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?

Continue reading “Holding Hope in the Balance: Happy 1st Anniversary #TangibleHope!”

#TangibleHope is…giving to others, without expecting anything in return.

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

Spencer Sekulin, a student in the medical field:

#TangibleHope is…giving to others, without expecting anything in return.

Through the regular undulations of my existence, I have had the pleasure and the blessing of having volunteering be one of the things that remains certain, a complete given, amidst all of the incertitude and changes in the tempestuous anchorage we call life. It has given me a great deal of hope — that extraordinary trust we place in things beyond ourselves — in the world today, and that is no small thing in this certifiably pessimistic world. In the context of the faiths of humanity, and my own personal beliefs and values, it is a tangible hope in that brings us together regardless of who we are. Its unity of purpose, its immediate impact, and its subsequent reverberations, show the height of human cooperation.

Hope, to me, is seeing people from all walks of life, all creeds, all faiths, all ethnicities … choosing to give rather than to receive.

Thus, hope, to me, is seeing people from all walks of life, all creeds, all faiths, all ethnicities—almost every conceivable difference—working together and sacrificing their time—the most precious thing they have—to causes that help those in need, choosing to give rather than to receive. It is a true manifestation of a word that so few understand anymore. It may seem simple, and it is, but in its simplicity it has reaped extraordinary results, and shows that the measure of changing the world need not be so galactic.

Regardless of whether one believes in the Butterfly Effect, a term coined by Edward Lorenz, the notion itself is worth extending to our own lives, because if the movement of a butterfly’s wings can change the very nature of a hurricane, how much more can a unique, compassionate, and infinite human being shape the future through small acts on a consistent basis? Significantly, to say the least. This action is compounded, and there’s an urban legend that Albert Einstein once said, “compounding interest is the most powerful force in the universe.” Whether he really did say that is beside the point. If that can be applied to our manufactured notion of wealth, how much more can it apply to our lives, through consistent, disciplined action towards the future? I believe that one of the things that links people together the most, in spite of all boundaries, is the compassionate act of charity.

It may seem simple, and it is, but in its simplicity it has reaped extraordinary results, and shows that the measure of changing the world need not be so galactic.

I and many others find #TangibleHope to be that often unnoticed, regular commitment of time. Whether it is in a hospital, an old age home, or a shelter, it is a builder of trust in the future of humanity—of confidence in our ability to do right.


Spencer Sekulin is a student in Newmarket, Ontario, pursuing an education in the medical field. He has volunteered extensively in the healthcare and charity sectors and is interested in furthering his impact on both his local community and the world as a whole. He is also a writer, an incurable creative, and a hopeless sucker for cats.

 

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

URI North America’s #TangibleHope Campaign continues beyond end-date

On Aug. 29th, the United Religions Initiative in North America launched its first every social media campaign: #TangibleHope. Over the course of four months, powerful stories of folks collaborating across their lines of difference were shared on social media and beyond using the hashtag #TangibleHope to highlight these stories that give the world Tangible Hope. 

The campaign was set to run through December 9th, but we’ve received feedback that the messaging has resonated, so we’ve decided to continue it! You might notice some changes, but it’s still the campaign that you love.

Click here, to find out how you can continue to participate in the campaign. 

This Election Season, Hope is Hard

Valarie Kaur's #TangibleHope Diary

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

Valarie Kaur, filmmaker, civil rights lawyer, activist and Sikh thought leader, responds:

Sometimes hope is hard to see.

This election season, rage and fear have dominated American politics. Communities of color have been vilified, shamed, and intimidated; hate groups have increased for the first time in five years, and reports of hate crimes against Sikh and Muslim Americans have tripled.

This election season, hope is hard.

But my Sikh faith teaches us the spirit of Chardi Kala ever-rising optimism and revolutionary love even in darkness.

For me, this means I must fight despair with optimism each day. And when I do this, I begin to see signs of #TangibleHope all around me.

I see this in my family friend Rana Sodhi.

On September 15, 2001, Rana’s brother Balbir Singh Sodhi, a turbaned Sikh father who lived and worked in Arizona, was the first of dozens killed in hate crimes in the aftermath of 9/11. Since then, Rana and I — along with a generation of activists — have fought to end hate in America.

