Religious Diversity News

A Quiet Religion: Even Showing your Wealth is an Act of Violence to Jains


Source: Toronto Sun

There’s a small but relatively affluent religious community that keeps a very low profile in the GTA.

With about 4,000 followers in the area, Jains strictly follow their basic religious tenet of “Ahimsa parmo dharma” — non-violence, in thought and action.

This tenet extends to their diet — Jains are strict vegetarians — and also influences their lifestyle, living by a credo that if you show your wealth, you are committing violence against other human beings who may feel belittled.

The community congregates at two small temples in Etobicoke, where they meet every Sunday for their religious prayers and religious festivities, including the birthday of Lord Mahavira — their 24th enlightened soul — and atonement days called paryushan parva or Daslakshan Parva, when Jains embark on their annual introspection with regard to their spiritual journey.

Accommodating Religion: Special Favors or Religious Freedom?

Author: Charles C. Haynes

Source: First Amendment Center Press Release

The village of Suffern, N.Y., treats Orthodox Jews just like everyone else and that’s why it’s being sued by the U.S. Department of Justice for religious discrimination.

Equal treatment, it turns out, sometimes keeps the faithful from practicing their faith.

Orthodox Jews, for example, can’t drive on the Sabbath or other holy days. So a Jewish service agency in Suffern built a “Shabbos House” across from the hospital, giving believers a place to stay while visiting patients (the nearest hotel is more than three miles away).

But since the Shabbos House is in an area zoned for single-family homes, the Jewish group requested, and was denied, a zoning variance. Now both the Jewish agency and the federal government have filed suit, claiming the denial unlawfully burdens the Jewish community’s free exercise of religion.

The Suffern conflict is one of many similar disputes across the country. Last month, for example, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in a case involving the Okemos Christian Center. The church wants to build a larger structure to hold an expanding congregation, but it can’t because of zoning restrictions in Meridian Charter Township, Mich. Although the church prevailed in a lower court, the town appealed the decision.

Adherent of Jainism Fasts for More Than a Month, Setting a Bartlett Temple Record

Author: Russell Working

Source: The Chicago Tribune,0,745050.story

For more than a month, the only thing Eva Mehta put in her body was water, and never after dark.

At times, the 17-year-old was so weak and nauseated that her parents had to use a wheelchair to bring her from their van to their Jain temple in Bartlett. When the hunger pangs hit hard, she would pinch her ears. But she kept up her fast, even when she went to bed hungry and dreamed of food.

“I would just say in my mind, ‘No, it’s not real. I just won’t eat it. I’m not going to eat this until I’m done fasting,’ ” she said.

Her fast ended Sept. 3 after 34 days. By then the 5-foot-4 Evanston teen had lost 33 pounds, her weight dropping to 119.

Chicago-area Jains rejoiced at her feat. Members of the ancient Indian religion fast every year in honor of the festival of Paryushan Parva. They regard fasting as a spiritual discipline, a way to remove bad karma and bring blessings to a person strong enough to survive for days or weeks on nothing but water.

Thousands of other local members fasted during this festival, including 44 people who did not eat for periods of 8 to 16 days, according to the Jain Society of Metropolitan Chicago, the Bartlett temple.

But Mehta’s fast stands as a temple record, a triumph of discipline and devotion, say Jain leaders, who plan to hold a celebration Saturday at the Bartlett temple for Mehta and others who fasted.

ADL Condemns Hate Crime Against Pakistani Muslim In Brooklyn

Source: Anti-Deformation League Press Release

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) strongly condemned the brutal assault of a Pakistani man in Brooklyn and praised the NYPD and Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office for apprehending the alleged perpetrators, five Jewish teenagers, and charging them with a hate crime.

Shahid Amber, 24, was approached by the alleged perpetrators, ranging in age from 15 to 17 years, who shouted, “You f****** terrorist. Go back to your country,” before punching him in the face with brass knuckles. Mr. Amber was hospitalized and told he would need reconstructive surgery. Shortly after the incident, the teenagers were arrested and charged with gang assault and a hate crime.

“We condemn this senseless attack and applaud the work of the NYPD in apprehending the alleged perpetrators of this heinous assault on Mr. Amber and by extension on the Muslim community,” said Joel J. Levy, ADL New York Regional Director.

Aid to dying: What Jainism – one of India’s oldest religions – teaches us – WorldWide Religious News

On June 9, a law allowing patients with terminal illnesses to end their lives with help from a physician came into effect in California, opening conversations about whether human life should be prolonged against the desire to die peacefully and with dignity.

A similar yet different conversation has been taking place in India for the past several years, but in reverse.

In one of India’s religious traditions, Jainism, those at the end of life can choose to embrace a final fast transition from one body to another. However, a recent court case has challenged the constitutionality of this practice. As an expert in the religions of India and a frequent visitor, I have been following this issue with keen interest.

