Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Prayers for Peace in New Millennium Circle the Globe ; Interfaith Group Organizes '72 Hours of Peace Building' Everywhere From

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Prayers for Peace in New Millennium Circle the Globe ; Interfaith Group Organizes '72 Hours of Peace Building' Everywhere From

Article excerpt

William lives in a tough neighborhood and doesn't have a lot of choices for how to spend New Year's eve. But he's come up with something a little different.

He and 17 fellow inmates on death row at San Quentin Prison in northern California will spend the 72 hours spanning the end of the old year and the beginning of a new one in the simple act of prayer. Each one will take 90 minutes a day, creating an unbroken chain of spiritual meditation.

In addition to the prayers for peace, William and the others will "seek reconciliation with at least one person we consider not our friend" and "provide something of our own to someone else who is in obvious need," he wrote from his cell recently.

Millennium experts say one of the most distinguishing features of these times is mankind's intensifying spiritual yearning, evident in everything from opinion surveys to book sales.

In order to give voice to that, one fledgling interfaith group called the United Religions Initiative has spent the last couple of years organizing what it calls "72 hours of peace building," centered on the days around Jan. 1, 2000. The results are an impressive array of activities around the globe, reaching from death row in San Quentin to the road between Khyber and Karachi in Pakistan, which thousands of Muslims and Christians plan to traverse in a "walk for peace."

"We think there is an enormous upwelling of people who want to begin 2000 in a new spirit. People want the time to mean something beyond Y2K worries and wild partying," says Paul Andrews director of URI's 72-hour project.

URI is four years old and built on the premise that religious differences are the root of the vast majority of the world's conflicts, whether between Arab and Jew in the Middle East or Protestant and Catholic in Northern Ireland.

The United Religions Initiative is dedicated to building world peace through the efforts of the world's religious and spiritual leaders, according to founder William Swing, an Episcopal bishop.

The URI's call for spiritually based peace activities has generated 160 projects in some 40 countries. Every activity must involve more than one religion or faith so it is a demonstration in and of itself of interreligious cooperation. …

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