In his testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services on January 29, 2015, former Secretary of State George Shultz closed his remarks by speaking of ways – beyond military and diplomatic efforts – that are relevant for harmonizing Christian and Muslim societies. Specifically, he mentioned the United Religions Initiative (URI). As an honorary member of URI’s President’s Council and as a participant in URI’s nuclear disarmament efforts, Dr. Shultz is well acquainted with URI’s work and global reach.
As Founder and President of URI, I would like to build on his endorsement to say a little more about our mission. In the space between one religion and another religion, there is often a hard history of grievances, memories of coerced conversions, and competing claims of ultimate truth. So the space between religions is often toxic. This toxicity drags neighborhoods and regions into religious strife that stymies daily life, sometimes leading to intimidation and, in the worst cases, horrific spectacles like beheadings.
URI’s purpose is to fill the space between religions with interfaith bridges so that the grassroots people of all faith traditions, indigenous communities and humanistic groups can cross over, and discover other believers, and take positive actions together. URI is not a religion, nor a United Nations of Religions. URI is grassroots and singularly tries to fill the void between religions with something that the world needs desperately: bridges between cultural, religious and spiritual differences.
Religions are about salvation. URI is about civilization. People around the world have responded to this mission of URI; in a few years, URI has expanded to more than 665 Cooperation Circles in 85 countries, touching the lives of over three million people daily.
Imagine, at a meeting of the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services, a distinguished Marine and diplomat suggesting that creative actions between grassroots Muslims and Christians might be part of a peaceful solution to a very present danger!