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Religions For Peace Organisation Promotes Interfaith Forum

Mr Vijai Singhal explained to everyone about Eat Less Meat project.

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Different religions in India, wikimedia

Religions for Peace (RfP) is an organization representing religious leaders of different faiths in Australia and includes Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Bahai faith. Hindu Council of Australia has been a member, represented by its director Vijai Singhal for over a decade now.

According to RfP founder, this Interfaith forum is different from others. Apart from meetings and speeches, it tries to connect individual faith leaders together in a bond of friendship which is best manifested by leaders of different faiths become personal friends. She cited as an example of a christian member whose daughter’s wedding was attended by and blessed by Muslims, Jews and from other faiths.

Anti-Hate laws in NSW

High on its agenda was an anti-hate and anti-discrimination law being considered by the state of NSW. Phillip Ruddock, former Attorney General of Australia and now Mayor of Hornsby shire has held wide consultations with community and submitted a report. Ian Lacey, a lawyer explained to members that Australian constitution in 1901 has included a clause on freedom of religions which means that :

religions
RfP held a meeting on 19th November 2018 to discuss various issues.
  1. Government can not establish a religion
  2. Government can not enforce a religion
  3. Government can not stop a religion and
  4. Government can not ask for a religious qualifications for a job

This, he explained, provides freedom of religion to all Australians.

Various states like Victoria and Queensland have enacted Vilification or anti-hate laws which are not working very well. He feared that NSW should not follow their path and instead enact a robust law like that in Britain which

  1. Allows people to criticize a religion but
  2. Does not allow adherents of a religion to be discriminated

He further explained that stopping people from criticizing religions can have the opposite effect of becoming a blasphemy law.  We all know how some fundamentalists regimes have enacted blasphemy laws and have used them to prosecute and impose a certain religion.

Jatayu earth centre

Robert from Vedanta society explained his recent visit to India and a “Jatayu earth centre” being established there.

Religions
Parliament of World’s Religions 1893.

Parliament of World’s Religions

Father Patrick and Rachelle Kahn who recently returned from Parliament of World’s Religions held in Toronto briefed about their impressions of the visit.  The first Parliament was held in 1893 where Swami Vivekanand had given his first now world famous address starting with “Brothers and Sisters” instead of the usual “Ladies and Gentlemen” salutation of the time.

The next Parliament was held a 100 years later in 1993 and is now an annual affair. The representation was very wide spread with 7,500 people, from 80 countries, 222 religions and over 500 workshops. However, the depth of religious fervor was very shallow.

Also Read: AAP Welcomes BJP’s Stand on Inter-Faith Marriages

Eat Less Meat

Mr Vijai Singhal explained to everyone about Eat Less Meat project in which Hindu Council has joined with ARRCC (Australian Religious Response to Climate Change).

(Hindu Council of Australia)

Next Story

Technology Makes Huge Impact on San Francisco’s Local Government

Harris' proposal to get tech involved on a local level makes sense to Francesca Costa, outreach manager for CalFresh, the local food stamp program. 

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U.S.
U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, addresses labor leaders at the California Labor Federal and State Building and Construction Trades Council Legislative Conference Dinner, April 1, 2019, in Sacramento, California. VOA

For people needing food from San Francisco’s main food bank, one of the biggest hurdles was actually filling out the online form for food stamps.

The application was long, with more than 200 questions. It didn’t work on mobile phones. For people without home computers, it was hard to get through the process.

But the San Francisco Food Bank, which provides fresh vegetables and dry goods to more than 200,000 people in northern California, partnered with a technology nonprofit that helped bring the application process into the digital era.

“We made a really simple online form that’s mobile first and only takes seven minutes,” said Jennifer Pahlka, founder and executive director of Code for America, which helps government programs work better by using technology. “It uses really clear, simple language, and then we help people get through the process by supporting them by text message because that’s what people actually use.”

A new bill from Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris promises to help local government form tech teams. With support from Code for America and the Center for Democracy & Technology, Harris is calling it the “Digital Service Act,” which she says will empower state and local government to invest in digital services to update and rebuild government services using technology.

“Americans deserve a government that works for them and that just plain works,” Harris said in a press release. “We must do more to empower our state and local governments to tap into the power of technology to provide seamless, cost-effective services for the 21st century.”

The Digital Service Act would authorize $50 million annually to grow the United States Digital Service, a group of technologists working in government to help improve programs.If approved, the Digital Service Actwould also authorize $15 million for state and local governments to receive two-year seed grants to establish and strengthen digital services and require that at least 50% of each grant be used for talent.

Harris is not the only presidential candidate to talk about tech. Others are also looking to tech to solve civic problems and create more local jobs. Still, others have attacked tech.

Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders has criticized Amazon’s treatment of its warehouse workers. And fellow Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren has proposed breaking up tech giants like Amazon and Facebook.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks at the Heartland Forum held on the campus of Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, March 30, 2019.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks at the Heartland Forum held on the campus of Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, March 30, 2019. VOA

President Donald Trump, who is seeking re-election in 2020, has met with U.S. tech industry leaders to talk about what government can do to help the United States maintain its leadership in key technological areas.

Harris’ proposal to get tech involved on a local level makes sense to Francesca Costa, outreach manager for CalFresh, the local food stamp program.

“I think investing in technology is crucial for government assistance programs,” said Costa. “It’s a good strategy to eliminate those technological barriers so that we can focus on any other barriers that might exist in the business process.”

Pahlka said local governments don’t need “fancier technology.”Instead, what’s needed is a new approach, she said, one “that puts all of the compliance and laws and regulations that make government services so complicated and then really, really hard to use. Push those to the background and make things that really work for people.”

Also Read: Mechanical Trees’ A Good Option To Fight Climate Change?

In another project, Code for America helped local California governments clear the criminal records of people convicted of marijuana-related crimes. With a number of states having legalized marijuana, many convictions were overturned, but the process of digitally clearing them had stalled.

“It’s remarkable to see the number of people in government who never thought that was possible, even though it’s actually quite easy,” Pahlka said. (VOA)