Bishop William Swing is the President and Founder of the URI. Bishop Swing had the original vision of URI in 1993 in response to an invitation from the United Nations which asked him to host an interfaith service honoring the 50th anniversary of the signing of the UN Charter. Bishop Swing served as the Episcopal Bishop of California from 1980 until his retirement in 2006. In that capacity, he was a national and international leader in response to the AIDS crisis, co-founded Episcopal Community Services to address San Francisco’s homeless problem, and co-founded Community Bank of the Bay to support local businesses and the economy.
Victor Kazanjian comes to URI as a lifelong peacebuilder dedicated to interfaith and intercultural understanding. His work at Wellesley College is widely acknowledged as the catalyst in the national and international movement to include religious diversity and spirituality as core issues in higher education. Specializing in inter-religious dialogue and conflict transformation, diversity and democracy, and peace building, Victor is a recognized thought-leader, the co-author and editor of several books and numerous articles and a frequent lecturer worldwide.
Mrs. Channa is a Trustee for the Sikh Women Society of Kenya and the Convenor for Social Welfare for the Sikh Supreme Council. She has served many roles in the Inter-Religious Welfare Council of Kenya during the past decade, including as co-chair. Ms. Channa also has served as an Executive Member of the Social Welfare Committee of the East African Ramgahria Board from 2003-2007. She received the Outstanding Leader Award from the Sikh Supreme Council of Kenya in 1992. Mrs. Channa is a founding member of URI, which was first introduced in Kenya in 1998.
Archbishop Odama has served as the Catholic Archbishop of Gulu, Uganda since 1997 and as chairman of the Uganda Episcopal Conference since 2011. He served as chairman of the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative, an interfaith peacebuilding organization, from 2002-2010, and has worked with numerous other initiatives aimed at ending the war in Northern Uganda. As a bridge builder between the Lord's Resistance Army and the government of Uganda, His Grace acted as an adviser and observer at the Juba Peace Process talks in 2006.
An elder statesman, experienced peace builder and community developer, Honorable Yero is the Wakilin Kpope (ambassador to the Chief and traditional ruler of his community) in the Kaduna State of Nigeria. He works as Board Director with the Interfaith Meditation Center of the Christian/Muslim Dialogue Forum, and previously served as Special Advisor on Religious Affairs to the Executive Governor of Kaduna State. He also served as Permanent Secretary in the Kaduna State Ministry of Religious Affairs, and has initiated and directed several interfaith peacebuilding initiatives.
A professor at the University of Dhaka, Dr. Islam worked with different religious scholars to establish the Warm Heart Association – dedicated to promoting inter-religious harmony. He later established the Department of World Religions and Culture, before leaving his country to study Judaism as a Fullbright Senior Fellow. Upon his return from the USA, he founded and now directs a Dialogue Center at Dhaka University, funded by the Bangladesh government.
Mr. Kandage is the Executive Director of the Sarvodaya Shanthisena Movement, a network of organizations that spans Sri Lanka, and has represented URI since its inaugural meeting. He has been directly involved in the reconciliation process in pre- and postwar Sri Lanka, and assisted in organizing a seminar on the moral imagination in Colombo.
Professor Kurakar is a renowned teacher from the St. Gregorios College in Kottarakara, and an author of books related to literature, history and the environment. He serves as the president of the Kerala Palliative Care Initiative and as the Chair of the URI South India region, as well as conducts an examination training center and publishing house in Kottarakara.
Swamini Adityananda serves the crucial cause of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA) at Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh. Co-Founded by HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, GIWA, which is also a URI CC, was launched at UNICEF Headquarters in New York by UNICEF under the sponsorship of the Government of the Netherlands and USAID. Its life-saving mission is to engage the world’s many faiths to address the vital cause of poor water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) conditions, the main reason behind the majority of India’s-- and much of the world's-- childhood deaths. She has over 26 years of experience in the NGO and communications sectors, having served and advocated for the poor and marginalized as well as for environmental causes in several African nations, India, the United States, Thailand and other locations, as well as on the United Nations, World Bank and other multi-lateral levels. Learn more about GIWA at www.washalliance.org.
Ms. Bali MBE JP has founded and chaired several interfaith groups whilst working with a number of international organizations to enhance understanding among cultures to address community challenges and transform conflicts. For her achievements, she was honored by Queen Elizabeth II and has been the recipient of a number of international awards. She is a regular keynote speaker at events in a number of different countries and has also addressed the UN General Assembly.
