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Lea Levyby Lea Levy

On Tuesday night, two Wabanaki Native Americans came from Maine to teach us about the Maine-Wabanaki Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Esther Attean provided us with historical background and gave us a brief history of the Native Americans’ experiences with the federal government of the United States. The 1755 Bounty Proclamation gave rewards for capturing Wabanaki dead or alive. The 1819 Civilization Fund Act’s goal was to ‘civilize the Indian,’ the 1830 Indian Removal Act to ‘make the Indian disappear.’ In 1882 Native American religious rituals were banned and they did not gain the right to religious freedom until 1978. The goal of the 1887 Dawes Act was for white buyers to profit off of selling indigenous land in individual plot sizes, something the natives never would have thought of. In 1954 they gained the right to vote in federal elections.

These attitudes have negatively affected child welfare policies, which is the focus of this TRC. Denise Altvater, another speaker, was a victim of the 1958 experiment to prove that Native American children were better off in white homes. She was put in a foster home with her six sisters and they were tortured, starved, raped and beaten for four years while the state did nothing. Finally they moved the girls to a different home, one they did well in. But, one day, without warning, they were sent back to the reservation. The experiment had failed, as most native people had expected it to, and the children who were taken into white homes for this experiment had suffered tremendously and still do today because of the trauma that they experienced.

Rather than an apology, the Wabanaki are simply seeking recognition on the part of the majority of the American population. Education plays a big role in this process, and I hope one day, that Native American history will be taught in all schools so that we can move forward and improve the lives of these people who have suffered from genocidal policies and oppression for centuries.

Sarah Burnsby

Sarah Burns

The Shelton Auditorium in the Christian Theological Center was full on the evening of Thursday, February , 19.  Attendees from Butler University and the Indianapolis commnity gathered to hear David Carlson and Ayesha Butt speak on the topic of ISIS/ISIL.  It would be shocking to find someone that has not heard of ISIS.  Unfortunately, it would be equally shocking to find many people who know much about the issue.

Confusion about ISIS is understandable considering the basic coverage from mainstream media and the horrible, but effective PR stunts that ISIS pulls.   ISIS wants to make the front page for fear and recruitment purposes, and they are succeeding.  Although the root of their malice is complicated, both speakers offer advice on how we can combat the evil.

Carlson and Butt agree that interfaith relationships are the best way to combat ISIS.  ISIS thrives on the polarization of religions, and the last thing that they want to see is the construction of interfaith bridges.  Building those bridges can start with education and standing up to bigotry.  Ignorance leads many people to link all Muslims with ISIS when in fact Muslims condemn ISIS and terrorism.  ISIS is a group of violent extremists and in no way represents the whole Muslim community.

So why should we strive to be like Omaha, Nebraska?  In Omaha they have started The Tri-Faith Initiative, which is a partnership of the three Abrahamic faith groups – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Tri-Faith Initiative plans to build a Tri-Faith Center to co-locate with Temple Israel, a new church for the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska and a mosque for the American Institute of Islamic Studies and culture.  The buildings will form a multi-faith neighborhood of collaboration.

Carlson made it clear that religion has the ability to, “build walls of separation, or bridges of understanding.”  Let’s all strive to be more like Omaha, Nebraska because the more bridges that we build, the weaker the power of ISIS will become.

Reconciliation in Islamic Thought and Practice

Lea Levyby Lea Levy

Both Dr. Marcia Hermansen and Dr. Ebrahim Moosa are interesting and intelligent people who have had experiences around the world and have come to study Islam after traveling along long and convoluted paths.

Both speakers see Islam as a source of peace and knowledge. The ideas of forgiveness with the divine and between people exist in all of the Abrahamic traditions, and in Islam, the Prophet Mohammed sets the example for forgiveness, peace making, and not wishing ill fortune onto anyone.

Moosa responded to Hermansen’s talk mostly by agreeing that for reconciliation to be possible we must first acknowledge G-d. Reconciliation with G-d is a model for reconciliation between peoples.

He opened his talk by talking about Muslims’ relationship to Allah and his truth. Once we have surrendered to the creator, we can acknowledge that the horizontal relationships that we have with other people are always mediated by the vertical axis that we have with G-d. He said that someone who is ungrateful of his or her relationship with G-d is an infidel, and cannot live a good life. Giving thanks is therefore one of the most important elements of Islam.

Recently, many politically motivated assertions have been made that Islam is not compatible with the western way of thinking and with secular democracies. However, Tuesday’s talk shows that this is far from the truth. It is very dangerous to generalize to this point. While it is true that some radical extremists hold views incompatible with western democracy, not all Muslims do. Islam like all other religions is trying to find its place in the modern world and to reinterpret certain texts along with the times.

Peace, justice, and reconciliation are central to Islamic beliefs, and this talk demonstrated that a change in the widely held perception that Muslims are violent needs to take place.


