Tanenbaum.org https://tanenbaum.org Combating Religious Prejudice Fri, 03 Apr 2020 19:03:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3.2 https://tanenbaum.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/cropped-FaviconLogo-1-32x32.png Tanenbaum.org https://tanenbaum.org 32 32 Live from New York…Tanenbaum’s Virtual Gala! https://tanenbaum.org/blog/2020/04/live-from-new-york/ Fri, 03 Apr 2020 19:01:59 +0000 https://tanenbaum.org/?p=17731 Dear Friends,

I hope you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy.

Challenging circumstances require creative solutions, which is why this year, we have created an exciting alternative to our traditional Gala – introducing Tanenbaum’s first-ever Virtual Gala!

Please plan to join us online via an exclusive broadcast on May 27th at 6:00 PM!

Our virtual gala will gather us all together to celebrate our honorees, enjoy quality entertainment and a few laughs. Most importantly, we’ll come together as a community to celebrate all that we have accomplished, and to prepare for the work that lies ahead.

Our annual gala is a critical piece of our sustainability because it provides the financial support needed to pursue this work. While we may be physically distant from one another, we remain connected by Tanenbaum’s vision of a world where differences are respected.

For more information on our virtual gala, or to purchase tickets, or ad space, click here.

We look forward to sharing community together on May 27th!

Warm regards,

Mark Fowler,
Deputy CEO


Extremism Spreading With Coronavirus https://tanenbaum.org/blog/2020/04/extremism/ Fri, 03 Apr 2020 15:22:08 +0000 https://tanenbaum.org/?p=17723 Friends,

The Coronavirus is changing everything—how we live and how we think. As the number of confirmed cases surge, we are all facing a public health crisis, assaults on human rights and dignity, and – for many of us personally, questions of life and death.

With sorrow but not surprise, we are also watching a predictable uptick in hate and extremist violence around the world. (Read more). Chaos creates uncertainty. Uncertainty fuels fear. And fear is a trigger—for extremism.

● There has been a dramatic surge in the targeting of Asian communities all over, exasperated by an increase in xenophobic rhetoric and mischaracterizations of the virus as Chinese. (Read more).

● A Sikh gurdwara was attacked in Afghanistan, killing 25 worshippers. (Read more).

● The New Jersey Department of Homeland Security (NJDHS) warned of white supremacists taking advantage of the pandemic to cause chaos. (Read more).

● Borders are closing to refugees all over the world, as are fears that they will spread the disease (Read more).

● The ADL warns that extremists are using the COVID-19 pandemic to mainstream their conspiracy theories, xenophobia and anti-Semitism—including with escalating online and social media attacks and by blaming Jews for causing the pandemic. (Read more).

Whether in person or online, all forms of extremism are deadly. Our response? It’s time to build solutions and support everyone in our international community. It is through social support—even as we practice physical distancing—that we can counter hate and save lives.

You can help from the safety of your own home. Our resource, Five Ways To Counter Extremism On Social Media can help you take a stand against the extremism that is still present and waiting to pounce.

None of us know what the coming weeks and months will bring, but we do know this: None of us are in this alone. Our community is strong, and we will help each other pull through,

Joyce S. Dubensky      Mark Fowler
CEO                              Deputy CEO


Peacebuilding in Nigeria: Debunking a Violent Discourse https://tanenbaum.org/blog/2020/04/peace-in-nigeria/ Wed, 01 Apr 2020 21:58:49 +0000 https://tanenbaum.org/?p=17717

Isa, a Fulani herdsboy in Nigeria | Credit dotun55

Daniel Green is the Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding Intern at Tanenbaum. A note from Daniel: As a Tanenbaum intern, I have the unique privilege of participating in Peacemaker in Action Network calls every few weeks. Pastor James of Nigeria provided an update on Nigeria that had me curious about the dynamics of conflict in his region. Below is a researched account of the current multidimensional conflicts in Nigeria through the lens of Pastor James and Imam Ashafa’s latest efforts.

Violence in Nigeria is mounting to a point of crisis, and the Boko Haram insurgency only accounts for a fraction of it. In central Nigeria, an ongoing conflict between semi-nomadic herdsmen and farmers has swelled in recent years. Over the last four years, the frequency and severity of violence have persisted at alarming rates, with 3,600 deaths between January 2016 and October 2018. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s government has been blamed for a paucity of state intervention, and in some cases, for allowing the assailants de factoimpunity.” In a vacuum of law, order, and prosecution, attacks and reprisals are carried out by both communities.

