In 1965 Curtis Mayfield penned his spiritual masterpiece "People Get Ready". A true classic, the song captured the feelings of a generation lifted up by the heady optimism of the 1960s and inspired by the vision of the civil rights movement. Deeply rooted in Black spirituality, the song invites us all to a radical kind of unity - where everyone is welcome and there is no prerequisite for belonging.
"People Get Ready" came at a period halfway between two decisive moments in modern history - Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech in 1963 and the Moon landing in 1969.
Easy enough to see the political consequences of King's grand vision of equality, brotherhood and justice - a vision that went on to reshape America, while even today, too few have still-yet-to-grasp the wider philosophical and theological implications of such a radical vision of human unity.
Then in 1969 the world watched on as man went into space. The remarkable images beamed back to Earth of the blue-green orb we live on moved so many people, then and since, to ponder the sheer beauty and wonder of our single planetary home swirling through the enormity of space.
Nearly fifty years on after these momentus events and the world unity movement is coming of age. Pioneers like Barbara Marx Hubbard and Marianne Williamson are driving an evolutionary shift in consciousness that is gaining ground every day through organized networks, publications and events such as Birth 2012. It would be a mistake however, to think that such a shift is limited to a "West Coast" kind of spirituality. The phenomena that is the Hizmet movement within Turkish Islam, inspired by the preacher Fetullah Gulen, is accomplishing mighty deeds around the world in the field of intercultural dialogue; bringing understanding and promoting friendship between people of all faiths and cultures. Gulen famously states that he is a human being first and a Muslim second.
The world wide Focolari movement, born out of the Catholic Church in Italy is working tirelessly to promote the values of unity and global brotherhood / sisterhood. Dedicated Focolare members (over 100 000 of them) carry on their work in almost every nation on earth and yet rarely, if ever, attract public attention. The Dalai Lama has declared this century to be a century of dialogue. Taking the long view, he expresses his own great hope in the possibility of a more united world eloquently and frequently. Pope Benedict has written recently about the Christian grounds for hope of the sometime unification of all things.
Of course, the language each uses to express these views will differ from conceptual framework to framework. Though the content is variable, the context - greater unity, is the same. First century Christian teaching that in God's Kingdom there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female must be translated into modern language as "there is neither Christian nor Muslim, Gay nor Straight, White nor Black nor Brown nor Yellow." This is the rhetoric that Obama used to great effect in his 2012 election victory speech. Although some may fear otherwise, it is not about removing identity, it is about expanding it.
Politically, we are seeing the ongoing expansion of regional political unification. Notwithstanding the current financially-driven woes of the European Union, it is still very much a work in progress. The coming together of the ASEAN nations in 2015 promises to herald a new force in world affairs. With a population exceeding 600 million, the 10 ASEAN member states will transition into a single market in 2015, no doubt wary to learn the lessons from their European cousins. Their motto is "One Vision, One Identify, One Community". They even have an Anthem.
The ecological movement is also a great driver towards a more unified global perspective. Many people feel that if we do not unite and create meaningful global-decision making instruments, then we are heading for disaster. The other potent force pulling in this direction is international commerce - transnational corporations have been treating the world as one super marketplace for some time and prospering enormously as a result.
It is time for a more united world! On the 22nd and 23rd December we are holding the first ever U DAY / U-Nite! event in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Bringing musicians and artist from around the world, we will celebrate our radical unity, each in their own way and all traditions have a place the table. Using the universal language of music we will shine a light on the peace-makers and the positive work that is happening in the field of intercultural and interfaith dialogue. We have members of the Hizmet movement , the Focolari movement, the Thai Buddhist Sangha, members of the Bahai faith, Sikhs, Hindus, development and aid organisations and many other groups coming together to celebrate our common humanity. It's time to unite the tribes: one people, one planet, one shared future.
The musical highlights of U-Nite! on Saturday December 22 will be the inspirational songs of Pato Banton (himself inspired by the spiritual teachings of the Urantia Book) and Ras I Ray of the Until That Day movement (inspired by the vision of Haile Selassie and his landmark speech to the U.N. in 1963). U Day morning on December 23 will begin with chanting of the Thai monks, our hosts, at sunrise followed by the sounds of a didgeridoo representing the earth and indigenous people everywhere. Then Muslims will be with Christians and people of all spiritual persuasions and none, together sharing the event as one family in the realisation that we need not see alike or think alike in order to be alike.
At a time of terrible ethnic and sectarian strife in Palestine, Burma and many other places around our world, such a message of profound unity and peace are more important than ever.
The soundtrack is no longer playing "People Get Ready"; in 2012 there is a great chorus of diverse voices around the world already singing - We Are Ready.