Across ideological divides, Arizona groups sign peace treaty

By Danica Lauren Barnett

Tucked away in the back of a quiet Panera Bread in Central Phoenix, two organizations with very different political opinions met on Sunday morning for an interfaith prayer breakfast with one common goal: to have a civil discourse and sign a treaty as community members of Arizona to denounce white supremacy and any violence against anybody based on their race, religion, sexuality, gender, or country of birth.

Walking into the bakery a little early, I felt a general unease about the situation after hearing about several of the violent threats about President Trump’s upcoming political rally made by community members from both the right- and left-wing sides. Still, I found myself sitting between the two groups as they met to discuss their viewpoints, their definitions of common buzzwords, and how Phoenix can set an example for other communities. While both sides gathered around an L-shaped cluster of different-sized tables, it was clear that there was a slight unconscious divide—on my left, the John Brown Gun Club (also known as Redneck Revolt) is an anti-racist gun club; on my right, the United Liberty Coalition is a constitutional patriotic group who believe that the 1st amendment is paramount to American freedom. Sitting between both groups, Johnny Martin, a member of the URI North America Leadership Council, would serve as a mediator.

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Save the Date: URI North America’s 1st In-Person Gathering Since 2009

We are beyond excited to announce that—for the first time in nine years—URI members in the U.S. and Canada will have the opportunity to meet, in person, with members of other URI Cooperation Circles and Affiliates from across the region! During our North America Regional Assembly in Washington, D.C. from July 27-29, 2018 you will have the opportunity to:

    • Build enriching relationships with people engaged in similar work
    • Discover and share best practices to strengthen your local interfaith efforts
    • Retreat and refresh with other peacebuilders
    • Craft the way URI supports interfaith work across the region

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Statement in Light of Violence in Charlottesville

We are heartbroken about the events that unfolded last weekend in Charlottesville and subsequent events being planned around the country. We stand against the ideology and harmful actions of white supremacy. We stand against any and all acts of violence.

In the United Religions Initiative community, we believe there is a better way. We stand firmly in our organizational Charter, which is affirmed by nearly 100 members organizations across the U.S., and hundreds more around the world. Today, we reaffirm the values contained in this document, which include a commitment to “practice healing and reconciliation to resolve conflict without resorting to violence,” to “welcome the gift of diversity and model practices that do not discriminate” and to “use our combined resources only for nonviolent, compassionate action, to awaken to our deepest truths, and to manifest love and justice among all life in our Earth community.”

“The Preamble of URI’s Charter calls us to action in moments such as these,” said URI Executive Director the Rev. Victor Kazanjian. “May we as people of diverse religions, spiritual expressions and Indigenous traditions throughout the world unite to confront the politics of hate wherever it may appear and work tirelessly to promote cultures of peace, justice and healing throughout the world.”

In this difficult time, we are grateful  to people across the country and world who are upholding and acting on these values. And we encourage communities around the United States to continue to provide places for nonviolent gatherings to actively build cultures of peace, justice, and healing for all people.

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Bringing Recognition of International Day of Peace to Your Local Community

Nashville Cooperation Circle holds a community service where nine people from different religious traditions discuss peace.

Around the world, a minute of silence will fall at 12 p.m. in each time zone on Sept. 21, as people gather together for meditation and prayer for global peace.

International Day of Peace was established in 1981 by a United Nations resolution that devoted a day to “commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples.” United Religions Initiative (URI) has been a partner of International Day of Peace since it was established in 2000. The minute of silence in recognition of this day begins on Sept. 21, when the Secretary General rings the Peace Bell at the UN Headquarters.

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Stories from Korea: Building Relationships for a More ‘Glocal’ World

Hersheyth Aggarwal  traveled to South Korea to attended the URI Korea Youth Peace Camp alongside URI young leaders from around the world. Hersheyth invites us into his experience by sharing his reflects below.

The URI Youth Peace Camp in Korea was an amazing experience. The focus of the camp was to discuss the concept of global citizenship and learn about Korean culture. The first couple of days in the camp we went to the Sea of Japan and saw Naksana Temple, the border, and a Korean War Memorial museum. Then we returned to Seoul where we visited the Korean National Museum, a Won Buddhist Temple, a Mormon Temple, and a Cathedral. Almost every day we also broke up into discussion groups in the evening and each discussion group made a presentation to show on the final day.

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Interfaith Coalitions Intervene to Address Homelessness

On Tuesday mornings, Bentley Stewart prepares to share a meal with several dozen of his friends experiencing homelessness. Before they eat, Stewart passes a feather around the circle and asks people to share whatever is on their heart. Some speak of a profound, heartbreaking prayer request. Others read a weather report. One man stands up and sings.

The off-key song is somewhat awkward, somewhat long, and a little wild, but “we’re all a little wild, and if you’re living with the traumatization of living outdoors, of course you’re a little wild,” Stewart said.

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Interfaith Groups Use Music to Connect Across Difference

A choir performs at the Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County’s International Diversity Day concert in May 2017.

The Bainbridge Island North Kitsap Interfaith Council has been organizing annual concerts for fourteen years.  However, quite recently, the concerts have evolved.  What started out as a choir concert has turned into something much larger.

During the first concerts, different choirs would participate throughout the festival, performing different songs, before gathering together at the end for a combined piece.  When Tiffny Weighall took over planning the festival four years ago, she transformed it into a festival with different types of musical expression.  

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Women’s Group Fosters Future Collaborations During Ramadan Season

As five panelists of different religious backgrounds discussed their traditions, women around the room at an iftar held in Syracuse, NY, began to latch onto the thread of commonality that brought them together.

The Women’s Iftar was the first of its kind organized by Women Transcending Boundaries, a URI Cooperation Circle and egalitarian community of women from different faith and cultural traditions that seeks to educate and serve their community. The shared iftar, a meal eaten by Muslims after sunset during Ramadan, was as much of a way to empower women in their community as it was to break fast.

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Roadtripping & Learning from Interfaith Peacebuilders Across the Northeast U.S.

Sari (L) and Nivy (R) at the end of our roadtrip in New Hampshire.

As Regional Coordinators for the United Religions Initiative, one of the core parts of our job is to listen to our members – to understand what their local context, the projects and programs they are working on, their dreams for the future and current struggles. While the phone, email, Zoom and Skype are great tools to do this, nothing can replace the opportunity to do this listening face-to-face. So, we set out on a 9-day trip to visit our grassroots members and like-minded interfaith peacebuilding organizations to build relationships; discern trends; help make capacity-building connections to resources, organizations and individuals; and discern how to URI can continue to grow in response and service to our member’s needs and request.  Continue reading “Roadtripping & Learning from Interfaith Peacebuilders Across the Northeast U.S.”

“Hope is Where Love Lives and Thrives”

“What gives you #TangibleHope in the world today? How do your values and/or belief systems come into conversation with this #TangibleHope?”

Karen Leslie Hernandez,  Mom, Theologian, Interfaith Activist, Animal Lover:

In a world where 19,000 children die around the world, due to effects of malnutrition and disease. In a world where famine is gripping South Sudan and Yemen and tens of thousands are at risk of literally starving to death. In a world where chemical warfare in Syria is a game of blame. In a world where Muslim girls are brutally beaten to death because of “road rage.” In a world where a building that houses hundreds of poor immigrants simply burns them alive. In a world where there are more slaves than ever in the world’s history of slavery. In a world where vans are used as weapons. In a world where men with guns and bombs kill our children while they attend school and concerts. In a world where prisons are an industry and those of color pay for the greed. In a world where the President of what was the most thriving nation on the planet, brags about grabbing women by their private parts. In a world where two men die defending a Muslim woman on a train. In a world where there are more refugees than ever before fleeing their homeland for a better life. In a world where those that are paid to protect us, in actuality, shoot us. In a world where we are closer to a nuclear war than we have ever been …

In a world such as this, how can we find hope?

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