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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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