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.”

High School Interfaith Activists Organize for a More Tolerant Future

Across the country, interfaith activism is spurring in high schools across the country. These grassroots activists are inspiring their peers to learn about different religions through clubs that promote dialogue and service.

In 2014, Sophomore Jaxon Washburn found himself with a diverse group of friends at Arizona College Prep School in Chandler, Ariz. At lunchtime, they ended up discussing each other’s cultures, backgrounds, and beliefs. These conversations led to a desire to start a formal interfaith club. Soon, the World Religion and Tolerance Society (WRTS) was born.

Continue reading “High School Interfaith Activists Organize for a More Tolerant Future”

Cooperation Circles invites others to Women’s Empowerment Weekend

 

The Oracle Institute, a Cooperation Circle member of URI, is excited to announce its summer retreat, A Women’s Empowerment Weekend, and to invite interested members of other Cooperation Circles to join us as we explore the Divine Feminine with speakers from various faith traditions. Attendees will also participate in a full moon ceremony, yoga, meditations, dance, shared storytelling, and an archetype association practice on our beautiful campus in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

 

 

The Pilgrimage – a snowy walk in beauty, compassion, grace and mercy

The Surrey Interfaith Council, an Affiliate of URI North America, hosted an Interfaith Pilgrimage to mark United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week, which is the first week of February every year. To read about other activities held to celebrate the week, click here.

By Gordon Leslie, Surrey Interfaith Council

Although the third annual Surrey Interfaith Pilgrimage was officially cancelled due to heavy snowfall, there were many participants who moved with integrity to bring compassion, peace, understanding and solidarity to the forefront. The purpose of the event was to bring people from diverse backgrounds and worldviews together to affirm our collective commitment to building peace and understanding in our community.

The first pilgrimage was in response to the November 12, 2015 bombing attacks in southern Beirut and Paris. This year, we aimed to build solidarity with the victims and their families who had recently lost their loved ones in the Quebec shooting. We began with an exchange of blessings for peace and understanding at the Thien Ton Buddhist Temple and went past six other houses of worship: Northwood United Church, Laxmi Narayan Hindu Mandir, Gurdwara Sikh Sahib

Arriving at the Thien Ton Buddhist Temple, the blossom trees were covered with a thick blanket of snow. Icicles glistened and caught the gleaming rays of sunshine.

Brookside, Surrey Jamia Muslim Masjid and the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara. A small ceremony was hosted at each site to cultivate in people a deeper sense of their own religious identity, while also buildingrelationship with people who come from different cultural and religious backgrounds.

Arriving at the Thien Ton Buddhist Temple, the blossom trees were covered with a thick blanket of snow. Icicles glistened and caught the gleaming rays of sunshine. David, who organized the walk, and Gordon, one of the volunteers, went there early in the morning to make sure that no one was stranded. Their safety was paramount. To their surprise, Robert, Andrea and their daughter, Sophia showed up. They had heard about the pilgrimage on the radio and they just could not miss out on the opportunity to explore the possibility of exploring the different houses of worship, build friendship with people from diverse backgrounds, share a meal and build solidarity with Canadians. This would also be an inclusive study field trip for Sophia.

A generous lunch was served to everyone at the Laxmi Narayan Hindu Mandir

A generous lunch was served to everyone at the Laxmi Narayan Hindu Mandir. Vinay introduced our team to their congregation and we participated in the spiritual offering ceremony. In keeping with Hindu practices and traditions, the society operates a Vivek Hindi School, which teaches class every Sunday. Meditation, yoga, and ESL classes are offered every week. The largest annual Hindu festivals are organized by their directors.
Trekking through the snow, Scott Reynolds’ contemplative words came to mind. A former event organizer and Minister of Youth from the United Churches of Langley, he said that: “When we are confronted with deep loss, fear often emerges in our thoughts. Walking and sharing a meal together is a tangible, bodily demonstration of unity that reminds us to let go of fear and move forward in love.”

We made our way to the Gurdwara Sahib Brookside in the snowy blizzard. This is place of worship for the Sikhs in the Brookside and Bear Creek area. They gather to hear their spiritual leaders speak and to listen to holy hymns. Surinder, our host, received us graciously in the community kitchen.

“We made our way to the Gurdwara Sahib Brookside in the snowy blizzard. This is place of worship for the Sikhs … Surinder, our host, received us graciously in the community kitchen.”

We drank a warm cup of chai infused with the sweet aroma of cardamons, ate gelabee sweets and the social conversation blossomed over jobs, families, children and our travels in the world. We all share the same hopes and dreams for our chidren. He guided us upstairs to the prayer hall and informed us of the services offered during the week.

