You Could Be Heading to the United Nations.

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

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

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

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

 

Details of this Year’s Trip: 

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

Requirements:

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

Please email northamerica@uri.org with any questions.  

Interfaith Organizations Step Up To Heal a Divided Nation

It is the day after the United States presidential election and much has changed since Americans went to bed last night. There is no doubt that interfaith organizations have always brought people together across lines of difference. This leadership is so needed today and in the days to come. 

For many of us, this outcome deeply affects our social change work and generates a lot of emotions and questions of “Now what?” For many, these emotions and questions are overwhelming. 

Throughout this contentious presidential election, interfaith organizations have served to support and connect members of their communities in the spirit of peace, justice and healing. This work continues. Interfaith groups are stepping into their roles as healers and have planned peaceful gatherings of solidarity across the nation with the hopes of creating spaces for community members to work through these questions of “Now what?” 

At this moment, let us be gentle with ourselves as we process the outcomes of this election. When we are ready, let us look to the interfaith peacebuilders listed below (and beyond) to give us #TangibleHope through their planned actions, and to set examples for what peacebuilding looks like.

National Level

CHARTER FOR COMPASSION:

The Charter for Compassion is hosting a “discussion about compassion and how we are called to act following a US election season that has brought out strains of racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and bigotry. How can we heal? How are we called to action? What can we bring to the mission of making compassion a luminous force?” When: Nov 10, 2016 11:30 AM in (GMT-8:00) Pacific Time (US and Canada). Click here to register for the call.

SHIFT NETWORK :

The Shift Network is calling for a Day of Healing and Reconciliation to heal after an election season of unprecedented bitterness. “We are calling upon our country to come together in a spirit of unity, forgiveness, and solidarity so that we can better address the challenges our nation faces.” They will host a live and online event on Sunday, November 13 from 3-5 pm EST. Tune in here. We want to open up an authentic dialogue and explore the difficult questions head on, like “How do we begin to heal?” and “How can we move forward together?” or “What power do we really have?” with Philip, Emily and YOU! In concert with this, there are also 11 local events happening across the country. Find out how you can plan one here

Thursday, Nov. 10 at 5 pm (PST), they will also hold a “Beginning the Path To Healing & Reconciliation” call. You can join by clicking here. They will be beginning an authentic dialogue to explore difficult questions head on, such as “How do we begin to heal?” and “How can we move forward together?” or “What power do we really have?”

We come together as Americans who are committed to embody our national motto of E Pluribus Unumand engage in respectful political discourse rather than warfare.

We assemble to heal the wounds of the election, recommit to our country’s greater good, and mend the divisions that are threatening to tear us asunder.

We will create an inspiring event in our nation’s capital that will be broadcast to gatherings in communities around the country. We will invite local leaders to join in this day of healing and reconciliation.

We also call upon our nation to engage in actions that bridge divides.

We will unify through uplifting music and pray together, honoring the many faiths that make our country great. We will share words of wisdom, rituals of forgiveness, and appreciative moments.

We will go beyond party labels and divisions of class, race, religion, and gender to remember that we are one American family and that all of us are needed in order to fulfill our country’s promise.

FAITH IN PUBLIC LIFE

Forty prominent interfaith leaders — from Jim Wallis to Imam Talib Shareef — joined a post-election conference call to heal the nation. Wednesday night, each of these leaders offered a prayer of healing. 

SHOULDER TO SHOULDER:

Shoulder to Shoulder, along with a coalition of Muslim, interfaith, and civic groups across the country, issued a nationwide call asking Americans of all faith, racial and political backgrounds to commit to working with each other post-elections to build a more united country, regardless of who got elected on Tuesday. The campaign, titled #OnNovember9, asks all Americans to go on social media the day before the election and share the actions they will take to take to reduce the tensions brought about by this divisive election cycle. Their #OnNovember9 pledges will serve as a reminder to all Americans that we can, and must, work together to rebuild our nation’s unity and #RestoreCivility.

LIVING ROOM CONVERSATIONS: 

Living Room Conversations provides a structured format for having conversations that actually get somewhere. The idea is to assemble a group of people with different perspectives and have a rich, meaningful conversation. Following the election, they have released a special “What’s next after the election?” conversation guide that people across the country can try in their own homes. 

