Doing Interfaith Work
From the Field
Becoming a URI Cooperation Circle (CC) entails being a group of at least seven people, representing at least three religious traditions, and committed to a Charter whose purpose is “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.”
TIO invited three of the more than 1,000 URI Cooperation Circles (CCs) to tell us in 500 words or less the vision and the program of their particular group. These are the responses.
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Circulo de Cooperacion para el Dialogo
by Shinji Marina Tirado
Our vision at Circulo De Cooperación para el Diálogo (Circle of Cooperation for Dialogue) is to develop intercultural and interreligious dialogue to promote peace, understanding, forgiveness, and reconciliation, to study the human psychological and spiritual potential to create peace, and to educate families and communities about values such as tolerance, respect, solidarity, cooperation, trust, and justice.
Living amidst the violence happening in Venezuela, we have had to manage our objectives and reinvent ourselves, creating alliances with non-governmental organizations in civil society. We have also had to overcome obstacles to continue projects such as the one we are carrying out in partnership with the University Central de Venezuela called “Children in a World of Peace.” The aim of this project is to create values for healthy citizen coexistence and construct a culture of peace by focusing on children between six and 11 years of age. Teachings are carried out in various schools, shelters, and communities.
The present moment has led us to understand that we must give the best of ourselves and be grounded in our spirituality as we carry out our commitment to social action. Our action revolves primarily around children who in Venezuela have been impacted by the violence. In particular, we make efforts using material from “Children in a World of Peace” to teach them about practices and values associated with civic coexistence, values that develop the capacity to establish harmonious and healthy human relationships. As well, we teach mindfulness meditation and elaboration of mandalas.
In partnership with the Community Center of Caracas, I offer workshops on mindfulness for children in Petare, one of the largest and most dangerous poor neighborhoods in Caracas. We are also helping create a community library in Petare by donating books and school supplies.
Together with members of Centro Zen Bodaishin, where I am director, this work has led to developing a workshop for teachers in mindfulness, based on Zen for children. This gives them an opportunity to obtain a greater understanding of themselves, both physically and mentally, through concentration, mental calm, and introspection. And we are already in conversations with public and private schools about implementing the training.
We continue making efforts to overcome the difficulties we face given the volatile climate, organizing forums, talks, and interreligious meetings. The last one was on April 8 to commemorate the birth of the Buddha.
Finally, we have periodic meetings to pray for peace in Venezuela and the planet. The Circulo De Cooperación para el Diálogo is made up of different spiritual traditions, and although some have been forced to emigrate, together we continue our meetings for peace with compassion, love, and understanding.
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The Charter for Compassion
by Marilyn Turkovich
The mission of the Charter for Compassion Cooperation Circle is to engage communities and individuals in compassionate action worldwide. The Charter for Compassion was founded in 2009 with the prize money awarded to UK author and scholar Karen Armstrong, who won the 2008 TED Prize for her speech, “Let’s Revive the Golden Rule.”
Through the Compassionate Cities program, we collaborate with grassroots teams of individuals, local, national, and global non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and local governments to help them identify problems of grave concern (e.g., human rights abuses, violence, poverty, homelessness, education equality, pollution, and more) in their immediate communities and to explore viable solutions.
We view our URI Cooperation Circle as our entire global community; currently 440 compassionate cities, 2500 partners, and our members. We develop compassionate solutions by motivating people locally to demand action on behalf of those in need. Working with volunteer leaders of Compassionate Cities and often with URI counterparts, we inspire sustainable action to help the suffering. We connect stakeholders and individuals to foster best practices in local education, community development and human relations. We help communities pilot education programs with measurement and evaluation.
The Charter for Compassion is now entering its second decade led by a board of trustees, a small staff, and the Global Compassion Council, comprised of members from across the globe. Millions of people and groups have affirmed the Charter for Compassion, including governments, faith-based organizations, businesses, charitable organizations, and countless individuals.
Compassionate Cities are working to use the lens of compassion with developing strategies to address local challenges. Grassroots and government leaders use the lens of compassion to solve local challenges where people are suffering from violence, conflict, homelessness, hunger, pollution, and more.
The Charter for Compassion Education Institute (CEI) provides free and low-cost online adult education using live streaming video technology. Courses are authored by uniquely skilled facilitators who share tools and strategies to cultivate self-compassion, compassion for others, and compassionate action.
The work already has had some remarkable results. The murder rate in Las Vegas, NV, USA dropped by 40 percent after police and faith leaders began working together immediately after incidents of gang violence or a violent crime occurs to stop retaliation crimes and comfort families.
The “Godmothers of San Pedro” (Madrinas de San Pedro) in Monterrey, NL, Mexico conducted their own survey of homes in a community living in poverty, then mobilized more than 1,000 volunteers to fix 1,600 homes with leaky roofs.
The BRIDGE project by Compassionate Pakistan helps homeless children who live underneath a bridge in Karachi. Volunteers teach academics, plus homeless families learn nine skills of compassion. Other activities include arts and crafts, sports and more.
Over the next ten years, the Charter for Compassion plans to greatly expand its impact and visibility, particularly shining a light on Compassionate Cities, whose measurable results inspire others around the world. To that end, we will focus on capacity building, compassion as a global social movement, and compassion education.
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Contemplative Life and URI: Cultivating Peace through Practice
by Jeff Genung
“Daily spiritual practice is the technology of inner change.”
Contemplative Life’s sole mission is to connect people and communities with transformative practices. As a United Religions Initiative (URI) Cooperation Circle (CC), Contemplative Life enjoys a beautiful partnership with other CCs – and with URI as a whole – as this non-profit digital technology hub serves the servants of the greater good. Together, Contemplative Life and URI are forging interfaith and interspiritual initiatives that are deeply committed to realizing both inner and outer peace.
Every person has an inner life – a contemplative life –which is both deeply personal and essential to our collective well-being. But the clamor and urgency of the outer life so often robs us of our connection with ourselves, with one another, and with our perception of the Divine. Thankfully, more and more people are finding the antidote to disconnection, burnout, and despair in daily practices designed to cultivate the inner life.
Because URI is comprised of passionate and compassionate change-makers actively engaged in social justice and sacred activism, Contemplative Life offers CC members a much-needed gathering place where they can find practices that nourish their souls.
URI and Contemplative Life both harness the power of digital technology for the good of the world every day. But we all know how the blessings of the Digital Age can easily become a curse. When it comes to spiritual practice, the seemingly endless possibilities can be overwhelming. And so Contemplative Life offers an easily navigated, elegantly designed resource that makes exploring best practices more manageable. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to practice, and we all need help finding what works best for us. A recent visitor described Contemplative Life as “where Gandhi meets Google.” In other words, the transformative practices that enable us to be the change we want to see in the world are easily accessible on this curated site.
In 2018, Contemplative Life began teaming up with URI in a Practice Circle initiative, by which CCs share their practices with one another. Meeting via video conference, CC members lead a 20-minute practice session followed by discussion.
Following the overwhelmingly positive response from this pilot, URI and Contemplative Life teamed up again at the 2018 Parliament of World Religions in Toronto, where practice leaders from various CCs led practices at the URI hospitality suite. The space was also open throughout the day for individual prayer and meditation so people could remain grounded in spite of the hustle and bustle of this momentous event.
Gatherings like the Parliament are often characterized by a tremendous outpouring of inspiration and heightened energy. But, for many of us, there’s a bit of a let-down after the event is over. So how can we stay energized 365 days a year? The answer, once again, is practice. Inspired by and including the URI Practice Circle initiative, Contemplative Life has collaborated with the Brahma Kumaris, UNITY EARTH, and One Spirit Learning Alliance to form Transformation 365. Every other week, a new 20-minute practice session is released via Facebook Premiere, also accessible 24/7 at Transformation365.org. Thousands of people are exploring these practices, which are being released twice (12 hours apart) so URI CCs from time zones around the world can experience them live. And URI CCs are gathering in online communities within the Transformation 365 platform specifically to connect and support one another’s practices.
The spirit of collaboration between URI and Contemplative Life reflects an interfaith, interspiritual symbiosis through which URI CCs are energized and nourished for the important work they do by tapping into the practice resources Contemplative Life offers. As a result, contemplatives become more active and activists become more contemplative in a partnership committed to peace on every level.
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Header Photo: Good Free Photos