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!”

“Hope is Where Love Lives and Thrives”

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

Karen Leslie Hernandez,  Mom, Theologian, Interfaith Activist, Animal Lover:

In a world where 19,000 children die around the world, due to effects of malnutrition and disease. In a world where famine is gripping South Sudan and Yemen and tens of thousands are at risk of literally starving to death. In a world where chemical warfare in Syria is a game of blame. In a world where Muslim girls are brutally beaten to death because of “road rage.” In a world where a building that houses hundreds of poor immigrants simply burns them alive. In a world where there are more slaves than ever in the world’s history of slavery. In a world where vans are used as weapons. In a world where men with guns and bombs kill our children while they attend school and concerts. In a world where prisons are an industry and those of color pay for the greed. In a world where the President of what was the most thriving nation on the planet, brags about grabbing women by their private parts. In a world where two men die defending a Muslim woman on a train. In a world where there are more refugees than ever before fleeing their homeland for a better life. In a world where those that are paid to protect us, in actuality, shoot us. In a world where we are closer to a nuclear war than we have ever been …

In a world such as this, how can we find hope?

Continue reading ““Hope is Where Love Lives and Thrives””

Casting Out Fear:  Living into Hope

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

The Rev. Dr. C. Denise Yarbrough, Episcopal priest, Canon for Interreligious and Ecumenical Relations and Director of Religious and Spiritual Life at the University of Rochester:

“Perfect love casts out fear. ” (1 John 4:18)  This line from the New Testament has echoed in my brain for months now.   Where do I find hope in these trying times? I find hope where people are committed to casting out fear.  My work with young adults on a college campus, both in the classroom where I teach interfaith studies, and as the Director of Religious and Spiritual Life, is all about casting out fear.  The students in my courses want to learn about the interfaith movement and how diverse religious groups interact with each other in the real world.  They want to make sense of the conflicts that dominate our news cycle.  They want to figure out how they can become agents of change, moving the negative narrative of interfaith encounter towards something far more positive. These young adults are not stunted by the prejudices and fears of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations.  They question what they learned growing up and they seek to learn for themselves what this diverse and pluralistic world is all about.  On a campus that is often skeptical of religion and religious people, our Interfaith Chapel communities and our student interfaith organization change hearts and minds and make a difference.  

The Interfaith Chapel provides students an outlet for their spiritual development and a safe place to explore whatever spiritual or religious worldview and teachings they might have learned growing up, encouraging them to go deeper and to integrate their spirituality into their emerging adult self.  The students who come through the Interfaith Chapel include those who are affiliated with a particular religious tradition and those who are unaffiliated, seeking, or simply curious.  Four years ago we founded the Students’ Association for Interfaith Cooperation (SAIC) which has become the primary student organization that engages in interfaith work on campus, bringing together students from the various faith communities and students who have no religious affiliation, for interfaith community service, dialogue and education.  Our SAIC leaders have included observant Muslims, confirmed atheists, social justice impassioned Jews, liberal mainline Protestants, transgender students, first-generation college students, and children of undocumented immigrants.  These students form community across all those lines of difference. They relish getting to know those they once might have feared.  

These students form community across all those lines of difference. They relish getting to know those they once might have feared.  

In SAIC’s first year, an atheist student came to one of our events and shortly thereafter joined the leadership team.  He came to SAIC to see if what he had heard about religious people being “stupid” was true.   He stayed because he learned it was not and that these students were passionate about making a difference in the world, much as he is.  A young Jewish woman, who had been taught to distrust Muslims, was transformed when she participated in our annual Hijabi-for-a-day event, co-sponsored by SAIC and the Muslim Students Association.  On that day, non-Muslim women wear the hijab for a full day and come together in the evening to talk about the experience. This young woman shared how deeply touched she was as she wore the hijab and learned from her Muslim colleagues what it meant to them to wear it.  Her attitude to Muslims was overturned that day.   Evangelical Christians, transgender Unitarian Universalists, African Christians, American Jews, Buddhists, and Muslims worked together to prepare and serve meals at a homeless shelter in Rochester, engaging in dialogue about the values that propel them to engage in community service.  Students from many faith traditions and none at all rallied and marched across campus together for a #NoBanNoWall march on a cold winter day in February this year and I felt tangible hope, not fear.


