The United Religions Initiative (URI) Celebrates its 20th Anniversary

Victor Kazanjian, Executive Director of the URI

On June 26 during World UNITY Week, the United Religions Initiative turns 20. We invite you to celebrate with us. For You are I. We are One. And together we create a synergistic force that awakens the power to unite within us and around us.

There is so much shadow in the world today, so much that is intended to divide human beings from each other, and from our Mother Earth. Humanity is seemingly in a death spiral toward division and destruction. Prejudice-related violence is on the rise. Renewed fears of nuclear war threaten our daily existence. Our Earth’s ecosystems are being destroyed, and with it the future of our children’s children. It is not a pretty picture. And so we ask ourselves, what can we possibly do in the face of all this?

At URI, we do what we have been doing for 20 years. We do what needs to be done. We weep for those suffering. We grieve with those who mourn the loss of loved ones. We ask forgiveness for our treatment of one another and our Mother Earth. We connect people of all beliefs in our sorrow an din our joy. And then the URI community goes to work. Every day, women and men, young and old, of every belief and of all cultures, go to work together to create unprecedented levels of enduring global cooperation. Even in the midst of a pandemic and people’s hopes are rising with visions of an interconnected world. It is a world where the values and teachings of the great wisdom traditions guide people’s service, where people respect one another’s beliefs, and where the resourcefulness and passion of people working together bring healing and a more hopeful future to the Earth community.

Between June 1996 and June 2000, thousands of people shared their visions and worked together to create URI, a network of grassroots groups dedicated to global good, rooted in shared spiritual values. Twenty years ago this community of founders co-created an organization, (or organism as they called it,) that is inclusive, non-hierarchical and decentralized; one that enhances cooperation, autonomy and individual opportunity. This co-creative work offered by people of many cultures has produced a unique organization composed of self-organizing groups, which operate locally and are connected globally.

In the nearly 20 years since its founding, URI has become the largest grassroots interfaith peacebuilding organization in the world. The impact of URI has been profound. URI’s global network of now more than 1,000 grassroots groups, called Cooperation Circles, plays a critical role in building cultures of peace, justice and healing in more than 100 countries in which URI works. 

On June 25 and 26, as part of World UNITY Week, URI together with Unity Earth, Unify and the SINE Network will broadcast “URI @ 20: A Celebration of Regeneration and Renewal.” Through music, video and reflections, URI will launch a year of celebration, regeneration and renewal calling upon the global community to recommit to the values reflected in the URI Charter. Throughout the Charter of the United Religions Initiative, the phrase “We Unite” is a resounding refrain.

We unite to build cultures of peace and justice. We unite to heal and protect the Earth. We unite to build safe places for conflict resolution, healing and reconciliation. We unite to celebrate the joy of blessings and the light of wisdom in both movement and stillness. We unite to use our combined resources only for nonviolent, compassionate action, to awaken to our deepest truths, and to manifest love and justice among all life in our Earth community.”

Join us for this anniversary broadcast, and become part of the movement to unite people of all cultures and beliefs to build cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living beings.

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This article appears in: 2020 Catalyst, Issue 12: World Unity Week