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congresso

It is not easy to talk for twenty minutes and resume, on one hand, the signs of hope in the dialogue between Christians and Muslims and, on the other, between Jewish people and Muslims, but I will try.
First of all, thank you very much to professor Mandel to be here and I send my best regards to the Sufi Brotherhood and to the organizing committee. The consideration and love for the edification of the peace encourage us to look for new theological paths, real projects made of commitments and enterprises of musical nature too, just to test exactly where we arrived with the quest for a common Faith which comes from Abraham. This pursuit – although in Italy they speak at least about it, and very often we find not well prepared theologians or not updated to recent works made in the not far University of Munich – risks to be incomplete. A lot of these theologians, aware of the atmosphere of prudence about religious traditions but ignorance too (the latest which produce especially every kind of prejudices), merely repeat common places.

Thesis of great theologians, like Hans Kung, can mainly be considered over in these days. I am thinking about those answers stated by the catholic Gerard Gaede in his book “They worship the only existing God like us” published by Borla Press last January. A request this one for all Catholic and Christians to improve any efforts on their way to the quest. It is not enough to be men of good will. I won’t to replace the other speakers who will follow my speech, anyway. I send a special greeting to Don Bottoni and to all of you here. The Vatican Council offered very interesting thesis in those days, although in 2006 Ratisbone marked not a very encouraging turning point. It is suitable, my dear Catholics, to leave behind us hopeful signs to future generations all over the World. Our seeds left along the path will sprout in any moments.

In 1948 Jack Harlan, an American botanist, was picking up plants in Turkey. He found a variety of corn that seemed not important to be collect: “It was the worst wheat corn I have ever seen – he explained -. It wasn’t enough productive and very often decayed before the harvest.” Jack Harlan died in 1982. Then, those seeds that he had picked up in previous years and put in the most important seed bank placed in the Svalbard Islands, North to Norway, had recently let scientists to defeat the bunt, a plant illness that brought whole American north-west agricultural areas to their knees. That corn, considered so useless and ugly, has been used by present generations to face recent food crisis, by creating new corn variety with similar marks than those ones picked up in Turkey.

