Two Faiths, One Love - Greater Acceptance For Interfaith Marriages

It's Obama time, and there is something wonderful in the air - the celebration of multiculturalism. The fact that more and more couples of different faiths and cultures are intermarrying is undeniable. An estimated one third of today's marriages are mixed unions. Over my 12 plus years as an interfaith minister and counselor for intermarrying couples and their families, I have seen some dramatic changes. I see a greater acceptance of such unions simply for the reason that they are not so novel anymore.

Can Interfaith Marriages Really Work?

Does religion really matters when it comes to marriage? Can it make two souls become one as well? Does it work for a Catholic and an Islam? Most of the time, religion is one of the reasons why some relationship don't work.
Let's talk about Annie and John's love story. Annie's parents are devout catholic and John's are a devout Islam. Both have strong convictions on what they believe in and no one wanted to give up on their faith. Yet for two souls with different faith and beliefs to be married as one is something to really work hard for to make it work.

Reflection on Afghanistan - A Message For the Wider World

One of the main reasons why the British Army is considered to be the best in the world is due to its regimental system, established and perpetuated for hundreds of years because it works. At the heart of it is esprit de corps, a sense of comradeship, loyalty to a cause and each other, a bond that can be stronger even than the bond of family.

Marathi Culture

Culture of a clan is based on the rituals followed in the clan and one such great ritual is marriage. The culture of a community or language clan could be very easily identified if one could attend their marriage and check out all the proceedings they follow during the marriage. Indian culture has always involved grandiose traditions, religious depiction and social values insisting unity. The colours and art in a culture could widely be seen during the festival times. Marathi people live, majorly in Maharashtra, which is the third largest state in India, and has the second largest population in India. It has varied customs and traditions yet the culture of the Marathi people have not changed or deteriorated over time. However, there were many traditions changed to accommodate the new fashions.

The 14th Dalai Lama Short Biography

The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan people. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 and has travelled extensively around the world offering the message of Tibetan Buddhism.
The Dalai Lama was born in the small Tibetan village of Takster in Northern Tibet. His original name being Tenzin Gyatso. At the age of 2 Tenzin was recognized as the reincarnation of his predecessor, the 13th Dalai Lama. Thus from an early age the Dalai Lama spent many years studying Tibetan scriptures and he completed a doctorate in Tibetan Buddhist philosophy by the age of 25.
The Dalai Lama means Ocean of Wisdom. Lama also means "Guru" or teacher. The Dalai Lama's are believed to be reincarnations of the Bodhisattva of compassion. These are beings who choose to reincarnate to serve humanity. As the Dalai Lama says himself.
"The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes."
Despite being a man of peace the Dalai Lama has had to face the consequences of the Chinese occupation of Tibet. In 1950 the Chinese army entered into Tibet and began to degenerate the Tibetan culture and religion. Despite many attempted negotiations and non-violent protests the Dalai Lama was finally forced into exile in 1959. With many followers the Dalai Lama fled to Dharamsala in India. Since 1960 the Dalai Lama has maintained a Tibetan government in exile from this base in Dharamsala. Despite the turbulent and difficult times the Dalai Lama has lived through he has sought to maintain a spiritual outlook and learn to deal with life's challenges, even his "enemies"
"Feelings of anger, bitterness, and hate are negative. If I kept those inside me they would spoil my body and my health. They are of no use."
"Infinite altruism is the basis of peace and happiness. If you want altruism, you must control hate and you must practice patience. The main teachers of patience are our enemies."
- Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama has sought to preserve parts of the Tibetan culture through educational and cultural institutions. He has also sought to raise awareness of the plight of Tibet to the wider world.
The Dalai Lama has travelled extensively in the West meeting with many religious and political leaders. The Dalai Lama has said that there is a need for a variety of faiths and religions so that it can suit the different temprements of people. He advises people to think very carefully before changing their religion. He has often said there is an underlying unity between the different world religions.
" All religions are essentially the same in their goal of developing a good human heart so that we may become better human beings."
In 1989 the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel citation read:
"The Committee wants to emphasize the fact that the Dalai Lama in his struggle for the liberation of Tibet consistently has opposed the use of violence. He has instead advocated peaceful solutions based upon tolerance and mutual respect in order to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of his people."
The Dalai Lama himself has often described himself as being a simple Tibetan Monk. He rises at 4am to meditate and prayer. The Dalai Lama has also written many books on Buddhism and ways to inner peace.

