On 16 June 2022, URI together with peacebuilders and enthusiasts from all over the world celebrated URI’s 22nd birthday TOGETHER on the first Global Community call 2022.
A community of over 75 participants from Cooperation Circles, global trustees, staff, and friends of URI from different regions connected and shared stories of URI’s birth, their experiences, and values in the interfaith movement during the virtual community call.
On this day, the URI network reminisced the birth of URI 22 years ago with the signing of the charter.
“We are a family; we are a community. But as we celebrate URI’s birthday, we remember the day that interfaith cooperation was born in our hearts.” Maria Crespo, Director of Member Support.
“On 26th June 2000, 300 people assembled at Pittsburg and 100s around the world to participate in URI’s birthing moment and charter signing ceremony.” Sally Mahé, Senior Consultant narrated.
On this occasion, the URI community reflected on the journey they have taken together, the accomplishments made, and imagined a peaceful and thriving future that we can create together in the world.
“Birthdays remind us of beginnings and help us honor how we are growing up.” Sally Mahé
Sally Mahé also shared the beautiful story of how the URI star was created by a 10-year-old boy and eventually became the URI logo!
At the very first planning session in 1996, when about 100 people from different backgrounds gathered to explore what a new interfaith organization might be like, one person in attendance, due to unexpected babysitter problems, had brought her 10-year-old son, Walter Grey. At one point, while he was playing with colorful origami papers and listening to conversations around him, he raised his hand and asked if he could tell us something.
He held up an origami piece made with brightly colored papers. He said, “Once the religions of the world were far apart.” Then, he slowly moved the colored pieces together to create a new form and said, “Then they started really speaking to each other.” He held up high his final creation, and said, “Then, there was something that was never there before a star!” A Catholic nun in the group exclaimed, “that will be URI’s logo!” ...and the rest is history!
Stories from the Heart :)
During the call, participants were divided into breakout rooms to have more intimate discussions on their URI birth stories and share the values that they find in the specific moment that URI was born in their hearts or organizations and the values they realized.
“Martin Luther Jr said that those who love peace must organize as effectively as those who love war. I would like us to imagine what a war meeting looks like. They discuss very measurable objectives. A sister from Africa shared how two religious groups were killing each other. It took two years to bring peace and allow women to be part of these meetings. This is the kind of impact I want to see with URI.” Vennie
“I was impressed by the work that CCs all around the world are doing to educate and empower the youth to transform situations of conflict and raise standards of living and environmental stewardship. The youth engagement is impressive.” Patrick from California
“I have learned that the bridge is a great example. We can connect across different cooperation circles, learn from one another, and implement in our communities. URI has opened rural areas, especially in East India with the implementation of the vision and mission of URI in these villages.” Deepak is from East India.
“I feel we are important people and great people working for harmony and peace in the world. We are people of love and a bird of love. Asha is from India
“Thank you, URI for giving a platform to youth like us to be agents of peace in the world.” Deepak is from East India.
“I felt the values of love, gratitude, and transparency in my group. Even in a distance, love is a strong energy that connects us in URI.” Enoé Texier Regional Coordinator for URI Latin America and the Caribbean.
“In my group, there was a dominant narrative of separation, but there was also a great sense of togetherness. The values shared include intelligence, people following their heart, and critical thinking.” Karimah Katja Stauch
Sothearat Seoung shared an experience visiting different religious worship places, a church, synagogue, and mosque along the same street. This experience manifested togetherness, tolerance, cohesion, and co-existence. He is the regional coordinator for URI Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
Lauren Van Ham shared a beautiful story about different times interfaith cooperation was born in her heart. One of them happened when she was still a child, and her father asked her to follow her friend Curtis to the synagogue despite that not being her place of worship. Lauren is URI’s Climate Action Coordinator.
Akidi Sharon shared a story of a vulnerable community she worked with that experienced tension between Muslims and Christians. However, after numerous interventions and awareness by a CC, the seed of cooperation was sowed. Today, this community is working together to address the social ills and economic difficulties together. Akidi is the Communications Officer at URI.
Sally Mahe narrated an interesting story of how joy was on a bus as a group including, a nun, a monk and people from different spiritual backgrounds shared the joy of music and dancing together. This is a manifestation that interfaith cooperation brings joy.
These and many more stories shared during this call are a manifestation of how deeply rooted URI and the interfaith movement are in the hearts, lives, and interventions of individuals, communities, and organizations. 22 years and counting, URI is still committed to creating a positive impact in grassroots communities and the world by engaging people to bridge religious and cultural differences and work together for the good of their communities and the world.
At the end of the call, a beautiful word cloud poem was created to represent the values that are embedded into URI’s birth. One of the groups also shared a spontaneous song from Latin America about gratitude.
HAPPY 22ND BIRTHDAY URI!!