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Interfaith Network is Responding to Religious Violence

By Sally Mahé

GROWING GLOBAL CONNECTIONS

Sally Mahé, co-director of URI for Global Programs and Organizational Development, was invited to write an article about the global interfaith internet response to recent bombings in two churchs in Youhanabad, Pakistan. Sally immediately said yes, observing, though, that Pakistan is one of many sites where the tragedy of religious violence deserves and is beginning to receive global attention through interfaith social media. Ed.

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United Religions Initiative Purpose

… 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.

We are hit almost daily with news of atrocious acts of religiously motivated violence – Catholics killed and seriously injured while attending church services in Pakistan, men killed and hurt while attending Friday prayer at their local mosque in Yemen. We learn of three Muslim students killed on a college campus in North Carolina; of 200 girls abducted from grade schools in Northern Nigeria by an extremist group, and on it goes. As communities of people dedicated to interfaith cooperation, mutual respect and reducing religious motivated violence, what are we to do?

United Religions Initiative (URI) is made up of hundreds of interfaith groups called Cooperation Circles (CCs). Many CCs are located in places where this violence happens.

URI members living close to the violence email their anguish and shock across URI’s global network. We hear first-hand accounts – our hearts break – we come face to face with our own feelings of helplessness to make the senseless terror, killing, and maiming stop.

Dear URI brothers,
Sadness is a small word if you come to compare it with what we really feel when we see the pictures of dead children in the mosque with their dead fathers. It is really hurting so much you can't imagine how the mothers and sisters of those affected people feel. They were waiting for their fathers and brothers to come back from the Friday prayers but they didn't come. The horrible news only came to them. Let's pray for them, let's pray for peace in the whole world.
CC Yemen, Youth of Peace Organization

People respond – across cultures, nations, diverse religious and oceans, people express their sorrow and solidarity. We offer words of love, comfort, wisdom, and faith drawn from our different traditions and life experiences.

Dear Family,
The events in our world today, though very saddening, serve as constant reminders to us of the great urgency and significance of our work together to promote peace, justice and healing for all. It was Pakistan, then Tunisia and today it is Yemen, who knows next? We must remain prayerful, vigilant and continue to give out our gifts and time, sometimes, even the supreme gift of ourselves.
It is well.
Emmanuel, Abuja, Nigeria

URI CCs encourage one another, pray for one another, share feelings and actions. A recent response shows actions of solidarity arising

Photo: URI

Photo: URI

I am Lori Whittemore, member of the Abbey of Hope CC, in Yarmouth Maine, USA. In response to recent news of the religiously motivated violence in Pakistan, I wanted to offer a program idea that our CC is organizing with other groups on April 7. We offer this idea to other CCs that might want to take local action in solidarity with people suffering violence and hostility in Pakistan and in other places as well….

What can we do? We can connect. We can reach out and communicate. We may not yet have capacity to rally a global response for hundreds of us to stand body to body in violent stricken areas and demand a stop to violence, but we can rally our interconnected global body of interfaith activists to use the internet to speak our prayers, our comfort, our acts of solidarity. Communication may not end the violence but it can ease suffering and build a strong foundation of global communal support.

Dear URI Brother and Sisters,
Thank you very much being with us at this time of sorrow and insecurity. Your prayers are felt strongly that empower us daily to go on with life. May Peace prevail in Pakistan and all over the world.
Regards, 
Naveed Bhatti
Project Coordinator, Ezaz-e-Niswan Development Organization (EDO)