinstated by a church panel. In an order dated April 10 and released yesterday, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod's dispute resolution panel cleared the Rev. David H. Benke, the New York leader for the conservative Protestant denomination. Pastor Benke holds a position that is the Lutheran equivalent of bishop, and his suspension followed his appearance at an interfaith service 12 days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks with a Muslim imam, a rabbi, Cardinal Edward M. Egan, and Sikh and Hindu holy men. After the televised event, 18 pastors and three congregations filed complaints. "To participate with pagans in an interfaith service and, additionally, to give the impression that there might be more than one God, is an extremely serious offense," the Rev. Wallace Schulz, second vice president of the Missouri Synod, said when Pastor Benke was suspended last June.

In his appearance at Yankee Stadium, Pastor Benke and the other clergymen shared the stage with Oprah Winfrey, Bette Midler and several elected officials. Pastor Benke's participation had been approved by the Rev. Gerald Kieschnick, national president of the 2.6 million member Missouri Synod, based in the St. Louis suburb of Kirkwood. During the service, Pastor Benke addressed his "brothers and sisters," saying, "The strength we have is the power of love. Take the hand of the one next to you now and join me in prayer on this field of dreams turned into God's house of prayer," he said. To his credit, Pastor Benke has refused to apologize for his participation in the Yankee Stadium service.

Australian Hindus Planning Cultural Center

Posted on 2003/5/13 9:49:02 ( 1027 reads )

Blacktown Advocate (Australia)

MARSDEN PARK, AUSTRALIA, May 7, 2003: The Australian Hindu Multicultural Association is planning to build a cultural center at Marsden Park for its 80 members. The plan includes an L-shaped building large enough for between 200 and 300 people and parking for up to 60 cars. It will be funded by donations from members and the community. "We have been working towards this since 1993," he said. "We want to share our culture and traditions with others in the community." Currently, the group stages cultural festivals in the backyards of its members because it lacks a permanent home. Hindi language classes for 50 students are held at a school on Sundays.

Childless Indian Couples Want to Adopt Indian Born Children

Posted on 2003/5/13 9:48:02 ( 1010 reads )


HYDERABAD, INDIA, May 8, 2003: In India, childless couples wanting to adopt are often left heartbroken after months and years of waiting. Prospective Indian parents are unlikely candidates as adoption agencies receive more money from foreign parents. Child rights activist Gita Ramaswamy says, "In March 2003, no objection certificate was given to over 100 children going abroad. Are there not 100 parents in India? Across India, there will be 2000 parents waiting." Baby girls are often the ones who get abandoned in India while many childless couples would like to have a child. "Just last week where there was a report of a mother having abandoned a female baby at the government hospital in Hyderabad; many couples turned up hoping to adopt the baby."

House Approves New Religious Discrimination Rules in Jobs Bill

Posted on 2003/5/13 9:47:02 ( 1097 reads )

Religion News Service

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 8, 2003: The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a bill that allows church-run job training programs to use federal money to hire only people who share their faith. The provision, included in the US$6.6 billion Workforce Investment Act, reverses 20-year-old rules to allow religious groups to discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion. The change would extend an exemption used by religious groups in private hiring to employees paid for with federal money. The jobs bill passed the House on a 220-to-204 vote. "Faith-based organizations cannot be expected to sustain their religious mission without the ability to employ individuals who share in their tenets and practices," said Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo., according to The New York Times. "It is that very faith that motivates these people to help Americans that are in trouble." Democrats and church-state groups, however, said the new rules turn back the clock on civil rights protections. The jobs bill now heads to the Senate, where opponents are more hopeful the discrimination language will be removed.

UK Group Says Animals Are Sentient Beings

Posted on 2003/5/13 9:46:02 ( 987 reads )


LONDON, U.K., May 12, 2003: Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), a British group which accepts that farm animals will be killed for their meat but argues they should be treated humanely, is holding a conference in London on May 10. Understanding animals, animal awareness, emotions and intentions is the theme of this year's conference. The concept that animals are sentient beings -- possessing a level of conscious awareness, and able to have feelings -- was recognized by the European Union in 1997. [HPI adds: Hindus and most others of the human race arrived at this same conclusion several thousand years ago.] In a briefing paper CIWF says, "There is evidence that some animals do have some level of morality and some concern over other animals. Living within a group requires a moral code of behavior...Most animals that live in communities exhibit similar moral codes to humans." CIWF's chief executive Joyce D'Silva says, "The whole climate over whether to accept sentience has changed hugely in the last 15 years. It has huge implications for all the ways we use animals. It implies all farm animals are entitled to humane lives and deaths -- and millions are denied them."

Beyond the Bangles in Fashion From India

Posted on 2003/5/13 9:45:02 ( 1107 reads )


NEW DELHI, INDIA, May 13, 2003: Considering that India is historically credited with giving the world paisley, seersucker, calico, chintz, cashmere, crewel and the entire technique of printing on cloth, it is anybody's guess why India barely registers on the global map of fashion. In the Western imagination India continues to represent fabric but not fashion, tradition but rarely innovation. "Western designers have been coming to India and 'borrowing' for 50 years," said Jacqueline Lundquist, the wife of a former American ambassador to India and a tireless booster of Indian design. "It's not fair that all these American designers should get the glory for Indian design."

Hoping to change all that, Ms. Lundquist recently brought four contemporary designers to the attention of Lord & Taylor, whose executives responded by staging a storewide promotion called Into India, devoting 20 of its Fifth Avenue windows to clothes by Tarun Tahiliani, Rina Dhaka, Vivek Narang and Manish Arora.

