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Promote Cultural Literacy & Respect for Differences at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan!

Zanzibar exhibit Anomie Photography 03 At the exhibition – America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far
Photo: Aoommie Photography

Dear Educators,

If you teach in the New York metropolitan area, we hope you will check out the new exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan: America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far. Tanenbaum is pleased to recommend this immersive, interactive exhibit, which gives children of all ages the opportunity to explore the great diversity of Muslim cultural and artistic expression.

To help you get the most out of America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far, we’re proud to offer free, downloadable resources that can be used in conjunction with the exhibit to deepen elementary school students’ understanding of Islam and other religions:

Exploring Beliefs about Religious Differences
Rituals and Traditions about Light: Hopefulness and Waiting
Recommended Reading for Preschool & Elementary Students

Finally, we’re excited to extend an invitation from the Children’s Museum to a special event at the exhibit:


    Educators, join us for a free anti-bullying workshop on Monday, May 2nd!Print

The Children’s Museum of Manhattan is pleased to invite you to a free educational, interfaith program facilitated by The Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom on Monday, May 2nd from 4pm-6pm.
(Registration begins at 3:30pm.)

This special workshop will take place in our new exhibit, America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far. Facilitator Dr. Nadia S. Ansary will share the tools to help you identify, address, and prevent bias-based bullying or persistent peer victimization based on one’s appearance, perceived identity, culture, race, ethnicity and/or religion.

Click here to learn more and RSVPZanzibar exhibit Anomie Photography 02
Free entry to the Children’s Museum and light refreshments are included!

*Space is limited to 50 participants and participation will be on a first-come, first-served basis. RSVP is required by April 15.*

 

All photos: Aoommie Photography

Lessons from Wheaton College

The very public drama that unfolded at Wheaton College over the past few months revealed stark divisions within the evangelical community, and how they view the responsibility for living in Christ’s footsteps. Even more poignantly, it revealed some truths about more widespread societal divides that ripple far beyond Wheaton.

At the heart of the conflict was the first tenured, female African-American professor at a highly regarded evangelical Christian school, Professor Larycia Hawkins. Two months ago, she posted a statement on Facebook to stand in solidarity with Muslims after the San Bernardino slaughter.  In addition to wearing a hijab (the head covering that many Muslim women wear) during Advent, she described Christians and Muslims as worshiping “the same God.”

Almost immediately, she was placed on administrative leave from Wheaton, triggering a heated debate and the initiation of termination proceedings. The college community split, arguing whether Hawkins’ actions and words had violated the faith statement that she (and all faculty and students) sign as a condition of involvement with the school. That statement reflects the institution’s theological convictions, including belief in the holy trinity, and signature is a requirement of employment. Even today, Hawkins maintains that her personal Facebook post fit within the school’s statement of faith.

The Hawkins-Wheaton controversy raised multiple issues starting with a theological debate, but also including charges of Islamophobia, racism and gender bias. Then, last week, the widely debated dispute ended with a “mutual agreement” that the professor and the institution part ways. A joint decision had been made and whether it was right or wrong is now a question for the Wheaton community to unravel.

For those of us outside the Wheaton drama, however, there is a lot to learn. That is, if we pay attention to the lessons it can teach.

In particular, Wheaton reminds us that religious diversity is not limited to the different traditions that exist in the world. It is also within traditions – and reflected in those who share an affiliation and even attend the same house of worship – but who do not share identical beliefs. Wheaton reminds us of this truth, by dramatically proving that evangelical Christians are not a monolith, but rather, a complex and diverse group of people.

Ultimately, the school was unable to speak with one voice because, even in a small religious community, there is no such thing. Intuitively, we know this. But Wheaton proves that among evangelical Christians there are those who stand in solidarity with others in particular ways, and others who believe those types of solidarity nullify their faith. For the many Americans who view evangelicals through one lens, Wheaton reminds us that such stereotypes have no basis in reality. And that no one person can speak for an entire group. After all, though they parted amicably, Professor Hawkins and Wheaton’s President Ryken are both evangelical Christians. And they disagree on what it means to put the school’s foundational creed into practice.