By Hanna Holman

This past semester, I have had the joy of interning at the Center for Interfaith Cooperation. The Center for Interfaith Cooperation(CIC) is a non-profit organization that aims to support existing connections between faith communities, foster interfaith opportunities through social, cultural, and educational interactions, and connect interfaith communities through volunteer service and civic engagement. Through the course of the semester, I learned the inner workings of how a non-profit runs and the tremendous amount of work that is put in to make sure these organizations thrive.

While at the CIC, I was able to sit in on many board meetings, help with one of their biggest events, and was able to use my organizational communication and leadership major in an effective way. The CIC’s board is comprised of 40 individuals which is a lot of members and makes for a very interesting dynamic. It brought individuals from a multitude of different faith backgrounds and allowed them to work together towards something that was important to all of them, interfaith. I got to help plan one of their biggest events right at the beginning of my internship and really helped me get my feet on the ground. This event is called the Festival of Faiths and takes place in downtown Indy.

Through this internship, I have learned a lot about myself and working within a non-profit. I understand it takes a lot of dedication and hard work to make an organization successful. The CIC allowed me to partake in the activities that peaked my interest and allowed me to pursue the projects that I wanted to. Overall, it was a great experience and a great organization to be apart of.

by Elise Giacobbe

For the fall semester of 2014 I started an internship at the Benedict Inn Retreat and Conference Center through Butler’s Center for Faith and Vocation. The first reason why I wanted to do an internship through them was to get back into my faith. In high school I was very devoted through volunteering and attending many services so I wanted to get back into the swing of things since college kind of interrupted that. And this place was the perfect start.

At the Benedict Inn I am working with the marketing and promotions department. My supervisor is part of why my experience has been so wonderful. I feel comfortable to ask any questions on my mind, the lessons I am learning go beyond the marketing and social media aspects I’m working on and, the relationships I have made with the sisters around me are incredible. At first I would admit I was pretty nervous, as anyone should be going into a new environment but in a short time I felt right at home.

All the programs I am organizing and planning are mainly religion based. The advent, movie nights and speakers are my favorite ones to research. Another area where I really enjoy the religious aspect is noon praise everyday I am at the center. I wasn’t raised Catholic but that kind of makes it even more interesting to me. Seeing women so devoted to something is inspiring. These things have pushed me to get back into volunteer work and just helping people. I plan on digging deeper into my faith and I want to continue to be involved with and learn as much as I can in the field of communications at the same time.


The Art of Peacebuilding

Lea Levyby Lea Levy, CFV Interfaith Intern

A panel of artists came together with the Desmond Tutu Center for Peace, Reconciliation, and Global Justice on Friday to talk about the art of peacebuilding. Though not each panelist is an expert in the same art form, they all have something in common; they recognize the power of art and its success in peacebuilding. Art is something that transcends borders, ethnicities, and religions. This was demonstrated by Matthew Boulton, the president of and a professor of theology at the Christian Theological Seminary, when he simply sang the word “take” and the entire audience joined in and sang “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” together. Though many of us didn’t know each other, that simple song brought us together for a short period of time. Other panelists were Michael Williams, the Butler University Department of Theater Christel DeHaan Visiting International Theater Artist and an accomplished opera director, Dr. Siobhan McEvoy-Levy, an associate professor of political science at Butler University, as well as community members Ben Asaykeww, Justin Wade, Patrick McCarney, Alex Zaslav, Alec Stubbs, Julia Lloyd, and Alex Schooling. Each has experience in theater, dance, music, visual arts, or comedy, and each told a personal story of peacebuilding through the arts. Wade is the Executive Artistic Director of the Young Actors Theater in Indianapolis that reaches out to the community’s youth to give them an experience in the arts and keep them from turning to violence. Asaykeww is the artistic director of Q Artistry, and wrote a play for veterans dealing with PTSD, addiction, and physical difficulties to perform, giving them confidence and the chance to be seen as human beings. Each of these experiences has been very powerful for those involved, and has really made a difference in people’s lives, especially for those living in conflict.

by Lea Levy – Center for Faith and Vocation Interfaith Intern attended the Ann Katz Festival of Books and Art with Butler Hillel friends on Thursday, November 13, 2014.

