United Religions Initiative North America Seeks Summer Social Media Intern

We are seeking exceptionally dynamic and self-motivated individuals to fill a remote internship position for Summer 2018. The position is hands-on and provides practical work experience. Applicants of any age and academic level are welcome. We will accept applications for these unpaid internships on a rolling basis with a priority deadline of May 10, 2018. The work for these positions is completed entirely online so applicants from across the U.S. and Canada are welcome!

Alanna Witowski, Spring 2018 Social Media Intern says: “I really enjoyed working with social media for such a passionate cause, and being able to be around people that shared that drive. It was inspiring to work with people that had made their passion into their careers.” 

Social Media Intern

Position Description

Under the guidance of the Regional Coordinator, the Social Media Intern will provide crucial support of peacebuilding activities in Canada and the U.S by sharing the stories of URI Cooperation Circles and Affiliates and elevating their voices through our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts. This position will make important contributions to the #TangibleHope, a social media campaign lead by URI North America to spread stories of hope. Internship responsibilities will include the following, as well as other possibilities that may arise.

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Profiles of Women Who Make a Difference: Symi Rom-Rymer

During the month of March, as we celebrate Women’s History Month, URI North America is spotlighting four exceptional women involved in Cooperation Circles in the North America region. This is the fourth story of the series. Follow these links to read the profiles of Satya KalraLisel Burns, and Kay Lindahl.

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By Robyn Lebron

Sometimes in life, an unexpected experience can cause a person’s life direction to change. Many times, it happens without realizing that one’s inner calling is also taking shape. This is what happened for Symi Rom-Rymer.

Symi is a phenomenal young woman that shows us that, it doesn’t matter what your age is, you can make a powerful impact in the world. She is a freelance project manager and journalist who works with and writes about minority communities in the United States and Europe. She’s been published in The Huffington Post, The Jerusalem Post, and The Christian Science Monitor, among other publications. She speaks three languages and has used that ability to take her interfaith and intercultural work to many different places in the world. Symi has also been working with a United Religions Initiative Cooperation Circle, The Unity Walk DC  since 2016.

As a child, Symi heard stories about her great-grandfather’s 1911 journey from Russia to the United States, and those powerful stories stuck with her. But Symi really became passionate about multi-faith issues while in Paris for graduate school in 2005. A controversial new law was passed stating that Muslim women could no longer wear the burqa in public places.

There was a great deal of discussion in her classes, and it caused her to start thinking of the Jewish experience at that time in France. With both the Muslims and Jews being a minority there, she began to have a greater understanding of how “French people want to see their minorities versus how they are actually seen,” she stated pensively.

Symi Rom-Rymer Speaking

It was interesting and exciting to explore it in real time, Symi remarked, “I went in [to the discussions] already interested in the contemporary Jewish experience, but then you have this other major minority group — [and I’m] seeing where the similarities are — and where there is interfaith work happening.” This experience was the first stage of Symi’s transition from a journalist-observer to a personal participant.

Then, in July 2011, Symi attended the second annual Muslim-Jewish Conference in Kiev, Ukraine. It was an experience for young Muslims and Jews to come together and learn how to develop peaceful discourse. Seventy young Muslim and Jewish leaders came from 25 countries for the purpose of gaining an understanding of each other and to search for common ground. All in attendance wanted to “demonstrate that a new generation can overcome decades of mutual fear and demonization, to build a brighter future for both communities.” The Muslim-Jewish Conference is officially endorsed by the United Nations’ Alliance of Civilizations. (Read more)

As she traveled to the conference, Symi thought it would be an interesting journalism project. She was already interested in interfaith issues, and Muslim-Jewish issues specifically. “The strength of the conference was the fact that the founder was able to bring people from all over the world,” she explained. That year, there was an exceptionally large number of Pakistanis, which fascinated Symi, as she had not previously had the opportunity to meet many peers from Pakistan. She also found that many of them had never met any Jews. But every person there had something in common: they were searching for peace. Symi reminisced fondly, “I went in with my ‘journalist hat’ on, thinking I was going to be more of an observer, but by the end, I was a full participant. It was hard not to [be]. I wanted to be a part of things, and get into it with people.”

