Table of Contents
“Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.”
John F. Kennedy
FIERCELY AWARE: The Brutal Facts: 1.1.3
Small Group, Big Change
The Mobius Life (see last post here), meaning that we reach for the best within ourselves and dissolve the barrier between our inner and outer lives, just might be our best bet for answering the challenging questions and solving the individual and collective problems we face today. Sound too good to be true? Consider this.
In 1995, the Episcopal Bishop of California, Bishop William Swing urged the world religions to consider their role in world peace. With a history of strife and violence between groups, Swing’s invitation seemed more than a little optimistic. But Swing persisted, challenging leaders to consider what might “shift historic patterns of hostility, ignorance, isolation and political manipulation among religions to unprecedented levels of friendship and collaboration among people of different faiths.”
David Cooperrider, Professor of Organizational Development at Case Western Reserve University and Dee Hock, founder of VISA turned organizational innovator, responded to this audacious challenge and created a vision for a global grassroots organization that would attract a maximum mix of stakeholders across religions and all sectors of society.
The essential first step in the multi-year effort was to name the strengths that each group brought to the challenge.
In 2000, the effort was formalized with a charter and named the United Religions Initiative (URI). URI includes, in some instances, religious groups that are in dialogue with one another for the first time, following a history of encounters as determined adversaries. By inviting these unlikely partners to focus on human goodness – the best in each person and the group – the URI has realized extraordinary accomplishments. According to the Executive Director of the United Religions Initiative, Rev. Victor H. Kazanjian, Jr.,
Where active violence is occurring, like Pakistan, Nigeria or Yemen, URI Cooperation Circles intervene by bringing together combatants into dialogue, using conflict resolution and peace-building strategies to stop violence, build relationships and create the conditions for developing lasting peace. Where the legacy of violence and war have left deep scars on countries, Sri Lanka and Bosnia and Herzegovina, URI Cooperation Circles are creating coalitions of people from different groups who are working together to restore relationships and rebuild communities and countries.
Where conflict has not yet erupted into violence, but issues of poverty, injustice, human rights violations and deteriorating social conditions are tearing apart societies, URI Cooperation Circles work to address issues of economic development, education, health, women’s empowerment and youth leadership. Where ignorance and prejudice are eroding civility and fragment communities, URI Cooperation Circles build bridges of interreligious and intercultural understanding, enabling diverse communities to establish cohesive relationships.
URI expects that 1,000,000 individuals in 1,000 Cooperation Circles, in more than 100 countries to be engaged in peace building activities by 2020.
If focusing on what is best in each of us can engage a million people to transcend conflicts as old as time, it is worth taking very seriously. Time is of the essence as our everyday experiences are clearly taking a toll on many of the very qualities we need most right now.
The issues aren’t only unfolding on the world stage, there are in our everyday lives. Here’s how things are playing out in workplaces.