Feb 03 2009

URI - UN Launches 2009 UN International Year of Reconcilliation

URI at the UN

Journey to Peace: Nonviolence • Reconciliation • Human Rights

URI-UN United Nations Launch of The 2009 UN International Year of Reconciliation, The Gandhi-King Season for Nonviolence and The 2009 UN International Year of Human Rights Learning

29 January 2009 The United Religions Initiative at the United Nations (URI-UN), a Cooperation Circle of the United Religions Initiative, has chosen the International Year of Reconciliation as the overarching theme for its 2009 events. We will host side events during the various UN Commissions meeting this spring on Social Development, the Status of Women, and Sustainable Development, as well as the Indigenous Forum this summer, the International Day of Peace in September, and the Week of Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns around UN Day in October. Kicking off this series was a double event held on Thursday, January 29th to launch the Year of Reconciliation, along with the annual 64-day Season for Nonviolence honoring the legacies of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., from January 30th to April 4th. The Committee of Religious NGOs at the United Nations co-sponsored the morning service. We gained another co-sponsor when the NGO Committee on Human Rights informed us that 2009 was also designated as the International Year of Human Rights Learning, yet another vital component of a culture of peace. URI-UN CC Welcomes Trail of Dreams CC URI-UN chose January 29th when we learned that the Trail of Dreams, led by Audri Scott Williams, which is also a Cooperation Circle of the URI Multi-Region, would be in New York at the time on the last leg of its journey around the world. The members wanted to walk from the United Nations to “ground zero,” the former site of the World Trade Center towers, before proceeding on the home stretch to Atlanta, where they would end their travels at the Martin Luther King Center during a ceremony respecting the day of Dr. King’s assassination.


The day’s events began in the lovely chapel of the Church Center across the street from the United Nations, where the Office of the Chaplain invited URI-UN to organize the weekly prayer service. All who entered were charmed by the music of Jackie Tice, who brings forth the spirit of her Native American heritage. After a warm welcome by Chaplain Kathleen Stone, Bobbi Nasser of the NGO Committee on Human Rights explained the significance of the Year. un_speaker1.jpg speaker2.jpg The Trail of Dreams World Peace Walkers arrived, including Audri’s mother Natalie in a wheelchair and participants from Nigeria, Australia and Costa Rica. Monica Willard, URI’s Representative to the United Nations, introduced them and Audri spoke briefly about their inspiring journey. un_speaker3.jpg un_speaker4.jpg Monica and Jackie then introduced the World Peace Prayer Ceremony with the flags of all nations that all would take part in to bless the Trail of Dreams walkers and pray for peace and reconciliation in all the countries of the world. They had planned a special version of the ceremony where the flags were presented in groups representing the Four Directions, according to Cherokee tradition, with a special extra grouping of flags for the countries of the Middle East. un_speaker5.jpg guitarist.jpg Deborah Moldow, facilitator of URI-UN and UN Representative for the World Peace Prayer Society, led the ceremony. Chaplain Stone had mentioned that the flags represented nations born in blood, so Deborah explained that the purpose of the flags in the ceremony was to purify the history of each nation and pray for the highest shared ideal of peace, justice and harmony for all equally. As the flags for the countries of the North were distributed to about 25-30 people who had gathered to pray, she asked everyone to announce the name of the country whose flag they were holding, after which all said together, “May Peace be in [that country].” Anyone who had a special relationship with the country was free to mention what touched them, and Monica placed flags of countries needed extra prayers in a container on the altar - which filled up very quickly! audience1.jpg While the flags were being collected and handed out in between regions, Jackie led everyone in an original “May Peace Prevail on Earth” chant that she had written for the International Day of Peace: “For all of our brothers, May Peace Prevail on Earth, For all of our sisters, May Peace Prevail on Earth. For all of our elders, May Peace Prevail on Earth, For all of our children, May Peace Prevail on Earth.” audience2.jpg After the prayers for the four regions, all participants came forward into a tight circle to pray together for the countries of the Middle East. The ceremony ended with prayers for the indigenous nations, all the other regions of the world, and, of course, “May Peace Prevail on Earth.” Brenda, who had joined the Peace Walkers in Australia, closed the event by sharing a beautiful message from an Aboriginal elder. Deborah and Monica were delighted to receive Trail of Dreams tee shirts. Deborah offered Audri a mini-Peace Pole, and Audri said the group was invited the next day to Newark, New Jersey, where they would plant two Peace Poles! Everyone paused for a joyful photo of the Trail of Dreams walkers, along with URI-UN members who had been so helpful during the ceremony, Rabbi Roger Ross and Swamini Sri Lalitambika Devi.


After a brief break for lunch, it was time for the second part of the day’s events, a monthly meeting of the NGO Committee on Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns-NY (CSVGC-NY), which was founded by URI-UN member Diane Williams and is currently chaired by URI-UN co-facilitator Audrey Kitagawa. The first guests were leaders Rolf Carriere and Mel Duncan of the Nonviolent Peaceforce, an innovative strategy to replace military interventions with a citizen force armed only with love. Next, the Trail of Dreams walkers were introduced, and Audri Scott Williams had a full opportunity to describe the deep philosophy underlying her journey, connecting from heart to heart with people of widely divergent cultures, religions and languages across the globe. Everyone was moved by her description of what it was like to come into a community as strangers halfway around the world and to be welcomed as family. Audri had been particularly touched by how tenderly people treated her elderly mother in parts of the world where people rarely live that long. She said that language was never a barrier when everyone spoke the same language of the heart. Other members of the group, including Brenda, Karen, Tony and Alita, also spoke, and, after questions from the audience, Sam Lackey closed with a song of peace. un_speaker6.jpg audience4.jpg Bernice Cousins of URI-UN then led a beautiful white light meditation to gather and distribute the energy. Deborah continued the meditation as the flags of all nations were distributed among the 50 people in the room. She asked everyone to hold the flags tenderly, envisioning six billion people held in our hands, while Jackie Tice played her native flute. audience5.jpg audience6.jpg All held the flags out as the Peace Walkers went down the aisle, followed by the representatives of the Nonviolent Peace Force, and Jun Yasuda, a longtime peace walker from the Grafton Peace Pagoda in upper New York State, receiving the blessings of the CSVGC-NY members in the spirit of nonviolence, reconciliation and a world at peace. All raised their voices in a joyful, “May Peace Prevail on Earth!”


URI-UN will continue to highlight the 2009 International Year of Reconciliation. URI-UN members are assisting the UN Department of Public Information in organizing the next Thursday’s DPI/NGO weekly briefing on the Year in the Dag Hammarskjöld Auditorium. The following week, on February 12th, there will be a Commission on Social Development Side Event on “The Journey to Reconciliation: Social Integration as a Step on the Journey,” organized by URI-UN alternate UN representative, Sr. Carol Zinn. Future events are being planned by URI-UN members for the Commission on the Status of Women, the Commission on Sustainable Development (in partnership with the Eco-Spirituality Working Group of CSVGC and the Earth Values Caucus), the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the International Day of Peace and the Week of Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns in October. URI-UN Council: Bernice B. Cousins, Martha Gallahue, Anele Heiges, Audrey Kitagawa, Swamini Sri Lalitambika Devi, Deborah Moldow, Roger Ross, Betsy Stang, Monica Willard, Carol Zinn

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