Tanenbaum Peacemakers in Action Pastor James Wuye and Imam Muhammad Ashafa work throughout Nigeria and the world. Some of their work takes them to the sites of these atrocities, to the interstices of warring groups. Leading their Interfaith Mediation Centre, the duo preaches peace and forgiveness in an attempt to reroute the lives of young militants and shift the bellicose ideologies of the old. However, peacemaking in this climate is particularly onerous.

Tensions first arose between herders and farmers in Nigeria in association with ecological and geographical challenges. As the majority Muslim Fulani herdsmen historically grazed their cattle in the northern Sahelian belt, which borders the Sahara Desert, their communities were the first affected by increasing drought and desertification. Contemporaneously, Boko Haram has carried out regular attacks in the North, extorted protection money from locals, and recruited younger residents for radicalization. With few alternatives, herders have moved their cattle southward, where ecosystems range from “derived savanna”–forest cleared for cultivation–to humid forests. Complicating the issue further, Nigeria’s population has surged since the mid-twentieth century: from 57 million in 1963, to 198 million in 2018. The U.S. government projects that between 2016 and 2050, Nigeria’s population will grow from 186 million to 392 million, making it the world’s fourth most populous country. In order to account for increasing food demand, farm settlements have expanded rapidly, swallowing up more and more tenable land. Thus, with herds encroaching on the prized arable central and southern regions of Nigeria, an almost Malthusian struggle over land and resources ensued.

A majority of assaults unfold over the so-called Middle Belt, a swath of land comprising several latitudinally central states. Those most affected lie to the center-east: Benue, Adamawa, Plateau, Nasarawa, and Taraba States, as well as Kaduna State, where Pastor James and Imam Ashafa base their operations. In mid-2018 the International Crisis Group (ICG) reported a spike in violence. Over 1,300 deaths between January and July of that year were attributed to clashes associated with herders and farmers. Over the same period, ICG estimated the displacement of approximately 300,000 individuals. After ICG’s 2018 report was published, a portentous statistic surfaced throughout Western reports on Nigeria’s tribulations: as of July, the “farmer-herder” violence had become six times deadlier than Boko Haram’s ongoing insurgency. The surge in violence has deeply troubled Pastor James and Imam Ashafa, who call ceaselessly for young Nigerians to lay down their arms and to accept forgiveness. However, amid the tangible horrors, a discursive polarization has further threatened the prospect of peace.

For Pastor James and Imam Ashafa, conflict mediation became more complicated when an ethno-religious element entered popular discourse. As Pastor James remarked in a recent Peacemakers in Action Network call, the conflict “has taken a new dimension.” 

“Especially in regions where Christians are dominant, these attacks are perceived to be motivated by some form of religion,” Pastor James explained on a March 20th Peacemakers in Action Network call. Assailants often attack sacred places, he said, kidnapping pastors with the idea that ransom money can be extracted from their congregations. Targeting a community “of the cloth” serves a dual purpose–if not only to extract funds, to disintegrate its social standing and organizational capacity. With such a high rate of attacks on religious institutions it is not inconceivable that largely Christian farming communities would tend to perceive these brutal assaults as religiously motivated and targeted. After all, the Muslim Fulani represent about 90% of Nigerian pastoralists.

“However,” said Pastor James, “this does not stop at only Christian communities. In Muslim communities in the north of Kaduna State, [armed bandits] are also killing people, rustling cattle, raping women, kidnapping for ransom and taking the money, sometimes killing the captives after the money is received.” The distinction, Pastor James argued, is that these attacks in the northern states are not given a “religious coloration,” whereas attacks in Christian communities are. On an earlier call, in January 2020, Pastor James argued that the Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA), a Boko Haram affiliate, is vying for religious war in Nigeria. “ISWA is trying to instigate interreligious violence by killing their victims and saying they are killing them because they are Christian,” James said. Regardless of these discursive colorations, members of all communities are victims.

Crucial to an accurate understanding of this conflict, or these conflicts, is a conception of multidimensionality. In fact, when Pastor James remarked that the violence had “taken a new dimension,” what he meant was that it had taken yet another dimension. Media outlets have struggled to approach the crisis in Nigeria with nuance and tact. Western publications as reputable as the New York Times and the Washington Post have been criticized for their portrayal of African (and Asian) conflicts as black and white confrontations, as Manichean divides. This style of war reporting, in which two antagonistic sides are framed in intractable war, can have adverse effects on the potential of reconciliation and peace. In this case, lines have been increasingly drawn along religious affiliations. Even the Los Angeles Times published an article titled, “Guns, Religion and Climate Change Intensify Nigeria’s Deadly Farmer-Herder Clashes.” It is because of and against these circumstances that Pastor James Wuye and Imam Muhammad Ashafa call for peace at the grassroots level. 