Between Muslim culture and Christianity there are deep common roots: we are God’s creatures, subjected to God, to be considered responsible before God, both considering human being as God’s product or his servant, basically the need of a struggle for a better and more equitable World, the need to fight for the future generations, which attention could be captured by using love instead of selfishness or using the spirit of privation. Recently, we discovered, thanks to a mutual faith, a use of a more suitable theology and an ecological vision (God as the only real World master) more or less similar on their basis, and, on the other side, we recognize a mutual need to apply a permanent conversion. Moreover, we verified that Muslim culture and Christianity both began in a persecution atmosphere, and we must assure that we wouldn’t satisfy God’s will if people had to go away because of their Faith, and that our love for people next to us, let us discern the connatural dignity that is in every human been. And to recognize the right that who stay better has the obligation to assist the weakest ones.
The Orthodox Metropolitan Georges Khodr, at Saint-Serges renowned institute in Paris (the one who developed the “Christ sleeping in other religions” theory), not only did he claim that the Koran would be a legitimate book of meditation but he hoped for Christians to have a patient and peaceful way of acting, a secret communion with every human being, and a deep faith in God’s eschatological revelation plan. He used to remind Eastern Christians, though he also visited Bose monastery, that “Christ is no institution, but value, act, hearts transformation into sweetness, simplicity of humility, of gihad (word meaning effort, active engagement, not war just as western translators and Islamic fundamentalists often say) to the afflicted ones”.
In the ecumenical council of churches (where Protestants, Veteran Catholics, Orthodox and Anglicans are represented), the dialogue, that was hoped after the Second World War, has started after the six days war between Arabs and Israelis in 1967. Some political reasons had previously blocked its development and still today it is difficult to involve women, for example, in a higher level discussion. In fact in Italy there is an “informative exile” between Jews and Muslims during a Jewish culture day or in a meeting occasion with Islam. As the person in charge of Ecumenici Newsletter (www.ecumenici.eu ) I did not hesitate to write that we are dealing with a structural boundary of the dialogue itself. It being understood that we acknowledge it. The very little is far better than nothing and the debate still remains “a love chant pleasantly sung” (Ez.32,22).
Every synthesis scheme is limited but the objective analysis of Reinhard Leuzer, an Evangelical theologian from Munich, seems interesting to me: first the Koran is reckoned as a revealed scripture as much as the bible is, although the concept of revelation is different in Christianity and Islam, that is taken as an ordinary way of salvation. The prophet Muhammad consciously places himself in the traditional belief of monotheism and the message he announced would be revealed from the same God of Jews and Christians; in other words he would have been assigned by God. Thus there is a unitary subject in the history of salvation. The Koran is the earliest amongst divine revelations and it is also seen as a temporary conclusion of the history of revelation. The reason for that other revelation after Jesus Christ can be found today in such ways of popular devotion which look like semi-pagan syncretism no longer depending on the inconceivable and transcendent God, but most of all on the conversion of entire pagan peoples to Christianity. I point out that Christians have not adopted the whole Law of Moises and despite that we carry on considering the whole Bible as Holy Scripture and Word of God, because it is interpreted as the Old Testament. For us Protestants the Word of God is the human witness inspired by God and it is still living thanks to the Holy Ghost whispering in the believer.
Actually in the Bible there are contradictions as well as historical and scientific mistakes (let us take the thickness of Jericho’s walls for example, or the thickness of the Ark of the Covenant or else the fact of including the hare among ruminant animals) which do not compromise the Word of God. In that way we can understand the Koran and consider its single statement being opposite to Christianity as the word of God that does not necessarily contradict Christian belief. Whoever may consider the Bible as dictated by God word by word is the non -protestant evangelical , namely Pentecostal , who never accepts a dialogue with Islam. That is why in many protestants’ opinion and mine Islam has a privileged place amongst religions. It is no doubt that only a person filled with the Holy Ghost can notice that Ghost already acting in the religious multiplicity men are heading to. In fact the spirit has been given to all mankind and “logos” only goes to where “pneuma” already stands. (Luke 1,3) A Zwinglian has been knowing those thesis since the Sixteenth Century, under various forms and directions. That is why I can call you brothers having in common a perspective of ecumenical and eschatological fulfillment. Where God has the last word as regards final Revelation.
By reading Eb. 1,1-2 I maintain, as Catholic theologian Gaede does, that “God, who had already talked to fathers in ancient times and in different ways (we can add: AND HE WILL TALK MANY OTHER TIMES TO OUR DESCENDANTS BY THE MEANS OF PROPHETS) lately nowadays he talked to us through the Son”. Who can witness God’s mercy, if that witness is true then it can only be the Word of God for Faith is asynchronous by nature. To us the Christians Jews always prove God’s Alliance with his people and they still keep on proving and pronouncing the Word of God nowadays. Besides Christ is already ”inside” the Koran and not out of it! Christ exists “inside” the Jewish canon through the prophecy.
In 1956 Druse Kamal Jumblatt used to ask to Christians of his country: can they take Islam as their own, can they assimilate it without being assimilated, without giving up their own identity? And he used to ask Muslims symmetrically: can Islam find its openness skills like it used to in the first 150-200 years, during a phase of cultural creativity when it used to assimilate a huge part of Greek and eastern Iran-Indian heritage? Today we think we can answer yes, despite Italian censorship and ignorance I did mention.
After those words of hope, which are the projects of hope? Ecumenici newsletter will keep on living by following a theocentric vision thanks to a noahic reading (Gen 8,15-9,17) in Tanakh: the pact of faith between God and whole mankind, through Noah, has not been revoked. This is also a pact which links Islam to Judaism directly. We are conscious of what Jesus says in John 8:58 “I tell you the truth: before Abraham was born, I am!” and just because of that we dare confide in his Word, which is going to be clear in latest times.
Some of the events we pointed out: last year in November in Verona in a Catholic church, there was a concert of Jewish Chassidic and liturgical music performed by Ensemble Shalom. The new-born Lutheran community of Verona- Gardone was the organizer. Please note that one of the main aspects in Chassidic spirituality (Jewish mystical current inspired by Cabala) is:
The most direct way to join God is by the means of music and songs. Sing though you cannot sing. Sing for yourself. Sing in the intimacy of your home but sing!
Another well established sign of hope is promoted by Confronti magazine which organizes a series of events such as flowers for peace, seeds for peace, notes for peace.
Flowers for peace. It is a program that requires the invitation of young Israelis and Palestinians in Italy. After a period of getting to know one another, they would be inserted either in summer experiences with Italian teenagers (such as summer camps promoted by churches, associations and institutions) or in activities during the scholar year. A series of psychological studies shows how difficult the Israeli adolescent condition is, being constantly threatened by suicide bombing terror; on the other side Palestinian teen-agers’ situation is well documented as stuck between occupation violence and the most extreme and militarized factions propaganda. In that context, it is hard to talk about peace. The educational programs are then important to make everyone meet directly, out of the current schemes and prejudices, in a soft environment that makes meeting and friendship much easier. This project has been made more than once thanks to the former funds of the Municipality of Rome, the Municipality of Genzano and the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Seeds for peace. It is a meeting program between adult witnesses of peace, Israelis and Palestinians, who come to Italy either to get to know one another better or to share their experiences and analysis with Italian audience. The particularity of this event is that, after an orientation period about Italian reality, “witnesses” divide in couples, an Israeli with a Palestinian, and put themselves to use in groups, associations, institutions who invited them. Confronti has been carrying on this project from eight years, the same project could be successful also in the region of Lazio. Moreover some travelling seminars are organized in Israel and in Palestinian territories. The seminar schedules meeting with political and religious representatives from both sides, with Israeli and Palestinian social and cultural realities, but most of all it is a meeting with men and women who believe and work for peace, though in extremely difficult situations. Confronti has been promoting such kind of seminar from eleven years.
A very convincing and moving sign of peace in which I took part in Milan is “notes for peace”, an event promoted by Lutheran Church with the participation of its inner Zwinglian reformed community, under the silence of Italian media. Italian journalists haven’t been giving information about it from years. And yet we send our newsletter to hundreds of editorial units. Not to mention the efforts of promoter’s press agency in each city where young musicians (aged 14 to 17) hold their concerts. Normally there are five young Palestinian musicians from Bethlehem Lutheran School Dar Al Kalima and five Israeli partners from Sasa’s Regional High School in High Galilee. Those teenagers, who are not professionals, have chosen to share their passion with “the other”, with the one generally conceived as enemy; by the means of knowledge and sharing of music. There are also several meetings in Italian high schools.
And now I am about to resolve by pointing out the initiatives of the group whose members are Rabbi Roberto Arbib, an Italian conservative rabbi living in Tel Aviv, and several Israeli professors who have been developing interreligious dialogue with local Sufi Chekim since 2000. A dialogue born from the mutual will of learning and developing the spiritual tradition that connects Islam to Judaism under prayers, study and meditation in order to build a bridge of peace between both spiritual traditions. The group gathers every week to study the scriptures of both traditions. In 2008 gatherings were dedicated to the study of El Kushairi, who had probably influenced Jewish philosopher Ibn Pakuda in his central work “Hearts’ duties”.
Rabbi Arbib, who knows Confronti magazine very well, has never quit his activities with Sufi brotherhoods in Israeli capital city and beyond the Green Line, not even during the war, when bombs were falling in Israel “in the name of God to the world”. Last January he held conference in Milan Reform Synagogue Lev Chadash. The prayer ceremony with Sufi is objectively an element of considerable interest. By praying the ninety-nine names of God with the zicher (consisting of ninety-nine beads divided in three parts, with a small minaret signaling the following thirty-three beads) as well as with psalms does witness visibly, sonorously and symbolically that we can pray together the Only God. Not only through silence, breath, music, Jewish mantra – namely sounds – and other techniques (Persians often use this until they reach trance).
Neve Shalom – Wahat as-Salaam has also been involved under intifada times. It is the village built because of political intentions where Israelis and Palestinians live together, all Israel citizens. They often started from cabalistic meditation but went on with great and incomparable Sufi mystical tradition (having it also women as important representatives) in order to achieve a common study project. From the jewish side we noticed that Sufism would be compared to several aspects (elements, bodies) of Chassidic movement: the meeting-point is represented by those two mystics and more precisely by the connection of the human being to God and the love of God. It is best to recall that during Persian poet and mystic Gialal al-Din Rumi’s funerals there were lots of Jewish people honouring his coffin.
From the jewish side a new-born self-criticism is also remarkable. Arabs know Hebrew, whereas Jews do not know Arabic (except for the ones in the Israeli Intelligence, so this proves “the other” is considered as enemy). Moreover, Jews seem to have forgotten how to pray with the body, by the means of hands, by bowing down, composure, putting things in order in the Temple itself, etc… In short Jews should learn again from Islamics who have never given up the fulfillment of prayers. The same prayer Jewish prophets used to practice. It is then clear that a big reform is necessary in Judaism. Today more than ever.
After a mosque was bombed, Rabbi Arbib apologized and expressed regret, asking to pray for peace with Islamics. Answers were not all positive (there are orthodoxes in Islamic world, too, not only in jewish world) but when that invitation was accepted, Arabs and Jews were bewildered, incredulous, “speechless” . they were astonished of what was going on.
Rabbi Arbib points out that Sephardic Spanish prayer for Yom Kippur ( jewish religious day of atonement) would use language and terms borrowed from Islam. Sephardic Jews always have a relationship of hate (because of the wars suffered) and love towards Islam in the meantime. Sephardic Jews used to say: “when we come back from a small battle, so says the wise (in reality that wise was Islamic but it was not right to say it clearly), we have to fight the great battle”, that war against ourselves, against our evil instincts.
After Moshe Ben Maimon’s death (known in Italy as Mosé Maimonide) Judaism has been constantly influenced from Islam for about 200 years.

