Our Events and Activities

Programs and Activities

  • Small group interfaith dialogue meetings
  • Interfaith spiritual experiences through on-site visits to places of worship
  • Provision of interfaith speakers and resource materials
  • Public educational programs

ANNUAL EVENTS

The Monmouth Center for World Religions and Ethical Thought (MCWRET) usually holds four annual, recurring events and several other events. The annual events are described below.

Shanti (Peace) Lecture:

Monmouth Center’s “Shanti (Peace) Lectures” were instituted in 1996 in honor of Mr. & Mrs. Sri Ram and Shanti Chaddha. Their main purpose is to provide greater information about South Asian religions and other lesser known religions in the US. Recently their emphasis has included issues involving the advancement of peace and religious freedom.

Dr. Roshan Chaddha introducing the 2010 Shanti Day Speaker

Chaddha Family Introducing a Shanti Lecture

United We Sing – Music of Gratitude

This event had its origins in the aftermath of September 11, 2001.  In anguish and sorrow, we came together from our different cultural and faith traditions to proclaim and celebrate our rich diversity. The healing effect of the evening led us to repeat the event with presentations each year from faith traditions that have included Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Native American, Quaker, Sikh, Unitarian Universalist, and others.

Appreciative Audience at United We Sing 2010

United We Sing Performers 2013

Honoring the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Each year we look for a creative way to celebrate and honor the legacy of Dr. King.  We often partner with other community organizations.

Annual Meeting and Lecture

We hold an annual meeting to provide an overview of our activities and provide information to the community about MCWRET.  Typically the annual meeting includes a short lecture or presentation.

We would like to express our deep appreciation and thank yous to Paul Newland who is the main photographer and videographer of the MCWRET events (the photos on this page were taken and supplied by Paul)

2017 Events and Activities

United We Sing 2017- Music of Gratitude

This was our seventeenth annual interfaith music and dance program to express gratitude.  The first United We Sing program was held shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the USA.  We continue to come together from our different cultural and faith traditions to value and celebrate our rich diversity.

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Eighteenth Annual Shanti (Peace) Program:

How Modern Science Informs Ethics and Peace

By Dr. Mark Lupisella

In this presentation, Dr. Lupisella explored bridges between science, philosophy, ethics and peace.  He discussed how biological evolution and modern science can inform philosophy and ethics to help build a more peaceful world. Drawing from a book to be published next year, the talk  explored a relational philosophical framework, with an emphasis on cosmological worldviews, that can provide a broad context for the pursuit of peace, ethics and value theory.

Mark is an engineer, scientist and technical manager at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, supporting the Human Exploration Program.  He has authored numerous publications on human space exploration, advanced altruism and the search for extraterrestrial life and intelligence.  He is the co-editor of Cosmos and Culture: Cultural Evolution in a Cosmic Context (NASA 2011).  He will soon be publishing a book tentatively titled, Cosmological Theories of Value: Meaning and Purpose in Cosmic Evolution. Mark has a Ph.D. in Evolutionary Biology, a Master’s degree in philosophy with an emphasis on philosophy of science and ethics, and B.S. in Physics.

Multifaith Dialogue on the “Golden Rule” and Beyond  

Panelists from five religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Sikhism) discussed the meaning of the Golden Rule.  This program was held at Brookdale Community College.  It was sponsored by Brookdale’s International Education Center, Diversity Council and the Center for Holocaust Human Rights and Genocide Education –  and was co-sponsored by MCWRET and the New Jersey Interfaith Coalition.

Annual Meeting and Program:  My Path to Chikai – Ocean Wisdom 

Rev Liz Congdon (President of MCWRET)  began the program by summarizing our MCWRT 2016 programs and initiatives (Annual Report 2016).  Then Elaine Held shared her story about her Buddhist path.  Elaine, who grew up Christian, states:  “The path of my religious development, which always included music, found a kind of resting place in Buddhism.”  Elaine told a fascinating story of her journey, and then played a beautiful, meditative piece on her newest instrument, the shakuhachi flute.

