December 21, 2016, 11:25 AM
Early in URI’s formation, a conference participant spoke emotionally, “URI really means something and so do I.” These words still resonate! URI stayed true – when Cooperation Circle (CC) members meet, especially across cultures and countries, there is a palpable feeling that what we do really means something and it is the people, all the people, who carry the meaning, power and life force of the organization.
Recently at the India National Assembly in Orissa State, India over 120 CC participants attended from all parts of India, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and the US. Young professionals from Afghanistan said, “You will find millions like us dying for peace, harmony and respect in Afghanistan. We are bringing beauty to Afghanistan because of diversity and we are committed to a united, harmonious Afghanistan. We have the same values as URI. People in Afghanistan and people in URI around the world need each other.”
CC members from tribal areas in Jharkhand State told stories of defending their land from powerful corporations. Their life meaning was on fire! They pressure local media to print the truth about the land grabs waged against them. They fight in court to keep uranium dust from being dumped on their land. They help their young adults get college scholarships. As URI CCs, they unite with people from different traditions, people who are not tribal and with more influence, to join them in their cause. They flashed huge smiles and said almost in the same breath, “Leave us with our own land… we will not leave our villages, we will not leave our forests… our life initiative is to make all smile!” To them, URI really means something, and so do they.
The URI planning team explained how they went out to colleges to look for rising talent and invite student volunteers to help out and enjoy the URI spirit.
In table groups, people leaned in to listen and speak from their heart about their achievements and about creative ideas to help their CCs succeed. Training sessions taught the power of story-telling, what peacebuilders can learn from how a spider weaves a web, and about a personal story of a long life devoted to interfaith harmony in Bangladesh.
Vitality and meaning spilled beyond our sessions and workshops. A stage with flashing lights and Bollywood music offered a metaphor for all of URI at age 16:
Let us dance the big dance we are meant to dance in our lives… all of us are invited, all of us together!