"The mission of the U-Day gatherings is to bring people into joyful harmony through interfaith understanding and the common language of music. In 2018, Unity Earth and an international team from Australia, India and the United States, brought religious, spiritual and indigenous leaders, heads of international organizations and inspirational musicians together for a powerful experience of unity through diversity in the Land of Origins: Ethiopia." UNITY EARTH
At the beginning February 2018, over sixty-five spiritual and cultural leaders from around the world came together and travelled to Ethiopia to take part in a week of celebrations that were held as part of the UN's World Interfaith Harmony Week. Among the delegates were representatives of the Native Indian Americans, Aboriginal Australians, Sikhs, Sufis, Hindus and Baha'is from India, Buddhist monks from Thailand, Christians, Muslims, Jews and Rastafarians, just to name a few.
Delegates including His Holiness Abune Mathias I gathered at the African Union, Addis Ababa, February 2nd 2018
The first day of celebrations saw the delegates travel to the ancient and mystic town of Lalibela, located in Northern Ethiopia.
The Unity Earth group arriving at St. George's Church, Lalibela, Febraury 1st 2018
Lalibela is a town that contains over ten rock-hewn churches; that is to say, the churches were carved into rock by human hands, rather than built upward from the ground. These towns are estimated to have been built in around the thirteenth century, at the time when Jerusalem, Israel, had fallen to conflict and war. King Lalibela expressed his wishes to establish a New Jerusalem in ancient Ethiopia, and so, through the mystics, Lalibela was born.
"Under the rising Blue, Blood Supermoon of February 1st, seventy representatives of the human family came together to demonstrate our profound unity with one another, with the Earth and with the Cosmos."
Celebrations in Lalibela included a ceremony of the Four Directions, followed by the Torch of Peace, Torch of Compassion and Lamp of Unity coming together as one to form the Global Fire of One Love. The event has been described by U-Day organisers as "a deeply sacred ceremony; the energy was wild, and intensely beautiful."
Ras Ibi and Ras Joseph in attendance at the African Union, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, February 2nd, 2018
The following day, February 2nd, all roads lead to the historical African Union building in Addis Ababa, set up by Emperor Haile Selassie I in 1963 and previously known as the Organisation of African Unity. The event was organised by the United Religions Initiative, the Inter-Religious Council of Ethiopia and the World Peace Prayer Society, and on top of the international delegates, invited to the event was Dr. Mulatu Teshome, President of Ethiopia. Also invited were leaders of the Inter-Religious Council and the Patrich of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, His Holiness Abune Mathias I.
Unity Earth delegates gathered in Lalibela, Ethiopia, February 1st, 2018
The purpose of the meeting was for this powerful group of visionaries to come together and share ideas and messages of how world peace could be sought. One of the ceremonies that took place was the World Peace Flag Ceremony which featured fifty Ethiopian children raising the flags of all nations of the world, with the prayer "May Preace Prevail on Earth."
Speeches were given and blessings made in each native language. It may sound like an impossible task to many reading this now, yet as you can see - the process is of peace making is already under way.
Sheik Tijani, AKA Ahmed Tijani Ben Omar of Ghana, delivers a speech at the African Union, Addis Ababa, February 2nd, 2018
For so many, the world is characterized by nightmares rather than dreams, discord rather than harmony. There is so much suffering. There is so much war, poverty, disease, displacement, environmental degradation, violence against women and children. In too many places, inequality and injustice abound.
