It is our great honor to introduce 13 new Cooperation Circles accepted as United Religions Initiative members on August 12, 2015. We are inspired by the amazing work these new members are doing and we welcome them with happy hearts to be part of the URI network.
Faces of Peace Kenya
Faces of Peace Association-Kenya (FOPA) is a youth led registered Civil Society Organization. It brings together youthful, ambitious, dedicated and peace loving Kenyans through various forums such as community work, volunteer work, networking, training, and capacity building, among others. Faces of Peace Kenya initiative leaders met for the first time during the 2010 Global Peace Festival in Nairobi and were very active in ensuring peace prevailed during the elections across the country in 2013. They have run several projects like UN4U, Youth and Police Peace Initiative, Financial Literacy Programs, ICT skills workshops, and Post 2015 Agenda and Capacity Building. The Youth and Police Peace Initiative (URAFIKI WETU USALAMA WETU) is their most memorable highlight. This program aims to reconcile and foster closer relationship between the youth and the police. It stems from the realization that the youth and the police played a very big role in the post-election violence of 2007/08, most of which was negative involvement. It aims to break the mistrust, suspicion and unfriendly relationships that have existed between the youth and police, especially in the run-up to the general elections. This program involves taking young people to the police station and establishing a platform for positive engagement with the police. The youth and police undertake various community works within the police station: cleaning of the police station, holding cells, slashing, garbage collection, and tree planting. This is followed by an open forum where the youth, police and other invited guests and stakeholders engage in constructive discussions on security and other issues affecting the youth and police. This event is climaxed by the youth brushing the police officers’ boots in a show of humility, friendship, togetherness and cooperation.
World Kindness Liberia
World Kindness Liberia is a Monrovia-based registered national Non-Governmental Organization whose objectives include: To invest time and resources in the creation of awareness about random acts of kindness, which will enable Liberians to exercise decisive influence in a just solution to the challenges of humanity. To create a hopeful generation of peace, love and understanding through the adoption of random acts of kindness for the well-being of all Liberians. To explore opportunities for national peace and post-war unity and development through various, kindness-stimulating programs and projects. The Organization conducts trainings, summits, conferences and empowerment programs. Recently they were also involved in distributions of clothes, medical aid, and food items to families affected by the recent Ebola outbreak in Liberia. World Kindness Liberia was established to respond to the call for kindness where and whenever possible. Liberia is a secular state comprised of various religious practices, dominantly: Christianity, Indigenous beliefs and Islam. In order to inspire kindness amidst religious biases, World Kindness Liberia chooses to remain neutral, working without any borders and by any means through which it can achieve its goal of creating a kinder nation. Embedding Kindness in the communities, classrooms, the workplaces and within our Corridors of Government, this campaign inspires positive change, allowing us to rediscover our will to give and overcome our fear. In the period from 2005 until the present, the Islamic group has been pushing for equal participation in Liberia in every social, economic and political affair of Liberia. The resistance has always been stiff but the struggle continues. In regions of Liberia that border neighboring Guinea, especially, the rifts are becoming obvious for religious dominance. Interfaith bridge building is becoming a necessity in mustering cordiality among all Liberians. The plan of the group is to network with other URI member organizations for partnership as well as liaising with the government and other organizations to help support their cause in Liberia.
Gilvah represents a bridge between a corporate/professional organization and an organic, dynamic new type of organization born out of a consciousness that speaks to our human need to live life outwardly, generously and mindfully. Gilvah is an organization for women, by women. Gilvah.com is a web portal that is designed to connect women with the professional advice they seek at a time and place convenient to them. It also gives professional women a secure, virtual office which they can work from at a time and place of their own choosing. In short, it creates a win-win situation for women who are traditionally time-poor, overburdened with responsibilities, or constrained by family or other commitments. This group is looking for places to make a difference, not only in the way business is done between people who offer services and those who need them, but also in the way business partners with projects. They are looking for women’s projects that they can support both materially and morally. Gilvah is looking for ways to empower, uplift and inspire women at every level and at every age. Women are invited to step up, take control of their lives and unite because we can. Women may have a dream of a peaceful, equitable world but unless real action is taken, the dream will remain just an idea someone once had. So this CC is looking for ways to make a difference and they believe that through their network they can generate the awareness, compassion and action that can truly change the world in spite of itself.