"When we did our trend reports," said LaVelle Olexa, the store's fashion merchandising director, "India was such an influence and such an important fashion direction that doing an India thing seemed obvious." For reasons that probably have more to do with a seasonal vogue for color than with an embrace of real changes in South Asia, the promotion turned out to be, Ms. Olexa said, "the most successful one that we've ever done." Although she declined to release sales figures, the Into India boutique was nearly sold out by last weekend. There were silk tunics and sequined T-shirts and embroidered shawls that, if they posed no challenge to the hegemony of Western design, at least put New York on notice that contemporary Indian fashion has more to offer than neo-hippie gear and droopy yoga clothes. "Really, there is so much stuff happening right now in India," said Alpana Bawa, a Punjab-born, New York-based designer. "It used to be that India was cheap cottons and poor finish work," Ms. Lundquist said. "Buyers would look and say, 'Hmmm, come back next time.' " Lately, international buyers and press have awakened to the prospects of Indian fashion design, some even trekking to India for Lakme India Fashion Week in Bombay, which, in the four years since its inception, has expanded from 33 to 53 designers, and which some credit with helping reshape an industry once driven by couture bridal clothing into one that more closely resembles the global business of ready-to-wear.

Kerala's Thrissur Pooram Witnessed by Thousands

Posted on 2003/5/12 9:49:02 ( 1018 reads )


THRISSUR, INDIA, May 10, 2003: Thousands of people witnessed the famous Thrissur Pooram, the festival of festivals comprising a day and night carnival of colorful pageantry, a parade of caparisoned tuskers and a profuse exhibition of Kerala's traditional art forms. The Pooram started with the convergence of processions from eight temples in and around at the famous Vadakkumnathan Temple located on a hillock in the heart of the city. The famous Kudamattom (change of ornamental umbrellas) by mahouts on top of 15 caparisoned elephants lined up on each side of the sprawling Thekinkadu Maidan was held amidst the beat of percussion instruments. The Pooram, drawing a large crowd from far and wide cutting across religious and regional barriers, was started in 1798 through a royal proclamation by prince Raja Rama Varma, popularly known as Sakthan Thampuran, of erstwhile Kochi state. The main poorams conducted in a competitive spirit by Paramekkavu and Thiruvambady Devaswoms end with a spectacular display of the fireworks in the wee hours of Sunday. This year's pooram is the 205th edition of the annual event.

U.S. Bill to Ensure Religious Freedom in the Workplace

Posted on 2003/5/12 9:48:02 ( 911 reads )


WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S.A.., May 9, 2003: A broad coalition of religious groups is pushing a bill that would protect religious expression in the workplace, but civil liberties groups are concerned the bill could be used to increase on-the-job proselytizing. The Workplace Religious Freedom Act would force employers to "reasonably accommodate" employees who want to wear religious articles or take time off for worship services. Current law mandates that employers allow such expression as long as it does not impose an "undue hardship" on the company. Supporters, however, say a 1977 Supreme Court ruling gutted the law and has not protected employees' rights. The American Jewish Committee, one of the bill's primary backers, points to cases like that of Amric Singh Rathour, a Sikh, who was fired as a New York City traffic cop when he refused to shave his religiously mandated beard or remove his turban. The employer mandate was inserted into Title VII of the federal Civil rights Act in 1972. Five years later, however, the Supreme Court ruled that even a minimal hardship on employers was not covered under the act. The new bill would define "undue hardship" as something that imposes "significant difficulty or expense" on the employer or that would keep an employee from carrying out the "essential functions" of the job. Opponents of the bill say there are no protections to prohibit an employee from forcing religious beliefs on other workers, or from allowing a worker to dictate his or her own duties because of religious or moral convictions.

"21 AD Asia," an Insightful Dance Festival

Posted on 2003/5/12 9:47:02 ( 1052 reads )


CHICAGO, U.S.A., May 11, 2003: Cross-cultural exchange and understanding were graciously woven through "21 AD Asia" -- a pared-down festival devoted to the evolution of traditional Chinese, Indian and Indonesian dance styles -- which opened Friday night at Links Hall. More than a concert, "21 AD Asia" became an experience for audiences to absorb and meditate on. The five artists demonstrated a fluid blending of traditional ethnic dance forms with modern and classical vocabulary -- resulting in a vivid cross-pollination. I Gusti Ngurah Kertayuda, a charismatic Indonesian dancer clad in ornate layers of red, green and gold sashes with hand-stitched embroidery and sequins, presented a formal Balinese solo. Called "Baris," it is rooted in ceremonial marches transformed into a strong yet delicate dance concentrated in elaborate eye movements and the bell-like fluttering of fingers. Also more culturally specific were three pieces by the Chicago-based Kalapriya Dance, headed by Pranita Jain (who curated the festival with sensitivity to detail). The company specializes in the Bharata Natyam style of southern India. Three dancers opened with "Alaripu," using a triangular formation to shape the space into a sacred universe of movement. Jain's solo, the tranquil marriage of a Navajo poem to Indian dance, with the artist metaphorically drawing the elements of air and fire into her own being to express a oneness with the universe, emitted a welcoming serenity. In fact, facial expression is so central to Indian dance that the live poetry narration seemed to pour forth from Jain's intensely outlined eyes. Hong Kong-born dancer-choreographer Ching Yin Lo teamed up with musician Carol Ng, who played a small harp-like pipa instrument, in "Battle Within." Lo, slipping behind and around two shimmering gold curtains, reshaped ancient Chinese warrior dances with modern movement to suggest the less tangible nature of inner demons. The most visible fusion arose from Shanti Kumari Johnson, a classical ballet dancer, whose heritage encompasses Mexico and India. In "Dhyana," Indian for meditation, she essentially journeys across the globe, Mexico's Spanish and Indian legacy and India. "21 AD Asia" runs through Sunday at 7 p.m. at Links, 3435 Sheffield Ave. Phone: 773-281-0824.

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