Film and Discussion – To Light a Candle 

The Baha’is, Iran’s largest religious minority, are persecuted because of their faith and are barred from teaching and studying at universities. This film documents the difficult and courageous work of the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE), which offers Baha’is a chance to pursue knowledge and receive a quality education through courses offered in homes and via mail correspondence and online lectures.

2016 Events and Activities

United We Sing 2016 – Music of Gratitude

This was our sixteenth annual interfaith music and dance program to express gratitude. It was especially poignant because the first United We Sing program was held shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the USA. We continue to come together from our different cultural and faith traditions to value and celebrate our rich diversity.

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 Seventeenth Annual Shanti (Peace) Program: 

Begampura City Without Sorrow  

by Harinder Singh 

Harinder Singh

Dr. Singh shared a Sikh perspective on how to achieve lasting peace on Earth, based on hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh scriptural canon.  Practical recommendations were presented to help us “live in harmony in a world of difference.” Harinder Singh co-founded the Sikh Research Institute and Panjab Digital Library and has served on the boards of the National Conference on Community and Justice and the Fellowship of Activists to Embrace Humanity, among others.  We are grateful that Dr. Singh has provided the slides used during his talk. Click BEGAMPURA to access the slides.

Panel on Lesser-Known Religions and Wisdom Traditions: 

Practitioners of eastern Sikhism and Jainism and western Humanism shared information about their history, important texts, and fundamental beliefs and practices.  This program was offered at Brookdale Community College.

Rev. Michael Dowd on Inspiring Science, Evolving Faith, Realistic Hope:

Rev Dowd highlighted points of agreement held by religious and non-religious people across the globe, and discussed how we can transform “The Great Reckoning” into “The Great Homecoming.”   This program was sponsored by the Monmouth Community Climate Coalition, on which MCWRET is represented.

Annual Meeting and Program:  Native American Healing  

Inviting Peace, Love, and Transformation Into Your Life  

Rev Liz Congdon (Co-Coordinator of MCWRET)  began the program by summarizing our MCWRT 2015 programs and initiatives (Annual Report 2015).  Then  Eileen Ellis, our speaker for this program,  told her story of coming to recognize her role in continuing Native American healing and practices.  Eileen is a Mohawk Indian Medicine Woman with ancestral healers on both sides of her lineage.  She shared some of her Native American wisdom practices that can restore our natural wholeness and re-connect us to Spirit and Nature.

Eileen Ellis

Film:Inside Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think.

This documentary film explored worldwide Muslim public opinion based on the results of a respected Gallup Poll.  The following discussion was led by Muslim scholar M. Ali Chaudry (President of the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge) and Joe Ritacco (MCWRET).  This event was co-sponsored by Brookdale International Education Center and the MCWRET.

On Care for our Common Home: Laudato Si’ by Professor Antonia (Tonie) Malone.

Professor Antonia (Tonie) Malone presented her 2015 MCWRET Shanti  Lecture at the Monmouth County Library in Manalapan, NJ.  She discussed the message of Pope Francis’  encyclical, which speaks to all people to take “swift and unified action” in defense of our common home.  You may read her presentation On Care for Our Common Home  LAUDATO SI’.

2015 Events and Activities

United We Sing 2015 – Music of Gratitude

This was our fifteenth annual interfaith music and dance program to express gratitude. It was especially poignant because the first United We Sing  program was held shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the USA. This 2015 program was held shortly after the November 13, 2015 attacks in Paris, France. We continue to come together from our different cultural and faith traditions to value and celebrate our rich diversity.

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The Rose Project Lecture

Dr. Frankie Hutton, a Theosophist, introduced the “Rose Project” and discussed the semiotics of this quintessential flower in the universe to provide primordial insights.   Her presentation was based on the book Rose Lore.