But 15 years of activism could not prevent this era of enormous rage. So to test our own ability to love this election season, Rana Sodhi and I did something we had never done before.

We called his brother’s murderer in prison — and Rana forgave him.

It was the first step down a long and difficult road toward reconciliation. But in a time when America is grappling with a seemingly endless cycle of violence — terrorism followed by hate violence, followed by another terror attack and even more violence — Rana’s example models a kind of love that breaks the cycle.

This is Revolutionary Love — love that drives courageous and loving action in the world, even for those who disagree with us or hurt us.

I have seen a movement for Revolutionary Love emerge this Fall. Thousands of American gathered together in 100+ dialogues and film screenings across the nation on how to meet hate with love and courage this election season. Two hundred became Ambassadors of Revolutionary Love, committed to championing love in their lives — at schools and workplaces, online, at the kitchen table, and in the voting booth. And together, we took the message on the road through the Together Tour — a first-ever women’s speaking tour that reached 20,000+ people in packed theaters across America, championing the call to love this election season.

Now we are turning that love into action in the countdown to Election Day. Our Revolutionary Love Ambassadors are teaming with Emerge USA to stand with Muslim Americans and support their right to vote. With every new threat of voter intimidation at the polls, Muslim families worry that they may not be able to exercise the sacred and fundamental right to vote. We are making 10,000+ calls offering support and key polling information, a simple but substantial act that increases the likelihood that they will vote — and feel supported by their fellow Americans.

We have a choice this election season: Will we let the next generation inherit our fear and rage? Or will we recommit our nation to love? Thousands of Americans are choosing love.

And that gives me hope.


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valarie-kaur

Valarie Kaur is an award-winning filmmaker, civil rights lawyer, activist, author, entrepreneur, Sikh thought leader, and movement-builder who uses stories to drive social change. Inspired by the Sikh faith, her new venture, the Revolutionary Love Project, harnesses the ethic of love to drive courageous action in American public life. Learn more about it here: http://revolutionarylove.net/

A New Paradigm for Veterans

tangible hope diary joe jenkins

 

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

Joe Jenkins is a U.S. Marine veteran and leader at the Washington-based advocacy group Veterans for American Ideals:

You learn a lot in the military. Sure, it starts with making your bunk, shining your boots, cleaning a rifle, and learning to march. But the real things you learn stick with you past boot camp and long after you take off the uniform.

One of the things that sticks with me happened in the fall of 2008. I was a young U.S. Marine sergeant aboard the USS Kearsarge on a humanitarian mission to Latin America. Servicemen and women representing nations from across the globe joined us aboard, and for a while the Kearsarge was a floating microcosm of the entire world. At the time, I already had deployments to Iraq under my belt and was no stranger to large-scale military operations like these.

Then, suddenly, a hurricane swept through Haiti, devastating the country. The Kearsarge was diverted to provide immediate aid, and it was there that I saw the true extent of what our military service members can do in this world.

For weeks, we spent every hour of the day filling water containers, loading food, and making deliveries to shore via helicopters and landing craft. Side by side with Haitian villagers, we cleared rubble and dispensed hundreds of thousands of pounds of life-saving supplies. It was back breaking work, but no one quit. Seeing the determination of the Haitian people, who, despite incredible suffering, never lost their dignity, moved and inspired me. Witnessing the resolve of our servicemen and women, working in cooperation with others from around the world to perform this one act of humanity, gave me hope. Looking back, moments like that show me the real meaning behind my service, and why so many continue to serve today.

I am part of a growing movement of military veterans that believe our commitment to a set of ideals, the ones that motivated us to serve in the first place, never ends.

Now, I am privileged to work with these same men and women again. At Vets for American Ideals, I am part of a growing movement of military veterans that believe our commitment to a set of ideals, the ones that motivated us to serve in the first place, never ends. As our country seems increasingly divided along lines of race, gender, religion, and politics, I see our military veterans becoming a powerful force that can bring this nation together. Our veterans are as diverse as the American populace, but are setting aside their differences in favor of the countless things that unite us.

I see military veterans speak out as a voice of moderation, civility, and reason.

On issues like ensuring America’s role as a humanitarian nation, and continuing our long-standing tradition of extending our hand to the downtrodden of this world, including the 65 million women, children, and families displaced in the global refugee crisis, I see military veterans speak out as a voice of moderation, civility, and reason. On societal woes like Islamophobia and racism, veterans are speaking up, combating rhetoric that is tearing at the very fabric of our American society and weakens our national security.

What gives me #TangibleHope is this new paradigm — one in which service members, those that are entrusted with safeguarding our cherished ideals of unity, humanity, and inclusion, are a continued voice in civil society. I consider myself lucky to see my fellow veterans working every day to better their communities, their country, and the world. It confirms a powerful truth: the spirit of service isn’t embodied by the uniforms we wore, but by the reason we put them on in the first place.

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Joe Jenkins Tangible Hope DiaryJoe Jenkins is a U.S. Marine veteran, former high school teacher, and leader at the Washington-based advocacy group Veterans for American Ideals, a project of Human Rights First. He is also a graduate fellow at the University of Texas’ LBJ Washington Center.

Hope is a Flame

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

P.K. McCary, a founding member of the United Religions Initiative and a dedicated Peacemaker.

I was born less than a hundred years after the Emancipation Proclamation. That fact was lost on me until recently. I guess, as we get older, our skills for understanding grow and our hindsight increases. So in hindsight, the passing of time is not insignificant. Time is fluid and as such, everything that happens is but a moment in the fabric of the good and the not so good times of life. And that fabric shapes our lives in more ways than we imagine.

What triggered this realization, I believe, had to do with something I was asked to do and then the pieces started falling into place. I was asked to tell my story or a story for the campaign created in the region of North America called #TangibleHope. There are many campaigns going on in the world centered on issues such as nuclear disarmament, immigration, racism, police brutality and more. The list is very, very long. The list is so long, a person could become overwhelmed with the choices. Do I work today on ending police brutality or feeding the homeless?

Every story has the power to influence and inspire, but not every story can resonate with everyone.

I ask myself similar questions almost every morning. I usually schedule those things I wish to accomplish, but I’m flexible to what comes my way. I’m a peacemaker, which makes activism high on my list of priorities. That’s why it is near impossible to find and tell one story and have it represent the concept or meaning of Tangible Hope.  It is both. Even as I was having a hard time deciding on one story, I understood the need to allow storytelling to serve as a vehicle for not only helping people grasp the concept and meaning, but to embrace and encompass it as well. The truth is that there is not just one story. There are many. Every story has the power to influence and inspire, but not every story can resonate with everyone.

We are Americans whose roots were cut away because of the enslavement of some of my ancestors.

My story starts with this new realization. Often I have defined myself as a child of the Diaspora. I cannot tell you where my ancestors hailed from. I’m a Texan and two of my children are as well. My youngest was born in Washington, DC. We are Americans whose roots were cut away because of the enslavement of some of my ancestors. And it is here that the concept and meaning of tangible hope resonates so deeply with me and where the separate and conjoined significance of each word plays a part in the work that I do.

Tangible means something concrete. Hope is defined as a wish or desire. A tangible hope could be a concrete desire, something that a person can truly expect, but hope can be so intangible as to be fleeting for many. We can recognize the symptoms of hopelessness in the choices we make and today, the world thrums with anticipation of desires gone amok. Will we survive the consternation of those who feel that they aren’t being heard or worse forgotten? Will hope serve as the bridge to something better or must we face the storms of discontent because we have forgotten its power, its gift?

Hope does not disappoint. ~ Roman 5:5

I was taught that I am the hope of my ancestors, a hope that belies the struggle of those enslaved. Both sets of grandparents articulated this biblical adage from Romans in some way or another to us growing up. In spite of the hardship that many endured, including those who were beaten and killed, somewhere in the tangibleness of their present situations, they had a hope that was unfathomable … far from concrete and on the surface, foolish to anticipate. And yet, this hope resides in me. As a black woman grown, I am a representative of that hope. Maya Angelou expresses this in “And Still I Rise“:

 

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I am a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling, I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise

Tangible hope resonates in me because I anticipate the power and promise of it, knowing that it exists, even when I sometimes can’t grasp it in the so-called realities of our time. Maybe that is why being reminded that while I’m not so far removed from slavery in America, the shame and burden of that time, I am still the hope of their suffering simply because I am here.