The duo’s plea is twofold. First, they argue that spirituality is essential to the process of reconciliation, not to the mechanics of conflict. The predominately Muslim Fulani herders, and the majority Christian farmers cannot be construed as two monolithic groups. Many among their ranks share a longing for peace. “[A] thing that religious leaders can do is to call for prayer regularly in their places of worship and also have time to educate the people on how to be safe, where to go, what to say and what not to say,” Pastor James said. Religious leaders have an enormous capacity to organize individuals at the community level, and in a country whose government and security forces intervene in conflicts only selectively, this mechanism is crucial to the peace process. Further, by “what to say and what not to say,” Pastor James does not mean that Nigerians ought to abdicate their freedom of speech to local churches and mosques. Rather, he posits that religious leaders can educate communities on how to discuss the violence that unfolds before them. This brings us to Imam and Pastor’s other point.

The second prong of the duo’s appeal is discursive. Because the violence in the Middle Belt and northern states is multidimensional, Nigerians must refrain from frivolously dispensing blame on this and that group. As Pastor James explained, violence reverberates in Fulani and Christian communities alike, be it wrought by cattle rustlers, armed kidnappers, farmers, herders, Boko Haram militants or any sort of violent profiteer. “Together, those who are concerned about the safety of their people can come together and condemn the attacks of violence against every individual and call them criminals, not by calling them by a particular name, but by calling them criminals and rejecting that action,” Pastor James urged. 

The ideology and theology of Pastor James and Imam Ashafa’s peacebuilding is predicated on the fundamental equality of individuals, the recognition of their humanity, and the mutual respect or perhaps even love on which it is based, and to which it leads. Agapé, it has been called. It is a concept with which all Tanenbaum Peacemakers in Action are intimately familiar. It is an idea that will prove a crucial component in reconciling Nigeria’s disheartened communities.

By Daniel Green

Join us May 27th…from home! https://tanenbaum.org/blog/2020/03/join-us-from-home/ Thu, 26 Mar 2020 17:47:19 +0000 https://tanenbaum.org/?p=17693 Dear Friends,

I hope you are staying safe and healthy.

In all this uncertainty one thing is crystal clear to me. Our ability to continue to build and sustain communities of respect is a key factor in pulling through this crisis successfully.

Tanenbaum’s 2020 Gala: Peace Made Possible is our annual celebration, recognizing individuals and institutions who work to create and sustain those communities of respect and forward Tanenbaum’s mission and vision. The gala also ensures Tanenbaum has the financial support needed to pursue this work.

And so we have created an exciting alternative to our traditional Gala – introducing Tanenbaum’s first-ever Virtual Gala!

Please plan to join us online via an exclusive broadcast on May 27th at 6:00 PM! We’ll all gather to celebrate our honorees, Marcy Syms and Joyce Dubensky, enjoy entertainment and a few laughs. Most importantly, in this time of physical distancing we’ll come together for some virtual social connection! And, we’ll celebrate all that we have accomplished together, and strengthen ourselves for the work that lies ahead.

More information is coming your way! We look forward to sharing the evening with you on May 27th!

Mark Fowler
Deputy CEO, Tanenbaum

Ramadan is on the Horizon https://tanenbaum.org/blog/2020/03/ramadan-2020/ Wed, 25 Mar 2020 20:07:46 +0000 https://tanenbaum.org/?p=17685 Dear Friends,

In these trying times, sometimes it can be reassuring to engage in or learn about the traditions and rituals of our friends and colleagues. The holy month of Ramadan will begin soon and, this year, it will begin on the evening of April 23rd and end on May 24th.

Muslim employees observing Ramadan may be fasting during this period. Some may request scheduling accommodations in order to observe and your company may find that more employees require space or time for prayer during this period.

To learn about additional tips and considerations regarding scheduling, dietary restrictions, and greetings, read and circulate our Ramadan Fact Sheet.

Warm regards,

Mark Fowler
Deputy CEO

Photos by: 1. Haidan 2. Moderntime 

Spirituality in the Time of Pandemic https://tanenbaum.org/blog/2020/03/spirituality-in-time-of-pandemic/ Tue, 24 Mar 2020 20:17:35 +0000 https://tanenbaum.org/?p=17683 Guest post by Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action, José “Chencho” Alas

Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action José “Chencho” Alas planting a tree with his grandkids.

