This Week in Interfaith America: A News Roundup

Pathik Bhalodiya, 4, gets help from his mother Shital, members of an Indian family living in Japan, to hold a piece of firework as they celebrate Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, at a park in Tokyo, Thursday, Nov. 4. (AP Photo/Hiro Komae)

This week our favorite religion pieces took us around the globe: from Glasgow, where world leaders are meeting for climate talks; to Asia, where Associated Press photographers captured luminous images of Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists celebrating the festival of Diwali; to small towns in western Arkansas, where pediatrician Anu Gorukanti, co-founder of a new program for Asian American and Pacific Islander women leaders, first grappled with her own Indian and Hindu identity.

Stories about humanism, spirituality and meaning also made the list, including thoughtful pieces on mental health, loss and faith by Silma Suba and the Rev. Alexis Vaughan of IFYC.

We’d love to hear from you! Email us to share your feedback or suggestions for next week's top 10.

We Die. That May Be the Meaning of Life: An Interview with Jen Bailey. The Rev. Alexis Vaughan of IFYC interviews the Rev. Jen Bailey, an A.M.E. pastor, founder and executive director of the Faith Matters Network, and author of a new book, “To My Beloveds: Letters on Faith, Race, Loss and Radical Hope.Vaughan’s poignant, personal essay leads the piece. Registration is now open for this Nov. 11 online roundtable , where Bailey and four interfaith innovators will discuss the future of spiritual life.

How an Arkansas Childhood Inspired Welcoming Spaces for AAPI Women. Pediatrician Dr. Anu Gorukanti, an IFYC Sacred Journeys Fellow, writes about how her deep yearning to explore her own experiences growing up Hindu and Indian in the South inspired her to co-create "Coffee and Community: Reflective Spaces for AAPI Women Leaders."

Why Mental Health Professionals Need Religious Literacy. Interfaith America staff writer Silma Suba reports on a growing movement within healthcare pushing for more training around understanding the importance of religion. “There is a huge gap between the religiosity of clinicians and the religiosity of the clients,” mental health counselor Shivam Gosai says. “This gap has always been there. Mental health professionals are not always reflective of the people we are serving.”

Baylor, Harvard Team Up to Study Faith’s Role in Human Flourishing. Jeff Brumley of Baptist News Global reports that scientists at Baylor and Harvard universities will collaborate on a new “Global Flourishing Study,” which will include an examination of how religion contributes to human thriving. Study directors Byron Johnson, professor of social sciences and director of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor, and Tyler VanderWeele, professor of epidemiology and director of the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard, said the project will evaluate 240,000 individuals from 22 nations.

Inside the Unraveling of American Zionism. Marc Tracy of The New York Times takes a deep dive into the thorniest of subjects – attitudes about Israel and Israeli politics among a young generation of American Jews. “The assumptions young Jews grew up with about Israel have been shattered at the same time that assumptions about antisemitism being in the past and Jews becoming white folks were shattered,” says Jonathan Sarna, professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University. “Where does that put us?”

Reframing the Story of Harvard’s Humanist Chaplaincy. For Religion & Politics, Leigh Eric Schmidt, humanities professor at Washington University in St. Louis, revisits a story that made headlines. Is the story of Harvard chaplain Greg Epstein a tale of a godless secular university, the rise of the religious “nones,” or something else? “Locating the Harvard-chaplaincy controversy within its most relevant lineage—religious humanism rather than oppositional atheism—is one way to rethink the significance of Epstein’s post and his election as an interfaith administrator,” Schmidt writes. “The second way to rescript the story is to disjoin it from a narrative of secularist ascendancy and to consider Epstein’s chaplaincy instead as a matter of a small sect gaining belated recognition at very big and diverse table.” For more thoughtful reflection on Epstein's story, check out this essay by Mary Ellen Giess, vice president of strategic initiatives at IFYC.  

Meet the Hindu God Rama, an Immigrant. For Religion News Service, scholar Khyati Y. Joshi of Fairleigh Dickinson University writes that for Indian American and South Asian Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and others, celebrating Diwali isn't just celebrating with community — it is celebrating community.

