The Internet is ours. Instead of the bombs of negativity, distrust and conflict that can find their way into religion on the Internet, we can provide bridges to unite us in more understanding, compassion and courage. What positive contribution can you make to the Internet today that will enrich all of our lives — on and offline?
Paul Brandeis Raushenbush,
Senior Religion Editor, The Huffington Post
Happy Belated Thanksgiving everyone! Aching for some more turkey and leftovers? Well, I can’t deliver that, but I can share this: Last month, I was fortunate enough to take a trip to Turkey with some friends. While the food was great, and the people were welcoming, perhaps what stuck with me most was the country’s rich history and involvement in the development of different faiths. Even today, you cannot escape the presence of religion in this culture. From the enormous Mosques with beautiful towering minarets, to the almost eerie ancient carved and underground Christian Churches, to the daily calls to prayer, it’s impossible to spend time in Turkey and not ponder your relationship to religion, faith, and prayer. Below are a few images from my trip that merely scratch the surface of sights available if you’re interested in exploring the history of faith in Turkey. Hope you enjoy! And go to Turkey if you ever get the chance!
Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Once a Christian Church. Then a Mosque. Now a Museum.
Blue Mosque (The Sultan Ahmed Mosque), Istanbul
Perhaps the most recognizable Mosque in Turkey.
Goreme Open Air Museum, Cappadocia, Turkey
Civilization with Early Christian Churches carved into the rocks.
Derinkuyu Underground City, Cappadocia, Turkey
At one point over 10,000 people lived in this underground city…
House of the Virgin Mary, Ephesus, Turkey
Catholic Mass being held outside the chapel, and a communal prayer wall.
The theater in Ephesus where St. Paul told citizens not to worship Artemis…
There are so many incredible photos documenting the devastating deluge caused by Hurricane Sandy. But, this image of Torah scrolls being unrolled to dry after a Brighton Beach yeshiva in Brooklyn was flooded put another face on the damage. As Rabbi Avremel Okonov, who co-founded Mazel Academy ten years ago, told The Jewish Daily Forward:“We’re drying them out. But I’m looking closely — a lot of these pages, it’s not reparable. This is just heartbreaking to look at.”
Let’s face it. In the US, and especially in New York City, organized religion can get a bad rap. But when crazy storms blow through densely populated areas, these communities are amazing at facilitating relief efforts.
Organizations across all faiths have stepped up to pick up the pieces of this battered city - providing food, supplies, shelter, power, and love to those affected by Hurricane Sandy.
We’d like to thank everyone who’s given of their time and resources this week in NYC. If you’re looking for an opportunity to serve throughout the weekend here are some options in both the religious and non religious communities:
Trinity Grace Church
Islamic Relief USA
American Red Cross
And as always, we invite you to post prayer requests for all Hurricane Sandy needs and beyond at PraytheCity.com.
When Ines Peschiera and I were beginning our work on Pray the City, we discovered a shared frustration with the gap between our social ideals and realities. It seems almost from birth, we’ve been taught to love others as you love yourself - no matter their background or lifestyle. We’ve been endlessly encouraged to know our neighbors, coworkers, peers, and passersby (or at least try) in order to develop a greater sensitivity and empathy towards what others may be going through.
But I would like to submit that, in truth, our realities resemble a more muted version of what we’ve been promised is possible. Sure, within our immediate social and family circles, we can see how the ideas of loving, understanding, and respecting others play out. But are our closest friends and relatives as far as this can reach? How can we begin to bridge the invisible gap that has been created in our culture where people operate most peacefully and functionally in seemingly closed, exclusive circles? How do we meet and know our neighbors? How do we look beyond the socio-economic, educational, and religious circumstances that divide us as people?
Ines and I fall on different ends of the spectrum when it comes to religious beliefs. However, we feel pretty strongly that, regardless of our faith structures, prayer can be one of the most positive and powerful ways to release burdens and create bonds. This idea that prayer can be an active element in how people see others, paired with our frustrations of not knowing where to begin in trying to really know those living around and beyond us, is where we came to the idea of Pray the City.
With Pray the City, we’re not trying to define prayer or push a religious agenda. What we are trying to do, is offer people a platform where they can speak honestly and openly about their needs and triumphs in life. We hope to awaken an awareness that no one is alone (or has to be) in what they may be going through. Through the sharing and receiving of prayer requests and prayers, we hope to encourage a stronger sense of community within neighborhoods and beyond.
So, today, after over a year’s worth of hard work, we are finally beginning the process of launching our site. We have no idea how we will be received, just a sense that our intentions are in the right place and a strong desire to connect people in a new and meaningful way via the internet. My first prayer request? That pray the city will be for people at least an ounce of what we dream it can. Pray for it here.