Join the Golden Rule Day Global Webcast on April 5!

URI is proud to be a cosponsor of the 24-hour global Golden Rule Day webcast!

In a divided world full of conflict and mistrust, a grassroots movement has emerged to remind every person on the planet that we share one thing in common — the Golden Rule: Treat others and the Planet as you would like to be treated. This is a universal principle shared by nearly all cultural, spiritual, religious, and secular traditions on Earth.

golden rule day logo

Golden Rule Day has been celebrated since 2007 by 700 organizations in 140 countries. This year, global organizations and spiritual and religious leaders around the world are teaming up to remind us all that the Golden Rule still matters. This year, three organizations – the United Religions Initiative, the Charter for Compassion and the Golden Rule Project (both organizations are members of URI) – and spiritual and religious leaders around the world are teaming up to remind us all that the Golden Rule still matters. 

Join us on Thursday, April 5, for a 24-hour global virtual celebration of the Golden Rule, a universal principle shared by nearly all cultural, spiritual, religious, and secular traditions on Earth.

Continue reading “Join the Golden Rule Day Global Webcast on April 5!”

Reflection: Prayer Parade

Ellie Anders Thompson traveled to the United Nations as part of a URI program to connect young adult interfaith leaders to the UN and each other.  Ellie is part of Golden Rule Project, an Affiliate of the United Religions Initiative North America. What follows is Ellie’s reflection on an interfaith service the group attended

By Ellie Anders Thompson

The gathering of the Committee of Religious NGOs at the United Nations celebration of World Interfaith Harmony Week was what I affectionately call a Prayer Parade. It goes like this, group of people from various religious traditions, sometimes non-religious, are asked to offer a prayer. At times the prayers are around certain themes, sometimes not, this time, around “world peace.” One after another folks of various faiths come to the microphone and say different versions in different languages of, “May Peace Prevail on Earth.”

In my humble opinion, it’s just not enough in interfaith work any longer. It is colorful, shiny, and curious, but it’s just not going to cut it when it comes to the challenges we are facing. We know the greatest sources of social capital come from these religious and non-religious communities, and they, therefore, have the greatest potential to actually do something to create the potential for peace. I am not sure gathering in a room with different headdresses and sing-alongs are the actions that will have long-term effects toward peace.

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Appreciating Diversity, Finding Inspiration: My URI Trip to the UN

Commission on Social Development Rico Ocampo

Rico Ocampo traveled to the United Nations as part of a URI North America program to help connect young adult interfaith leaders to the United Nations and each other and to promote World Interfaith Harmony Week, International Day of Peace. Ocampo is the Program Director of Camp Anytown, a Cooperation Circle member of the United Religions Initiative.

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“Diversity is a source of inspiration.”

Those are the words that were uttered from the Hungarian Ambassador to the United Nations, Katalin Bogyay. Those exact words were ingrained in my soul during an interfaith service that was part of my trip to New York City where I had the utmost privilege of attending the 56th Commission for Social Development at the United Nations.

This trip took place as part of a celebration for World Interfaith Harmony Week (WIHW) and was put on by the United Religions Initiative (URI), an organization that has allowed me to look at interfaith through a worldwide lens. The trip is one that I will never forget and an experience that I will invariably hold close to my heart. My views on youth development and the world have fiercely risen and it is all due to the efforts of URI and their commitment to creating wider bridges between people of all beliefs.

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My URI Trip to New York City: Visiting the UN, Meeting Fellow Leaders and Understanding the Global Power of Interfaith Work

Anjaana Bhairo traveled to the United Nations as part of a URI North America program to help connect young adult interfaith leaders to the United Nations and each other and to promote World Interfaith Harmony Week, International Day of Peace. Bhairo is a member of the University of Rochester Interfaith Chapel, a Cooperation Circle member of the United Religions Initiative.

By Anjaana Bhairo

It’s amazing to think that it has already been a week since I met some of the most amazing people in New York City! I have so many memories from this trip that it is going to be hard to summarize all the experiences, feelings and lessons I learned during my three days in New York City. However, I hope that this travel journal can at least share a snippet of how impactful, exciting and transformative the trip has been for me.

Thinking back now, I have realized that I have so many memories from this trip that were both amusing and inspiring. My favorite memory was watching Rico, a participant from Las Vegas, eat Indian food for first time. Another favorite of mine was observing Hassan, a participant from Tri-City Interfaith Council in the San Francisco area, experience snow for the first time. Both experiences reminded me of how each of us came from different walks of life, yet we all shared a similar vision and desire to achieve interfaith cooperation and acceptance. While, Rico’s and Hassan’s experience definitely left an imprint on my memory, a moment that I will always remember and cherish was learning about what each participant had accomplished back at home. Continue reading “My URI Trip to New York City: Visiting the UN, Meeting Fellow Leaders and Understanding the Global Power of Interfaith Work”

Vital Elements Community Welfare Services celebrated International Day of Peace by coming together in community

Vital Elements Community Welfare Services in Toronto, Canada, celebrated International Day of Peace on Sept. 23.

Peace loving people must become agents of peace.

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.

Interfaith peace service held in Nashville

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.

