Cooperation Circles Celebrate International Day of Peace

 

URI North America Cooperation Circles and Affiliates are ready to celebrate International Day of Peace (IDP) 2016! The theme for IDP this year is “The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Building Blocks for Peace.” Our network is building off of these blocks for peace by creating moments of #TangibleHope that strengthen the ideals of peace, both within and among their diverse communities.

Click through this slideshow to see what they’re up to! You can also check out the URI North America IDP Program Bank to find inspiration for IDP celebrations in your community for years to come. If you have an event to report, click HERE to submit it and qualify for a trip to the United Nations for World Interfaith Harmony Week!

 
 

You can also check out events happening all around the world, hosted by URI CCs and others, on this map produced by URI Cooperation Circle UNIFY.

A Requiem of Hope

 

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

Shirin Ganji, Member of the Newmarket and Area Interfaith Council

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Verily, with hardship comes ease (Qur’an 94:5)

In my faith, I am reminded that misfortune is only a challenge of your character, and that there is rarely any difficulty that is not followed by relief. However, when faced with adversity, hope becomes questionable. It becomes the product of a constant self-struggle of whether to move forward or remain stagnant. But most of all, in any given moment it can be conjured up and it can be temporary.

However permanent or fleeting hope may be, it is, above all, empowering. In my experience, it has assisted me through moments of grief and distress.

Recently, I was on a road trip to Las Vegas, in which my purse with all my belongings including my passport, driver’s license, health card, SIN card, and credit cards were all stolen. Instantly, the desire for adventure came to an abrupt end, shrouding the night with concern and worry as I had a return flight to catch the next day. My friends accompanied me through this turn of events, and assisted me in every possible way. They inspired me to find hope in the matter and aided me in all the necessary procedures about reporting a stolen passport.

After searching all night, and slowly losing confidence in the search, they held my hands and each prayed with me for my safe return home. We each came from different backgrounds and belief systems but regardless, it ignited a beautiful expression of intent. It calmed me down, and deep in my heart everything felt like it was going to all wrap up nicely.

I retrieved a temporary passport from the Canadian embassy and managed to board a domestic flight to San Francisco, only to be faced with another road block. The airline had told me that, in order to go home, I was going to have to wait a day and cash up $2000. Out of fear of not being able to afford the trip back home I broke into tears in the middle of Union Square.

While sobbing in public, a homeless man from across the street made his way to the flower booth just outside the subway and purchased a flower. He offered me the flower and said: “Please don’t cry, everything will work out. I promise.” A man who seemed to have nothing consoled me in an attempt to spark optimism amidst a seemingly dark situation. I thanked him dearly, hopped on the train and called my booking company to get on the next plane to Toronto. Eventually, everything worked out! I got back home safely, and a month later, to my surprise, the Las Vegas airport sent me my purse with all of my belongings, as someone had returned it to the airport.

Throughout this experience, my hope was cultivated by the friends and strangers, from different identities, who supported me in my time of need. The questions of what I believe and who I believe in is left out of the equation. This is what inspires hope in me and in humanity: when we focus on the problems in front of us, and learn to lend a hand to every person who needs it.

What gives me tangible hope today is the collaboration between different faith groups and communities assisting each other in times of chaos and turmoil. Just as I was offered assistance through my journey, others require the same kind of treatment. Acknowledgement of this cause already insinuates a certain degree of awareness and how important it is to spread hope around the world.

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Shririn Ganji is the co-founder of the Undergraduate Religious Studies Student Association, geared toward historical understanding of different religions and a more practical understanding of how religion is integrated in the public sphere. She received an Honors B.A from the University of Toronto, specializing in World Religions and Philosophy. She derives most of her inspiration learning about the various religions and cultures that exist in the world, and how many of these traditions are linked, and intertwined together.

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.

