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United Religions Initiative (URI)

Abstract The United Religions Initiative (URI) is a growing global community of individuals, organizations, and associations working to build cultures of peace and justiceand healing. Care for the Earth is central to URI’s vision and values, which are clearly expressed in its Charter, the foundation and guide for all URI activities. Among other stated commitments to diversity, inclusivity, and nonviolence are the following: “We unite to heal and protect the Earth” (Preamble); “The purpose of [URI] 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” (Purpose); and “We act from sound ecological practices to protect and preserve the Earth for both present and future generations” (Principles). Members from different traditions and locations around the world are continuously creating the URI through their shared vision, partnerships, and projects. Although its global coordinating office is located in San Francisco, URI is a decentralized, non-hierarchical, and inclusive organization with regional staffing in seven geographic areas (Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, North Africa, North America, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific) and one non-geographic/issues-based region (multiregional). Self-organizing Cooperation Circles, which operate locally and are connected globally, form the core of URI. To qualify as a Cooperation Circle, a group must have at least seven members from at least three different religious, spiritual, or indigenous traditions. Through locally initiated actions, people from diverse religious and spiritual backgrounds draw upon their resourcefulness, creativity, and religious values to deepen their understanding of other faiths and contribute to positive change in their communities. Circles take on cooperative projects of various kinds, some of which focus specifically on environmental concerns. In India, for example, Cooperation Circle initiatives include: tree planting, water and waste management, environmental programs for youth, and restoration of cremation grounds. Circles in the United States, such as Spiritual Alliance for the Earth (SAFE) in the San Francisco Bay Area and Faith in Place in Chicago, also focus on environmental issues. In addition to the Cooperation Circles, which form the heart of the Initiative, URI is supported by its Peacebuilder Members and Affiliates: individuals and organizations that share its values, participate in some of its global projects, and offer financial support to the URI. At present, there are more than 200 Cooperation Circles with more than 26,000 members in fifty different countries. Together, they represent over eighty-eight spiritual traditions and consist of women, men, elders, youth, and people from different cultures and nations who share a common vision and commitment to the URI Charter.
Religion Inter-religious: Indigenous Tradition
Geographic Location International
Duration of Project 1995–Present
History The origins of the United Religions Initiative (URI) date back to an inter-religious service commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations (UN) in San Francisco held in 1995. When first asked to host the event in 1993, Bishop William Swing of the Episcopal Diocese of California began to wonder why there was not a daily organization for a United Religions, just like there was a daily organization for United Nations. He decided to launch a worldwide initiative to build an enduring global organization dedicated to creating cultures of peace and justice for the world. URI held the first of five Global Summits in 1996, the last of which was the URI Charter Signing in 2000. In 2002, members and friends of URI attended URI's first Global Assembly in Brazil. In addition to its global summits, URI has sponsored numerous regional summits and gatherings around the world. Since its founding, more than a million people have participated in URI events. The Initiative has organized inter-religious projects in more than sixty countries and generated a global, inter-religious community of Cooperation Circles and supporting members.
Mission Statement “The purpose of the United Religions Initiative 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.”
Partner Organizations

The Chaordic Alliance
Council for the Parliament of the World’s Religions
Habitat for Humanity
Interfaith Youth Core
International Interfaith Organization
National Youth Violence Prevention Campaign
Social Innovations in Global Management
United Nations
World Peace Prayer Society

Long-Term Goals

URI's vision for 2010
URI's Cooperation Circles (CC) are currently a powerful network engaged in daily interfaith action for peace, justice, and healing. Cooperation Circle members work daily to address issues such as religiously motivated violence, poverty, hunger, environmental degradation, HIV/AIDS, human rights, and religious persecution. To achieve greater impact, URI will strengthen its capacity for cooperation, effective peacebuilding, and interfaith action. By 2010, we envision a thousand CCs in 100 countries and a million individuals committed to achieving our purpose in their local communities.

Strategic Objective #1
Deliver Programs of Interfaith Peacebuilding and Action

URI will implement programs of interfaith peacebuilding and action to counter the forces that divide rather than unite communities. URI will also deliver resources to enhance the capacity of its Cooperation Circles and collaborative partners for increased success in achieving URI's purpose.

Strategic Objective #2
Strengthen URI's Community of Cooperation Circles

URI will support the sustainable development if its community of Cooperation Circles while growing to 1,000 CCs engaged in effective action for peace, justice, and healing.

Strategic Objective #3
Engage Partners for Collective Global Action

URI will mobilize a community of 1,000,000 URI supporting members and strengthen and increase partnerships for collective global action for peace, justice, and healing.

Strategic Objective #4
Build and Strengthen and Effective Global Organization

URI will become a model of global organizational effectiveness and efficiency, grounded in its Preamble, Purpose, and Principles.

Bibliography None Listed
Additional Research Resources

Swing, William E. The Coming United Religions @@@@@@

Gibbs, Charles and Sally Mahe. The Birth of A Global Community: Appreciative Inquiry in Action. @@@@@

URI Interfaith Peacebuilding Guide @@@@

Contact Information The United Religions Initiative
P.O. Box 29242
San Francisco, CA 94129
Ph:       415.561.2300
Fax:     415.561.2313
Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)