Composed of participants from more than 50 religious communities in the United States, Religions For Peace USA (RFPUSA) traces its roots back to the early 1970s, when it began as an office within the World Conference of Religions for Peace (now, Religions for Peace, or RFP). In 2000, the U.S. office formally established itself as an independent chapter of RFP called the United States Conference of Religions for Peace, and four years later it adopted its current name.
Describing itself as “the largest and most broadly-based representative multi-religious forum in the United States,” RFPUSA seeks to “enhanc[e] mutual understanding” among the followers of various faiths, so as to “contribute to the well being of civil society” and “advance peace-building efforts and reconciliation in the United States and throughout the world.” The organization’s work focuses on three major priorities:
1) Building Community: To help “buil[d] relationships” between different religious communities, RFPUSA in 2008 published an “interfaith dialogue guide” titled InterActive Faith: The Essential Community Building Handbook. The organization also occasionally hosts retreats for leaders of religious and interfaith organizations; sponsors Interreligious Councils designed to “engag[e] religious leaders and their communities in multi-religious cooperation”; and sponsors Interfaith Academies that teach “people engaged in or training for leadership in various religious traditions” about other faiths.
RFPUSA further seeks to “build community” through its Joint Religious Leadership Coordination Summits, which strive to convince the leaders of the G8 and G20 nations to embrace the United Nations‘ Millennium Development Goals. These Goals advocate international wealth redistribution as a means of “radically transform[ing] the economic systems and assumptions that have brought … vast inequality between the rich and the poor.”
2) Addressing Diversity: One initiative under this heading is RFPUSA’s Return to the Earth Project, which “supports Native Americans in burying unidentifiable ancestral remains now scattered across the United States and enables a process of education and reconciliation between Native and Non-Native people.” At issue are the “skulls and other remains of Native Americans” who were killed at various times in history by U.S. troops.
RFPUSA also sponsors a Diversity initiative called Our Muslim Neighbor uses a mix of public education and media engagement to “address public fears and media biases” that have promoted “distortions and misinformation” about Muslims and Islam. For example, in July 2013 RFPUSA and the American Center for Outreach co-hosted a webinar emphasizing the need to “end Islamophobia” and “challenge … anti-Muslim legislation.”
3) Examining the Role of the U.S. in the World: RFPUSA’s “The People Speak” initiative is a nationwide series of dialogues designed to “engage local citizens to discuss the hard questions about America’s role in the world” with particular regard to “peace,” “human rights,” “development,” “Energy and the Global Economy,” and the Millennium Development Goals.
RFPUSA’s executive council is composed of more than 45 ecumenical and inter-religious affairs officers, “peace and justice” officers, and other representatives of U.S.-based religious communities. Among the most notable are Naeem Baig (president of the Islamic Circle of North America); Daisy Khan (wife of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement); Tony Kireopoulos (a senior program director with the National Council of Churches); Sayyid Syeed (director of the Islamic Society of North America‘s Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances); and two officials from the Imam Al-Khoei Benevolent Foundation (a group funded by the Alavi Foundation, which is closely tied to Iran’s theocratic Islamic government).
To view a comprehensive list of RFPUSA’s executive council members and the religious organizations/denominations they represent, click here.
RFPUSA’s council of presidents includes more than 20 senior officers of U.S.-based religious communities, including the aforementioned Naeem Baig and Islamic Society of North America president Mohamed Magid.
RFPUSA has received funding from such entities as the Better World Foundation, the David and Barbara B. Hirschhorn Foundation, the El-Hibri Charitable Foundation, the Henry Luce Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Stanley Foundation, UNICEF, the United Nations Foundation, and the Willam and Mary Greve Foundation.
 Another RFPUSA Diversity project is 9/11 Unity Walk, which “creates ways for people of all faiths to walk together” as a means of “demonstrat[ing] that they are not willing to be divided by religion or subject to those seeking to divide.”