A Plea for Unity

– by Rev. Leland Sewart

The diversity in the human family should be the cause of love and harmony, as it is in music, where many different notes blend together in the making of a perfect chord.”  ~ Baha’i Faith, Science and Spirituality, page 192

 

This Tuesday is, at last, the time for California to have its chance to vote in what has been a most unusual and divisive election.  Many Republicans, and Democrats as well, are not satisfied with the Republican choice for President.  Many in both parties seem to be having issues with Hillary Clinton, even though she is about to be the Democratic nominee.  Bernie Sanders was a dark horse candidate who has come from behind and is making a strong showing, but likely without the delegates to win the nomination.

This election needs to bring itself together and come up with a clear choice for our next President.  What appears to be needed in the midst of a divided Republican party, is for Hillary and Bernie to find a way to work together and come out with a unified Democratic Party by cooperating with each other.  To continue to be offering different alternatives and not to find common ground would be to run the risk of losing the election to a candidate who appears to be putting the country and world at risk.

While my purpose here is not to tell you who to vote for, I am making a plea for unity in this election and finding a way to offer strength and clarity as we move forward into the final months till we have our vote in November.   California often is so close to the end of its time to vote that its vote does not make much difference.  This time the completion of the primaries leaves our state in a most crucial position.  So it is most important to vote especially this year and to focus on creating unity in the process.

The Unity-and-Diversity World Council is based upon the central idea of democracy, which is the principle of unity-and-diversity.  In the midst of the many, there is the one.   E pluribus unum.  It is our task of find unity in the midst of a diversity of races, cultures, and religions.  It is our opportunity to be good listeners and to find solutions to what might otherwise seem impossible.  This election gives us a special opportunity to show our capability at creating unity in the midst of a wide diversity of political views, attitudes toward the effectiveness of government, and our basic respect for each other.

I also want to say that we have just had eight years of our first Black president.  Instead of unduly criticizing him and trying to undo his many efforts to solve our nation’s problems, I feel that we should appreciate how effective he has been in many ways.  He has a wonderful wife, and he has not had marital infidelity problems.  He has shown respect for his fellow Americans and has attended to resolving conflicts occurring during his presidency.  He is the first president who has been able to set up a new health care system.  Instead of our trying to do away with everything he has worked for, we would do better to attempt to improve what has been accomplished through these eight years.

Spirit is One; paths are many!!!

A NEW WORLD REQUIRES A NEW VISION

“A new type of person whose orientation and view of the world         profoundly transcends the existing cultures is developing from the complex of social, political, economic, educational (and religious) interactions of our time.”     – Peter S. Adler, quoted in Science and Spirituality, page 45-46

We live in a time of great change and challenge.  The only way that we are going to be able to move through this time of transition is to awaken to a new vision that allows us to relate to the emerging global community, the community of all races, cultures, and religions.

The challenge of this time of transition has produced an ever-increasing amount of interaction among the faiths of the world, and numerous  programs have resulted.  All of this activity is necessary and healthy.  However, it is important to know that dialog among faiths is not the same as producing a spiritual awakening.  Dialog is important, yet the nature of religion is beyond dialog and is of an experiential nature.  The new kind of religious experience does not require the giving up of one’s faith to join some other faith.  What it does require is the experiencing of pluralism and the deeper implications of freedom and democracy.  it requires the inner discovery that life in the new world is of a different nature than that which existed earlier.

In many cases it will require the experience of the role of science and consciousness.  It is very likely to include a vision of a world in which both science and religion have a role to play.  It is necessary that we discover a new level of faith that permits us to unite with all peoples and to experience our connections with all life, organic and inorganic.  This experience of living in a pluralistic world challenges us to respect different paths, to become good listeners so that we give place to those whose faith and culture are different from our own.

Life today is being lived in a very different context from previous times, and our form of worship needs to reflect that change.  Religion is not supposed to be an influence that holds us back and keeps us bound to a culture and faith of past generations.  Rather, it needs to lead us courageously into an often unknown future.  We new live in a world of great diversity, and we therefore need to create patterns of worship that absorb that diversity into our own understanding of life.

How we solve that problem within our particular ministry is to create a Unity-and-Diversity Center, one which welcomes religious diversity and builds it into the activities and programs of the Center.  Guest speakers from different faiths will help us to accept their teachings and life values.  Hearing from scientists who work on human consciousness will give us a broader view of the universe in which we live.  Artists and philosophers can also help us to move beyond our otherwise limited understanding of faith and culture.

World Scriptures helps us to understand the faiths of the world and to appreciate the teachings they bring.  But what is also necessary is that we explore the teachings that have been given in later times, ones which help us to see the values which have been emerging since the historic religions began.  The reason there is a religions called Christianity is that there was a New Testament to add to the Hebrew scriptures, which became known to Christians as the Old Testament.

In the case of World Scriptures, the new material has become World Scriptures Vol. 2.  It is designed to serve a similar function, which is to bring together scriptural-type material to help provide guidance for people throughout the planet to live in this interdependent world and find meaning for their lives.

UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF MORAL AND SPIRITUAL VALUES

~by Leland Stewart

May we experience each of (the Declaration’s) dimensions of our total being and discover their interrelationships. At the same time, we ask to become a responsible participant in the emerging global civilization based on the dynamic integration of diversity among all peoples and all life.

  Concluding paragraph of the Declaration, World Scriptures 2, p. 136

For more than a year the World Interfaith Network of Los Angeles has been exploring various teachings that might be included in a global code of living.  Now that the Unity-and-Diversity World Council has entered into its 50thanniversary, the Interfaith Network has chosen to begin the outreach phase using some appropriate code of living.

The core group of the Unity-and-Diversity Fellowship some years ago put together such a code, and it is published inWorld Scriptures, Vol. 2.  It includes the Universal Declaration of Moral and Spiritual Values, an Expansion on These Guidelines, and a set of Twelve Universal Avoidances.  These are all part of the effort to provide the different aspects of a global code of living.  The code itself was based on the research done by Prof. Charles Morris at the University of Chicago and later at Harvard University.  I had the privilege of studying with Prof. Morris at Harvard and have adapted his work to the code of living.

In beginning to outreach with the Universal Declaration of Moral and Spiritual Values, we will undoubtedly find that some parts of it will change, including possibly the title.  We will need to make sure that any changes are an improvement in the document, but we should not be insistent on keeping everything the same.  The goal needs to be to create a code of living that meets human needs.  The absence of such grounding at this time makes it difficult to know what values are essential for establishing the global civilization.

In 1993, at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, a Global Ethic was introduced and discussed by many of the faith’s leaders.  No changes were allowed at that time.  Perhaps no changes have been allowed since then.  A book has been written based on the Global Ethic, and an organization has been formed to continue the work.  What was created was not a Global Code of Living but rather a much longer document which focused particularly on the ethical aspect of the code.  A Global Code of Living needs to cover both the ethical and the spiritual dimensions.  The idea of God needs to be part of the code, with an understanding of this spiritual reality that people can accept.  There could be many different names, or perhaps for some people it could be nameless.

You are cordially invited to get a copy of the Universal Declaration of Moral and Spiritual Values and read it thoroughly.  Your comments and suggestions are welcome, and you are invited to help with this process in whatever way you can.  Together we can assist the process of providing a more stable base for the conduct of individuals, groups, and networks in the emerging global civilization.

Spirit is One; paths are many!!!

PEACE SUNDAY FESTIVAL 2014

 

peace sunday

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 udcworld@gmail.com.

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!!!

ORDINATION AND THE WORK OF OUR MINISTRY

“Humanity must progress as a whole. Unity in variety, not uniformity, is the pattern for world culture. There is no inherent conflict between science and religion, between reason and faith, or between poetry and philosophy.”
-Vedanta (Swami Vivekananda), Science and Spirituality, p. 193

On Saturday, May 31st, an ordination took place at Stephen Fiske’s garden in Venice, California. The person ordained was Nathan Michon, who has an impressive background of study in the field of religion, where he has also on occasion been a teacher. He has traveled and studied in several parts of the world, including Japan, Taiwan, and various parts of the United States. Several of his friends came to support him in his ordination, as well as four interfaith ministers ordained through the Unity-and-Diversity World Fellowship. The Fellowship is a specialized affiliate of Unity-and-Diversity World Council, Inc. Nathan is especially involved in Buddhism, but he has also studied and taught about many of the other religions.

The UDC has several specialized affiliates that are related to this process. We have a UDC School for Interfaith Ministry and a Unity-and-Diversity Ministers’ Association, as well as the Unity-and-Diversity World Fellowship. The School trains ministers through the study of all religions, science and religion, and various aspects of the practical ministry. The Ministers’ Association now meets quarterly and is updating the ministry curriculum and is setting up a website for exchange among the ministers, including the setting up of this blog. The Fellowship handles ordinations, as well as the setting up of interfaith services. The interfaith Sunday a.m. “services” now very active are called Gatherings of Creative Community. Kindly contact UDC for interest in the ministry or the activities mentioned above.

Since 1975 the Fellowship has ordained thirty-six interfaith ministers. A number of these ministers are still quite active, and the last few years have seen an increasing involvement in the related activities. Interfaith has a very important purpose in the world at large, and there are many levels of interfaith collaboration. What has been missing until fairly recently is the recognition that interfaith is also a path, a path that welcomes participation of people of all paths. It is a place of synthesis, of the dynamic integration of diversity. People of the various religions of the world are welcome, as are those who are not identified with any single religion. Agnostics and atheists who are open to the diversities of understanding are also welcome.

Unity-and-diversity ministry is futuristic. It is in the process of being established, and it has a special work to do that until recently was seldom seen. It requires an openness to the diversities of the teachings of the historic religions and to the many more recent religions and spiritual movements. It is in search for creative ways of expressing this new found freedom. It also has an urgent work to do in the world as a whole, going beyond violence as a way of solving problems to the use of nonviolence, diplomacy, and the sacred art of listening. A new day is being born on planet earth, a long awaited time when people are beginning to trust each other and to live together in peace and goodwill.

How will you participate? What is it that you have to contribute to this ongoing process? Please let us hear from you and see how we can work together for the well-being of all!

Spirit is One; paths are many!!!