Religious Diversity News

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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.

Proposed Hindu Temple Creates Controversy in New York

Source: Newsday

On February 10, 1999, Newsday published an article on the
problems that Swadhyaya, a Hindu philosophical movement, is
experiencing over a proposed Swadhyaya center in Floral Park, NY. A
civic group and a local Catholic priest are opposing the proposed
$1.5 million center because they say it will “violate zoning laws and
create traffic and congestion to an already growing neighborhood.”
Community board members recently voted to reject the proposed center
due to the fact that it is “wider and taller than other area
buildings and would require variances because of the proposed
structure’s height.” The community board acts only as an advisory
panel, so the final decision will be made by the city’s Board of
Standards and Appeals. Mary McGee, an associate professor of religion
at Columbia University who is studying the influx of Hindu temples in
the area, stated: “There may be legitimate community concerns about
zoning and traffic. Or they may be using these concerns to hide some
sort of prejudice. But from the information we have gathered, there
has been hostility and usually some level of discomfort with Hindu
temples and centers. It’s generated from misunderstanding and fear or
concern.”

Mourning for the Death of Jordan’s King Hussein

Source: Newsday

On February 8, 1999, Newsday published an article on the
mourning of New York Jews and Muslims for the death of King Hussein.
Aziz Chaudry, chairman of the Islamic Association of Long Island,
stated that King Hussein “projected our faith and our religion and
its values to the world in a very positive way. The peace, the
harmony and the progress he represented – that is true Islam, that is
the values we want to convey.”