Rachael Watcher and I are at the Regional Assembly of the Multiregion of the United Religions Initiative (www.URImulti.org). The URI’s member groups – Cooperation Circles or “CCs” – are organized into Regions. Seven are geographic: Africa; Asia; Europe; Latin America & the Caribbean; the Middle East & North Africa; North America; Southeast Asia & the Pacific. The eighth Region – the Multiregion – is for those CCs whose members are in more than one Region or that have a purpose that is broader than one Region. The Multiregion has always been the odd man out at URI meetings because whenever we break up to meet by Regions, folks usually go to the Region where they physically reside, leaving the Multiregional meeting virtually empty.
“Virtual” has been the key word here. More than any other Region, the Multiregion has relied on email and Skype to stay connected. This is the FIRST Multiregion Regional Assembly -- i.e. face-to-face meeting -- even though the URI is 10 years old.
We are at Anubhuti, a Meditation and Retreat Center run by the Brahma Kumaris in Marin, just north of San Francisco (www.anubhutiretreatcenter.org). The site is lovely and great for a small meeting. There are about 20 people here, representing 15 CCs from around the world, including: A Circle of Healers; Spirituality and the Earth; Everest Peace Project; Expressing the URI thru Music & Arts; the URI Office at the United Nations (We are an EcoSoc NGO at the UN.); Think Peace Media; The Pilgrimage Project; WIN URI (Women in Network); and URI Global Youth.
Today was mostly focused on recovering from jet lag, reconnecting with old friends, catching up, and sharing a sacred opening out on the terrace. Mussie Hailu is here from Ethiopia – He’s the guy who told me the Tabibe story that appears earlier in this blog. Biswadeb Chakraborty is here from India – The Director of South Asian projects for my Lost & Endangered Religions Project will join us tomorrow to talk with Biswadeb about expanding our projects into north India. Monica Willard is here from New York – She’s our representative at the UN. Elana Rozenman is here from Jerusalem – She brings optimistic news about peace efforts in the Middle East.
The opening welcome was led by Yoland Trevino, an indigenous Mayan woman who is the Chair of the URI’s Global Council (which in itself says volumes about the URI), and the Rev. Canon Charles Gibbs, the URI’s Executive Director. They both spoke about the importance of doing interfaith work. What we all share, Charles said, is the awareness that life is a gift and we respond to that gift by giving back in the form of service.
The real work begins tomorrow. More to come…
National Interfaith Representative