The December issue of the Interfaith Relations Newsletter is now online.
This Christmas I am reminded of the ultimate biblical vision in the last chapter of the Bible. Reveleation 22:1-2 has this beautiful picture of a river of life flowing through the middle of the street of the city. On the side of this river of abundance is the tree of life, yielding a full complement of fruit, and its leaves are for the healing of the nations.
This vision which was also the theme of this year’s NCC General Assembly, reminds me that the work of interfaith relations is indeed about healing of the nations. Many conflicts that go on around the world today are legitimized by religion. Other conflicts arise because political leaders misunderstand religious sentiments. In this context, initiatives that create strong dialogue tables that bring religious, political, corporate, and community leaders for conversation, are of high value.
I am grateful to God for your partnership in this important ministry. Here are a few highlights from the many interesting initiatives we undertook this year:
· Built new relationships with business executives, NGO community and governmental leaders (mostly through the Alliance of Civilizations initiative at the UN).
· Started work on a Muslim-Christian leaders’ dialogue table set to start in 2007, similar to the Jewish-Christian dialogue table I co-convene.
· Continued to address theological questions. A panel of Christian theologians presented papers on “Christian theology’s engagement with religious pluralism: Biblical Texts and Themes” at the American Academy of Religion. At the Congress on the World’s Religions after 9/11 in Montreal, we had two panels, one on the variety of Christian perspectives and the other on a variety of religious perspectives addressed the question of Forgiveness and Reconciliation.
· Participated in the “Thinking Together” process where a small group of international scholars and leaders of several religious traditions are forging a new paradigm in the methodology of theologizing,
· Set up a new website for gathering prayers, scriptures, litanies, liturgies and songs/hymns from many traditions that can be used in joint events of witness for peace in local communities, particularly during times of war and conflict: http://www.seasonofprayer.org/.
· In addition, this year we successfully concluded pilot projects on two important initiatives that we are now ready to take out to local communities:
o “God Is One” the six-week long adult curriculum for use in churches and
o “Interfaith Dialogue Training” a two-day long experiential learning event for training interfaith leaders in local communities.
The National Council of Churches is an organization of 35 member denominations that together comprise over 100,000 churches in the United States and we are connected to a substantial network of ecumenical and interfaith councils across the country. Hence, it is our strong belief that these initiatives will have significant impact in the way Americans think about people of other religions and relate to each other in this, the most religiously diverse nation in the world.
We need your support: your prayers, your engagement in our programs and your financial investment to effectively engage in this ministry of “healing the nations.”
Here are some suggestions about how to do it.
First, please check out my blog http://www.nccinterfaith.blogspot.com/ for regular reflections on critical issues on interfaith relations. It is also a vehicle for me to hear your reflections. So, please use the “Comment” button to add your thoughts.
Second, let me know about opportunities in your local community to which we can bring our educational and training programs. We also have a variety of other resources available on our website that you might use.
Third, particularly at this time of the year, but also at other times, I invite your tax deductible contribution to our programs. You may write a check to the National Council of Churches, USA and mail to
National Council of Churches USA,
475 Riverside Drive #880,
New York, NY 10115
or click here to make an online contribution.
In both cases please write Interfaith Relations in the memo or comment line.
My wife, Dhilanthi, joins me in wishing you peace and joy during this Christmas season and throughout the coming year!