Christmas and interfaith prayers for peace at St. Gregory of Nyssa, San Francisco

The past few months have done much to shake faith in peaceful coexistence. From the horrific attacks in Paris and San Bernandino to the shooting at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, the news has been dominated by reports of violence inspired by religion. In politics, some like Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump have called for people to be banned from or Muslims to be forbidden from entering the United States. 

Yet in the midst of these events, a group from a variety of faith traditions gathered together at St. Gregory of Nyssa, San Francisco, earlier this month. This was organized by the the United Religions Initiative, an international group dedicated to creating cooperation between different religious and spiritual communities around the world. On Christmas Eve this service will be broadcast on CBS as an interfaith service for peace to celebrate the birth of the ‘Prince of Peace’ Jesus Christ. 

With its circle of dancing saints from all traditions ringing the sanctuary, St. Gregory's was seen as an ideal place to host such an event. Leaders in The Episcopal Church are also heavily involved in the work of URI. It was founded by former Bishop of California the Rt. Rev. William Swing, and several Episcopalians are involved with the executive committee. 

“News stories of religiously-motivated violence, darkness and despair are only one side of humanity. What rarely makes the news are the stories of hundreds of thousands of people around the world, of all religions, who work together daily for peace,” said URI spokesperson Isabella Ortega. In a world that has been torn apart by religious violence, now more than ever it’s important to be a witness to reconciliation.

Watch the special on Thursday, December 24, at 11:35 p.m. E/P, on CBS.