And with those dialogues of peace I wish you the joy of common quest. I feel enthusiastic and I hope to have sent you an encouraging message.
Thanks for the attention.
Maurizio Benazzi in Milan/Italy

(transation by Roberto Pavan from italian to english)

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Pray with and for Rabbi Lerner.

Rabbi Lerner returned home on Monday from the University of California Medical Center where he was operated on for lung cancer (no, he never smoked). His wounds are slowly healing after the upper lobe of his left lung was removed. Pain meds and prayer help him deal with the remaining pain. This Shabbat we welcome people to dedicate healing prayers to Rabbi Lerner wherever you live. For those who wish to say the traditional prayer, his Hebrew name is Mee-cha-el ben Beyla ve Yosef Chayyim. If you are in the S.F. Bay Area of Northern California you are invited to join us in person as Beyt Tikkun synagogue holds its Shabbat gatherings with Rabbi Lerner at his home, 951 Cragmont Ave, Berkeley (cross street: Marin Ave).

• Friday night, Shabbat Celebration starts at 7 p.m. sharp . Followed by a vegetarian pot-luck.

• Saturday morning Shabbat celebration starts at 10 a.m. (only for people who enjoy praying the traditional prayers in Hebrew)

11 a.m.Torah Study (in English-no previous familiarity with the Hebrew or the Torah presupposed). During the Torah study we will offer healing prayers for Rabbi Lerner.

Please bring prayers, blessings, poems or songs to share which you are invited to offer to Rabbi Lerner as part of the healing circle at each of these events. If you live out of town, please add your prayers wherever you are. You can also send jokes, short stories, dvds, or whatever else will help distract Rabbi Lerner from the pain of the wounds.

Admission: a main course vegetarian dish to share with at least ten other people. Don’t bring bread, pita, challah, take out from Chinese restaurants, or canned anything. We’ll supply challah for everyone. Do not bring meat of any sort, chicken of any sort, or any shell fish (including sushi with crab or lobster or oyster or eel or shrimp or anything that doesn’t have scales and fins). Do not bring rice that has been cooked in chicken stock, or any other soup that has used chicken stock or any other meat stock. Do not expect to make something at rabbi lerner’s home using the oven or stove-no cooking allowed on Shabbat.

Please RSVP by email to Will.Pasley@gmail.com  or call 510 644 1200 and leave a message for Will by Friday morning at 10 a.m. and tell us what you will bring so that we know how many people for whom to buy challot, wine, grape juice, and dessert. You are welcome to come to both Friday night and Saturday morning services. Just tell us by Friday morning, please. (Yes, if you really can’t tell us, come anyway-but bring something delicious).

