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There used to be a television series about the New York Police Department that ended with the voiced-over sign-off: "There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them." We've been hearing mostly about only one of the religion stories in New York these days, the controversy surrounding the planned Islamic center and mosque near the World Trade Center site. On a recent visit to New York, I had the pleasure of hearing a very different type of New York story when I interviewed the NYPD officers who led the unusual interfaith tour of the Holy Land described in my feature here. (Photo: From left - Miller, Nasser, Wein and Reilly at interfaith center in Israel)
I met Sgt. Brian Reilly, Detective Ahmed Nasser and Detective Sam Miller at Reilly's Lower East Side office and spoke to Detective Larry Wein by phone because he was out investigating a case. The Lower East Side has traditionally been so diverse that it's almost tailor-made for the kind of interfaith cooperation they highlighted with this trip. "I've worked here in the Lower East Side and East Village for 29 years and been exposed to people from all over the world," said Miller, who is Jewish. "It's just a melting pot of every race, religion and ethnicity." The NYPD reflects the city's diversity, he said: "This is the most diversified police department in the world. I’m an investigator. When we need a translator, I don’t have to go outside. We have members of the service who can speak any language in the world."
Reilly is commanding officer of the NYPD chaplains' unit (4 Catholics, 2 Protestants, 1 Jewish and 1 Muslim) but these men are not chaplains themselves. Instead, they are leaders in faith-based fraternal organizations for NYPD officers. The Holy Land tour was a completely private initiative. "We weren’t working on somebody’s suggestion," explained Reilly, a Roman Catholic. "We paid it all ourselves. There was a price for the tour and people decided to go or not. We're fraternal organizations and we decide how to run our yearly trip." (Photo: From left - Miller, Nasser and Reilly at NYPD chaplains' unit office)
After Christians joined the annual Jewish trip to Israel that Miller organized in recent years, the expansion of the group to include Muslim officers was the new element this year. Nasser, the head of the Muslim Officers Society, was enthusiastic despite the fact he and two Palestinian-born officers were held up by Israeli security for two hours on arrival. "It was a very wonderful experience to go there and experience for yourself, to see the Holy Land and be able to share such time with friends," he said. "It gave me a different way of looking at that region. We focused on what’s common among our members. We're all brothers in uniform. We wanted to go there and see what’s common in our faiths."
A public opinion poll showing Americans are increasingly convinced, wrongly, that he is Muslim does not trouble him, President Barack Obama said on Sunday.
"It's not something that I can, I think, spend all my time worrying about it," Obama said in an interview with NBC News, dismissing the results of a recent Pew Research Center survey.
from Tales from the Trail:
A year and a half into his presidency, Americans appear to be growing more uncertain about Barack Obama's religion.
A Pew Research Center survey shows that nearly one in five Americans -- 18 percent -- believe Obama is a Muslim, up from 11 percent in March 2009. Meanwhile only about one third of Americans surveyed correctly describe Obama as a Christian, a sharp decrease from the 48 percent who said he was a Christian in 2009.
Television shows with Christian themes have sparked complaints in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon in recent days, but from different groups and for different reasons.
In Saudi Arabia, a popular sitcom has drawn the ire of conservative clerics over an episode portraying Arab Christians in a positive light after the kingdom sought to sell itself as a leader of dialogue between faiths.
(Photo: Orthodox Christians at Sumela Monastery, 15 August 2010/Umit Bektas)
Europe Papadopolous's grandparents were children when they fled their village in northeast Turkey and settled in Greece almost 90 years ago, yet she still felt she was in exile.
Papadopolous, 45, was one of thousands of Orthodox faithful who journeyed to Sumela Monastery, built into a sheer cliff above the Black Sea forest, on Sunday to attend the first mass here since ethnic Greeks were expelled in 1923.
(Photo: Orthodox Christian nuns stand in the muddy Jordan River with two pilgrims at the Qasir al-Yahud baptismal site near the West Bank city of Jericho, March 31, 2010/Darren Whiteside)
Christian pilgrims alarmed by claims that baptism in the River Jordan could make them sick are being urgently reassured by Israeli officials that the water poses no health risk.
Water quality tests published this week counter allegations by environmentalist group Friends of the Earth that the level of coliform bacteria from sewage in the river is too high for safe bathing, Eli Dror of Israel's Nature and Parks Authority said.
(Photo: Protesters stomp on cow’s head, 28 Aug 2009/Samsul Said)
A Malaysian court has sentenced a Muslim to a week in jail and fined 11 others for a brandishing a cow's head during a protest against the construction of a Hindu temple.
Critics said the light sentences on Tuesday may further strain race relations between Muslims, who make up the majority of the country's 28 million population, and minority Hindus and Christians who complain of discrimination.
A Pakistani court ordered the release of a mentally ill women accused of blasphemy who has been held without trial for 14 years, a court official and her lawyer said on Thursday. Police arrested Zaibun Nisa, now 55, in 1996 outside Islamabad after a Muslim cleric registered a complaint about the desecration of a copy of the Koran.
She has been held in the prison section of a mental hospital in the eastern city of Lahore for 14 years without trial because no one pursued her case.
Turkey has offered citizenship to Orthodox Christian archbishops from abroad to help the next election of the ecumenical patriarch, the spiritual leader of the world's 250 million Orthodox faithful, officials said. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has quietly led the gesture to the Orthodox, who face a shortage of candidates to succeed Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, 70, and serve on the Holy Synod, which administers patriarchate affairs. (Photo: Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I leads the Easter service at the Cathedral of St. George in Istanbul, April 4, 2010/Murad Sezer)
Turkish law requires the patriarch to be a Turkish citizen. But the Orthodox community in Turkey, an overwhelmingly Muslim country, has fallen to some 3,000 from 120,000 a half-century ago, drastically shrinking the pool of potential future patriarchs. There are now only 14 Greek Orthodox archbishops, including Bartholomew, who are Turkish citizens. Bartholomew himself is in good health.
(Photos: The Church of the Holy Cross, Akdamar Island, 27 June 2010/Umit Bektas)
Swallows dart around the dome of the 10th century Armenian church rising from Akdamar Island set amid the turquoise waters of Lake Van. Tombstones with ancient Christian inscriptions and crosses lie scattered among the weeds in the garden, where day-trippers picnic in the shade of almond trees and sunbathe after a swim.
The serenity of the scene belies a traumatic past that haunts Turkey and Armenia to this day. The Church of the Holy Cross, which is now a state museum, has become a symbol of a tortuous reconciliation process as Turkey prepares to open the site on Sept. 19 for a one-day religious service that could become an annual event.