Save The Palestinian Cultural Heritage

Palestinian Cultural Heritage is not limited to a specific religious group or chronological framework like most source countries of the Mediterranean and the Middle East. It encompasses an incredible diachronic and multi-cultural spectrum of cultural expressions. This ranges from tangible cultural heritage, which includes:
movable cultural heritage (paintings, sculptures, coins, manuscripts)
immovable cultural heritage (monuments, archaeological sites)
And also encompasses intangible cultural heritage expressed through:
oral traditions, performing arts, rituals
As well as natural heritage seen in:
natural sites with cultural aspects such as cultural landscapes, physical, biological or geological formations
This cultural wealth is embedded in Palestinian identity through the ages. Its rich past can be visualised as a mosaic of colourful little stones, each with its function and place; it is the result of religious variety and a strong diachronic and omnipresent multi-culturalism.
In this article, I present a collation of concerns on the situation of Palestinian Cultural Heritage at Hebron al-Khalil with a focus on the Ibrahemi Mosque. This city boasts remains from the Canaanite culture of the Bronze Age ca. 3,500 B.C.E, through the early historic ages, the Roman and Christian periods, the Middle Ages, and all the way to our era. Yet, this diachronic multi-cultural past is denied and treated with selectivity with regard to its value and identity, both in theory and in practice. Selectivity mostly effects restrictions to its current Muslim identity and religious practices as linked to the Ibrahemi Mosque.
Today, the story of Hebron and its monuments is attempted to be re-written through a number of events and actions, which constitute violations of the full spectrum of Cultural and other Fundamental Human Rights related to the existence of Palestinian Identity and Palestinian Cultural Heritage. The recent decision of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, declares that the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem, both of which are in the Palestinian Territories and under the auspices of the PNA and the Palestinian Antiquities Authority, though under Israeli control according to Oslo accords, are to be added to the list of Israel's 'national' heritage sites that the government plans to promote. It is reported and useful to retain that this decision was promulgated during a cabinet meeting in the northern town of Tel Hai, where the Prime Minister precise that rightist religious party Shas persuaded him to add the two sites to the list. The process and motivation for these actions is recounted in Mr. Netanyahu's words:
"Our existence depends not only on the IDF or our economic resilience - it is anchored in...the national sentiment that we will bestow upon the coming generations and in our ability to justify our connection to the land,".
Similar intense religious and nationalistic statements, supported by the annexation and physical intervention on key cultural and archaeological sites, are by no means new for Israel. Its systematisation, as reported by Israeli archaeologists begins shortly after the 1967 war and the annexation of the Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem. The Palestinian Territories are interesting 'culturally' and Israel has heightened awareness and appreciation on the potential of culture. The most recent statistics on the number of archaeological sites mapped within the Palestinian Territories, record the identification of 5400 archaeological sites. Already, 900 sites have been excavated by Israel implementing on the ground the policy of cultural appreciation.
The case of the Cave of the Patriarchs and the Ibrahemi Mosque in al-Khalil merits special attention. This is due to its perception, state and use as an 'active monument' since 1206, of cultural and religious importance, which elevates it to the status of 'living heritage'. This is to be differentiated from other types of heritage, such as the local archaeological site of Tell Rumeida whose activities seized with the end of the Canaanite culture.