The hope that lives in me and in others carries us through the tough times of grief and sadness. I know I can get through these times because the intangible hope of the slave is made tangible with me.

I am here, passing hope to my children, grandchildren and those I love so dearly. My gifts come through that hope—the ability to listen, to care, and to get back up when realities knock me down. The hope that lives in me and in others carries us through the tough times of grief and sadness. I know I can get through these times because the intangible hope of the slave is made tangible with me.

Tangible is the seen. But, tangible hope is much more. Because this tangible hope lets you believe, hope, even in the darkest hour. It is the flame that serves the soul well, to believe in peace and justice even when you can’t see it clearly through the haze of all the troubles of the world. It is the flame that starts small, but burns bright because it can do nothing else. And the more flames lit by the stories of triumph and courage, the brighter the world will be. So, tell your stories. Light flames across the globe for all of humanity and together we can find peace and love that derives from that tangible hope.

Peace.

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pk-mccary

P.K. McCary, a founding member of The United Religions Initiative is a dedicated Peacemaker based in the U.S.A.

 

 

 

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 represented at White House interfaith gathering

Members of United Religions Initiative joined hundreds of participants last week for the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge gathering at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.

President Barack Obama initiated the challenge in 2011 when he sent a letter to college and university presidents calling for interfaith and community service programming. Today, more than 400 institutions embrace his call to interfaith service.

The yearly gathering is a time for students, staff, and like-minded organizations to build connections with one another and hear from members of the Obama administration. This year, plenary speakers included the First Lady’s Chief of Staff, Tina Tchen; Director of the Peace Corps, Carrie Hessler-Radelet; Secretary of the Department of Education, John King; and representatives from the U.S. Department of State and both the White House and Department of Education Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

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Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet in conversation with the First Lady’s Chief of Staff Tina Tchen .

URI members from four countries and three states attended the gathering, including URI North America Regional Coordinator, Sari Heidenreich. Regional Coordinator for URI in the Latin America and the Carribean, Enoe Texier and Fr. James Channa, Regional Coordinator for URI in Pakistan were invited as special international guests by the Obama administration. Representatives from several URI Cooperation Circles also attended, including Sun Devils Are Better Together (Arizona), Nashville Cooperation Circle @ Scarritt Bennett Center (Tennessee),  S.A.R.A.H. (California) and Coexister (France).

Breakout sessions topics ranged from how to increase media coverage of interfaith work to the challenges of creating safe spaces for people with a wide range of identities.

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URI members from France, Venezuela, USA and Pakistan meet at the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge gathering in Washington, D.C.

“It was an honor to represent the United Religions Initiative network at such a diverse gathering,” Heidenreich said. “I always carry with me and share the work URI members are doing to bring interfaith collaboration and harmony to the world. This work and these people give me Tangible Hope that we are making progress towards a more peaceful and just world.”

The Dark Side and the Bright Side

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

Rabbi Frydman, Rabbi to the Congregation P’nai Tikvah in Las Vegas:

On the bright side, there is a lot of resilience in the world. People suffer tragedies, atrocities and unbelievable things and they go on to live meaningful lives. Children are molested. Women and children are raped. Men, women and children are tortured. And yet they go on. I recently attended the Dignity Awards Dinner sponsored by the Program for Torture Victims in Los Angeles. You would not believe the stories we heard at the dinner – stories of people who wear their scars on their bodies and in their hearts, but they keep going and they inspire others with their courage.

On the dark side, there is a lot of brokenness is our world. People suffer tragedies and become vicious vengeful perpetrators of atrocities. Perpetrators of atrocities are not generally innocents. Rather, they are victims who have not received much of break in life, or if they did get some breaks, they were not able to use the opportunities to heal and start over.

Sometimes a person crosses from one side to the other and that gives me hope.

The dark side and the bright side are connected through people who have suffered and make lemonade out of lemons, and people who have suffered and turn lemons into poison that poisons themselves and the world around them. Sometimes a person crosses from one side to the other and that gives me hope. I once met a police officer who grew up in a very tough neighborhood. When she was a teenager, she got in trouble with the law and did time in juvenile hall.

With the help of amazing role models and staff who were willing to go out of their way to help her, this young woman made her way out of juvenile hall and onto probation. Eventually she enrolled in the police academy and she became an officer. During a difficult time in my community, this young police officer guarded our facility during religious school.

