URI West India successfully organised a zonal assembly in Ahmedabad, Gujarat from 5th May to 7th May 2014 at St. Xavier's Behavioural Science Centre. Cooperation Circles (CCs) from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhyapradesh, along with 62 CC members and local activists, attended the three-day meeting.
Fr. Rajeev, Ms. Kokilaben and the Regional Cordinator of West India inaugurated the event with prayers from three different religious groups. Fr. Rajeev of Director St. Xavier's Behavioral Science began his speech with a peace prayer for all of mankind. He also asked for two minutes silence to remember all of the 500 daughters abducted in Nigeria by an extremist group and all of us prayed for safety and life. He then began his talk by reflecting on the logo of URI which depicts unity in diversity. He also expressed his keenness to work with URI CC's in Gujarat. Highlighting the violence which is taking place in Syria, Ukraine, Nigeria and in India due to elections. Hate speeches and propaganda created fear among the minorities and also in general there is atmosphere of distrust. He prayed and gave his blessings to all CC's in India and to all people working for peace and justice.
Kokilaben runs the largest microfinance self-help group mainly in the locality affected by communal violence. She united Hindus and Muslims under the micro finance schemes which set up a good example to many groups working on peace. She shared her struggles and challenges with the CCs while working for the community. Kokilaben is an inspiration for many of us and she was happy to know the work of CC women doing bridge-building with the help of the wonderful URI Charter.
All the CCs made presentations and shared their work. Some activists who are working for interfaith showed their interest in joining as a CC. They were happy about this zonal assembly and received wonderful feedback for the sessions on energizing the network. A CC Liaison Officer was introduced and he interviewed all the CCs according to the questionnaire in the manual.
On the second day, CCs shared more excellent presentations, highlighting the beginning of the journey in URI and for many. It was an emotional journey to live in the community together that is now being separated due to polarization.
Finally, all the CC members visited Gandhi Ashram and jointly prayed for humanity. The next visit was one to the famous Sufi Shrine which is also a symbol of composite culture.