UDC’s Rev. Stephen Longfellow Fiske recently updated his website. He helps lead regular interfaith events in the Los Angeles area and plays music internationally at a variety of events. You can attend, follow along with what he’s up to, or check out his artistic accomplishments here.
“The words that enlighten the soul are more precious than jewels.”
~Hazrat Inayat Khan, qtd. in Science and Spirituality, page 141
[by Rev. Leland Stewart]
It hardly seems possible that fifty years have passed since this organization began during International Cooperation Year 1965. As it turns out, I believe that I am the only person now active in the Council who has been present since the beginning. My wife and I were the founders of International Cooperation Council, but she has now passed on, leaving me as the living founder.
With that fact in mind, I feel that it is my special privilege to reflect on these fifty years, both to recall what has taken place that I can share with others, and also to help shape a plan to begin our next fifty years. This year is a special time in that regard, and different events are shaping up to give that effort some reality.
Our first festival was held at the Reseda Women’s Club in 1965, with our keynote presenters being pianist/comedian Steve Allen and depth psychologist Dr. Ira Progoff. It was a wonderful beginning, and it became a stimulus to continue on an annual basis. The first two aspects of our ongoing work were the annual International Cooperation Festival and an annual World Directory of participating organizations and other related groups on a worldwide basis.
The original name of the organization was International Cooperation Council, which was a direct link to the purpose of International Cooperation Year 1965. We held many outstanding festivals during that time, including one at the Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica, which featured Ruth Carter Stapleton (former President Carter’s sister), Buckminster Fuller, and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, M.D.
In 1979, the Council took on a much too large Festival in Pasadena, which drew most of the well known names in the “new age” movement, but financially it was well beyond our means and caused a complete restructuring of the International Cooperation Council and a change of name to Unity-and-Diversity World Council. The Council’s work has continued from then till the present, and gradually a number of other dimensions of the work have begun, such as the monthly Interfaith Celebrations, regular interfaith type services on Sunday mornings, and more recently the Culture of Peace Educational Series.
At various times during these fifty years, based upon the Unity-and-Diversity Wheel, convergences have been held to provide a way for individuals, groups, and networks that were not well acquainted with each other to move together and explore areas of common ground. The Wheel has evolved during that time, and in 2012 it was converted into a Peace Wheel, and its use during the annual event called Peace Sunday resulted in the holding of a year’s worth of meetings comprising a Culture of Peace Series.
This year, as the climax of four years of preparing for our 50th anniversary, we are holding a special Peace Sunday at the Agape International Spiritual Center, which has an average attendance of 2,000 to 2,500 each Sunday during three services starting at 6:30 a.m. and continuing till about 1:15 p.m. UDC will have a small part to play in each of the three services, plus a smaller meeting in the afternoon (2:30-4 p.m.) to add more to its own Peace Sunday. Included will be displays of artwork, essays, and poetry from a number of schools in the Southern California area, for which awards will also be given.
An additional element to this year’s celebration, there will be a United Peoples Convergence at the IMAN Cultural Center on Saturday, September 19th, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Networks of groups and individuals will meet separately in the morning, then after lunch they will converge into a General Assembly, which is being designed to be an ongoing effort from that point on. UDC had held General Assembly sessions in the past but on a smaller basis. If this effort works according to plan, it will be a real boost to the idea of United Peoples as a form of direct democracy.
You are cordially invited to participate in one or both of these related events as a way of supporting UDC’s 50th anniversary and thereby strengthening our interfaith and intergroup cooperation.
Spirit is One; paths are many!!!
“Seek good and not evil, that you may live, and so God will be a part of you. Hate evil, love good; and establish justice in the gate. …I hate, I despise your feasts; I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Take away from me the noise of your songs, to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everlasting stream.”
-Amos, Old Testament, Science and Spirituality, page 387
The above quotation from the Book of Amos in the Christian Old Testament gives a clear statement about the traditional idea of good and evil. We are to seek good and to overcome evil. Justice and righteousness are to be sought, and the paths of carousing and ignoring of these virtues are to be shunned. There is much to be said in behalf of these teachings, and yet there is more. It seems that in the “more” is where we are getting lost today as we remain addicted to war and violence.
