Celebrating 60 Years of Interfaith Understanding
For the past sixty years, the Temple of Understanding has been promoting dialogue and understanding by presenting groundbreaking international forums and educational programs, and has continually advocated for interfaith values in the secular setting of the United Nations. This is how we manifest the legacy of our Founder Juliette Hollister, who had the vision in 1960 to bring together the gifts, wisdom, and insights of all the religious traditions to cultivate and promote positive social change. She was the first woman to found an interfaith organization, and one of the first interfaith organizations as well!

This October we celebrated our 60th Anniversary, by offering a free, two-day virtual event, Forum2020: “Spirituality, Science, Climate and Our Future.” The recording of the interfaith panels, keynote speakers and an Interfaith Prayer Service are now online. As part of celebrating this milestone, the Temple of Understanding produced a short 14 minute documentary about Juliette’s vibrant vision and legacy. It tells the story of her vision, humor and philosophy that have had a profound and unique influence on the interfaith movement as a whole, encouraging co-operation and the sharing of resources.      

Peace, Justice and the Planet: 60 Years, the Temple of Understanding chronicles Juliet’s early travels around the world to seek support from world leaders and humanitarians such as Albert Schweitzer, H.H. Pope John XXIII, among others. The film features present day environmental activists such as H.H. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the late Dr. Wangari Maathai, the late Fr. Thomas Berry, Dr. Vandana Shiva, and Van Jones, who have been instrumental in our expanded mission in the last decade towards environmental advocacy, food sovereignty and women’s health and safety.       

Please help us implement our work of peace, justice, human rights and environmental sustainability through our educational programs and collaborations. In 2021 we plan to continue our Eco Justice for All series, expand our TOU Summer Internship program for youth, launch a new interfaith dialogue project, as well as continue our advocacy at the UN. Our mission of building understanding and promoting interfaith values has never been more needed in this ever changing world. Please see our brief program report below. 
As we look forward to 2021, to new friends, collaborations, outreach and deepening our relationships with each other and the natural world, we offer an excerpt from the Universal Prayer for the Earth that concluded the Forum2020 event:

We gather with one mind, with one heart to ask for help in our time of need.
Give us the wisdom to recognize the blessings we have been given,
and become true stewards of our Earth. 
We pray for the courage, strength and wisdom to embrace the transformation
to a new way of living in harmony with each other,
all creatures and with our living planet, Mother Earth.
May there be peace.   

Warmly on behalf of the Board of the Temple of Understanding,
Alison Van Dyk, Chair Person

Eco Justice For All and Interfaith Dialogue Series
In 2020 the Temple of Understanding launched the ECO JUSTICE FOR ALL interview series as an ongoing program incorporating our outreach in the area of environmental awareness and advocacy. To date we have 75 videos available for viewing including interviews with world famous scientist and activist, Dr. Vandana Shiva; 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle for the Great Sioux Nation, Chief Arvol Looking Horse; National Field Director of Moms Clean Air Force, Heather McTeer Toney and Union of Concerned Scientist representative, Dr. Astrid Caldas. Through interviews with a diverse range of international Changemakers, we explore a plethora of perspectives, from scientific to spiritual views, on the climate emergency and offer a variety of solutions that we can all do easily and effectively in our everyday lives. World religious and spiritual visionaries, Indigenous leaders, scientists and social scientists, environmental activists, artists, musicians and writers, youth and elders, local and global people on the street, all come together to address the urgency of the climate crisis through this ongoing interview series. Short 3 minute clips present the main ideas of the interview on our website here, and full length interviews can be watched on our website and our new Youtube channel “Eco Justice for All”. In 2021 we will be expanding the EJFA project with a special speaker series, interdisciplinary panels and dialogues and new podcast, promoting the understanding and wisdom of these Changemakers, their insights into the state of our planet and their offerings of diverse strategies for inspired action. 

Temple of Understanding Summer Student Internships 2021
Four Week Intensive program for 18 to 22 year olds 
While we hope to be able to have an in-person TOU Summer Internship program this coming July, we are aware that the situation facing us during this time of COVID-19 restrictions may necessitate our pivot to the online program we ran this past year. Via Zoom, we were able to connect with 28 youth, who came from nine countries and many different states in the US. Because of a generous grant from Fellowship In Prayer, we were able to offer the program for free. There were 5 sessions that focused on such topics as: Interfaith Education, Human Rights; Sustainable Development, Ecological Justice, Women’s Rights, Humanitarian Affairs, Peacekeeping and Conflict Resolution. Presentations were given by a number TOU Board members, UN Agency representatives and experts in those fields, including Carol Bellamy, Peace Corps and UNICEF. 
Under normal circumstances, students accepted into this program have the opportunity to attend open meetings of the UN Security Council and General Assembly as well as meet with different missions and NGOs, to pursue independent research, learn about different religions through visiting their houses of worship, and participate in community volunteer work. Applicants must be 18 years old by June 20, 2021 to participate in the program. Please forward this notice to interested young people!  Apply Here

United Nations Responding
The UN is responding to the multiple global emergencies by strong calls of the Secretary General, special sessions for global response to COVID-19, the Climate Ambition Summit, 16 days of Activism Against Gender- Based Violence and more. As a body made up of 193 countries, decisive action depends upon these member states; the UN also inspires and motivates through inclusive events and the programs of its agencies. In this the UN’s 75th year, the urgency of global need for cooperation and collective action has never been greater, and the UN is the only setting where all countries have a seat at the table. The Temple of Understanding is proud to be part of the civil society inputs for systemic global economic reform, for increased climate action, for collective action against Covid-19 and much more. The UN human rights framework expresses fundamental values that are at the core of religious traditions, and we are gratified by the increased participation of faith actors at the United Nations. In the coming year we expect to increase our involvement in the collective efforts to protect bio-diversity and our oceans, and will join in the lead up to the next climate convention.  Inspiring short and long videos on the UN’s activities are always available online.

Winter Aid for South Dakota Native Americans
Photo of Arvol Looking Horse, a FORUM2020 keynote speaker and his request: 
The Native American reservations in Dakota face many challenges this winter. They lack PPE, medicine, and other items to protect them from COVID and other sicknesses. Many of their normal supplies are not available. Cold weather has already arrived and many are without coats, boots, hats and gloves. Please help support the indigenous people by donating money. There are 50 children and their parents who will benefit from your generous gift. Please donate via this Gofundme campaign Winter Aid Dakota.