Religious Diversity News

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Ancient Site Draws Attention in Miami

Source: The Atlanta Journal and Constitution

On February 17, 1999, The Atlanta Journal and
Constitution
published an article on a Native American ceremonial
circle that was unearthed in the financial district of Miami. The
Miami Circle, as it has come to be known, was discovered when an
apartment building was knocked down to make room for a $100 million
twin tower complex on the Miami waterfront. Robert Carr, the
Miami-Dade County archaeologist, stated, “we’ve never found anything
as profoundly unique as this. This is the only site of this type in
all of North America.” The site reveals 200 holes that form a perfect
circle 38 feet in diameter, thought to be a ceremonial lodge. The
date and context of the site are being debated, but protesters have
lobbied strongly to preserve the site. The Miami Circle has
“triggered an international flurry” of attention from academics, New
Age spiritualists, and politicians. The Mayor’s office has been
barraged with requests to block the development and save the site,
but Miami-Dade County does not have the money to buy the land from
the developer.

Shi’ite Muslims in Connecticut Trying to Build Mosque

Source: The Hartford Courant

On February 16, 1999, The Hartford Courant published an
article on the efforts of the Jafaria Association of Connecticut to
gain city approval for a Shi’ite mosque in Meriden, CT. The
association, which only had a handful of families in 1996, has now
grown to 150 members. They began to worship in private homes in 1996
and then moved to a rented church. Now, members of the association
are trying to get a proposal approved by the Meriden town officials.
Although the association has made a deal for the property, the city
zoning board turned down the Jafaria Association’s first proposal in
December, stating that it would attract too much traffic. The Jafaria
Association is awaiting a decision from the board of appeals for
permission to build.

Interfaith Space

Source: USA TODAY

On February 16, 1999, USA Today published an article on
the growing phenomenon of interfaith sharing in the United States.
Reflecting on Brotherhood Week, which is a mid-February time to
respect each other’s religion, the journalist discusses several
notable instances of interfaith sharing. In Edison, New Jersey, a
YMCA and Jewish Community Center have connected their facilities so
as to benefit the health facilities of the other. In Niles, Illinois,
a YMCA teaches the symbols and holidays of both Christianity and
Judaism in its pre-school and after-school programs. In Waterloo,
Ontario, a shared facility of the United Church of Christ and Temple
Shalom exists to promote the idea of “two faiths, one God, one idea.”

New Buddhist Worship Center in Houston

Source: The Houston Chronicle

On February 13, 1999, The Houston Chronicle reported on
the newest Buddhist worship center in Houston, the Texas Guandi
Temple. The temple honors Guandi, a “Chinese Buddhist guardian deity
known for virtue, honesty, and power over evil spirits.” The temple
to Guandi was prompted by a hold up in 1989 of a grocery store owned
by Charles Loi Ngo. Ngo prayed to Guandi during the crime and
narrowly avoided death. Ngo founded the Hai Nam Association, a
community group of 200 Asian families that raised the funds for the
temple, in 1996. The 45,000 square foot, $1 million temple is one of
the largest in the United States. The temple pays homage to both
Guandi and Confucius.

Oldest Jewish Congregation in Ventura County, California Still Going Strong

Source: Los Angeles Times

On February 13, 1999, the Los Angeles Times featured
Temple Beth Torah, the oldest Jewish Congregation in Ventura County,
CA. The Reform temple is headed by two rabbis, Lisa Hochberg-Miller
and her husband Seth Hochberg-Miller, where Lisa oversees community
outreach programs and Seth oversees the temple’s Torah school. The
temple engages in programs with other churches to help house the
homeless, offers a Lifetime Learning Course for adult mitzvah
students, and recently hosted its second annual All Faiths Women of
Vision Conference. Lisa mentioned that she has been well received as
a rabbi: “Although I still may be many people’s first woman rabbi,
I’ve faced very little discrimination because of it.” Speaking about
her congregation, she stated, “I think they benefit from a woman’s
style.” Membership in the temple contains a full range of ages that
creates a “steady whir of activity.”

Plans to Build Tibetan Buddhist Center in Kansas City

Source: The Kansas City Star

On February 13, 1999, The Kansas City Star reported that
the Mindfulness Meditation Foundation has plans to build a Tibetan
Buddhist Monastery and an Institute of Buddhist Studies in Kansas
City, Missouri. A $1 million capital campaign has been launched by
area leaders to build a facility that can house classrooms, a
practice center, and a small monastery for 3 to 5 monks. Patterned
after Buddhist monasteries and institutes at Cornell and Emory
Universities, the new Buddhist center is planning to ally with area
universities and also offer programs to the public who are interested
in Tibetan Buddhist study and practice.

Nation of Islam Leader Calls For Million Family March

Source: The Hartford Courant

On February 13, 1999, The Hartford Courant reported on
the visit of Minister Benjamin F. Muhammed to Hartford. Muhammed, the
former NAACP Director Benjamin Chavis Jr. who has converted from
Christianity to Islam, is now a leader within the Nation of Islam. He
spoke at Mosque 14 in Hartford and called for a “Million Family
March” to take place in the year 2000 in Washington. “The Million
Family March has the potential to transform our society…and the
world,” Muhammed said. “There once was a time when we’d look out for
one another…because we were family. You can’t have a community
without a family.”

Muslim Leader Speaks in Indiana

Source: The Indianapolis Star

On February 12, 1999, The Indianapolis Star reported on a
message delivered by Imam W. Deen Muhammad, son of Elijah Muhammad,
of the Nation of Islam at Martin University in Indiana. Muhammad,
speaking to an audience of Muslims, Protestants, Catholics, and Jews
from across the Midwest, stated, “God originally created us to be one
family, and before this world is finished, we have to become one
community again.” Muhammad also stated that the “fundamental feature
of Islam is unity, peace, and charity. We must be that to each other
and to people of many faiths.” Breaking with the racial separatist
concept developed by his father, Muhammad has spent the last 30 years
trying to bring black Muslims in line with worldwide Orthodox Islam.

Hindu Settles Lawsuit with Taco Bell in California

Source: Los Angeles Times

On February 11, 1999, the Los Angeles Times published an
article on a lawsuit filed by Mukesh K. Rai, a Hindu from
Carpinteria, CA. Rai sued Taco Bell for serving him a beef burrito
when he asked for a bean burrito in April 1997. Rai settled the
lawsuit for an undisclosed amount. “The principles to me are far more
important than the actual settlement,” Rai said. “But Taco Bell has
trivialized the importance of this suit. They still haven’t shown any
remorse.”

International Sikh Leader Suspended From Position

Source: Montreal Gazette

On February 11, 1999, the Montreal Gazette reported that
Ranjit Singh, the international leader of Sikhism, was suspended by
the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandhak Committee (SGPC), which is the
body that appointed Singh in India. Last summer, Ranjit Singh
excommunicated 7 Sikhs from British Columbia who refused to carry out
Singh’s controversial edict to remove tables and chairs from temple
dining halls. The edict resulted in several violent clashes among the
Sikhs in British Columbia. Ranjit Singh doesn’t accept the SGPC’s
decision to replace him.