Tradition holds that the Cave of the Patriarchs is was the first plot of land that Abraham the Patriarch bought, and where he and his family tomb lies today. The first enclosure to the caves was built under the auspices of Herod the Great. Under the Byzantine Empire, a basilica was built on the spot, later ruined by the Persians in 614 C.E. Upon the remains of the Christian Basilica, the Ibrahemi Mosque was built in 637. The Ummayads equally contributed significantly to its restoration after severe earthquakes. The Crusaders recaptured the site in 1100 and turned it into a Church and in 1188 Salâh Ad-Dîn Al-Ayyûbî recaptured it and turned it into a Mosque with limited access for Christians to worship. In the Mamluk period, important works were undertaken to turn it into a proper Mosque and Jews were hence forbidden to enter. As known to date, a Jewish synagogue has never existed on the spot. Since 1967 around 3/4 of the Mosque was confiscated and benches and other ornaments were added gradually to transform it into a synagoguial space. Although to the Jewish faith it constitutes a Holy Place, the investment is limited and only recent.
From this very brief outline of major activities, it is seen that there have always been shared and conflicting interests in the maintenance and preservation of the character of this site, claimed by all three monotheistic religions in their efforts of self-presentation. Its status has followed that of the two major occupying religions, Christianity and Islaam both of which were eager to impose a specific religious character. The most tolerant period was the Mamluk with limited Christian access inside the Mosque. The Mamluks forbade Jews from entering the site, only allowing them as close as the 5th step on a staircase at the southeast, but after some time this was increased to the 7th step.
Yet, proportionately, most works and expenses undertaken, as well as 'duration' past and current with regard to religious heritage is strongly in favour of the Muslim community as attested to by 14 centuries of history. The mosque also acquired further importance during time as a community charitable centre. It came to include a school, a dike, a drinking fountain, a hospital for the mentally disabled and a mail centre on its grounds that were constructed during the Mamluk period. Hebron today is a city which boasts a strong Muslim population and the Ibrahemi Mosque is under the auspices of the Islamic Waqf, as other holy sites in Palestine.
Israel continues to deny the cultural and religious significance of the Mosque, in its efforts to assimilate it to its national agenda. This situation in Hebron today with regard to Muslim monuments and holy places is in constant deterioration. It reminds us of the events of 2007.
As reported:
'The settlers, under the protection of the Israeli army, stormed the two places then took the furniture out in the street and threatened to burn it during a coming Jewish holiday. Aqtab mosque and the nearby Islamic Waqf offices are closed by the army since five years were the army do not allow the Palestinian residents from praying in the at mosque in the same time soldiers allow Israeli settlers from attacking and destroying the mosque in order to take it and turn it into a Jewish synagogue.'
The current agenda of Israel is to create a national sentiment through ground actions of presence to justify its connection to the land under occupation. This misallocation of force and active cleansing of targeted cities and sites that preserve its local character are assaults against Cultural Heritage and the Right to Culture. This further inhibits the practice of fundamental Human Rights, such as the Freedom of Religion and the Right to Development. This applies to both the Christian and Muslim populations of Palestine. From the example of al-Khalil it is demonstrated that the targeting of Cultural Heritage is a burning Humanitarian issues for the Palestinians which merits action and we encourage that the preponderant culture of impunity that Israel benefits from is levered so that the damages are halted and that Palestinian Cultural Heritage may survive.

