URI’s Global Vision for a Future World
Sally Mahé, Director Organizational Development
October 25, 2009
Distinguished guests, (names) hosts, and URI Korea delegates and friends – thank you for being here today and for everything you do to push the world toward more cooperation and peace among human beings.
I bring good wishes and inspiration to you from URI’s global community. Today, this community includes over 420 Cooperation Circles in over 70 countries. When I speak with CC leaders and staff around the world, I hear people repeat again and again how grateful they are to be bridge builders among people of different traditions and to be connected with like-minded people - in spirit - in action - and as part of a global organization. As I get older I realize success is not really about if we succeed in what we set out to do but that we have journeyed well with people with bright eyes, faces and hearts.
I want especially to thank Venerable Jinwol Lee. We met as volunteers inspired by the URI vision back in 1995. I am privileged to call Jinwol my friend and colleague. Jinwol is tireless as he encourages URI’s spirit and practical actions for peace and has worked with determination to lay a solid foundation for URI in Korea. You may not know that in addition to his leadership here in Korea, Jinwol has also chosen to be awakened in the middle of the night once a month to participate in international conference calls as part of the Global Council Approval Committee for new Cooperation Circles. Perhaps this experience has taught him even more about the Buddhist concept of “awakening!”
Speaking for the other URI delegates, we are delighted to be here with you. We thank the Korean Ministry of Culture for generously inviting the URI Asia leadership team and other international guests. We are: URI Trustees and staff members from the ASIA region, a youth leader from the UK, and a representative from the URI office in San Francisco. We are here in Seoul to enjoy Korean culture, learn about your work and your CC issues, and ask how URI’s global community can be of service.
This meeting also marks an exciting beginning of a new level of regional organizational leadership for ASIA. Its aim is to nurture URI’s roots in ASIA and support greater development of shared vision and cooperative actions by thousands if not millions of people. From Seoul to Lahore, from Bangladesh to Beijing, from small villages to seats of power and influence, grassroots people are finding new ways to solve old problems – they are building cultures of respect and cooperation! Asia is on the move!
To provide structure and support for this growth, the Asia region is becoming a strong anchor in URI’s global web. Like an anchor point in a spider web, the Asia region and other regions are learning how to be sustaining hubs for the whole URI network. URI is exploring how to be a new kind of global organization, one that is not controlled and resourced from one center, but an organization that gains it strength and durability from multi-centers.
As a diverse global community, we are guided by shared values written down in URI’s Preamble, Purpose and Principles. The first words of the Preamble are, “We, people of diverse religions, spiritual expressions and indigenous traditions throughout the world, unite to promote enduring daily interfaith cooperation, to end religiously motivated violence and to create cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living beings.”
Unified in purpose, people are free to organize in any manner and use their own creativity and initiative to help transform religious tensions and ignorance into positive social change. People, from all sectors of society, are building a global vision for a future world where people see a need and reach out to meet it - not just for themselves or their own identity group but for the well being of people they don’t even know.
The title for this speech “URI’s Global Vision for a Future World” may tend to point us to notions that are nice to think about but we doubt if change will really ever happen. Because of URI’s record of achievement, to me these words convey power that are worthy of personal reflection and consideration.
URI stands for United Religions Initiative. URI names a reputable international organization that is inclusive, de-centralized, and that encourages initiatives by people from different traditions, primarily at the grassroots level of society. It is open to all people who act in accord with its values in pursuit of its shared purpose.
URI also means more – it has come to be a shorthand way of saying that you and I are one. That you and I belong to the same family of humanity. That you and I can no longer ignore or abuse each other. URI has come to embrace thousands of relationships that uphold, comfort and sustain people who never imagined they would care about each other.
When you hear the words, “URI’s global vision” – imagine a big snowball that is growing immense and round as it rolls along. I don’t see “URI’s global vision” as only one vision that can be stated in a few sentences but an accumulation of human energy in the form of people’s visions, passions and ethics. In preparation for this talk, I asked URI members to offer ideas about URI’s global vision. Here are some responses:
• URI’s representative at the UN said, “I see that URI’s vision is not a place to arrive at but a process where ongoing daily acts of service and dialogue build it.
• From Uganda, “URI continues day by day to help people break barriers. We may not yet be able to tell all of these stories, but those daily interactions we make are a sure step towards having our visions become a global vision;”
• From Argentina, “URI’s vision to end religiously motivated violence through interfaith cooperation is of great value. The creative constructive relationship generated in working together is unbreakable.”
• From Israel, “we have created a ‘language of URI’ …where people see diversity as a challenge not a problem. URI will play a role in peace education and sustainability of the Earth.”
What would you say is URI’s global vision for a future world?
For a Future World – Our future as a human race is precarious- the challenges we face are huge. An optimistic future for coming generations is even more dubious. So what can we do?
Actually the huge challenges give us huge opportunities. Without these dire challenges we wouldn’t even be called to build a culture of global cooperation. Without the challenges, the old ways of letting presidents and policymakers take over would not be giving way to a people’s movement – where people are taking leadership to make changes. To inspire ourselves and people like us, we need to talk about our visions for change and mobilize our wills to act accordingly.
While we are living in the current realities of our lives is it possible to transform our problems and age-old patterns of injustice and hostility between different nations and religions, between haves and have nots?
For three decades, John Paul Lederach, an international peace educator sought to answer a similar question, “How do people transcend the cycles of violence that bewitch our human community while still living in them? His answer lay in our capacity “to imagine something rooted in the challenges of the real world in which we find ourselves, yet capable of giving birth to something that does not exist.”
In other words, a future world is directly linked to what people do as we live our ordinary lives. What we do is linked to those things that we imagine – things that are capable of giving birth to something that does not yet exist.
The URI global ‘snowball’ is growing immense and round because URI invites and encourages people to imagine together and put effort into making their visions real. We may not fully achieve our aspirations, but working with others, participating in unprecedented levels of cooperation with other human beings is the way forward.
For a few minutes, I would like to ask each of you to answer the question, what is your vision for a future world? What do you really care about that you want to help change?
Reflect for a minute and when I ring the bell, turn to a person next to you and share your thoughts.
Ready? Here is the question - what is your vision for a future world – what do you really care about that you want to help change?
(A few minutes, then bell rings)
My wish for each of you is that you not wait for someone else to do it, or wait for a better day, more know-how, or more money to add your voice and effort to building a global vision.
At their heart, religious traditions and spiritual practices encourage us to love one another, build up one another, cooperate with one another – not to achieve success at the exclusion of the success of another but to work for mutual benefit and mutual service in our human interactions.
Thank you so much for your attention.