Deeplaid Religion Society (DRS) of Bangladesh
Deeplaid Religion Society (DRS) of Bangladesh is highly committed to ensuring the health of poor people of all religions. DRS is also committed to continuing humanitarian service by producing quality medicine and serving the nation. The main purpose of DRS is to gather people from all kinds of religions and to replace religious discrimination with fraternity. Members look forward to becoming initiators of positive changes and to creating a better future through building a society of equal opportunities without prejudices. They plan to achieve their goal of organizing interfaith meetings, religious seminars, workshops and conferences to promote dialogue and interfaith cooperation, as well as ending religious violence and orthodoxy. They look forward to peace-building and bridge-building among all religions and societies from different parts of Bangladesh. They encourage and provide resources and training for individuals to develop leadership skills. They support and implement peace activities through their schooling program, and promote peace and positive change through cultural and ecological activities. DRS is the largest reformer of Bangladesh. The Society started its journey in 2000 with the honest promise of providing financial help to the poor people of all religions in Bangladesh. Its state-of-the-art manufacturing plant, located in Matuail, Jatrabari, 7 km from Dhaka Metropolitan city, is equipped with highly sophisticated and advanced facilities. The facility is planned and designed to meet local as well as international demand, both qualitatively and quantitatively.
Youth Empowerment CC
Youth Empowerment CC’s purpose is to empower youth to undertake service-oriented projects and to promote communal harmony. They are working in different cultural activities, and engaging youth through social and cultural programs. They want to see their area absolutely free from religiously-motivated violence; a place where people can live in peace and absolute harmonious coexistence. All their activities are somehow related to education. They organize language base activities, especially among the children. They expose children to interfaith experiences to create understanding from childhood. Working with children is the most precious memory for them.
Strive For Better Civilization CC
Strive for better Civilization Cooperation Circle was formed by nine people of the Bahai, Hindu, and Muslim communities who want to contribute to civilization advancement. They are working in different empowerment program areas such as child, youth, and women empowerment. They have experience in working together in the field of social welfare. They are also interested in education and health. It is a very real fact that they have tremendous religious conflicts in their part of the world and desperately need this timely approach of interfaith cooperation. This is why they have chosen to be part of URI to start strengthening their interfaith relationships. They are starting work with families so that they live in a balanced, peaceful life, because they want their area to be absolutely free from religiously-motivated violence. They believe all people should live in peace and in absolute, harmonious coexistence.
INDIA – SOUTH ZONE
Chaitanya Service Society
Chaitanya Service Society is a very promising group of dedicated community workers. They are running an orphanage and plan to create an age home. They have continuously provided holistic services to about 80 children (orphans), both girls and boys, for the past five years. There is a noticeable raise in number of differences and clashes among persons of different faiths in the area. The reasons are found to be very trivial and easily resolvable. This group of like-minded persons from different religions, taking care of children, is a good model for the community. A memorable moment of their work was training 20 rural women and helping them to establish their own tailoring unit, thereby improving their income.
Grama Jyothi Society (GJS) CC, Andhrapradesh
Grama Jyothi is a Sanskrit word which means “light of the village”. This group is formed by seasoned interfaith practitioners and committed social workers, who strive for the uplifting of the poor communities in village areas. They focus their work on women and children, people with disabilities, single women, environmental sustainability, empowerment issues, human rights, acts and development. They are presently running Mahila Mandali, Urban and Rural Aids, Women and Child, and Disability Poverty Development.
