A Challenge: Creating a Global, Virtual Meeting Space

September 14, 2005

The challenge: what is the best, least costly method for connecting people from all continents, with Internet connections ranging from broadband to slow dial-up or none at all, with the intention of allowing significant discussion on diverse matters? What if there were 100 people present? 300? 600? Can this challenge be met with a single technology, will it require a hodge-podge of media, protocols, and devices, or is it simply impossible? The United Religions Initiative is looking to do this very thing by the end of the year.

The purpose of the United Religions Initiative (URI, www.uri.org) is to promote enduring, daily interfaith dialogue, to end religiously-motivated violence, and create cultures of peace, justice, and healing for the Earth and all living beings. Since the URI Charter signing in 2000, 300 local organizations, or Cooperation Circles, from around the world have formed a dynamic interfaith movement with local roots and actions and global connections and cooperation. While precise participation in URI Cooperation Circle activities is difficult to gauge, we know that many hundreds of thousands have been directly involved in events and dialogue through these groups.

Cooperation Circles remain in contact with each other through local and regional gatherings, e-mail, phone, and so forth. The URI Charter also calls for a global meeting, the "Triennial Meeting of Members," to bring representatives from groups the world-over to meet together, creating a forum to discuss new proposals, issues, best practices, etc. While this meeting is envisioned as face-to-face, budgetary constraints have not allowed for the planned 2005 gathering. Thus we are planning the virtual meeting envisioned above.

We have a few options we are considering; however, in the interest of generating a creative discussion without pre-disposition or judgment I won't mention those now. So, how about it? What would you consider?

Stephen A. Fuqua
North American Regional Coordinator,United Religions Initiative