Voice of

It's worth a look.
Proposal for a URI Voice of Women
by Roger Eaton, August 2011 - in process

Our familiar URI purpose statement:

The purpose of the United Religions Initiative is to promote enduring, daily interfaith cooperation, to end religiously motivated violence and to create cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living beings.

In the Fall of 2009, URI held an online Finding Our Common Humanity Dialog using InterMix Collective Communication Software.  InterMix enables a group to express itself as a group by writing and rating messages.  The highly rated messages are the collective "voice" of the group. 

In the 2009 Dialog, we began by electing a message from all participants together and then we separated into Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Other groups each of which elected a message of its own in a second round.  Though the elected messages themselves were great and are well worth reading, there was a marked fall-off in participation between the first and second rounds, making a continuation of the dialog impossible.  The intention of breaking out groups by faith in the second round was to institute an alternation between "together" and "apart" rounds, thus building a system that promoted unity while guaranteeing diversity.  It still sounds good in theory, but perhaps in practice it was not clear where the dialog was going, so it lost traction.  In any case, the dialog failed to achieve critical mass.

A new version of InterMix is being prepared.  In my optimistic way I am hoping for a September 21, 2011 launch.  Certainly we can begin to use the new InterMix this year and by this time next year all the features we need will be in place and fully tested.  The new version includes facebook and twitter capabilities in hopes of achieving critical mass via the social media.  Other good features include the ability to post videos, and to participate by email as well as online.  It is worth another try.  We need to get everyone on the same page, first within URI, then within the Interfaith movement and worldwide.  InterMix just might be the vehicle that can do that for us.  Here is a more in depth write-up.

This time, I propose we begin with the collective voice of URI women.  If that takes off, then we will bring in URI youth and finally URI men.  Together, the three groups will form a fourth collective voice, that of "URI Together".  In this system, everyone will be welcome to participate in the overall collective voice of URI, and young men and women will be welcome to participate in the larger gender groups as well as in the Voice of URI Youth.  Just for now, until we get a better name, I am calling the overall process, URI Together.

The new InterMix is a little simpler than the previous version in that we will not be proceeding in formal rounds where in each round we elect a message.  Instead, a moderate but steady flow of highly rated messages will be tweeted and promoted on facebook for each group, something on the order of one or two messages a week.  An InterMix facebook application will enable direct participation without leaving facebook.

Money that we raise to bolster the process will play a dual role, first to incentivize the participants and then to fund the civil society organizations that want to promote the URI Together process.  It will work something like this: for each rating they provide, participants get one dime and for each authored message that is selected to be tweeted, ten dollars to be forwarded to the civil society organization of their choice from the list of organizations that are supporting the process.  To be clear, this money is not for the participants, but for the organizations designated by the participants.  Within the URI context, all CCs would be eligible organizations, 501(c)(3) or not.

The fact that the money raised will be used twice, first to incentivize the online participation and second to bolster the sponsoring organizations, should make fund-raising easier.  The creation of a URI Voice of Women leading to a URI Voice of Youth, a URI Voice of Men, and a Voice of URI Together, will significantly boost the bonds of unity within URI, and so is in itself fundable.  Then, because the money also goes on to support sponsoring organizations, an appeal for funds should be highly successful.  The sponsoring organizations will encourage their members to participate in part as a way of raising money for themselves, so the overall design appears to be self-reinforcing.

We need a heart-felt global consciousness in order to make headway on global issues.  The international system is stuck.  We are losing ground on issues of social justice, peace / nuclear disarmament, and sustainability / climate change.  The global movement in each area is gearing up, but the actual direction that things are going is backwards with CO2 rising, spending on arms, including nuclear arms, rising and inequality of income also rising within nations.  We, the world, need to transcend the international system and find our common humanity.  That is just the first step, but without it, I fear all our good efforts will founder.

Say we can achieve lift off for a Voice of URI Together so that 50 or 100 thousand URI CC members including all the more active members read the most highly rated message on a monthly basis  When URI members meet, they will refer to the latest message and assume the reference will be understood.  The widespread presumption that a reference will be understood is itself the global consciousness that we need on the widest possible scale.

A merely intellectual global consciousness won't turn the tide, though.  We need a heart-felt global consciousness.  Humanity shares a great appreciation for love and wit.  Therefore, on a global scale we can expect that the Voice of Humanity will express itself in a kind and intelligent way again and again.  So far that expectation has been born out in tests of the process.  See for instance, this 2005 Jewish / Muslim Dialog.  The world will experience a salutary shock as it realizes that our brothers and sisters everywhere are good and perspicacious people, who want for us what they want for themselves.  This is the heartfelt global consciousness that will transcend the international system and make it possible to address the pressing global issues.

Transcendence does not imply abandoning our nations and faiths.  It is a unity-and-diversity world that we are looking to achieve.  We love our nations and faiths, and a system of global collective voices will support our existing collective identities at the same time that it builds a new human unity.  Something to notice, though, is that hard-liners will face a dilemma.  Hard-liners will have to choose either to participate in a system which gives legitimacy to our common human identity, or not to participate, in which case they lose all influence.

The gender divide cross-cuts the national and religious identities.  Any Voice of Women will have already transcended the nations and faiths.  When women organize, they are naturally global and hence interfaith, intercultural and international.  At a recent URI organized meeting in San Francisco there was a panel discussion with Fr James Channan, Anasuya Sengupta and Sabahat Rafiq.  Ms Sengupta is the Asia-Oceania Regional Program Director for the Global Fund for Women.  As such she has been working in Pakistan recently.  I asked her after the panel if the women's movement in Pakistan would be better characterized as "interfaith" or as "divided by religion".  Interfaith (including secular) is the better description, she said.  My strong impression is that this is true everywhere, not just in Pakistan.  The recent article, Women in Religious Peacebuilding from the US Institute of peace as listed in the URI Resources, says that women "approach peacebuilding from a holistic perspective."  That seems right to me, and I think the women's movement has the leverage we need to turn things around.  Youth are a natural second phase and may in the end become the leading component in a movement for a world that works for all, but as things stand now youth are not as organized globally as women are.  The men will be intrigued, I think, to join in such a system of collective voices, and once a sense of fraternity kicks in on a world scale, we will be a great asset to the global movement.  At this point, though, I think it is clear that women should take the lead.

Comments and conversation are most welcome.  If the idea seems good, what is the best path forward?  Women are a URI Action Area, and there are 40 Cooperation Circles (CCs) that list Women's Issues as an interest.  Perhaps the Women's Coalition MCC with 11 CCs would be the core group that needs to buy in and indeed take over this proposal if it is to go anywhere. 

As of August, 2011, the four leaders of the Women's Coalition MCC have read this document and agreed they would like to see URI Voice of Women project go forward.  Stay tuned! 
Last changed August 29, 2011.
page maintained by Roger Eaton
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