My wife, Connie, and I usually spend Christmas with our married son and daughter and our two granddaughters, but this year ended up being the in-laws' turn to be with both kids. So, we decided to do something totally different and use our Christmas vacation time to visit two of URI’s active and very successful regions, so that I can more effectively explain to donors and prospects the work URI does from a firsthand point of view. We chose to visit URI’s East India Regional Coordinator, Biswadeb Chakraborty, in Kolkata, West Bengal, and URI’s South India Regional Coordinator, Abraham Karickam, in Karickam, Kerala, both of whom welcomed us into their homes and communities. What follows are some of our experiences during our visits.
Kerala – December 23-27 – Part 2
Boy Scouts' Final Examination and Graduation Ceremony
Approximately 200 Boy Scouts in full uniform gathered in the large meeting hall at Karickam International Public School to take their final examination and for their graduation ceremony. Our host in Kerala, Abraham Karickam, URI South India Regional Coordinator, had arranged for Connie and me to be honored guests at the graduation ceremony. After he gave a welcoming talk that included an introduction to the United Religions Initiative and the URI Purpose, Preamble and Principles as guidelines for how to live life, Abraham introduced me as a representative of URI’s Global Support Office in California, USA. I congratulated the Scouts on their graduation, highlighting that scouting is revered around the world, that by having participated in scouting and living up to scouting values and principals, they would be well positioned to do well in life and to accomplish the objectives they set for themselves. I encouraged the Scouts to get involved in a URI Cooperation Circle to help us bring peace to the world. What an honor to have been able to participate in this important occasion with these fine young men!
What an honor to have been able to participate in this important occasion with these fine young men!
Many of the neighborhoods in Karickam, Kerala, hold annual gatherings at the home of one of the residents. These are a big deal and the entire neighborhood attends.
(Click the yellow arrows below to scroll through the photo slideshow.)
Connie and I were invited as honored guests to the multi-faith Ayppalloor Edan Nagar neighborhood Christmas and New Year celebration by URI Global Trustee John Kurakar and URI South India Regional Coordinator Abraham Karickam, in Karickam, Kerala, at the residence of Mr. Mathew K.G. Mathaikutty, Executive Secretary of URI South India Zone. The neighborhood event was attended by about 350 neighbors of all ages and included traditional music by the youngsters, a prayer for peace by the pastor, and talks mostly about the United Religions Initiative by both Dr. Kurakar and Dr. Karickam. Connie and I were introduced, and I thanked Drs. Kurakar and Karicham for their service to URI, and the attendees for their support of URI. I expressed our deep appreciation for the generous hospitality of the people of Kerala during our visit.
URI's Zero Limits Cooperation Circle, Kerala, India
It was an honor for Connie and me to visit with URI's Zero Limits Cooperation Circle (CC), its leaders Devi Raj and Mohan Lal, their family and some CC members. We met at the CC’s office, which doubles as the office Devi and Lal’s psychology practice.
We learned of Zero Limits's great work focused on youth, women, interfaith, peace, the environment and nuclear disarmament - truly an ambitious group.
We learned of the CC’s great work focused on youth, women, interfaith, peace, the environment and nuclear disarmament - truly an ambitious group. Because of their background as teachers, Devi and Lal have been able to develop relationships with many of the schools in South India where they put on interfaith programs and workshops for large groups of students often with 200 to 300 participants, reaching literally thousands of young people each year. At the core of the programs are the URI Preamble, Purpose and Principles.
Reflections on URI India
Viewing URI from our North America perspective, it is difficult to understand URI and the impact it has on communities in other parts of the world. Interacting in person, as Connie and I did, with Biswadeb Chakraborty, URI’s India National and Eastern Zone Regional Coordinator and Abraham Karickam, URI India South Zone Regional Coordinator, their staff, and some of their Cooperation Circle leaders and members, is the only way to even begin “to get” URI.
URI is woven into the fabric of their communities.
In both regions, URI is woven into the fabric of their communities; URI is talked about from church pulpits, in schools, in Scouting, in homes, at community gatherings. Like other regional coordinators and Global Council Trustees, Biswadeb and Abraham are leaders and role models in their communities and live URI; URI is part of who they are. They are making a difference in their communities and clearly creating cultures of peace, justice and healing.
Read more reflections from this trip: