Tanenbaum Peacemaker Father Sava Travels to the U.S.

Father Sava Janjic, a Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action who has been tirelessly pursuing peace and reconciliation in Kosovo for decades, concluded his recent trip to the U.S. last week in Boston, where he presented at the Colloquium on Orthodox Christianity and Humanitarianism: Ideas and Action in the Contemporary World. The Colloquium was sponsored by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America’s Office of Inter-Orthodoxy, Interfaith and Ecumenical Relations. Father Sava and Joyce Dubensky, Tanenbaum CEO, both had the privilege of sitting on the Colloquium’s “Experiences from the Frontline of Crisis Response and Delivery (Around the World)” panel on Friday, May 8, 2015.

Prior to his trip to Boston, Father Sava traveled throughout California with His Grace Bishop Maxim of the Western Diocese before spending a few days in Washington DC and New York. While in New York, Father Sava spoke to an intimate gathering at the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sava on Tuesday, May 5, about life in Kosovo and the plight of Kosovo Serbians.

Tanenbaum CEO Joyce Dubensky with Peacemaker Father Sava Janjic

Tanenbaum CEO Joyce Dubensky with Peacemaker Father Sava Janjic

During his talk at St. Sava, Father Sava touched on a number of topics. He lamented the “second class” treatment of Kosovo’s Serbs; expressed concern over ethnic and religious extremism; and described how his monastery, Decani Monastery, was vandalized late last year with graffiti by ISIS sympathizers. While the Serbian Orthodox Church does not get involved in politics, Father Sava told the audience that the church promotes the equal treatment of all citizens, engaging in interfaith dialogue to help foster communal bonds among Kosovo’s differing sects.

Despite difficult challenges and numerous setbacks for Kosovo, Father Sava believes it’s critical to maintain hope and to continue to strive towards peace and a better world. He refuses to give up on his people.


Conversation About Religion and Presidential Candidates Intensifies: News Roundup

In the news this week: violence erupts between law enforcement and Muslim park goers, the conversation intensifies around religion and GOP candidates, another poll finds American Muslims overwhelmingly satisfied with their lives, and other stories.

In a conflict that turned violent, 15 visitors to Playland amusement park were arrested and 2 law enforcement officers were hospitalized. Over half of Parkland’s 6,000 visitors on Tuesday were attending with a Muslim tour group celebrating one of Islam’s two major holidays. Some women were denied entry to one ride because they were wearing head scarves that were forbidden by a safety policy. Things became contentious when the denied visitors sought refunds and law enforcement was called in. At some point, a physical altercation occurred between a visitor and an officer and the conflict spread between other officers and park goers. The Muslim community is displeased with law enforcement’s approach to the situation and that the safety policy was not reviewed for religious considerations. Playland park claims that the tour organizers were painstakingly told about the headgear ban and safety concerns. USA Today

A new bill intended to extend religious protections in New York City was signed into law this week. The bill, initiated by Sikh activists and enacted by the New York City council, adds momentum for such legislation at the federal level, a U.S. senator said. Motivation for the law came from Sikhs applying for city jobs and allegedly being denied based on their appearance and wardrobe, particularly with the New York City Police Department and Metropolitan Transit Authority. Sikh News Network

A New York Times editor has stirred up heated debate about the religiosity of Presidential candidates. Bill Keller proposed that candidates be questioned on their religious beliefs and how they inform their political views, but he suggested these questions only for GOP contenders. Opponents of Keller’s view contend that this line of questioning promotes religious discrimination and advocates a public pledge of allegiance to the United States over the candidate’s faith. Opponents are also questioning why Keller did not propose any questions for President Barack Obama. CNN

In an opinion piece by the Associate Editor of, the author challenges our view of Muslim women:
As Americans, we're used to thinking about Muslim women in various unflattering ways. The most common idea of a Muslim woman, for example, is that of the oppressed victim of Islam. In this manifestation, we usually find a veiled, silent woman imprisoned by her religion and policed by Muslim men. Passively waiting for her rescue, this tradition-bound woman draws significant American attention, if only to remind us how lucky we are to be Americans.

But if Americans could see beyond the media, or at least see a media willing to highlight the truth about the Muslim world, then we would find that women of the Islamic hue are far from passive or silent. In fact, just a glimpse beyond the surface of American media stereotypes reveals that there are some pretty heroic Muslim women in the world doing some pretty amazing things, especially in the cause for peace. Huffington Post

In another poll on the attitudes of Muslim Americans, this one by the Pew Research Center, Muslim Americans are found to be overwhelmingly satisfied with their lives. NPR


Miscommunication Leads to Violence at Playland Amusement Park

Picture of law enforcement and Muslim park goersPlayland amusement park, located just north of New York City, was shut down yesterday after interactions between a group of Muslim visitors and law enforcement became violent. Details are still emerging, but it is certain that Muslim women wearing head scarves were denied entry to a ride due to a safety policy and that the resulting scuffle led to the arrest of 15 park goers and hospitalization of two police officers.

There are many questions that could be asked. Did park officials painstakingly tell the tour organizer about headgear restrictions, as they claim? Were the 3,000 Muslim tour participants made aware of the safety policy by the tour organizer or by adequate communication directly from the park? Was any effort made to review and edit the policy so that it satisfied safety concerns and religious requirements? Why did this escalate into a violent exchange between law enforcement and the Muslim community?

Of note is that someone had the foresight to predict that the headgear restrictions could cause a conflict. It is unknown how widely this concern was expressed, but it seems no one proactively attempted to resolve the issue. A simple conversation between park officials and leaders of the Muslim group about satisfying safety concerns while respecting religious traditions could have avoided a Muslim community feeling marginalized, law enforcement officers suffering injuries, and both law enforcement and Playland experiencing negative publicity. 

Mike Ward
Communications Associate