Sixteenth Annual Shanti (Peace) Program: 

On Care for our Common Home: LAUDATO SI’

Professor Antonia (Tonie) Malone

Professor Antonia (Tonie) Malone discussed the message of Pope Francis’  encyclical which speaks to all people to take “swift and unified action” in defense of our common home. Professor Malone punctuated her address with examples from her personal experiences as a founding and active member of the NJ Pax Christi Catholic Peace Movement and as an Ambassador of Peace to several different countries.

Attendees of the event were truly inspired by Dr. Malone’s talk.  We are grateful that she has made the text of her talk available.  Please read  On Care for Our Common Home

Chaddha Family

Dr. Malone’s Shanti Lecture

Annual Meeting and Program: Herbal Transformations

Ancient Wisdom Revealed for Health and Longevity  

Our 2014 year’s activities and our 2015 planned programs were briefly summarized (Annual Report 2014). Then MCWRET Board Advisor Uma Swaminathan presented highlights of her beautiful new book on the use of herbs, including personal stories and ancient recipes from Southern India. Tastings of food made from some of the book’s recipes were thoroughly enjoyed by the meeting’s attendees.

 Interfaith Perspectives on Non-Violence

In this panel discussion, representatives from multiple religious and wisdom traditions addressed their traditions’ approach to non-violence and peace.  This event – co-sponsored by MCWRET, the U.S. President’s Interfaith Initiative, the Monmouth Dialogue Group, and the Muslim Student Association at Monmouth University – was part of Monmouth University’s Fourteenth Annual Global Understanding Convention.

2014 Events and Activities

Multi-faith Panel on Women’s Role in Religion 

Women from the Baha’i faith, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism discussed respect for women and their evolving roles in their faith traditions. This panel discussion, moderated by Joe Rittaco, was held at the Monmouth County Library in Manalapan, NJ.

United We Sing 2014 – Music of Gratitude

This was our fourteenth annual interfaith music and dance program to express gratitude.

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“A Place at the Table” (Movie) and Panel Discussion

The movie “A Place at the Table” documented the many ways hunger poses serious economic, social and cultural issues for this country. A panel discussion followed the movie, and it was followed by dialog between the audience and the panelists. ClaraGee Stamaty Ziment moderated the panel, which included three leaders of food banks and other organizations that provide food aid to our community.

ClaraGee Stamaty Ziment, Panel Moderator

A Place at the Table Panel Discussion

Fifteenth Annual Shanti (Peace) Program: 

From Conflict to Peace Building in Israel/Palestine

Professor Saliba Sarsar

Professor Saliba Sarsar of Monmouth University, an expert on Palestinian-Israeli relations, shared his assessment of a wide range of peace-building efforts, and provided an update on the “Dual-Narratives” tool that was the focus of the 2008 Shanti program.

My So-Called Enemy (Film) and Interfaith Perspectives on Poverty (Panel Discussion)

The film My So-Called Enemy follows Palestinian and Israeli teenage girls who participated in a women’s leadership program in NJ and were transformed as they came to their “enemies” as human beings. The panel on “Interfaith Perspectives on Poverty” featured panelists from Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.   These two programs, co-sponsored by MCWRET, the U.S. President’s Interfaith Initiative, and the Monmouth Dialogue Group at Monmouth University, were programs in Monmouth University’s Thirteenth Annual Global Understanding Convention.

2013 Events and Activities

A Day of Ethics and Understanding (Co-Sponsored Event)

The Monmouth County Library of Manalapan hosted a talk by Randy Cohen, writer of “The Ethicist” column for the New York Times Magazine. After Cohen’s talk, MCWRET sponsored a panel discussion by speakers from three religious traditions (Reform Judaism, Baha’i, and Islam) on how their faith traditions guide their ethical behavior.

United We Sing 2013 – Music of Gratitude

This was our thirteenth annual interfaith music and dance program to express gratitude.

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Fourteenth Annual Shanti (Peace) Lecture – Sufism:  “The Heart of Islam” 

Professor and Chaplain Rabia Terri Harris, a Muslim Sufi practitioner and scholar, spoke of the history and essence of Sufism.  Sufism is a mystical form of Islam practiced by many Muslims around the world, including Sunnis and Shiites.  As written by Sufi poet Shabistari, “Sufism is the heart of Islam and that heart is full of love.”

