Religious Diversity News

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Conference on Western and Tibetan Medicine Held in Washington, D.C.

Source: The Baltimore Sun

On November 6, 1998, The Baltimore Sun reported that the
First International Congress on Tibetan Medicine was held in
Washington on the weekend of November 7th. Approximately 1200 Western
medical professionals received an intensive introduction to Tibetan
medicine. The Dalai Lama opened the event and it concluded with a
ceremony around a sand mandala dedicated to the Medicine Buddha.
After the mandala was ritually destroyed, it was put into the Potomac
River as an “offering of healing powers to the waters.” In consonance
with the event, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington is
showing an exhibit entitled, “The Buddha’s Art of Healing: Tibetan
Paintings Rediscovered.” This exhibit, also with an accompanying book
by the same title, is being shown through January 3rd, when it will
then travel to other museums in the U.S.

First Mosque on a U.S. Military Base

Source: Chicago Tribune

On November 6, 1998, the Chicago Tribune reported that
the Norfolk Naval Base in Virginia is home to the military’s first
mosque, Masjid al Da’wah. The mosque was opened a year ago and
attendance for Friday services varies from 7 to 50. According to
public affairs officer Paula Keicer, the Navy has 725 enlisted
Muslims, though the Navy does not keep a count of Muslim officers.
Lt. Malak Ibn Noel, the mosque’s imam, states that “people are very,
very proud of this room.” The mosque occupies a small space in a
building which also contains a synagogue and two chapels.

Massachusetts Candidate for Governor Runs Advertisement That Stereotypes Witches

Source: Chicago Tribune

On November 1, 1998, the Chicago Tribune issued an
article concerning a television advertisement that was run by acting
Massachusetts Governor Paul Celluci in his bid for election. In the
advertisement, which is supposed to attack the priorities of his
opponent Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, a
“black-hatted, green-faced crone” was featured while an announcer
said that Harshbarger once threatened to prosecute a Christian group
for harassing a group of Wiccans in Salem. In reaction to the
advertisement, a rally was staged at a debate between the two
candidates on October 26th and numerous phone calls were made to the
Cellucci campaign to denounce the stereotypical depiction of Witches.
Amy Ravish, a high priestess and a member of the Council of Elders of
the Temple of Nine Wells, called the advertisement “insulting.”
Laurie Cabot, founder of the Witches League for Public Awareness,
denounced the advertisement but chose to focus on the more positive
effect of bringing Witches together: “Thanks to Cellucci, we have a
common issue.”

Sikhs in the Washington-Baltimore Area

Source: The Washington Post

On October 31, 1998, the Washington Post issued an
article about the growing population of Sikhs in the
Washington-Baltimore area, which has doubled in the last five years.
Bhai Gurdarshan Singh, priest of Guru Gobind Singh Foundation in
Rockville, MD, explains that this recent surge of Sikhs to the area
is a result of the family and friends of previous immigrants, who
came to the U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s, who have recently decided to
emigrate from India. Today, about 1000 Sikh families, comprising
6000-7000 people, reside in D.C., Baltimore, and the greater Virginia
and Maryland suburbs of these cities. There are Sikh temples in
Burke, Herndon, Silver Spring, Rockville, and Baltimore. The region
is the fourth largest Sikh community after New York, Southern
California, and Chicago.

Wiccan Reflections on Halloween/Samhain

Source: St. Petersburg Times

On October 31, 1998, the St. Petersburg Times published an article entitled, “Witches Rejoice, Reflect on Halloween.” Robin Spaulding, a Wiccan priestess who lives in northeast St. Petersburg, says that “on Samhain, that is the time you are most likely to communicate with the spirits that have passed on.” Susan Granby of the Compass Coven in St. Petersburg suggests that Samhain is both a celebration of life and a time to say farwell to the spirits of those who have died this year.

25th Anniversary of the Sikh Center of the Gulf Coast in Houston

Source: The Houston Chronicle

On October 31, 1998, the Houston Chronicle reported that
the Sikh Center of the Gulf Coast in Houston is celebrating its 25th
anniversary. The Sikh community in Houston today comprises over 1000
families, a far cry from the estimated 20 families who presided over
the dedication of the first gurdwara in Houston in 1973. The
celebration included a rally at Houston’s Tranquillity Park on
November 4th, a special worship service for the birthday of Guru
Nanak also on November 4th, and an anniversary service on November
8th at the Sikh Center.

Wiccan Reflections on Halloween/Samhain

Source: Los Angeles Times

On October 31st, while many Americans celebrate Halloween as trick-or-treating and costume-wearing, Wiccans celebrate Samhain or Hallowmas, which is the Wiccan New Year.

Two articles were written which engage Halloween as a Wiccan holiday. On October 29, 1998, the Los Angeles Times published an article entitled, “Their Guiding Light.” Ruth Barrett, instructor and co-founder of Circle of Aradia in Southern California, describes Samhain as the “night where the veil between worlds is thinnest: between this world and the spirit world, light and dark, the old year and new year.”

Jewish Exploration of Tibetan Buddhism

Source: Sun-Sentinel

On October 23, 1998, the Sun-Sentinel issued an article
about a series of events to take place at the Temple Beth El of
Hollywood, Florida from October 30th – November 5th exploring the
relationship between Judaism and Tibetan Buddhism. The events will
be based around a set of screenings for a new film entitled, “The Jew
in the Lotus,” which is based on a 1995 book by poet Rodger Kamenetz.
The book tells of a 1990 journey of eight Jewish leaders to meet
with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India. On October 31st, Temple
Beth El hosted a special Seder for Palden Gyatso, a Tibetan monk who
was released from a Chinese prison in 1992 after 31 years of
incarceration.

First American Woman Becomes “Roshi”

Source: Chicago Tribune

On October 23, 1998, the Chicago Tribune published an
article concerning the official transmission of Sherry Chayat as
“roshi” in the Rinzai Zen sect of Buddhism at a special ceremony at
the Syracuse Zen Center on October 18th, 1998. Sherry Chayat is an
adjunct art instructor at Syracuse University, an affiliate Buddhist
chaplain at the university, and the abbot at the Syracuse Zen Center.
Her transmission as roshi, a “venerable teacher” who is able to pass
down the teachings of Rinzai Zen, marks the first time an American
woman has been transmitted as a roshi by any Rinzai Zen sect. Chayat
commented on her transmission: “It is an acknowledgment of a meeting
of minds between teacher and student…but the path itself is
endless, and understanding is boundless…and I’ve just begun.”
Concerning the ceremony, Chayat mentioned that it is not a personal
achievement but an “opening up to the truth in the universe.”

Fire at Connecticut Sikh Association

Source: The Hartford Courant

On October 22, 1998, The Hartford Courant reported on a
massive fire that destroyed a large commercial building in downtown
Hartford on October 20th. The Connecticut Sikh Association, which
rented the second floor of the building and used it for worship
services and other activities, had stored their copy of the Sikh holy
books inside the building. The fire gutted most of the second floor,
but the holy books and many religious artifacts survived the fire.
Hargurpreet Singh, a member of the Connecticut Sikh Association,
stated “we respect that book more than out lives…you can buy
another copy, but to Sikhs it is a living book.” No one was hurt in
the fire.