Frequently Asked Questions

Interfaith circle conversations at the Parliament of World Religions

Interfaith circle conversations at the Parliament of World Religions.


Getting to know URI

 


 

 

 

 

What is URI?

The United Religions Initiative (URI) is a worldwide interfaith network dedicated to peace and cooperative action for the global good. Its purpose is to promote enduring, daily interfaith cooperation, stop religiously motivated violence, and create cultures of peace, justice, and healing for the Earth and all living beings. We implement our mission through local and global initiatives that build the capacity of our member groups and organizations to engage in community action such as conflict resolution and reconciliation, environmental sustainability, education, women’s and youth programs, and advocacy for human rights.

URI is a growing global community of people from many different cultures and religions who commit themselves to work in diverse ways in pursuit of URI’s vision and mission.

 

 

 

 

Is URI a religion? Does URI want to unite the world's religions into a single, blended religion?

URI is not a religion. We are a global network of interfaith groups, each made of members from multiple religious traditions, that seek to better their communities through interfaith cooperation.

The name "United Religions Initiative" is sometimes misunderstood to mean that our organization is a new religion or a blending of religions. Actually, URI encourages people of all religions, spiritual expressions, and Indigenous traditions to bring the fullness of their own unique experiences to the work of peace, justice, and healing. URI is a bridge-building organization; not a religion.

The 'United' part of "United Religions Initiative" means that, even though people may follow different spiritual paths, they are still able to work together on common goals to better their communities, like bringing clean drinking water to rural areas, improving literacy rates, reducing religiously-motivated violence, addressing issues of poverty, or empowering women and youth as leaders. You can read more about activities like these on our blog, or find out more about the grassroots "Cooperation Circles" that engage in this important peacebuilding work.

 

 

 

 

 

What about atheists and agnostics?

The name "United Religions Initiative" is sometimes misunderstood to mean that our organization is focused exclusively on organized religion. Actually, URI encourages people of all religions, spiritual expressions, and Indigenous traditions (including those who follow atheist or agnostic traditions) to bring the fullness of their own unique experiences to the work of peace, justice, and healing.

 

 

 

 

Is URI part of the UN?

URI is not a UN initiative, although our organization does work with the UN on many initiatives. Learn more about the relationship between URI and the United Nations.

 

 

 

 

What does URI do?

URI is a global grassroots interfaith network that cultivates peace and justice by engaging people to bridge religious and cultural differences and work together for the good of their communities and the world. We implement our mission through local and global initiatives that build the capacity of our grassroots organizations, called Cooperation Circles, which engage in community actions such as conflict resolution and reconciliation, environmental sustainability, education, women’s and youth programs, and advocacy for human rights. URI sustains a global support network to provide a communication and educational infrastructure that inspires, trains and supports increasing numbers of grassroots interfaith groups.

 

 

 

 

How did URI get started?

The United Religions Initiative began in 1993 when an official at the United Nations asked Bishop William Swing, Episcopal Diocese of California, to host a historic interfaith worship service to help commemorate the 50th anniversary of the UN. Following the call, Bishop Swing had a sudden realization that religions, together, have a vocation to be a force for good in the world, but they were not honoring this vocation. His first instinct was to look for an existing, UN-style body of religions meeting together – but there were none. So began the project that would enlist people worldwide to create URI. Learn more about URI's origins, Charter, and Preamble, Purpose, and Principles.

 

 

 

 

How is URI organized?

URI is an inclusive, decentralized and organically-designed organization. URI’s core members are Cooperation Circles, which are grassroots, interfaith groups of at least seven people from at least three different faith traditions, working together on projects to improve their communities. Each Cooperation Circle defines its unique purpose and directs its affairs in accord with URI’s Charter. Each Cooperation Circle is given autonomy to organize in any manner and around any issue that is relevant to and consistent with the URI Preamble, Purpose and Principles.

 

 

 

 

Where is URI located?

URI’s Global Staff Office is located in the Presidio of San Francisco, California, USA, in a former military base that has been turned into a national park dedicated to peacemaking and environmental work. However, through its regional offices and membership in over a hundred countries, you can find a connection with URI anywhere in the world.

URI's postal address is:

United Religions Initiative

P.O. Box 29242

San Francisco, CA 94129 USA

 

 

 

 

What is URI’s relationship to other interfaith organizations?