HEENA Rural Women Development CC
HEENA Women Rural Development Society is a promising CC in the KADAPPA District of Andhrapradesh. There are a good number of women social activists in this group who bring in a lot of experience in social development programs. They also have a good network of similar social voluntary movements in the Southern part of India. HEENA Rural Women Development CC is located in an area where there is a large Hindu population. There can be conflicts at any time. The mission of this Cooperation Circle is to build lasting peace among this community and minorities. At the same time this group empowers women belonging to less developed regions, takes care of children, and develops a labor skill program (like tailoring) for women. Also, they have done sanitation programs and health-related awareness camps on TB and AIDS. The environment is also a great concern for them.
National Environment and Education Development (NEED)
National Environment and Education Development (NEED) CC is an excellent group of experienced social workers who are committed to harmony and peace with sincere concern and love for the underprivileged and downtrodden. The NEED seeks to build progressive, self-reliant rural communities with a holistic approach, by providing services in the areas of health care, environment, sanitation, primary education, adult literacy and skill development. The organization is involved in various socio-economic development programs such as Child Labor Rehabilitation, Eye Care Services, Income Generating Programs, Promotion of Self Help Groups and other community-based organizations, people's institutions, savings and credit, community-based rehabilitation of the differently abled, safe drinking water, health and sanitation, policy advocacy on child rights, child sponsorship, informal and supplementary education such as non-residential bridge schools and bridge schools and inclusive education, HIV/AIDS etc. They have been involved in this work since 2002. They bring a lot of experience to our movement.
Red Nacional De Educadores Agrarios Del Paraguay
This group represents a large community of 700 agrarian institutes that have being working together to strengthen the professionalization of agricultural education, to improve its technical degree and the environmental technician training. They make decisions together in regional assemblies, which is a guarantee of respect for diversity and inclusiveness. The group has sustained experience working to support families and a huge amount of experience in spreading agrarian and environmental schools, generating book editions to support agricultural studies, and helping community development. They trained technicians and professionals and they invite them to be part of the network. The interest of the group is to promote family farms and community development. Their work covers a meaningful spectrum: children education, human rights, religious freedom, sharing indigenous wisdom, religious dialogue, and care of Mother Earth. What they most value of themselves is their ability to answer to the hopes of people, and the acceptance and confidence that the people of the agricultural sector of Paraguay have given to them. One of their projects is to implement Pastoral Orchards in the gardens of places of worship.
Sun Devils Are Better Together (SUNDABT)
The purpose of this 50+ member interfaith group at Arizona State University (ASU) is to bring students from different worldviews together to voice their values and beliefs, to engage across lines of difference, and to act together to improve the community based on shared values. They gather in weekly meetings for dialogue and discussion, in monthly events to celebrate cultural diversity, and in an annual service project to meet the needs of the local community. They started about two years ago, initially within student and cultural engagement. ASU has huge, active faith and non-faith communities that are already thriving. They noticed that they were operating in isolation from one another. They saw it as an opportunity to build bridges, and to help people get to know each other as people -- regardless of labels or identities. They take interfaith work a little further into also looking at work among groups with different identities from each other, such as LGBT, cultural heritage, race, etc. Before they started the organization, the thing that was most concerning to the group was that there were many organizations (such as Muslim ones, seven Christian ones, Jewish ones, secular ones, etc.), a lot of whom did service projects targeting the same communities. But they weren’t sharing resources and cooperating. So, SUNDABT was formed. It’s the first organization on ASU's campus dedicated to doing interfaith work. They started actively doing outreach with these above-mentioned organizations and encourage people to be a part of their individual communities, but also to engage with people across lines of difference and to actually make a difference in the community.
Eurynome – Weavers of Sacred Movement
The mission of Eurynome – Weavers of Sacred Movement is to bring sacred feminine dance to restore peace, balance and unity in the world. Eurynome’s goal is to bring together women from a range of diverse spiritual backgrounds, and who are all dancers, to empower not only each other but women around the world who bear witness to their performances and experience their energy. Eurynome is focused on creating environments for the celebration of the Sacred Feminine in all its diverse manifestations in cultures around the world. They are committed to empowering women and fostering greater interfaith and intercultural understanding through their dance. In this way they join the host of URI Cooperation Circles that seek to foster greater understanding through the arts, as well as those CCs who focus on empowering women.