Sunday, October 30, 2011

Religious, spiritual support benefits men and women facing chronic illness, MU study finds

Public release date: 26-Oct-2011
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Religious, spiritual support benefits men and women facing chronic illness, MU study finds
Contact: Emily Martin
University of Missouri-Columbia

COLUMBIA, Mo. Individuals who practice religion and spirituality report better physical and mental health than those who do not. To better understand this relationship and how spirituality/religion can be used for coping with significant health issues, University of Missouri researchers are examining what aspects of religion are most beneficial and for what populations. Now, MU health psychology researchers have found that religious and spiritual support improves health outcomes for both men and women who face chronic health conditions.

"Our findings reinforce the idea that religion/spirituality may help buffer the negative consequences of chronic health conditions," said Stephanie Reid-Arndt, associate professor of health psychology in the School of Health Professions. "We know that there are many ways of coping with stressful life situations, such as a chronic illness; involvement in religious/spiritual activities can be an effective coping strategy."

Religious and spiritual support includes care from congregations, spiritual interventions, such as religious counseling and forgiveness practices, and assistance from pastors and hospital chaplains. The recent publication from the MU Center for Religion and the Professions research group, authored by Reid-Arndt, found that religious support is associated with better mental health outcomes for women and with better physical and mental health for men.

"Both genders benefit from social support the ability to seek help from and rely on others provided by fellow congregants and involvement in religious organizations," said co-author Brick Johnstone, health psychology professor. "Encouragement to seek out religious and spiritual supports can assist individuals in coping with stress and physical symptoms related to health issues. Health care providers can urge patients to take advantage of these resources, which provide emotional care, financial assistance and opportunities for increased socialization."

The study examined the role of gender in using spirituality/religiosity to cope with chronic health conditions and disabilities, including spinal cord injury, brain injury, stroke and cancer. Using measures of religiousness/spirituality, general mental health and general health perception, the researchers found no differences between men and women in terms of self-reported levels of spiritual experiences, religious practices or congregational support. This finding contrasts with other studies that suggest women may be more spiritual or participate in religion more frequently than men.

"While women generally are more religious or spiritual than men, we found that both genders may increase their reliance on spiritual and religious resources as they face increased illness or disability," Johnstone said.

For women, mental health is associated with daily spiritual experiences, forgiveness and religious/spiritual coping, the study found. This suggests that belief in a loving, supportive and forgiving higher power is related with positive mental coping for women with chronic conditions. For men, religious support the perception of help, support and comfort from local congregations was associated with better self-rated health.

Johnstone is director of the MU Spirituality and Health Research program. He has completed several studies examining the relationships that exist among religion, spirituality and health, particularly for individuals with different chronic disabling conditions and for those from different faith traditions.


The study, "Gender Differences in Spiritual Experiences, Religious Practices, and Congregational Support for Individuals with Significant Health Conditions," was published in the Journal of Religion, Disability & Health. It was funded by the Center on Religion and the Professions at MU, funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

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  • Wednesday, October 26, 2011

    Hindus in U.S. raise awareness of Diwali

    Ecumenical News International News Highlights
    26 October 2011

    Hindus in U.S. raise awareness of Diwali

    Washington, D.C. (ENInews)--The holiday of Diwali is celebrated this week by
    Hindus all over the world, including an estimated two million in the United
    States. Many Hindus in the U.S. say Americans don't know what Diwali is all
    about and they're working to change that, Religion News Service reports.
    They're encouraging fellow Hindus to be a little more open about their
    celebrations -- to tell friends, colleagues and their children's teachers
    that Diwali is a big deal within Hinduism, the world's third largest
    religion. For starters, it's a celebration of the Hindu New Year, like Rosh
    Hashanah's commemoration of the Jewish New Year, with a festival of lights
    thrown in. On a deeper level, Diwali celebrates the triumph of good over
    evil. [624 words, ENI-11-0579]

    ENI Online -

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  • WCC appoints new programme executive for inter-religious dialogue

    World Council of Churches - News


    For immediate release: 26 October 2011

    When the general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Rev. Dr
    Olav Fykse Tveit attends a day of prayer for peace in Assisi, Italy on 27
    October, he will be accompanied by Clare Amos of the Church of England the
    new WCC programme executive for inter-religious dialogue and cooperation.

    The interfaith meeting in Assisi is called by Pope Benedict XVI a "Day of
    reflection, dialogue and prayer for peace and justice in the world".

    "The event of Assisi has a great potential for peace. There cannot be peace
    in the world without peace among the religions. Efforts of coming together
    as religions to work for common concerns are imperative to peace, which is
    the message of Assisi," said Amos.

    Amos, who joined the WCC this fall, specialized in theology at the
    University of Cambridge and Ecole Biblique et Archeologique Francaise in
    Jerusalem, after which she spent more than ten years in Jerusalem and
    Lebanon where she was deeply involved with interfaith concerns and
    theological education.

    She has authored several books on biblical studies, interfaith relations and

    After being married to Alan Amos, then Anglican chaplain in Beirut, Amos
    worked for the Middle East Council of Churches and the Near East School of
    Theology in the early eighties. While living in Beirut, her experience of
    dialogue was rooted in the difficult years of Lebanese civil war and the
    Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

    Amos considers engaging churches in the Middle East in dialogue as one of
    the priorities in her tasks at the council.