The recently created DVD called “Beyond Right and Wrong” does a good job of presenting an alternative view of justice and forgiveness, brought forward in stories throughout this important presentation. We were to see the short version of this DVD at Peace Sunday, but circumstances changed the picture and it did not get shown. I wanted to bring it to your attention and to invite you to see the film for yourself.
Some years ago there was a family in this area of the United States whose daughter wanted to go to Africa to see the countryside and to help with some of that continent’s problems. She was in her late teens, and she went by herself. During her stay she was attacked and killed by a group of older men, who for some reason felt that she was a threat to their continent.
Her mother and father were very concerned about what had happened, but instead of being angry and resentful, they also went to Africa to find out more about what had happened. They eventually found the men who had killed their daughter, and they spoke with them about the crime they had committed. The men realized how wrong they were to have killed the young woman, and they got to know the mother and father; eventually the two parents ended up staying with the killers, and a whole new relationship was built.
Some of you may have heard a statement from the poet Rumi, where he said that somewhere there is a field which is beyond right and wrong, and that he would meet others there. It is the same idea expressed in a somewhat different way. We are not saying that there should be no penalty for wrongdoing, but that beyond the penalty there are the human relationships to be considered. When Mahatma Gandhi was killed, he forgave the man who had killed him. When Nelson Mandela was kept in prison for twenty-seven years because of South Africa’s policy of apartheid (keeping blacks and whites separate in an obvious commitment to the superiority of the white population), Mandela forgave his captors and went on to become South Africa’s first black president.
Today we are being called upon to have a major shift in consciousness and to apply the practices of nonviolence to replace war and violence, to re-establish the sacredness of life, and to find diplomatic ways of solving the many problems facing the emerging global community. War is now obsolete, and it is time to stop engaging in its destructive ways. It is time to wage peace using nonviolent means, so that moral and spiritual values can once again be in the forefront of our awareness.
The United Nations can help in that process, since its original purpose was to “eliminate the scourge of war”. Now is an especially good time to get the U.N. to be more active in pursuing that purpose, since next year is its seventieth anniversary.
The annual Peace Sunday, this year being called “Peace Sunday Festival”, is scheduled for September 21st, just four weeks from today. It will be held at the IMAN Cultural Center, 3376 Motor Ave., Los Angeles 90034. This year’s theme will be “Every human being has a right to peace”. Please note that the United Nations International Day of Peace is on Sunday this year, and it is the same day as our Peace Sunday Festival. The website is www.peacesunday.org For information call 424-228-2087, 310-396-8205, or 310-200-3598. The email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peace Sunday Festival 2014 is convened by the Unity-and-Diversity World Council, and there are twenty sponsoring organizations. Sponsors are responsible to help plan the event, and this year’s Steering Committee is a most outstanding one. We also have co-sponsors, who help publicize the event. So far there are about twenty-five co-sponsors, and that number will considerably increase between now and the event.
Now is a most unstable and violent time in the world, which gives every reason for having a Peace Sunday Festival. This year’s event will not only present an outstanding program, but several new features will be part of it. First of all, we will have several different youth activities: a schools project focused on “What is Peace?”, which includes essays, poetry, and artwork, led by Diane Burton and Ron Klemp. There will be 20’x20’ booth with youth activities, led by Barbara Tebyani. Gayle Gale will have a booth to develop her “Kids for Peace”. Diane Tillman of the Brahma Kumaris will have a session during the afternoon program for youth focused on “Living Values”.
The trailer of “Beyond Right and Wrong” will be shown, which is a popular film helping to reconcile victims and perpetrators from acts of violence. Conflicts in various parts of the world could learn much about how to reconcile their difficulties from the teachings in this film.