This African American Christian observant police officer had become a role model for our multi-racial Jewish children and teens.

We were very lucky that there was no actual violence on our site, but we faced another problem, which was that our students came to love and admire the officer and they didn’t want her standing outside making sure we were safe. They wanted her to come inside and hang out with them during their breaks. This African American Christian observant police officer had become a role model for our multi-racial Jewish children and teens.

Sadly, and tragically, we also experienced difficult and tragic models among our congregants. There was a suicide and there was also a drug overdose. It is not the same as having a member of your community commit atrocities against others, but it is along the same lines of changing from the dark side to the light; only it is going in the other direction.

There is nothing redeeming about the dark side when it leads to atrocities, but it is part of the human experience. The fact that the boundaries are porous and people can go from one side to the other gives me hope even though some people use that porous to go toward the dark side, because that also means that those on the dark side can return to the light.

I recently heard about a man from Rwanda who was a perpetrator during the Rwandan genocide. His former wife was a member of the opposite tribe. After the genocide was over, the man escaped to another part of the world where we believe he has a new life. His former wife helped him to escape, but she does not want to ever see him again because of the atrocities he committed against her tribe. At the same time, she supports him having a new life. Compassion has replaced hatred for her, and hopefully for the man as well.

People can turn from darkness to light in the same lifetime.

These stories give me hope that people can turn from darkness to light in the same lifetime and people can give each other an opportunity to start over even when one person has treated the other person very badly. This are not easy realities, but it gives me hope to know that there are those who have succeeded in accomplishing these things. It gives me hope that others can also succeed in making the turn from the darkness to the light.

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Rabbi Pam

Rabbi Pamela Frydman serves Congregation P’nai Tikvah in Las Vegas. She chairs Rabbis for Religious Freedom and Equality in Israel, a project of Hiddush. She is a leader of Save Us From Genocide (SUFG), a campaign to raise consciousness about Yezidis and Assyrians facing genocide, and the Beyond Genocide Yezidi Campaign to help Yezidis wishing to resettle in the west. SUFG is the recipient of a United Nations Association, Bay Area Chapter, Global Citizen Award. She is the author Calling on God, Sacred Jewish Teachings for Seekers of All Faiths.

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.

Our Golden Opportunity

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

Michelle Rioux, young adult interfaith activist: 

I would not consider myself judgmental, although I have strong beliefs. I would not consider myself religious, although I pray.  I am not Buddhist, although I meditate every single day. I am not a humanitarian, although I care about our planet and immerse myself into making a better community. I would not consider myself to be wise, but I am here to learn.  

I am a “new age thinker.” My values and beliefs have no religious restraint. I have learned from many teachers in my short lifetime. I have been faced with many obstacles in this life, perhaps even enough for two lifetimes. I have experiences on the spectrum of mental exhaustion to survival; emotional warfare to resilience; physical limitations to rehabilitation. All are very traumatic, yet each a beautiful experience in its own way.  

I like to call these experience’s “life cycles,” a phenomenon to which I know many can relate. These are the ups and downs that we have on a daily basis, as well as the continual battles and pressures we face racially, economically and socially.

I ask, “what is hope?”

As human beings, we can be controversial, opinionated, stubborn, but also resilient. We all have daily tasks that shape our experiences. As life happens, we have all had our hardship, but we of conscientious mind have the ability to perceive and experience this life as we choose. I believe that we hold the power to create our own existence; we have the power to accept defeat or to rise above it. We are all creatures of our own self perception.

We have the innate ability to perceive our experiences with the betterment of growth. Human nature is to seek out joy but it is also human nature to be selfish.

Hope falls somewhere in the middle of both extremes. We may hope for change but never commit to it. We may hope for financial stability and get a raise. Hope is the link between our conscientious mind and physical manifestations. Hope gives direction to our life, a way to develop self expression and obtain our deepest dreams and desires.

It will give you an infinite ability to create, revise and rewrite the pages of your life. Hope is the thread that allows us to explore our path in this world.

This world needs hope and new age thinkers. Together we can conscientiously form the world we would like to see around us and make it a better place. Particularly by the way we think, act and choose to treat one another on a daily basis.

Tangible hope is our Golden Opportunity to change the world.

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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.