01: The Foundation for Interreligious Diplomacy departs from other current attempts at interfaith dialogue and peacemaking in its acceptance that religions have exclusive truth claims and then moves on from there to establish trustworthy diplomatic relations and mediate religious conflicts.
The foundation, started in 2000, seeks to create “safe places for interreligious diplomats to forthrightly contest their differences, agreeing in advance to take no offense at their mutually exclusive claims of religious superiority,” according to founder Randall Paul. The foundation finds that attempts to change the views and even convert others can, in fact, generate “an unexpected feeling of respectful trust.” In the wake of the recent terrorist attacks, the foundation has recently proposed that religious and ideological leaders sign a “Declaration of Commitment to Promote and Defend Religious Conviction By Respectful Persuasion, Not By Violence.”
(Source: Sightings, Dec. 13; Inquirers can receive a copy of the declaration by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (801) 763-1440)
02: Amr Khalid, has become the most prominent international televangelist in the Muslim world. Khalid, an accountant by profession, is far from the first celebrity TV preacher but his upbeat messages that avoid politics have drawn a growing viewership in his native Egypt as well as the rest of the Arab world and in Europe, Australia and North America.
Khalid, who gained new renown when his Ramadan sermons were beamed over the Saudi-owned ART satellite network last month, avoids hellfire messages and talks about the need for Muslims to be polite, happy and well groomed “What I like about him is that he tells us how God loves us, instead of how God is always going to punish us,” says one Cairo University student.
He uses anecdotes and speaks the language of the Egyptian middle class while trying to convince Muslims to become more observant, such as for women to take up the veil.
(Source: New York Times, Dec. 24)
03: Ingrid Mattson is the first woman to hold a national leadership position in the American Muslim community.
She was recently elected vice-president of the Islamic Society of North America. Mattson is a Canadian-born convert to Islam from Christianity and a scholar of Islamic studies at Hartford Seminary. Her work will focus on increasing Islamic education, such as training programs for hospital chaplains, as well as grappling with the difficult human rights issue of Islamic countries that forbid conversions from Islam to other faiths.
(Source: Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 13)