Archive for the ‘URI Multiregion Blogs’ Category

Living Into the Purpose of URI

Monday, July 28th, 2014


While these words appear on materials boldly proclaiming the purpose of the United Religions Initiative, they are for us more than words to be read or recited. These are words to be lived.

In the face of a world seemingly addicted to violence, we at the United Religions Initiative are committed to creating alternative spaces of peacebuilding and reconciliation. Amidst the firestorm of political rhetoric that deepens disputes and dehumanizes others, URI’s network of Cooperation Circles create places where relationships are built and understanding of a common humanity is reached between diverse peoples. As bombs and rockets fall and bullets fly, as planes are shot from the sky, devastating the lives of so many innocent people, we gather together with those who suffer, so that we create unbreakable bonds of relationship by sharing the pain of great losses – bonds that can withstand the calls for revenge and retaliation, and offer instead reconciliation and restoration. In the face of all this violence, we choose to work together for positive solutions that break the cycle of violence and create peace.

This is the United Religions Initiative. This is URI.

The events of these past weeks in the Middle East and the Ukraine, akin to similar to events along the United States/Mexico border, in Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda, and in communities around the world, paint a clear picture of the cycle of violence infecting our world. These events show how the use of violence perpetuates more violence, ultimately creating a culture in which the wanton destruction of human life becomes the “normal” state of human relations, and in which a culture of peace is increasingly seen as a naïve dream. This is the illusion that those who use violence would have us believe. “Violence is inevitable.” “Violence can only be effectively met with more violence.” If one did nothing but watch daily news broadcasts, one would think that violence was the only way in which human beings relate to one another.

But the hundreds of thousands of members of the United Religions Initiative who gather regularly in interfaith grassroots Cooperation Circles reject these calls to participate in the culture of violence. We know that violence leads to more violence, whether it be the violence of bombs dropped or rockets fired into neighborhoods, the violence of children imprisoned for seeking asylum, the violence of the kidnapping and abuse of women and girls, or the violence of poverty gripping the lives of so many people around the world. We denounce this violence as a rejection of the religious, spiritual and humanitarian values at the heart of all of our traditions. Rather, we proclaim a commitment to the power of peace and the practices of dialogue and non-violent collective action that seek to address conflict and transform injustice.

We proclaim the power of peace because every day we hear stories of Israelis and Palestinians, Russians and Ukrainians, Kenyans, Nigerians and Ugandans, Americans and Central Americans, and people of all cultures and religions working together to create peace and justice in their communities. In a world addicted to violence, we must teach others that dialogue, negotiation and relationship-building are the best options for resolving conflicts. We must show others that differences of religion, ethnicity or ideology do not necessitate destructive and violent interaction, but are rather resources for building healthy, sustainable, diverse communities. We must tell the stories of all the peoples of the planet as being interconnected and interdependent rather than incompatible and contradictory. Ultimately, our most effective response to violence is to live the purpose of URI in all that we do.
We invite you then to join us in the daily practice of living the purpose URI:

Join with others in Cooperation Circles in your community or globally in actions to address issues of conflict, violence and injustice.

Share with others in the URI Network and beyond stories of positive peacebuilding and justice-seeking in which you are involved.

Spend as much time reading about the stories of hope and possibility, of justice-seeking and peacebuilding from our Cooperation Circles around the world as you spend reading, watching and listening to stories of violence and destruction.

Reach out in support of URI sisters and brothers and show your support and solidarity for their work.

Speak out on behalf of those suffering from the impact of violence in the world and promote the values of peace and justice, while refusing to engage in stereotyping and dehumanizing rhetoric that diminishes the lives of others.

Offer your thoughts and prayers and those of your community for the peoples of the planet that all people may experience the peace and justice that we seek.

In the face of violence, let us then not just talk about peace, but rather let us practice peace by living the purpose of URI every day in all that we do.

In peace… Victor


Exciting New Opportunities for CARAVAN . . .

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

“Art can transcend where dialogue has been blocked.” Petna Ndaliko (New York Times, July 11, 2014)

CARAVAN’s Founder/President, Paul-Gordon Chandler, recently returned from an extensive trip (around the opening of the CARAVAN exhibition in Cairo) to Jordan, Israel/Palestine, Malta and Paris, France at the invitation of various groups regarding CARAVAN’s potential involvement. The meetings exceeded expectations and laid the foundation for some strategic opportunities for CARAVAN in the next couple of years. While there is much left to plan and organize, it was most encouraging. CARAVAN will continue to share more about these special and inspirational events in news stories, blogs, and videos.

Below video coverage from Egyptian TV: 

An Invitation to Third Ward Community Market

Monday, July 14th, 2014


You’re invited to attend the Third Ward Community Market and Talent Showcase at Project Row Houses, in historic Third Ward Houston, where the artists of Our House will showcase art produced in various mediums and genres. We are inviting you as our guests for a market place experiment. Can artists be sustained by its community AND can a community benefit from its artists?…So, Saturday night, July 19th — we’ll see.

Come and witness the creative, imaginative, artistic endeavors of more than 40 artists from around the greater metropolitan Houston area. You will be entertained. You will be a part of community at its best. AND … you will never be the same, and that, too, is part of what makes a community thrive. Project Row Houses will host these summer, fall and winter markets each month to bring artists together with their communities for a melding of building sustainability with relationship.
For more information about the Our House artists and our work, but individually and collaboratively, call teaching artist P.K. McCary at 713.485.9214.

We Refuse to Be Enemies: Together, We Can End the War!

Monday, July 14th, 2014

From our friends in the Middle East region of the United Religions Initiative: 

Lee Ziv of our Musaique Cooperation Circle in Israel urges everyone to sign her online campaign to stop the bombings in Israel & Palestine. Show your support! 

Visit the Petition by click here. 

More information about Musaique CC can be found here:

URI – The Second Chapter

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014


Victor visited with members of URI Europe on a trip that included: Vienna, Bonn, Antwerp and Amsterdam. Here, he shares a laugh with (from L-R) Karimah Stauch, URI Europe Regional Coordinator, Marianne Horling, Global Council Member, and Sheikh Bashir Ahmad Dultz, founder and president of URI Germany.

Members of URI’s Global Council and Global Staff will gather in San Francisco at the end of this month to begin the work of co-creating the second chapter of the United Religions Initiative.

Building on the extraordinary work of the past 20 years in which the creativity and wisdom of so many people birthed and sustained the URI movement, we who form the present leadership of URI are very excited to be planning our future together.

From my own experience of witnessing URI’s extraordinary work in communities around the world, it is clear to me that at the heart of URI are the Cooperation Circles (CCs).
URI’s CCs bring the PPPs (Preamble, Purpose and Principles) alive, creating centers of hope and possibility, building bridges among people of different cultures and religions, and working together for the good of their communities and the world. Supporting CCs and the global network that they create is the focus of the work of URI’s leadership circles the Global Council, the Global Staff and the President’s Council.
It has been such a pleasure for me to work with members of URI’s Global Council, in particular our Global Council Chair Kiran Bali, who has helped me understand this remarkable organization. URI is blessed with such extraordinary volunteer leadership.

URI’s Global Staff is comprised of the Global Support Office (formerly called “The Hub”) based in San Francisco, as well as Regional Offices in the following regions:

  • Africa (Djibouti; Ethiopia, Nigeria; South Africa; Uganda)
  • Asia (India: Delhi, Kerala, Mumbai, West Bengal; Korea; Pakistan)
  • Europe (Belgium; Germany; United Kingdom)
  • Latin America and the Caribbean (Argentina; Venezuela)
  • Middle East and North Africa (Jordan)
  • Multiregion (Transnational)
  • North America (USA)
  • Southeast Asia and the Pacific (The Philippines)

We are so fortunate to have staff around the world so talented and so dedicated to URI’s mission. In addition to these two leadership groups, URI is supported by a group of advisors who form The President’s Council, (members of which will also join us at the June meeting,) that works with the President and Executive Director to ensure that sustainability of URI’s Global Network.
The purpose of all of these leadership teams is ultimately to support the life and growth of URI’s Network of Cooperation Circles. We are dedicated to growing, energizing, nurturing and resourcing URI’s extraordinary network of Cooperation Circles.

Together with members of Cooperation Circles worldwide, we are now in the process of writing the second chapter of the URI story, and what a story it is!