by Zakir-Amin Povich
I’m pleased to share an experience that was close to my heart for several years: a functioning Kinship Circle, a porous group of people from different faith and spiritual expressions engaging in heartfelt conversation. This grew out of monthly “Interfaith Pray for Peace” gatherings of song, prayer and meditation, that began in October 2001, and were just recently suspended (temporarily) in October 2020, due to circumstances related to the Covid pandemic.
In 2004 and 2005 folks from these gatherings, along with others who were interested, successfully offered well-attended “Sulha” (reconciliation) events that mirrored similar events in the Holy Land, seeking to inform and build connections between various faith and spiritual communities. A group of people in the Charlottesville area interested in interfaith collaboration chose to formalize our work by launching an Interfaith Cooperation Circle, affiliated with United Religions Initiative (URI), in April 2006.
One of the signature annual events of the ICCCV was the area-wide celebration of the International Day of Peace every September 21. These occurred from 2006 through 2017, and in the latter years included Dances of Universal Peace and large group meditations, as well as presentations by community peace-builders from different areas of expertise and faith expressions. One year we held Peace Day in the auditorium of a Middle School and included the youth choir there; other years we hosted a “cabaret” at a Charlottesville music venue featuring local musicians who voluntarily played and sang songs of peace. Several times we watched Jeremy Gilley’s Peace One Day. We also organized a large interfaith celebration in Charlottesville for “First Night” (a family celebration of New Year’s Eve in multiple downtown venues) which featured a modified Universal Worship celebration. One year, when the Dalai Lama visited Charlottesville, the ICCCV was invited to facilitate distribution of tickets to participants in the community.
During the year we held monthly facilitated meetings, open to all, and focused on topics relevant to peace-building, and non-violence. The ICCCV was primarily a space for contemplation, discussion, sharing and mutual support—open to anyone. The meetings were particularly supportive for those participants who engaged in more organized social justice activities in the community. One year we focused on the “Charter for Compassion,” reading and discussing Karen Armstrong’s book, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life. Another year we offered a monthly experience of the Seven Pillars process, facilitated by Rabia Povich. Every year we took a summer “pilgrimage” to Yogaville’s “Light of Truth Universal Shrine” (or Lotus temple,) which hosted a grand interfaith worship service in an edifice as close to a model Universel, as I have experienced.
We collaborated regularly with several groups including the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice, Yogaville, the P’nai Yisrael Chavurah (Jewish Renewal), Unity Church of Charlottesville, the United Nations Association, the University of Virginia Office of Diversity and Equity, the Baha’i Community of Charlottesville, and the Charlottesville EcoVillage; as well as clergy people and members from the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church – Unitarian Universalist, the Charlottesville Mennonite Church, Sojourners United Church of Christ, and Peace Lutheran Church. Our Inayati Order center, and our Sufi Ruhaniat friends were participants and organizers of events.
After 2016, as awareness of the importance of interfaith collaboration increased, organizations such as The Charlottesville Clergy Collective assumed the role of bringing folks in the faith community together. The ICCCV then became less active, assuming a subtler role of holding a peace concentration thru the Interfaith Pray for Peace Circle. We meet for prayer, song and meditation on the last Wednesday of each month. Our website continues to be “live”: https://interfaithprayforpeace.weebly.com/
from Zakir-Amin Povich (Charlottesville, Virginia)
For more information about the United Religions Initiative (URI): https://www.uri.org/
The Kinship Activity is eager to hear of Kinship efforts or gatherings in your community!
To submit an article to the Inayatiyya Kinship Connection contact Zakir-Amin at Kinship@Inayatiyya.org
For more information about the Inayatiyya North America region Kinship activity contact: Rabia Povich Kinship@Inayatiyya.org
Toward the One, United with All