Bringing Recognition of International Day of Peace to Your Local Community

Nashville Cooperation Circle holds a community service where nine people from different religious traditions discuss peace.

Around the world, a minute of silence will fall at 12 p.m. in each time zone on Sept. 21, as people gather together for meditation and prayer for global peace.

International Day of Peace was established in 1981 by a United Nations resolution that devoted a day to “commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples.” United Religions Initiative (URI) has been a partner of International Day of Peace since it was established in 2000. The minute of silence in recognition of this day begins on Sept. 21, when the Secretary General rings the Peace Bell at the UN Headquarters.

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URI member visits the UN to share International Day of Peace fundraising project

 

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.

Rik Yeams at a United Nations commemoration for the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda.

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

 

Towards Global Citizenship: Building Community through Art and Conversation at the UN

Kelly Johnson 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. Kelly works at the Rothko Chapel,  a sacred space and work of art by painter Mark Rothko. Rothko Chapel is a Cooperation Circle member of the United Religions Initiative.

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Before I left Houston for NYC, the Rothko Chapel offered a Bon-Buddhist meditation focused on the importance of community support, in response to recent local and national events that have engendered division, hate, and fear across the country. The Chapel, located in a city as diverse as the UN itself, hosts meditation leaders from different spiritual and faith traditions each month, but this gathering was particularly special.

Upon closing, the 90 seated meditators were prompted to emerge from their individual, inner practices to stand and join hands in a circle. Participants were asked greet and embrace their neighbors, extending their peaceful practice outward—reaffirming what affects one affects all, and that we can only move forward if we do so together. Integral to this harmonious atmosphere, Rothko’s sobering purple-ish paintings served as stoic witness, mirroring the moment of unity.

With this auspicious gathering setting the tone for my own journey outward, I wondered if and how the UN might structure community building moments like this, both locally in NYC and on a global scale, and how interfaith work and art might play a role. My UN experience was profoundly shaped by conversations with the URI cohort, along with the UN’s art collection, which inspires and honors the meaningful exchanges that transpire within.

Our group visited during the 55th Session of the Commission for Social Development, focusing on the seemingly impenetrable topic: “Strategies for eradicating poverty to achieve sustainable development for all.” We attended several panels concentrating on approaches to empowering youth across the globe, highlighting new avenues for access to employment, housing, policy, technology, and communications.

During these fascinating, but rather choreographed sessions, representatives spoke from scripts one at a time about their experiences and observations in their countries on these topics, with little comment or cross-conversation between presenters.

It is within the art-filled corridors and interactive side panels organized by smaller UN agencies and NGOs where real community building takes place.

Between sessions, our group explored the lobbies, lounges, and hallways of the UN, stopping frequently to admire and inquire about the artwork on the walls. The UN’s art collection comprises a range of objects: tapestries, paintings, and sculptures gifted by member states sharing their ideals and traditions with one another; historical artifacts and photos from peace and war times; and illustrative graphics, maps, and exhibits on rotating topics.

While each artwork maintains its own unique story from its country of origin, when placed within the UN, it joins a diverse collection that establishes new transhistorical, transgeographical, and transideological community space.

Here paintings serve as landmarks for meetings between colleagues from different nations, sculptures provide a location for moments of ritual and remembrance, and murals play backdrop to tourist photos that are shared digitally with communities around the world.

 

Among my favorite works is Friend of Peace (2000) by Vasko Taskovski, a gift from Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (which previously hung in Former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s office). The airy painting depicts a rocketing dove-as-space station hovering in the clear atmosphere—a lush hub attracting visitors from across the universe to peacefully convene within.

Perhaps the artist imagines this as the funky future of the UN, or as an ideal progression toward a larger intergalactic community of humankind thriving in concert with others. Friend of Peace divines a space, even a state of mind, that welcomes all.

Back in meetings, we were able to explore that vision of a peaceful world more deeply through conversation. Returning to the UN on our second day, fellow URI trip participant Leah and I were lucky to participate in a side panel organized by several NGOs, including URI, on establishing a Coalition for Global Citizenship education as “a conceptual and practical prerequisite to the eradication of poverty.”

We were invited to help activate this side panel by reading aloud the Coalition’s working statement on the importance of establishing international curriculum for Global Citizenship. Following the reading, we facilitated small group workshops on the statement, in order to glean community input and identify action items to further advance the agenda.

This side panel finally offered time for focused conversations between people from all over the world on what it means to be a global citizen, while sharing solutions on how to bring this issue to the attention of more UN agencies.

The Coalition and participants alike agreed that spirituality—a sense of universal interconnectedness on our shared Earth—is integral to understanding Global Citizenship, enacted through discourse and action from “the individual to the local to the global and back again.”

While the UN remains a significant meeting ground, the work comes alive when the individual (ambassador, tourist, etc) returns to their local community mobilized to activate global concepts within their own sphere of influence. Upon arriving home, I am inspired with refreshed insight to continue working at the intersection of art, spirituality, and human rights—providing a Global Citizenship curriculum of our own for Houstonians at the Rothko Chapel.

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Read reflections from other trip participants here and here