URI NORTH AMERICA:

The United Religions Initiative in North America held space, Wednesday morning, for Cooperation Circles and Affiliates to share feeling and explore question. As a family of interfaith leaders across the US (and Canada!!), let us create a safe space to listen to each other’s feelings and begin exploring the questions:

Arizona

SUN DEVILS ARE BETTER TOGETHER: 

The interfaith club at Arizona State University will host a bi-partisan evening of dialogue on Tuesday, November 15 to discuss “the best way to be advocates for the well-being of one another” in this social climate. RSVP here. 

California

NETWORK OF SPIRITUAL PROGRESSIVES: 

The Network of Spiritual Progressives is hosting a strategy conference, in honor of Tikkun’s 30th anniversary celebration, called “Now What – After the Election?” This interfaith organization is inviting partners and non-partners alike to consider new approaches to transform consciousness and honor activists.

MARIN INTERFAITH COUNCIL:

The Marin Interfaith Council is hosting an event called “Interfaith Gathering in Prayer for Our Country” on Wednesday, November 9th at Congregation Rodef Sholom. For more information, click here.
It’s been a hard election season on many levels. The rhetoric has been divisive and polarizing. We come together tonight to sing, to pray, and to reconnect. Bring your neighbors, bring your kids, bring your soul, bring your heart. We join together in love and blessings for the future of our community and country.We hope to see you there. And whether or not you can join us, please continue to hold each other, our nation, and our entire world in your prayers.

WORLDWIDE FORGIVENESS ALLIANCE:

The Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance is looking past November 8th and onto Nov.16th when they will be hosting a Forgiveness Circle in honor of healing and unity. When: Wednesday November 16th – 7 to 9 p.m. For more information, click here

This has been the most brutal, obscene Presidential campaign ever – the worst we’ve ever experienced in over 50 years of voting. The level of hatred, distrust, lying, racism, misogyny, ignorance, hypocrisy, violence, anger, frustration and just plain madness has divided this country into warring factions within each party, creating a volatile cocktail that threatens to blow this society to smithereens. It’s been a constant barrage of baggage hurled into our faces, beating our beings into submission.

Hopefully, it will all be over by Tuesday November 8th… then the healing can begin.

Let’s begin the process of mending this society and ourselves with a Forgiveness Circle. In this setting, we listen deeply to that which is crying out to be heard. We each have a voice to express our deepest pain, our greatest hope, our peace, our forgiveness, our love. This Forgiveness Circle is not a debate, nor a lengthy discussion of issues. As in the Buddhist Tonglan tradition, we breathe in the pain and breathe out the love in our hearts. We hear the hurt, we breathe forgiveness and let go of the hurt, wiping the slate clean, returning to stillness, returning ourselves back to wholeness, we love unconditionally. Ho’oponopono and other forgiveness methods as appropriate will also be applied. 

Ohio

INTERFAITH WITTENBERG

On a college campus in Springfield, Ohio, Interfaith Wittenberg gathered with nearly 100 students from the college community for a candlelight unity vigil.

“Tonight was about love, compassion and caring. It was about community and finding hope and strength to continue forward. This was a moment to not be alone, when some perhaps felt more alone than ever before,” the group shared on Facebook

The students read an anti-racism statement, said short prayers and there was a time for people to speak words of hope (from their hearts, from quotes and from scripture).

 Maryland

MONTGOMERY COUNTY FAITH COMMUNITY ADVISORY BOARD:

The Montgomery County Faith Community Advisory Board‘s Interfaith Community Liaison Rev. Mansfield “Kasey” Kaseman called members to reaffirm their commitment to their social change work in a message of solidarity that was sent Wednesday. You can read excerpts of the message below. 

As people of faith we need to be listening from the heart and responding with compassion. We need to be praying for our elected officials that they gain a sense of divine justice and understand it to be a perquisite to peace. Let us pray for their welfare and the capacity to seek forgiveness, insight and strength beyond their own.

Let us reaffirm our responsibility as people of faith to be welcoming refugees, protecting the environment, advancing quality healthcare for all, addressing social-economic inequities, and confronting all forms of racism including xenophobia, homophobia, Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

What could be more important for ourselves and what greater contribution might we make during this political transition than demonstrating our unity in the midst of diversity and the power of love being far greater than all forms of loveless power?! We have an extraordinary opportunity to be sources of light and rays of hope.