Rabbi Lerner has taken great solace in the beautiful notes of support that he continues to receive that are posted (by many people aligned with the Tikkun community, the NSP, Beyt Tikkun synagogue and others) at the website:

http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/525/t/8751/blog/index.jsp?blog_KEY=570

He finds this much better than receiving phone calls-with web notes, he can read them when he feels up to doing so. Rabbi Lerner has asked us to extend to you his great thanks at the outpouring of love and prayers that he has received and which have had a marked impact on accelerating his recovery. He especially wants to thank those who have made contributions to Tikkun or the NSP in his honor, and to the people who have sent him notification that they have instructed their own financial planners to bequest Tikkun in the circumstances of their own possible future death. He wishes them long life-it’s the thought that counts!

News about the biopsy of his cancerous lung will not be available till this coming Monday. Till then, he can’t tell you much about his situation except to say that the canerous lung was successfully removed. Please don’t ask “how are you doing, Rabbi Lerner?” The answer is: he is doing fine, he is in pain,he appreciatest your presence and anything you’ve written to him (if you want it to be purely private, mail to rabbilerner@tikkun.org  but put “cancer” in the subject matter, and don’t expect an answer in the next few weeks). He is greatly moved by the expressions of love he has received. He is greatly saddened by the loss Debora Duenas’ nephew. And he is deeply appreciative of being part of such a wonderful, loving and supportive community.

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web: www.spiritualprogressives.org
email: info@spiritualprogressives.org

Goal: We need your help by March 10

Dear Facebook Friends, We need your help. March 10 is the 50th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising when the Dalai Lama fled Tibet, and the first anniversary of the demonstrations that swept across the Tibetan plateau last spring. March 10 is a day to honor all those who have given their freedom—and lives—in the struggle for basic human rights and self-determination. It is also a day to honor those inside Tibet and in exile who have done so much to keep the spirit of Tibet alive. Imagine living in constant fear of the authorities finding out about your religious and political views—and possibly being detained and tortured because of them. Now multiply that by the cold, harsh facts over the past 50 years: • Tens of thousands killed • Hundreds of thousands imprisoned • Over 6,000 monasteries, nunneries and temples, pillaged and destroyed Last year alone, hundreds more Tibetans disappeared or were imprisoned, and more destruction was directed against monasteries and precious religious objects. To mark this extraordinary time, Tibetan Associations in the United States, the International Tibet Support Network, and the International Campaign for Tibet are organizing a Tibet Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. Already Tibetans and friends of Tibet from 21 states and the District of Columbia are scheduled to meet with members of the House and Senate on March 9 and 10 in a focused effort to commend and expand congressional support for human rights and fundamental freedoms for Tibetans. On her first visit to China, Secretary of State Clinton did not produce what we need from America’s chief diplomat. But with your help, we can influence and guide the Obama Administration and call on Secretary of State Clinton to work for real progress on Tibet. Please help us make this effort a success and honor all those who have given their lives and freedom in the struggle for basic human rights, religious freedom and self-determination

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To learn more about the goal or donate, follow the link below:
http://apps.facebook.com/causes/150?m=f5119b12

World Day of Prayer is a worldwide movement of Christian women of many traditions who come together to observe a common day of prayer each year, and who, in many countries, have a continuing relationship in prayer and service. It is a movement initiated and carried out by women in more than 170 countries and regions. It is a movement symbolized by an annual day of celebration – the first Friday of March – to which all people are welcome. It is a movement which brings together women of various races, cultures, and traditions in closer fellowship, understanding, and action throughout the year. Sierra Leone Philippines Lebanon Through World Day of Prayer, women around the world affirm their faith in Jesus Christ share their hopes and fears, their joys and sorrows, their opportunities and needs Through World Day of Prayer, women are encouraged to become aware of the whole world and no longer live in isolation to be enriched by the faith experience of Christians of other countries and cultures to take up the burdens of other people and pray with and for them to become aware of their talents and use them in the service of society Through World Day of Prayer, women affirm that prayer and action are inseparable and that both have immeasurable influence in the world.

Papua New Guinea 2009

In Christ, Many Members Yet One Body

On March 6, 2009, the women of Papua New Guinea invite us to have the confidence of Ruth, who left what was familiar to her and went with Naomi to another land. They call us to ponder the mystery of our oneness in Christ in their context and our own. Papua New Guinea has one of the most heterogeneous indigenous populations in the world. More than 800 languages are spoken. Their diversity is expressed in this saying, “For each village another culture.” Yet, the bilum, a traditional string bag is found nearly everywhere. Bilums come in many colors, sizes, shapes, and styles and often the creative designs identify where the bilums were made. Men usually prefer a long handle style that is worn over the shoulder. Women carry their babies and their market produce. Bilums are also used as a hanging cradle for a sleeping baby. We are also invited to reflect on the collaborative networks among women. In Exodus, the story of deliverance from bondage begins with women’s non-violent intervention. Their actions ignore the social forces that are rooted in the fallacy that one group is superior to the other and is entitled to exploit them. Together, the women overcome evil with good. So, too, in the context of Papua New Guinea, we are given examples of women’s intervention in Bougainville and in the Highlands. And we are called to identify women’s intervention in our own context. We thank you, God, for directing our lives. As women united as one in your body, with your love and your power in us, we pray that we would be your instruments for peace and reconciliation.

http://www.worlddayofprayer.net/

Bishop Desmond Tutu was born in 1931 in Klerksdorp, Transvaal. His father was a teacher, and he himself was educated at Johannesburg Bantu High School. After leaving school he trained first as a teacher at Pretoria Bantu Normal College and in 1954 he graduated from the University of South Africa. After three years as a high school teacher he began to study theology, being ordained as a priest in 1960. The years 1962-66 were devoted to further theological study in England leading up to a Master of Theology. From 1967 to 1972 he taught theology in South Africa before returning to England for three years as the assistant director of a theological institute in London. In 1975 he was appointed Dean of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Johannesburg, the first black to hold that position. From 1976 to 1978 he was Bishop of Lesotho, and in 1978 became the first black General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches. Tutu is an honorary doctor of a number of leading universities in the USA, Britain and Germany.

