Stepping Up and Out
URI’s purpose statement “to end religiously motivated violence” can feel impossible and overwhelming. Audri Scott Williams, founder of the Trail of Dreams Cooperation Circle, shares how she and a small group, trusting in their own sincerity, pursued this purpose on six continents. Currently, Audri is a cherished URI trustee; active in several Cooperation Circles; a member of URI’s Multiregion leadership team; and, a candidate for US Congress from her home district in Southern Alabama.
In 2009 she wrote:
I have a sincere commitment to the United Religions Initiative’s vision to end religiously motivated violence, and to build cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living beings.
In pursuit of this purpose, The Trail of Dreams Cooperation Circle organized a World Peace Walk, 2005 to 2009. We walked on six continents. We were Muslim, Christian and Indigenous. We were racially mixed, ages 4 to 84. My mother was in a wheelchair. We were straight. We were gay. We had to blend these differences in a way that allowed us to become family centered in a shared vision of peace and transformation. In preparation, we decided that when we reach a point of fear or overwhelm in relationship to “difference” as we walk for peace, remember to stop and drop – from the head to the heart, and feel our way through the experience.
"Our vision was so huge, that we were unstoppable"
Honestly, this entire experience never should have happened, yet our shared vision that, “we could change and transform the world – beginning with ourselves” was so naively huge – so huge, that we were unstoppable. We could not see outside of this possibility. So one step at a time we showed up to what showed up!
If we were constrained by religious sanction, we never ever would have made it past our own homes. If this journey had never taken place, we would not know the awe of the Golden Temple; the beauty of a Native American Church ceremony, the peace as the call for prayer sounded through the Islamic community. We would not know the heart of families around the world who had so little material means but would take us into their homes and care for us with such love. We would not have witnessed men of every faith taking my mother as their mother, carrying her in their arms as though it was a holy privilege.
We learned that as we work to end religiously motivated violence, we must also seek to be advocates for what is right, what is just, what is truth. To do anything less only perpetuates our complicity in religiously motivated hostility.
We learned that one person and a small group can change the world. We have to be relentless in telling the stories that prove this to be so.