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!



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%.


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.

Continue reading “Alaska Interfaith Power and Light Builds Coalitions to Save Our Common Home”

A Three-Legged Stool: The Salish Sea Bioregional Gathering

In October, I participated in the Salish Sea Bioregional Gathering in Vancouver, which was co-sponsored by the Interspiritual Centre of Vancouver Society, a Cooperation Circle member of the United Religions Initiative. Representatives from 17 different URI Cooperation Circles and Affiliates attended this gathering, which was monumental for URI as the first gathering for URI members that has taken place in Canada. We took this little video to share our greetings and love with the global URI community!

Below I have shared my personal reflections from participating in the transformative weekend — I hope you’ll continue reading!

Sari Heidenreich
North American Regional Coordinator

Attending the Salish Sea Bioregional Gathering felt like sitting on a well-balanced three-legged stool of learning, relationship-building, and contemplative practice. And that combination was unique and special in a way that I have never before experienced.

Continue reading “A Three-Legged Stool: The Salish Sea Bioregional Gathering”

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.

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

Local environmental activists find support, connection in national learning group

Climate justice is at the forefront of social justice movements across the country, especially amongst URI members and Cooperation Circles. As individuals and groups engage in the fight for climate justice in their local communities, they can report on their work and connect with other environmental activists in outside communities in the newly formed URI Environmental Cohort Group.  

“We discuss how we can network with each other to better support one another, to create capacity building within URI, and how we can address sustainable city challenges,” said group member Dave Randle.

Being a group of interfaith activists, the members are very interested in engaging with different perspectives.  This resonates with URI Environmental Network Coordinator and the group’s co-facilitator, Katherine Hreib.

“In my work, I often have conversations with people, but it often feels like we’re saying the same things over and over again, agreeing on the same issues, and it doesn’t feel like we’re moving anywhere,” she said. “This group is a good place to start breaching out of that. [There are] so many different voices, not only with people coming from different faith traditions, but also people living in different cities around the country. We try to be comfortable with differences within the group. We allow for there to be disagreements, and not try to agree on everything.  That’s not what this group is about; it’s about transforming our opinions so we can be more effective community builders.”

In what Randle describes the “age of advocacy,” more activist and socially aware groups are forming across the nation. True to that form, this group was founded late last year by Hreib and URI North America Regional Coordinator Sari Heidenreich .

“We were thinking about how we could form dialogue groups within the interfaith community around climate action, specifically because there was so much anxiety after the election about what was going to happen to environmental justice.  We wanted to form a supportive space for conversation, research sharing, and networking,” Hreib continued.

Heidenreich added, “The group started in December of last year when we really identified that there was a need for supportive community among activists. We heard this need echoed from folks that shared they would like to connect with other individuals doing similar work across the country.  Starting the group was really a response to the needs we heard from grassroots activists, which were being catalyzed with the changes we were seeing on a federal level.”

URI North American Regional Coordinator and URI Environmental Network Coordinator Katherine Hreib co-facilitate the learning community.
URI North American Regional Coordinator and URI Environmental Network Coordinator Katherine Hreib co-facilitate the learning community.

The group, co-facilitated by Hreib and Heidenreich, meets bi-monthly, and works to address a variety of issues.  After catching up on a personal level, they discuss how they can better support the work each member is engaging in. In addition, the group periodically holds teach-ins with guest speakers. The last teach-in addressed a vital question amongst environmental activist: how to communicate with and talk to those who don’t necessarily share the same beliefs as you.

“We talked about how we have conversations about climate change with people who don’t necessarily believe in climate change or that it’s caused by humans,” said Heidenreich. “We had two members of the group, who operate in areas where a lot of people think like that, share what they do in those situations and how they approach those conversations in ways that are compassionate and can actually lead to coming to understanding.”

One of the two members described, Maria Cerniauskas, lives in Johnson City, Tennessee, a bastion of traditional beliefs and climate change denial. She emphasized the importance of communicating the urgency of this issue to this group, and how it affects all of humanity.

