President’s New Year Letter

Dear Sisters and Brothers of IARF,

As the Winter Solstice ushers in a change of seasons, may the increasing light bring us hope, rebirth, and renewal. Our traditions universally celebrate the New Year with symbols of the victory of light over darkness, good over evil. Christmas heralds Jesus as the Light of the World, Hanukkah celebrates the Festival of Lights and the miracle of the menorah, the Druidic Alban Arthan witnesses the Oak King triumphing over the Holly King symbolizing light conquering darkness, and Kwanzaa honors African traditions by lighting a Kinara. These messages of hope and renewal are universal, even in the many traditions that mark the New Year at the onset of other seasons like spring or harvest.

Never in our lifetimes has the symbolism of the struggle between darkness and light been more palpable in our lived reality. Never has the message at the heart of the International Association of Religious Freedom been more pertinent. Like the shortened days of winter, we have experienced a period of diminished resources and perhaps a waning belief in our unique organization – the oldest interfaith community, known for its contributions to religious freedom, peace, progressive religion and a liberating spirituality that frees from suffering, oppression, addiction, and more.

Our past successes should fill us with pride, but they also call us to recognize our place and role in the world. We are the world! This realization urges us to acknowledge our utmost importance at a time when the world is facing more challenges than ever. In our 123 years, IARF has adapted to the spiritual needs of each era. Now, we must meet the challenges of this new epoch.

As an interfaith association, we must remember the values of our traditions in cultivating love and peace. We are more than just an organization; we are a conscience of a world that is losing its compassion, kindness, and love of truth.

I sense an expectation from our member groups to rejuvenate ourselves with newfound energy and enthusiasm. We have the moment, the enthusiasm, the energy, and the will to guide IARF through these dark times. We have a mission, and our people expect us to overcome the danger of fading into oblivion.

The challenge is even greater because IARF is far from having an adequate financial basis. However, we can and must become more generous toward our cherished organization. New programs will include a focus on youth, a digital education program titled the Institute for the Study of Free Religion with over 50 courses in liberating spirituality, a speakers bureau, online chats, representation in the United Nations, shared media, printed materials, and more. While limited resources might hold us back, the need for our diverse faith perspectives has never been greater.

May your New Year be blessed, happy, and safe. May you share your light with a neighbor.

George Williams, IARF President

Highlights from the 2023 IARF Congress

One Response

  1. Dear George Williams, thank you very much for your inspirational message to get us into the mood for IARF2024 !

    May I share a Walt Whitman poem which was written a long time ago (ca. 1860); it was one of Diether Gehrmann’s favorites and still rings true for me at New Years:

    This moment yearning and thoughtful sitting alone,
    It seems to me there are other men in other lands yearning and thoughtful,
    It seems to me I can look over and behold them in Germany, Italy, France, Spain,
    Or far, far away, in China, or in Russia or Japan, talking other dialects,
    And it seems to me if I could know those men I should become attached to them as I do to men in my own lands,
    O I know we should be brethren and lovers,
    I know I should be happy with them.

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