As we ponder all the different messages that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. left as his legacy, there is so much to learn from: his call for freedom and justice for all people, his comments about peaceful protests for a righteous cause, and his profound quote about unity. “We must learn to live together as brothers, or perish together as fools.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.
There were countless celebrations and activities honoring the different facets of Dr. King’s legacy on Martin Luther King Day this year, but we will focus on two events that focused on his call for unity.
The Interfaith Roundtable of Kaua’i (IROK), a Cooperation Circle of the United Religions Initiative, commemorated with a celebration of cultural diversity with the theme One Garden, Many Flowers. Al Albergate, co-chair of IROK, shared that the planning team chose this theme because of a desire to focus on unity.
In addition, the former director of the Scarboro Mission, Paul McKenna, was recently interviewed on the Legacy Cafe Podcast where he shares about the iterations of the Golden Rule in different religious traditions, the spread of the Golden Rule poster around the world and the power of this ethical cornerstone to improve our world.
Click the play button below to listen to this fabulous interview!
This was the focus of the celebration on International Day of Peace by Vital Elements Community Welfare Services in Toronto, Canada on Sept. 23.
The celebration started with releasing three “peace doves,” one by a child, one by a woman and the final by a man in representation of the three important links of a family.
President of “A Better Community For All Canada” Yuel Bhatti introduced the theme of the day “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for all.” The theme for International Day of Peace is established by the United Nations every year.
“There is great need to spread the message of (United Religions Initiative) in multicultural regions of Canada to create more peace and harmony,” Bhatti said. He thanked the participants of Canadian, Indian and Pakistani cultures who were there to participate in International Day of Peace.
Together, attendees sang songs of peace, worshiped and lit a peace candle.
“Peace can be found within and without: within ourselves, within our neighborhoods and communities, but most importantly, without discrimination, hate and disrespect,” said Sylvia Ghori, CEO of Vital Elements Community Welfare Services.
President of Vital Elements Jasper Ghori said during his speech that for peace to really happen, people need to seek the “source of peace,” rather than looking to into the source of a conflict.
Tony Zekveld of Hope Centre in Toronto said that sustainable peace will come when we accept “the Kingship of our Creator God.”
Other speakers included Nadia Atif, women Coordinator of “A Better Community For All Canada,” who recited poetry and Jay Banerjei.
In Nashville, on September 18, the URI Nashville Cooperation Circle (URI NCC) held an interfaith service to commemorate United Nation’s International Day of Peace.
“It is with great joy that I recall the beauty of citywide interfaith peace service followed by a reception. The service and reception were committed to building bridges between peoples and transforming hate into hope and love with prayers for peace by URI NCC members from eight world religions and spiritual paths.” Joyce Wilding, Founder URI NCC.
Today, we weep. We weep for the lives lost, for those who have lost loved ones, for those who will deal with this trauma for the rest of their lives…for the fact that human beings inflict violence on other human beings.
Mahalo nui loa to the Interfaith Roundtable of Kauai, and the many volunteers and community members who have helped to make today’s International Day of Peace Celebration here on the Garden Isle a reality.
In April, the United Religions Initiative was honored to win the One Billion Acts of Peace member contest with the prize being for one URI member to attend the Conference on World Affairs. That member was Kari Cameron, Associate Director of the Center for New Americans at Interfaith Works in Syracuse, New York. Below is her reflection on the experience.
Is learning an act of peace? As I attended the Conference on World Affairs I was able to relax and learn for the sake of learning. I had no responsibilities and no agenda. This conference is put on by the University of Colorado and is in its 69th year. Through the generosity of Peace Jam (and my good luck that comes through on occasion in the most unexpected and fabulous ways), I was able to take a short break from my job as a social worker in Syracuse, New York, and visit stunning Boulder for this symposium on just about everything. If a subject involved anything to do with this world and how we live in it, there was a session with a panel of experts. I learned about the politics of the South China Sea, the realms of influence of ISIS, and watched a fascinating documentary that used rotoscopic animation to recreate history.
URI member Rik Yeames visited the United Nations earlier this month to share about a fundraising opportunity for the International Day of Peace and attend the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda.
Yeames, is a member of the Greater Concord Interfaith Council, one of URI’s newest Cooperation Circles and the first in New Hampshire. Yeames met with URI’s representative to the United Nations, Monica Willard, to talk about “A Piece of Pizza for Peace” an International Day of Peace fundraising project. International Day of Peace is marked by hundreds of thousands of people every year on September 21.
Rick came to UN on Friday April 7 to share his International Day of Peace Project, Piece of Pizza for Peace. He attended the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda, a beautiful ceremony that remembered the 800,000 killed in 100 days in the genocide against the Tutsi. After the program he met Mr. Dieng and Amb. Nga. We also got to shake hands with the Secretary-General and VP of General Assembly.
His project invites local pizza restaurants to use the International Day of Peace to stand for peace by contributing a percentage of their profits for that day to peace organizations. He wants to have three International Day of Peace organizations for people to choose from. Last year his shop sent $1,500 to Peace One Day. He wants to get hundreds of pizza shops around the world to participate. I think he is really dedicated to making this a most successful project for IDP and for URI!
The 2017 theme of the International Day of Peace is “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All.” If you are looking for ideas for how to commemorate the day check out the Program Bank to see what others have done in previous years. You can also learn more about how to use the day to raise fund for peace through A Piece of Pizza for Peace here.
Leah Schwartz traveled to the United Nations as part of a URI North America-sponsored program for young adult interfaith leaders. This trip occurred during World Interfaith Harmony Week. Schwartz is a member of the University of Rochester Interfaith Chapel, a Cooperation Circle member of the United Religions Initiative.
