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July 2004 Letter from Executive Director (URI)

By Rev. Canon Charles Gibbs

July 01, 2004

Dear Friends of the URI,

Greetings of love and peace on the 4th Anniversary of the signing of URI?s Charter.

Each year at the anniversary, I watch the video of the Charter Signing ceremony to remind myself of the joy and promise of that moment of birth. That joy and promise shine on the faces and through the spirits of the people who gathered on June 26, 2000 in the Carnegie Music Hall to give birth to the global URI.

Joy and promise shine through Etta Cox, a Pittsburgh jazz singer, as she sings:

Keep your hope alive
Keep your dreams inside
And there?s nothing on Earth
You can?t do.

I also remind myself and of the challenge we set before ourselves on that day ? that the true measure of the URI would not be signing the Charter but making it real; not in words on a page, but in action.

The spirit of that challenge shines through Mrs. Gedong Oka, a revered Gandhian from Bali, as she invoked the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi in her opening meditation.

The spirit of that challenge shines through the words of Masankho Banda, artist and peace activist, as he tells of his work in a refugee camp in Croatia where he helped children traumatized by war to dance and play.

But one four-year-old girl would not come near him. Indeed, she ran away from him in horror. Masankho didn?t feel he could inquire directly about the little girl, so he waited, always with an eye to how he could draw this her into the joyful play he shared with the other children.

But nothing seemed to change for her during the three weeks he was there, until the last night. He watched her watching him dancing and laughing with the other children. Then, as he sat watching the children dancing joyfully together, he felt hands on his shoulders. And then she somersaulted into his lap.

Their eyes met. He began to cry. She began to laugh. And then they danced together.

Later, as he confided his joy to another adult, he learned that this little girl?s mother had been raped by a soldier who looked frighteningly like Masankho. That soldier, like Masankho, was a Christian. The little girl?s family was Muslim

At first, she thought you would hurt her, Masankho was told. But over three weeks, she came to see in your face and in your heart that you wouldn?t hurt her.

Face to face, heart to heart. That is how we heal. That is how we build community. That is how we build new tomorrows out of the challenges of today. That is the work of the URI around the world.

That work is exemplified in the Ektaan Cooperation Circle in West Bengal, India. Its members are musicians from different castes who host village programs. They recently hosted a two-day clinic during which volunteer doctors, using donated supplies and medicine, provided health care for 300 people. The CC also hosted a five-day program that drew 5,000 participants to help supply housing and food for the poor. During this program, people of all castes, including Brahmins and Untouchables, broke bread together in a historic recognition of their common humanity.

Through the work of the Ektaan CC and 259 other CCs around the world, URI works to fulfill the promise and meet the challenge of our Charter.

On June 26, 2004 we celebrate four years of that effort. Face to face, heart to heart, we are being changed and are changing the world.

To participate in and to support this work, we invite you to join URI?s community of peacebuilders.

Thank you for your commitment to a better world. Together, there?s nothing on Earth we can?t do.

Charles Gibbs

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