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Where do we go from here

URI - Fri, 11/11/2016 - 7:22am

The events of the past few days have left many with more questions than answers.  We offer this graphic as means to assure those feeling lost or afraid: there is a place for you to be heard, to be respected and to learn from others. We encourage you to share this image, and invite you to work with us towards a more just and peaceful world.

Contact us to find out how to get involved: CLICK HERE

 

The text version of this image reads:

As we grapple with division and uncertainty, we ask: WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

There is a place where people of all political perspectives meet to work together to build inclusive communities of compassion and trust.

There is a place where people of all beliefs work together to protect the rights of all people from discrimination, prejudice and violence.

There is a place where men and women practice equality for people of all genders and identities.

There is a place where people of all races and v practice justice and seek peace side by side.

There is a place where people from across the world come together in their common concern for the wellbeing of our planet. 

This place is called URI – the United Religions Initiative.

URI is an interfaith grassroots peacebuilding organization working across the United States and in nearly 100 countries around the world to bring peace, justice and healing to all people and the Earth. 

People who identify as liberal, conservative, Republican, Democrat, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Indigenous, Spiritual, Humanist, Atheist, and all other traditions - people from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East and planetwide - are already coming together every day bridging religious and cultural differences to work for the good of their communities and the world.

Become part of a global community that envisions a world at peace, sustained by interconnected communities committed to respect for diversity, nonviolent resolution of conflict and social, political, economic and environmental justice.

Join us at uri.org.

My Wonderful Experience at the TPA

URI - Thu, 11/10/2016 - 6:46pm

Photo by Sally Mahé

My wonderful experience at the Traveling Peace Academy (TPA) still lingers in my mind and it will linger on 'till the end of my days. Little did I know that the six days I spent at the URI's TPA in Kerala would change the way I perceive this world we live in. It is an experience I can never forget.

I was blessed to have had this experience in one of the most beautiful places in India. Known as God's own country, Kerala and her bountiful beauty made my experience fulfilling. It filled my soul with bliss. I loved every minute of my time in the midst of nature, waking up to birds singing, watching the sunset. It truly is the land of God. And what made it sweeter was that I was surrounded by kindred spirits. Our morning walks in nature always made my day. I felt that I belonged there.

Interacting with an interfaith gathering of people from different parts of the world, belonging to various cultures and religion, has done what it was meant to; transform me. I felt like this program was intended to make us realize the importance of unity because it is unity that brings peace. Personal interactions with the participants left me speechless. The stories we shared had depth, reality and raw emotions. At that moment, I felt like I was one with them. I was overwhelmed with empathy when I listened to the experiences some of my fellow participants have had. They spoke from the heart. Their stories gripped me and I felt their sadness, fears, happiness and joy. 

I thoroughly enjoyed all the activities that were conducted. It not only brought us closer to each other but uplifted my mood in a way that I cannot begin to describe. The group discussions gave me a lot of insight on what is going on in the world and what can be done to change it. Listening to the others talk about their views, made me realize that we all want the same result; a world filled with love, compassion and peace.

Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” and now I strive to bring that change in me so that I may be able to mend our wonderful world in my own small ways. It has been an eye-opening experience for me at TPA. With crystal clarity I understand that my journey of building peace within and to others has begun. I will cherish the memories with all my heart. I'm forever grateful for this amazing experience and to the amazing people that were a part of it.

Raksha Kothari, Yoga Teacher for TPA

Sharing URI Europe's November Proverb

URI - Thu, 11/10/2016 - 5:18pm

Everyone is entitled to a bad day!

After a bad night your partner joins you in a grumpy mood at the breakfast table. Your “good morning” falls on deaf ears and the coffee does not do its job. You try harder, but nothing seems to work. Maybe your partner needs time to see things more clearly, or maybe he needs some space to put things in perspective? Your reaction is important in determining whether you both come to a discussion later that brings some relief.