The following video encapsulates my experience at the UN for World Interfaith Harmony Week with the United Religions Initiative. I hope that by watching my story you can get a sense of the jam-packed two days I spent at the UN with other members of URI Cooperation Circles and URI United Nations Representative Monica Willard. The video includes images and videos from a high-level panel for the 55th Commission for Social Development, a tour of the UN, and a side event titled “Global Citizenship in Eradicating Poverty.” The video is mediated via Snapchat, an application that allows users to create digital stories.
Read reflections from other trip participants here and here.
Jaxon Washburn traveled to the United Nations as part of a URI North America-sponsored program for young adult interfaith leaders. This trip occurred during World Interfaith Harmony Week. Washburn is the founder of The World and Religion Tolerance Society, a high school interfaith in Arizona and a Cooperation Circle member of the United Religions Initiative.
Recently, I had the tremendous fortune of traveling to and attend the 55th Commission for Social Development at the United Nations in New York City.
This took place as part of a celebration for World Interfaith Harmony Week put on through a grassroots non-profit organization that I am a part of called the United Religions Initiative. The whole journey was an unreal experience and greatly expanded my own perspective on the world, youth engagement, and of course, the increasing importance of the values of interfaith in the world today.
World Interfaith Harmony Week is celebrated during the first week of February, and my trip was the first three days of the global week of interfaith observance. After a long, yet occupied plane ride in anticipation of the impending experience, I touched down in New Jersey at the Newark Airport. From there, I took a shuttle bus directly to our in Times Square. During the ride, I was happy to engage in some conversation with a group of Belgian tourists, the topics ranging from where we had traveled to relevant politics. Already at that point, extreme diversity was completely apparent everywhere I looked. After reaching the hotel, I explored Times Square and the bustling city surrounding me.
Culture shock is a highly accurate description of the feeling I experienced at that time. No matter where I set my gaze, a myriad of ethnicities, persons, and languages were present. Having an internal radar of all things religious, I often found myself guessing or identifying nearby individuals according to their faith. Whether walking or driving through the city, one could easily spot many Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus and Buddhists. I was in awe, both of the towering edifices crammed in such close proximity to each other, as well as the multitude of hosts they contained. New York could only be compared to some massive organism that never slept and was always on the move, breathing in and out massive crowds of cars and humans alike.
After being very much overwhelmed by the change of scenery, I joined with the small group of other youth representatives I was staying with, and after getting dinner in an Irish pub, we retired for the night.
The next day, we all awoke bright and early and took off to get our proper identification for our impending day at the United Nations. Our hotel being on 41st Street, we walked several blocks through the city, even passing through Grand Central Station, before we got to the identification building so that we could get certified to enter the United Nations itself. After a process of handing over our papers and getting temporary lanyards with our official U.N. ID’s, we went through various security checkpoints to get properly screened. Being the foremost center of international diplomacy, the security was far more intensive and rigorous than I had ever before experienced.
Finally, stepping out of security after being deemed clean of any contraband items, we stepped into the central courtyard of the United Nations. The morning air was crisp and after a brief photo shoot in front of the various symbolic statues and outdoor works of art, we stepped through the grand entrance of the main UN building. After briefly surveying the inner room, we quickly walked to the meeting room where we would observe our first of two meetings. This session was titled “Promoting Integrated Policies for Poverty Eradication: Youth Development in the 2030 Agenda” and was attended by various representatives from all over the world. They all spoke about how their country was focusing on increasing socioeconomic development in their youth and women through social programs, education, and various empowerment projects. China, Madagascar, Portugal, Uruguay, Iran and others all voiced their reports on the development of such efforts in their respective countries.
Afterward, our group got a quick lunch in one of the cafes in the building and then took part in an interactive discussion regarding youth delegate programs in the United Nations. There, various youth representatives from countries such as Australia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, the Netherlands and others were able to share some of the successes, challenges, highlights and obstacles they had faced in taking part in their country’s Youth Delegate programs.
Afterward, we toured the remainder of the United Nations building that we had access to. We were able to view gifts and international artwork, as well as exhibits dedicated to the history of the United Nations, tragedies such as the Holocaust, and modern epidemics such as sexual violence and the conflicts in the Middle East. Every item had a story, and every story made a special impression on those who experienced it, myself included. Following a full day there, we soon retired back to our hotel rooms for a few hours before joining together again to end the night with a group dinner at a local Italian restaurant.
The final day as the other members of my group departed, I was finally able to really tour New York and make special visits to its foremost tourist spots. The Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the Memorial for the World Trade Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the New York Public Library, the Holocaust Museum, and Central Park were all destinations I quickly make stops at before finally catching my shuttle to the airport and embarking on the plane ride home.
I returned from New York, the United Nations, and the trip as a changed individual. While there, my perspective became more global and my worldview enriched, with several meaningful relationships fostered with those I had spent time with there.
In the end, I returned from New York, the United Nations, and the trip as a changed individual. While there, my perspective became more global and my worldview enriched, with several meaningful relationships fostered with those I had spent time with there. I am very grateful for the opportunity I had to take part in this trip. The experiences I had and the impact it has made on me are something I am confident can only come once in a lifetime. With the help of the United Religions Initiative, I will forever remember World Interfaith Harmony Week in reference to the lasting relationships I created, and the meaningful lessons I learned while there.
Now, more than ever, I am committed to working towards a more inclusive, global, and understanding society. These are values I believe in, and thanks to organizations, such as URI and the United Nations, those values have a chance towards changing many more lives, just as they have my own. In the end, I am confident that we are all better together and I know that together, it is truly possible for peace to prevail on earth.
Read reflections from other trip participants here and here.