Heading to the Surrey Jamia Muslim Mosque, an air of sadness brought us back to a closer reality. I reflected on why I chose to lend a hand. David, the Surrey Interfaith Council team and I truly believe that the goal of the pilgrimage was to develop a sense of mutual trust, respect, an understanding across religious traditions, and to reduce religiously motivated violence, stereotyping, bigotry, or hatred.

“The goal of the pilgrimage was to develop a sense of mutual trust, respect, an understanding across religious traditions, and to reduce religiously motivated violence, stereotyping, bigotry, or hatred.”

Uniting people across faith and ideological lines creates an environment of interfaith harmony.
We were received by the Muslim congregants with appreciation, compassion, dignity, and respect. We stated clearly that the voice of a terrorist is not the overarching voice of Canadians. The true voice of Canadians embraces the fruits of the spirit: compassion, gentleness, goodness, grace, forbearance, fortitude, mercy, kindness, patience, self-control and understanding. David had gathered a dozen of messages of solidarity from the Surrey Interfaith Council and we were ready to share them all.

We shared their sadness and mourned for the victims and their families. We were engaged in a process of healing that was collaborative laden with compassion, grace, mercy and kindness.

“David had gathered a dozen of messages of solidarity from the Surrey Interfaith Council and we were ready to share them.”

We prayed with them, shared a cup of warm tea and had muffins and samosas. We were actively promoting interfaith dialogue and cooperation to end politically and religiously motivated violence. We aspired to build cultures of compassion, peace understanding and healing in a fragmented world.

 

We left an hour later and walked to the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara to meet the congregants. We were served a warm dinner, went upstairs to the music and prayer hall and reflected on the blessings of the day.Connie Waterman’s words rang so true right in that moment. An event organizer from the Baha’i community, she reflected on the role of religious values in creating peace: “Each one of us has the ability, individually and collectively, to be compassion, selfless and loving. These attributes are strengthened by religious values taught by all the world’s great religions. Together we can create a better world by concentrating all the thoughts of our heart on love and unity, then aligning our actions to reflect that thought.”

We were served a warm dinner, went upstairs to the music and prayer hall and reflected on the blessings of the day.

The Amazing Tutors Children’s Foundation appreciates David Dalley, Gordon Leslie, Dr. Das and Connie Waterman and our amazing directors and the entire Surrey Interfaith Council for pursuing interfaith harmony, peace and non-violence within our city. Thank you, Surrey Interfaith Council, for providing the opportunity for all of us to participate in a giving and caring community. With permission from the kind and thoughtful members, we would like to share all these heart-felt and powerful messages of solidarity with the media, so everyone will have the opportunity feel the power of solidarity and unity: We are one and we are Canadians fighting for compassion, peace and understanding. The pilgrimage was surprisingly a snowy walk in beauty, compassion, grace and mercy. May we walk together very soon when spring knocks on our doors.

You Could Be Heading to the United Nations

Photo: The General Assembly room at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. 

The United Religions Initiative has a longstanding relationship with the United Nations and this year we are proud to sponsor URI North America members to travel to the United Nations Headquarters in New York City to celebrate World Interfaith Harmony Week!

To apply to participate, fill out the form below or click here

Want a better idea of what this trip could mean for you? Read through some of the reflections from last year’s delegation to the United Nations:

 

Details of this Year’s Trip: 

  • The trip to New York will include an experience at the United Nations with URI UN Representative Monica Willard. It is likely that this will include a public opportunity for participants to share about the work of their Cooperation Circle. 
  • URI North America will provide a trip for three members of three different North America Cooperation Circles or Affiliates to the United Nations in New York, NY. 
  • We plan to fully fund the trip for participants. The details, will be announced privately to trip participants.
  • The duration and exact dates of the trip have not yet been determined; however, the general time frame is February 1 – 13.  
  • Participants will be selected by members of the URI North America Leadership Council – Priority consideration will be given to youth. 

Requirements:

  • The applicant must be a member of a URI North America Cooperation Circle or Affiliates.
  • The applicant must have celebrated International Day of Peace 2016. 
  • The applicant or someone from their Cooperation Circle/Affiliate must submit a report of this celebration at: http://urinorthamerica.org/web/idp_report_2016/
  • This application form must be submitted by December 13  at 9am (PST). Applicants will be notified of the results by January 6

Please email northamerica@uri.org with any questions.  

You Could Be Heading to the United Nations.

Photo: The General Assembly room at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. 

The United Religions Initiative has a longstanding relationship with the United Nations and this year we are proud to sponsor URI North America members to travel to the United Nations Headquarters in New York City to celebrate World Interfaith Harmony Week!

To apply to participate, fill out the form below or click here

Want a better idea of what this trip could mean for you? Read through some of the reflections from last year’s delegation to the United Nations:

 

Details of this Year’s Trip: 

  • The trip to New York will include an experience at the United Nations with URI UN Representative Monica Willard. It is likely that this will include a public opportunity for participants to share about the work of their Cooperation Circle. 
  • URI North America will provide a trip for three members of three different North America Cooperation Circles or Affiliates to the United Nations in New York, NY. 
  • We plan to fully fund the trip for participants. The details, will be announced privately to trip participants.
  • The duration and exact dates of the trip have not yet been determined; however, the general time frame is February 1 – 13.  
  • Participants will be selected by members of the URI North America Leadership Council – Priority consideration will be given to youth. 

Requirements:

  • The applicant must be a member of a URI North America Cooperation Circle or Affiliates.
  • The applicant must have celebrated International Day of Peace 2016. 
  • The applicant or someone from their Cooperation Circle/Affiliate must submit a report of this celebration at: http://urinorthamerica.org/web/idp_report_2016/
  • This application form must be submitted by December 13  at 9am (PST). Applicants will be notified of the results by January 6

Please email northamerica@uri.org with any questions.  

This Thanksgiving, people of all faiths give thanks together

interfaith thanksgiving tennessea

Interfaith Thanksgiving services have long been a staple of the interfaith movement in the United States. Every year, around the Thanksgiving holiday people of different traditions gather to give thanks together. Below is just a sampling of the hundreds of events happening across the United States.

Worldwide

  • On November 26, thousands will go down to the shores of the Missouri River to pray and meditate on the front lines of the North Dakota Pipeline at Standing Rock. URI Cooperation Circle UNIFY is coordinating and live streaming the meditation and invites all URI members to join either in person or online. Click HERE to register and here to learn more about the meditation.

It is easy to be grateful when things are going your way. It is a true sign of nobility to be grateful in hard times, when things are not going your way. A spirit of thanksgiving is the consciousness that we always need to be in regardless of what happens at Standing Rock. – Chief Phil Lane Jr.

California

  • The San Francisco Interfaith Council will hosted their annual interfaith Thanksgiving service on November 24 from 10 – 11 am at San Francisco Swedenborgian Church, 2107 Lyon Street
    San Francisco, CA 94115. More information here
  • The Marin Interfaith Council will co-sponsor a Thanksgiving service with the Marin Interfaith Street Chaplaincy. Participants are asked to bring clean sleeping bags, blankets, rain gear and socks for our friends on the street. The service took place on Wednesday, November 23 at 7 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 1510 Fifth Avenue, San Rafael.
  • The Interfaith of San Ramon Valley held their annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service, with the theme of “Embracing Hope – Living Beyond Fear”, on Wednesday, November 23 at 7 p.m. at St. Joan of Arc, 2601 San Ramon Valley Blvd., San Ramon. Interfaith of San Ramon Valley is a member of the Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County
  • Multi-faith ACTION Coalition held their 3rd Annual Thanksgiving Celebration and Service on Sunday, November 20 at 4 p.m. at Temple Isaiah in Lafayette. Leaders from many faith organizations guided mediations and a celebration of gratitude. Multi-faith ACTION Coalition is a member of the Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County

Florida

  • The Community Church of Vero Beach hosted an “Interfaith Prayer Service” on November 21. Swami Anjani Jaya Hanuman, a member of the Kashi Cooperation Circle, will read “Buddha’s Discourse on Good Will” from the Sutta Nipata, and SatiMayee Jaya and Dharmaki will sing the beautifully devotional Hindi chant “Twameva.” Then, on November 22, St. Sebastian Catholic Church hosted a “A Service of Thanksgiving.” Swami will read “A Sufi Prayer for Peace”, while  Satimayee and Dharmaki will sing “Twameva.” 

Tennessee

Texas

  • Rothko Chapel hosted their annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service on Thursday, November 17 with the theme of “Building Relationships,” which was inspired by Mayor Sylvester Turner. She said, “In this city, we do not build walls, we build relationships. We recognize that our diversity is our strength.” The chapel opened early at 6:15 p.m. for participants to engage in personal reflection, prayer, and preparation for the exploration of unique traditions at 7:00 p.m. All are welcome. A reception followed the program.

[Video] Social Media: A Tool for Movement Building

 

We just hosted a webinar on the topic of social media as a tool for movement-building and it was a success! Joined by experts in the field, we shared best practices for grassroots peacebuilders to use social media to continue to grow their movement within and beyond their communities.

