Positive spiritual, religious, and interfaith news for the international community
Baha'i Faith
Native American

URI Executive Director’s Letter - July 2005

July 2005 letter from Charles Gibbs, Executive Director of the United Religions Initiative, to the Friends of the URI around the world.

By Rev. Canon Charles Gibbs

Dear Friends of the URI,

Greetings of love and peace.

I begin this letter in Seoul, Korea at the end of a transformative week in URI's life. Seventy members of URI's 2005 and 2008 Global Councils, Global Staff and special guests have been privileged to share here a week of spirit-filled work, profound solidarity with a nation yearning for peaceful reunification, gratitude and celebration. We journeyed to Korea from 23 countries, as members of over 20 religions, spiritual expressions and indigenous traditions. I want to share some major accomplishments and highlights of this week that I believe marks a moment of major maturing for URI:

  1. A rousing celebration of URI's fifth anniversary and the 60th anniversary of the UN Charter.
  2. Daily grounding in sacred openings offered by trustees and staff from each of eight regions and diverse faith traditions, and in the Preamble, Purpose and Principles of URI's Charter.
  3. The successful transition from URI's first Global Council to our second, signaling the stability of our organization while incorporating vibrant new leadership, including two remarkable young women, one from Iran and one from Jordan;
  4. The new GC's unanimous commitment to offer individual financial support annually to the global URI, in addition to what they already contribute to support URI locally and regionally;
  5. The election of Yoland Trevino, a Mayan woman born in Guatemala, and Mussie Hailu, an Orthodox Christian from Ethiopia, as Chair and Vice-chair of the new GC;
  6. URI's expanded global reach through the creation of a Senior Advisory Council as a vehicle for ongoing leadership and support by our outgoing GC Trustees, and strengthening the connectedness and cooperative efforts of URI's growing Global Staff;
  7. The universal commitment to fundraising as critical to URI's development, with much conversation about regional fundraising efforts and work to lay the foundation for a major endowment campaign to secure reliable funding for URI's core operations;
  8. Trustees and staff in eight regions engaged in successful teambuilding and planning for URI's future development;
  9. The peace pilgrimage in solidarity with our Korean hosts to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that divides Korea, and the peace proclamation for the Korean people and leaders and the international community;
  10. The briefing about URI's presence at the UN, follow-up conversations that will connect URI leaders with key policy makers from their countries, including Germany and the Philippines, and a unanimous commitment to have URI's global network observe the UN's International Day of Peace, September 21, annually;
  11. The new initiative to create and implement a plan to develop the URI presence in the “Stans”, to be led by a new volunteer staff person in Tajikistan;
  12. The commitment of funds to purchase a computer and ensure internet access and English lessons to support the full participation of an Indigenous trustee from Latin America;
  13. The extraordinary hospitality and rich cultural and artistic banquet provided by our host, Ven. Jinwol Lee, supported by an inspiring staff, most of them youth.

In closing, I'd like to share a little more about the moving pilgrimage we made to the DMZ. On a gray day, we stood at an observation post overlooking this narrow strip of land which for too long has divided one Korea into two countries. The pilgrimage was especially meaningful because of our Korean colleagues: one spoke of not having had any contact with either of his parents for over 50 years and not knowing if they are still alive; another told the moving story of her father, then twelve years old, escaping by himself through a war zone, from the North to the South, only to discover that his four year old sister was still in the North. He returned by himself, found his sister and brought her with him to freedom.

We stood in solidarity and prayer with these extraordinary people, and with all Koreans who hold such a deep yearning for the peaceful reunification of their country, expressed in the many prayers and hopes attached to the chain link fence at the end of the Freedom Bridge, leading from South to North. There, standing in the South, looking to the North, we read the Peace Proclamation, which expressed our commitment to help both Koreas build cultures of peace, justice and healing as they work to reunite their country.

There are many other stories to tell about our remarkable week in Korea. But for now I want you to know that in Korea we saw URI take a major step forward in our growth as a diverse, effective global organization and a major step toward having a voice on issues of major global significance.

Whoever you are and wherever you are, I invite you to join in the ongoing celebration of what we members of URI have accomplished together and in the shared commitment to the accomplishments yet to come.


Charles Gibbs

New comments have been disabled.

Editorial Disclaimer: The opinions and views expressed above do not necessarily reflect those of the editorial staff, the United Religions Initiative, or other sponsors and partners. See the Editorial Policy for more details.

Published and produced by s.a.f. net. Design copyright © 2021, Stephen A. Fuqua. All rights reserved.

Contents copyright of respective authors and may not be reproduced except content authored by Stephen A. Fuqua, which are published under the Creative Commons Attribution - ShareAlike 3.0 License.