Religious diversity is increasing at the office, and so are pitfalls: Top 5 News Stories

Religious diversity is increasing at the office, and so are pitfalls

As religious diversity in the workplace increases, the opportunities for conflicts over religions also rises. In fact, one-third of American workers report that they have seen or experienced religious bias in the workplace. From Atheists to Evangelicals, discrimination based on beliefs or non-beliefs is a significant issue for employers and employees alike.

March on Washington showcased religious roots of Civil Rights …    

Modern advocates for civil rights often forget that the Civil Rights movement was largely grounded in religious roots. Religious leaders used their pulpits and their religions as sources for justice and racial equality. "It was natural for blacks to turn to the church in the civil rights movement as it was always this solid rock amid oppression," Aldon Morris, a sociologist at Northwestern University said. "You could summon up a great deal of courage through religion. It could empower people to confront all kinds of obstacles, including violence."

Labor Day and the unions' forgotten religious roots    

Labor Day orignated as the brain-child of the Noble Order of the Knights of Labor. The first labor unions joined forces with religious insitutions to defend the poor and provide legitimacy to the movement. But as religiosity is on the decline, the future of Labor Day hangs in the balance.

Atheist group can sue IRS over enforcement of pulpit politicking

A federal judged granted the atheist group Freedom from Religion Foundation permission to proceed with its lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service. The group is suing the IRS for not enforcing its ban on the political activity of tax-exempt religious organizations. The FFRF wants the IRS to strengthen the ban.

Haynes column: School surrenders to religious intolerance    

A school put up a bullitein board about the five pillars of Islam as part of a curriculum that educates students about different faiths within their historical context. A picture of the board uploaded to facebook sparked community outrage as the misleading tag accused the board of promoting Islam while Christian prayers were strictly forbidden. Though this was not the purpose of the bullitein board, and other bullitein boards featuring different religions are placed around the school, the administration decided to take down the board on Islam. 

Report from Tanenbaum’s Syrian Peacemaker – Hind Kabawat

Before 3:00AM on Wednesday, August 21, the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta was the target of a vicious attack that left hundreds dead in their homes.

First responders and medical staff treating victims described symptoms that suggest chemical weapons were used during the attack. Though unconfirmed, initial reports by Syrian opposition forces in the area state that around 1,200 – nearly all civilians – were killed on Wednesday and this number is expected to rise in the coming hours.

If confirmed, Wednesday’s incident would be one of the largest chemical weapon attacks targeting a civilian area in recent memory. An indiscriminate weapon of mass destruction, chemical weapons target anyone within its range – including women and children.

Earlier today, Tanenbaum’s Syrian Peacemaker in Action Hind Kabawat sent forwarded the following statement about what she hears is happening:

To some people it’s a beautiful sunny day, but for children and residents of Eastern Ghouta it’s not, they went to sleep but never woke up. Overnight, forces committed one of the biggest massacre since the Syrian Revolution started. They shelled the region with chemical weapons at 2:12 A.M with four missiles leaving behind NOT LESS than 1188 dead so far, and without a doubt the number is going to increase in the upcoming hours.

Most of the casualties were children and women, all of whom passed away while they were sleeping. There are a lot of civilians who are still in their houses who never had the chance to leave the area; they are probably dead by now. In addition to that, odors are spreading in some neighborhoods of Damascus and Ghouta. Doctors believe that Sarin gas was used in the attack. We call for The International Investigation team to investigate the use of chemical weapons in Damascus and to go to the inflicted regions now!

The initial casualty report is 1188 dead:

Seqba: 100 dead

Kafr-Batna: 100 dead

Douma: 150 dead

Hamouriyi: 300 dead

Erbeen: 30 children, 16 women, 17 men, total of 63 dead

Zamalk: 400 dead

Al Marj: still not known

Ein Terma: 75 dead

If you agree that the violence in Syria must end, please read this Peacemakers in Action Network Statement and spread it throughout your personal and professional networks.  


More information about Wednesday’s attack can be found here:


Growing Religious Intolerance in Pakistan: Top 5 News Stories

Religions asking if test-tube burgers allow them to keep the faith •  Indonesian president worried by growing religious intolerance • Lutherans elect Elizabeth Eaton first female presiding bishop of ELCA • Hindu groups in US protest religious discrimination in Pakistan • Man held after Buddhists use Malaysia Muslim prayer room​

Last week's top stories, from our perspective:

Religions asking if test-tube burgers allow them to keep the faith
A biologist from Maastricht University presented meet grown in-vitro from the stem cells of a cow. Is it possible that religious authorities will give this new food their approval? If so, what does this mean for halal and kosher meats? Abdul Qahir Qamar of the International Islamic Fiqh Academy in Saudi Arabia has said that as long as the cells are not banned under the halal laws, in-vitro meat "will not be considered meat from live animals, but will be cultured meat."