Who is the hero of heroes? … One who makes an enemy into a friend. –Avot d’Rabbi Natan, 23

Return evil with good and your enemy will become a devoted friend. –Koran 41:34

Rabbi Amy Eilberg, the first female ordained in a conservative synagogue, who began her career in Indianapolis, returned here this week to present her first book From Enemy to Friend: Jewish Wisdom and the Pursuit of Peace. The title is derived from the two quotes above, one from the Jewish tradition and the other from the Muslim. She described the process of writing this book to be much like giving birth. The idea for the book was conceived at several different periods in time, the first being in the wake of the second Intifada, and the another being during a trip to Israel in which she witnessed a conversation between Jewish Israeli and Arab Israeli high school students organized by a peace group. In witnessing this, she began to understand the importance of story-telling and dialogue. These humanize people. When stories are told friendships can be formed and experiences shared. In doing research on why arguments and political disagreements can turn so ugly, she discovered that the neurological explanation for this is very primal; it is fight or flight. The reason we tense up and clench our fists during a heated argument is because we feel that, since our beliefs form such a huge part of our identity, our very existence is being threatened in that moment. In order to find peace, we must realize that in any conflict the intentions are never actually to exterminate the other side, and that we should be open-minded when we enter any dialogue. In this way, we may one day achieve a sustainable peace throughout the world.


by Lea Levy, CFV Interfaith Intern

Lea LevyOn Saturday, October 25th, several representatives of Butler’s religious and non-religious groups came together for a day of service and dialogue. We participated in an event organized by Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc., and planted 200 native Indiana trees in the Fairfax neighborhood in order to help divert storm water from the area combined sewer system. The weather was beautiful, and the event was fun and informative.

After taking part in the service event, we all drove back to the Center for Faith and Vocation for a pizza lunch and a discussion. Representatives from the Secular Student Association, Hillel, the Orthodox Christian Fellowship, and Catholics not affiliated with the Butler Catholic Community partook in a discussion about faith, service, and environment.

The conversation ebbed and flowed into many different areas of discussion, and was very interesting for every person involved. We described the importance of service and the environment in each of our faiths, and focused particularly on the symbolism of the tree, because of what we had done earlier in the day.

A tree is, in many faiths, traditions, and belief systems, a symbol of life. Trees very obviously symbolize life and the cycle of life because of the visible element of leaves changing colors, falling off, and then growing back. It can in many faiths be a symbol of life as well as life after death. It not only represents life in the religious sphere, but in a very clear scientific way as well; it provides oxygen for us to breathe and therefore live.

In telling stories and dialoguing about our different belief systems, we were able to create a very understanding environment, and all learned a lot.

Interfaith Service Event

by Lea Levy, CFV Interfaith Intern

fob_jewish_german (2)On October 16, 2014, the Indianapolis’ Jewish Community Center hosted an event called the Jewish/German Dialogue Project on the opening night of their annual Ann Katz Festival of Books. This was the first event of its kind that I have ever attended. Though I have read a lot and seen a lot of movies about the Shoah, I have never been to an event in which two artists, one on either side of the conflict, have had a dialogue about their country’s histo

Karen Baldner, a German Jew, and Björn Krondorfer, a non-Jewish German, have been working together for a decade to create artwork that expresses their reaction to the Holocaust. Though they have different histories based on their religious background, they have a very intertwined past. They both grew up in Frankfurt in the 1950’s, both had a grandfather that they never knew who had passed away during or as a result of World War II, and they both went to the United States to study.

Their artwork was rich with symbolism and emotion. One piece was a book that they put together through the mail. One would add a few pages then send it to the other and they would continue in this way until the work was completed. The outer pages of the book were a goat’s profile, but as they moved more towards the center, the pages became outlines of Karen and Björn’s profiles. This symbolized the scapegoating of each other that is ultimately reconciled through dialogue. The pages with Karen’s profile showed elements of her past, and the same with Björn’s pages.

By speaking about their intertwined pasts and about the process of reconciliation and understanding of each other’s pasts, they create a beautiful and peaceful environment through their work that reaches across the abyss and creates a new German identity of understanding and coexistence.

by Lea Levy

Lea LevyDr. Charles Villa-Vicencio was, much like Dr. Alan Boesak, a very eloquent speaker. Though they grew up on different sides of the conflict, they had both been very involved in the struggle for human rights in South Africa, and are still fighting hard to create a reality of justice throughout the world.

Villa-Vicencio believes that full reconciliation takes several steps; negative peace, negative reconciliation, and finally, positive reconciliation. Negative peace is simply a cease-fire, and a commitment to political coexistence. It does not include reconciliation because there is no obligatory dialogue between the people, and they are not forced to respect and understand each other, simply to coexist. In negative reconciliation, there is again no violence, but there is still not a lot of dialogue. There is argument instead of fighting. There is scapegoating instead of reconciliation. Finally, positive reconciliation is the development of processes to deal with the trauma. The government must create institutions, such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to deal with the past and to make reparations. The end product is the achievement of the Kingdom of G-d, a supreme peace throughout the land and an achievement of unity in the midst of diversity. Though South Africa has made reparations and have reconciled across the black and white divide, there is still a legacy of racism and many economic problems. Villa-Vicencio believes that South Africa has settled for what is easy, and has failed to keep its eyes on the goal.

Boesak agrees that South Africans have failed to keep their eyes on the goal, and that they are settling. His definition of positive reconciliation is radical reconciliation; a reconciliation that is intricately tied to justice, and restitution of hope, and religion can play a very positive or a very detrimental role in this process.


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