In recent headlines, we have seen a violent and dangerous escalation in the long-running conflict along the India/Pakistan border in Kashmir. Quiet for months, these headlines remind us how volatile the situation is in this region and how important it is for the US to have good relations with both countries. The “War on Terror” has caused the ties between the US and Pakistan to fray and part of my work over the last decade has been to improve relations between our two countries.
Last September, I was appointed a Fellow at Seton Hall University’s School of Diplomacy and International Relations. My charge: to rekindle under the auspices of Seton Hall the groundbreaking work we had done for the past eight years in the US-Pakistan Interreligious Consortium (UPIC). This work consists of bringing together religious leaders, community organizers, scholars and students from both countries to build relationships, alter harmful stereotypes and implement an action agenda that addresses human rights and human need. We have built partnerships with academic institutions in Pakistan and so it makes sense for an American university to take the reins of this program in order to propel it forward—increasing its scope and scale. As a program of a credited academic institution, UPIC can tap into a broader network and can strengthen the role of young people in this initiative.
During the eight years we did this work at Intersections International, we found this grass roots, interpersonal approach to be an effective way to build mutual respect and understanding. At one time, there were ten sustained programs underway in Pakistan as a direct result of UPIC, covering a wide range of topics from scholarly research to women’s rights to youth empowerment to economic development. On our 2017 trip to Pakistan, our numbers had grown from a small handful to a delegation of 30 from a dozen countries, and we are poised to return to Pakistan in October.
Even though we begin with a reservoir of interest, expertise and contacts from our past endeavors, and we have enthusiastic support at Seton Hall, jump-starting UPIC in this new setting has required countless hours of preparation and behind-the-scenes negotiations.
But we are now ready to go public.
One early objective was to establish a UPIC website at Seton Hall. I am thrilled to announce the website’s public launch today. You can visit it here. Please share this link with your networks and encourage others to visit and learn more about UPIC. We’ll update the site as new developments occur, so return often to see our progress.
I also call your attention to our fundraising page, here, and invite you to make a contribution to this work. Seton Hall has graciously waved all administrative fees so 100% of your tax-deductible contribution goes to UPIC. You can also see our brief promotional video, summarizing why and how we do this work. It is work we cannot continue without your support, so I invite you to give generously.
As we seek a future for UPIC with even greater impact than in the past, we look forward to sharing this unfolding news with you. Stay tuned!