Peace Sunday will likewise focus on action following up on this event. Three areas of action are being included: (1) Preparing for the 2015 Peace Sunday Festival celebrating the 70th anniversary of the United Nations and the 50th anniversary of Unity-and-Diversity World Council. (2) Beginning a second year of the Culture of Peace Series. (3) Forming an ongoing body of organizations and individuals similar to the Security Council of the United Nations, which will take action on specific areas of need as are within our possibility of making a positive difference in our communities and/or the world.
There will be tables and booths in the IMAN Center parking lot throughout the day by various participating organizations. An interfaith service will be held from 10 a.m. till noon, ending with participation in a worldwide one-minute meditation. After lunch the program will be held from 2-5 p.m. It will feature spiritually and politically involved Marianne Williamson as a keynote speaker, songs from the International Peace Choir, musician Yuval Ron and fellow musicians, singer/songwriter Stephen L. Fiske, and the World Peace Prayer and Flag Ceremony. A second keynote speaker and a surprise element are being planned.
On Saturday, September 20th, 6-9 p.m., there will be a Recognition Celebration concluding the first Peace Convergence and the monthly Culture of Peace Series. Honored will be the sector facilitators from the Convergence, the presenters from the Culture of Peace Series, and the people who attended the majority of the monthly Series.
The evening will begin with a potluck supper at 6 p.m. in the small auditorium at the IMAN Center.
About two weeks after the Peace Sunday Festival the special meeting will be held to begin the ongoing body of organizations and individuals who choose to form a “Security Council” to take cooperative actions as needed during the coming year.
May peace prevail on earth!!!
“Yet so shall it be; these fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the ‘Most Great Peace’ shall come.”
Baha’i Faith, Science and Spirituality, page 171
June 21st was the date of the summer solstice, and for the Shift Network it was the beginning time of the Summer of Peace, which continues until the 21st of September, the International Day of Peace as well as the fall equinox. On Saturday, June 21st, the Shift Network held a sacred ceremony on a conference call which included an opening prayer by Native American leader Arvol Looking-Horse, prayers by several evolutionary leaders introduced by Shift Network CEO Stephen Dinan, and a spiritual deepening by the founder of Pathways to Peace, Avon Mattison.
Following these words of prayer and a couple of silences, Fumi Stewart of the World Peace Prayer Society led a version of the prayer ritual known as “May Peace Prevail on Earth” that mentions the countries of the world one by one in groups – Europe, Middle East, Asia, North and South America, and Africa – followed in each group by “May peace prevail on earth”.
Having experienced this deeply sacred gathering, I was most impressed with the feeling of inner and outer peace that was created. It is most reassuring to know the power of prayer and meditation that can be created on a conference call, and to be aware of the number of people who participated in this meaningful occasion. This event was held under the auspices of the Shift Network, with the special participation of Pathways to Peace and the World Peace Prayer Society. Fumi Stewart and others of the World Peace Prayer Society have taken part several times over the years in Peace Sunday and its predecessor, the International Cooperation Festival.
This year the Unity-and-Diversity World Council will convene the Peace Sunday Festival in cooperation with a large number or sponsors and co-sponsors, held with its host, the IMAN Cultural Center in West Los Angeles. This year there will be a large youth segment, including an essay/poetry/art project in various schools. In addition there will be a booth with young people’s activities. Another youth program is also being proposed.
It is especially important to be aware that next year, 2015, is the 70thanniversary of the United Nations and the 50th anniversary of the Unity-and-Diversity World Council. The plan is to hold a much larger event at that time and to invite direct participation of the United Nations. Every ten years since the founding of the U.N. in 1945 in San Francisco the U.N. has sent a delegation to San Francisco to participate in its anniversary celebration – 1955, 1965…1995, 2005, and now 2015. Each year has had some special aspect of its celebration. In 1955 a Festival of Faith was held in the Cow Palace the night before the U.N. sessions, with 16,000 people participating. In 1995 the interfaith celebration at Grace Cathedral gave birth to the United Religions Initiative (URI), which now has cooperation circles throughout the world in about sixty countries.
It is our hope that the United Nations will choose also to be represented in Los Angeles at the time of the U.N. International Day of Peace.
May peace prevail on earth!!!