Jorge Gómez Barata, Cuban, a prolific writer, tells us that Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez has given authorization for the English cruise ship MS Braemar, which carries some passengers infected with COVID-19, to dock in Cuba. The ship had already tried to do so in several countries, having been turned down. According to Foreign Minister Bruno: “This is about a health emergency…” Jorge comments: “This is about the duty to assist neighbors at risk.” Of course, they are taking all appropriate measures not to infect the Cuban people. It takes a deep spirituality, love, both to give the cruise ship permission to dock and to care for the infected persons. Jorge ends his article by stating: “COVID-19 should not make us worse.” Positively we must say: “COVID-19 must make us better.”

Spirituality is the source of inspiration and strength that guides us along life’s path to make the best decisions to benefit ourselves personally and to put ourselves at the service of our brothers and sisters. Without it, we fall into materialism and lose all hope. We have to cultivate spirituality in order to receive all its benefits. We need silence to discover its full potential. We must take advantage of this time of tribulation due to the coronavirus so that in silence we discover the richness of the spirit that inhabits each of us and shares messages of peace. We cannot give way to depression, to anxiety.

Spirituality coexisted with matter at creation’s beginning. It existed before us humans.
In Genesis 1: 1-2 we read:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Now the earth was formless and empty,
darkness was over the surface of the deep,
and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” (NIV)

According to the Mayans, “The spirit is what gives strength and life to the material, to things, to hills, to land, to animals, to the human being.” “The spirit is not outside of matter or of historical reality.” God’s spirit, which for the Mayans is strength, action and freedom, constitutes the source of spirituality, that is, living according to the spirit.

Without an understanding of the spirit’s presence both within and outside of the universe, we cannot understand the sacred, which Rudolf Otto describes “as the experience that produces the tremendum and the fascinosum, the tremendous and the fascinating. It is the tremendum that makes us shudder at its magnitude, overflowing our ability to endure its presence, a presence whose devastating intensity causes us to flee. And, at the same time, it is the fascinosum, that is to say, that which fascinates us and drags us like an irrepressible magnet, that makes us experience what absolutely concerns us ” (L. Boff, 1996: 150). It is the tremendum and the fascinosum that Moses experiences at the burning bush (Ex. 3: 1-14).

Humanity is ill with the CODIV-19 pandemic, and so is nature. Spirituality calls us to contribute, daily, to reestablish harmony among ourselves and with our Mother Earth. As the Mayans say, we do not rape our mothers; however, what we are doing to Mother Earth is that and more, we are destroying her. We are putting an end to forests, to the rivers. We eliminate thousands of species every year. We poison the air. We kill everything that gives us life or we change it, believing ourselves wiser than nature, such as in the case of genetic modification.

We can cultivate spirituality just as we do so many other things. There are simple methods to nourish it. Prayer is one way, as well as supplication and song; rites; celebration of the sacraments, of Sabbath, of Mayan ceremonies, etc. Not only that, but there are body postures that contribute to feelings of wellness and harmony. For example, according to Zen spirituality, how one breathes promotes deeper levels of consciousness. Rubén L.F. Hábito, author of the book Healing Breath, tells us: “In short, the prescribed way in Zen is simply to breathe in a normal and natural but deep way, focusing on the lower part of the diaphragm, in an area that in Japanese is called hara. You literally breathe with your whole heart and mind, paying full attention to each breath as the air goes in and out. Each breath is received with new freshness, it is lived in each here and now. It is that living in the here and now, focused on the breath, guided by the breath, that will open us to a deeper level of consciousness” (1994, p. 86-87).

It is important to find, at our homes and apartments, some space, either inside or outside,  to serve as a place to meditate, to dialogue with silence, to discover our inner wealth in order to be able to offer it with a spirit of service to others, especially the most materially or spiritually needy.

Culture by itself, with its values and principles, is insufficient for building peace. We need more, we need spirituality, which gives us harmony, inner and outer.  Spirituality is a power that comes to us from within, in the form of the values of authenticity, justice and love, and leads us outside of ourselves to coexist with others.