Indonesian president worried by growing religious intolerance
According to Human Rights Watch, more than 260 violent incidents occured against religious minorities in Indonesia. The country's president, Susilo Bamban Yudhoyono, has said that he is working to curtail corruption but others in the country say otherwise. 

Lutherans elect Elizabeth Eaton first female presiding bishop of ELCA
Rev. Elizabeth Eaton is the first female presiding biship of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which is the United States' largest Lutheran body — with more than 4 million members in 9,638 congregrations.

Hindu groups in US protest religious discrimination in Pakistan
A group of US-based Hindu organizations gathered in Manhattan near Pakistan's consulate to voice concern against religious discrimination of Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and others in Pakistan. Narain Kataria, organizer of the rally said "This is nothing but religious apartheid for the entire world to see. Almost all the Hindus and Sikhs have been religiously cleansed from Pakistan with the blessings of the government." 

Man held after Buddhists use Malaysia Muslim prayer room
RA resort owner in Malyasia faces up to two years in jail for allowing a Buddhist to use the resort's Muslim prayer room because no other hall was available. The owner is now being investigated for "defliing a place of worship with intent to insult the religion."

Christians Among the Main Losers of the Egyptian Coup

In the aftermath of the Egyptian revolution and amid the ongoing turmoil, there are many losers. But Coptic Christians have been at particular risk and are being singled out as convenient scapegoats. The result? A frighteningly violent toll on this beleaguered minority. One that the international community must not ignore.

News reports are alarming. In one part of Egypt, mobs have set upon Christians with machetes, hacking them to death. In another, a rampaging mob set fire to over 30 homes and businesses. And in Minya, a mob has essentially driven the entire Christian community out and destroyed all of the property that was left behind.

Sectarian divisions have a long history in Egypt and, indeed, the Middle East generally. But these crimes are being driven by the ouster of Morsi.

Many Egyptians sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood believe that Copts are primarily responsible for the overthrow of the Morsi government. But while important representatives of the Christian community did support the coup and Copts were among the street protesters who helped bring down the government, this belief is not true. The protesters who brought down the Morsi government represented many sectors. Christians are being blamed primarily because their religious identity makes them an easy and identifiable target in Egyptian society.  

It is important to note that it is not the Muslim Brotherhood itself that is calling for violence against Christians. In fact, under the Morsi government, though the number of blasphemy cases prosecuted against Christians increased, President Morsi also appointed Christians to government posts and took a relatively conciliatory tone toward the community.

It is the Salafist contingents who tend to have a much more hardline approach to the Christian community in the country, and many of the articles about recent violence perpetrated against Christians, identify Salalfists as leaders or participants.

The crux of the situation is that Egypt’s largest Salafist political party, the Nour Party, supported the recent coup and is now playing an important role in the transitional government. But this party power has come at a cost. Some more radical party members have resigned their posts, leaving the party in a weakened position viz-a-viz its base. And this likely will mean even more scapegoating of the Christian community, as sectarian hatred is used as a tool to coalesce the Salafists.

Over the next weeks and months, multiple players in Egypt will be vying to solidify their power. The army will presumably focus on establishing legitimacy for the interim government and quashing the Muslim Brotherhood. The Nour Party try to walk the fine balance between placating it’s base and influencing the critical decisions being taken for the future of the country. And the Muslim Brotherhood will struggle to keep its prospects alive. None will be positioned to control anti-Christian elements in the country, either by force or by persuasion. And some may actually stir anti-Christian sentiment for their own ends. 

So while the conflict unfolding in Egypt is and undoubtedly will be terrifying for all Egyptians, the Christian community is facing a period of real danger. Until stability is restored to the country and the political dust from the coup has cleared, the situation is not likely to improve.

It is up to our leaders to stress to their counterparts in the Egyptian Army, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Nour Party, that violence against Egyptian Christians must not become “collateral damage” to the nation’s current evolution. The U.S. still has a strong voice in Egypt, and we should use it to remind all centers of power that we are watching. 


Guardian Express

The New York Times


BBC News

Morning Star News

Associated Press



Bringing Peace Education to Zones of Armed Conflict

In late 2012 and early 2013, Tanenbaum used world-shrinking technology to work with our Peacemakers in Indonesia, Nigeria, and Afghanistan. With their help, we trained 55 local school teachers in multicultural education principles that encourage openness to differences. Tanenbaum created culturally adapted??, — and reusable — educational materials, while our Peacemakers Jacky Manuputty (Indonesia), Jamila Afghani (Afghanistan), and Imam Muhammed Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye (Nigeria), coordinated local educators.

