This article is based on the author’s experience while attending
the URI Charter signing summit.
Dressed in the garb of their "faith traditions,"
supporters of the global interfaith agenda stood in a large circle
on the Carnegie Melon University campus, located in historic
Pittsburgh. Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Wiccans, New Agers,
Muslims, followers of Judaism and Zoroastrianism, along with
devotees of a multitude of religions joined together as native
spiritualists invoked the "great spirit" and
"cleansed" the circle with smoke from a smudge pot. Once
the smudge had made it around the group, indigenous drummers from
India led the procession to the University Center. The United
Religions Initiative global charter signing summit was officially
Watching the processional from the sidelines, it struck me
that this organization, the URI, was nonexistent only five years
ago. And while the present charter summit was not large in terms of
attendees, it was designed to make a long-term impact on the global
religious scene. We had gathered to make history.
The Pittsburgh URI summit was a six-day event starting on
Sunday, June 25. The actual charter signing, officially launching
the world body, was held on Monday, June 26—the same day that the
United Nations charter signing took place back in 1945. This was not
a coincidence. The United Nations, through the vision of UN official
Robert Muller and the events surrounding its fiftieth anniversary,
was the guiding force behind the creation of the URI. Cementing this
link, a letter of support from the San Francisco chapter of the
United Nations Association was read on Sunday, and at the Monday
charter signing, a congratulatory conference call came from the UN.
Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, the telephone
Many other links between the URI and the United Nations
exist. Currently, the URI and UNESCO (United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization) are partners in the United
Nations sponsored International Year for the Culture of Peace, and
in a concurrent peace program called Manifesto 2000. The URI also
has a "Cooperation Circle" inside the UN.
Cooperation Circles, or CC for short, are at the heart of
the URI agenda. CCs are self-organized groups that are "locally
rooted and globally connected." According to the URI,
"Cooperation Circles support the spirit, values and vision
expressed in the URI Charter’s Preamble, Purpose and Principles
and carry out this vision in a multitude of ways." Networking
CCs "provide opportunity for worldwide collective interfaith
actions." In essence, CCs are local church-like interfaith
settings where URI members come together in inter-religious worship
and interfaith community planning. It’s the URI at the grassroots
On the global level—besides working with the United
Nations—the URI is partnering with various interfaith world
organizations. At the Charter signing, it was admitted that global
inter-religious organizations such as the Council for the Parliament
of the World’s Religions, are larger, have deeper linkages, and
work within broader mandates. In the spirit of global cooperation,
the United Religions Initiative is striving to interface with these
more established inter-religious bodies. Already a CC has been
created "to bridge the work of the Council for the Parliament
of the World’s Religions and the URI."
In order to globally steer the URI, a Global Council is
being organized. At the Pittsburgh summit we were introduced to the
Interim Global Council, which was set-up to solidifying the official
development of the URI as an international organization. According
to a URI document given out at the summit, between June 2000 and
June 2001, a process will be put in place "to select the 41
members of the first globally selected Global Council."
Although the document stated that the Global Council’s
"central spirit is not one of control," in casually
discussing this issue with summit attendees, I was told that
"control" was a real area of concern. Three URI members I
talked with—one from Eastern Europe, one from the Caribbean, and a
New Ager from the US—privately admitted that the URI has a real
potential to become a controlling factor within the universal
interfaith movement. These three attendees—who supported the
summit—recognized the URI and its Global Council as a
potentially dangerous element in suppressing genuine religious
freedom. As the URI Charter’s Preamble explains, "We unite to
support freedom of religion and spiritual expression, and the rights
of all individuals and peoples as set forth in international law"
The URI Charter Principles also allude to the creation of
a controlling interfaith power structure. Principles 13 to 16 state,
We have the authority to make decisions at the most local level
includes all the relevant and affected parties. (13) We have the
right to organize in any manner, at any scale, in any area, and
around any issue or activity which is relevant to and consistent
with the Preamble, Purpose and Principles. (14) [The Charter is
broad enough that almost any religious, "spiritual,"
moral, or ethical issue could be construed to be relevant to the
URI Charter Preamble, Purpose and Principles.] Our deliberations
and decisions shall be made at every level by bodies and methods
that fairly represent the diversity of affected interests and are
not dominated by any. (15) We (each part of the URI) shall
relinquish only such autonomy and resources as are essential to
the pursuit of the Preamble, Purpose and Principles.
URI members also agree through the Charter not to
"proselytize" each other. In other words, members will not
witness to, or proclaim that their religion is the
"truth," lest a member of another religious tradition
become offended. This is interfaithism; the idea that all religions
are pathways to the same mountaintop called "God." It is
the blending of all spiritual expressions, "truths," and
"gods" into a belief of global religious
tolerance—"unity in diversity" is the motto.
Of the approximately 250 who participated,
"Christianity," broadly defined, had the most
representation. On June 26, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported
that numerous "Christian" denominations, including Roman
Catholicism, did not support the URI agenda. This created a
controversy, and at the Monday evening Charter signing ceremony, the
Rev. P. Gerard O’Rourke, Director of the Roman Catholic
Archdiocese of San Francisco Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs
office, gave a firm rebuttal to the Post-Gazette article.
I want to correct something that I saw in your paper today in
this city. I am
here officially as a member of the Catholic Church, and this is
where I should
be...I am officially here. It’s where the Church should be right
is here. Bless you all.
Immediately following the Charter signing, I asked Rev.
O’Rourke about the role of the Vatican in the global interfaith
agenda. He told me that the Roman Catholic Church had received
guidance from Pope John Paul II—through his words and his
inter-religious activities—that interfaithism is to be vigorously
pursued. O’Rourke reminded me that the Catholic church, since the
1962 Second Vatican Council, had dedicated itself to advancing
global inter-religious cooperation. He also told me that at least
seven other Roman Catholic priests, each highly respected within
Catholicism, were present at the URI charter signing and had offered
their support to its goals.
There can be no doubt that the global interfaith agenda is
speeding up. Bishop William Swing, the Episcopalian founder of URI,
sees his inter-religious organization playing a long-term role in
the "new world" agenda. At the summit, Mr. Swing expressed
his hope that fifty years from now, thousands from around the world
would come to Pittsburgh and celebrate the URI’s fiftieth
anniversary—much like the United Nations did in 1995. What the
final role of the URI will be is not entirely known. And while the
organization is presently small, it is strategically aligning itself
within the framework of the global village.
But how does Jesus Christ fit into the URI agenda? Not
surprisingly, I never heard the name of Jesus mentioned at the
summit. Nor could His name be brought up. After all, it was Jesus
Christ who made it clear in John 14:6, "I am the way, the
truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
The exclusivity of Jesus Christ is in direct contradiction to the
goals of the URI, its Charter, and interfaithism in general. Not
only does Jesus Christ claim to be the only way to God, negating all
other "ways," but He commands His followers to
"proselytize"—"teach all nations, baptizing them in
the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Ghost…" (Matthew 28:19). And in Acts chapter one, Jesus
proclaims that His message will be preached "unto the uttermost
part of the earth." Jesus Christ is not politically correct in
the new global order.
As mankind works to build a "peace" based on
distorted New Age and interfaith agendas, we who have the peace of
Christ must maintain a steadfast determination to follow the will of
God—recognizing the exclusive Lordship of Jesus Christ and
proclaiming His message of salvation to all the world—regardless
of what the cost might be. May we not be slack in this high calling.
Carl Teichrib is Director of Research at Hope For The World, the
ministry of best-selling author Gary Kah. Subscribe to Hope For
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