Check out the archived recording below. Don’t forget to scroll past the video to find a list of important resources on how to build a successful social media strategy that’s tailored to your organizational needs.

Sharing is caring – pass this information on to a fellow peacebuilder!

RESOURCE GUIDE

You can view this resource guide directly in Google Docs by clicking here.

Indigenous Chief Calls Religious Leaders to Standing Rock

Standing Rock Encampment

Chief Arvol Looking Horse, 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle, is calling on religious leaders from all traditions to come join young people standing in prayerful protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“We are asking the religious leaders to come and support them to stand side-by-side with them because the are standing in prayer,” he said.

The protestors, who say the pipeline will disrupt sacred Indigenous burial grounds and threaten water supplies, are standing along Highway 1806, which leads to the pipeline’s construction site. Looking Horse, a member of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Nations, said the police and National Guard are moving in on the protestersand he believes an influx of religious leaders to the area can help keep the peace.

“If you can find it in your heart, to [come] pray with them, and stand beside them…the Police Department and the National Guard they would listen to each and every one of you,” he said.

The protestors are standing along Highway 1806 in prayer against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which they say will disrupt sacred Indigenous burial grounds and threaten water supplies.

“The hearts of All People’s faiths must now unite in believing we can change the path we are now on,” he said.

Religious leaders interested in heeding Looking Horse’s call to go to Standing Rock can contact Johnnie Aseron at johnnie@attglobal.net or 605-545-4545.

Looking Horse is a member of the United Religions Initiative Cooperation Circle Protecting and Restoring the Sacred. You can read his full statement below or at this link. You can read URI’s statement of support presented at Oceti Sakowin Camp here.

_________

Arvol Looking Horse:
October 22, 2016
Protecting the Sacred

Mitakuyape (relatives)!

We are now up against dangerous decisions that are coming from the disease of the mind. We are dealing with minds that hold no values of respect and honor toward another Nation’s Burials and Sacred Sites. Money has contaminated their minds to want the power to desecrate the sacredness of Mother Earth and allow my People’s burial places to be destroyed in order to continue to erase our culture.

As Keeper of this Spirit Bundle of my People, we as the Buffalo People – Pte Oyate, have been able to keep our ceremonies and way of life for 19 generations in tact, which every generation is 100 years. This Bundle has been with us for over 2000 years, which has guided us through massacres and hard times, even when it was hidden until the 1978 Freedom of Religion Act.

Tim Mentz –Tatanka Duta (Red Bull) and his family lineal knowledge are bound by this same woope – Creator’s Law. This knowledge is based on sacred oral history that dictates the word is sacred and stands in truth. Tim’s inherited knowledge in recognizing significant Sacred Sites and holds the same value for our People, as in my position, this is why I am able to carry an Honorary Doctorate Degree from the University of SD. We both have been raised with traditional knowledge with the responsibility to protect and carry, on behalf of our People. A person that earns a Degree can never attain that same knowledge we carry for our People. The Responsibility that we care for is passed down and learned through our oral history.

For this Oil Corporation to destroy what Tim Mentz, a cultural historical Tracker, identified as our Burial Mounds and Sacred Sites, is a violation to the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This also violates United States’ own Treaty with our People. What has now been allowed to happen is a violation in the highest level of disrespect toward a Nation’s Ancestors. The support this Corporation has are Political Leaders who have given themselves the Power in their elected positions, to violate their own Laws they are supposed to uphold; as stated in their own US Constitution in how Religions are to be treated. Where are the Keepers of their values?

The hearts of All People’s faiths must now unite in believing we can change the path we are now on. We, from heart of Turtle Island, have a great message for the World to unite for our children’s future. Already we have witnessed many Nations of life are now dying because of contamination; those that swim, those that crawl, those that fly, the plant Nation, the four legged and now the two legged.

What we are being faced with is a dark spirit. All life cannot afford to allow the same mistakes to be made any longer, look what is happening to the four directions in the contamination of Mni Wic’oni – water of life. If we do not actively stand up as Leaders and do Creator’s work in uniting our concerns, it will continue to be a domino affect that our Ancestors have warned about in the Prophecies.

This is not a competition of who will lead and who should follow, this is a very serious time we are in. I know in my heart there are millions of People that feel this is long overdue. It is time that all of us become Leaders to help protect the sacred upon Mother Earth – she is the source of life and not a resource.

In a Sacred Hoop of Life, where there is no ending and no beginning.

Onipiktec’a (that we shall live),

Nac’a Arvol Looking Horse
19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe