Monday, December 14, 2009
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
To you, my friends,
Yes, I’m still sick.
But I have an exciting announcement: today, the blog returns to its original purpose! I’m officially writing about something relevant to the Parliament! It’s shocking. If you need to go lie down, I understand.
So yesterday, I managed to make it to two sessions, both of which were relevant to said project. The first was entitled The Role of Media in Conflict Resolution, and it was a panel discussion led by Ahmed Rehab, Dr. Paul Wee, Hussein Rashid, and Karen Hernandez Andrews.
This panel contained far, far too many interesting concepts to explore here (I’ve been agonizing for an hour over which to choose), so I will whittle it down to one.
Karen Hernandez-Anderson is a Christian woman who writes for Muslim websites and works very closely with Christian-Muslim dialogue. She had some interesting insights on the availability of information through the internet. With social media, anyone can make their voice heard. Anyone can state their opinion. As a result, there is quite a multitude of opinions out there.
This means a few things. Firstly, it is difficult to get accurate information. There is no such thing as a fact-checker for the internet. Wikipedia? Maybe. The world wide web in its infinite entirety? Not so much. You must be very, very careful with what you read as fact and what you read as fabrication. “Do your research!” Karen said.
On the other hand, it is actually quite useful for people like Karen. Karen writes to facilitate healthy dialogue between Muslim and Christian people and communities. Because she has access to so many different opinions, she can actually respond to them in a more thorough way. She knows the arguments and complaints of those who oppose her pro-dialogue actions and can write more effectively against them. In opening their mouths, Karen’s “adversaries” place mediation tools directly into her hands, through social media.
I wish I could write more, but this is a blog, not a dissertation, and so I move on.
The second session was titled Blogistan: Muslims Dialogue through New Media. It was a panel session led by three young, exceedingly handsome, and fabulously funny Muslim men named Haroon Moghul, Hussein Rashid, and Wajahat Ali. You simply could not help but to be drawn to them. All three men are academics and bloggers who address political and interfaith issues in a healthy way, and each addressed their tendency to act as a three-headed unit. And if they find this and read about my admiration, so be it. Free ego boost for them. Anyway my boyfriend's still better looking.
As the Muslim hotties on this panel discussed social media, they gave some terminology to Karen's ideas. They used a term called “democratization of the media.” To reiterate: everyone can get their voice heard through social media. They also mentioned that social media also gave “a voice to the stupid.” To reiterate: anyone can get their voice heard through social media.
I found this difficult to digest (you know, because digestion is coming so easily to me at the moment) even though I heard the same idea addressed twice, and so I ask you, my readers, to answer a question that I asked in both sessions:
Social media gives a megaphone to anyone who wants one, allowing the meek to speak as well as the perverse to converse. In terms of interreligious dialogue, it both fosters communication as well as abets negative comments. Overall, is this a good thing or a bad thing?
Much love, Maggie
Monday, December 7, 2009
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Friday, December 4, 2009
Thursday, December 3, 2009
The Parliament, my friends, has officially started. But first I must say, I have had a wide range of religious interaction today.
After registration this morning, Margaret and I were in a shop that sold aboriginal art. I started talking to a woman working there, telling her about the Parliament, and about the recent turmoil within the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) regarding homosexual, partnered pastors. This woman was very, very opinionated. She wouldn’t, as Margaret later observed, let me get a word in edgewise, and I ended up finding her rather insulting.
She was very adamantly against homosexuality at all, which is not what I have against her. That is her belief, and though mine is different, I wasn’t going to challenge her. However, she said of the ELCA, “That church cannot flourish, because God is not there.” She said this to me after I had told her that my own mother is a pastor of this church, someone who built her career and her life off of this church. People I loved were part of this church. And this woman was dismissing all of them as sinners who do not please God.
And then, from this, I went to the opening plenary of the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions, where everyone is accepted.
It was, in a word, amazing. There were speakers, dancers, singers, and more. We received blessings from Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs, Baha’is, Shintos, Aborigines, and Zoroastrians, all of them so unique. We heard incredible music from students of a Hindu music school. We saw a girl do wonderful Jain dancing. We listened to a Sikh prayer that had resounding responses from the Sikhs in the audience. All of these things that I had never experienced before were happening right in front me, and it was so amazing.
Now, a word about our seating. I was seated five seats down from Uncle Bob Randall, one of the most prominent leaders of Aboriginal people today. Drool, my friends. Drool with jealousy.
However, more fun that Uncle Bob was the man seated next to me. In a gathering of about 10,000 people, I sat down next to Brian and his wife, Julia, both of whom are from Wisconsin (for those who do not actually know me, I am from Minnesota). They were thoroughly enjoyable folk, these two, and we hope to see them again tomorrow at Communities Night. But my point is this: the world is so small! I flew halfway around the world in order to meet a couple who live mere hours away from me!
The best part of the night was Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. His Holiness is a humanitarian who works very hard for a violence-free world. He spoke at the plenary and I must say, I adore him.
He said that, these days, we see violence as a heroic thing, something to be celebrated. War heroes are decorated while peacekeepers are called feeble and cowardly. And then he spoke, with absolutely heart-wrenching honesty, about how sad this made him. How sad he was that the world had turned completely on its head, and that we no longer value the things that keep us together as a global family. This Parliament, he said, is a “family reunion,” a place to get to know each other and recreate the things that once held us together, like peace and love.
He then spoke of a thought that had come to him while listening to the orchestra. He said that while everyone played their own instrument (like the didgeridu, which is unparalleled in coolness) and sang with their own voice, they all watched the same conductor and together made one beautiful sound.
This is an extremely accurate picture of what the Parliament is trying to accomplish. Rather than fighting over our differences, we should embrace them and focus on what really matters, focus on a common goal: a happy, violence-free world.
Thanks for reading, and keep your eye on the conductor.
Love and peace, Maggie