This Week in Interfaith America: A News Roundup

Neets’aii Gwich’in elder Sarah James, the subject of an award-winning audio documentary on the podcast The Spiritual Edge, in front of her cabin in her hometown, Arctic Village, Alaska. Photo Credit: Brian Adams

Each week, we share our top 10 religion stories from Interfaith America, Religion News Service, news sites, magazines, podcasts and journals. We look for pieces that offer interesting perspectives on religious diversity or shine a light on those who see religious pluralism as an opportunity, not a cause for despair. These stories inspire us, make us think and tell us something important: we’re in this together. 

1. “God Inspires Me” – How Two Americans Are Helping Resettle Afghan Refugees

Interfaith America staff writer Silma Suba tells the moving story of two Midwesterners—an Afghan Muslim and a Korean American Christian – whose faith is motivating them to welcome strangers. Both are helping find resources for families fleeing Taliban rule.

2. Celebrate Facebook’s Outage? Many Faith Communities Couldn’t Talk at All 

For a take on the power of the internet, Interfaith America editor Paul Brandeis Raushenbush reflected on the positive aspects of online engagement and interviewed interfaith leaders who lead spiritual communities through Facebook’s platform. Millions were locked out of these virtual sacred spaces when Facebook came crashing down for several hours this past week.

3. Beard Crusader

She had us at the headline. Writing for The New York Times, Anna P. Kambhampaty tells the story of Warner Woodworth, a professor emeritus at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and his mission to overturn the campus ban on facial hair that extends “below the earlobe or over the cheek.” The story has biblical prophets, Muslim students, “beard waivers” and a history lesson on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It also asks: what leads religious institutions to change?

4. Fighting for What’s Sacred in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

This audio documentary by Daysha Eaton debuted last year, but it earned a bigger audience this week when it won top honors in the radio category of the Religion News Association’s annual contest. A perfect addition to your Indigenous Peoples Day playlist, the documentary tells the story of Sarah James, a Neets’aii Gwich’in elder, and her efforts to protect her homeland. It was produced by the KALW podcast The Spiritual Edge in collaboration with the University of Southern California Center for Religion and Civic Culture.

5. How Indigenous Religions Can Widen the Interfaith Circle

In honor of Indigenous Peoples Day on Monday, Interfaith America reached out to Dr. Abel Gomez, a post-doctoral fellow in Native American Studies at the University of Oklahoma. Gomez speaks thoughtfully about sacred sites, asks important questions about religious freedom and challenges us to ask ourselves: What kind of future do we want? And what does it mean to be a good relative?

6. The Left-for-Dead Hospital that Got a Second Chance for $1

“Word of Mercy Hospital’s demise began to circulate just after 9 a.m. on July 29, 2020,” writes Monte Reel in the opener to this Bloomburg Businessweek story about a failing Chicago hospital. Whether you’re interested in politics, health care, money, racial justice, interfaith cooperation, corporate intrigue, big city politics or Midwesterners lending each other a hand, this is the story for you.

7. Haiti’s Diverse Faiths Bolster It Against Waves of Tragedy

For Religion News Service, Eric J. Lyman reports on how Haitians have weathered catastrophe in recent years: cholera, hurricanes, political unrest and, in August, a devastating earthquake. He also notes that in this religiously diverse nation, “85% of Haitians see religion as ‘very important’ in their day-to-day lives, among the highest levels for a secular state.” 

8. “Spiritual Convoy” Heads to California Hearing on Apache Sacred Site at Oak Flat

Backed by religious freedom advocates and an array of interfaith supporters, a nonprofit group is aiming to stop a copper mining company from taking over a 7-square-mile stretch of land east of Phoenix. Members of the Apache Stronghold will stop at various sacred sites and houses of worship on their way to a court hearing in San Francisco, Alejandra Molina reports for Religion News Service.

9. Top Seven Interfaith America Posts to Watch and Read for Hispanic Heritage Month

Interfaith America staff writer Silma Suba curated some of her favorite articles, essays and videos from our pages from the past year. Don’t miss Master Class in Organizing with Dolores Huerta, where this farmworkers union co-founder shares how religious communities can be instrumental in bringing about social change.

10. The Revealer

The online magazine, published by The Center for Religion and Media at New York University, just won top honors in its category from the Religion News Association. The current issue, focused on religion and the climate crisis, includes perspectives from a range of faiths. Their smart coverage also includes a podcast.


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The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.