Religious Diversity News

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The Dalai Lama Visits Indiana

Source: The San Diego Union-Tribune

On August 23, 1999, The San Diego Union-Tribune published
an article on the Dalai Lama’s visit to Bloomington, Indiana. As many
as 5,000 people are expected to converge on Bloomington to watch him
perform the Kalachakra for World Peace, which is a “series of
Buddhist rituals and teachings intended to bring personal
enlightenment and foster world peace.” People from all over the
country are going to Indiana to attend the events, which cost $40 to
$50 for daily admissions. The Dalai Lama’s current trip to the United
States is drawing more attention than previous trips. His appearance
in New York’s Central Park earlier in August drew a crowd of 40,000
people, compared to 5,000 in a visit he made there in 1991.

The Blair Witch Project Continues Stereotypes Against Witches

Source: The New York Times

On August 22, 1999, The New York Times published an
article on how The Blair Witch Project continues the trend of
negative bias against witches. Selena Fox, who helped found one of
the oldest Wiccan nature preserves in the country, the Circle
Sanctuary in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin, considers it one long slur against
witches: “If the film had been called ‘The Blair Cherokee Project,’
people would recognize the negative stereotypes.”

Religious Communities Pray for Rain

Source: The Washington Post

On August 21, 1999, The Washington Post reported that
the Sri Siva Vishnu Temple in Lanham, Maryland held a 10-day prayer
session for rain in the drought-stricken Mid-Atlantic region. The
ceremony, called Satha Chandi Homam, praises the Devi, the Mother
Goddess, and is the first of its kind held in the United States. The
ritual requires the services of at least 10 specially trained priests
from India. During the 10 days, rain appeared three times, but the
priests don’t take the credit. “It’s God’s holiness that gives the
rain or the sun,” said Shanmugam Sivachariar, one of the 11 priests
who led the ceremony. Ironically, the ceremony was planned months
before the drought in order to give spiritual support for the growing
Hindu population in the Washington, D.C. area and aid in the
construction of a rajagopuram for the temple. When the priests
arrived in the United States, they felt the need to pray for rain.
Other religious communities in the area are also praying for rain.
Roman Catholic parishes in Southern Maryland pray for rain during the
“weekly intention” at Sunday Mass. Area mosques have been concluding
their Friday services with the salat al istiqa, which is the Islamic
drought prayer.

The Dalai Lama Visits Indiana

Source: The Courier-Journal

On August 21, 1999, The Courier-Journal of Louisville,
Kentucky published an article on the universal themes that the Dalai
Lama expresses in his writings and speeches. Speaking to a capacity
crowd of 8,700 at the University of Indiana at Bloomington on August
18th, the Dalai Lama stated: “Without hesitation, the purpose of our
life is happiness.” In his newest book, Ethics for the New
Millennium,
the Dalai Lama writes that “my impression is that
those living in the materially developed countries, for all their
industry, are in some ways less satisfied, are less happy, and to
some extent suffer more than those living in the least developed
countries.” He continues to write that “below the surface, so many
feel uneasy and dissatisfied with their lives. They experience
feelings of isolation, then follows depression.” Additionally, he writes, “There is nothing amazing about being
highly educated; there is nothing amazing about being rich. Only
where the individual has a warm heart do these attributes become
worthwhile.”

The Dalai Lama Visits Indiana

Source: The Columbus Dispatch

On August 20, 1999, The Columbus Dispatch published an
article describing the Kalachakra, which means the “turning of the
wheel of time.” The Kalachakra consists of 11 days of public prayer,
meditation and teaching that has the goal of creating world peace and
harmony. Buddhists believe that the Kalachakra teachings “pacify
conflicts, develop peace and welfare, reduce suffering and increase
love, kindness, compassion, joy and happiness.” This is the 25th time
the Dalai Lama has lead the Kalachakra since 1954 and the fourth time
in the United States. “The Kalachakra is believed to have been passed
down as a mystical manifestation of the Buddha to King Suchandra of
the kingdom of Shambhala. It has been practiced for more than 1,000
years.” Actor Steven Segal said, “The Kalachakra creates a porthole
to where people can experience that blissful dimension.” The
Kalachakra consists of an earth ritual, the creation of a sand
mandala, teaching, meditation, ritual dancing, and an initiation
ceremony. More than 3000 people are attending the ceremony, many
traveling from Japan, Taiwan, and other countries.

Religion and the Internet

Source: USA TODAY

On August 19, 1999, USA Today published an article on the
place of religion in cyberspace. Some, like Richard P. Cimino and Don
Lattin, authors of Shopping for Faith, assert that the
Internet is a “vast, chaotic spiritual supermarket (that) allows
people to go directly to source material – ideas they might not be
exposed to in their church.” Cimino and Lattin state that the most
significant effect of computers on religion over the coming years
will be to “forge direct links between individual believers and
religious groups, bypassing denominational control.” A 10-month study
of Internet religious use, prepared by Ken Bedell for the United
Methodist Church and the Louisville Institute, finds that most people
use the Internet to find information on their own faith, particularly
at the Web sites of their existing churches and denominations.

New Book Explores Muslim Values in America

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

On August 19, 1999, The Christian Science Monitor
published an article on a new book, Islam in America (Columbia
University Press), authored by Jane Smith, professor of Islamic
Studies at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut and co-director of its
Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations. She
states that many Muslim organizations in the United States “are
searching for the essence of Islam” and are also involved in
“determining the nature and authenticity of an indigenous American
Islam.” In a recent interview, Smith stated that “this American
context provides the opportunity for fresh thinking without the sense
that it may be objectionable to somebody.”

Hispanic American Conversions to Islam

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

On August 19, 1999, The Christian Science Monitor
published an article on the small but growing trend of Hispanic
American conversions to Islam. Elizabeth Chawki, one of the
approximately 15,000 Hispanic American converts to Islam, converted
to Islam from her Christian heritage because she perceived a more direct
connection to God, and she appreciated the sense of “brotherhood and
sisterhood,” the daily structure of life, and the inclusion of much
of Jewish and Christian teachings. Benny Garcia, brother of Elizabeth
Chawki and also a recent convert, stated that, “there’s sometimes a
sense of betrayal” from the greater Hispanic Catholic community of
which they are a part, but that has not translated into violence or
discrimination.

Buddhist Temple Honors Slain Victims

Source: The Arizona Republic

On August 15, 1999, The Arizona Republic reported that
Wat Promkunaram, a Vietnamese Buddhist temple west of Phoenix,
Arizona, held two days of memorial ceremonies on the 8th anniversary
of the murders of 9 Buddhists at the temple. Over 70 monks and dozens
of Buddhist followers participated in the ceremonies to honor the
slain victims, 6 monks, a nun, novice, and acolyte, who were murdered
while praying. In the 8 years since the murders, the temple has
changed a great deal, adding an 8-foot
monument with a bust of one of the slain monks, a new building, a
welcome sign, a garden, and a new wrought-iron gate. Prakong Garland, vice-president of the
temple who prepares food for the monks on a weekly basis, stated: “We
like to see the people come, to show us support…It’s more peaceful
here now.”