“I think these issues are not partisan. These issues are so big, they impact everybody,”  Cerniauskas said. “Everyone drinks the groundwater, everyone breathes the air.  We’re all living on this planet, and we all want our children’s children to be okay.  In order to address the challenges faces us, we must work together in unity.”

Dave Randle brings a Christian perspective to the group.  As an ordained environmental minister, Dave is drawn to do his work though calls from the Bible. Specifically, he cites the creation of Earth in Genesis.  

“Our world is not to be looked at as a hostile enemy to be conquered, but something to be harmonized with,” he said.

Soon, Randle plans to take his advocacy to the United Nations, which is hosting a high-level political forum around Sustainable Development in July.  Specifically, this forum will provide a review of the goals set amongst UN countries to meet certain energy goals by the year 2030.  He hopes to make connections and learn about these solutions surrounding global sustainable development and share them with the cohort group.  

This is exactly what Heidenreich hopes for the group.

“The goal of the group for me is to support environmental work that’s happening across the region. For me, the purpose is to support people working at the intersection of interfaith work and the environment, connecting them with each other, so they can form both supportive networks and learning communities.”  

Beyond the activism, advocacy, and networking, the cohort group is a place for members to connect with like-minded people. Heidenreich, in particular, as being more than just a professional development and networking group.

“I look forward to our meetings, because I know it’s a gathering of friends, even though most of us haven’t met in person or don’t know each other well. It’s a place to have high-trust and productive conversations, and a way to make our work better and more effective.”  

To read about the work of URI members around the People’s Climate March, click here. If you would like to get involved in interfaith work and/or the United Religions Initiative, click here to find the Cooperation Circle nearest you.

This piece was written by URI North America Storytelling Intern Ryan Polsky. You can read more of his work here

Across U.S., URI members participate in People’s Climate March

Last week, on April 29, URI leaders marched in the nationwide people’s climate march.  At the principle march in Washington D.C., along with sister marches in other cities, they were answering a call to advocate for environmental protection and awareness, particularly with recent political changes in the country. 

Fred Fielding, a United Religions Initiative Global Council Trustee and president of the Interfaith Center at the Presidio, attended the People’s Climate March in Oakland, California.

“It was a good day to have an interfaith presence, especially around climate change.  It’s a moral issue – not just a political issue – how we treat our planet,”  he said. “Beyond that, for many folks, it’s a spiritual issue.  Interfaith organizations have a role in sharing that wisdom, and the understanding of how we need to relate to our planet in order to care for it and ourselves, so our resources, habitats, and all living things on this planet have a chance.”

Maria Cerniauskas was part of a team of organizers that put together the local march in Johnson City, Tenn. Cerniauskas is also a part of the URI Northeast Tennessee Chapter Cooperation Circle.

“I was born into a world with possibility, where I had a relative sense of security regarding the necessities of life. I didn’t question whether the water was healthy, I didn’t suffer respiratory illness from the air I breathed, I was blessed. That gave me the opportunity to go forward and enjoy life. I want that for future generations,”  Cerniauskas said.

This is what motivated her to help organize a day of activities focused on caring for the environment.

Slentz attended the principle march in Washington, DC.

“I can’t in my conscious see what’s happening with the planet, see where it’s going, the suffering it’s caused, and do nothing,” she said.

Pastor Paul Slentz passion for the environment and belief that people of faith need to stand up, led him to travel from his residence in Nashville, Tennessee, to the principle march in Washington D.C  along with tens of thousands of people. Slentz is a steering committee member of Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light and has worked cooperatively with the URI Nashville Cooperation Circle.

“The reason why I was there is because I feel it is so important that people who care about the Earth speak out. I really think we’re doing such terrible harm, and the consequences are getting clearer and clearer,” he said. “ Also, with the current administration taking action that is so hostile to good care the Earth, I feel that it’s important for all people, especially people of faith, to not be silent, and to speak out and let it be known that we care deeply about this.”

In Washington D.C., Slentz he joined other interfaith groups and Methodist pastors in an interfaith section of the march.  As they marched in unbearably hot conditions, a powerful moment occurred in the early afternoon.