Leveraging Religious Diversity: Live Webinar Thursday, March 26th! https://tanenbaum.org/blog/2020/03/live-webinar/ Tue, 24 Mar 2020 18:53:15 +0000 https://tanenbaum.org/?p=17678

Lessons Learned from Workplace Chaplains
During COVID-19 Outbreak

LIVE WEBINAR: https://tinyurl.com/t239pn3
Thursday, March 26th | 12:00 – 1:00 pm ET

Mark Fowler, Deputy CEO, Tanenbaum
Karen Diefendorf, Director, Chaplain Services Tyson Foods

Join Tanenbaum Deputy CEO, Rev. Mark Fowler, as he interviews Karen Diefendorf, Director of Chaplain Services at Tyson Foods in a session in partnership with Diversity Best Practices. Karen will discuss the ways in which Tyson chaplains are supporting the company’s employees as the COVID-19 outbreak reshapes the workplace. This conversation will highlight the invaluable contributions of workplace chaplains during these trying times. Learn more about available resources and better practices for supporting your employees of all faiths and none!

Click here to download our PDF flyer


(Dis)Information Webinar Postponed https://tanenbaum.org/blog/2020/03/webinar-postponed/ Thu, 19 Mar 2020 22:20:51 +0000 https://tanenbaum.org/?p=17667
Like you, we realize the gravity of COVID-19 and how rapidly things are changing.
We have therefore decided to postpone our webinar, The (Dis)Information Session: The Impact of Fake News on Religious Communities. We know that this is a very important conversation, but for the immediate future, all of us need to focus on physical distancing, socially connecting—and staying as healthy as possible.

We will be back in touch in the not-too-distant future with a new date, but for now, we hope that you and your loved ones are safe and well,

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO, Tanenbaum

Physical Distancing and Social Supporting https://tanenbaum.org/blog/2020/03/social-supporting/ Tue, 17 Mar 2020 02:07:41 +0000 https://tanenbaum.org/?p=17657 Dear Friends,

This is a challenging moment for all of us. COVID-19 (coronavirus) has forced us into new realities.

Like so many of us, at Tanenbaum, we’re taking precautionary steps and are carefully considering how to move forward in these difficult times. As of now, I am grateful to report that all our staff are well, and working off-site. We’re keeping in touch regularly and staying focused on what needs to be done.

We are also planning ahead—because we know that times of uncertainty have a history of breeding dehumanization, suspicion and violence.

And this is certainly a time of uncertainty. Sadly, but not surprisingly, we’re already seeing people turn on one another. Right now, the targets seem to be people from other countries, starting with those from pan-Asia and now people from Europe. We see the demonization starting…and know it’s likely to spread.

So, what can we all do preemptively? We have 3 ideas…and ask you to share yours.

  • Social Distancing = Physical Distancing + Social Support. That means you can…
    • Be in touch without touching.
    • Make a phone call for every hand you can’t shake.
    • Do something to help the most vulnerable for every embrace you must avoid.
  • Second, identify something that makes you feel better and do it…whether it’s prayer or your spiritual life, meditation, exercise, calling your Grammy, or listening to your favorite music.
  • And finally, remember that no matter what you believe, we all share the Golden Rule. Let’s do unto others as we would have them do to us.

Fear has too often been weaponized, so let’s counter that tendency. This is a time for kindness and caring, and a time to help one another no matter who we are, how we disagree, or what we believe.

With hope that you and yours are well, that we are all safe, and that together we can keep fear at bay,

Joyce Dubensky,
Tanenbaum CEO

Spring is Around the Corner but First, Let’s Celebrate! https://tanenbaum.org/blog/2020/03/spring-holiday-factsheets/ Thu, 12 Mar 2020 20:12:12 +0000 https://tanenbaum.org/?p=17636 Dear Friends,

Holidays arise throughout the year and spring is filled with them! From March through May, many around the world this year will be observing Vaisakhi, Passover, Easter, and Ramadan.

This week and next is particularly full of holidays that are celebrated by a number of faiths! Earlier this week was the Hindu holiday Holi (which you can read more about in our Holi Fact Sheet), the Jewish holiday Purim, and the Sikh holiday Holla Mohalla. And next week is the Baha’i new year Naw Ruz (which you can learn more about in our Naw Ruz Fact Sheet). With so many holidays in such a short time period, it can be hard to keep them straight. Our fact sheets can help, however, as can the Tanenbaum staff.

You can learn about each of these holidays, their impact on the workplace, and more by visiting Tanenbaum’s Workplace Resources page for fact sheets and additional resources.

In friendship,

Mark Fowler
Deputy CEO, Tanenbaum

Photo: Sergey Shmidt