Shalom, Salaam, Namaste, Om Shanti, Satsriakal, Peace

Kasey

Utah

UTAH CITIZENS SUMMIT

The Utah Citizen Summit consists of an All Day Session and an Evening Dialogue & Awards Ceremony focused on “Utahns Coming Together.” You can find more information here

Washington

COMPASSIONATE ACTION NETWORK:

The Compassionate Action Network‘s Chief Compassion Officer, Karli Anne Christiansen, is encouraging folks to be gentle with themselves and practice “radical self-care” in the face of “election fatigue.” The organization shared the following message and resources: 

“Election fatigue” has many of us feeling overwhelmed and anxious, with more than half of American adults reporting moderate to very significant levels of stress. No matter what happens at the polls today, we all might benefit from what one of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott, calls radical self-care.

“Radical self-care,” she writes, “is what we’ve been longing for, desperate for, our entire lives – friendship with our own hearts.”

How can we practice radical self-care during a season so fraught with tension that the Washington Post recommends “emergency election meditations?” UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center offers three helpful strategies for finding the good during a stressful election. My advice: Care for yourself this week the way you would care for someone you love very much. Rest your body and mind when you’re tired. Call someone who makes you laugh. Watch this baby goat video as many times as you need to. (I’m up to three times so far today). Remind yourself that we’re going to be okay, no matter what happens, because there are people like you in this world. I trust so deeply in your goodness.

Finally, if you are in or near Seattle, please consider joining us Sunday, November 13th for a special Compassion For Your Body event featuring gifted bodywork practitioner David Melman. I’ve included the details below, and I hope to see you there.


If you know of any other post-election interfaith initiatives promoting peace, justice and healing – let us know at northamerica@uri.org. 

Working to Keep Tangible Hope Alive

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

Vicki Garlock, founder of Faith Seeker Kids and childhood interfaith educator: 

I have the great fortune of being an interfaith educator for kids. My work is grounded in my beliefs that 1) faith development is a life-long process, 2) that each faith tradition offers a unique way of articulating and accessing the divine presence in our lives, and 3) that we should provide kids with the tools they need to walk their faith path.

We have teenagers who love Rumi, middle-schoolers who have heard passages from the Qur’an…

The real beauty of teaching kids about the world’s faith traditions is that I see examples of #TangibleHope all the time. We have teenagers who love Rumi, middle-schoolers who have heard passages from the Qur’an since they were in 3rd grade, and kindergarteners who have listened to stories from around the world. They are not entirely blank slates, but they are incredibly open-minded and open-hearted – free from the baggage so frequently seen in adults.

People often question whether or not kids can actually understand the way different religions articulate the Great Mystery. It is true that these kids are not mini-religious scholars; that is not our intent. But they clearly wonder about how the world came to be, how it works, and how they can find meaning in it from a very young age.

I am reminded of an argument that occurred one day in our Preschool-Kindergarten class. They were listening to the Biblical passage about Moses’ adventure on Mount Sinai when God gave him the first set of commandments. The Bible describes the mountain in this way, “Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the Lord had descended upon it in fire; the smoke went up like the smoke of a kiln, while the whole mountain shook violently.” (Exodus 19:18) The question posed to the kids was this: What does God look like to you? The mild argument ensued when three different kids tried to convince the others of his/her viewpoint. One child said she already knew what God looked like. God was an old man with a white beard and he lived “right over there” as she pointed to a non-descript, but distant, corner of the room. Another child took issue with her claim and asserted that “God is everywhere.” A third child was quick to point out that both classmates were mistaken since “God lives inside you.”

The give-and-take that one might expect from adults isn’t there, but neither is all the angst. When we talk about prayer, we take a wide view. We talk about Tibetan prayer flags, Catholic rosaries, singing psalms as prayer, Muslim prayer beads, mantras as prayer, Buddhist malas, Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, Pagan clouties, Islamic prayer mats, chanting as prayer, and various prayer postures. We make prayer flags to hang in the classroom, we tie clouties to trees, we show videos of people praying in various ways, and we show them strands of prayer beads from the various traditions. The older kids even make their own set of prayer beads, choosing the number and colors of beads that are meaningful to them.

They don’t even realize their knowledge is special in any way because it all makes perfect sense.

And what do the kids say in response to all that? “Cool.” They don’t even realize their knowledge is special in any way because it all makes perfect sense. They may prefer some prayer methods over others, and their preferences will almost certainly change over the course of their lifetimes, but there is no judgment when we offer these practices as different ways to touch that which is sacred. Kids get it. Our job is simply to keep that #TangibleHope alive.

