Archive for the ‘URI Multiregion Blogs’ Category

Sami Yusuf sings at CARAVAN’s London event for THE BRIDGE

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

Sami Yusuf sings

at CARAVAN’s London event for THE BRIDGE


In addition to visual art, CARAVAN’s initiatives also involve the full-range of creative artistic expression, including the fields of music, literature, and film.  CARAVAN was privileged to have Sami Yusuf, the celebrated Middle Eastern singer/songwriter perform as part of THE BRIDGE program in London.

Above you can watch and listen to Sami Yusuf singing his song “The Gift of Love” in London which was originally commissioned for the UN World Interfaith Harmony Week. The actual song starts after an opening chant (at 2:30 minutes).  It is a beautiful and contemplative piece, and we encourage you to step aside from life’s busyness for a few moments to listen to it.  CARAVAN wishes to thank Sami Yusuf for the special gift of his presence.

The Interfaith Observer – July Update

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015
Here is the July update. Please check out and click on the links below!


The Interfaith Observer (TIO) is an independent internet journal about all things interfaith. Each month it goes to more than 16,000 faith and interfaith leaders, including about 2,300 outside the U.S. More than 300 have contributed articles. Download back issues. TIO is free. Recent articles include …


The Beloved Community in the Here and Now

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

The Trail of Dreams World Peace Walkers participated in a Center for Spiritual Living Circle in Dothan, Alabama, yesterday. Dothan, Alabama is located in Southern Alabama, in the “Bible Belt” of the southern United States. This region has a dramatic history of violence and oppression against people of color which was brought to the attention of the American public during the Civil Rights era as the country and even the world was made aware during  events such as the Rosa Parks Bus Act of Civil Disobedience, sit-ins and Freedom Rides; Montgomery Bus Boycott; the Selma to Montgomery Bridge Crossing superseded by the first attempt which came to be known as “Bloody Sunday”; and further north, the Birmingham Bombing of the African American 16th Street Baptist Church where four little girls were killed. 

Audri Scott Willliams

Some say little has changed since those days. However many of us who live here and who are working diligently to transform our communities would say that change not only has happened but is becoming more and more evident everyday.

One example is the gathering at the Center for Spiritual Living in Dothan, Alabama last night. The group was comprised of black and white, gay and straight, multigenerational, male and female. The discussions were lively as the group discussed the taking down of the confederate flag; marriage equality; racism; homophobia; privilege, power; and spirituality – particularly in regards to religion, holy books and the use of religious dogma to justify injustice and inequality.

This dynamic discussion was a perfect example of the Beloved Community operating in the here and now. Diverse people, with varying beliefs and spiritual practices creating a safe space for deep sharing with a commitment to promote enduring, daily interfaith cooperation, to end religiously motivated violence and to create cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living beings.

As we continue to carry forth and expand this dialogue – change happens in our hearts and in our communities!

May Peace Prevail!



Audri Scott Williams
United Religions Initiative, URI Global Trustee (Multiregion)
Global Peace Advocate & Walker, Motivational Speaker, Author

The UN and URI Celebrate their Anniversaries Together at Grace Cathedral

Thursday, July 16th, 2015


It’s been 15 full and fulfilling years since the United Religions Initiative charter was signed, and this year has brought many colorful and beautiful anniversary celebrations around the world. The most recent occasion for celebration was last Saturday, June 27, 2015, when URI was invited to join the 70th anniversary of the creation of the United Nations. Dignitaries including United States Representative Nancy Pelosi; Asoke Kumar Mukerji, India Ambassador to the United Nations; and Cristina Gallach, UN Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information joined URI Founder and President the Right Rev. William E. Swing; URI Executive Director, the Rev. Victor Kazanjian; and former URI Global Council Chair Rita Semel at a day-long celebration at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral.


(left to right) Asoke Kumar Mukerji, India Ambassador to the UN; Maher Nasser, Dir. Of Outreach, United Nations Department of Public Information; Rita Semel, URI’s 1st Global Council Chair; Sam Chan, URI Foundation Board Member; US Representative Nancy Pelosi; The Right Rev. William E. Swing, URI President and Founding Trustee; URI Executive Director, The Rev. Victor Kazanjian; Cristina Gallach, UN Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information; and Monica Willard, URI representative at the UN. Photographer: Barbara Hartford.