Mr. Gramatikoff is a hierodeacon of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, as well a Doctor (Didiaskalos) of the Universal Orthodox Church. He is currently the Chief Expert in religious questions in the municipality of Plovdiv, as well as Vice President of the Eastern European Forum for Dialogue-Bridges NGO. He has been working for years in the field of human rights, defending the traditional view of Orthodox church in terms of respect for all beliefs, beside all theological conceptions.
An artist and teacher, Ms. Horling is a member of an intercultural choir and has worked with migrant children from many different backgrounds, teaching them to explore and reflect upon the world of art. She spent many years working with a member of the German Parliament, has participated in several interfaith conferences and organized seminars on the hidden meanings of fairy tales.
Ms. Lheure has worked with the UNESCO Association for Interreligious Dialogue for the past decade. Since 2006, she has worked in the field of mediation for social cohesion in urban areas. She uses specific interfaith dialogue as a tool for prevention and resolution of interconvictional conflicts in the city of Barcelona. Ms. Lheure heads a program, Citizen Dialogue Between Beliefs and Convictions, in cooperation with her local government. Since 2006, she has served on the URI Europe Executive Committee.
Mr. ten Broek is a longtime friend of URI: he co-founded the Steering Committee URI the Netherlands CC in 2003, and attended the Mayapur Global Assembly in 2008. He works as a school director, a Gestalt Therapist, an advisor of a Dialogue House in the district of Segbroek in The Hague, as well as member of Interreligieus Beraad Segbroek (IBS), a URI CC.
Mr. Avruj develops a broad and fructiferous international activity in favor of peace and unity. As a social entrepreneur and a spiritual activist, he is a pioneer in the field of integration and awareness, and a consultant in new paradigms. His life is an exciting experience of resiliency. He devotes himself to training and motivating in self-leadership and he is frequently invited to speak and share his life experience on stages all around the world. He is Humanity's Team Coordinator for Argentina, a Global Trustee of URI, Co-Founder of "Sin Barreras" and an active member of the Argentine Council for Peace, among others organizations. With a Degree in Business Administration, he is also formed in Social Capital and Integral Human Development. He was the protagonist of the inspiring biographical film "Above the darkest clouds, the sun always shines; all is a matter of flying high." Co-author of the books "Spiritual Leadership" and "New Leaders", he has also published numerous articles and been interviewed several times. As a Peace Ambassador, he has been recognized and received numerous awards for his commitment and attitude to life.
A professor of elementary education and social anthropology, Mr. Quispe is a member of the Amaru Cooperation Circle in Ayacucho. He helped manage the Latin American Regional Assembly for URI in 2004.
Dr. Cravo is a member of the Goiás CC. A professor of history, she holds a doctorate in religious science from the Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Goiás and has researched such topics as religion and health, spirituality and quality of life, unconventional therapies and conflict mediation. She has served as General Coordinator of the Organizing Committee for the Third Conference of State Mental Health for the state of Goiás.
Mr. Al-Tamimi performs leadership training and economic development in Palestine and is the coordinator of Volunteering for Peace Cooperation Circle of the URI in that country. He is an active member of the URI MENA (Middle East and North Africa) Steering committee, a member of URI’s Young Leaders Program, and is active in several other URI projects.
Mr. Rizk is a member of the Tolerance CC. He is a writer for Al Masry Al Youm, a daily newspaper in Egypt, and has presented an online radio program, “The Bridge,” that deals with the topics of interfaith and coexistence. He has provided workshops and training on leadership, communications skills, media awareness and tolerance, both locally and internationally.
Ashraf Samir is a member of both the People for Peace CC and the Save Our Souls CC. He previously served as an organizer and manager for the Quested Peace CC. He also formerly served as a legal representative for URI from 2006-2009, and worked to coordinate a URI MENA conference.
Mr. Bastian is a member of the Environmental Satellite/Resource CC of the United Religions Initiative. From 2002 until the present, Ed has been founding President of the Spiritual Paths Foundation. He is the award winning author of Living Fully Dying Well, Creating Your Spiritual Path, as well as InterSpiritual Meditation: A Seven-Step Process from the Worlds Spiritual Traditions, and contributor/publisher of Meditations for InterSpiritual Wisdom.
