International Association of Religious Freedom: US Chapter


Winter 2017 Newsletter: Re Imagining Interfaith

IARF U.S. Chapter Newsletter
Volume 16 Issue 2
Winter 2017

U.S. Chapter Board
Barbara Kres Beach, George Beach, Betsy Darr, Doris Hunter, H. Roy Kaplan, Gale Maynard, Nyla McCulloch

Betsy Darr – to the Council

Rev. Richard Boeke, Rev. Eric Cherry, Rev. Abhi Janamanchi, Rev. Richard Kellaway, Rev. Peter Richardson, Rev. William Shulz, Rev. Robert Traer

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Announcing: Reimagining Interfaith Cooperation Conference, IARF World Conference/Congress 2018 to be held in Washington, D.C.

Next summer, from July 29 to August 1, the IARF will hold its quadrennial congress at George Washington University, in the heart of D.C. Although many of the familiar elements will be present-keynote speaker(s), plenaries, business meeting with election of officers for the next four years, circle groups for building personal relationships-there will be much that is new and different, starting with the name: Reimagining Interfaith Conference 2018.

The theme, A Gathering of Multi-Faith Leaders and Local Activists Working Together in the Face of Fear, will focus us on activism as well as connecting across religions.

The most striking difference is that the UUA has invited a number of co-sponsors, including United Religions Initiative and Religions for Peace. They are fully involved in the planning, and we expect attendees to include some of their members.

Tracks include:

1. Cultivating Inclusive Communities in the Face of Religious Discrimination
2. Community Organizing: Initiating and Sustaining Social Change Movements
3. Staying “Woke”: Recognizing Privilege, Challenging Systemic Oppression
4. Interfaith Organizing in a Changing Spiritual Landscape
5. Making a Movement: Building Skills to Bring Interfaith to the Next Level

You can Register Now at: to receive up-to-date information. The registration fee includes programs, local transportation, all meals, and cultural events.

General: Ranging from $295 (early registration) to $400 (late registration)
Young Adult (18-35): $100 and requests are considered for financial assistance
Sunday only (Keynote Panel/Reception): $50
Per Day Registration (Tuesday or Wednesday): $125
Accommodations: On campus dormitory suites available with full bathroom, kitchenette, and one bedroom with four beds can be shared by 1-4 people. Total cost per person for 3 nights, depending on the number of people sharing the suite is: 4 people : $146; 3 people: $188; 2 people: $276; 1 person: $540. Local hotels are available ranging from $175 to $225 per night for double rooms.


For the past 28 years I have helped to organize the Hillsborough County Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Interfaith Service in Tampa, Florida. As this newsletter is released, preparations are underway for this year’s event. Attendance varies from a few hundred to more than a thousand, often depending on the racial climate in our community. As I begin to fill out the program with choirs from different faith and ethnic traditions and speakers who remind attendees about Dr. King’s message of tolerance and cooperation for the betterment of all, I wonder how many people will attend this year’s event to demonstrate their commitment to his ideals and show solidarity in the face of growing insularism and hostility to “the other”.

The United States is one of the most diverse societies in the world. Over 100 million people in this country have relatives who came here through that great entrance known as Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954, and 400,000 Africans survived the Middle Passage to land in North America as slaves. But before the deluge of immigrants from Europe, millions of indigenous people, Native Americans, resided throughout the North, Central and South American continents. They, too, were God-fearing and worshipped spirits for assistance in survival against hostile environments and their enemies. It is thought that these continents were populated by as many as 50 million indigenous people before they were nearly extinguished by disease and war brought by Europeans.

One would hope that the passing centuries have taught us to become more tolerant and understanding of different cultures at home and abroad; to respect the environment; practice civility with one another; welcome “the strangers” who seek refuge and better lives among us; and collaborate to make our communities and society a better place for everyone. That is the message that Dr. King tried to convey during his brief time here. It is more relevant now than ever before with the rise of the Alt-Right, denigration of legitimate news organizations, repudiation of climate science, and the rise of the cult of the bully. I hope you will attend a commemoration service for Dr. King in your community and continue to stand for intercultural and interfaith cooperation.

