During the month of March, as we celebrate Women’s History Month, URI North America is spotlighting four exceptional women involved in Cooperation Circles in the North America region. This is the third profile of the series, follow these links to read the profiles of Satya Kalra and Lisel Burns.
By Robyn Lebron
To Listen is Divine
Kay Lindahl has been described as an inspired presence with passionate energy. Kay Lindahl has been described as an inspired presence with passionate energy. . Her entry point to interfaith was her deep interest in, and passion for, spiritual growth and community building. The unfolding of her journey has been fed by these passions and guided by spirit, which has led her to be involved in incredible projects, both personally and professionally, as a consultant, author and speaker. In the process of following these promptings, her connection to different people and organizations has continually expanded.
Most of Kay’s life experiences have evolved organically, as she explored the myriad of paths that she felt led to walk in her search for spiritual growth and meaning. For the past twenty-seven years the daily practice of Centering Prayer has been transforming her life by strengthening her relationship to Source. Kay describes what it is to her, “Centering Prayer as a form of silent prayer in which the intention is to be in the presence of the Presence.”
In October, I participated in the Salish Sea Bioregional Gathering in Vancouver, which was co-sponsored by the Interspiritual Centre of Vancouver Society, a Cooperation Circle member of the United Religions Initiative. Representatives from 17 different URI Cooperation Circles and Affiliates attended this gathering, which was monumental for URI as the first gathering for URI members that has taken place in Canada. We took this little video to share our greetings and love with the global URI community!
Below I have shared my personal reflections from participating in the transformative weekend — I hope you’ll continue reading!
North American Regional Coordinator
Attending the Salish Sea Bioregional Gathering felt like sitting on a well-balanced three-legged stool of learning, relationship-building, and contemplative practice. And that combination was unique and special in a way that I have never before experienced.
During the first concerts, different choirs would participate throughout the festival, performing different songs, before gathering together at the end for a combined piece. When Tiffny Weighall took over planning the festival four years ago, she transformed it into a festival with different types of musical expression.
As Regional Coordinators for the United Religions Initiative, one of the core parts of our job is to listen to our members – to understand what their local context, the projects and programs they are working on, their dreams for the future and current struggles. While the phone, email, Zoom and Skype are great tools to do this, nothing can replace the opportunity to do this listening face-to-face. So, we set out on a 9-day trip to visit our grassroots members and like-minded interfaith peacebuilding organizations to build relationships; discern trends; help make capacity-building connections to resources, organizations and individuals; and discern how to URI can continue to grow in response and service to our member’s needs and request. Continue reading “Roadtripping & Learning from Interfaith Peacebuilders Across the Northeast U.S.”
We are excited to announce that this October, delegates from approximately 25 grassroots interfaith peacebuilding organizations will meet face-to-face on in Sebastian, Florida!
This will be the first time United Religions Initiative (URI) members from the southeastern United States have gathered in-person and we are so looking forward to being together for a time of sharing and learning. We will be hosted from October 27-29 on the campus of Kashi, an interfaith intentional community that is a Cooperation Circle member of the United Religions Initiative.
Leaders in interfaith communities knew they had to meet protest with peace when the largest anti-Muslim grassroots organization in the U.S. announced demonstrations to take place on June 10.
“It was incredible to see the turnout [of counter-protesters] who were there to show solidarity,” said Kate Chance, interfaith coordinator at the Islamic Networks Group (ING), a nonprofit organization that counters bigotry through conversation and interfaith engagement. “I thought it was really peaceful as a whole,” she said of the Unity Rally she attended in San Jose, Calif.
Across the country, interfaith activism is spurring in high schools across the country. These grassroots activists are inspiring their peers to learn about different religions through clubs that promote dialogue and service.
In 2014, Sophomore Jaxon Washburn found himself with a diverse group of friends at Arizona College Prep School in Chandler, Ariz. At lunchtime, they ended up discussing each other’s cultures, backgrounds, and beliefs. These conversations led to a desire to start a formal interfaith club. Soon, the World Religion and Tolerance Society (WRTS) was born.
By Jaya Priya Reinhalter, URI Global Council Member for North America
This April I attended the annual Festival of Faiths in Louisville Kentucky. This was the festival’s 22nd year in action and it has become a nationally acclaimed interfaith event of music, poetry, film, art and dialogue with internationally-renowned spiritual leaders, thinkers, and practitioners. The festival’s programming works to honor the union between thinking globally and acting locally.
The theme of this year’s festival was “Compassion Shining like the Sun” and focused on the vast number of approaches to living a compassionate life, including through environmentalism, a wide range of faith traditions, different political persuasions and more. Louisville – home to the Center of Interfaith Relations -is the first “compassionate city” to take up the Charter for Compassion as its guiding set of moral principles. In the following photographic essay I have tried to capture just a few of the special moments.
URI member Rik Yeames visited the United Nations earlier this month to share about a fundraising opportunity for the International Day of Peace and attend the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda.
Yeames, is a member of the Greater Concord Interfaith Council, one of URI’s newest Cooperation Circles and the first in New Hampshire. Yeames met with URI’s representative to the United Nations, Monica Willard, to talk about “A Piece of Pizza for Peace” an International Day of Peace fundraising project. International Day of Peace is marked by hundreds of thousands of people every year on September 21.