Mr. Frew is a Wiccan Elder and High Priest of Coven Trismegiston in Berkeley CA. He is a National Interfaith Representative for the Covenant of the Goddess. He has represented Wicca in interfaith work for over 25 years, including on the Board of the Berkeley Area Interfaith Council, at all of the modern Parliaments of the World's Religions, and on the Board of the Interfaith Center at the Presidio. He founded & serves as Director for the Lost & Endangered Religions Project. He has been active in the URI since 1998 and currently coordinates two CCs: Expressing the URI in Music & the Arts CC (Multiregional) and the Spirituality & the Earth CC (Multiregional). He served as a North American Trustee on the URI's first elected Global Council and as an At-Large Trustee on the second Global Council.
A software engineer and monk who serves as President of the Bhaktivedanta Institute in Kolkata, Mr. Rao is a member of the T.D. Singh Science and Spirituality CC and Secretary of the URI India Trust. He began his work with URI under Dr. T.D. Singh, a former trustee and founding member of URI. He later served as part of the core hosting team of the URI Global Assembly in Mayapur.
Audri Scott Williams (Nana Aquia Sebu) is of West African, Cherokee and Seminole ancestry and resides in Cottonwood, Alabama. Audri has a Master’s Degree in Indigenous Mind from NAROPA University/Worldwide Indigenous Science Network. She is the co-convener and Interim Coordinator for the URI Global Indigenous Initiative and a Global Trustee (on leave to serve the GII) of the URI. She is a member of several CCs including the Trail of Dreams World Peace Walk CC & NOWTIME Radio CC. She is a peace walker, author and documentarian. Her passion is creating opportunities for people of diverse cultures and faiths to embrace the gifts of diversity.
A founder and principal of Bridgeway, LLC, a financial services company, Ms. Burad has served on the boards of Grace Cathedral, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and Lutheran Social Services of North America, and has been chairperson of the URI Audit committee since 2007.
Hereditary Chief Phil Lane Jr. is an enrolled member of the Yankton Dakota and Chickasaw First Nations and is an internationally recognized leader in human and community development. During the past 45 years, he has worked with Indigenous peoples in North, Central and South America, Micronesia, South East Asia, India, Hawaii and Africa. He served 16 years as an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Education at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada (1980-1996). With Elders from across North America, Chief Phil co-founded the Four Worlds International Institute (FWII) in 1982. FWII became an independent Institute in 1995. As well, Chief Phil is a Director of the Four Directions Corporation, an Indigenous owned company, incorporated in 1996 as Four World’s economic development arm. For his full bio, click here.
Ms. Tobias has served as a Fellow at the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva with the Working Group for Indigenous Populations and is presently the Program Director of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Ethics, as well as a Board member of the Levantine Cultural Center and the Euphrates Institute at Principia College. Most recently she has been invited to join the program design team at the InterSpiritual Center of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Currently serving as a North America Trustee, Rebecca worked to develop the "Protecting and Restoring the Sacred CC," which encourages collaborative activities between members of the formal environmental movement and regional First Nations communities.
Sam Wazan is the author of The Last Moderate Muslim. He is a combat-zone survivor, a Middle East expert, and a grassroots catalyst for peace. He is a member of the Board at Mecklenburg Ministries, Chair of the Charlotte Cooperation Circle, and member of the Comparative Religion committee at Temple Beth El. In 1995, Wazan earned an MBA in the USA. In 2000, he founded an Information Technology services firm, which he sold in 2005. In 2009, he resigned from a prestigious corporate position. His drive to catalyze peace led him to write his personally inspired novel. He converted his war stories and daily struggles of survival to lessons learned to inspire the public to act for a more peaceful world.
Since 1988, Peter has had an extensive career in the arts as a creative director, producer, artistic director, music director, composer and a champion of intercultural dialogue. He has established himself as one of Australia’s leading cross cultural directors. Peter is a winner of the Intercultural Innovation Award and organised the winning slogan of the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations’ ‘Do One Thing for Diversity’ campaign. Peter was the Patron for the 2014 Model Global Parliament, an Ambassador for the 2014 Australian Internet Governance Forum and was recently elected as a World Music Councillor for the Music Council of Australia.
Mr. An is the deputy director of Santi Sena, a non-governmental organization founded by Buddhist monks that aims to improve working and living situations for Cambodians through programs in natural resources management, community peace building and alternative education. He is a member of the Interfaith Youth Circle of Cambodia CC and serves on the board of directors of Humanity Bright.
Mr. Sanguila is Chairman of Muslim Sharing Skills for Peace & Development and Director of Pakigdait, a grassroots interfaith, peace-building civil society organization in Mindanao, Philippines. He has participated in the Summer Peace Building Institute of Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Va., USA, and completed a course in “Islamic Theology: Mazhab Shinazi” at Al-Mufid University, Quom, Islamic Republic of Iran.