Wheaton’s lessons don’t stop there. Another is that identity matters. Sixty years ago, the Wheaton contro-versy would predictably have centered on one question, whether Christians and Muslims “worship the same God.” It would have been a purely theological inquiry, a debate for clergy and academics. Today this theological question remains important at Wheaton, but equally important (if not more so) is the role of identity. There, questions of Muslim identity and how evangelical Christians can properly stand in solidarity with them exploded, along with questions about racism and gender bias.

None of us can say with certainty whether Islamophobia played a part in Wheaton’s decision to sever ties with Professor Hawkins. We can, however, say with confidence that given our current climate, this question matters. Anti-Muslim rhetoric and suspicion of all Muslims pervades the media (even though there is great diversity with Islam, too). Professor Hawkins knew this, of course, when she posted her comment. Her aim was to show solidarity with Muslims during a time when many people stereotype the entire community, fail to acknowledge diversity within Islam, and instead, lay blame at the feet of an entire religion. As we consider Wheaton, therefore, it is legitimate to ask whether Islamophobia helped drive the admin-istration’s decisions.

Wheaton’s faculty diversity committee also opposed the move to fire Hawkins, claiming it was discriminatory based on her race and gender. Again, none of us really know the motivating factors, but these challenges need answers. After all, Professor Hawkins was the first tenured Black female professor. So we should ask, what would have happened if she had been a white male? Would she have been suspended so quickly? Would a termination proceeding have been considered? We have passed the point when this story could have been “just” about theology. It is inevitably about identity as well – just like so many other stories in the media.

A third lesson involves questions of Christian identity, and the experience of being an evangelical Christian in the U.S. today. Simply, the Wheaton controversy suggests the isolation that many Christians feel today. This may not sound right to those who think of the U.S. as a Christian majority nation, which it is. After all, the majority of Americans (about 71%, according to Pew) affiliate with some form of Christianity. And that has resulted in our society often following Christian norms such as closing most businesses on Christmas (an example of a phenomenon sometimes described as “default Christianity,” which privileges the practices of Christians over Americans of other faiths or no faith). But does all that mean that Christians do not face bias and discrimination in the U.S.? The answer is no.

In fact, in Tanenbaum’s Survey of American Workers and Religion, almost half of white evangelical Protestants surveyed had personally experienced or actually seen religious bias or non-accommodation affect a colleague at work. This is at the same rate as people in minority religious traditions within the U.S. Additionally, 40% of white evangelical Protestants report that they face “a lot” of discrimination in American society.

To those who are skeptical of these numbers (not of the data’s validity but of the sentiment behind it), I invite you to think differently and try to sit with the fact that many evangelical Protestants at the very least, have the experience of discrimination. This is real. Many Christians in America, and certainly many evangelicals, feel under attack.

Certainly, this sense of isolation, division and being victimized is not unique to evangelical Christians. What is important to understand, however, is that they are among those who can feel alienated in our society. And this is likely to persist, especially as the rates of affiliation continue to decline (while the numbers of Americans who affiliate with non-Christian traditions, or no tradition at all, rise, according to Pew).

In essence, the Hawkins-Wheaton story is a mirror. It calls on us to recognize the power of our multiple identities and of the diversity of our beliefs and practices – and how the challenge of the 21st century is to acknowledge and respect these differences. These are important lessons. And I’d like to think that as educators, Professor Hawkins and President Ryken would approve of us making this a teachable moment.

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO

Proclaim Enough – Paris Reflections

Peace for Paris

Illustration by Jean Jullien

Dear Friends,

Today is a day filled with sorrow. As once again, our hearts are broken for the more than 120 innocents murdered across Paris. We ache for them, for their families and friends, and for their nation which is under siege.

Today is a day when we stand in solidarity with the French people from all walks of life and diverse beliefs. In one voice, we denounce the violent extremists – apparently ISIS followers – who claim “credit” for butchering people just going about their lives in restaurants, concerts and as they moved across their city.

We also mourn and draw attention to the over 40 Lebanese deliberately slaughtered only days ago – including Sh’ia Muslims, Christians and Druse – by two ISIS suicide bombers in Beirut.

