Step 39 – USA (Part 3 – New York)May 31, 2014
If New York City is considered to be a planetary capital, a virtual center of the world, it also is with respect to interfaith activity. One week was hardly enough for us to discover even a tiny number of the organizations and initiatives that are based in the Big Apple.
For us New York, being the headquarters of the United Nations, is primarily where the international headquarters of Religion for Peace, a quintessential UN NGO for interreligious dialog. With its slogan “Diversity in faith, unity in action” this organization supported our work from the very first years of Coexister. We have been affiliated since 2010 when we met with some of their leaders in Paris.
Their Youth Interfaith Global Network unites religious groups from around the world, providing a common mechanism to these different movements for dialog and also to meet at both the European and international scales. Our meeting with Rev. Sugino, originally from Japan, allowed us to take stock of the situation of interfaith supporters in the world, as seen from their NGO. For both them and us, if interfaith action is a real social action movement in the world, the number of youth in this movement is small, too small.
Religions for Peace has established itself as “the largest and most representative” organization to promote dialog between the religions. Compared to the United Religions Initiative that we met with in California, RFP appears to be primarily religious leaders that strive to influence opinion, while URI prefers to connect small field groups that have a general public membership. URO and RFP are the two largest international NGOs working on interfaith with social interactions.
Now, regarding New York, it is important to note that we went to a Shabbat service in a synagogue, which has become known for supporting the creation of a Palestinian State and its membership in the UN. We were invited to that community by business friends, who are very much involved in both interfaith and social entrepreneurial activities. The dinner we then shared actually included a Saudi friend who came expressly to meet us. It was an unusual situation where we found ourselves in the home of Jewish friends in New York to have dinner with a Saudi! That is part of the InterFaith Tour magic!
Our visit to the United Nations headquarters also allowed us to make a surprising discovery: the Universal Federation for Peace. This NGO works throughout the world with the support of, and sometimes even under the mandate of, the UN. We learned that it is the founder of interreligious seminars and summits for youth and other generations in conflict zones, where the religious fact is used to achieve political goals.