“Everyone sat down right at 2 p.m., and then either thumped their chest with their hand or clapped like a heartbeat.  Having thousands of people do that at once all at the same time was a very moving moment for me.”

The unity of this moment struck the pastor.  

Pastor Slentz participated in the People’s Climate March in Washington, DC.

“To know we’re all connected in this struggle together, knowing there are lots of people who are allies, along with everyone else marching in other parts of the country, is one of the most important reasons for having the march.  It was definitely an inspiring, encouraging extra boost for the work ahead.”  

In organizing a march in Johnson City, Tenn., Maria Cerniauskas and other organizers faced challenges not seen in major cities such as Washington D.C., New York, and Los Angeles.

“Being in a very conservative part of the country, an overwhelming number of our neighbors voted in the current administration and continue to be very happy with the way things are going.  In order to use this as an opportunity for real bridge building, dialogue, and raising awareness around issues that affect everybody, we had to take a very different approach than other marches,” she shared.

They made and marketed their event as extremely child- and family- friendly, which they felt was particularly important given that the next generation is the one who will be dealing most directly with the effects of climate change.

Cerniauskas saw important symbolism in this approach.   

The participation of children was an integral part of the march in Johnson City, Tenn.

“My responsibility is to be a mother to those who aren’t my biological children.  I look at all the faces in the parade and think of other parent’s children in other parts of the world that are going to be impacted by the actions of my country.  If I keep quiet, I am colluding, and therefore I’m culpable. It’s a moral issue.”  

The event in Johnson City consisted of three parts: a family bike ride in the morning, a march, and a tree planting ceremony. Over 700 people participated.  In the end, the event was extremely successful in bringing people together to rally around climate justice. Even local law enforcement noticed the turnout.

“One of the police officers commented to one of the organizers that this was the biggest event [for rallying and raising awareness of an issue] event they ever saw in Johnson City. ”

On the other side of the country, Fred Fielding attended the march held in Oakland, California, on a very warm day, not unlike the one in Washington D.C. 2,800 miles away.  Along with Fielding, there were other URI members at the event, including people from the California Interfaith Power and Light Cooperation Circle.  This event featured 4-5 hours of speakers, followed by a march.  

Fielding was guided to participate in climate justice events by his faith.  


URI Leadership Council member Fred Fielding and Environmental Resource Cooperation Circle Chen Yin Noah shared about URI at the Oakland People’s Climate March.

“As a Christian, I believe we need to be good stewards and act in ways that have minimal effect on the planet…Dominion doesn’t mean to destroy.  It means you’re in charge, and you need to take care of things.  As a Christian, we need to take care of the planet.  It’s the only one we know of and where we can be, and it’s very special for that reason. You look at how, when we decide to take from the planet, it comes back to hurt others in terrible ways. We need to be better and more efficient with how we use our resources, and give respect to all living things.”  


Across the country in Nashville, Slentz echoes Fielding’s sentiment.

“I believe we have to have a four-fold response as people of faith: First, to be thankful; second, to take delight in the gift; third, to share it with all people and other creatures on this planet; fourthly, it is our responsibility to protect the planet.”

During these times of anxiety surrounding the safety and future of the Earth, more and more people of faith are learning what their tradition teaches about stewardship and preservation of our planet. As seen during People’s Climate March activities across the country, well-connected, interfaith-based groups can provide hope and solutions in the fight against climate change. URI is seeking to address this by helping grassroots activists connect with one another through an environmental cohort learning group. Click here to read about how participants in this group support one another. 

URI’s Environmental Resource Cooperation Circle recently compiled an environmental toolkit with action ideas collected from URI members across several continents. You can view the toolkit at this linkIf you would like to get involved in interfaith work and/or the United Religions Initiative, click here to find the Cooperation Circle nearest you.

This piece was written by URI North America Storytelling Intern Ryan Polsky. You can read more of his work here

LISTEN: Standing Rock Interfaith Day of Prayer – Reporting Back and Moving Forward

The following is a video call recorded on Friday, December 16th by the United Religions Initiative, hosted by the Regional Coordinator of North America, Sari Heidenreich; Regional Coordinator of the Multiregion, Frederica Helmiere; and Coordinator of the Environmental Resource Cooperation Circle, Katherine Hreib.