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Vickvickigarlocki Michela Garlock, Ph.D., is the founder of Faith Seeker Kids and the Nurture Coordinator at Jubilee! Community Church in Asheville, NC. She has developed a Bible-based, interfaith curriculum for kids age 4 through 8th grade and is the co-founder of Asheville Interfaith. She is also a correspondent for the Interfaith Observer, writing for their on-line publication every month, where she focuses on the “kid angle.” Most of her time is spent writing, reading sacred texts/ancient stories, and attending rituals/pujas/services offered by various faith communities. When she isn’t working, she’s walking her dog, driving her son around to his extra-curricular activities, and keeping her teenage daughter focused. You can find her at faithseekerkids.com or on Facebook: Faith Seeker Kids or on Twitter: @faithseekerkids.

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. 

Announcing NAIN’s Upcoming Interfaith Conference

2017 NAIN “Connect” Conference

Who: YOU and your fellow interfaith peacebuilders

What: The North American Interfaith Network is preparing for next year’s “Connect” Conference, entitled HARMONY: Journey to One Heart. This 3 and 1/2 day NAIN Interfaith conference will be the largest interfaith conference ever to come to California. This historic event will host 500 people from over 20 faiths from throughout North America and beyond. All will gather at the University of California, San Diego to share programs which bring harmony to people of all faiths and for people who say they have no faith home. Mornings will feature keynote speakers and discussion sessions and afternoons will bus attendees to faith locations for more discussion and celebration.

Where: San Diego, California

When: August 6th-10th

Pre-registration is essential because the space cannot hold more than 500 people. Full registration begins in January, 2017. To save your spot and learn more about the conference, click here.

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.

Coalition of URI Cooperation Circles Recognized for Raising Awareness about the Plight of Yezidis and Assyrians

Updated on 12/07/16

The “Save Us From Genocide” (SUFG) and Beyond Genocide campaigns have been selected to receive a United Nations Association (UNA) Global Citizen Award for its consciousness-raising efforts on behalf of Yezidis and Assyrians facing genocide in Iraq and Syria. The award was presented by the UNA-USA East Bay Chapter in October 2016  at the International House at UC Berkeley, and in November 2016 at Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco. 

These four URI Cooperation Circles — the Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County (ICCCC), the Marin Interfaith Council (MIC), the Silicon Valley Interreligious Council (SiVIC), and the Interfaith Center at the Presidio (ICP) — have been working in concert with the United Religions Initiative (URI) since early 2015 to raise awareness about the plight of Yezidis and Assyrians facing genocide at the hands of so-called-ISIL and to focus a spotlight on the assertive action needed to halt these atrocities and support the affected communities as they seek peace, justice and healing.

Beginning in 2016, these four URI Cooperation Circles have also been working with the Board of Rabbis of Northern California on a project called Beyond Genocide (BG) to help Yezidis wishing to remain in Iraq and those wishing to seek asylum elsewhere.

Individual religious and community leaders across the faith spectrum have lent their names and support at critical junctures to both the SUFG and BG campaigns, including members of URI cooperation circles around the world.

“We are so grateful for the work that a collaborative group of United Religions Initiative Cooperation Circles has been doing to bring light to these atrocities,” said Rev. Victor H. Kazanjian, Jr., Executive Director of URI.  “URI firmly supports the rights of these and all people to practice their faith and spirituality free from violence and oppression. This is a powerful example of URI’s long-held belief that grassroots interfaith activities have the ability to affect global change.”

SUFG has called attention to the tragedies befalling Assyrians and Yezidis by holding a press conference, and by writing to, and conferring with, U.N. and U.S. government officials. They also maintain an informational website and provide speakers for religious and educational programs. Additionally, they join in solidarity with affected communities, and offer support to Yezidi religious leaders and Yezidi and Assyrian lay leaders as they cope with, and address, the atrocities facing their respective peoples.

BG also calls attention to the tragedies befalling Yezidis and they maintain an informational website and provide speakers.

Sally Mahé, URI Director of Global Programs and Organizational Development represented URI during the November award ceremony.

“The award reads, ‘Global Citizen Award 2016, Humanitarian Hero for Achievements to Support the Most Needy. Save Us from Genocide. Beyond Genocide.” said Sally. “The persevering work of Rabbi Pam Frydman and Reverend Will McGarvey inspires this multi-year ongoing effort to bring the desperate and horrific plight of the Yezidi and Assyrian communities into view and provide much needed support. The Interfaith of Council Contra Costa County CC, Marin Interfaith Council CC, Silicon Valley Inter-religious Council CC, Interfaith Center at the Presidio CC, together with the Board of Rabbis of Northern California, URI’s UN representative Monica Willard, and URI’s global network are part of this collective effort. URI celebrates its vital network of connection that allows for this kind of collective effort to invigorate hope to bring these genocides to an end before it is too late.”

Sari Heidenreich, URI North America Regional Coordinator, extended her congratulations to the coalition. “Rabbi Pamela Frydman has been working tirelessly with this coalition to bring awareness of the plight of the Yezidi and Assyrian people,” said Sari. “She and her partners are excellent examples of what it means to follow that voice in our head that says ‘You must take action’ in the face of injustice. People like Rabbi Pam and the members of the Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County, the Marin Interfaith Council, the Silicon Valley Interreligious Council, and the Interfaith Center at the Presidio give me tangible hope that we can create a world where everyone can live in peace.”

For more information and to participate in this ongoing effort, go to:

BEYOND GENOCIDE http://www.norcalrabbis.org/yezidi-fundraiser/

SAVE US FROM GENOCIDE https://www.yezidis-assyrians.org

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.

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.

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.

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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.

The Power of Choice

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


Sister Jenna, spiritual leader, author, radio and TV personality, renowned speaker and founder of the Meditation Museum I & II:

Before I began my spiritual journey, over twenty years ago, I had no interest in spirituality of helping humanity from the inside out. I was driven more towards success in business, the ownership of beautiful things, and the prestige of important relationships. Then one day, I had a vision and experience of Light. And, without my asking, I found myself in a completely different way of seeing myself and the world around me. It was one that was focused on inner treasures, fine-tuned through silence, and in relationship with a Source beyond material possessions. It touched a truth in me so deeply that it transformed my whole story. 

In 2013, I began the America Meditating Radio Show. The intention was to highlight everyday Americans, and others around the world, living their truth and as a result, inspiring others to do the same. To hear the story of another, and see their courage and triumph offers hope. I have interviewed hundreds of folks, from celebrities to survivors, politicians to artists. All responded to a moment in their lives that invited them to change, let go, create newness. This has given me deeper insight and conviction while journeying: the proof that each and every one of us can do better, and live our truth fascinates me.

During my visit to India earlier this year, one of the first questions posed to me was regarding the presidential election in the United States. It was clear that this election was already having a global impact. I sat with the question during early morning meditation, and felt a #TangibleHope arise. There was a way that concerned citizens of the world could come together on a neutral platform and discuss not what was most important to the candidates, but what was most important to us. So, an alliance of friends formed the movement, Meditate The Vote. 

The primary aim of #MeditateTheVote is to invite individuals, Americans and abroad, to explore the power of choice and how important it is for us to gain deeper awareness of who we are. The current presidential election is focused on dis-empowerment, of candidates and citizens. One of its goals is to incite the need for external forces in power to re-deliver what means the most to us. However, in order to truly know what does mean the most to us, and who holds it for us, we need to ask ourselves the critical questions we continue to wait for others to answer:

Are you powerful enough to affect change? What do you value most about America? Do you believe in your self-worth, and how does your life model that belief? Is there a way for us to engage in conversation without creating separation or division? If so, how?

These questions serve as the foundation for engagement with the #Meditatethevote initiative. Events have taken place throughout the country in museums, coffee shops, community spaces, homes, and Universities. The movement has engaged various genres of folks from around the country. Black, white, rich, poor, republicans, and democrats have all participated.  All events introduce and offer the tool of meditation, an exercise in how best to interpret the scenes and folks we encounter.  The intent is to stimulate a broader view of choices and how best to make a decisions that’s beneficial for all. 

These are hopeful times and we are being challenged to raise our way of thinking and being. I believe the story of humanity is being tested everywhere and we are being called to ask ourselves the right questions, so that we can experience deeper answers of who we are. Our inner judgments and fears are rising, to give way to a deeper understanding and compassion. We are receiving countless opportunities to choose to come from resistance, or love. More people are recognizing this choice, and more are finding the courage to love. This is #TangibleHope.

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Sister JennaSister Jenna is a spiritual leader, author, radio and TV personality, renowned speaker and founder of the Meditation Museum I & II in metropolitan Washington, DC. Selected as one of the Empower a Billion Women 100 List of Most Influential Global Leaders Empowering Women Worldwide and served as a principal partner with the Oprah Winfrey Network and Values Partnerships on the Oprah Winfrey Belief Team, a community of individuals from diverse spiritual, cultural and faith backgrounds, and as an influential connector, she coordinated bringing on-board organizations and thought leaders to engage in this global dialogue on Belief.

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.