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New York's Amazingly Diverse Religious Landscape

Posted on 2002/11/3 8:48:02 ( 1038 reads )

Source: Newsday (New York, NY)

FLUSHING, NEW YORK, October 21, 2002: New immigrants coming to America are seeking solace in their religious roots and nowhere is this more evident than in New York City. Rajesh Vohra, a 39-year-old restaurant manager originally from New Delhi, says, "First I began coming to the Ganapati Temple on Bowne Street because I missed family members and I missed my culture. It became a habit that brought me a lot of peace. Now I feel if I didn't have this place to come to, I would be lost." Rev. David Tsang from the Boon Church of the Overseas Chinese Mission says, "We call Bowne Street 'The Holy Land' because we have so many churches, temples, and synagogues. I think the main reason is the number of newcomers who feel they have no place else to turn except to God." Tony Carnes, director of the Research Institute for New Americans in lower Manhattan says, "The New York area is attracting one of the most diverse concentrations of religions that the world has ever seen." Robert Orsi, a scholar of urban religion who teaches at Harvard Divinity School says, "Immigrants often become far more identified with their religion here, in part because they reach out to religious and cultural communities for help, and in part because they discover that religion plays such a key role in American identity." A 2000 survey of religious participation by the Nashville-based Glenmary Research Center indicates that 62.4% of people living in New York metro area are connected with a house of worship and that the 29-county New York metro claims more Catholics, Jews, Muslims and Hindus than any place else in America.

UK Hindu Youth Organize for Deepavali

Posted on 2002/11/3 8:47:02 ( 973 reads )


LONDON, ENGLAND, October 28, 2002: Hundreds of young British Hindus, from various communities and youth groups worked side-by-side in an extraordinary show of solidarity, creativity and inspiration to put on the Get Connected Hindu Youth Festival in London. Over 9,000 visitors flocked to the spectacular Alexandra Palace in North London to attend the free festival, which sought to increase understanding of the Hindu faith and Indian culture amongst the people of Britain. The festival showed a huge interest amongst young British Hindus to study and experience their faith and culture first hand, and not rely solely on interpretations from parents and other family members. Attended by the Mayor of Haringey and his wife, the festival transformed Alexandra Palace into seven theme zones -- food, chill-out, kids, chat, careers, culture and health and vitality. Visitors experienced the healing hands of Reiki and took part in yoga workshops. Vidya Shankar Panchanathan, a coordinator in the kids zone commented, "The happy of faces of both children and parents to me summed up the whole event as Celebrating Life." With the completion of the London event, the Get Connected team are turning to the final step in the trilogy, Get Connected Birmingham, which is taking place on November 16, 2002.

Kerala to Integrate Spirituality and Medicine

Posted on 2002/11/3 8:46:02 ( 1007 reads )


TIRUVANANTHAPURAM, KERALA, October 29, 2002: The government of Kerala is making efforts to integrate spirituality with the medical system in their bid to tackle the growing incidence of mental afflictions in the state. The idea is to ensure availability of a psychiatrist, laboratory, referral infrastructure and other modern facilities in these centers to enable them to better serve patients. It intends to set certain standards for more than 100 spiritual healing centers presently operating in the state and has sent notices to 26 prominent institutions to gauge their reactions about the proposal. "The response has been encouraging. The majority of them are willing to experiment using the scientific tools along with spiritual practices," SMHA Secretary, Dr. Suraraj Mani said. "Spirituality is even part of the medical curriculum in several universities in the United States. The psychiatrists in the country should welcome our initiative since a large number of mentally ill are reluctant to seek modern treatment due to the stigma attached to the mental hospitals in the country," Dr. Mani believes. Spiritual healing centers have a greater social acceptance in India as a large number of mentally ill prefer these centers believing they provide a better feeling of safety and comfort than mental hospitals. Kerala has several temples famous for healing the mentally ill.