The call is an opportunity for members of the URI delegation to Standing Rock for the Interfaith Day of Prayer on December 4, 2016 to share stories of our time there and to hear from Global Council Trustee Audri Scott Williams about some of the longstanding work with indigenous communities within the URI Network.

We end the call with a series of question that will hopefully inspire reflection on how we can best be allies to the indigenous community within and beyond the URI network.

The call begins with a reading of the United Religion Initiative’s Preamble, Purpose and Principles.

What I learned about movement and stillness at Standing Rock

Sari Heidenreich is the Regional Coordinator for the United Religions Initiative in North America. She visited the Oceti Sakowin Camp on December 3 and 4 for the Interfaith Day of Prayer at the invitation of Chief Arvol Looking Horse, a longtime member of URI. Follow the links to read more about the Interfaith Day of Prayer at Standing Rock and URI’s delegation that attended.

As you drive along Highway 1806 near the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, the Oceti Sakowin Camp comes into view.

It’s bigger than I expected and practically takes my breath away — tall tipis and tents covered in snow, banners of support hung along a makeshift fence encircling the camp, over 300 flags lining the road, screaming to the world, “We care about what’s happening here. We care about what’s happening here.”

The Sacred Fire draws you to the center of the camp, reminding you that you are here not as a protestors but as a warrior of prayer and a Water Protector. It is a small but mighty flame that has burned 24 hours a day since the camp was formed this summer. This ceremonial flame continually roots you in the spiritual movement taking place here. It’s a grassroots movement, where everyone needs to be grounded because everyone is expected to contribute.

Standards of conduct are displayed by the Sacred Fire at Oceti Sakowin Camp.
Standards of conduct are displayed by the Sacred Fire at Oceti Sakowin Camp.

This is a place of incredible grassroots leadership.

It is a place held by the Oceti Sakowin (Sioux) people and, as a visitor to the camp, I am here in service to them. In this place that they have molded, resistance is ceremony and prayer, and everything happens in a circle. It is a place where any voice can speak into the PA system at the Sacred Fire and where willing hands find work.

In this place, it feels like everyone can, and is expected to be, a servant leader. This means that within my first fifteen minutes at camp, my arms were full of medical supplies unloaded from a SUV driven across the country. It means that I was learning the difference between impregnated gauze and packing gauze and sorting it into boxes in the medical supply tent. It means I stepped over to the Herbal Healing Yurt to see if they wanted a can of ointment for cracked hands (they did). It means getting up before the sun to tape strips of orange paper to the front of porta potties so camp residents knew about the Interfaith Day of Prayer happening later.

Being at Oceti Sakowin, also meant letting myself be served.

The Interfaith Living Yurt in Oceti Sakowin Camp was built by the Unitarian Universalist Church in Bismarck-Mandan.
The Interfaith Living Yurt in Oceti Sakowin Camp was built by the Unitarian Universalist Church in Bismarck-Mandan.

I was hosted overnight in the Interfaith Living Yurt built by the Unitarian Universalist Church in Bismarck-Mandan. The yurt’s host, Terri, guides us to porta potties and dinner served by Rosie. In different place around camp, kitchens have popped up and Rosie’s is one of them. Inside the green army tent, she heaps mashed potatoes and gravy onto my plate. The fried chicken is the best I’d ever tasted. We all ete without paying a cent and she invites us back for French Toast tomorrow morning.  After dinner, we find our way to the Tea Yurt where we’re greeted by floor pillows and masterfully brewed cups of tea. The stove warms us to the core.

And these servant leaders, serve me.

This beautiful dance of giving and receiving — of serving and being served — with such generosity reminds of the balance exhibited in the United Religions Initiative (URI) Charter: “We united to celebrate the joy of blessings and the light of wisdom in both movement and stillness.”