Rick came to UN on Friday April 7 to share his International Day of Peace Project, Piece of Pizza for Peace. He attended the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda, a beautiful ceremony that remembered the 800,000 killed in 100 days in the genocide against the Tutsi. After the program he met Mr. Dieng and Amb. Nga. We also got to shake hands with the Secretary-General and VP of General Assembly.
His project invites local pizza restaurants to use the International Day of Peace to stand for peace by contributing a percentage of their profits for that day to peace organizations. He wants to have three International Day of Peace organizations for people to choose from. Last year his shop sent $1,500 to Peace One Day. He wants to get hundreds of pizza shops around the world to participate. I think he is really dedicated to making this a most successful project for IDP and for URI!
The 2017 theme of the International Day of Peace is “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All.” If you are looking for ideas for how to commemorate the day check out the Program Bank to see what others have done in previous years. You can also learn more about how to use the day to raise fund for peace through A Piece of Pizza for Peace here.
In this time of fear, anxiety, and unrest, United Religions Initiative Cooperation Circles across the country are hosting events to promote interfaith dialogue and demonstrate support for refugees, immigrants and the American Muslim community. These three examples show what solidarity looks like and the true colors of humanity in these difficult times.
In Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina, 250 people gathered in a park one evening.
The participants and speakers were diverse — coming from all different faiths — but they came with a common goal: to stand in solidarity with one another and with the immigrants, refugees and Muslim communities.
The rally was organized by a local interfaith coalition, and members from the United Religions Initiative Cooperation Circle Being There participated. The rally was in response to a swell of fear and anxiety after an executive order signed by President Donald Trump ordered an immediate halt on all refugees, as well as citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. Though this executive order has been nullified by the courts, at least for now, there has been an incredible outpouring of support for Muslims and refugees across the country, especially groups of people from diverse faith backgrounds.
Saad Haq, participant and part of the organizing team, said one specific part of the rally was indicative of the entire event.
“During the rally, it was time for our [the Muslim] fourth prayer of the day. As we were praying, non-Muslims kept a wall and shield around us, which was extremely symbolic,” he said. “It was really great that people came together in solidarity.”
Citing the Prophet Muhammad’s Hijrah (journey) from Mecca to Medina to escape murder, Haq said he believes Muslims have an obligation to welcome refugees into this country.
Haq is a member of the United Religions Initiative (URI), the world’s largest grassroots interfaith network. At URI, we believe in the sanctity and inherent worth and dignity of every religion, spiritual expression and Indigenous tradition. Our goal is to promote interfaith cooperation around the world and to create cultures of peace, justice, and healing for the Earth and all living beings.
URI members in Johnson City, Tennessee, continued the solidarity, where another diverse group of people gathered on the campus of East Tennessee State University (ETSU). This group included local interfaith groups, community members, and ETSU students and professors.
Community members gathered at a unity rally in Charlotte, NC.Father Pete Iorio and Leila Al-Imad of the URI Northeast Tennessee Cooperation Circle were present at the event to show their support. As followers of the Focolare movement, they have a strong commitment to social justice. They cite Jesus’ Eight Beatitudes, which he gave at the Sermon on the Mount, as their inspiration to fight for and show solidarity with immigrants and refugees.
Al-Imad was encouraged by the amount of support not only at this event, but at rallies all over the country.
“A hand can’t fly alone, and we need everyone to work with and energize us,” she said. “The community pulled together and people came out.”
While some rally in dramatic and emotional times like these, others need a trusted group to retreat with and discuss solutions for moving forward. The Southern California-based women’s Cooperation Circle, Spiritual and Religious Alliance for Hope, commonly known as SARAH, hosted a virtual red tent conference call for this kind of discussion.
At the Women’s March in Los Angeles, Hart organized a physical red tent, where female participants could enter and debrief with other women. This conference call was mean to create that same experience in a virtual space.
At this conference call, a council of Muslim women from Orange County spoke to participants, and Cooperation Circle leader, Sande Hart, went over a list of action items. A strong believer in the Golden Rule, she is committed to staying fierce and active in this fight.
“To our Muslim sisters: We are here, we are your protectors, we are standing in the light, facing the darkness, with a blazing torch of compassion, and we will not let any harm to come to you. We are here to say “not in my house,”” she said in an interview before the event.
Despite the recent election and executive action on immigration, Hart has hope that our society is progressing.
“People are rising, people are finding their power. It has inspired folks to get up and look at the power of their voice, dollar, and vote,” she said. “We’ve been woken up, and the question is, ‘How do we stay woke?’ And what’s most important to us is that we do not perpetuate the same cycle of behavior that got us here in the first place — the us versus them mentality.”
Though the future of this particular executive order is unclear, interfaith organizers continue to recognize the imminent need to build bridges between people of different religions, spiritual expressions and Indigenous traditions. In the coming weeks and months, URI Cooperation Circles will host and participate in events to deepen dialogue and show support for immigrants, refugees and the American Muslim community in the coming weeks.
These are just a sampling of the many wonderful interfaith events that took place across the country, click here to read about the activities of other Cooperation Circles.