Professor and Chaplain Rabia Terri Harris

Education Under Fire:  A Documentary

This video documentary was presented with an introduction and a discussion facilitated by a member of the local Baha’i community.  The documentary tells the story of Iran’s denial of higher education for Baha’is and the courageous work of the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education to provide education for Baha’is under very dangerous conditions.

Interfaith Perspective on Earth Care 

At this Monmouth University Global Understanding Conference, members of three different faith traditions (Lynn Dash –Unitarian Universalist, Naresh Jain, – Jain, and Reverend Dana Eglinton – Presbyterian) shared perspectives from their faith traditions on the importance of care for the environment.  The first two panelists and the moderator, Joe Ritacco, are MCWRET members.

Annual Meeting and Program: Middle East Adventures in Dialogue  

After a brief review of our year’s activities (Annual Report) and our 2013 planned programs, Liz Congdon (Co-Coordinator of MCWRET and pastor of the First Baptist Church of Trenton) shared highlights and learnings from her two weeks in Beirut, Lebanon and Tbilisi and Batumi in the Republic of Georgia. The dialogue between American Baptist and Muslim women revealed the cutting-edge ministry and service to others taking place there.

 The Selma March – Now and Then

At our annual Martin Luther King Jr. program, two ministers discussed the experience and meaning of the historic 1965 Selma march to secure the Voting Rights Act for African Americans – its meaning then and its meaning now.  Rev. Gil Caldwell marched with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King in 1965.  Rev. John Licitra followed the path of the Selma march in 2012.

Rev. Gil Caldwell and Rev John Licitra

Rev. John Licitra and Rev. Gil Caldwell

2012 Events and Activities

United We Sing 2012:  This is our annual interfaith music and dance program to express our gratitude:

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Thirteenth Annual Shanti (Peace) Lecture – Twenty-First Century Inter-Religious Engagement:  New Strategies  

Reverend Eric Cherry, Director of International Resources, Unitarian Universalist Association (Boston)  first reviewed the solid foundation for interfaith understanding provided by 20th century international interfaith strategies.  He then proposed new strategies required for interfaith peace-building in the 21st century, and provided examples of currently successful programs.

Two Non-Political Perspectives on Mormonism 

First, Gary Anderberg shared his fascinating family history as a Mormon, going back to the very early days of Mormonism.  Then Mormon Bishop Scott Johnson (from the Freehold Ward) provided an overview, entitled “Mormonism 101,” of the basic beliefs and doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Films and Discussion    

Presented in collaboration with the Monmouth University 2012 Summer Jewish Cultural Studies Program.

  • Shalom/Salaam: A Story of a Mystical Fraternity traces the story of Islamic mystical influence on Jewish mysticism for over 1000 years.
  • Out of Cordoba explores the legacy of the Spanish city of Cordoba through the biographies of Averroes (Ibn Rushd) the Muslim, and Rabbi Moses Maimonides the Jew, the two leading personalities of medieval Islamic Spain

Film and Discussion:  “The Little Town of Bethlehem”

This award-winning documentary covered the work of three men – an Israeli-Jew, a Palestinian-Muslim, and a Palestinian-Christian – who promoted non-violent methods to achieve peace in the (Abrahamic) Holy Land.

Annual Meeting and Program – ClaraGee Stamaty Ziment’s Spritiual Journey to “Who Am I?”    

After a brief review of our year’s activities (Annual Report), ClaraGee Stamaty Ziment, a long-time Board member of MCWRET, presented an overview of her 92 very active years – in various personal and professional roles.  “Each and every one of these roles and every experience of my life has shaped and formed me into what and who I am today and where my spiritual quest has led me.  I will be speaking of a little bit of all of that and showing some illustrations along the way.”  During ClaraGee’s talk, she presented slides of her family and her art work that greatly enriched her talk – and the audience.