Desmond Tutu has formulated his objective as “a democratic and just society without racial divisions”, and has set forward the following points as minimum demands:

1. equal civil rights for all
2. the abolition of South Africa’s passport laws
3. a common system of education
4. the cessation of forced deportation from South Africa to the so-called “homelands”

The South African Council of Churches is a contact organization for the churches of South Africa and functions as a national committee for the World Council of Churches. The Boer churches have disassociated themselves from the organization as a result of the unambiguous stand it has made against apartheid. Around 80 percent of its members are black, and they now dominate the leading positions.

 

Selected Bibliography
By Tutu
Crying in the Wilderness. The Struggle for Justice in South Africa. Edited by John Webster. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1982. (Sermons, speeches, articles, press statements, 1978-1980.)
Hope and Suffering: Sermons and Speeches. Edited by John Webster. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1984. (From the period 1976-1982.)
The Rainbow People of God: The Making of a Peaceful Revolution. Edited by John Allen. New York: Doubleday, 1994. (Speeches, letters and sermons from 1976 to 1994, woven together in narrative by his media secretary.)
 
Other Sources
du Boulay, Shirley. Tutu, Voice of the Voiceless. London: Penguin Books, 1989.
Sparks, Allister. The Mind of South Africa. New York: Knopf, 1990. (Historical interpretation by a distinguished South African journalist.)

From Nobel Lectures, Peace 1981-1990, Editor-in-Charge Tore Frängsmyr, Editor Irwin Abrams, World Scientific Publishing Co., Singapore, 1997

This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and first published in the book series Les Prix Nobel. It was later edited and republished in Nobel Lectures. To cite this document, always state the source as shown above.

I know that we cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you, and you, and you, gotta give’em hope.

Su di me: Harvey Bernard Milk (22 May 1930 – 27 November 1978) was an American politician and gay rights activist, and the first openly gay city supervisor of San Francisco, California. He was, according to Time magazine, “the first openly gay man elected to any substantial political office in the history of the planet.”

As the “Mayor of Castro Street,” he was active during a time of substantial change in San Francisco politics and increasing visibility of gay and lesbian people in American society. He was assassinated in 1978, along with Mayor George Moscone, by then recently resigned city supervisor Dan White making him a LGBT community “martyr”. White’s relatively mild sentence for the murders led to the White Night Riots, and eventually the abolition of diminished capacity defense in California

From Facebook

Sermon – Pastor Mark Phillips – USA

ON BEING THE GOOD SAMARITAN
(Text: “Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” – Luke 10:37)

A few years ago, an astonishing thing happened in New York City. A construction worker named Wesley Autrey was standing on a subway platform with his two young daughters, ages four and six, waiting on a train. Suddenly another man on the platform, apparently suffering from a seizure, stumbled and fell off the platform down onto the subway tracks. Just at that moment the headlights of a rapidly approaching train appeared in the subway tunnel. Acting quickly, and with no thought for himself, Wesley Autrey jumped down onto the tracks to rescue the stricken man by dragging him out of the way of the train. But he immediately realized that the train was coming too fast and there wasn’t time to pull the man off the tracks. So Wesley pressed the man into the hollowed-out space between the rails and spread his own body over him to protect him as the train passed over the two of them. The train cleared Wesley by mere inches, coming close enough to leave grease marks on his knit cap. When the train came to a halt, Wesley called up to the frightened onlookers on the platform: “There are two little girls up there. Let them know their Daddy is OK.”

Immediately, and for good reason, Wesley Autrey became a national hero. People were deeply moved by his selflessness, and they marveled at his bravery. What Wesley had done was a remarkable deed of concern for another person. He had no obvious reason to help this stranger. He didn’t know the man. He had his young daughters to think about. What he did was at severe risk to his own life. But a human being was in desperate need, and Wesley saw it and, moved with compassion, did what he could to save him. “The Subway Superman”-that’s what the press called him, the “Harlem Hero.” But the headline in one newspaper described Wesley Autrey in biblical terms. It read, “Good Samaritan Saves Man on Subway Tracks.”

Wesley Autrey was indeed a Good Samaritan, and when I heard his story, I wondered, “If I had been the one on the subway platform that day, what would I have done? Would I have been as courageous as Wesley? Would I have had what it takes to jump down on those tracks, with a train bearing down, to help that man?” In other words, would I have been a ‘Good Samaritan’ that day?”

Many people believe that this is the exactly the question that Jesus wants us to ponder. That’s why, they say, he told his original parable of the Good Samaritan in the first place. The Parable of the Good Samaritan is one of Jesus’ most familiar stories, and the way we usually hear that parable is as Jesus’ way of getting us to ask ourselves, “Am I willing, when the circumstances arise, to be a Good Samaritan to other people? If I see a person lying in a ditch somewhere or in trouble on the highway or on subway tracks in distress, would I risk myself to be of help? Am I a Good Samaritan?” But I wonder if that’s what Jesus was really saying in that parable.