A Sari is a Work of Art

Posted on 2002/11/3 8:45:02 ( 1451 reads )


MUMBAI, INDIA, October 25, 2002: It is not just a piece of fabric six yards long and 48 inches wide, says Bela Shanghvi, who for the past twenty years has worked tirelessly to promote the craftsmanship that goes into making an exquisite sari. As a result of changing lifestyles, demand for the sari has fallen along with the rich heritage of textile designs and weaving techniques. It is precisely this heritage that Shanghvi, President of the Maharashtra Crafts Council works to preserve. According to Shanghvi, paithani, the Maharashtran technique of brocade weaving, is a work of art. A sari made of this cloth would take one to one and a half years to complete and would cost at least US$140. Shanghvi has identified about 360 techniques of weaving that are indigenous to India.

East Meets West in Bach and Bharata Natyam

Posted on 2002/11/3 8:44:02 ( 1017 reads )


NEW YORK, UNITED STATES, November 1, 2002: Two classical traditions, one Indian and one Western, will come together in New York during Bharata natyam dance recitals set to the music of renowned classical Western composer Johann Sebastian Bach. "Bach-Bharata Natyam Variations" is part of a project to rethink the Indian dance from a 21st century perspective, says a statement announcing the recitals by danseuse Rajika Puri. Puri will collaborate with classical pianist Marija Ilic for the Bach-Bharata Natyam program to be performed in New York November 9-11.

Swami Dayananda Saraswati Speaks Out on the Religious Conversion Ordinance

Posted on 2002/11/3 8:43:02 ( 996 reads )

Source: The New Indian Express

INDIA, October 21, 2002: Excerpted from an article by Swami Dayananda Saraswati: "I welcome the promulgation of the ordinance by the Government of Tamil Nadu to ban religious conversions 'by use of force or by allurements or by any fraudulent means.' This is a long-awaited step. A step that ensures for the citizens of Tamil Nadu the most basic of human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human rights adopted by General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) in December 1948, holds in Article 18 that 'Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief.' While the the article endorses each person's right to change his or her religion, it does not in any way allow for another person to change a given person's religion. On the contrary, a systematic coercive effort to impose one's religion on another 'by use of force or by allurements or by any fraudulent means' is a clear violation of this basic human right. The denigration of one's religion and the humiliation that accompanies the conversion experience are violations of the dignity ensured to every human being. With the conversion experience come shame, isolation, deep personal conflict and ultimately, the seeds for discord. History testifies to the devastating loss of rich and diverse cultures, gone forever in the aftermath of religious conversion. I appeal to the political leadership of all other States in India to promulgate similar laws and make sure that all possibilities of religious conflict are avoided, and the tradition of religious harmony in India is maintained."

UK Farmer's Market Holds Deepavali Workshop

Posted on 2002/11/2 8:49:02 ( 996 reads )

Source: Evening Herald (Plymouth)

KINGSBRIDGE, ENGLAND, October 21 2002: Children have a chance to celebrate the Hindu Festival of Light, Deepavali, at Kingsbridge Farmers' Market on Saturday, November 2. On top of the usual selection of quality local produce, the monthly market will play host to a special Deepavali workshop run by the play resource charity SPARC. Deepavali, taught as part of the multicultural National Curriculum, is a Hindu celebration of light in which the Goddess Lakshmi is welcomed into people's homes to bring prosperity throughout the year. Children taking part in the free workshop will create special lamps from recycled materials as part of Deepavali, which they can then take home. Kingsbridge Farmers' Market, which is organized by South Hams District Council and South Hams Agricultural Forum, runs on the first Saturday of each month from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Local district councilor Jeff Beer, Chairman of the South Hams Agricultural Forum said, "Special events such as the Deepavali celebration have become a regular feature of the markets and really help to turn them into a great day out for all the family."

Singaporean Buddhists and Hindus Celebrate Festival of Lights

Posted on 2002/11/2 8:48:02 ( 1070 reads )

Source: Media Corporation of Singapore Pte Ltd.

SINGAPORE, November 2, 2002: It was a procession not only to welcome the Festival of Lights and pray for world peace, but also a procession of religious harmony as Buddhist and Hindu communities came together for this recent special event. The divine light procession began from the Leong San Temple at Race Course Road with a short Buddhist prayer. More than 600 people took part in the procession, led by monks and priests of both faiths, together with dragon and lion dancers. And although the procession path was narrow, the aim was broad -- to pray for world peace and encourage religious and racial harmony. The procession ended at the Arulmigu Vel Murugan Temple at Serangoon Road. Indranee Rajah, Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar said, "This is a very significant event, especially in the present times. The purpose of it was to show solidarity among the Hindu and Buddhist community. The symbol is quite significant. They chose light which is the universal symbol of many religions." At the end of the procession, devotees were treated to a multicultural feast.

San Francisco Company Merges Business and Astrology

Posted on 2002/11/2 8:47:02 ( 1016 reads )


SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, October 27, 2002: Tom Mitchell and Bruce Cady, former telecommunications executives, are founders of Jupiter Returns, a new San Francisco company that merges business and astrology. "We want to create a brand name," said Mitchell. "When you want a chart done for yourself or your family, you'll call Jupiter Returns. It will be a company like Starbucks or Microsoft." The goal of the company is to help people create successful business relationships through an understanding of astrology. For the past six months, the business partners have hosted astrology seminars for salespeople at US$35 to $40 per person in San Francisco and New York City. Mitchell, a Boston-educated attorney, also has been busy promoting his book, "Star Salesperson: Using Astrology to Get to Yes." Readers learn how to use a client's sun sign to size up his or her character and style. For years astrologers have helped companies and executives figure out the best timing for business planning, marketing and relocation, said Georgia Stathis, a member of the International Society of Business Astrologers and a faculty member at Kepler College in Washington state, which offers bachelor's and master's degrees in astrological studies. Financier J.P. Morgan is famous for his astrological beliefs. Astrologers often cite his quote, "Millionaires don't use astrology; billionaires do."

Vegetarians Win McDonald's Beef Extracts Case

Posted on 2002/11/2 8:46:02 ( 1148 reads )


NEW YORK, UNITED STATES, October 31, 2002: A US court has approved a US$10 million settlement in a lawsuit by an Indian American against McDonald's Corporation for misleading customers who don't eat meat by using beef extracts in its fries. Punjab-born Harish Bharti, the lead counsel in the case Sharma vs McDonald's, said he was elated with the victory for consumers. Bharti has filed several cases across the U.S. claiming McDonald's used meat additives in its fries and hash browns long after making a 1990 pledge to cook them in vegetable oil. McDonald's has admitted to using beef extract in fries. The court approved the amount, but not the list of organizations to whom the money was to be distributed, which Bharti disputed. "I won on both counts -- I won on the settlement, and at the same time I did not want McDonald's to give the money to its favorites," Bharti said. The article cited documents stating the specific distribution as approved by the court was laid out by Bharti as follows. "The settlement amount shall consist of $10 million, to be placed in a fund for distribution to charitable and/or other tax-exempt organizations to be mutually agreed upon by the parties on or before the effective date." It said the funds would be divided "to the extent practicable" as "60 percent to vegetarian organizations; 20 percent to Hindu and/or Sikh organizations; 10 percent to children's nutrition and/or children's hunger relief organizations; and 10 percent to organizations promoting the understanding of Jewish law, standards and practices with respect to Kosher foods and dietary practices, and the observance of such standards by persons of the Jewish religion."

Women's Spirituality Conference Planned for Washington D.C.

Posted on 2002/11/2 8:45:02 ( 1024 reads )


WASHINGTON D.C., UNITED STATES, November 1, 2002: Sacred Circles: A Celebration of Women's Spirituality 2002, will be held November 8-9 in Washington DC at the Washington National Cathedral. This biannual gathering attracts more than 1,000 women from around the United States who delve into the commonalities they share while honoring their diversities. Representatives of Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Native American and other faith communities will lead workshops focusing on a variety of topics, including peacemaking, prayer, writing, yoga and interfaith families. The two-day event will also offer worship opportunities and spiritual practices, a community art project and walking the labyrinth. Readers may register at "source" above or call 202-537-2221 for more information.