Domingo Vilalta - The Case

Miami-Dade police are not saying if a body found in Biscayne Bay is that of a man who went missing after he fell or was pushed off a boat near the Broad Causeway Sunday night. The man’s body was spotted floating in Pelican Harbor early Tuesday morning. Police say it will be up to the Medical Examiner to confirm that the body is that of 22-year-old Domingo Vilalta. A homicide investigation was launched into Vilalta’s disappearance following reports that he might have been pushed off the boat. “They pushed him off the boat on purpose,” Jennexis Castranos, the victim’s cousin said. “They were having a discussion and they pushed him off.”

It happened around 8:20 p.m. According to investigators, Domingo Vilalta was out on the water with a group of people who were partying in two boats off the Broad Causeway. As the vessels departed, they noticed that Vilalta was missing; both boats returned and searched the area. But they couldn’t find Domingo Vilalta.

Several Miami-Dade Fire Rescue and police boats searched the waters off the Broad Causeway and Bay Harbor Islands for several hours. At 11 p.m. the search was suspended for the night.

On Monday they hit the water again, only this time is was deemed a recovery mission. Several members of Domingo Vilalta’s family joined the search efforts in a private boat.

So far no arrests have been made as police try to determine the circumstances that led to Domingo Vilalta being in the water.

Frida Kahlo Biography - Painting Realism, Symbolism, Surrealism

Frida Kahlo was born in Mexico, in the year 1907. It was very unfortunate that an artist of such a huge talent did not survive for long. She died July 13 1957. "I hope the exit is joyful - and I hope never to return." This was what Frida had written before few days of her death.
The Artist: If we closely look at the paintings done by Frida Kahlo we would not miss seeing the use of vibrant colours. Her style of painting was strongly influenced by the local culture of her country of birth, Mexico. In her paintings, we can see the influence of European masters. Her work seems influenced by the art movements that had stirred the whole of Europe: the realism, the surrealism, and symbolism.
As it happens in many painters, art work of Frida had received no or very less recognition during her life time. But Frida has a typical reason for that. She was wife of a great painter of Mexico. Her husband Diego Rivera was a renowned painter. So during her life time, she remained an artist being shadowed by popularity of her husband.
The Art: She often said that: "I paint myself because I am often alone and I am the subject I know best." She had painted numerous self portraits. In many paintings, she had used her face as one of the figure to be painted. She had tried injecting her feelings in her paintings. It was a public talk that her marital life was not an easy going one.

Frida Kahlo Biography - The Story of an Extraordinarily Courageous Painter

Frida Kahlo was a famous Mexico born painter who often painted her own portrait, depicting her painfully unstable and tragic life. Frida was one of the four daughters born to Hungarian-Jewish Father, Guillermo Kahlo, and the mother of Spanish-Mexican descent, Matilde Calderón y Gonzalez.
Frida Kahlo wanted to be a doctor; destiny had something else planned for her though. A Polio survivor, at the age of 15, Frida Kahlo joined the Premedical Program at the National Preparatory School in Mexico. As fate had it though, Kahlo met with a tragic bus accident, which ended her three years of training. In this accident, Frida Kahlo was gravely injured and she spent a year on bed recovering from the fractures of her Back, Collarbone& Ribs, Pelvis, and Shoulder & Foot injuries. In addition, an Iron Handrail pierced her Abdomen and Uterus, which seriously damaged Frida's reproductive ability. Despite the fact that she underwent 30 operations, Frida Kahlo spent the rest of her life in constant physical pain and trauma. At this point of time, her interests actually changed from being a doctor to being a full- fledged painter.
Since the accident left her in great deal of pain, Frida Kahlo expressed it through her paintings. She painted self-portraits to keep herself occupied during the three months she was bed-ridden. Frida Kahlo's mother furnished her a special Easel, customized to Frida's needs of painting in bed. Frida Kahlo's dad presented her with a box of Oil Paints and Brushes.
Kahlo had deep influence of Native Mexican and European Cultures, which is reflected through her use of Bright Colors and Dramatic Symbolism. Frida Kahlo's paintings also depict different Visual Art Styles including, Realism, Symbolism, and Surrealism. In addition, symbolic representations such as, monkey, and Christian & Jewish influences can also be noted in Frida Kahlo's paintings.
At the age of 21, Frida Kahlo fell in love with a Mexican Muralist, Diego Rivera, who was 20 years elder to her. The couple eventually married in 1929. Their relationship witnessed several upheavals and survived through infidelities, the pressures of Rivera's career, a divorce & a remarriage, and most importantly Frida Kahlo's poor health. All this while, Kahlo continued to use her paintings as a medium to express the entire physical and psychological trauma that she went through. During the 1940s, Frida Kahlo enjoyed considerable success, as her first solo exhibition was held in New York. Frida Kahlo died on July 13, 1954, due to Pulmonary Embolism.
Frida Kahlo assumed soaring fame in the 80s with a number of books being published on her challenging life and her artworks, which also included an explosion of Kahlo-inspired films, plays, and calendars. All this soon transitioned Frida Kahlo's social stature from a struggling girl to an authentic cult figure. Her house, La Casa Azul, was posthumously converted into a museum that houses a number of her artworks and numerous relics of her personal life.
A great painter indeed, Frida Kahlo, through her paintings, exhibited her personal "painful" experiences, which included her marriage and the numerous operations. Definitely, Kahlo's artworks are a symbol of her great courageous spirit and her conviction to survive.