URI Delegation - Katherin Hreib, Jaya Reinhalter, Victor Kazanjian, Sari Heidenreich, Frederica Helmiere and Fred Fielding (L to R)
The United Religions Initiative Delecation at Oceti Sakowin Camp, (from left to right) Environmental Network Coordinator Katherin Hreib, Global Council Trustee Jaya Reinhalter, Executive Director Victor Kazanjian, North American Regional Coordinator Sari Heidenreich, Mutliregion Regional Coordaintor Frederica Helmiere and Global Council Trustee Fred Fielding.

This balance is one of the things that sticks with me most from my two days in Oceti Sakowin Camp. This is what grassroots leadership looks like: it’s being willing to serve in the most menial and yet significant ways, and it’s being willing to humbly receive the gift of service when you’re the recipient.

I find myself wondering what grassroots organizers outside of Standing Rock, particularly the 800+ URI member in 96 countries, can learn from one of the largest nonviolent spiritual movements of our time. Staying spiritually grounded and constantly aware of the balance in giving and receive service in our own communities, feels like an important place to start and one way we can each honor the struggle at Standing Rock, wherever we are.

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 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

Bearing witness to, and responsibility for, the Earth

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

Katherine Hreib, Environmental Network Coordinator at the United Religions Initiative:

Recently during a moment of meditation I returned to a place where I grew up: the meek woods of New England. I’m clothed in a dark night sky polluted only by the glow of the stars, where the cool air invites a deep openness of breath and cradles me in silent aloneness. When I allow myself to return to the woods of Massachusetts in my memory, or when I take an afternoon to visit the Pacific shores near my new home on the west coast, I am reminded of how my sense of well-being, confidence and stillness mirrors my experience of the natural world.

Just as my sense of peace relies on both my physical and spiritual well-being, so too do I rely on the natural world for physical and spiritual health. In this sense my relationship to the natural world—the land, waters, skies, winds and light— is just as much physical as it is non-physical. In an era of climate change and accelerating environmental degradation we are asked to confront how the changing Earth impacts and will continue to impact our access to necessary resources like water and nutritious sustenance, as well as our emotional and spiritual well-being under various ecological stresses like air pollution and saltwater intrusion.

The Earth is our provider. In turn she only asks for our attention, our care, our being-as-witness to her and all that she does. We are to watch the land as we plant, to observe how new life comes into being and to how her many rhythms influence our lives.

As witnesses we are also responsible to attend to the signs and symptoms of illness and weakening. We must direct our eyes to the eroding Bayou of New Orleans, to the sea-life washing ashore the Pacific coast, to the floods around the world that disrupt antiquated agricultural calendars and practices, and even to how industry prods, pillages, and blackens the Earth in the name of a certain type of economic growth.

These past few weeks mark for me a special moment of responsibility: The call to stewardship comes from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North Dakota to halt the construction of the four-state Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

The DAPL is a proposed 1,172-mile oil pipeline that has potentially devastating consequences for the All Earth— frequent oil spills, water contamination, biodiversity loss, to name a few; infringes upon the sacred lands, waters, resources and legal standing of the Standing Rock Sioux; and signifies a disregard for the growing consensus to move towards a zero-emissions, non-exploitative, renewables-based energy economy.

The call is loud and clear. Over the past few weeks I’ve received email blasts asking for supplies for the Standing Rock Sioux and for those standing in solidarity with them and for rides to North Dakota to join the growing number of Earth allies. I’ve seen a growing number of people raining their virtual-voices on Twitter, expressing their dissent and care for the Earth and solidarity with those who are on the front lines of justice for the Earth, for life, for sacred land and tradition.

However, on Friday September 9th, we were met with a devastating statement by a federal judge denying the Standing Rock Sioux’s request for an injunction to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. The tone suddenly changed: environmentalists and allies, sighed a sigh of disappointment. The decision was a clear instance of the privilege of profit of the fossil fuel industry over the voice of a people calling for the protection of drinking water and sacred lands.

But within an hour of the federal ruling the US Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior issued a statement effectively halting construction on an especially sensitive area along the pipeline’s construction bordering Lake Oahe, a large reservoir on the Missouri River. This is a clear sign that our calls were heard, and that—as the statement reads—“thousands of demonstrators [came] together peacefully, with the support from scores of sovereign tribal governments, to exercise their First Amendment rights and to voice heartfelt concerns about the environment and historic, sacred sights.”

