Think about it. What could be a more inclusive, more complete Purpose Statement than URI’s? In addition to promoting enduring interfaith cooperation and ending religiously motivated violence, we have also committed to creating “cultures of peace, justice, and healing for the Earth and All Living Beings”.
And then, to give greater contour to that concluding purpose, the closing commitment in URI’s Preamble is: “We unite to use our combined resources only for nonviolent, compassionate action, to awaken to our deepest truths, and to manifest love and justice among all life in our Earth community.”
My heart fills with gratitude this season of Thanksgiving for such an inspired and visionary calling by the world’s largest interfaith organization, our own loved United Religions Initiative.
So how might we more fully realize—“make real”—this commitment to peace, justice, and healing for the Earth and all living beings? How might we “awaken to our deepest truths and manifest love and justice among all of life in our Earth community?”
Here is a wonderful place to start!
Thanksgiving Day in the United States is this Thursday, November 22nd. Especially given that it is not a religious holiday, Thanksgiving is celebrated by people of many different faiths, as well as people who do not observe a faith tradition. It is therefore very likely the most celebrated holiday in the US, as well as many other households around the world.
And because it is a cherished time for family and friends to gather, a great many households enlarge the circle around their dining table by inviting in people who for whatever reason would otherwise be alone and lonely on the holiday.
And since expressing gratitude is fundamental in most religions, spiritual expressions and indigenous traditions (albeit manifest in many different forms), perhaps we can use the American Thanksgiving holiday as an opportunity to invite URI members around the world to join in taking tangible steps to express our gratitude “for all living beings”.
At the same time, on a more somber note, Thanksgiving Day could well be the single cruelest day of the entire calendar year globally in terms of numbers of animals “harvested”. I refer, of course, to the millions of turkeys whose roasted bodies can be found at the center of most Thanksgiving dining tables.
Isn’t it time for a change?
(And note that if a Thanksgiving turkey isn’t relevant to your own culture or geography, then how about the ham [pig] or lamb or beef [cow] or goat or chicken or rabbit or fish who adorns your holiday table?)
Appreciating Turkeys for Who They Are . . . which is Wonderful!
Please join me in celebrating turkeys as the intelligent, sensitive and social beings they are, full of life and love. When they are allowed to live their natural lives, roaming free, they form deep friendships and emotional bonds. They have a zest for life and enjoy their days. And they live for more than 10 years.
For a start, female turkeys are wonderful mothers, and mom is the center of the universe for her babies. If the young ones become separated, they will panic and send out a lost call. The mother bird will come running and gather them under her wing. In nature, turkeys spend up to 5 months close to their mothers.
Turkeys each have their own unique voice, and they can make more than 20 vocalizations (sounds). That’s how they recognize one another. Male turkeys gobble to attract the attention of the females, and this gobble can be heard from over a mile away.

Turkeys are masters of geography and can learn the precise details of an area more than 1000 acres in size. They’re great at finding treats, and one of their favorites is blackberries! Wild turkeys can fly up to 55 miles an hour and run 18 miles an hour.
Turkeys have been known to enjoy music and even to dance the flamenco!
Though we usually see turkeys wandering around on the ground, they will always choose to sleep up in the trees. They flutter up at dusk and fly down at dawn.
To see many of these behaviors in action, enjoy this wonderful short video: “Baby Turkey Sleeps on Lap,” by Jeremy Hess of VeganInteractions (https://www.facebook.com/groups/583888551756009/permalink/1484020455076143/).
Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Free-Range Turkeys,” by Angel Flinn and Dan Cudahy. Gentle World, November 19, 2010 (http://gentleworld.org/10-things-everyone-should-know-about-free-range-turkeys/).
Ten Things You Never Knew About Turkeys,” by Abigail Geer. Care2, October 15, 2014 (http://www.care2.com/causes/10-things-you-never-knew-about-turkeys.html).
Turkey Facts,” Farm Animal Rights Movement. Compassionate Holidays, accessed November 2018.(http://compassionateholidays.com/).
Recipes for Compassionate Holiday Dining (any time of the year!)
32 Vegan Recipes that Are Perfect for Thanksgiving,” by Christine Byrne; Buzzfeed, October 15, 2013 (https://www.buzzfeed.com/christinebyrne/vegan-thanksgiving-recipes).
Our Guide to 2018’s Turkey-Less Plant-Based Thanksgiving Entrees!” by Food Monster Editorial Team; One Green Planet, November 18, 2018 (https://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/turkeyless-plantbased-thanksgiving-entrees-2018).
Best Turkey-Free Main Dishes for Your Holiday,” by Ashley Capps; Free From Harm, November 12, 2018 (https://freefromharm.org/vegan-recipes/best-turkey-alternatives/).

