United Religions Initiative hosted the URI North India Zonal Assembly 2023 in New Delhi from 27th-29th October 2023. The convention highlighted exemplary ideas and practices of interreligious and intercultural understanding and brought together salient stories and good practices on interfaith dialogues from the grassroots.
The gathering also celebrated the diversity of the United Religions Initiative network in North India. Deepening relationships and embracing the power of the collective, building cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living beings, promoting enduring daily interfaith cooperation and ending religiously motivated violence, were the points covered in the purpose of the statement.
This year’s gathering was a gateway to exchanging opportunities for networking, fostering collaboration and partnerships across India, creating meaningful exchanges of best practices in the field, knowledge-sharing, art and creativity, initiatives for women, education, youth and environment - all of this while staying amidst a peaceful location that refreshed the spirits of the URI members.
Hosting delegates from North India, 40+ URI members from civil society organizations and young changemakers, spent three days in New Delhi to address the above themes. There were two representatives from civil society organizations based in Columbia as well.
North India Assembly saw the participation of Bhavya Srivastava, the Asia Director of the United Religion Initiative. He emphasized the importance of grassroots efforts in promoting interfaith understanding and addressing the pressing social issues that affect communities in the region, along with sharing its solutions and other resources.
The senior advisor to the Global support office of URI, Sheetal Vaidya's expertise and guidance have been invaluable in furthering URI's mission on a global scale. Her well-facilitated offerings addressed to the assembly underscored the significance of local initiatives in the broader context of international interfaith cooperation and supported the enhancement of local capacity.
A favourite of all participants was the intergenerational dialogue session which weaved together the vision, bubbling energy, and goals of young grassroots leaders, activists, and changemakers with the wisdom and foresight of senior experts in the sector. This session equipped the URI member organizations with tools to convert difficult generational barriers they face in their projects into intergenerational cooperation.
This session was created and hosted by Sheetal. Dr Abraham Karickam, URI Regional Coordinator for South Zone set the momentous movement of One Billion Youth for Peace. He inspired many members to further the movement of peace in this part of the country.
A meditative experiential session on Eco-Spirituality was offered by Manu Singh, a renowned environmentalist and head of Sarv Dharm Samvad CC. Another scintillating session by Mona and Purvi from Sahas NGO acted as a lighthouse to recognizing violence and discussed impactful solutions for Gender-based Violence using real-life case studies.
Basit Jamal from the Brotherhood of Humanity offered an interactive session on ‘The Power of Faith is Love’ forwarding us towards our journey within and outwards. The indigenous wisdom of protecting Mother Earth and the 29 principles of the Bishnoi Community were shared by Mamta Bishnoi, the head of Khejri Foundation CC.
What added to the experience was the natural environment that the assembly venue provided. An oasis within one of the most polluted cities of the world, the greenery soothed the souls of participants and was greatly effective in gently combating activism burnout.
There were special sessions for Yoga, quiet time, daily reflections on their goals, and musical get-togethers for rejuvenation. The property offered an opportunity for barefoot walking, tree-hugging, and even a special drum circle. The participants were served organic vegetarian food for all the 3 days. We are grateful to Pinaki Dasgupta from Shristi CC for sponsoring eco-friendly kits for the assembly, with seed papers and seeds that will be planted later on by participants.
The holistic experience has invigorated all the participants, affirmed their work, and nurtured their next steps on the path toward building cultures of cooperation, peace, justice, and healing for all living beings and the Earth.