URI seeks to honor and support the work of other interfaith organizations, whether they are local, national, regional, or international. People active in many other interfaith organizations are active in URI. Many such groups have found their own organizations energized by participation in URI’s global community.

 

 

 

 

Does URI take political positions, or advocate for particular issues?

Although the diverse, global URI community as a whole does not usually take stances on legislation, take political positions, or advocate for particular issues, it is common for individual Cooperation Circles to take action in ways they feel are in accordance with URI's Preamble, Purpose and Principles. This can include taking political positions; in fact, independent Cooperation Circles within URI are free to take opposing stances on the same issues.


Commonly Used Terms

 

 

 

 

What does "interfaith" mean?

The word "interfaith" describes an interaction between people of different religions or faith traditions. Since URI's groups, called Cooperation Circles, include members from at least three different traditions, their actions inherently involve interfaith cooperation. URI's interfaith groups create a safe space for understanding our significant differences, but also recognizing our similarities, and working together for peace, justice, and healing in our world. Learn more about interfaith cooperation.

 

 

 

 

What is a Cooperation Circle?

A URI Cooperation Circle is a self-organizing group of at least seven members from at least three religions, spiritual expressions, or indigenous traditions—including atheists and agnostics.

Cooperation Circles work on two levels: by giving people of different backgrounds a chance to work together, and by tackling important community issues their members care about. As members work side-by-side on projects that benefit everybody, the resulting interpersonal connections transcend harmful stereotypes and lay the foundation for peaceful coexistence and appreciation of diversity.

Cooperation Circles take on many different types of projects. They can offer humanitarian relief after natural disasters; organize music and art festivals; clean polluted rivers; host charitable donation drives; offer hospice counseling; develop educational programs; create opportunities for intercultural encounters and interfaith reflection; and much more.

Explore URI's Cooperation Circles.

 

 

 

 

What do you mean by "grassroots network"?

The term "grassroots" refers to organizations like URI, in which important decisions are made by the members rather than imposed from leadership at the top. Our network is an interconnected system of ordinary people coming together to do extraordinary things.

 

 

 

 

What is a URI regional assembly?

URI values face-to-face connections, and periodic gatherings of URI members and staff allow people from a broader geographic region to meet and exchange ideas and inspiration more easily.

See two examples of regional assemblies:


Cooperation Circle Questions

 

 

 

 

How is a Cooperation Circle started?

A URI Cooperation Circle is a self-organizing group of at least seven members from at least three religions, spiritual expressions, or indigenous traditions—including atheists and agnostics. Learn how to start a Cooperation Circle.

 

 

 

 

Can URI fund our Cooperation Circle's project?

URI is a non-funding organization, so we cannot monetarily support projects directly. However, we encourage you to connect with your Regional Coordinator to see what resources are available to you with the expanded reach of URI's global network.

 

 

 

 

Are there URI Cooperation Circles in my area?

URI's grassroots interfaith groups, called Cooperation Circles, work in over a hundred countries throughout the world. To find a Cooperation Circle near you, search by location or topic.

If you don't see one in your area, you may find a good match with a URI Multiregion Cooperation Circle, which come together around pressing issues rather than by geographical location.

Want to see a Cooperation Circle in your area? You may be interested in creating a Cooperation Circle yourself.

 


Regional and Global Office Questions

 

 

 

 

Where are URI's regional offices?

In addition to a Global Support Office headquartered in San Francisco, USA, URI has multiple Regional Support Offices throughout the world to better serve its widespread membership. Our Regional Support Offices are well-versed in the context and culture of a given area, and are able to provide a local presence to our Cooperation Circles. 

 

 

 

 

What role do URI Regional Coordinators play?

Regional Coordinators are part of URI’s Global Staff, and they are the primary source of support for Cooperation Circles in his/her area. Regional Coordinators - who may or may not work with a larger Regional Support Team  - connect Cooperation Circles with others in their region and to our wider global network, coordinate programs and activities, and introduce URI to new potential Cooperation Circles and other likeminded partners. See a full list of the URI global staff.


Get Involved

 

 

 

 

What can I do to help?

 

 

 

 

Does URI need volunteers?

Yes, the URI has several opportunities for volunteers. Contact URI's Global Support Office to inquire about volunteer or intern positions.


URI and Funding