Let’s take another look at it. You may remember how it happened that Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan. He was headed toward Jerusalem, and in a village along the way, he got involved in a rather testy conversation with a local attorney. The lawyer evidently did not like Jesus’ message, and he was pressing Jesus, trying to make him look foolish, attempting to expose a weakness in his teaching. He was figuratively cross-examining Jesus on the witness stand: “In your view,” the lawyer asked Jesus, “just what do I need to do to inherit eternal life?”
“You’re the lawyer,” said Jesus. “What does it say in the law?” Well, the attorney knew the law, of course, the law of Moses, and he quoted it. “The law says, ‘Love God with all your heart and soul and strength and mind and also love your neighbor as you love yourself.’” “Well,” said Jesus. “There you have it. You’re right. Love God fully and love your neighbor as yourself. Do this and you will have life.” But the lawyer was not going to let this drop so easily. “Ahh, but wait just a second,” he objected. “There’s a problem with your definitions here. State your terms, Jesus. Just what do you mean by ‘neighbor’? Be precise here. Who exactly is my neighbor?”

It was in response to that challenge that Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. It’s not the story about the man on the subway tracks, of course, but it’s like it. Jesus’ parable is about a man traveling down to Jericho who is mugged by robbers and left bleeding and near death beside the road. So, like the man who fell onto the tracks, here is another man in serious, life-threatening trouble. A man in desperate need of help. Nothing unusual about this, really. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was notoriously dangerous, riddled with thieves, unsafe to travel alone, so the fact that a man was beaten and robbed…well that was a familiar story. Nothing shocking. But now, two genuinely shocking things do happen in Jesus’ story. The first shock is that two people who could have helped, in fact who might have been expected to help, a priest and a Levite, both religious people, came up the road and saw the man in trouble, but did nothing, absolutely nothing. They intentionally avoided the man by crossing over to the other side of the road and continuing on their journey. This would be like saying that the pastor of New York’s largest church and a New York City police officer saw the man in trouble on the subway tracks, but simply shrugged their shoulders, turned, and walked the other way. That would be a shock. But if the first shock in the story is that people whom we would expect to help did nothing, the second, and even bigger, shock is that the last person in the world we would count on for help is the one who in fact mercifully and bravely rescues the injured man.

Down the road, said Jesus, came a Samaritan. Now Jesus is, of course, Jewish, and the lawyer and the rest of those listening to this parable are also Jews. Even the characters in the parable are Jews-the priest, the Levite, almost surely the injured man, maybe even the robbers. But here comes a Samaritan, and Jews and Samaritans have a bitter history of racial and religious hatred. They have nothing to do with each other. Jews and Samaritans are enemies. In fact, not only would the injured man not expect any help out of one of these despicable Samaritans, he probably wouldn’t want any help from a Samaritan. A Samaritan was viewed, well, like a member of Al Qaeda. Better to die in a pool of blood on the road than to be touched by a Samaritan. But it is this Samaritan, despised and rejected, who is nevertheless moved with compassion and who tenderly cares for the injured man. Even though they were enemies, he cared for him.

Having told that story, Jesus now says to the lawyer, “So, you now define the term ‘neighbor.’ Who proved to be the neighbor in this story?” The lawyer cannot bring himself even to spit out the word “Samaritan.” He simply mumbles, “The one who showed mercy.” “Go and do likewise,” said Jesus.
Now, as I said before, some people think that what Jesus is saying in this story is, “OK everybody, I want you to go out and be just like that Good Samaritan. He cared for someone in need; I want you to imitate him. Go and do likewise.” But there are two problems with this. The first problem is that if this were really Jesus’ point, then he probably would have told the story differently. He would have made it into a simple moral example and left out all that troubling Samaritan business. What he would have said is there was a man in trouble, and three people passed by who could have helped. The first one didn’t, and neither did the second, but the third one did, so be like the third one and not like the first two. But this isn’t a simple moral story. It’s a parable, and parables always have something shocking, surprising, unexpected, something to be wrestled with and puzzled over, and in this story, it is the fact that an unwanted, rejected Samaritan is the one who shows mercy to his enemy. That throws a monkey wrench into any simple explanation. There’s something deeper going on here than merely, “OK folks, go out and be like that Good Samaritan.”

The second problem is even more significant. If Jesus’ point is that he wants us to imitate the courageous compassion of the Good Samaritan, the sad fact is we can’t do it. That is why what Wesley Autrey did on that subway platform is so remarkable and almost incredible. Almost none of us would have done it. It is simply not in our nature to forget ourselves and risk everything for a stranger.

Some years ago a famous experiment was conducted with seminary students. Researchers gathered a group of ministry students in a classroom and told them that each of them had an assignment. Their assignment was to prepare a lecture on the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The thing was, the recordings were going to be done in a building on the other side of the campus, and because of a tight schedule, they needed to hurry to that building. Unbeknownst to the students, on the path to the other building the researchers had planted an actor to play the part of a man in distress, slumped in an alley, coughing and suffering. The students were going to make a presentation about the Good Samaritan. But what would happen, the researchers wondered, when they actually encountered a man in need? Would they be Good Samaritans? Well, no, as a matter of fact, they were not. Almost all of them rushed past the hurting man. One student even stepped over the man’s body as he hurried to teach about the Parable of the Good Samaritan!