In the midst of the hateful rhetoric and fear mongering of our current social and political climate, hope is in short supply. Our Muslim students modeled the values of our Interfaith Chapel in their promotional video for their annual Islam Awareness Week events.  They responded to the hate and vitriol of our current political climate with humor, compassion, and a genuine desire to engage and educate in order to foster understanding and peace. Their open-hearted willingness to cast out fear through education, dialogue and building relationships gives me hope. These students are the leaders of the future.  They embody #TangibleHope.


The Rev. Dr. C. Denise Yarbrough is an Episcopal priest and serves as the Canon for Interreligious and Ecumenical Relations for the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester.  She is also the Director of Religious and Spiritual Life, and Associate Professor in the Dept. of Religion and Classics at the University of Rochester where she teaches courses in interfaith studies and world religions.  She is in charge of the Interfaith Chapel at the University of Rochester, responsible for interfaith programming and education.  She serves as Priest in Charge of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Bloomfield, NY.  Interfaith work is her passion.  She has served for many years on various bi-lateral interfaith dialogue commissions in Rochester including Christian -Jewish, Christian-Muslim and Christian-Hindu dialogue.  She teaches interfaith studies and world religions at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, preparing students for Christian ministry with a heightened sensitivity to the religiously pluralistic context in which they will serve.

This blog post is part of the #TangibleHope Diaries series. To read other posts in the series, or to contribute your own, click here

Moral Courage: The courage to take action for moral reasons despite the risks


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

Janess Gans Wilder, founder and CEO of the Euphrates Institute:

What gives me #TangibleHope is the moral courage of the people around the world with whom I have the privilege of working. Moral courage is the courage to take action for moral reasons despite the risk of adverse consequences. The task of interfaith activity and peacebuilding is not easy. It often involves taking great personal risks and sacrifices to address the issues of violence, extremism, racism, and discrimination non-violently.

A very meaningful and eye-opening example of this indomitable courage occurred for me last week. I was on a conference call with our Euphrates Chapter Leaders. (The Euphrates Insitute is a United Religions Initiative Cooperation Circle that has a network model much like URI, but on a much smaller scale. We currently have 25 local satellite groups around the world who further the Euphrates mission in their communities.) Our Chapter Leader from Sudan discussed how aggressively ISIS is recruiting in his area and how he is using it as an opportunity to increase his efforts to educate people about peace, bridge-building with the West, and turning the ‘Other’ into a brother as a counterpoint to the terrorist group’s narrative.

I asked him how he was dealing with being aligned with an American-based organization started by a former U.S. government official. “Isn’t that risky?” I pressed. “What about your personal security? Wouldn’t the government, and/or ISIS folks try to brand you as a spy, unpatriotic, infidel, etc, etc. How do you deal with that?

Everyone on the call got quiet to hear his response.  

“Of course it is risky,” he acknowledged. “You took risks in your life, going to war zones. And I take risks in mine. This is a big mission. We must take big risks. It’s because we believe in this and know it will help people. We must give the young people the chance for a different life.”

We were all touched. He repeated the ideas several times and with such sincerity. One lady even had to turn off the video, she told me later, because tears were streaming down her face.

His remarks served as a powerful reminder for me of the risks and sacrifices all of us are taking in this work, and to not take them lightly. The moral courage of folks like him who are working around the world to further peace, respect for other religions, finding common ground, overcoming oppression, is what gives me #TangibleHope on a daily basis.

In my own journey, moral courage has evolved from seeing the people of the Middle East as the “enemy” to seeing them as partners, friends. Through my work as a counterinsurgency analyst in Iraq, I was involved in the “military solution” as the way to deal with conflict, but ultimately found it to be a fruitless effort that did not stem the problem of war at the root. It felt like catching drops of water from a leaky faucet, which doesn’t actually fix the faucet.

I believe the transformation I experienced from seeing Iraqis as the ‘Other’ to seeing them as brothers is possible for each one of us when we open our hearts and minds to whomever the ‘Other’ is to us in our lives. (See my TEDx talk on this topic to hear more.)

I invite you to contemplate the question “Who is my ‘Other’?” Is it a group from a different religion, nation, ethnicity, race, gender, political party? Can you open your thought to having an encounter, a personal experience with your ‘Other’ in a fresh way? You may find the results to be utterly transformative.

Imagine each of us doing this. Talk about #TangibleHope.


Janessa Gans Wilder is a former CIA officer turned peacebuilder, social entrepreneur, and nonprofit executive. She is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of The Euphrates Institute, an organization that builds peace and understanding about critical Middle East issues. She founded Euphrates after five years at the CIA focused on the Middle East, including serving 21 months in Iraq from 2003-2005. Janessa is a frequent speaker in interfaith, community, government, international, and educational settings. She has written dozens of articles and been interviewed by major news outlets, including CBS, CNN, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, Democracy Now, and many more.

#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. 

Mandala: A Symbol of Tangible Hope

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

Linda Carleton, educator, minister and founder of Melita House for refugees responds:

In the events and rancor of recent weeks, I have had moments when I’ve almost forgotten that the world is never outside the sacred web of love that offers tangible hope. The thing that most reliably brings me back from the edge of despair is the mandala, that visible sign of wholeness and completion. I find mandalas everywhere: in architecture, on billboards, in the kaleidoscopic hubcaps of passing cars. I color mandalas. I keep a mandala blog and every Tuesday morning I offer a Mandala Prayer Circle for people waiting in line for soap or diapers or used clothing at Saint Elizabeth’s Jubilee Center in Portland, Maine (also known as “Saint E’s”).


The folks who visit Saint E’s come from many stripes of life. They speak different languages and adhere to different religions. They have conflicting political beliefs and face a variety of daunting personal and social challenges. But week after week, they set these differences aside to color mandala ornaments as prayer for themselves, their loved ones, or their aching world.

…the mandala is a circle, a sacred symbol in virtually every culture.

What is it about the mandala that offers such a profound expression of tangible hope? To begin with, the mandala is a circle, a sacred symbol in virtually every culture. To psychologist C.G. Jung, the circle was the most basic archetype, representing perfection, eternity and the divine Self. In Sanskrit, the mandala represents the structure of life itself. The Mandala Project describes it as “A cosmic diagram that reminds us of our relation to the infinite, the world that extends both beyond and within our bodies and minds.” In Navaho sand paintings, the mandala becomes a vehicle for physical as well as emotional healing. In the Christian Church, the circle suggests the promise of wholeness and eternity in symbols as varied as the labyrinth, wedding rings, Advent wreaths and rose windows.

To color mandalas is to enter into the spiritual dance that perpetually draws us towards God and drives us out into the world again.

Drawing or coloring mandalas creates a liminal space that allows us to rest within this circle. As soon as we begin work on a mandala, we enter into dialogue with the bindu, its sacred center. The bindu is a bit like a black hole. It is an infinitesimal point that inexorably draws us in, offering a kind of portal into the heart of the divine. However, drawing mandalas cannot stop at the bindu. Just as the contemplative life leads both inward and outward, making mandalas propels us outward from the center to its edges and beyond. To color mandalas is to enter into the spiritual dance that perpetually draws us towards God and drives us out into the world again.