To become angry because someone has a bad moment, does not help. That is certainly true. We cannot determine the moods of other people. How can we deal with it? You could try to say something like: "You are entitled to a bad day! If there is anything I can do for you, please tell me."

Every person's life has a dark side.

Some days you are happy and you see the beautiful and good side of life. Everything goes smoothly, everybody is friendly and you don't know why. And suddenly, often without a clear reason, a certain sadness descends upon you and every little thing becomes an excuse to complain and criticize others. Why? Why is it like that?

A human being is a part of nature

There is a day and a night. A winter and a summer. People follow the rhythm of the sea - low tide and high tide - much more than they realize. Our life is a succession of 'living' and 'dying'. We have to go through so much at different stages of our life that, not surprisingly and impossible to explain why, sadness or a vague feeling is part of us.

To be aware of this can help us to accept that having a good day and a bad day is just part of life. When we allow these natural ups and downs in life, we shall live more consciously, a more stable and deeper life. In the end it will help us to become more even-tempered because we learn that after each night a new morning dawns.

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Movement without a Name (MWN / BZN) CC and URI Europe wish to contribute to a better world in a substantial manner. We want to set an example and have therefore introduced the URI Europe proverbs. They are meant to inspire and spark conversation. You can subscribe to the URI Europe monthly proverbs for free. Click here to find out more.

After the Election: Now What?

URI - Thu, 11/10/2016 - 3:49pm

Throughout this contentious presidential election, interfaith organizations have served to support and connect members of their communities in the spirit of peace, justice and healing. This work continues. Interfaith groups are stepping into their roles as healers and have planned peaceful gatherings of solidarity across the nation with the hopes of creating spaces for community members to work through these questions of “Now what?”

Read the full article, including state-by-state resources for peacebuilding, here.

On the Eve of the US Elections, the World is Watching and Praying

URI - Mon, 11/07/2016 - 6:01pm

Despina Namwembe, Regional Coordinator for the Great Lakes Region of Africa, leads a workshop on peacebuilding in Uganda

Recently, a colleague of mine in Kampala, Uganda emailed me offering her prayers for the people of the United States in the midst of this election, and calling upon the global community to do the same. Her words touched my heart, cutting through the constant barrage of accusations and apocalyptic predictions, lifting my spirits out of the depths of concern and anxiety, and reminding me about the greatness that is the human family.  

Dear Victor,

I am writing to share my voice about what is happening in the US currently.  The issues surrounding this election have affected many globally, especially those who believe in human rights, diversity and what the US First Lady once termed as “basic human decency.”  I know that some people may ask why I care about the US elections when I am not a US citizen. But probably that is because some don’t know me fully and how I value every human being on earth.  The US is considered a point of reference for many of us around the world. Sometimes people may think that because the US is a super power, it doesn't need to be prayed for. But to me this is not right. The US needs our prayers now not only because of its global influence, but because of how interconnected we are as humans.  When the world prayed for the kidnapped Chibok girls in Nigeria, we acted because our human nature is one of inter-connectedness as people of many different religious backgrounds, spiritual expressions and Indigenous traditions.  A peaceful election and post-election healing are much needed in the US for our brothers and sisters, colleagues, friends and relatives alike, and for people around the world.  As the world struggles with so many situations of division, hate, conflict, discrimination and human rights abuses, we need to use our spirituality for cultivating the good within ourselves and beyond our borders.  May peace prevail in the US. May peace prevail everywhere on earth.

Blessings from here and thank you, Despina Namwembe

Amidst economic and political turmoil, on top of the threat of terrorism that is a part of daily life in Uganda, Despina found herself thinking about and praying for those of us in the United States. That in and of itself is an extraordinary act of kindness. But her prayers also challenge us all to reconnect with our sense of compassion and respect for one another as fellow human beings during the days, weeks and months ahead. Will we accept her challenge?