Source: Aid to dying: What Jainism – one of India’s oldest religions – teaches us – WorldWide Religious News

All-Faith Temple “Upholds the Spirit of Ayodhya”

Source: The Telegraph

On July 10, 2005 The Telegraph reported, “A kilometre away from the ravaged grounds where the Babri mosque once stood, curious visitors trooped into Satya Mandir. On Wednesday, a special prayer for peace was held in this all-faith temple, which was built after the mosque was brought down in 1992.

As political shrapnel flies in the wake of the terror attack on the makeshift Ram temple, priests in this ancient town have taken it upon themselves to preserve social and communal harmony.

Guchi, who has been living in Ayodhya for the past three years, is one of them. His words — Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo — are different, but it is a mantra for peace… Bhai Satya Snehi — the ailing mahant of the all-faith temple that has marble statues of Ram, Sita, Buddha, Mahavir, Jesus and Zarathustra, who is revered by Zoroastrians, and a bronze crescent and star which represents all major religions — says the shrine upholds the spirit of Ayodhya. Even during the riots of 1992, very few incidents of violence were reported in the town.”

American Faith Communities Respond to Crisis in the Middle East

Source: The North Jersey News

On April 11, 2002, The North Jersey News featured an article an an interfaith prayer gathering for peace. “Religious leaders representing Muslims, Jews, Christians, and other faiths gathered together for a
prayer vigil to condemn the violence” of the current conflict in the Middle East. “Ten religious
leaders – representing Catholics, Protestants, Sikhs, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Bahais, and Jainists – attended
the event.”

Ancient Jain Religion Has New Temple In Phoenix

Author: Lawn Griffiths

Source: The East Valley Tribune

Jains say their religion had no beginning and it has no end. They say it has existed since existence itself began. But temporal existence has a milestone starting today for the Jain community in Arizona.

For seven days through Friday, Jains, well-known for their nonviolence, tenacious protection of life and belief in the power of karma, will celebrate the dedication of their grand and ornate temple nearing completion on a four-acre site in south Phoenix.

Placed inside the striking building of polished white marble will be the figures of carved gods from India – 51-inch high Lord Mahavir Swami and Lord Adinath. The two seated gods of Makarana marble will peer out from niches into the spacious assembly hall for prayer. Behind them and at their sides are 24 niches into which will be placed 15-inch-high statues of tirthankars (“ford-makers,” or role-model teachers who have conquered such things as pride and deceit). They will be put into place on Thursday.

Jains will descend on the site at 6202 S. 23rd Ave. in colorful and eye-catching attire for symbol-rich ceremonies and a festival to initiate a permanent home for the approximately 125 families who developed a Jain community about 25 years ago. About half of the families live in the East Valley.

The opening of the temple is cause for Jains worldwide to take note of and to celebrate. The U.S. has 58 Jain centers, with the largest concentration of followers in the Middle Atlantic states, plus Chicago and Houston. There are about 6.5 million Jains worldwide, the vast majority of them in India.

As a Jain and a Catholic, Artist Finds Meaning in Suffering

Source: Jain Spirit

On December 1, 2003 Jain Spirit published a profile of Ann McCoy, a Jain-Catholic artist who is finding healing through her art on Majdanek, a former Nazi concentration camp where 235 thousand people perished. In the articles, McCoy reflects on the bravery of the female survivors, and discusses their lives in light of the Jain practice of forgiveness. Her work can be seen at

As Diwali Celebrations Begin, Jains Choose a Quieter Ritual

Author: Michael Scott

Source: Vancouver Sun

The south Asian autumn festival of Diwali is celebrated by many cultures in the subcontinent, including Hindu, Sikh and Indian Buddhist communities. In the Lower Mainland, Diwali is best known in its Hindu and Sikh manifestations as a joyful Festival of Light, with dancing, drumming, floral displays, great arrays of glimmering lamps, illuminated gurdwaras, and bounteous feasting.

But one religious community in the Lower Mainland adopts a much more serene and non-material approach to Diwali. The Jains, an ancient religion of northern and western India, take this time to throw off the excesses of daily life in favour of quiet meditation and an inward search for enlightenment.

“We celebrate Diwali because it reminds us of the possibility of achieving nirvana, or eternal bliss,” says Anand Kumar Jain, a West Vancouver jeweller and a leader in B.C.’s tiny Jain community.

Although Jainism is one of the smallest of the world’s major religions, with 10 or 12 million adherents, its antiquity and influence are significant. Many scholars now believe that Jain culture and philosophy helped give rise to Buddhism in sixth-century BC. Hindu culture has also been affected by several thousand years of co-existence with Jainism.

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