Board Member ClaraGee Stamaty Ziment

CaravanSerai: A Journey through Islamic Cultures  

caravanserai is a cultural meeting place where caravan travelers rest and share their customs and arts.  In this workshopPakistani musicians from the Punjab region of Pakistan presented examples of traditional and contemporary Pakistani music.  They introduced traditional instruments, explained the meaning of the lyrics, and led participants in dance.  This workshop was provided with support from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. For more information on this inter-cultural program, go to www.caravanserai-arts.org.

MCWRET Caravan Serai

MCWRET Caravan Serai

Lecture on Duality and Non-Duality: Dvaita and Advaita Vedanta Philosophy  

The philosophy of God (Creator) and the relationship among God, humans, and nature has been studied and evolved by Hindu sages over many millennia.  Professor Bhavani, an expert in Indian philosophy and Sanskrit literature, described concepts of Duality, Non-Duality and its variations in the Hindu religion.

Martin Luther King Program at the Quinn Chapel of the AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church  

MCWRET members and friends were invited as special guests to the annual African-American Read-In at the Quinn Chapel.  Quinn Chapel is a historic church, established over 150 years ago, and tells the story of our local African-American Heritage.

2011 Events and Activities

Annual Meeting Discussion

LEADD (Leadership Education Advancing Democracy and Diversity): After a brief review of our year’s activities (Annual Report), the three-day LEADD program for youth was described by Lynn Dash and two of the youth participants (see description of the LEADD program below). The youth participants shared the highlights of their LEADD experience and led the group in one of their exercises – “Vote with your Feet” – in which the group positioned themselves according to their beliefs about issues regarding religious freedom.

LEADD

(Leadership Education Advancing Democracy and Diversity): Twenty-four high school students from six different religious traditions came together for a weekend of fun and learning about each other and the basis of religious pluralism in the United States. The weekend included discussions on the origins of religious liberty, exercises to voice opinions, a workshop on conflict mediation, and an opportunity to be Supreme Court justices or to argue before the Court as plaintiff or defendant in “moot court” Supreme Court first Amendment cases. This was a project of the national Interfaith Alliance, the UUCMC, and the MCWRET. The LEADD experience serves as a foundation for local youth to extend the mission of the MCWRET for “Building Peace through Interfaith Dialogue” to the next generation.

Twelfth Shanti (Peace) Lecture – MEDITATION:  Discover That You Are the Source of Happiness

Dr. V. Swaminathan gave a lecture on meditation, which helps to achieve steadiness or one-pointedness of the mind.  He discussed the principles of meditation that help one to be just oneself, and led a brief practice session of meditation. He has graciously provided the slides (Shanti-Lecture-Oct-1-2011) used during his lecture.  Dr. Swaminathan has been a student of Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati for nearly 20 years and has been conducting Swamiji’s Bhagavad Gita Home Study classes at his home for 14 years. He is an active member of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam.

United We Sing 2011

This is our annual interfaith music and dance program to express our gratitude:

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2010 Events and Activities

Annual Meeting Lecture – The Parliament of the World Religions: Its Aspirations and Accomplishments

Mr. Naresh Jain is a member of the Board of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.  He described the work of the Council and provided a virtual tour of the week-long fifth Parliament conference in Australia, which was attended by 6500 people from around the world.

Justice is Love in Action: Deepening the Dialogue

This two-event series featured music, dance, spoken word and dialogue.  Following the arts program, small discussion groups provided a safe place to deepen an understanding of the continuing struggle toward justice and peace for everyone.

Eleventh Shanti Lecture – The United Nations (UN) Foundation

Dr. Gillian Sorensen has had a distinguished career at the United Nations, spanning the administration of two Secretary-Generals.  She is currently a Senior Advisor to the United Nations Foundation.  She delivered an inspirational and wide-ranging talk about the importance of the UN, the US, and the roles they serve in the world.

