FaithWorld

Youth volunteers sought for campaign against bigotry

PALESTINIANS-ISRAEL/Two U.S. State Department employees — one who speaks out against anti-Semitism, the other against Islamaphobia – have teamed up to promote a global campaign to get young people to combat racial, ethnic and religious bigotry by volunteering their time for people unlike them.

“For instance, a young Jewish person could volunteer five hours at a clinic that services a Muslim community. Or a Muslim could volunteer several hours to read books to a Christian pre-school. The list goes on and on,” said Hanna Rosenthal, the State Department’s special envoy focused on anti-Semitism.

The campaign, “2011 Hours Against Hate,” grew out of Rosenthal’s friendship with Farah Pandith, the State Department’s special representative to Muslim Communities. Attending a conference two years ago in Kazakhstan, the two arranged to swap speeches decrying hatred against Jews and Muslims, catching the the ear of conferees.

They were accompanied by young people from six non-governmental organizations who asked them to promote deeds, not just statements. They said they were inspired by U.S. President Barack Obama’s call for more volunteerism and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s appeals for ”citizen diplomacy.” The concept also paralleled Europe’s declaration of 2011 as the year of volunteerism.

So, on February 17 at another conference in Vienna, the two introduced their idea.

U.S. raps Palestinian report on Western Wall

wall (Photo: Jews pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, March 15, 2010/Baz Ratner)

The U.S. State Department has condemned  an official Palestinian report last week asserting that Jerusalem’s Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites, is not Jewish. Al-Mutawakil Taha, deputy information minister in the Palestinian Authority, published a five-page study last week disputing Jews’ reverence of the shrine as a retaining wall of the compound of Biblical Jewish Temples destroyed centuries ago and saying it is a “Muslim wall and an integral part of al-Aqsa mosque and Haram al-Sharif.”

“We strongly condemn these comments and fully reject them as factually incorrect, insensitive and highly provocative,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters on Tuesday. “We have repeatedly raised with the Palestinian Authority leadership the need to consistently combat all forms of delegitimization of Israel, including denying historic Jewish connections to the land,” he added.

The wall is adjacent to a politically sensitive holy complex in a part of Jerusalem that Israel captured in a 1967 war. The area, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, is home to al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

Criticism mounts of “anti-Muslim frenzy” in U.S., Koran burning plan under fire

koran burning 1U.S. religious leaders  have condemned an “anti-Muslim frenzy” in the United States, including plans by a Florida church to burn a Koran on September 11, an act a top general said could endanger American troops abroad. Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders denounced the “misinformation and outright bigotry” against U.S. Muslims resulting from plans to build a Muslim community center and mosque not far from the site of the September 11, 2001, hijacked plane attacks in New York by Islamist militants. The Vatican has also condemned the Koran burning plan. (Photo: Indonesian Care for Pluralism Movement protests against Koran burning plan, Jakarta, 8 Sept 2010/Crack Palinggi)

Tensions have risen with the approach of both the September 11 anniversary on Saturday and the Muslim Eid al-Fitr festival that marks the close of the fasting month of Ramadan, which is expected to end around Friday. Passions have been further inflamed by Terry Jones, the pastor of a 30-person church in Gainesville, Florida, who has announced plans to burn a Koran on Saturday, the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Jones says he wants to “expose Islam (as a) violent and oppressive religion.”

Religious leaders, including Washington Roman Catholic Archbishop emeritus Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and Dr. Michael Kinnamon of the National Council of Churches, released a statement on Tuesday saying they were “alarmed by the anti-Muslim frenzy” and “appalled by such disrespect for a sacred text.” Read the full story here.

from Tales from the Trail:

State Dept: church Koran burning plan”un-American”

There have been lots of angry words over plans by an obscure Florida pastor to burn copies of the Koran on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

But State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley pulled out the biggest gun of all on Tuesday in his effort to distance the government from the pastor's incendiary proposal -- he called it "un-American."

"We are conscious that a number of voices have come out and rejected what this pastor and this community have proposed," Crowley told a news briefing. "We would like to see more Americans stand up and say 'this is inconsistent with our American values.' In fact these actions themselves are un-American."