By raising our voices as One, we showed that we are committed to upholding our responsibilities as stewards of the Earth and as caretakers of our fellow human.

In addition to calling for the protection of sacred waters, the diversity of voices calling for the federal government to respect the sacredness of indigenous wisdom led the Department of Justice to declare a “need for serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects.”

This is a moment of tangible hope. It is a moment of hope for the Standing Rock Sioux, for their ancestors, and for the caretakers of Earth’s wisdom; it is a moment of hope for all those touched by the waters of the Missouri River, for environmentalists across the country, and for all of us who dream of a healthy and abundant Earth for ourselves and our grandchildren.

When we find ourselves wondering if the fight for resources is an invitation for divisiveness and territorialization, we ought to keep in mind that scarcity and vulnerability is an opportunity for new solidarities and innovation.


katherineKatherine joined the URI team in September 2016. She is responsible for building a strong and diverse network among environmentally focused CCs. A recent graduate of Columbia University, Katherine studied sustainable development, taking special interest in climate change law, environmental anthropology and the sociological impacts of environmental degradation. She is especially concerned with how climate change, while a common problem, has diverse local manifestations with strong negative implications for certain geographic and cultural communities. After working with groups in eastern Uganda, upstate New York and Staten Island, she understands the importance of privileging local knowledge and community engagement in the fight to address climate change issues. Katherine believes environmental justice and interfaith peacebuilding are of the same root and must addressed hand-in-hand. In her free time she enjoys live music, writing prose, camping and reading all things philosophy.

Every Tuesday, the #TangibleHope Diaries series features responses from North American grassroots peacebuilders on what gives them tangible hope in the world today. See you next week! Learn more here.

URI members express support, solidarity for Standing Rock


Several URI members are among the thousands standing in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation’s protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Protestors say the oil pipeline would disrupt a sacred Indigenous burial ground and threaten water supplies.

Hereditary Chief Phil Lane Jr., a member of the URI Global Council, and an enrolled member of the Ihanktonwan Dakota and Chickasaw Nations, spoke from Sacred Stone Camp on Sunday.

“It’s the prayers and the ceremonies and the kindness and the peace that’s going to distinguish what we’re doing here from other actions,” he said in a video posted on YouTube.

“I am really thankful that I have lived to this day to see the sacred prophecies fulfilled before our eyes,” he said. “Behind me you see the prayer of all the great Indigenous leaders who have prayed for this day when we could all come together with one heart and one mind and many bodies in a prayerful, peaceful manner. ”

19th Generation Keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle, Chief Arvol Looking Horse, of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Nations published a call to unity around this issue.

“Our vision is for the peoples of all continents, regardless of their beliefs in the Creator, to come together as one at their Sacred Sites to pray and meditate and commune with one another, thus promoting an energy shift to heal our Mother Earth and achieve a universal consciousness toward attaining Peace,” he said. Read more here. 

URI Global Council Trustee Audri Scott Williams has also raised her voice in solidarity through her radio show and Cooperation Circle NOWTIME Radio, where she interviewed Chief Phil Lane. You listen here.

UNIFY, a URI Cooperation Circle, voiced their support, posting on Facebook,
“We have so much gratitude & respect for the Water Protectors at Standing Rock, ND!” They also shared a video calling for prayer and action.

The Marin Interfaith Council shared with their members a petition from longtime member Macha NightMare and the group’s Pagan brothers and sisters.

“The vested interests of the fossil fuel industry continue to exploit dirty and unsustainable sources of oil, delving for every last drop in ways that assault Mother Earth and fracture her very bones, spilling filth onto the lands and spoiling the waters,” NightMare said. “We invite groups and individuals from all faith traditions to join with us in heeding the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and the Sacred Stone Camp’s calls for solidarity and support. Supporters are being asked to call their elected representatives, and donate to support the well-being of defenders at Sacred Stone camp.”

She also invited members to sign a petition.