As you know, the shared anniversary is no coincidence; URI takes its inspiration from the United Nations. In fact, it was at the UN’s 50th anniversary celebration, held at Grace Cathedral in 1995, that the impetus for creating a “United Religions” came to Bishop Swing. This idea then took five years of planning until June 26, 2000, when the Charter of the United Religions Initiative was signed. 

This year’s celebration started Friday afternoon with a celebration at San Francisco City Hall featuring UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. At Friday night’s dinner, held at the Fairmont Hotel, former Secretary of State George Shultz, who also serves on the President’s Council of the United Religions Initiative, urged those in attendance to support the work of the United Nations in combatting violent extremism. Earlier this year, while testifying at the January 29th hearing of the US Senate Committee on Armed Services on global threats and national security strategy, Secretary Shultz singled out the United Religions Initiative as the kind of positive, non-military approach that we must support to deal with the rising violence of religious extremism.

See the video of George Shultz’s January 29, 2015 testimony here.

Saturday’s celebration took place in Grace Cathedral, where hundreds of people joined to hear guest speakers, listen to musical performances, and join in interactive activities to further interfaith peacebuilding. During the celebration, URI was also lauded in speeches by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi; filmmaker and international human rights scholar Grazyna Petra Kolondra, J. C. D., LL. M.; and Marco Tavanti, Ph. D., professor at the School of Management, director of the University of San Francisco Non Profit Administration and Graduate Program, president of the Sustainable Capacity International Institute, and Co-Founder of the World Engagement Institute.

URI was represented by the Right Rev. William E. Swing, who emceed Saturday’s event and highlighted the link between URI and the UN, and Executive Director Victor Kazanjian, who addressed URI’s work in the context of global peacebuilding.

Watch the video and read the full text of the Right Rev. William E. Swing’s speeches here.

Watch the video and read the full text of URI Executive Director Victor Kazanjian’s speech here.

Sally Mahé, Co-Director of Global Programs & Organizational Development for URI, led the audience in an Appreciative Inquiry session, where audience members were encouraged to engage in discussions with the people around them to better connect and understand each other and the paths that led them to this shared moment.

Watch the video and see participant photos from the Appreciative Inquiry session here.

Over the last 15 years, URI has caught the attention and imaginations of people from all walks of life. The formation of URI, as told by its founder the Right Rev. William E. Swing, in his recently released book “A Bishop’s Quest: Founding a United Religions”, earned commendations from Former U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, the Most Reverend Desmond M. Tutu, Rabbi David Rosen, former U.S. Secretary of Defense William J. Perry, and former U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz, among many others.

The anniversary month of June has been celebrated by URI community members around the world as they share photos and memories from the founding and convene for future peacebuilding work. There are continued anniversary celebrations planned for the rest of the year across many continents. To celebrate the United Religions Initiative’s 15th anniversary of the signing of its charter, members of the URI community are exchanging reflections, memories, and hopes for the future.

Read a collection of these sentiments here – and we welcome you to add your own. 

Happy Anniversary from the URI Family!

Beloved Community Awakening

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015


Audri Scott Williams, Global Trustee of the United Religions Initiative (URI), was the Vision Keeper who led the Trail of Dreams World Peace Walk, a Cooperation Circle of the URI since 2005, over 6 continents (2005-2009), and the 13 Moon Walk 4 Peace across America to over 50 communities (2010-2011). She has received numerous awards for her service to humanity.

The book, Awakening the Heart of the Beloved Community, is a compelling collection of the voices of diversity – the voices of the Beloved Community. The narratives of each writer are masterfully woven together in a book that will take you higher, drop you down and then lift you gently and lovingly – landing  you in your heart , the core of the continuing evolution of the Beloved Community – the foundation for a sustainable future for generations to come. The book has inspired a musical CD, AWAKENING, Co-Produced by NOWTIME Radio CC coordinators Karen Hunter Watson and Mikuak  Rai. Awakening the Heart of the Beloved Community now available on Amazon!! Musical CD soon to be released.

Please click here to order the book.