And yet into the terror of this nightmare, come your voices, spiritual people of all beliefs, speaking and singing words of compassion and hope, forgiveness and love; moral people who can imagine a world with no poverty, no hunger, accessible healthcare, quality education, gender equality, clean water… a world where the vision of peace and justice is no longer a distant dream but a reality in the life of our children and of children’s children. Speech by the Rev. Victor H. Kazanjuan JR., Executive Director, United Religions Initiative
Muslim leader Haji Syed Salman Chishty and Jewish Rabbi Gabriel Hagai representing Unity Earth at the African Union, Addis Ababa, February 2nd, 2018
I believe our spiritual work is to create harmony, starting with ecological harmony, which is, of necessity, a foundation for other harmonies. The late, great Wangari Maathai, Nobel Prize Laureate from neighboring Kenya, wrote, "Today we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking so that humanity stops threatening its life support system. We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and in the process to heal our own — indeed to embrace the whole of creation. Speech by Peter Blaze Corcoran, recently retired Professor of Environmental Studies and Environmental Education, who has lectured worldwide on sustainability, educational philosophy and the Earth Charter.
In achieving Harmony, Peace, Unity and Dignity we should:
- Strengthen the work of those who, in continuity with their “originating principles/law of origin”, sustain to this date the ancient wisdom and spiritual traditional practices that preserve the sacred balance of Earth.
- Remind those who were given their “original instructions”, and that may have drifted from them due to their own historical processes, to revive their biocultural identity as a way back to their ancient ways, which will give them once again a sense of belonging and meaning in the sacred web of life.
- Bring awareness to those who have completely lost, or never had, the understanding that they too are an integral part of the natural world and as such need to learn they are here to contribute to sustaining it for themselves and for those who are yet to come.
- Practice tolerance, intercultural dialogue and mutual cooperation for the sake of biocultural diversity.
These are among the strongest warranties of peace and security at local and international levels. In sum, we, together, in a Process of Unification, need to be engaged in restoring harmony and balance of Mother Earth for the sake of human life and all beings. We need to think and act at local and global levels and think beyond intergenerational equity: we must leave a legacy of good generations for Mother Earth. Speech by Mindahi Bastida, Director, Original Caretakers Program, Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological seminary and descendant of the Otomi-Toltec Peoples of Mexico
Following the programme at the AU, on February 3rd, was U-Nite. This was an event designed to bring together various musicians and performers of different cultures and nationalities around the globe.
Sydney Salmon & the Imperial Majestic band perform live at part of U-Nite, Addis Ababa, February 3rd, 2018
Delegates then travelled south to Shashamane, where the festivities continued throughout the week, including a visit to the Nyabinghi Tabernacle and a concert at the Twelve Tribes of Israel HQ in commemoration of Bob Marley's 73rd birthday on February 6th.
Unity Earth organiser, Ben Bowler, visits Rastafarian residents in Shashamane as part of the U-Day Festival programme of events, February 2018
Highlights of the event were Sydney Salmon & The Imperial Majestic Band, Pato Banton, Lyla June, Rocky Dawuni and indigineous Mutthi Mutthi man, Jason Kelly, who is "responsible for calling on the ancestors in ceremonies such as funerals or healing and cleansing ceremonies such as traditional smoking ceremonies."
Convergence of Fire ceremony in Lalibela, February 1st, 2018
Although I was present throughout much of the festival's activites, I was not travelling with the group itself, however the fact that I was in Ethiopia at the same time as these delegates and leaders is truly humbling to me. I felt a true sense of detemination and assurement that within this world of doom and gloom, there is still hope, and there are more people around the world working towards the attainment of world peace than we could ever truly realise without coming together in such a way.
Chief Phil Lane Jr. of the Dakota and Chickasaw nations, a recognised leader in human, community and economic development, at the Convergence of Fire ceremony in Lalibela, February 1st, 2018
This week in Ethiopia was truly grounding, and I give thanks to the organisers and the delegates who allowed such a positive, spiritually uplifting series of events to take place.
A heartwarming video summary of the week's events
"Even in the 21st century, with faith, courage and a just cause, David will still beat Goliath." His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia
The next U-Day Festival is set to take place in India in 2019, and then Jerusalem in 2020.
To keep up-to-date with U-Day Festival, visit their Website and follow them on Facebook.
Unity Earth, the organisers of the festival, can be found via Facebook, Instagram and their Website.