Involved teachers and principals have clamored for more training.

We spoke with each of the Peacemakers about the long-term impact of these trainings.

Jamila described what happened in Kabul:

"One of the teachers that received the training is my son’s teacher. She is from a different ethnic group and, before the training, bullied my son and others from our ethnic group. Now, my son says the teacher is very different – kind and caring. Now he is enjoying learning; going to school. Before, he was crying when he had to go to school. But now he insists on going to school, even on days where there are security issues and it’s not safe to be out on the street. These days he cries when he can’t go to school.

"After the training with Tanenbaum, I received calls from three principals. They said the training, although outside of official program, was very good and had very much changed the teachers who participated. The principals saw that the training recipients are now spreading concepts of respect inside the school with other teachers and students. This has had a very good impact on the whole environment of the schools. One of the principals requested such a training for the rest of the teachers. It seems everyone has become interested to join such a training.

"And now, I plan to have trainings with the teachers of these three schools.

"If you do a little bit of sparkling in Afghanistan, everybody rushes towards that. After people heard about the training, I received many requests from many other schools and teachers. I was feeling bad that I only had one Tanenbaum training. It was like I brought a great sparkling and now there is big demand. Unfortunately, I cannot bring the training to everyone."

This wide-scale impact was not limited to the Afghani teachers.

In Nigeria, the principal of a government secondary school, Ms. Mairo Bello, thanked Muhammad Ashafa for bringing the training. She told him that now, she is working to set up a school-wide unit that will facilitate the concept of appreciating diversity throughout the school.

And in Indonesia, some of the training participants invited Jacky Manuputty and his team to replicate the training for everyone in their schools. Thus far, Jacky has conducted four more trainings, reaching another 50 Indonesian educators (evenly split between Muslim and Christian teachers). Meanwhile, more and more schools are calling – keeping Jacky busy.

We created the program to introduce Tanenbaum’s peace and multicultural education program to educators in three conflict zones where differences, including those based on religion and race, is a source of tension.

We have met and arguably exceeded our initial goal. But there is so much more to do.

Reza Aslan defends right to be a scholar on Jesus

A well-known news network recently interviewed Reza Aslan about his new book on Jesus, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. The interview has gone viral and is well worth a look (there’s a link at the bottom of this post).

There is much we could say about the interaction between Reza and the correspondent, Lauren Green. Two thoughts stand out:

  • Reza demonstrates an ideal that is at the foundation of Tanenbaum’s philosophy: respectful curiosity. We’d like to say to Reza, "Thank you for answering the questions directly, speaking respectfully and for being open to those who have academic beliefs that are different from your own."
  • Green is primarily interested in Reza’s religion, Islam, rather than the merits of his work. It is reasonable to ask about an interviewee’s background in order to frame a story, but Green’s incessant line of questioning communicated the notion that a Muslim is not capable of writing a book about Jesus.

Scholars from every tradition (and none) have the right to share perspectives about their areas of expertise and to be questioned vigorously about their findings –  not their background or religion.

Full disclosure: Reza Aslan is on Tanenbaum’s Advisory Board and was recognized at our 2013 annual gala.

Brewing Up a Controversy: Tanenbaum’s Top Five News Stories

Samuel Adams unnecessarily brews controversy • Was the American Revolution a holy war? • Egypt's Christians face arson, beatings and forced conversions amid upheaval • Swedish sisters skip 'sinful' dance class • Religious freedom is under attack in the military

Last week's top stories from Tanenbaum's perspective:

Samuel Adams unnecessarily brews controversy
Over the past couple of weeks, Samuel Adams has been brewing up a little bit of controversy with an advertisement they unleased to the airwaves right before the Fourth of July holiday. In the ad, their spokesperson recites the Declaration of Independence except for four words the copyrighters cut: "endowed by their Creator." Although the company cut the lines from the quote to adhere to alcohol advertising guidelines, some consumers are outraged. Click here for Religion News Service's analysis

Was the American Revolution a holy war?
Speaking of the American Revolution, an opinion piece in The Washington Post asks the question "Was the American Revolution a holy war?" Read it and let us know what you think in the comments below.

Last week, Haaretz reported Egypt's Christians face arson, beatings and forced conversions amid upheaval. From the article: "Since the beginning of the 2011 revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak, they have suffered constant harassment, and dozens have lost their lives to violence. Their churches have been torched. Coptic women have been beaten, forced to wear hijabs, or forcibly converted to Islam, according to human rights organizations." Read the whole article here.
In Sweden, Laestdianism, a branch of the Lutheran denomination of Christianity, dancing is consideed to be a sin by some members of the church. Learn about the parents of three girls who claimed that their daughters were exempt from the dancing in physical education. 
Conservatives are saying that religious freedom is under attack in the military. In fact, Rep. John Fleming, R-La., added an amendment to a military spending bill that states, “Except in cases of military necessity, the Armed Forces shall accommodate the beliefs, actions, and speech” of service members."  Read more here.

