This Week in Interfaith America: A News Roundup

Dave Ley, co-owner of Exoticars, an auto restoration shop specializing in classic vehicles, pulls a restored statue of the Buddha outside in McCandless, Pa., on Monday. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

The Interfaith America team led a writing workshop this week with a religiously diverse cohort of undergraduates participating in the Building Interfaith Leadership Institute.  The workshop focused on cultivating a public voice in digital spaces, and my colleague Silma Suba shared a favorite, timeless quote from Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Every week, we look for untold stories about religion and spirituality – especially ones that show people working together across faiths and philosophical worldviews. We found plenty of those this week, including several that focus on climate change, indigenous communities and racial equity.

Have a comment or an idea for next week’s roundup? We’d love to hear from you. Email us here.

As She Lay Dying: A Letter to a Motherless Child. The Rev. Jen Bailey, founder of an innovative program that brings a spiritual touch to social justice work, led a round table conversation this week with four inspiring and innovative leaders: Harmeet Kaur Kamboj, Maya Williams, Mia Willis, and Byron Tyler Coles. This piece features an excerpt from her new book, “To My Beloveds: Letters on Faith, Race, Loss and Radical Hope.” In the final months of her mother's life, Bailey says she found that "writing became a sanctuary for me when words failed to take shape in my mouth."

Indigenous and Faith Leaders Urge Procter & Gamble to End Logging of Old-Growth Forests. In the first published piece by an IFYC/RNS Journalism Fellow, Diana Kruzman reports that faith-based activists who met at protests against oil pipelines are joining forces to fight deforestation in the manufacture of products like toilet paper and shampoo. "We are connected spiritually," one activist said.

What Indigenous Land Defenders at COP26 Want. In this piece for Teen Vogue, Maia Wikler interviewed four Indigenous activists fighting for climate justice. She writes: “As COP26, the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, wraps up this week, it is clear that the voices of those most impacted by climate change—especially Indigenous communities—are often ignored or silenced.”

Indigenous Activists are United in a Cause and are Making Themselves Heard at COP26. For NPR News, Ari Shapiro, Ashley Brown, Noah Caldwell and Mia Venkat report from the climate summit in Glasgow, bringing us the voices of young Indigenous activists from around the world. “It was deeply difficult and extractive and tokenizing to be here,” says native Dena'ina Athabascan Ruth Miller of Anchorage, Alaska.

Paul Hawken on Helping Our Planet Heal Itself. In this interview featured in Tricycle, A Buddhist Review, Buddhist climate activist Paul Hawken reflects on the spirituality behind his activism. “I often refer to the Wendell Berry quote, ‘Be joyful, though you’ve considered all the facts.’ We have so many facts to consider,” Hawken says. “We can choose to despair, or we can choose to be joyful and see this life as a gift, as an offering.” The full interview is available on Tricycle’s podcast.

The Rev. Emil Kapaun celebrates Mass in Korea in October 1950. The legendary military chaplain is credited with saving hundreds of soldiers during the Korean War. (Photo by U.S. Army Col. Raymond A. Skeehan/courtesy of the Father Kapaun Guild

@BlackLiturgies Expresses the Sacred Truth of Black Life. For Sojourners, Jeania Ree V. Moore -- a United Methodist deacon and doctoral student in religious studies and African American studies at Yale University – writes about Cole Arthur Riley’s viral social media account. It’s described as a “space where Black spiritual words live in dignity, lament, rage, and liberation to the glory of God.”

This Tribe Helped the Pilgrims Survive for Their First Thanksgiving. They Still Regret it 400 Years Later. Washington Post reporter Dana Hedgpeth is a member of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe in Northern California. In this thoughtful, deeply-reported piece, she writes about efforts of Wampanoag members to tell the overlooked story of their tribal history – and reclaim land, language, and spiritual traditions passed on by their ancestors.

War and Soldiers Have Changed Over a Century. Chaplains Remain a Powerful Force. In this commentary piece for Veterans Day from Religion News Service, Joe Drape of The New York Times writes about the history of military chaplains as well as a new U.S. Army program called the Spiritual Readiness Initiative, designed to help soldiers connect spirituality across many faiths, and no faith. The chief Army chaplain introduced the program, which includes a three-day retreat.

U.S. Supreme Court Weighs Religion’s Place in the Texas Death Chamber. Jolie McCullough of The Texas Tribune tells the story of the case brought by John Ramirez, a 37-year-old sentenced to die in Texas for killing a store clerk in 2004. “This summer, with an execution date set, Ramirez asked if his pastor could lay hands on him and pray over him as he died,” McCullough writes. “Texas prison officials denied the request.” A central question of the case: do the condemned have a right to “religious comfort”?

Bentleys to Buddhas: Vintage-Car Shop Restores Buddha Statue. Peter Smith of the Associated Press reports on an interfaith effort to rehabilitate a fiberglass Buddha belonging to the Pittsburgh Buddhist Center, which practices the Theravada vehicle of Buddhism common in Sri Lanka. The Pennsylvania auto shop that repaired the statue said the Buddha "was a big hit" with customers.


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In this week's round up, a Buddha gets a paint job, a Black interfaith social media account goes viral, and Indigenous activists speak out.

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.