Religious Diversity News

Yale Chaplaincy Search Proves Challenging in an Era of Pluralism

Source: Yale Daily News

On October 2, 2006 the Yale Daily News reported, “The music is raucous, there is dancing in the aisles, and the band would not be complete without that clarinet. Dozens of polo shirt-clad students clap and stamp their feet singing the refrain. ‘I will bless the Lord. Bless the Lord at all times!’ This is the scene at the first All-Campus worship of the 2006-’07 school year, a student-run evangelical service in Battell Chapel. Earlier that day, other Protestant Yalies held a traditional and liturgical service in the same chapel, with wine, but none of the dancing. These forms of religious expression appeal to just a small part of the religious spectrum at Yale, which encompasses not only a plethora of Christian denominations, but hundreds of Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and those of the Baha’i Faith, among many others. In an increasingly pluralistic era, Yale has spent decades grappling with the question of its administrative approach to religion. In the next several months, many in the campus’ religious community will be closely following what could be one of the pivotal moments in the University’s religious history, as the administration searches for a new chaplain to oversee campus religious life. This decision to appoint a new chaplain — replacing Rev. Frederick J. Streets DIV ’75, a 15-year veteran in the position — comes at a time of controversy and uncertainty in the Chaplain’s Office. Recent movements toward a multi-faith approach in campus religious life accompany sometimes less visible efforts to maintain awareness of active University-sponsored Protestant ministries, in particular the 250-year-old University Church. Advertisements and job descriptions for the chaplain position have stated that candidates need not be Christian, but while a non-Protestant chaplain would not serve the traditional role of pastor in the University Church, officials have said he or she must respect Yale’s religious history.”

Yemen: Government Should Release Baha’i and Christian Prisoners; Ensure Baha’is are not Deported to Iran

Author: Judith Ingram

Source: United States Commission on International Religious Freedom

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom is concerned about the status of Baha’i and Christian prisoners in Yemen, who have been imprisoned for months without charge and could face severe punishments. Some of the Baha’i prisoners could be deported to Iran, where the Iranian government has imprisoned and tortured Baha’is in recent years. The Christians, who are converts from Islam, could face the death penalty if charged with apostasy. According to sources familiar with the cases, the Baha’is and Christians were detained for sharing their faith.

“It is very troubling that conditions for religious minorities in Yemen appear to have recently deteriorated,” noted Commission Chair Felice D. Gaer. “If the recent raids of Baha’i residences and the arrests of both Christians and Baha’is were carried out because of the religious identity of the targeted individuals, that constitutes a clear violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Yemen is a party.”

In June, six Yemeni Baha’is were arrested in the capital city of Sana’a after raids by security officials on several private homes. Two Baha’is, who are Yemeni nationals, have since been released. Of the four individuals remaining in prison, three are Iranian nationals and one is of Iraqi origin. Three of the four in prison have lived in Yemen for at least 25 years. Yemen is a party to the United Nations Convention against Torture, which in Article 3 bans the deportation of a person to a country where he or she is likely to be tortured. However, there still exists the serious concern that the three Iranian Baha’is face imminent deportation to Iran, a country where Baha’is have been executed and today face severe repression.

Young Baha’is Address UK Parliamentarians on Human Rights

Author: Staff Writer

Source: Baha’i World News Service

Four young people offered their view of human rights at a reception this week in the United Kingdom Houses of Parliament.

The reception is an annual event hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Friends of the Baha’is. The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United Kingdom used this year’s reception to announce a program of activities planned to mark the 60th anniversary next December of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

One of the messages presented by Ruth Banda, Jenna Nicholas and Collis Tahzib, all members of the Baha’i Faith, and their friend Lavina Hassasing, was that there is a difference between the principle of human rights and the reality of human rights.

Young Zambian Teens Pull Together in Service Program

Author: Staff Writer

Source: Baha’i World News Service

The Tonga tribe has lived in southern Zambia for hundreds of years, and members are proud of their longstanding traditions and strong social codes. But leaders say some of the customs are eroding – young people, for example, no longer seem to respect the elderly.

A new program involving hundreds of young teens working in small groups may help change that – and simultaneously help the youngsters get along better with each other.

Zambia Gathering is First in Series of 41 Conferences

Author: Staff Writer

Source: Bahá’í World News Service

Some 750 Baha’is from Zambia, Malawi, and Zimbabwe gathered in Lusaka last weekend for the first of 41 regional Baha’i conferences scheduled over the next four months in cities around the globe.

The unprecedented series of gatherings comes at the midway point of a five-year effort by Baha’is to decentralize many of their activities and organize study circles, devotional meetings, and classes for children and young people at the neighborhood level.

“I feel that the conference was exactly what we needed to inspire, encourage and boost our spirit…,” said Musonda Kapusa of Lusaka.

Participants came from all nine provinces of Zambia and from neighboring Malawi and Zimbabwe. Five traditional African chiefs, all Baha’is and supporters of the Baha’i work in their areas, were among those who attended.

The 41 conferences – in cities from Abidjan to Yaounde, reaching geographically from Vancouver to Sao Paulo to London to Johannesburg to Ulaanbaatar to Auckland – are being held in response to a call by the Universal House of Justice, the elected body that heads the Baha’i Faith.

In a letter to the Baha’is of the world announcing the conferences, the House of Justice indicated that the purpose of the gatherings was to celebrate achievements in grassroots community-building, and to discuss the lessons learned and deliberate on how to involve more people in a particular approach to improving the societies they live in – an approach that combines spiritual development with community service.

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