IARF News from the United States:

On September 13, 2017 eight United States IARF members met at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Belmont, Massachusetts to discuss the status of IARF in the U.S. and the chapter’s role in the upcoming IARF World Conference in Washington, D.C. from July 29-August 1, 2018 at George Washington University. Participants came from around Massachusetts and as far away as Florida and Rockland, Maine.

There was unanimous agreement that the U.S. chapter of the IARF should have an active presence at the World Conference. Providing an interfaith forum or holding a session on the methodology for conducting interfaith dialogues in our communities were popular concepts. The participants asked the Rev. Peter Richardson and Dr. Roy Kaplan to develop plans for these projects so they may be integrated, along with IARF business meetings, into the World Conference.

Below is a picture of the participants at the meeting standing L-R: Roy Kaplan, Richard Kellaway, Doris Hunter, Gale Maynard. Seated L-R: Peter Richardson, Nyla McCulloch, John Gibbons

Members and friends of the U.S. chapter of the IARF are encouraged to renew their memberships to the organization so they can continue to receive this newsletter and keep up with current chapter activities. Please use the form below. Your dues support the work of the US IARF chapter, our membership in IARF International, and the work of projects and programs that advance religious freedom and interfaith collaboration and understanding. Additional contributions for the Gehrmann Fund to enable grants to students to attend IARF events are also welcome. Membership renewals and contributions to the Gehrmann Fund can be sent to:

IARF U.S. Chapter Membership 2018:

Please make check payable to: IARF, US Chapter

Annual Membership: $30
Household Membership: $50

Additional contribution to the Diether Gehrmann Fund for Young Adults: ____________
Total Enclosed: ____________
Name: ____________
Address: ____________
Email: ____________
Phone: ____________
Cell: ____________

Please send this page to:
IARF c/o: Nyla McCulloch, Membership Chair, 100 Woodland Road, Malden, MA 02148

Heads up:

IARF U.S. members will shortly be receiving a survey designed to assess their perception of the U.S. IARF chapter and the direction(s) it should take. We greatly appreciate your taking the time to complete this survey and return it. THANK YOU!

For recent IARF news and information, please visit and also visit the Facebook page-Friends of the IARF.

International News of the IARF:

Francie Markham’s project at the Fairfield Children’s Home in Old Mutare, Zambabwe is going strong. This orphanage houses 80 children and would greatly benefit from your additional contributions. They can be sent along with your membership renewal to: IARF c/o Nyla McCulloch, Membership Chair, 100 Woodland Road, Malden, MA 02148. Thank you for considering this.

Brother Albert Xaviour of the IARF-HRRC of India informed us that his organization recently conducted two events to promote human rights and religious tolerance in an increasingly problematic and testy interfaith climate. Noting that a recent study found that more than a third of teenagers in India reported they faced sexual, physical and emotional problems, his Human Rights Defenders group conducted training programs in Bangalore, Karnataka and Madurai, Tamilnadu to improve understanding among teens about these issues and help them recognize and cope with indicators of stress related to them. The group is also planning a two-day conference on interfaith dialogue, “Religion Creates the Culture of Peace,” in February, 2018.

From the IARF chapter in Bangladesh we learned that Dr. Kazi Nurul Islam, President of the chapter, led the group in celebrating Shri Krishna, known as the Janmastami Celebration for the birth of Krishna through a seminar “The Inner Significance and the Philosophical Implications of the Advent of Shri Krishna.” The event featured a number of dignitaries, including the keynote speaker, Professor Hirendra Nath Biswas, President of the Bangladesh National Hindu Reform Society, Professor Niranjan Adhikari, Professor in the Department of World Religions and Culture at the University of Dhaka, and the Hon. Shahid Hossain, Secretary-General of the IARF for Bangladesh. Participants spoke about the importance of resisting the temptation to associate terrorism with religion, promoting understanding of diverse religions, and the benefits of cultural pluralism. Dr. Islam encouraged the attendees to recognize the commonalities among the world’s religions and the centrality of the theme to promote world peace: “Let peace prevail in Bangladesh and let peace prevail in the world.”

For more information on these and other international programs please go to the IARF website:

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…I believe that unarmed truth and unconventional love will have the final word.”
– Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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