Neither Despina nor I mean to say that those whose words encourage hate, promote prejudice and incite violence should escape responsibility. Whether it be in Uganda or the United States, those who terrorize must be held accountable for their behavior according to the laws that protect the civil rights of all people. But for the rest of us who hold political perspectives that may conflict, there is more at stake in this election than which nominee or party will guide the country for the next four years. Given the acrimony that has characterized this campaign, Americans have a decision to make. Will we embrace the democratic principles forged over two centuries that necessitate respectful dialogue and compromise with those whom we disagree? Or will we continue to follow the path that further descends into the social fragmentation caused by dehumanizing rhetoric?

Despina, and sisters and brothers across the world, are watching and praying that we will awaken from our moral slumber, and embrace the spiritual values of compassion, love and respect for every human being upon which a healthy and peaceful society is built. Thank you, my sister Despina, for your prayers. May we accept your kindness and honor your hope for us. 

 

This post appeared on Tuesday, November 7th, 2016 on the Huffington Post.

 

Walking for Religious Freedom

URI - Mon, 11/07/2016 - 5:08pm

The Brazilian state and society have witnessed, for some years, a growing manifestation of religious intolerance, including physical assaults and destruction of temples and places of religious services, particularly against religions of African origin, an incontestable demonstration of disrespect to the constitutional principles which support Brazilian society. For this reason, took place on September 21, 2008, in the city of Rio de Janeiro, the "1st Walking for Religious Freedom: I have Faith", in order to raise awareness. This event was the result of six months of work of a commission established from the evidence of extreme cases of religious intolerance that took place not only in the state of Rio de Janeiro, but also in other states.

The purpose of this project is to keep the population mobilized against religious intolerance practices, highlighting the cultural diversity of different religious cults, thus ensuring the constitutional principles governing the Brazilian State. This year, on September 25th, we had the 9th Walk!

This Walk took place at Atlântica Avenue, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It happened in collaboration with CCIR, ISER, VivaRio, CEAP and many other organizations.

Learn more at the Facebook pages here and here.

See more ways the URI community celebrated the International Day of Peace 2016.

Praying for a Peaceful US Election

URI - Mon, 11/07/2016 - 2:15pm

Photo by Denali National Park and Preserve, uploaded by AlbertHerring via Wikicommons

As the United States heads into a contentious presidential election on Tuesday, November 8, tensions are high and many fear violent outbreaks in their communities as a result of the escalating negative political rhetoric. This heartfelt prayer for a peaceful election comes from Despina Namwembe, a URI Regional Coordinator living in Kampala, Uganda, who along with a worldwide audience is watching the US election with deeply-felt anticipation.

The URI community draws together out of a desire for peace; peace between people of all religious backgrounds, spiritual expressions, and indigenous traditions. This is the power of the URI family.

 

Dear URI family,

The main reason that keeps me strongly connected to URI is its inter-connectedness both institutionally and at an individual level irrespective of the diverse social cultural differences in outlook, geographical location, social background, economic might, power etc.  The US is going through a period that has never been experienced before. The issues surrounding its candidates have affected many especially those who believe in human rights, diversity, and what the US First Lady once termed as basic human decency.

When a child is perceived as stronger than other children, it is only imperative that we continue to know that he/she also has feelings, can get hurt, and also needs your support as a parent. The US needs our prayers now, not only because of its global influence, but because of how interconnected we are as humans.

When the women set out to pray for the Chibok girls in Nigeria, we acted because of that human nature of inter-connectedness. We can still do the same in our own religious backgrounds, spiritual expressions and indigenous traditions. A peaceful election and post-election healing is much needed in the US for our brothers and sisters, colleagues, friends and relatives alike. The US has built so much as a country, and yet it can lose so much depending who occupies that position of leadership.

As the world struggles with situations of division, hate, conflict, discrimination and human rights abuses, we need to use our spirituality for cultivating the good within ourselves and beyond borders. Whatever the election outcome, a lot of souls shall need healing and our prayers are important.  

