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November 09, 2015, 8:52 AM

URI Hosts Interfaith Special for CBS TV

URI Hosts Interfaith Special for CBS TV

On Saturday, November 7, 2015, the United Religions Initiative had the pleasure of hosting an interfaith celebration at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco, California, USA. The celebration not only brought together groups from religious traditions and cultural performers from around the San Francisco Bay Area to experience an evening of diversity and light, but the live event also served an additional purpose by being filmed as the heart of a televised special to be broadcast on CBS stations across America on the night of Christmas Eve 2015.

The television broadcast will be entitled "May Peace Prevail on Earth: A CBS Interfaith Christmas Special." If you aren't able to watch it on your local CBS channel as it airs December 24, at 11:35pm EST/PST 10:35pm CST, you will be able to see it afterwards here on www.URI.org.

Participants in the interfaith celebration at St. Gregory’s were treated to an evening of song, dance, and peace as representatives of many faith traditions all offered blessings and respect for their Christian friends on the occasion of Christmas Eve. The celebration uplifted and honored not only what made the contributions from each religion unique, but also embraced the shared values from every tradition: love, hope, friendship, generosity, and light.

The message of the celebration, as well as the message of the television broadcast, is that news stories of religiously-motivated violence and darkness are only one side of humanity. What rarely makes the news are the hundreds of thousands of people around the world, of all religions, who work together daily for peace. The actions of these people, of the friends and family of URI who engage in interfaith trust and cooperation to make the world a better place, are the "gift" we "unwrap" in this celebration.

See more photos of this event in our Facebook album.


Performances and Rituals

The celebration was a vibrant collage of performances, rituals, and prayers from traditions around the world. Among the many beautiful offerings were:

  • Soloists Dayanna Griffin, Sr. Elizabeth Padilla, Elana Rosen Brown, and Salima Matchette, who brought music from different faiths and cultures into one whole expression of song and light.
  • URI North America coordinator Sari Heidenreich, who shared a personal story of Christmas peace in Bethlehem.
  • Co-Directors of Global Programs Sally Mahé and Liam Chinn, who shared inspirational stories from real-life URI heroes Janessa Gans Wilder and Emmanuel Ivorgba.
  • Dance director Carla DeSola, keyboardist Ulis Reddick, The Omega Dancers (Karin Jensen, Jessica Bates, David McCauley, Estaban McDermott Myers, and young dancer Mathilda Yamasaki), Indian dancers Virgine J Sinniah and Jesica Antnet, Polynesian dancers Meridith Aki and Kehaulani, and Sufi turner Aziz Isaiah Abatiello, who mesmerized the crowd with invocations and embodiments of peace through movement.       

The Work of Christmas

Together, Victor Kazanjian and Melanie DeMore read “The Work of Christmas" by Howard Thurman, which embodied the message that the most important values of Christmas can be shared by all of humanity, and take place not just one day a year, but every day of every lifetime.

When the song of the angels is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with their flock,

The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,

To heal the broken,

To feed the hungry,

To release the prisoner,

To rebuild the nations,

To bring peace among all people,

To make music in the heart.

 Candle Lighting and Multi-faith Blessings

In a candle lighting ceremony, Elana Rosen-Brown, Michael Pappas, Sulaynam Nawabi, Kay Markham, Sudarshan Kapoor and BK Veena, Ji Hyang, Liam Chinn, Gurparkash Singh, Bahareh Ardestani, Gaea Denker, and Alice Kawahatsu each lit a candle as a blessing from their own tradition. The traditions included Judaism, Christianity, Native American and African American culture, Hinduism, Buddhism, Earth Spirituality, Sikhism, the Baha’I faith, Humanism, and the Konko tradition.

Representatives of many traditions also offered words of blessing from their own practices to add to the celebration:

A prayer for peace from the Jewish tradition - Rabbi Stephen Pearce

Hear O Israel the Lord, our God, the Lord is One

Let the day come when we turn to the Lord of Peace,

When all are a single family doing His will with a perfect heart.

Lord of peace bless us with peace.

A prayer for peace from the Bahai tradition - Amanda Coleman

O Thou kind Lord!  Unite all.

Let the religions agree and make the nations one,

so that they may see each other as one family

and the whole earth as one home.

May they all live together in perfect harmony.

A prayer for peace from the Buddhist tradition - Bhikshuni Jin Kai

May we all be filled with loving kindness

May we all be well

May we all be at peace within ourselves and our world

May we all be happy

A prayer for peace from the Christian tradition - Valerie Purnell and Marcos Mafia

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace

Señor, hazme un instrumento de tu paz:  

Where there is hatred let me sow love,

Donde haya odio, que lleve yo el amor

Where there is injury, Pardon

Donde haya ofensa, que lleve el perdón

Where there is doubt,  Faith

Donde haya duda, que lleve la fe

Where there is despair, Hope

Donde haya desesperación, esperanza

Where there is darkness, Light,

Donde haya oscuridad, que lleve la luz.

Where there is sadness, Joy

Donde haya tristeza, que lleve la alegría;

A prayer for peace from the Islamic tradition  - Tarek Radwan

Bismilah….

Allah, you are peace

From you comes Peace

To you returns Peace

Revive us with the salutation of Peace

And lead us to your abode of Peace

A prayer for peace from the Native American tradition - Kanyon Sayres-Rood

For as long as the moon shall rise

For a long as the rivers shall flow

For as long as the sun will shine

For as long as the grass shall grow

Let us know peace

A prayer for peace from the Hindu tradition - Swami Vedananda 

Oh God, lead us from the unreal to the Real

Oh God, lead us from darkness to light

Oh God, lead us from death to immortality

Shanti, shanti, shanti to all.

A prayer for peace from the Konko tradition - Masato Kawahatsu

Eternal Divine Father and Mother

We would like to express Arigatou Gozaimasu

(Thank you) 1,000 times a day for your blessings.

We ask you for forgiveness for all our mistakes and ego.

We pray and strive for saving our home, the Earth.

Arigatou gozaimasu, Arigatou gozaimasu

Arigatou gozaimasu, Arigatou gozaimasu

Words of peace from the Humanist tradition - Gaea Denker

Peace – it does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work.

It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.

A prayer for peace from the Sikh tradition - Gurparkash Singh

Within everybody 

Is the Lord hidden; 

Within everybody 

Is His light. 

Searching his body, his home, 

By the master's instructions one finds

the Name revealed within.

A prayer for peace from the Jain tradition - Girsh Shah

Unto all have I amity, and unto none, enmity.

Know that violence is the root cause of all miseries in the world.

Violence in fact is the knot of bondage.

"Do not injure any living being."

This is the eternal, perennial, and unalterable way of spiritual life. 

Words of peace from Traditions Unnamed and Still to Come – Deborah Moldow

There is no way to peace…peace is the way

May Peace Prevail on Earth

May Peace Prevail on Earth

May Peace Prevail on Earth


Concluding the celebration, URI Executive Director Victor Kazanjian said, "I am filled with deepest gratitude for all that everyone did to make the Interfaith Celebration possible. What a journey it has been and what an extraordinary outcome! URI staff and friends, together with our remarkable TV technical team, co-created an experience which not only touched the hearts of all of us gathered, but also more than exceeded all expectations for the live portion of what will become the CBS Interfaith Christmas Special."

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