We should not look down at these seminary students who couldn’t put the Parable of the Good Samaritan into practice, because neither can we. Simply knowing in our minds what the right thing to do is does not mean we can do it. If we are going to be Good Samaritans, then this will mean more than a change of mind. It will take a change of heart. And that’s what this parable is about: a change of heart.

Robert Wuthnow, a professor at Princeton University, once conducted some research about why some people are generous and compassionate, while others are not. He found out that for many compassionate people something had happened to them. Someone had acted with compassion toward them, and this experience had transformed their lives. For example, Wuthnow tells the story of Jack Casey, a rescue squad worker, who had little reason to be a Good Samaritan. Casey was raised in a tough home, the child of an alcoholic father. He once said, “All my father ever taught me is that I didn’t want to grow up to be like him.”

But something happened to Jack when he was a child that changed his life, changed his heart. He was having surgery one day, and he was frightened. He remembers the surgical nurse standing there and compassionately reassuring him. “Don’t worry,” she said to Jack. “I’ll be here right beside you no matter what happens.” And when Jack woke up again, she was true to her word and still there.

Years later, Jack Casey, now a paramedic, was sent to the scene of a highway accident. A man was pinned upside down in his pickup truck, and as Jack was trying to get him out of the wreckage, gasoline was dripping down on both of them. The rescuers were using power tools to cut the metal, so one spark could have caused everything to go up in flames. The driver was frightened, crying out how scared he was of dying. Jack remembered what had happened to him long ago on the operating table, how that nurse had spoken tenderly to him and stayed with him, and he said and did the same thing for the truck driver, “Look, don’t worry,” he said, “I’m right here with you, I’m not going anywhere.” When I said that, Jack remembered later, I was reminded of how that nurse had said the same thing and she never left me. Days later, the rescued truck driver said to Jack, “You know, you were an idiot, the thing could have exploded and we’d both have been burned up!” “I just couldn’t leave you,” Jack said. Something had happened to Jack Casey that transformed him, made him into a Good Samaritan.

Has anything like that ever happened to you? Yes it has. That is the point of Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan. What the lawyer discovered-and what we discover, too-is that we cannot stand on the sidelines and figure out how to be good, defining our terms-is this person my neighbor or not-figuring out just what we have to do to inherit eternal life. For all of our religious virtues and attitudes, we just cannot do it. We are helpless to be Good Samaritans on our own strength. In other words, we are the person in the ditch, the one who lies helpless and wounded beside the road, the one who needs to be rescued. And along comes a Good Samaritan, a Good Samaritan named Jesus -despised and rejected-who comes to save us, speaks tenderly to us, lifts us into his arms, and takes us to the place of healing. As Paul said, while we were still God’s enemies, God saw us in the ditch and had compassion, and in Jesus came to save us.

So, the question is not the lawyer’s, “What is the definition of ‘neighbor’?” The question is who has been neighbor to you. Jesus Christ has been neighbor to you. The crucified one has been neighbor to you. Have you felt his mercy make your own heart merciful? If so, then in your heart you will know what this means: Go and do likewise.

Let us pray.
O God, when we are honest about ourselves, we know that we do not choose in our own strength to do what is right. We talk a good game about right and wrong, but we do not have the wisdom or the power in ourselves to be righteous. We lie helpless on the side of the road, and even our best moral instincts pass us by on the other side. Come to us, O God, come to us again in Jesus Christ. Lift us out of our brokenness and take us to the place of healing. Prone to wander, Lord, we feel it, prone to leave the God we love; Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above. Amen.

Italian Protestants on immigration and racial violence

Rome, 30 May 2008 (NEV) – “A wrong and dangerous path”, this is the opinion of Pastor Maria Bonafede, Moderator of the Tavola Valdese (executive board of the Methodist and Waldensian Churches in Italy), referring to the Italian government’s planned actions on the Roma people. “As Christians, but also as citizens of a democratic state, we express all our concern for the measures that have been announced by the new government. These measures penalize an entire community, they feed social prejudice and arouse real hate campaigns against a population that in European history has already been hit by tragedies of racial persecution and extermination camps. The establishment of legal guarantees does not pass through pogroms; it passes through the application, even severe, of the existing norms and for a plan of integration and social inclusion of thousands of Roma people that do not steal or commit criminal actions. As citizens we must stress that the laws must be equal for everyone, for Italians like the Roma people. But as Christians we must affirm and witness that even the Roma people are our neighbors”, concluded Bonafede.
Pastor Domenico Maselli, President of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI), also said he was very concerned and perplexed about the new manoeuvres against illegal immigration. “Some of the hypotheses that have been going around are absurd and ineffective” declared Maselli, maintaining that the hunt for boats filled with possible migrants outside Italian territorial waters is impracticable. “Besides, the eventuality of making illegal immigration a criminal offence would risk filling up our prisons without solving the problem of returning them to their homelands. We feel that any measure that discourages legal immigration would end up by aggravating the phenomenon of illegal immigration run by the mafias. In reality we believe that it would be necessary to ease the process of entrance into the country of those in search of work on the condition that they would be sent back if work was not found within set time limits. It concerns us moreover that eventual limitations posed on the entrance of families of regular immigrants would end up reducing the possibility for finding work of persons equipped for fundamental social services, like that of home care, who cannot certainly be hired without the direct knowledge of the people involved and without the necessary guarantees. In closing, in the moment in which international politics feels a greater need for cohesion in the European Union it does not seem opportune, besides being unjust, to create initiatives for limiting the entrance of citizens of EU member States”.
In a letter sent to the Minister of Interior, Roberto Maroni, Doris Peschke, Secretary General of the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME), gave a sharp “no” to the special measures taken for immigrants by the Italian government. “We maintain that every person deserves dignity and equality before the law”, says the letter, which was also sent to the attention of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe. The CCME expresses its concern for an indiscriminate repressive action against the Romanian and Roma communities, justified on the basis of some serious incidents of the past few months. The letter continues: “If a person is found a criminal – as may or may not be the case for the young Roma woman in Naples cited a week ago – has to be determined by the competent courts in European countries, also in Italy. It cannot be tolerated that a group of people takes the law into their hands and raids a whole settlement and destroys their homes. We would have expected a very clear positions against the looting rather than a general discourse on ‘illegal migration’. Of course we are aware that Italy has received a high number of Romanian immigrants over the past years, among them also a number of Roma. There may be criminals among them, but that does not make all of them criminal. There may be some who have entered illegally, and yet, they are persons with fundamental rights. They may have committed an offence, for which a fine may be appropriate. However, the current discussion on restricting migration laws and increasing penalties and administrative detention is in our view disproportionate. Particularly, as this discourse generally alleges that every Romanian and Roma is a potential criminal”.
Great concern about the climate of violence that arose in the Italian society was expressed by Pastor Holger Milkau, Dean of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Italy (CELI). He stated that “in the face of dramatic violence like the killing of a 14 year old girl in Sicily and a youth at Verona, we can no longer tolerate indifference, nor can we limit ourselves to acknowledging our inability to act in the face of the loss of every sense of humanity and morality. As Lutherans we feel it is our duty to reaffirm and witness the value and the dignity of life in each and every man and woman, created in the image and likeness of God. At the same time we condemn the irresponsibility and the light manner in which ‘monsters’ are created on whom we can unleash our fears and our social uneasiness. today it’s the Roma people’s turn against whom was unleashed a dangerous and unjust hate campaign that does not make any difference between the great majority of the honest persons and a criminal minority. For this, as the Lutheran Church, above all for the youth, we intend to commit ourselves with always greater energy to the witness and promotion of a culture for life and trust, in which all can identify themselves, feel gratified and loved in a Christian way.”
“The violence of a band of youth against their peers; torture, rape, homicide; the violence against the Roma, the fires, the evacuations and the deportations”: Pastor Anna Maffei, President of the Union of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Italy (UCEBI) says she is “shocked” by all this news. She tells of “an endemic social disease, blind and acute with the involvement of the public institutions. Search and seizure, mass arrests, ‘cleanup’ of the State, human beings treated like garbage; all has led to a climate of ‘zero tolerance’, making illegal immigration a criminal offence: a monstruosity even to have thought of it! Security is the new idol to which all is sacrificed: democratic principles are set aside, the rights of individuals downtrodden, injustices and violence are justified. We feel secure when we force the enemy away, eliminate him. The enemy takes the names of those useful to those who manoeuvre: they are terrorists, they are non-members of the European Union, they are Romanians and Gypsies, they are Muslims, they are…”
“I do not fear the words of the violent, but the silence of the honest”. By recalling this citation of Martin Luther King, Anna Maffei concludes: “The people are made up of citizens. The crowd, the people, go where those who manoeuvre them wants them to go. The ‘crucify him’ of the Gospel story of the assassination of Jesus serves as a perennial warning. We Protestants believe in the truth that makes us free. For this we must abolish widespread prejudice and take on the burden of giving a critical and plural information. We must seek to understand the reality that surrounds us in all its complexity. It is the time to believe in the creative strength of nonviolence and seek every possible alliance to affirm the biblical principle of equality and the rights of each and everyone to life, to the future”.

Mark your calendars now for the fourth international Baptist Peace Conference. This global event will inaugurate the 400th anniversary year of the Baptist heritage being recognized in various locations around the world.

Like previous conferences in Sweden (1988), Nicaragua (1992), and Australia (2000), this gathering will bring together Baptists who are active in nonviolent struggles for justice and for strengthening the witness of Baptist peacemaking in various global contexts.

The conference will consist of six days including intensive training in conflict transformation, nonviolent prophetic action, and other relevant topics, inspiring speakers, workshops, and worship. There also will be optional opportunities to tour Rome and the surrounding area on Friday culminating in a magnificent time of worship in the Waldensian church.

http://www.globalbaptistpeace.org/

CONFERENCE PROGRAM

The Global Baptist Peace Conference will consist of six days (9-14 February 2009), which includes training seminars, workshops, plenary speakers and a variety of worship times.

The proposed training seminars:

Restorative Justice (Marinetta Cannito Hjort, leader)
Non-Violent Struggle (Daniel Hunter & Akum Longchari, leaders)
Biblically-based Conflict Transformation (Dan Buttry, leader)
Development Assistance and Humanitarian Aid in Conflict (Daniela Rapisarda, leader)
Building a Theology of Peace (Paul Fiddes, leader)
Inter-Cultural Conflict and Peacebuilding (Barry Higgins,, leader)
Plenary Speakers and Preachers:

Grace Shatsung (India) and Gustavo Parajon (Nicaragua), Anna Maffei (Italy), Ken Sehested (USA)

Storytellers:

Joao Matwawana (Angola), C.H. Chiromo (Zimbabwe), Norman Kember (United Kingdom), Martin Accad (Lebanon), Karen Thomas Smith (Morocco), and Malkhaz Songulashvili (Republic of Georgia).

The list of workshops will be available once they are complete.

Pls visit website for a detailed schedule, printable brochure, printable poster

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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