May peace prevail in the US. May peace prevail everywhere on earth.

Despina Namwembe
Regional Coordinator
United Religions Initiative (URI) Africa, Great Lakes

--

I am moved by this, Despina.  And humbled by your call to spiritual support, from Uganda, for people in the United States.  You are modeling the human interconnectedness you write about.

I am distressed that large numbers of people in this country seem to have lost sight of their connections with other Americans, let alone with our sisters and brothers around the world who can be so profoundly impacted by our country's actions.  

I would like to think better of us, that we have learned from our history and have outgrown our preference for divisions instead of unity. 

But again and again I am reminded through the news of how easily people feel (& indeed often are) left out, ignored, not heard, and not respected. So many people suffer from poverty and discrimination and fear. All of that contributes profoundly to the dissolution of healthy dialogue and democratic process.  

We desperately need to engage, to find a way to stand together in solidarity and in recognition of the common ground that we all share.  Thank you for your leadership. 

May peace prevail, indeed. 

Alice Swett

URI Associate Director of Global Programs for Network Development

--

Dear Sister Despina, 

How nicely you have called the attention of all! Thank you.

The United States is the mother of democracy. Way back in 1776, there were great thinkers and philosophers who could establish a free and fair State, which could be a model for the world. It is true that all the people have to rise up and preserve the values handed over by the forefathers from generations to generations. 

Yes, let us uphold America in our prayers so that the American ethos will remain as beautiful as ever, whatever be the outcome of the election.

Warm regards,

Abraham Karickam

URI Regional Coordinator, India, South Zone

--

Dear Despina,

Thank you for your call. We unite our prayers for a peaceful election in the US and the well-being of Americans,

warm regards,

Enoé Texier

URI Regional Coordinator, URI Latin America and the Caribbean 

--

Thank you deeply. May our citizens live into our founding values and keep the promise of democracy alive. I believe we will... But not without effort... And prayers.

Sally Mahé

URI Director of Global Programs and Organizational Development

The Weekly Shot: Traveling Peace Academy

URI - Mon, 11/07/2016 - 10:28am

The URI Traveling Peace Academy (TPA) gathers interfaith peacebuilders together for training, skill building, discussion, study, and networking, so that they can work more effectively in their communities around the world. The 2016 TPA took place in India and gathered together an impressive group from URI Cooperation Circles worldwide to learn and grow from their time together. 

Learn more about the Traveling Peace Academy 2016 here. 

URI MENA Raises Breast Cancer Awareness

URI - Thu, 11/03/2016 - 5:48pm

On the occasion of Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October), the URI Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region Women's Initiative program, in partnership with Dr. Naela Clinic and in cooperation with Al Hussein Cancer Foundation and Breast Cancer Awareness Program, organized an open day for Breast Cancer Awareness.

The event started by reciting prayers from different religious traditions selected to fit the event. It included awareness lectures, stories of breast cancer survivors, and free physical examination. At the end, a lucky woman even won an insurance voucher for breast cancer treatment provided by the clinic. 

In love and peace,

Dr. Naela Doghmi

Co-coordinator of the WIN MENA (Women's Interfaith Network) CC


This event enabled refugee women from Syria and Iraq to learn this important information about breast examination. The examiner found something suspicious on one of the women and had her do a mammogram and is now waiting for the biopsy result. So this event potentially saved a life with early diagnosis.

Elana Rozenman

Global Trustee Multiregion URI -- United Religions Initiative








Traveling Peace Academy 2016

URI - Thu, 11/03/2016 - 2:46pm

Alice with members of Galle CC

Sri Lanka is great. Why? Life is all about the people, fundamentally, wherever we go, right? And I've met some wonderful people... Ravi Kandage, URI Global Council Assistant Treasurer, who showed me around; a Buddhist monk who is clear on the power of his beliefs; a joyful Hindu woman who is committed to doing service work like collecting and delivering relief to landslide survivors; a Muslim man who welcomed us into his home for refreshment and conversation; and an older couple who seemed to want nothing more than to share time and hospitality with me.