Now when folks come to us at Saint E’s, they are not thinking about Jung, or bindus, or the perpetual dance of spiritual life. But fortunately, you don’t have to think about any of this to experience the serenity of working with mandalas. Try it! You can just cut out a mandala from a coloring book or download it from Google, write on the back the name of a person or situation you’d like to hold in prayer, take out your markers, paints or pencils and color. You can put it on your refrigerator, or pin it to your wall, or use Modge-Podge to attach it to a wooden disc and make an ornament. However you do it, you will have spent time in communion with the sacred circle. And you’ll have a tangible symbol to remind you of it.


linda_carleton_tangiblehope_diaryLinda Carleton is a former teacher of history and comparative religions and minister. She founded Melita House, a refugee welcome house in Guilford, Connecticut.  After retirement, she moved to Maine with her husband Peter where she now paints, writes, leads mandala workshops and teaches English to immigrants. She is the author of Elmina’s Fire, to be published in June, and is the Secretary for the Leadership Circle of the Abbey of HOPE (a #TangibleHope Campaign partner). Linda is perpetually seeking new ways to integrate her own Christian faith with the world’s diverse spiritual teachings and to help the world heal from its history of religious abuse.

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.

Finding Tangible Hope in Keeping Tradition Alive

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

Leah Schwartz, young adult interfaith activist responds:

Last year when I was studying abroad in Barcelona my host family asked how I could put my body through the process of fasting for Yom Kippur. I began to question what meaning it had, especially when I wasn’t performing the rite with my family and friends at home. However, I was soon reminded of my grandfather and his commitment to Judaism despite the anti-Semitism that he faced in his lifetime.

Although sometimes it seems foreign to practice Jewish rituals in a secular(ish) environment, whether it be at college or abroad, I like the idea that that these holidays and traditions somehow connect me to my grandfather and my ancestors.

My grandfather was a holocaust survivor and a venerated member of the Jewish community within Caracas, Venezuela.

When I was ten years old, on Mother’s Day, my mother received a call that her father had been hit by a bus in Caracas that ran a red light. The family festivities were interrupted and she quickly made arrangements to get to Venezuela. Later that week he passed away.

I never got the chance to ask him what it was like to be in a labor camp or how he stayed devoted to the idea of Hashem, G-d, in such a bleak circumstance. It felt wrong that, after all he had been through, he was robbed of his life in this way.

The Jewish High Holidays give me time to to not only reflect on this life event and how it affects me, but also its larger societal context. In this time of reflection, I feel Tangible Hope wash over me.

I have the power and the agency to keep a tradition alive that was once under the threat of being wiped out.

I have hope that I can continue to pass on these customs one day when I have children of my own — that I have the power and the agency to keep a tradition alive that was once under the threat of being wiped out. I have hope that, through interfaith work, I can contribute to creating a more inclusive atmosphere where no one feels threatened due to their origins or practice.


Leah Schwartz Tangible Hope Diary


Leah Schwartz is a senior at the University of Rochester. She is an intern at the university’s Interfaith Chapel and President of the Students’ Association for Interfaith Cooperation.


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.

Truth Crushed to the Ground Will Rise Again


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

Rev. Kevin Kitrell Ross, spiritual leader, author, radio host, motivational speaker and all-around social justice activist responds:

After reading the prompt, it took me a moment to come to the place where I could meaningfully respond and point out examples of “tangible hope” that would inspire other bridge builders, light workers, and peacemakers to continue their important mission. 

Having witnessed the candidacy and election of one of the most divisive and contentious political figures to the nation’s highest office, I was at a loss for tangible hope – this presidency is seemingly diametrically opposed to the values of inclusion, diversity, peacemaking, civil and human rights, environmental justice, international diplomacy, and the Beloved community that we all devote countless hours toward building.  

What has been easier to find than tangible hope, is evidence of tangible disgrace. Of course, like any tough-minded optimist, I refuse to allow the ignorance of some to distract me from believing in the potential of all.