At the end of that inspirational event, the young leaders were challenged by one of the organizers, to find a way to continue the positive dialogue and interaction that was initiated there. So Symi took on the challenge and created a group called Global Muslim Jewish Friendship Forum, an interfaith Facebook initiative that brings together Muslims and Jews from around the world. The online discussions foster interactions that shatter suspicions and stereotypes among members of both groups, Symi said. Some Muslims have expressed criticism of dialogue with Jews – particularly because of the Israeli-Palestinian issue — but they’re a minority, she added. “The majority don’t feel that way. Muslims are not a monolith.”

Because of this dynamic project, Symi was nominated for The New York Jewish Week’s 2012 “36 under 36” Award, an annual recognition of emerging leaders under the age of 36, “who have demonstrated unique initiative, creativity and leadership.”

symi with friends

Since her experience in Kiev, Symi has continued to stay deeply involved in interfaith and intercultural activities. Since 2016 she has been the Lead Community Organizer for Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington (IFC). She is very passionate about the work she does. According to their website IFC “works towards creating a just community through coalition-building, education, training and advocacy; by uniting diverse faith leaders to speak and act together; by publishing community resources; and by holding public events including concerts, award ceremonies, lectures, and public dialogues.”

It was in 2016 that Symi first got involved with The Unity Walk DC, which is a Cooperation Circle of United Religions Initiative. During this annual event, which is held during the week of September 11, people gather together and walk down Embassy Row, which not only has many embassies, but also many houses of worship. Within each house of worship, the “walkers” are treated to various types of programs. Sometimes they have a cultural presentation, sometimes a tour of the facility or an educational question and answer session. It has been an event that people now look forward to every year.

This event brings together people of all ages, backgrounds and faiths to learn to respect each other through a framework of experiential education, compassionate leadership and intentional service. It seeks to create a world where people are united, rather than divided, by their many faiths.

The event is so compelling that Symi shared about people who were just walking by and just decided to join in, or examples of people who tried to get others to come because they had enjoyed the experience the previous year.

“There was a story about a young woman a few years ago that was so enthusiastic and kept encouraging others to go. She went to her boss, who was a conservative Christian, he said, ‘I don’t know…it doesn’t sound like my kind of thing.’ But she kept insisting. And he decided to come, and just loved it.”

That’s what Symi loves best about the walk. It tends to bring people in who wouldn’t typically get involved in interfaith and gets them engaged in a non-threatening environment.

One of Symi’s favorite moments of the Unity Walk every year is the langar at the Sikh house of worship, called a Gurdwara. In the Sikh tradition, Gurdwaras always serve food on Sundays to whoever shows up. During the walk, they are serving food to 700-800 people throughout most of the day.

She jokingly told a story about a photographer that came to the event, and seemed to have an inordinate amount of photos of the langar, “Once you get there, you’re never going to want to leave…it’s always a huge, huge highlight.”

Symi is incredibly excited about a new initiative that IFC started called WIROC(Washington Interfaith Response and Outreach Coalition) initiative. The coalition provides grassroots, public demonstrations of support by and for individuals and communities throughout the Greater Washington DC Area and engages in proactive outreach opportunities throughout the year. They offer personal support to individuals who will respond to the needs of a community or individual who have been targeted through hate incidents. In addition, WIROC collaborates with other regional interfaith organizations for pro-active positive civic engagement.

In October 2016, they had a meeting with various faith and lay leaders to discuss their visions for their communities, to address ways of bringing people together and to be able to respond to “hate incidents’ as well. They realized that there are many small groups that are addressing these issues, but they wanted to create a grassroots network, called “Solidarity Neighbors or Congregations” that smaller community groups can join. After becoming a member, groups have access to all the services and support systems available across the region.

Symi enthusiastically described one of the primary goals as “working with people– working with congregations, who want to do something — who want to create those connections — but aren’t sure how to get started [with interfaith] but are very new to it.”

She went into the detail about an upcoming event with excitement in her voice. As part of the WIROC initiative this year, they are launching the “Washington Area Day of Unity”, on June 10. They will be encouraging houses of worship in all the surrounding communities to meet together with at least 2-3 faith denominations to plan some kind of community event that would all happen simultaneously on that same day. They are hoping that this will engage many more people within the Washington region to get involved in building interfaith cooperation and understanding.

“Having like five different unity events in the region, all on the same day, would be pretty exciting,” Symi added in a serious tone. “It gives people a sense that ‘We’re part of something larger; something positive’ — which I think we all need.”

This being part of “something larger; something positive” is what fills Symi with excitement and drives her to keep working to change the world through interfaith and intercultural engagement. She is totally convinced that, working as part of a movement of people, she can make a difference.

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This piece was written by URI North America Storytelling Intern Robyn Lebron. You can read more of her work here.

Join the Golden Rule Day Global Webcast on April 5!

URI is proud to be a cosponsor of the 24-hour global Golden Rule Day webcast!

In a divided world full of conflict and mistrust, a grassroots movement has emerged to remind every person on the planet that we share one thing in common — the Golden Rule: Treat others and the Planet as you would like to be treated. This is a universal principle shared by nearly all cultural, spiritual, religious, and secular traditions on Earth.

golden rule day logo

Golden Rule Day has been celebrated since 2007 by 700 organizations in 140 countries. This year, global organizations and spiritual and religious leaders around the world are teaming up to remind us all that the Golden Rule still matters. This year, three organizations – the United Religions Initiative, the Charter for Compassion and the Golden Rule Project (both organizations are members of URI) – and spiritual and religious leaders around the world are teaming up to remind us all that the Golden Rule still matters. 

Join us on Thursday, April 5, for a 24-hour global virtual celebration of the Golden Rule, a universal principle shared by nearly all cultural, spiritual, religious, and secular traditions on Earth.

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Profiles of Women Who Make a Difference: Kay Lindahl

During the month of March, as we celebrate Women’s History Month, URI North America is spotlighting four exceptional women involved in Cooperation Circles in the North America region. This is the third profile of the series, follow these links to read the profiles of Satya Kalra and Lisel Burns.

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By Robyn Lebron

To Listen is Divine

Kay Lindahl has been described as an inspired presence with passionate energy. Kay Lindahl has been described as an inspired presence with passionate energy. . Her entry point to interfaith was her deep interest in, and passion for, spiritual growth and community building. The unfolding of her journey has been fed by these passions and guided by spirit, which has led her to be involved in incredible projects, both personally and professionally, as a consultant, author and speaker. In the process of following these promptings, her connection to different people and organizations has continually expanded.

Most of Kay’s life experiences have evolved organically, as she explored the myriad of paths that she felt led to walk in her search for spiritual growth and meaning. For the past twenty-seven years the daily practice of Centering Prayer has been transforming her life by strengthening her relationship to Source. Kay describes what it is to her, “Centering Prayer as a form of silent prayer in which the intention is to be in the presence of the Presence.”

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Profiles of Women Who Make a Difference: Lisel Burns

During the month of March, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, URI North America is spotlighting four exceptional women involved in Cooperation Circles in the North America region.

By Robyn Lebron

Lisel Burns was raised in a cross-class background — a Navy brat who moved frequently with her family.

Then in 1967, a Mississippi summer civil rights project gave Lisel her life direction and solidified her calling. The project was based on a strategy to partner students from two northern colleges with students from Tougaloo College in Mississippi. The three colleges applied together for federal funding that would support a summer program that allowed high school and college students to spend several months on campus together.

This project was an effort to support brave African American high school students who made the personal choice to integrate into white high schools for the first time in history. These students suffered harassment and bullying throughout the previous year. The ultimate goal of that bullying was to get these students to drop out of high school. The unified project was designed to empower them to stay in school.
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Reflection: Prayer Parade

Ellie Anders Thompson traveled to the United Nations as part of a URI program to connect young adult interfaith leaders to the UN and each other.  Ellie is part of Golden Rule Project, an Affiliate of the United Religions Initiative North America. What follows is Ellie’s reflection on an interfaith service the group attended

By Ellie Anders Thompson

The gathering of the Committee of Religious NGOs at the United Nations celebration of World Interfaith Harmony Week was what I affectionately call a Prayer Parade. It goes like this, group of people from various religious traditions, sometimes non-religious, are asked to offer a prayer. At times the prayers are around certain themes, sometimes not, this time, around “world peace.” One after another folks of various faiths come to the microphone and say different versions in different languages of, “May Peace Prevail on Earth.”

In my humble opinion, it’s just not enough in interfaith work any longer. It is colorful, shiny, and curious, but it’s just not going to cut it when it comes to the challenges we are facing. We know the greatest sources of social capital come from these religious and non-religious communities, and they, therefore, have the greatest potential to actually do something to create the potential for peace. I am not sure gathering in a room with different headdresses and sing-alongs are the actions that will have long-term effects toward peace.

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Profiles of Women Who Make a Difference: Satya Kalra

By Robyn Lebron

Where did it go? ” she asked softly. She cupped both hands around her warm mug, as she gazed out into the brisk morning air from her deck chair. Perhaps she thought she would find it there.

‘Is it under that pile of papers on my desk? ” she sighed. “ Did I lose it at one of the endless meetings with people…the people who smile at me, and then tell me they don’t have time to get involved?” She sighed again, and stood up. Then she took a long, deep breath — as though she was filling her mind with resolve, and her heart with passion.

‘There it is!” She smiled, and went inside to start another day of changing the world.

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During the month of March, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, URI North America will spotlight four exceptional women involved in Cooperation Circles in the North America region. These women — and many others of you out there — are the heroines that legends are made of. Many of you have taken a dream, and made it a reality by selflessly giving to others, and we are proud to be associated with you all!

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Satya Kalra plays with school children.

There was so much suffering, everywhere she looked. Her scientific mind was reeling from the pain that her spirit saw in their faces. In India, the women and children are especially vulnerable.

Even after Satya Kalra moved to the United States in 1969, she never stopped thinking about all the people in need – both in her home country and in her new home. As her spirit searched for answers, Satya felt a “divine call” — so she turned her back on 35 years in the biotech industry where she was highly respected and turned her heart to those who needed her. She had two Master’s degrees, and plenty of accolades — but she gave herself to people in need without expectations of reward.

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Appreciating Diversity, Finding Inspiration: My URI Trip to the UN

Commission on Social Development Rico Ocampo

Rico Ocampo traveled to the United Nations as part of a URI North America program to help connect young adult interfaith leaders to the United Nations and each other and to promote World Interfaith Harmony Week, International Day of Peace. Ocampo is the Program Director of Camp Anytown, a Cooperation Circle member of the United Religions Initiative.

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“Diversity is a source of inspiration.”

Those are the words that were uttered from the Hungarian Ambassador to the United Nations, Katalin Bogyay. Those exact words were ingrained in my soul during an interfaith service that was part of my trip to New York City where I had the utmost privilege of attending the 56th Commission for Social Development at the United Nations.

This trip took place as part of a celebration for World Interfaith Harmony Week (WIHW) and was put on by the United Religions Initiative (URI), an organization that has allowed me to look at interfaith through a worldwide lens. The trip is one that I will never forget and an experience that I will invariably hold close to my heart. My views on youth development and the world have fiercely risen and it is all due to the efforts of URI and their commitment to creating wider bridges between people of all beliefs.

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Ohio Interfaith Group Comes Together To Build Community and Understanding

By Robyn Lebron

URI North America is thrilled to welcome one of our newest Cooperation Circles. We know that we are stronger together!

SAFE ALLIANCE OF INTERFAITH LEADERS (S.A.I.L.), Columbus, OH

  • Contact Person: Greg Davis, Secretary, sail@uri.org
  • Purpose: The Safe Alliance of Interfaith Leaders is formed solely for charitable, religious, and educational purposes to foster peace, tolerance, and understanding among different faiths through constructive dialog, education, and community activities and service. The Safe Alliance of Interfaith Leaders will fulfill its purpose by creating an interfaith community among faith-based congregations, organizations, and individuals in the Northwest Columbus area who share an interest in working together toward mutual understanding and action for the well-being of all people, and to promote respect, friendship, and trust within our community.
  • Areas of Focus: Community Building, Interfaith and Intercultural UnderstandingandDialogue
  • Website: safeallianceofinterfaithleaders.org

“We value opportunities for people to come together, face-to-face, to get to know people from different faith traditions and backgrounds. We value opportunities to share with the public the fact that people of many different faith traditions and backgrounds can share common goals and be friends.”

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As Barb Anderson, president of Safe Alliance of Interfaith Leaders (S.A.I.L.), spoke about the organization’, she had a sense of pride in her voice.

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Alaska Interfaith Power and Light Builds Coalitions to Save Our Common Home

By Robyn Lebron

URI North America is thrilled to welcome one of our newest Cooperation Circles. We know that we are stronger together!

 

ALASKA INTERFAITH POWER & LIGHT, Juneau, AK

Interfaith Power & Light responds to climate change by promoting energy conservation, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and the wise use of Earth’s resources. We want to educate people about global warming with a goal of helping the city and borough of Juneau adopt a plan to reduce its greenhouse gases by 80%.

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Alaska Interfaith Power and Light [AIPL] shows us that you can still make big things happen, even when you are small. With meager beginnings and the power of a dream, Travis Montgomery along with Uyanga “Angie” Mendbayar and a small group of residents in Juneau, Alaska set out to make a difference.

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