Save the Date: Interfaith activists to meet on URI community call

2017 – what a year it has been!

For interfaith peacebuilders and activists working in all sectors, it has been a year of dichotomies — of challenges and victories, of joys and tragedies, of steps forward and steps backward.

How often do you have the opportunity to reflect on the year that has gone by? And to gather with other people doing interfaith work — from communities all across the US and Canada — to swap stories, share learnings, and find encouragement? Well, now, you do!

Join your fellow URI members for:

Looking Forward with Purpose: Growth, Peace, Learning and Sharing with Peacebuilders From Around North America

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United Religions Initiative North America Seeks Spring Interns

We are seeking two interns to join our team for the Spring 2018 semester.  These interns provide vital support to our communications work and, specifically to the #TangibleHope campaign. The two open positions are Public Relations/Storytelling Intern  and Social Media Intern. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis with a priority deadline of December 4, 2017.

What do previous interns say?

“An internship with URI was an incredible opportunity to further advance my career.  Talking with folks from all backgrounds and beliefs was an extremely humbling and educational experience.” – Ryan Polsky, Spring 2017 Storytelling Intern

“I interned with URI North America the summer after I graduated from college. Very aimless, trying to figure out my future, writing regularly as a storyteller grounded me and showed me that journalism was a field I really did want to pursue. Writing long form prepared me for the local reporting position I hold now. Learning about people from different religious backgrounds working towards a common good was a bonus and is an interest I will continue to pursue for the rest of my life.” – Grace King, Summer 2017 Storytelling Intern

Keep reading for position descriptions!

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In times of great loss, Northern California faith communities prepare to support those affected by wildfires

Photo from The Red Cross

There is no rule book for responding to crisis on this magnitude, Executive Director of the San Fransisco Interfaith Council (SFIC) Michael Pappas said. As the fires In California rage, he is focused on being a “portal of communication” to other faith leaders who are in a better position to help during this humanitarian crisis.

Although he is not in the heart of the chaos, which is focused in Sonoma County and Napa Valley, Pappas said that The Red Cross and Salvation Army, which are best prepared to deal with this crisis, are headquartered in San Francisco. Working with them and the San Francisco Public Health Department, Pappas’ role right now is to stay in constant communication, sending out advisories to his 4,500 contacts and encouraging them to repost on their social media and share with their congregations.

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Vital Elements Community Welfare Services celebrated International Day of Peace by coming together in community

Vital Elements Community Welfare Services in Toronto, Canada, celebrated International Day of Peace on Sept. 23.

Peace loving people must become agents of peace.

This was the focus of the celebration on International Day of Peace by Vital Elements Community Welfare Services in Toronto, Canada on Sept. 23.

The celebration started with releasing three “peace doves,” one by a child, one by a woman and the final by a man in representation of the three important links of a family.

President of “A Better Community For All Canada” Yuel Bhatti introduced the theme of the day “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for all.” The theme for International Day of Peace is established by the United Nations every year.

“There is great need to spread the message of (United Religions Initiative) in multicultural regions of Canada to create more peace and harmony,” Bhatti said. He thanked the participants of Canadian, Indian and Pakistani cultures who were there to participate in International Day of Peace.

Together, attendees sang songs of peace, worshiped and lit a peace candle.

“Peace can be found within and without: within ourselves, within our neighborhoods and communities, but most importantly, without discrimination, hate and disrespect,” said Sylvia Ghori, CEO of Vital Elements Community Welfare Services.

President of Vital Elements Jasper Ghori said during his speech that for peace to really happen, people need to seek the “source of peace,” rather than looking to into the source of a conflict.

Tony Zekveld of Hope Centre in Toronto said that sustainable peace will come when we accept “the Kingship of our Creator God.”

Other speakers included Nadia Atif, women Coordinator of “A Better Community For All Canada,” who recited poetry and Jay Banerjei.

Interfaith peace service held in Nashville

In Nashville, on September 18, the URI Nashville Cooperation Circle (URI NCC) held an interfaith service to commemorate United Nation’s International Day of Peace.

“It is with great joy that I recall the beauty of citywide interfaith peace service followed by a reception.  The service and reception were committed to building bridges between peoples and transforming hate into hope and love  with prayers for peace by URI NCC members from eight world religions and spiritual paths.” Joyce Wilding, Founder URI NCC.

Grieving Las Vegas: We Weep and Then We Work

Waking up to the news of the atrocities in Las Vegas, it is difficult to find words to say. As peacemakers who often find ourselves responding to tragedies, we are grounded this morning in the words of our Executive Director: “We weep and then we work.”

“We Weep”

 Today, we weep. We weep for the lives lost, for those who have lost loved ones, for those who will deal with this trauma for the rest of their lives…for the fact that human beings inflict violence on other human beings.

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Northeast Tennessee Group Debuts Interfaith Storytelling Event

Fr. Peter Iorio, Facilitator of the URI in Northeast Tennessee Cooperation Circle, with Arif Choudhury (L) and Noa Baum (R).

To paraphrase a quote from Gene Knudsen Hoffman, Compassionate Listening pioneer and international peacemaker, “A stranger is one whose story you’ve not yet heard.” Getting to know one another can be as simple as listening to each other’s story. When that story is shared by someone you might see as one of “the others”, a bridge of the heart can truly be built.

Thanks to the hard work of the United Religions Initiative Northeast Tennessee Cooperation Circle, two talented storytellers, Noa Baum and Arif Choudhury, debuted an impactful interfaith program titled “In The Heart of The Other: A Muslim and Jew Sharing Their Stories.” Through the Appalachian Storybridge to Peace program of the Northeast Tennessee Cooperation Circle, the program was produced four times over the two days of September 14-15, 2017 at the International Storytelling Center at Jonesborough, Tusculum College in Greeneville, East Tennessee State University and the Holston Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Johnson City, Tennessee.

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Congresswoman shares International Day of Peace message

In honor of International Day of Peace, Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard  sent to following letter to be read during the International Day of Peace Celebration hosted by the Interfaith Roundtable of Kauai, a Cooperation Circle member of the United Religions Initiative.

We can all share the goal of worldwide peace

Mahalo nui loa to the Interfaith Roundtable of Kauai, and the many volunteers and community members who have helped to make today’s International Day of Peace Celebration here on the Garden Isle a reality.

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URI members from opposite coasts meet

A beautiful meeting of hearts and minds happened this summer when URI members from two different coasts — Ji Hyang (left) from Encinitas, CA and Paul and Sandi (right) from Bedford Hills, NY — found out they were both spending time at the same retreat center!

“It is heartening to see someone else with whom we have already been working, quietly and in a sense, invisibly, different strands of one network. Seeing someone in person who has already been working together towards this vision of peace, confirms my confidence in this wider circles of which we are all a part, and within which we share the work.” – Ji Hyang Padma

These types of connections are possible more often than you think! If you are traveling and would like to connect with URI members where you’re going, please contact

Peace Pole erected in Charlotte, commemorating International Day of Peace

The Charlotte Red Bench Garden Cooperation Circle, a member of the United Religions Initiative commemorated the International Day of Peace with the erection of a Peace Pole on September 21.

Galilee Ministries of East Charlotte, located at 3601 Central Avenue, Charlotte, NC, hosted the event in September 21, 2017 at 11:00 am in partnership with Charlotte Red Bench Garden,  Central Piedmont Community College, Refugee Support Services, Charlotte Community Kitchen, Catholic Charities, Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry, and Cross Cultural Counseling; the residents of St. Andrews Homes and the Merry Oaks Community.

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