Sunday, October 25, 2015

PUYB Virtual Book Club Chats with Paula Fouce, author of 'Not in God's Name: Making Sense of Religious Conflict'



Paula Fouce is a critically acclaimed filmmaker and author. Her film credits include Not in God’s Name: In Search of Tolerance with the Dalai Lama, Song of the Dunes: Search for the Original Gypsies (PBS stations), Naked in Ashes, Origins of Yoga, and No Asylum. Her new book, NOT IN GOD’S NAME: MAKING SENSE OF RELIGIOUS CONFLICT, delves deeper into the subject of religious intolerance and offers solutions that are aimed at uniting all faiths. She was partner and director of KRCA TV Channel 62 in Los Angeles and served as co-chair of the Southern Asian Art Council at Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Fouce is the owner and president of Paradise Filmworks International, a production company based in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. She is currently working on a book that chronicles her experiences living and traveling with the yogis in the Himalayas.

For More Information
About the Book:

Title: Not in God’s Name: Making Sense of Religious Conflict
Author: Paula Fouce
Publisher: Paradise Filmworks International
Pages: 254
Genre: Nonfiction/Religion
Format: Paperback/Kindle/Nook/iTunes

“We're all praying to the same Divine, which is called by many names or no name at all.” In her new book, NOT IN GOD’S NAME: MAKING SENSE OF RELIGIOUS CONFLICT (based on award winning film that aired on PBS "Not in God's Name: In Search of Tolerance with the Dalai Lama"), Paula Fouce searches for solutions to end the escalating violence between religious groups. She has lived and worked in many South Asian countries including India, Tibet, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Kashmir, where she experienced a variety of vast cultural and religious diversity.  But Fouce came face-to-face with the destructiveness of religious-based conflict while in India when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards.

As a result of Gandhi’s murder, thousands of Sikhs were massacred. Fouce escaped unharmed, but she was shaken by the explosion of violence from a people who had treated her with care and compassion before the death of their leader. The experience prompted Fouce to undergo a personal quest to understand the reasons behind the intolerance. What was the genesis of violent religion-inspired conflicts – the underlying chaos that has led to major violent conflicts such as the Crusades (1095–1291), the Partition of India in 1947, the 2009 Mumbai attacks, the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, the 2015 Paris attacks, and other religion-inspired conflicts?

In NOT IN GOD’S NAME: MAKING SENSE OF RELIGIOUS CONFLICT, Fouce shares her journey for spiritual enlightenment that began after she survived a car crash in which she was thrown from the vehicle. After her recovery, Fouce traveled to India in 1974 for a semester of study focused on Hindu and Buddhist art. During an early trip, Fouce met Mother Teresa. She returned to India after graduating from college to continue her spiritual exploration, export art, and guide luxury tours.

NOT IN GOD’S NAME: MAKING SENSE OF RELIGIOUS CONFLICT discusses the histories of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity, as well as Jainism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, and other religions. Fouce spoke with several leaders in the religious tolerance movement, including the Dalai Lama; Mark Juergensmeyer, professor of Religion at the University of California, Santa Barbara; Dr. Karan Singh, a member of India’s Upper House of Parliament; and Dr. Joseph Prabhu, a trustee of the Council for the Parliament of the World’s Religions. In the book, the author asks probing questions of faith leaders and scholars in order to devise solutions for ending the violence among religious groups.

“Although there are differences, we can develop a deep respect for all faith traditions that contribute untold richness to our civilization. Religious tolerance is our greatest tool for promoting world peace,” Fouce says. She identifies specific causes of religious intolerance and offers solutions for bringing the world’s faiths together.

After escaping the Indian religious riots in 1984, Fouce was “was struck with how religion had been twisted and used to create dissention and violence, the antithesis of its intention. My point of view is focused on how to bridge our differences; and my book goes into detail, even describing the compassion training that is now taught in many top universities.” Over the three-year period that Fouce worked on NOT IN GOD’S NAME: MAKING SENSE OF RELIGIOUS CONFLICT, she used the transcripts from interviews for the film documentary of the same title (which was aired on PBS stations nationwide) and researched news stories of current religious conflicts. “Education is sorely needed to ensure a peaceful world where it is understood that diversity is not a threat or a detriment to one’s own good. Diversity is to be celebrated,” Fouce says. “Our unquestionable right as human beings is to freely worship the God of our understanding and to follow that spiritual path whose practices support our doing so.”

Fouce’s purpose for writing NOT IN GOD’S NAME: MAKING SENSE OF RELIGIOUS CONFLICT is to help the reader to understand that there are solutions to religious intolerance. “How do we change the minds of violent fundamentalists? This is the real task ahead, together with preventing people from being attracted to such ideology in the first place. Can we find a middle ground, a live-and-let live coexistence? Herein lies the only answer to the challenge of creating a peaceful future with acceptance. The continued existence of the human race depends on it.”

For More Information

  • Not in God’s Name: Making Sense of Religious Conflict is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Download your copy at iTunes.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Thanks for joining us at the book club, Paula!  Can we begin by having you tell us why you wrote your book, Not in God’s Name: Making Sense of Religious Conflict?

Paula: I lived in South Asia for many years, working in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kashmir, China and Tbet. I studied many religions there, and life was very peaceful. Suddenly in 1984 I was trapped in a religious riot, when some Hindus slaughtered Sikhs. My life was threatened, and I was appalled with how religion had been twisted, and used to create division and violence, the very antithesis if its’ intention. This horrific experience caused me to go on a quest for solutions to religious intolerance and to write a book about it. Today the number of  stories in the daily news about killing in the name of God continues to be overwhelming.

Is there a solution to end the escalating violence between religious groups?

Paula: The most powerful solution to end violence between religious factions is education. The Dalia Lama is teaching how all faiths share the same common values such as kindness, compassion, honesty, etc. By recognizing the commonalities in all religions, and teaching these values outside of religion, as secular values, they transcend divisive attitudes. These positive values are universal; they don’t belong to any particular religion, but are practiced by all paths.

You have lived and worked in many South Asian countries.  Can you tell us more about that in relation to your book?

Paula: The experience of living amongst so many varied and rich religious traditions was so expansive mentally emotionally and spiritually. The Jains are strict vegetarians, some wear a cloth over their mouth so that they don’t inadvertently breathe in and kill an insect. the Sikhs, the Zoroastrians. India is the cradle of many of the world’s great faiths, and it was also interesting to see how faiths in India adopt and adapt faith traditions. For instance, when a Holy Communion or a Conformation take place in a Catholic family in Mumbai, it is celebrated like an Indian Hindu festival, with lots of sweets to eat, outdoor twinkling lights, etc. That was very cool, also seeing people at Mass sitting crossed legged on the ground.

What was the worse religious-based conflict you saw over there?

Paula: The worse religious conflict I experienced was being trapped in the riot when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated, and Hindus were killing Sikhs. But I have also seen great prejudice due to the caste system, where villagers were treated terribly due to being “lower caste” in the Hindu caste system. They were kicked out of their village and made to live outside, and they are not allowed to enter and worship in the same temples.

Do you believe there is religious conflict here in the United States and what ways can we learn to deal with it?

Paula: There is religious conflict in the United States. There are bombings of abortion clinics and killings of doctors who perform abortions. There are random terrorist attacks by extreme Islamists. There are comments made by people who mistakenly label all Muslims as terrorists. There are attacks against Jews and synagogues. There was recently a shooting at a black Christian Church. There are turban-wearing Sikhs mistaken for Arab terrorists that have been gunned down on the street, and many other instances.

What’s next for you, Paula?

Paula: I am writing a book about when I lived and traveled with the yogis throughout the Himalayas. I am also producing two new documentary films: Passion Pain Dance about the Gypsies, and The Dark Hobby about endangered reef wildlife being wiped out to extinction.

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