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The Importance of Engaging Our Guiding Institutions: Lessons from URI Brasília’s Award Winning UN WIHW Celebration

April 17, 2019

The Parliament of the World’s Religions is your partner in preparing for and observing UN World Interfaith Harmony Week.
We connected with the 2019 winners of H.M. King Abdullah II World Interfaith Harmony Week Prize and will be bringing you special interviews with the winners where they will share about their on-going work and their experiences in observing World Interfaith Harmony Week.
Today we are excited to highlight the work of URI Brasília Cooperation Circle and our friends from United Religions Initiative (URI). Elianildo Nascimento, the founder of URI Brasília, traveled to Jordan to receive the WIHW Prize this week. Salette Aquino, a colleague of Mr. Nascimento, was kind enough to share details on the Circle’s work and experience with UN World Interfaith Harmony Week. Mr. Aquino is a Member from Global Council of URI and a representative of URI Brasília.

Can you tell us the mission of URI and the history of URI Brasília?
URI is a global grassroots interfaith network that cultivates peace and justice by engaging people to bridge religious and cultural differences and work together for the good of their communities and the world. We implement our mission through local and global initiatives that build the capacity of our member groups and organizations to engage in community action such as conflict resolution and reconciliation, environmental sustainability, education, women’s and youth programs, and advocacy for human rights. Our purpose 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.
URI Brasília Cooperation Circle is part of the Multiple Cooperation Circle URI Brazil, which carries out an important work in promoting interfaith harmony in Brazil, in connection with URI’s global action.
URI Brasília Cooperation Circle has been working since 2004 on the joint construction with the Federal Government of the national policy of human rights for religious diversity, as well as in combating religious intolerance and the defense of laic state. Throughout this time, various publications have been built for the promotion of religious freedom, realization and support for major events such as the Meetings of the New Consciousness, the World Spiritual Forum and the Movement for Life, among other initiatives, all aimed at fostering interreligious respect. It has also acted incisively in the National Congress, along with the Human Rights Commissions of the Senate and the Federal Chamber, especially fighting projects that seek to impose dominant religious views as laws for all.
Your event Public Audience in the Legislative Chamber of the Federal District of Brazil was selected as the third place winner of  H.M. King Abdullah II World Interfaith Harmony Week Prize. What inspired the event and how did you gather the resources in your community to bring it to life?
The inspiration for the event came as a result of the World Interfaith Harmony Week. The local URI community promotes activities to celebrate it since 2011. We were also motivated for the need to work in the public sphere and in the social field to promote respect for religious diversity. Brasília and the Federal District in recent years have been the scene of several religiously motivated violence and episodes of invasion and depredation of religious temples.

The resources used were the mobilization and articulation between public entities, authorities, religious leaders and ecumenical organizations to achieve the proposal and approval of the Parliamentary Front for Religious Diversity.
What lessons did you learn while hosting the event?
We learned the need to permanently reinforce articulations, contacts, and connections with public authorities, in order to sensitize them to the establishment of public policies aimed at the defense of religious freedom and respect for religious diversity.
That’s a very important lesson. What is the most memorable experience from hosting the event?
The most memorable experience from hosting the event was the understanding of the power that we have when we unite around a common cause for the good. We can influence and work together with the representatives of the legislative and other public powers.
The WIHW Prize aims to highlight work like yours all around the world. What does winning the prize mean to your organization?
Winning this prize means a lot for our organization. It is a strong recognition of our efforts to promote interfaith harmony in so many activities and initiatives around the year and in particular our action in the public sphere in the defense of Human Rights focused on religious diversity. The award will allow us to strengthen the promotion of proposals and projects focused on our mission to promote religious respect and diversity.
How do you hope winning the prize will affect the future of your work?
The award gives more visibility to the URI organization, especially its commitments, purposes and actions, so necessary in the context of disrespect, violence and attacks on religious minorities that we face here.
Those are wonderful commitments. Can you tell us about future projects?
Strengthening the work of interfaith leaders in the search for the realization of Human Rights linked to the respect for religious freedom and confronting religious intolerance, as well as the defense of the laity of the State. These issues are of national and international urgency.
What suggestions or advice do you have for other interfaith organizations interested in hosting their own World Interfaith Harmony Week event?
We encourage the formation of interfaith dialogue forums, also adding the participation of traditional communities and their spiritualities. Through these forums it is possible to promote the dialogue in the spheres of the State in the sense of strengthening freedom of belief. Creating documents that guide local and international standards and actions to promote and guarantee the freedom of belief. To promote interfaith meetings to celebrate the sacred, to foster interfaith work in the areas of social work, environment, culture, advocacy, public policies, etc.

A special thank you to Salette and the United Religions Initiative team for their work and their continued commitment to the interfaith movement. Learn more about URI and their programs.
Want to learn more about the 2019 World Interfaith Harmony Week Prize Winners? Read the announcement here.
This blog series is made possible through the support of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed in these blogs are those of the individual(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation.