Global Interfaith Grassroots Leaders & Youth Acknowledged at Global Assembly in Mayapur, India
December 2008 –The United Religions Initiative (URI) held an unprecedented global gathering of 300 grassroots interfaith leaders, from 44 countries, including over one hundred young leaders. From November 25th to December 6th, 2008, in Mayapur, India, URI’s second Global Assembly was a combination of hard work and joyous celebration.
Billed as a pilgrimage, the URI Global Assembly offered for many a first experience of traveling outside their country to meet a beautifully, wildly diverse and loving gathering of URI colleagues. Aligned by the purpose and principles of URI and working on interfaith projects worldwide, hundreds of members were able to speak face-to-face, learn from one another’s successes and build further alliances within the URI network and beyond. One young woman from Uganda reported, “I am the only person in my CC who can read or write. But all of the other women tell me that they love URI because it is the only thing that gives them a voice in the world.”
Positive outcomes from this gathering were abundant, and ushered URI into a new level of maturity in the world of international interfaith action. Authentically led from the grassroots, and fully including Indigenous and minority voices not always heard, URI members created their own regional development plans, and articulated their most urgent issues and visions collectively to the newly elected URI Trustees.
Official business included acknowledging the retiring Global Council Trustees who served judiciously from 2005 to 2008, swearing in the twenty-eight globally elected Trustees who will serve until 2012, and electing officers and establishing committees to carry out the work. Yoland Trevino, an indigenous woman from Guatemala, living in the US was elected to serve a second term as Chair. Shlomo Alon, from Israel, and Marites Africa, from the Philippines, were elected as Vice-Chairs. URI Founder, Bishop William Swing, was elected to serve another term as President. Rabbi Doug Kahn from the US was elected to serve another term as Treasurer, with Anas al Abadi from Jordan as Assistant Treasurer. P. K. McCary of the US was elected to serve a second term as Secretary with Pelecinah Josiah Pele from Nigeria as Assistant Secretary. The Rev. Charles Gibbs was affirmed to continue serving URI as Executive Director.
The pre-Assembly Young Leaders Program galvanized bright and talented new leadership for URI and a strong collective interfaith youth voice for peace. They held trainings on leadership, interfaith dialogue and other peacebuilding skills and also participated in service projects - painting a peace mural and planting trees with the local village schoolchildren. They stayed on for the Global Assembly and energized everything. At the end they created a Youth Council, took multiple applications to start new Co-operation Circles (URI membership groups), started an interfaith environmental initiative, planned a retreat in Indonesia, and started working on a presentation of the Council for the Parliament of World’s Religions meeting in Melbourne, Australia, next December.
The theme for the Global Assembly gathering at the ISKCON (Krishna Consciousness) World Center in Mayapur, “Pilgrims of Peace: Many Paths, One Purpose,” was powerfully affirmed by the successful engagement of so many diverse people, cultures, faiths and action projects as well as the dedication of URI members and their commitment to peace through building respectful relationships.