Plus, there are religious shrines to look at all over the place; big, small, garish, simple; you name it. Fascinating. And the ocean is right there, next to the city. In the cool of the evening, a park area alongside the beach in Colombo fills with hundreds of people, mostly kids, who come out to fly kites of all shapes and sizes -- some even with lights on them. It recently was a grassy park, but now for some reason it's just dirt. There is lots of construction in Colombo. There were some big, fancy office buildings and apartments. There are lots of colorful (I noted lots of pink) one- or two-story buildings.

A 30-year war here ended just five years ago. I asked my friend, who lives in Colombo, what it was like when the war was happening. He said bombs would occasionally go off in different places around the city, but it didn't keep people (including himself) from going out. He just hoped to avoid the wrong place at the wrong time. I'm pretty there was more to his experience of the war than that. Another friend from Sri Lanka has told me about friends of his dying in the war.

Back to my visit. You should see how the tuc-tucs drive. If there is a half a nanosecond of opening between two other vehicles, regardless of how big they are, a tuc-tuc driver will nose in there, creating his (always male drivers) own space, confident the oncoming line of vehicles will slow down to avoid him. Tuc-tucs thread their way around both sides of other vehicles, including going into oncoming traffic lanes, making motorcycles in traffic on California freeways look like minor annoyances. And there is lots of honking of horns -- but even more in India, it seems, where basically every car beeps at each vehicle or bicycle it passes.

Ravi picked me up at 7 a.m. and drove me to Galle, which was maybe 90 minutes away. Outside the city there was lots of greenery, which was restful after the chaos of the city. We had a meeting with about eight members of a URI Cooperation Circle there. We were seated around a big, rectangular table in an air-conditioned room of a Catholic facility. The group consisted of a Catholic priest, a Buddhist monk, a Muslim man, a Hindu man, and a couple of women, I'm not sure of what religion. The priest translated others' comments as they went around the table and spoke a bit about their work with the Cooperation Circle. It seemed to me that everyone spoke with conviction. There was good energy in the room. We were served tea and (multi-colored!) cake.

Here are some notes & quotes from the CC members' sharing:

 "We're not perfect. Humans never are."

 Sometimes "...even the police couldn't help, but we could solve problems in the community."

"Unless we accept and respect, we can not live together."

"Just as there are many roads to get from here to Colombo, we are different but we all respect each other."

They held many trainings at first. Now they do many programs with a focus of building bridges, not walls.

When something happens to someone of one religion, the others respond with support. "In this way, we live in peace, not in pieces."

The government is taking note; URI is leading the way in some areas. "We become enriched by sharing. It increases our awareness."

When the Hindu man spoke, the Catholic priest who was translating said, "We do not agree with him, but we respect him." Opinions differ even within the group. "We have to respect that."

The government fully supports their reconciliation efforts. They provide the main, and oldest, forum for conflict transformation in Galle. "When we are together there is big strength there." 

An example of their work is that on public buses the front seats are reserved for clergy leaders. Muslim and Hindi leaders are difficult for others to recognize. So the Cooperation Circle made and distributed pamphlets explaining that, which helped them have their rightful places on the buses. Also, Cooperation Circle members have planted trees near different places of worship and schools and municipal buildings.

After that visit, one of the women in the group joined us and we went to visit a Buddhist monk at his temple, where we had lunch made by local women, who supply all the food for the monk. Next we went to the home of a Muslim, where we were offered cake and drinks. We had nice, brief conversations in both places. Ravi translated everything.

I realize that when a person translates for me, it gives me an opening for a heart connection with them. They feel like an ally. I trust them more and sooner than I normally would. They are my link to nearly all discussion content with the people I am there to see. So it becomes easier to connect about all kinds of things, to laugh, etc. It's nice to have that experience.

