Religious Diversity News

1,000 Buddhists Rally in Thailand Against Muslim Insurgents

Source: Beliefnet

Wire Service: AP

Saba Yoi, Thailand – Hundreds of Buddhists rallied in Thailand’s restive south Monday in anger over a bloody Islamic insurgency amid fears it could erupt into a sectarian battle between religious communities, officials said.

Protesters demanded that civilians be allowed to carry guns to protect themselves, and urged authorities to resist pressure from Muslims to withdraw soldiers and police from Songkhla province’s Saba Yoi district.

Army spokesman Col. Akara Thiprot said Monday’s rally was the largest in three years, and estimated more than 1,000 Buddhists joined the protest.

Buddhist protesters fear that Muslim groups will ask security forces to leave the district following a rare attack on children at an Islamic boarding school two weeks ago that left three teenage students dead and seven others injured.

The attack on the Islamic school sparked a riot by Muslims who refused to let the authorities into the site to investigate. Buddhists later staged a counter-protest to demand that security forces maintain the rule of law.

10-Year-Old New Zealand Boy Recognized as Reincarnated Lama

Source: The Mercury,5936,8124750%255E401,00.html

On December 11, 2003 The Mercury reported, “Venerable Pong Re Sung Rap Tulku Rinpoche is not your typical 10-year-old. The New Zealand-born ‘Kiwi Buddha’ was named by the Dalai Lama three years ago as the reincarnation of a revered Tibetan monk. From primary school in the small North Island town of Kaukapakapa – where his biggest concerns were playing with his Pokemon and GameBoy – he moved to a Tibetan monastery in India in 2000. There the boy was enthroned as the incarnation of Eastern Pong Re Tulku Rinpoche, a high lama who died in the 1950s. Rinpoche, as the boy is known, was discovered in 1999 when a high lama of the Karma Kagyu branch of Tibetan Buddhism, searching the world for the dead lama’s reincarnation, heard of the auspicious signs surrounding the birth of a boy in New Zealand in 1993…Reincarnated lamas are often found outside Tibet, but Rinpoche was the first in the southern hemisphere. His family, brothers and sisters still live in Kaukapakapa.”

2,000 In Clearwater, Faith Communities Come Together in Prayer and Compassion

Source: St. Petersburg Times

On September 10, 2005 the St. Petersburg Times reported, “The Rev. Leddy Hammock held a candle and looked up at the dozens of people at an interfaith remembrance service for Hurricane Katrina victims Tuesday.

‘We gather to rebuild a levee against all human tears,’ she told them.

A few minutes later, the lights were dimmed, and each person in the octagon-shaped sanctuary held up a single lighted candle, asking God to help the evacuees and to forgive the dead of their misdeeds, if any.

The event at the Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater brought together religious leaders of several faiths and traditions, including Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, Hindu, Scientology and Jewish.

The idea for the special service came from Ahmed Bedier of the Council for American Islamic Relations.”

2,500 Indonesian Youth Pray Together for Peace in Interfaith Service

Source: News

On May 23, 2006 UCA News reported, “About 2,500 young people from six religions took part in an interfaith prayer service held to reinforce the climate of interreligious harmony in North Sulawesi province.

The Interfaith Youth Celebration held May 15 was organized by the recently formed Interfaith Youth Forum of North Sulawesi. It took place at the auditorium of the gubernatorial office in Manado, the provincial capital, 2,115 kilometers (about 1,310 miles) northeast of Jakarta.

Establishment of the forum, which was inaugurated March 27, was one of the recommendations from a provincial interreligious youth meeting in August 2005.

Unlike most other parts of Muslim-majority Indonesia, North Sulawesi has a Christian majority. Protestants make up 72 percent of its 2.2 million people, and the 128,000 Catholics form another 5 percent. Muslims are the second-largest community at about 21 percent. Small Hindu, Buddhist and Confucian communities account for most of the rest of the people.

Among those attending the interfaith celebration were North Sulawesi governor Sinyo Harry Sarundajang, several military officials and Nadine Chandrawinata, Miss Indonesia 2005.”

$2 Million Thai Buddhist Temple in Philly Will Be Modeled on Temple in Thailand

Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer

On September 27, 2003 The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that a “well-established, often well-heeled Thai community now has plans that would add an exotic element to the Bensalem skyline – a $2 million, palatial temple with a steeple rising nearly seven stories, towering over Philadelphia Park, the township hall, and surrounding businesses, churches and homes.

The new Wat Mongkoltepmunee (pronounced Mong-kon-TAPE-mu-nee) would be the only Thai shrine in the United States built as a near-replica of the well-known Wat Benjamabophit in Bangkok, Thailand, members say.

Wat Mongkoltepmunee was named for the late Phra Mongkhon Thepmuni, a famous abbot who headed Wat Paknam, an ancient temple in Thailand.

Much of the marble, special art and decorative fixtures for the new temple would be brought from Thailand.

A massive effort to fund the project is under way.

Temple officials say construction is expected to start by early spring…Wat Mongkoltepmunee already has approval to build from superiors in Thailand, but Bensalem approvals are vital. The temple has received approval from the township Zoning Board, but it requires more approvals…Last month, the Zoning Board agreed to allow the temple’s 75-foot steeple, which exceeds the town’s height limit in that area.”

2000 Glenmary Research Center Survey of Religious Congregations in America

Source: The Associated Press

On September 22, 2002 The Associated Press reported that “Minnesota’s religious landscape became more diverse in the 1990s, although
the state remains mostly Lutheran and Catholic, according to a survey of U.S.
religious institutions. From 1990 to 2000, the state has seen double digit percentage increases for
Jews and the Latter-day Saints. Muslims were also counted in significant
for the first time. The research also found that Minnesota has more evangelical
Christians and fewer mainline Protestants… Minnesota is home to Buddhists, Jains,
Sikhs, Hindus, Taoists and Zoroastrians. But while religious activity is higher here (62 percent ascribe to a specific
faith) than the national norm (about 50 percent), it has dropped in Minnesota
over the past decade.”

2000 Glenmary Research Center Survey of Religious Congregations in America

Source: The Houston Chronicle

On September 28, 2002 The Houston Chronicle reported that “despite the difficulties of collecting data, the numbers in the census
released last week reveal the strength of religion county-by-county across
America. The report said that 141.3 million people, or 50.2 percent of the U.S.
population, were involved with churches, synagogues, mosques or temples. That
makes the United States one of the most religious nations in the world, said
Houseal, a statistician for the Church of the Nazarene. However, the number does not reflect the entire religious community. Eastern
religions and some major African-American denominations are not counted in the
study. Furthermore, substantial numbers of Americans who identify with
denominations do not affiliate with a local church. National surveys indicate
that only 7 percent of Americans describe themselves as having no religious

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