As we speak, social media is filled with hateful memes, derogatory messages, images of young whites in blackface and graffiti defacing our outgoing President’s image.  Muslim mothers are telling Muslim daughters not to wear the hijab. I told my Puerto Rican wife to be careful as extremists in the streets have been spotted yelling at a young Latina, “go back where you came from.”  And stories of African Americans being harassed on public transportation are all-too-common – in one instance, a young white male asked, “Aren’t you supposed to be sitting at the back of the bus?”  What has been easier to find than tangible hope, is evidence of tangible disgrace.

Of course, like any tough-minded optimist, I refuse to allow the ignorance of some to distract me from believing in the potential of all. Admittedly, however, I needed some breathing space before I could recover my stride.

As such, there are so many good examples of tangible hope that are worthy of pointing out who are fine examples of what’s possible when we remain undeterred by even the most damning of evidence to our cause.

In this very moment, people from all walks of life have taken to the streets in cities across this nation in protest to an electoral college victory for the President-Elect, when his opponent won the popular vote.  This stand to challenge the arguably outmoded electoral college is evidence of tangible hope.

Recently, I sat with the Advisory Council of the Association for Global New Thought in San Diego, California.  I was pleased to hear how Leaders representing hundreds of thousands of people were committed to raising their profile and serving as “positive pundits,” representing a “conscious majority” of Americans who are committed to co-creating a world that works for all.  One tangible step they are taking is to expand their “Season for Nonviolence” initiative to include more congregations, classrooms, and marginalized communities.

Additionally, as a member of the Mountain-Valley Chapter of American Leadership Forum, I have enjoyed participating in Implicit Bias Training with arguably some of America’s most influential business and community leaders.  All voluntarily enrolled in the course with the intention of learning how to detect, deter, and disrupt patterns of implicit bias within ourselves and use our knowledge to build more inclusive, culturally awake, and diversity -aware policies, workplaces, and communities.

Despite the extreme vitriol and strife shown in the campaigns of both Presidential candidates, two of my mentees were not deterred from entering public service. Tracey ran for Mayor of Elk Grove as a first-time candidate.  While she didn’t win, she did manage to snag 12 percent of the vote,gained two major endorsements and gained lots of experience for the future. Montez Sterling Cobb, after passing the bar in three states, turned down the private sector and is serving in Washington, DC as a U.S. Trial Attorney.

Finally, my work with Unity of Sacramento and the interfaith, cross-sector coalition through Sacramento Area Congregations Together (SAC ACT) and Project LEAD (Law Enforcement A Directive) has brought together Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jews, and people in the New Thought Community to challenge the Sacramento City Council to revise its ineffective Police Commission so that police-involved shootings and misconduct can be investigated by a civilian lead commission with authority to enact best practices that promote transparency and accountability. Leaders are standing up for the families of unarmed victims of police-shooting deaths, like Joseph Man who was shot 14 times by a bad actor in law enforcement; whose “shoot and ask questions later” behavior will leave an empty chair at the Man’s family thanksgiving dinner table.

Tonight, as I leave the office, I remain inspired by the resilience of leaders who through their passion to build the Beloved Community, keep pressing against the societal midnights and shadows into the blinding daybreaks of morning justice.  

Together we have witnessed our values crushed to the ground, but we remember that no barrier, nor wall nor resistance can stop the onslaught of persistent hope.  Because of these tangible examples, I remain devoted to being a force for good in the world.


rev-ross-tangiblehopeReverend Kevin Ross uses his gifts to inspire hundreds weekly as the Spiritual Leader of Unity of Sacramento, thousands as the host of “Design Your Life” on Unity Online radio and millions when he paid tribute to Oprah Winfrey as an invited guest on Oprah’s Surprise Spectacular. He is the author of the book The Designer Life: Five Distinctions for Living. Ross’ work has been featured in Ebony, Black Enterprise, The Chicago Sun Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and man other publications as a voice of empowerment for his generation.

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.

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.


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/