British Parliament Celebrates Deepavali

Posted on 2002/11/1 8:49:02 ( 1098 reads )


LONDON, ENGLAND, November 1, 2002: In what they hope will be the most auspicious new political season of them all, hundreds of British Hindus took incense, diyas (oil lamps), sweets and the spirit of Deepavali for the first time ever into the UK's Victorian houses of Parliament, only to be rebuked by a leading government minister for political apathy. With his mouth full of mithai (a sweet), Home Secretary David Blunkett chided Britain's Hindus for "not voting very much, for any party," a criticism commentators said could imply an insularity and self-centredness at the heart of one of the richest immigrant communities in Britain today. Leading community leaders privately admitted Blunkett was right, but emphasized that change was in the air and Deepavali's arrival in parliament was symbolic. Blunkett's criticism, which were the only fireworks around in the safety-conscious and very inflammable British parliament building, came as prominent Indophile British MPs and those with Indian-dominated constituencies carefully lit oil lamps and chanted "Om shanti, shanti, shanti" -- "Om, peace, peace peace."

Tamil Nadu Passes Anti-Conversion Bill

Posted on 2002/11/1 8:48:02 ( 334 reads )


CHENNAI, INDIA, October 31, 2002: Amid an hour-long acrimonious debate, the anti-conversion bill was passed by the Tamil Nadu Assembly on Thursday with 140 members voting in favor and 73 opposing the motion. In the 234-member house, none remained neutral. Speaker K. Kalimuthu did not participate in the voting. Twenty members, including former Chief Minister, M. Karunanidhi and DMK leader K. Anbazhagan, were not present when the Bill was put to vote, after the entire opposition, barring the BJP, pressed for a division. Replying to the debate, Chief Minister Jayalalitha said the legislation was not directed against any particular religion or minorities. There was no provision under the IPC to prevent conversions and therefore the government felt the need for a legislation to curb forceful conversions through "force and allurement." "Those changing religion on their own volition will not be covered under this legislation." Taking a dig at those opposing the legislation, Jayalalitha quoted the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi as having said that "conversions are harmful to India. If I had the power and could legislate, I should certainly stop all proselytizing." The law was first promulgated as an executive order by the chief minister, but now has passed as a formal legislative act.

Help Sought for Proposed Museum in Fiji

Posted on 2002/11/1 8:47:02 ( 977 reads )


LAUTOKA, FIJI, October 31, 2002: To mark the 100th anniversary of the arrival of South Indians in Fiji from Chennai, the Fijian Sangam has plans to hold a celebration in the spring of 2003 in Lautoka in conjunction with the Annual Sangam Convention 2003. During the celebration, a book entitled "History of Then India Sanmarga Ikya Sangam" by Dr. Som Prakash, University of the South Pacific, will be released. In addition, the Sangam has proposed to construct a Sangam Museum and Archive at Lautoka Sangam Village at Lovu, Lautoka, to be undertaken with the Lautoka Branch, TISIS as a suitable monument to mark the occasion. The Sangam asks any individuals or organizations who are interested in this project and would like to contribute funds or relevant materials for the proposed museum to e-mail "source" above.

Indian Goddesses Bound for Danish Museum

Posted on 2002/11/1 8:45:02 ( 1069 reads )

Source: New India Press

KOLKATA, INDIA, October 24, 2002: Clay images of two Indian Goddesses, Durga and Kali, selected for their mystical qualities and considered representative of Hinduism, will find a permanent place in the Danish National Museum in Copenhagen, Denmark. Shyamal Kanti Chakraborty, curator of Kolkata's Indian Museum, said the Danish foreign ministry had written to him about Copenhagen's desire to promote understanding of Indian art, culture and religion. "The Indian Goddesses will first be showcased in an exhibition at the Danish National Museum under the Images of Asia section. Thereafter the deities will find place in a permanent gallery of the museum," Chakraborty said. Also on display will be various materials and ingredients used in the worship of the two Goddesses and the musical instruments played while conducting the rituals. The worship of Durga over a four day period in autumn constitutes the Bengalis' biggest festival of Durga Puja. Two Danish officials were in Kolkata during Durga Puja celebrations last week studying the religious rites, while taking copious notes for illustrations to accompany the clay images of the Goddesses. The Danish museum will not only exhibit the images of Durga and Kali, but also models of the various stages of making of the icons.

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