 

Teen Interfaith Leadership Council Goes to Santa Fe

Diane Fisher (Jewish) and Deacon Steve Herrera (Catholic) from the Silicon Valley Interreligious Council CC (SiVIC) took eight teenagers on an interfaith immersion experience in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The teens explored various religious traditions in Santa Fe, engaged in interfaith dialogue, and shared prayer practices and information about their religious traditions with each other.

Seeret, one of our Sikh participants said about the trip that “the in-depth experience of talking to an elder of a particular faith, and hearing words of wisdom and sage advice about life as well as the faith was exceptional and unexpected. I just thought it would be an introduction to faiths and then we’d look around and leave, but the fact that we were able to ask so many questions and have them answered with so much respect— that in and of itself made the trip wonderful.”

Understanding other religions can be more difficult than it sounds, so having an intentional space for that express purpose allowed for a more enriching experience. Carly, a Jewish participant observed that “on a trip like this you make friends and learn about new religions, and it’s a really cool experience. You learn so much and go to places you would never go otherwise, and are encouraged to appreciate your own faith more as you learn to embrace differences.”

Karen, a member of the Shinnyo-En Buddhist Order, remarked that it was nice “being able to share with other faith-minded teenagers, because often people think of religion as just some superstition that you believe in because your parents do. So sharing with people who also have faith, especially from different religions, understand that it’s something very much a part of us. Being able to have an understanding of other religions helps people to peaceably talk things through, as well as see things from others perspectives.”

Diane Fisher (Jewish) and Deacon Steve Herrera (Catholic) were the Silicon Valley Interreligious Council Cooperation Circle‘s board members who facilitated the teen interfaith immersion trip. They are Co-directors of the Teen Interfaith Leadership Council of Santa Clara County, affiliated with the Silicon Valley Interreligious Council Cooperation Circle. Deacon Steve Herrera produced the video.

“Moving into All-Inclusiveness:” The Spiritual Heritage Education Network’s 7th Annual 2-Day Conference

 

The Spiritual Heritage Education Network, a URI North America Affiliate based out of Ontario, is getting ready to host their 7th annual 2-day SHeN* conference. This year’s conference theme is “Bringing Oneness to All” and highlights elements from certain practices that promote oneness, inclusion and the spirit of oneness.

Over the course of two days, panelists from a variety of faith traditions will draw from their experiences, expertise and practices to share tips for fully embodying the spirit of inclusion.

Click on the image below for an in-depth look at the agenda.

 

shen conference

URI Cooperation Circles Call for Solidarity, Action After Killings

“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness – only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate – only love can do that.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
PPPs in action

In the light of the recent killings both by and of police officers in the United States, several URI Cooperation Circles have issued statements and calls to action.

“All Lives Are Precious and Irreplaceable,” declared the San Francisco Interfaith Council in a statement penned by board chair G.L. Hodge. “Now is the time for us to work together on implicit bias, poverty, education for all our children, income inequality, safety and security for all — on all the issues which keep us from moving ahead as a strong, democratic society with equal rights for all. Violence is not the way….The San Francisco Interfaith Council, its Board and its members implore our sisters and brothers everywhere to shine the light of love and condemn the darkness of hate. We ask faith leaders everywhere to raise their voices against violence, preach messages of peace and redouble efforts on issues that will bring true equality.” (Read the full statement here.)

The Council has also announced that they are working with the Office of Diversity at USF and the San Francisco Human Rights Commission to offer “Implicit Bias Training” to San Francisco’s congregation leaders civil rights activists.

Following the killing of police officers in Dallas, the Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County issued a statement of solidarity and sympathy and also called communities to action.

“While nonviolent rage, anger and lament are valid expressions in times like these, we also call on communities around the country to start meeting with their local police departments to discuss how to work together to make our communities safer for all.”

The Marin Interfaith Council expressed grief over all of those who have lost their lives in recent weeks.

“We hold in our thoughts and prayers those who have lost their lives and lost loved ones during the tragic events of the past few weeks. May we rededicate ourselves to build bridges of understanding, promote justice, create safe space for difficult conversations, and practice radically inclusive hospitality for everyone.”

The Arizona Faith Network, based in Phoenix, Arizona, is joining the call of local pastor Warren Stewart Sr. to urge President Obama, U.S. House Speaker Ryan and U.S. Senate President McConnell to convene a 2016 National Summit on Racism in America, which would acknowledge and address systemic racism in the United States. You can read more about this effort here.

 

The New Face of Direct Services for Homeless Folks

Today, over 70 media organizations across the United States are shining the spotlight on homelessness in their communities. The coalition of voices speaking up are a combination of groups participating in the San Francisco Homeless Project campaign, originating in San Francisco, CA, and other organizations, located across the nation, who are following suit.

URI North America joins these voices to showcase the work our network of interfaith grassroots peacebuilders are doing to address housing insecurities within their communities. 


It’s changing the face of direct services for homeless folks. And it all started with an anonymous donor, a city that couldn’t receive anonymous money and a group of interfaith leaders committed to serving the approximately 7,000 people without homes in their city.

“What makes the difference here is hope,” said Kathy Treggiari who works with the San Francisco Navigation Center as part of her role at Episcopal Community Services of San Francisco.

The Navigation Center, which is fiscally sponsored by the San Francisco Interfaith Council, a URI North America Cooperation Circle, takes an unconventional approach to housing the homeless. Rather than a traditional shelter, the Navigation Center provides a place where entire encampments of people without homes can move together — with their partners, pets and possessions– and have 24-hours access to living quarters, a dining room, showers, bathrooms, laundry and counseling offices.

URI NA Visits the Navigation Center

The Navigation Center is cheery, with brightly-colored murals and a courtyard that soaks up the morning sun. But what makes the Navigation Center groundbreaking is its emphasis on long term housing — that is the hope that Treggiari was talking about.

The Navigation Center is supported by a host of government agencies, many of whom would generally not work together, and a dedicated staff — 45% of whom are formerly homeless themselves — to provide in-depth and personalized assistance to help residents move into permanent housing. The model has been so successful that like-minded organizations from Dallas to Seattle to cities in South Africa are looking into replicating it.

From where I sit, it’s no surprise that an interfaith organization was instrumental in such an innovative model coming into existence. Part of the beauty of interfaith work is the bringing together of people with such vastly different beliefs that the solutions they come up with and projects they are willing to take on are often new and innovative.

Learn more about these groups here:

Missoula Interfaith Collaborative

Interfaith Initiative of Santa Barbara County

Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County

Marin Interfaith Street Chaplaincy


Sari HeidenreichSari Heidenreich is the Regional Coordinator for the United Religions Initiative North America, a network of 94 interfaith organizations in the U.S. and Canada. Globally, the United Religions Initiative is the world’s largest network of grassroots interfaith peacebuilders, with 787 member groups in 95 countries all working with coalitions of people of multiple religions, spiritual expressions or Indigenous traditions to create cultures of peace, justice and healing. To find out how to get involved, click here.

SARAH Cooperation Circle Welcomes New Advisory Council Member

 

Rupsi Burman

“When I wear this pin I remember that I am a woman of my community, dedicated to creating a safe and harmonious environment with my daily actions” 

Earlier this month, Rupsi Burman, founder of Hope in Life Foundation, a Multi-Region Cooperation Circle and chair of the Orange County Task Force – Cities for CEDAW Program, was welcomed onto SARAH’s, the Spiritual and Religious Alliance for Hope Cooperation Circle, Advisory Council.

During the process, she pledged to remember her role as a woman of her community, dedicated to creating a safe and harmonious environment with her daily actions.

SARAH Cooperation Circle
Members of SARAH welcome Rupsi Burman to their Advisory Council

SARAH’s purpose is to “empower the community, learn from each other, and enlighten one another. To create a culture of peace.” They are Southern Calfiornia Based, but their work knows no boundaries. If you are interested in forming a SARAH Circle in your community, click here.

To learn more about their peacebuilding work, click here.