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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Sun Devils Are Better Together to Celebrate International Day of Peace

Tempe, Arizona – Sun Devils Are Better Together (SunDABT), a member of the United Religions Initiative global interfaith network, will celebrate the 38th anniversary of the International Day of Peace with a general meeting focusing on storytelling around heritage, migration and the unknown over a cup of coffee and tea. The meeting will take place on September 18 at Arizona State University’s Tempe campus.  The International Day of Peace, observed annually on Sept. 21, was established by the General Assembly of the United Nations as a day of global ceasefire and non-violence for commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace within and among all nations and people.

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Visiting and Learning from Interfaith Groups in Southern California

In early August, I headed to San Diego, California, where I spent an incredible and intense five days immersed in the North American Interfaith Network Connect. Alongside URI North America Leadership Council members Ardey Turner, Fred Fielding, Johnny Martin and Gard Jameson, I was privileged to support this gathering through the planning and facilitation of an intergenerational dialogue as well as facilitating a workshop on engaging various types of diversity in the interfaith movement.

The gathering was also a wonderful time to meet new people and connect with old friends — both from within the URI network (there were attendees from at least nine URI Cooperation Circles and three URI North America Affiliates) and from places and organizations I had never met. (Deeper reflections on this gathering to come in a future blog post.)

Whenever I interact with anyone doing interfaith peacebuilding work, I try to ask questions that help me learn and understand practices that can be shared within and beyond the URI network; to share what is happening in other parts of URI; when possible, to make practical connections between and among people doing this work that don’t know one another; and to get input on how they think URI can continue to grow and serve our members, and the interfaith movement as a whole.

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Intergenerational dialogue at national conference aims to strengthen interfaith work

(L to R) Miranda Hovemeyer, Johnny Martin, Yusef Miller, Ardey Turner and Tahil Sharma participated in a model intergenerational dialogue at the 2017 NAIN Connect in San Diego.

During the conference in San Diego on Aug. 7, the session started with a model dialogue about generational diversity and moved into tabletop discussions among participants. Regional Coordinator for the United Religions Initiative in North America, Sari Heidenreich, spent nearly a year formulating questions and planning the discussion with an intergenerational planning team. They were acutely aware that, often times, interfaith work in North America is by people who are retired or in the “second half of life.”

“If the [interfaith] movement is going to grow, we need all of the ideas we can get,” Heidenreich said. “Sometimes as people who have been doing this work a little longer, we can get stuck in our ways, jaded. We have to listen to what everyone has to share and bring to the table.”

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Preparing for International Day of Peace 2017!

International Day of Peace is just around the corner! 

Every year on September 21st, people around the world celebrate the United Nations’ International Day of Peace (IDP), a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples. Activities and events range from events planned just for the occasion to recognitions of the day being added to existing activities. In previous years, celebrations have ranged from peace walks to concerts, and include art showcases, community outreach, and peace education programs.

Will your Cooperation Circle/Affiliate join the millions of people around the world celebrating this day?

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Holding Hope in the Balance: Happy 1st Anniversary #TangibleHope!

One year ago today, we launched the #TangibleHope campaign to spread stories of hope and to share with the world what sometimes gets lost in the news cycle — that there are more helpers out there than those causing harm.

As I sit here today, last August feels like a lifetime ago. At that point, the U.S. was in the middle of a divisive presidential election and fear was running high after terrorist attacks in Europe and California.  And , yet, last August, there had been no Orlando night club shooting;  no wildfires in Ft. McMurray, Alberta; no approval of the Keystone XL pipeline or the building of the Dakota Access pipeline under sacred water in North Dakota; there had been no white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., no Hurricane Harvey soaking south Texas, no Hurricane Matthew before that; and countless other events that make my heart hurt.

I wonder, knowing what we know now, were we naive, a year ago, to launch a campaign based on hope?

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