    "In the Middle East one cannot ignore the dimensions of other faiths. We
    were confronted by the challenges of how to read the New Testament given the
    influence of Christianity's relationship with Judaism, while not ignoring
    how the Hebrew scriptures were used to justify political actions of the
    modern Israeli government, which affected the lives of Christians and
    Muslims in the holy land," says Amos.

    The WCC programme on Christian self-understanding amid many religions is a
    major initiative of inter-religious dialogue, says Amos. She envisions a
    special emphasis in this area, which she feels is essential in understanding
    our own traditions as Christians.

    "Interfaith engagement is also about discovering who we are. This is why the
    WCC programme of Christian self-understanding in the context of religious
    plurality is important. This is where Christians along with Jews, Muslims,
    Hindus and Buddhists rediscover their own identities - an important
    motivation for interfaith dialogue."

    Amos also hopes to develop inter-religious cooperation in the area of
    advocacy for religious freedom, human rights and protection of religious
    minorities which have formed a focus of the WCC programmes. At the same
    time, she is hoping to work extensively for ecumenical and theological

    "I am keen to work towards ecumenical dialogue, which happens among
    Christians. The similarities between interfaith and intra-faith dialogue are
    complex. I am looking forward to addressing these challenges in my work at
    the council."

    Read also:

    WCC programme for inter-religious dialogue and cooperation
    (Link: )

    WCC explores Christian self-understanding in context of Hindu religion

    WCC member churches in the Middle East (Link: )

    The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and
    service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches
    founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 349 Protestant, Orthodox,
    Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in
    over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church.
    The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, from the [Lutheran]
    Church of Norway. Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.

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  • Sunday, October 16, 2011

    Kochi to promote inter-religious harmony through dialogue

    Kochi to promote inter-religious harmony through dialogue
    TNN Oct 16, 2011, 07.46AM IST
    KOCHI: Emphasising on the theme 'Significance of spirituality in the
    twenty first century', the International Interfaith Dialogue India
    (IIDI) will begin in Kochi on January 28 next year.

    The three-day conference, which is expected to see 250 delegates from
    across the world, is happening for the first time in India after
    Geneva and Madrid.

    Talking to reporters, IIDI president M D Nalapat said vice-president
    Hamid Ansari would inaugurate the conference and eminent personalities
    like Karen Armstrong, John Esposito and Bishop Desmond Tutu are
    expected to attend the programme. "The conference, which was earlier
    confined to Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities, would also see
    representatives of Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism
    participating this year. We hope clarity of vision and philosophical
    bases to emanate from the international seminar," Nalapat said.

    According to the programme co-ordinators, the conference at Le
    Meridien is expected to see 50 delegates from India and 200 from
    abroad discussing how religion plays a vital role in moulding the
    world view and in building a society where justice prevails.

    Earlier swamy Shankaracharya Onkar, patron of IIDI, said the decision
    to choose Kochi as the conference venue was taken after taking into
    account the inter-religious harmony that exists in Kerala. "Through
    this programme we want to unify various religions for inculcating
    basic human values," the swamy added.

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  • Monday, October 10, 2011

    World Mental Health Day: Prayers and reflections

    World Council of Churches - News


    For immediate release: 10 October 2011

    "Mental illnesses affect people of all ages, in all societies, from
    the boy soldier in Sierra Leone traumatized by years of bloody civil
    war, to the mother affected by HIV/AIDS. Therefore it is crucial for
    the churches to challenge the stigma attached to mental illness," the
    Rev. Kjell Magne Bondevik reminds the churches.

    Bondevik spoke at a service of morning prayer dedicated to World
    Mental Health Day on 10 October. The chapel service was hosted by the
    World Council of Churches (WCC) at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva,

    Bondevik is moderator of the WCC Commission of the Churches on
    International Affairs, president of the Oslo Centre for Peace and
    Human Rights, a minister of the Lutheran Church of Norway, former
    prime minister of Norway and a staunch advocate for promoting
    acceptance and engagement with mental health issues.

    For the prayer service, the WCC Health and Healing (Link: )
    programme invited Bondevik to share his reflections to commemorate
    World Mental Health day, where he stressed the need to raise public
    awareness, promote open discussions on mental disorders and enhance
    community involvement and investments in prevention and treatment.

    Bondevik is known for his courage and resilience when he admitted his
    suffering from depression while holding office as the prime minister
    of Norway in 1998. His decision not only brought him positive support
    from many but also played a role in challenging the stigma attached to
    the mental illness.

    "Fighting stigma around mental health – and creating more openness –
    is important first of all for people with mental health problems, but
    also for the society around. If people come earlier to the health care
    personnel with their problems it will be easier and cheaper to help
    them," said Bondevik.

    He called for a consistent response to improve the environment and
    facilities available to those suffering from mental illness. "It is
    our common responsibility and challenge together to improve the
    situation for the people that suffer from mental diseases also in
    developing countries, where the economical resources are scarce," said

    "To give priority to the care for people with mental illnesses, we
    must expand the knowledge about mental illnesses; we must strengthen
    the integration of these people in the society and reduce the risk of

    Dr Manoj Kurian, WCC programme executive for the Health and Healing
    programme, thanked Bondevik for his message, saying, "We must commit
    to greater engagement with the issue of mental health. We need to
    promote a contextual and affirming interpretation of our holy
    scriptures. As faith communities we need to combat stigma and affirm
    the dignity of all those suffering from mental illness."

    More information on WCC's work on health and healing (Link: )

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