I might add that yesterday I was privileged to hear a young Muslim woman tell me her story of life in her village, which has had terrible anti-Muslim violence in recent years.  She spoke of destructive and protective government actions, of police violence, of Muslim stores being marked and the proprietors attacked. It reminded me of Nazi Germany.  The perpetrators in this case are Buddhists. She has friends of all faiths. She spoke of her personal struggles as a devout Muslim to balance toeing the line behaviorally so her family isn't ostracized, yet also to move independently and unaccompanied (which women oughtn't do) in the community as a peace activist.  She talked about the impact of taking her mother and going to the funeral home when a Buddhist died, and the forgiveness/reconciliation involved. She is a great leader.

She said to me: "Every girl is strong inside. But they are closed. If we help them to open, then they can fly." 

I was so inspired by her!!

Read more from TPA 2016 here.

Traveling Peace Academy 2016 Reflections

URI - Thu, 11/03/2016 - 2:13pm

TPA participants

The URI Traveling Peace Academy (TPA) gathers interfaith peacebuilders together for training, skill building, discussion, study, and networking, so that they can work more effectively in their communities around the world. The 2016 TPA took place in India and gathered together an impressive group from URI Cooperation Circles worldwide to learn and grow from their time together.

See a collection of news stories, in print, featuring work from the TPA, here.

"I said in one session of the recent TPA that excellent students make excellent teachers. The participants that we got for the 2016 TPA were a class in themselves -- ardent peace lovers and exemplary learners." 

- Dr. Abraham Karickam, URI South India Regional Coordinator 

TPA participants blessing the foundation stone for an Interfaith Centre at Meenpidippara, Kottarakkara. Learn more here.

 

Read a reflection from Raksha Kothari, yoga teacher for the TPA, here.   

 

The following is a personal reflection by Jane Abdul, a TPA participant from the Philippines:

16-21 SEPTEMBER, 2016

URI Project in the Moral Imagination Approach to Peacebuilding came into being because of the expressed needs of URI Cooperation Circles - leaders deeply involved in peacebuilding work. Inspired by the book, Moral Imagination, the Art and Soul Of Peace Building.

The Moral Imagination approach to building peace captured the enthusiasm of people dedicated to peacebuilding within URI because it reflected experiences of authentic peacebuilding activities; and, affirmed the value of this kind of effort for the entire URI global community. John Paul Lederach and Dr. Herm Weaver, educator and musician (respectively) served as the primary consultants.

Dr. Abraham Karickam, URI South India Regional Coordinator, shares a testimony of URI's powers of reconciliation. Learn more here.

The workshop was created to provide creative process that addresses the spiritual, physical and emotional aspects of participants. The activity met its overall objective: To create a week long reflection that sparks the imagination, encourages new understandings of self, place and work, and energizes participants to rise to a new level of who they are, what they can be, so that they can begin to hear their own voice more clearly and develop the courage to act on their own wisdom in the world in reference to their journey of building peace and constructive social change.

I really appreciate the methodology, the strategy and tools for conflict analysis, peer learning and co-mentoring sessions. Most of all the learnings on the importance of strategic networking to support our work focusing on creating a web as the beginning. 

Dr. Abraham Karickam sharing how peacebuilding is like a spiderweb

Learning about these people and their stories felt like discovering new things about myself.

I’m committed to continuing to be a peace builder/peace multiplier and share what I have learned from this training. 

At the URI Asia Peace Award panel

To the peace-loving people from around the world, my co-participants in the TPA training: 

I can never thank you enough but offer my fervent prayer: may Allah bless all of us with good health, happiness and prosperity in life. This is an experience of a lifetime. It was a life-changing moment that I shall treasure forever in my heart. No exact words can contain and describe how grateful am I for inviting me and bringing me to this exciting, wonderful, amazing, incredible land of Mahatma Gandhi, the offspring of great poets, philosophers and social thinkers which are among the sources of my daily inspirations. 