Queering Deepavali: Traditions in the Time of COVIDRaja Gopal Bhattar wrote this thoughtful essay for Diwali in 2020, and we appreciated it so much we're posting it again. They hail from a long lineage of Hindu spiritual leaders from the Srivaishnava tradition. A higher education leader, advocate, and consultant, Bhattar was a 2020 Interfaith America Racial Equity Fellow.

As COP26 Conference Gathers, Faith-based Environmentalists Fight “Eco-grief”. Elizabeth E. Evans of Religion News Service reports on religious climate activism and includes comments from Katharine Hayhoe, chief scientist for The Nature Conservancy and an outspoken Christian. Writing from a global climate conference in Glasgow this week, Hayhoe said, “I adamantly refuse to surrender to hopelessness,” she says.

Interfaith Bonus: “GOD-Talk: A Black Millennial Faith and Conversation Series,” sponsored by the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture, will be held Saturday, Nov. 6, 7 to 9 pm Eastern time. The conversation will focus on the intersections of Black religion and spirituality, race, gender, sexuality and more.


If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

more from IFYC

Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, joined in lighting the menorah. Emhoff is the first Jewish spouse of an American vice president.
Bhattar created an art piece to honor all those that choose to love themselves and work to collectively dismantle our culture of shame around HIV/AIDS, especially in higher education and religious/spiritual communities. 
The authors write that they learned many wonderful things growing up in Southern Evangelical churches, "such as centering Christ and serving others." But in conversations around sexuality and HIV/AIDS, "We were also taught things we now know are tremendously grounded in hate and fear."
As we open the application for the 2022 cohort of IFYC alumni Interfaith Innovation fellows, we speak with 2021 fellow Pritpal Kaur, the former Education Director at the Sikh Coalition and an advocate for increasing religious literacy in the classroom.
Greg McMichael, son Travis McMichael and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan were all convicted Wednesday (Nov. 24) of murder after jurors deliberated for about 10 hours.
A new book, “Praying to the West: How Muslims Shaped the Americas,” by Omar Mouallem, may meet the needs of a new generation of Muslims.
For Christians, Advent is a period of preparation for Christmas and beyond. The Rev. Thomas J. Reese writes that perhaps fasting during Advent can be the Christian response to the consumerism of the season.
Interfaith holiday events can be a great way to show respect for others and make everyone feel included. Need some tips? Our IFYC colleagues have you covered.
Studies show that American religious diversity will only continue to grow and that Thanksgiving dinners of the future will continue to reflect this “potluck nation.” We all bring something special to the table.
IFYC staff members share what they're listening to, watching and reading that inspires an attitude for gratitude this season.
How can you support Native Americans and understand important issues and terminology? This Baylor University sophomore is here to help.
Aided by an international team of artists, author Salma Hasan Ali turned her viral blog about Ramadan into a new handmade book.
A symposium hosted by the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago focused on the intersection of Indian boarding schools and theological education as well as efforts to uncover truth and bring healing.
This week's top 10 includes stories on faith and meatpacking in the Midwest, religion in the metaverse and an interfaith call for peace in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The two lawmakers appeared at "Race, Religion and the Assault on Voting Rights," the inaugural event at Georgetown University's Center on Faith and Justice.
Religion & Politics journal interviews the author of a new book on the impact of growing religious diversity in the American Midwest.
Five interfaith leaders share readings and resources that inspire them, give them hope and offer solace in turbulent times.
“There is a huge gap between the religiosity of clinicians and the religiosity of the clients,” mental health counselor Shivam Gosai says. “This gap has always been there. Mental health professionals are not always reflective of the people we are serving.”
Part of what I found so beautiful about our conversation is that we both agree that American pluralism is not simply a pragmatic solution to the challenge of a diverse democracy, it is also a kind of sacred trust that God intends us to steward.
The author, a Hindu and a Sikh, notes that faith plays a subtle yet powerful role in the show -- and creates space for more dialogue.
Haaland, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna, is the first Native American to serve as a U.S. Cabinet secretary.

The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.