Dr. Gillian Sorensen,   Monmouth Center                    2010 Shanti Day Lecture

United We Sing 2010

This is our annual interfaith music and dance program to express gratitude. One of the highlights of the Event was a dance by Muslim children presented at 2010  United We Sing.  Muslim dancers:  Falastine, Tarrah, Noor, and Aya.

Muslim Dancers: Falastine, Tarrah, Noor and Aya

Baha’i Daystar Choir

2010 United We Sing Performers

2009 Events and Activities

Tenth Shanti Lecture – Freedom of Religion 

Stephen Karnik, the Chief Administrative Officer at the United Nations office of the Baha’i International Community, presented a lecture entitled “Freedom to Believe.” The program included a panel discussion on “lesser known religions,” including Zoroastrianism, Baha’i , and  Sikhism.

United We Sing

This is our annual interfaith music and dance program to express  gratitude.

Annual Meeting Lecture – “Female Deities in Tibetan Art”

Barbara Lipton, former curator of The Tibetan Museum of Art, Staten Island, NY, presented a talk (with slides of beautiful art) about Tibetan Art and Faith.

Interfaith Dialog on Forgiveness

Forgiveness was the topic of this interfaith panel discussion and dialogue with the audience.  Perspectives were offered from the following faith traditions:  Reform Judaism, Islam, Christian Scientist, American Baptist, and Hinduism.

2008 Events and Activities

Ninth Shanti Lecture – Weaving Peace: What Can We Do? 

Dr. Saliba Sarsar and Mr. George Anthony led a workshop on “what it takes to be a peace builder.” Then Mr. W. Gyude Moore presented a talk on his experiences when he was forced to leave his native Liberia and his family became refugees. He is a Pedro Arrupe Scholar on Peace at Georgetown University.  The program closed with a panel of representatives from a number of “like-minded” organizations.

United We Sing

This is our annual interfaith music and dance program to express  gratitude.

Lecture – “Conflict Resolution: Islam in Indonesia Today”

Dr. Imam Prasodjo is a Fulbright Scholar and Professor at the University of Indonesia.  He founded the non-profit organization Nurani Dunia Foundation, which provides assistance to victims and displaced persons in disaster and conflict areas.  He also founded and directs the Center for Research on Inter-group Relations and Conflict Resolution (CERIC), which provides curriculum development, social mapping, and cooperative learning training across Indonesia.

The Many Faces of Forgiveness – A Panel Discussion

This program was held at Brookdale Community College. Four panelists shared their varying pathways to forgiveness on issues involving (1) bias-based school harassment, (2) sexual abuse, (3) violent family deaths, and (4) ethnic/religious war.

“Golden Rule” Art Exhibit by Students

This project was initiated to foster interest in the “Golden Rule” that is inherent in every religious, wisdom, and ethical tradition.  Youth of different faith traditions shared their interpretation of the Golden Rule in visual art, poetry, or essays at an exhibit shown at the Middletown Library.

Posters From the Library “Golden Rule” Project

2007 Events and Activities

Eighth Shanti Lecture – Search for Peace in the Middle-East

This lecture on the Dual Narrative Project was presented by two Fulbright scholars – Dr. Sami Adwan and Professor Dan Bar-On.  They are co-founders and Directors of the Peace Research Institute in the Middle East (PRIME).

United We Sing

This is our annual interfaith music and dance program to express  gratitude.

Martin Luther King Celebration Drama

“The Meeting” – by the Dunbar Repertory Company – is a dramatization of the fictional first-time meeting of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

Stress Management and Personal Success: Finding Peace within Ourselves 

Mr. Gautam Jain, an accomplished Vedanta philosopher, gave a presentation about how to make our lives easier and more productive, and about serving a higher goal – a goal beyond oneself.

Monologues … “Letters … to the Ancestors” 

This program was written and dramatized by members of Allen Chapel, UUCMC, and the community at large.  It included music, dance, and foods from our ancestors.

Series on Faith and Reason

This seven-week series was based on Bill Moyer’s PBS series “On Faith and Reason.” Each session included DVD video clips followed by facilitated small group discussion.