First order of the day was the Yoga session, which I consider and recommend as a very valuable tool in any peace training program to start the day. The steps were so simple - yet emerging oneself in the process is a process itself, a challenge. I guess, one of the most memorable is the mantras- chanting is still lingering my mind when I wake up every morning. The sounds still vibrate and penetrate deep in the mind. Getting focus helps me attain synchronicity of breathing and body movements and started enjoying the process all the way. It was just like a lullaby to mind. In every session, I felt the emerging of energy coming in during the process which made me ready for the day’s activity.

Subhi Dhupar, Regional Coordinator, India, North Zone, with Sally Mahé, Director of Global Programs and Organizational Development. Read Sally's reflections on TPA and friendship here.

Furthermore, I believe that when you learn to listen to your body and learn to consciously respond to it, it’s only then that you can start to tap into a place to find peace, harmony and joy. Our body is an amazing vessel for communication that constantly sending signals and fosters a mindset of positive change.

We took part in the silent Morning Walks, then Morning Pages where we spent time writing, tapping own awareness, listening to our inner voice and nature's sounds. Writing Morning Pages reconnected me back to myself during childhood days, the love of poems which never been revealed nor practiced and manifested the “makata, poet” within me sometimes during the course of the training. The well-spring of feelings, thoughts once in my childhood rose up.

The musical instruments and peace songs lead by Matthew Cobb enlivened the group and the rest of the cultural troupes that serenaded us on cultural nights and the movie escapade as well we’re all fascinating experiences.

TPA participants discussing peace, including Alice Swett, URI Associate Director of Global Programs for Network Development (seated in back in orange shirt), who wrote reflections on her TPA experience you can read here.

As implied in the name of the Traveling Peace Academy, we were always on the move. We experienced of the rhythm of the airwaves of the Arabian Sea, Bengal Gulf and Indian Ocean, the windy Thrivalluvar statue in Kanyakumari. Earlier, we had merged with nature as we joined the team in the inauguration of the Global Rights of the River and joined in a Peac

URI Europe Assembly in Belgium: A Story in Photos

URI - Wed, 11/02/2016 - 3:52pm

Photo Report: United Religions Initiative Europe Assembly in Damme, Belgium

Cherishing the past building the future, co-creating our vision, and making URI Europe a strong actor for positive change.

We were guests at the Stiltehoeve (Silence Farm, vegetarian meals, partly grown in own garden!) of Cooperation Circle BZN. Here we had a short, three-day meeting with Cooperation Circles from all over Europe, to share experiences, new ideas and thoughts.

It was very intense, filled with knowledge and young fresh ideas and inspiration. We shared these through plenary group sessions, making posters, and various brainstorming techniques, bringing out all the input in a structured manner.

This was also a moment to explain again how URI Europe is organized, and to explain certain things. For example, currently there is a paid staff of three who are doing all the coordinating and communication jobs concerning the 36 operating Cooperation Circles and 16 starting Cooperation Circles in Europe. But also about the role of Patrick Hanjoul, who has fulfilled the last 13 years as chair for URI Europe, as well as the director of BZN, (Bond Zonder Naam, Movement Without a Name; everybody contributes without taking credit) a major partner in backing activities for URI Europe to happen.

But how do we envision and plan to continue? This was the main question for this meeting.

There was also a small visit to Brugge, a local city, and a musical talent show. It was again a great experience to meet people from countries from their own context, and being able to ask questions. Sadly, it was more or less the same story regarding disappearing jobs, secularization, violence relating to religion, and rising populism. Never the less we are grateful for this opportunity to put our heads together and create a vision for the future. Let’s see where it will take us!

URI IBS CC Editorial Team 2016

Below are a few photos. See many more photos of each day, with captions, here.

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