Peace the only way to honour Nelson Mandela

According to CBS News, Nelson Mandela is responding to treatment.

South African President Jacob Zuma, who recently visited him in the hospital, said "We are encouraged that Madiba is responding to treatment and urge the public to continue providing support and showering him with love which gives him and the family strength."

Several weeks ago, Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, wrote a moving piece about Mandela (his clan name is "Madiba") published by South Africa's Sunday Tribune.

Click here to read the tribute, aptly titled "Peace the only way to honour Nelson Mandela." 

Nicky’s Family: How one man saved 669 children’s lives

Celebrating those people who rise above the rest, who step into the history books by acting in humanity’s pivotal moments, is an important part of how we choose the values we bequeath to the next generations. 

This Fourth of July, along with the rest of this country, I celebrated the heroes of our American Revolution. On July 5,  I had the unexpected honor of celebrating another hero, whose selfless acts in the months before the outbreak of WWII saved hundreds of lives and whose example has now inspired thousands of acts of kindness around the world.

Sir Nicholas Winton was a young Londoner enjoying the trappings of his budding career as a stockbroker when an unexpected encounter led him to eventually rescue 669 Jewish Czech and Slovak children just before the onset WWII. His story has now been made into a documentary by the name of Nicky's Family and the film will be showing in NYC at the JCC Manhattan, the Quad Cinema, the Kew Gardens Cinema and the Malverne Cinema stating on July 19.

I had the pleasure of watching the film on July 5 and it reminded me that while we often think that opportunities for heroism abounded in the past much more than today, it is in finding ways to make a difference now and acting in the face of difficult odds that leads to real heroism. 

For his actions then and for the example he has become today, Sir Winton has even been nominated for the Noble Peace Prize. If you watch the film and are moved to endorse this petition, you can do so by clicking here

Mihai Morar, Chief of Staff

Tanenbaum’s Top Five New Stories

Popes headed toward sainthood • Transgendered minister opens up about his experiences • Jimmy Carter speaks out against the abuse of women • Faith healing parents’ homicide conviction upheld • Muslims & Jews gather in Sarjevo to combat religious prejudice

Last week's top stories from Tanenbaum's perspective: 

Popes headed toward sainthood
The Washington Post
Last week, good news rained upon popes named John. Pope Francis approved John Paul II for sainthood and decided to canonize John XXIII. According to the article, “Francis approved a decree that a Costa Rican woman’s inexplicable cure from a deadly brain aneurism was the ‘miracle’ needed to canonize John Paul.” Pope Francis also deemed that only one miracle attributed to John XXIII’s intercession was sufficient for his canonization. Read more…

Transgendered minister opens up about his experiencesThe Huffington Post
What if one Sunday, you attended a service at your church and your minister – after 28 years of service – decided to reveal that he was born a female? For Rev. David Weekly, a United Methodist minister, “There was a lot of support, but a lot of push back.” Learn more…

Jimmy Carter speaks out against the abuse of womenReligion News Service
At “Mobilizing Faith for Women: Engaging the Power of Religion and Belief to Advance Human Rights and Dignity,” President Jimmy Carter opened his remarks by calling the abuses of women “the most pervasive and unaddressed human rights violations on earth.” Discover more about Carter’s thoughts on the intersection of religion and women’s rights.

Faith healing parents’ homicide conviction upheldNational Public Radio
Did you know that 303 children have died since 1975 after medical care was withheld on religious grounds? In 2008, one 11-year-old diabetic girl died on Easter Sunday because her parents refused to bring her to the doctor. The parents preferred prayer and were convicted of homicide one year later. Last week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled 6-1 “that the state's immunity provisions for prayer treatment parents protect them from child abuse charges but nothing else.”  After the decision was announced, the father’s lawyer said, “"If I was advising a parent on faith healing, I'd say there is no privilege," Miller said. "They pretty much gutted it." Read more…

Muslims & Jews gather in Sarjevo to combat religious prejudiceThe Huffington Post
A group of Muslims and Jews gathered in Sarajevo to combat Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. The goal of the conference, organized by The Muslim Jewish Conference in Vienna, “"is to provide the next generation with a learning experience for life and a positive outlook for establishing intercultural relations and sustaining Muslim-Jewish partnerships." Learn more…