We remember in profound sorrow the Israelis and Palestinians – Jews, Christians and Muslims – who are dying amid a rapidly escalating cycle of condemnation, division and violence in their homeland.

We recognize the Muslim and Christian Syrians who are desperately seeking to escape from the horrors that ISIS and others are inflicting on them in what was once a thriving nation.

And we must not allow ourselves to forget Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler who we all mourned, when he washed onto a beach as his family sought to escape the constant terror that Syrians now face.

Today, with one voice, we must remember the horror of Paris and horrors across our globe. But we must do more. We must reaffirm our commitment to the core values in our many traditions and beliefs, and to our shared humanity.

There are many possible responses to today’s horror in Paris. Sadness fills us. But this is also a time to recommit to one another. To standing together amid our many differences, to honoring our neighbors and joining with them to stand against the aberrant extremism that threatens us all.

Let us stand together and, with strength, proclaim enough!

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO

Top News Stories 7/18 – 7/24

 

Palestinian boys play at St. Porphyrios, a Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza City where up to one thousand Palestinians have found refuge. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Approximately 1,000 Palestinians have found shelter in a Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza that was built in the 12th century.
According to a Reuters article published on July 22, 2014:

“We have opened the church in order to help people. This is the duty of the church and we are doing all we can to help them,” Archbishop Alexios said to a Reuters reporter while the sounds of children playing echoed down the hall.

“At the beginning there were 600 people and today they became a thousand – mostly children and women. Some of those children are a week old,” explained the head of Gaza’s Greek Orthodox minority.

Gaza and Israel: Which side is Tanenbaum on?
To read more about Tanenbaum’s perspective on the conflict in Israel and Gaza, view our blog post by Tanenbaum CEO, Joyce S. Dubensky

Germany, France and Italy condemn anti-Semitic protesters after violent clashes
Many news agencies have reported on the sharp increase of anti-Semitism, although anti-Semitism has been on a slow rise over the past 25 years. Newsweek reported on July 24th that the foreign ministers of Italy, Germany and France have issued a joint statement condemning anti-Semitic statements and acts that have been witnessed throughout anti-Israel protests.

President Obama issued an executive order that bans federal contractors from discriminating against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) employees. Obama first promised to issue the order during his 2008 presidential campaign.
The order does not include any language that exempts religious organizations from following the discrimination protections. However, there is a possible loophole – Obama’s order adds LGBT protections to a previous order signed by President Lyndon Johnson. Johnson’s order does have an exception that allows religious groups to hire only employees “of a particular religion”.

India Mental Health Care
PBS reports on how medical doctors and spiritual practitioners are working together to address mental health in India. There is a dire need for help; in India, only five thousand psychiatrists serve the needs of 120 million people. It is estimated that one hundred million people in India have “common” mental health disorders while 20 million have severe illnesses, e.g. schizophrenia. Watch the video or read the transcript for more.

Free Islamic Peace Education Report

IPR

On July 28, many Muslims in the  United States and across the  globe will be celebrating the  conclusion of Ramadan, the    holiday of Eid-al-Fitr.

The Eid-al-Fitr is the festival  and/or feast of the breaking of  the fast, a time of mutual  acknowledgement for Muslims  who have been fasting  throughout the country and  around the world (depending on  their time zone).

To mark the Eid, we would like to share one of our blessings with you: what we learned when we convened four Islamic peace educators from vastly different backgrounds for a day-long exchange on their work in Islamic peace education.

The peace educators shared how they incorporate the topic of peace into their teaching. They shared their stories
and some of their Islamic peace education initiatives.

We – and they – learned from each other’s triumphs and challenges.

Participants included:

  • Jamila Afghani (Peacemaker in Action, 2008) from Kabul, Afghanistan;
  • Azhar (Azi) Hussain (Peacemaker in Action, 2006) from Dubai, UAE and Pakistan;
  • Sarrah Buker from Holmdel, New Jersey; and
  • Rabia Terri Harris from Stony Point, New York.

Today, we are excited to announce the release of Tanenbaum’s Islamic Peace Education report. The report traces each participant’s method and experience in advancing peaceful education from an Islamic perspective, often in the face of suspicion or adversity.

Download the report to learn more about this innovative information exchange.