May this Be Your First—Or Perhaps the Last . . .

Every person reading this is doing invaluable work in keeping with some part of the URI Purpose Statement quoted at the beginning of this message. To the extent that we each embrace and work to realize other aspects of the grand, overarching URI mission, we multiply our impact many, many times more.
And so, may this coming Thanksgiving—or whatever holiday comes next for you—be the first one that you choose to celebrate with totally compassionate dining.
If, however, if you’ve already bought the food or have otherwise committed to attending a turkey-centered Thanksgiving dinner this year, then may it be the last one that you observe in this way.
In closing, I offer this fun video for guidance on how to make the transition:
“DawnWatch Guide to Holiday Turkey Preparation” by Karen Dawn,
May we cherish the wonderful creatures we know turkeys to be!
With thanks for all that you do,
Cynthia Sampson, Asheville, North Carolina, USA
Compassion for All Living Beings Cooperation Circle

Extending Peace to All Living Beings

As the International Day of Peace (September 21st) approaches, we are excitedly looking forward to many special events and celebrations around the world. This will reinforce our commitment to promoting world peace above all differences and contributing towards building a Culture of Peace.

The URI Purpose states: “The purpose of the United Religions Initiative 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.”

The URI Preamble beautifully reads: “We unite to use our combined resources only for nonviolent, compassionate action, to awaken to our deepest truths, and to manifest love and justice among all life in our Earth community.”

Together, we are working hand-in-hand to promote peace in our lives, with impactful results emerging every day, as all faiths and cultures are engaged towards the common good in friendship and solidarity. Together, we are joining hands towards creating a peaceful community, creating a peaceful environment, and extending this peace to all.

That is why, for URI, every day is an International Day of Peace. Together, we celebrate September 21st in tribute to the great and lasting, impactful change that URI’s Cooperation Circles (CCs) stand for.

Peace is so much more than the absence of war. Peace is justice for all living beings.

Peace is so much more than the absence of war. Peace is justice for all living beings. As human beings, we can experience peace through our senses, in the quest for our soul to know blissful peace. We nurture our inner peace through quiet moments, meditation, prayer, the arts and listening to the still, silent voices of our hearts. We spread our peace, through our love and compassionate care to others.

When we look at the pets that we love and nurture, it is so very clear that just like people, the souls of animals embody their own unique personalities, awareness, and that beautiful spark that connotes the existence of the Divine. When we see them joyful, or when we see them suffering, we witness vast emotional lives, which often turn our hearts compassionately to their needs. Witnessing their growth through their sentience, we can easily reason that the concept of Ahimsa, or non-violence in word, thought and action, which was popularized by Mahatma Gandhi’s passive resistance movement in India, applies not only to how humans interact with each other, but also how we interact with all living beings.

Non-violence…applies not only to how humans interact with each other, but also how we interact with all living beings.

Although animals cannot speak in our human language, this does not mean that they do not have a voice. The range of animal sentience that is now being recognised is astounding – even a bull has been known to grieve at the death of his human owner; rats, who chuckle when being tickled and come back for more, have been found to be capable of altruism.

Pigeons have shown mathematical abilities on par with certain primates. As for parrots, they are a whole amazing story in itself; they have the emotional age of a toddler and the intelligence of a five-year-old. They bond so deeply with either their parrot or human companions that parting and separation cause great suffering to them, so much so that they have been known to stop eating and die as a result of this.

Therefore, let us urge our sisters and brothers that peace must extend to every creature if we are to truly celebrate our legacies in this world of ours. Let us remember that they, too deserve an environment of peace, where animals that are wild can have access to their natural habitats, places to roam and free-flowing water. For animals that are captive, let us stand together for these, the most helpless and dependent of creatures, and call for an end to their torture, and the associated unsafe practices of confinement and mistreatment.

When animals are screaming in terror and pain—in places of science or where they are “farmed,” cruelly transported, and slaughtered—we mustn’t close our eyes to their torment and grief. Instead, let us but open our hearts to appreciate these remarkable and beautiful souls who need our love and care and help, who feel physical pain, fear and sorrow at the loss of loved ones. Let us be their voice.

For how long can we be silent spectators to their suffering?

As human beings and in the spirit of stewardship, let us serve them and honour their spirit. Our eyes are the mirrors of our soul and therefore our true reflection. For how long can we be silent spectators to their suffering?

As long as our abuse and exploitation of animals continues on the grand scale that it does, can our world ever know true peace? This I very much doubt.

In the sixth century BC,  Pythagoras, the mathematician and mystic philosopher stated, “As long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.”

Selective peace for some does not comprise real peace in our interconnected world. Peace must not stop at our doorstep. If we really want to ensure peace in our world, let us not be participants of this bloodshed.

Let us not forget, their misery in this interconnected world is also our misery.

Let us raise our voice against cruelty to animals and learn how to live in harmony with all living beings. We can do this by eating vegan (free of any animal products) and buying cruelty-free clothing and cosmetics. Let us raise our voices and wield our pocketbooks against animal testing, and the cruelty of factory farms. And let us not forget, their misery in this interconnected world is also our misery.

As we mark the International Day of Peace, may we remember to honour all of our fellow beings with love. Let us make our voices and actions of peace resonate in a just environment for all living beings.

Let us be that peace we wish to see.

Learn more about Compassion for All Living Beings (C4ALB) Cooperation Circle.

Just Imagine

       Imagine a gathering of United Religions Initiatives (URI) members of diverse religions, spiritual expressions, and indigenous traditions from across North America, working together harmoniously to create cultures of peace, justice, compassion, and dignity for all living beings. And imagine that they share a meal together that does just that!
       Imagine the multiplying effect that can happen when participants at this North America Regional Assembly take the experience of a 100-percent compassionate meal back home to their local URI member groups or Cooperation Circles (CCs). Imagine the impact this might have over time for the well being of other living beings.
       Such a meal and such an experience are on the cusp of happening soon. And we have done this before . . . take a look (here) at a vegan meal (i.e., free of any animal products) enjoyed at the URI Global Leadership Conference held last September in Sarajevo. However, TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE to raise the necessary funds!  
       As an Animal Chaplain and Humane Minister, I have noticed the disconnect many religions have from the tenets of extending Compassion for All Living Beings. As a Spiritual Leader of my own nonprofit (www.ahowan.org), I have traveled through India, Sri Lanka, the USA, South Africa, Costa Rica and Canada sharing a message to many different religions and other groups of Peace with All Animals (including humans). What I have learned is, the starting point for many of us is what we are accustomed to putting on our plates. And the ways we have conditioned ourselves to extend compassion to some animals and not to others.
       Religions and cultures often justify the mistreatment of certain animals and certain groups of humans considered “the other”. If, however, we dig deep into the tenets of the major religions, we learn the message is inherently different (see “Religious Teachings,” https://compassion4alllivingbeings.org/links/). This is the message of the URI CC, Compassion For All Living Beings, which I am blessed to be a member of! We are inviting the members and leadership of URI, our parent organization, to take another look at these tenets by extending compassion, peace and dignity to all living beings — and to take note of how this begins with what we choose to put on our plates. In other words, to walk our talk.
       For a long time I have been dreaming of an opportunity to share this important message with groups of people who can really take it to heart and let it ripple out in a larger way. And here it is! I need your help, however. We need your help!
       The North America Regional Assembly will take place July 27-29, 2018, near Baltimore, Maryland, with some 100 CC representatives from across the region in attendance. The registration fee, meals and lodging costs of my participation, and ground transportation have all been covered. Yet to be raised are the full costs of my round-trip airfare and the printing our Compassion for all Living Beings brochure (which can be found here). We’ve set July 11th as the deadline to purchase the flight ticket.
        Here is the link to make a donation of any amount: GoFundMe.
From my Heart to your Heart,
May all the Animals bless you,
Rev. Ahowan ICrow
Compassion for All Living Beings Cooperation Circle, United Religion Initiative
For more information on Compassion For All Living Beings:
For more information on URI:
For more information on URI North America:
For more information on the URI Multi-Region:
Rev Ahowan ICrow
Website: www.ahowan.org
Phone: +1-480-479-2183
Facebook: Ahowan ICrow
“The Earth is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects.” Thomas Berry
“Avoiding harm to all creatures…this is true knowledge. All else is ignorance.” Bhagavad Gita