Temple of Understanding

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The Temple of Understanding, "A Global Interfaith Organization" at the United Nations, is a "non-governmental organization in consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council" (UNESC).[1]


The Temple's web site states that it was "founded in 1960 by Juliet Hollister, a housewife who had a peanut butter sandwich lunch with a friend and shared her vision of a world in which the many religious traditions of today would come together in dialogue rather than conflict. Her idea, though simple, was so powerful that humanitarian Dr. Albert Schweitzer in the Congo and former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt soon became her advocates." Its mission - "to promote understanding among the world's religions, to recognize the oneness of the human family and to achieve 'A Spiritual United Nations'" - has since gained wide support amongst religous leaders including Pope John XXIII and the Dalai Lama and other prominent representatives of the Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and other faiths.[2]

"The organization was founded in 1960 by a pioneering visionary, Juliet Hollister, with the support of a distinguished group of “Founding Friends,” which included Eleanor Roosevelt, Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Sir Zafrula Khan, H.H. Pope John XXIII, Anwar al-Sadat and H.H. the XIVth Dalai Lama, among others." [1]

According to the Temple's website, it has recently concentrated on participating in briefings, meetings and conferences at the United Nations and "interfaith education." It is a member of the broad-based Committee of Religious NGOs at the United Nations. [3]

The Temple's work - such as in promoting greater religious community support for the protection of the environment - has been attacked by conservative organisations such as the Environmental Conservation Organization, a "property rights group" from the US that rails against "excessive environmental regulations." [4] Other conservative groups, such as the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute complained about the promotion of the Earth Charter at a conference organized by the Temple of Understanding. [5] Some conspiracy theorists, who oppose the United Nations for being a part of what they claim is a campaign for "one world government," have also criticised the Temple of Understanding because of its close ties to the UN.[6], [7], [8],[9]

Founding Friends

Accessed December 2011: [2]


Accessed May 2012: [3]

Board of Trustees and Staff 2002-2003

  • Alison Van Dyk, Chairman of the Board and Interim Executive Director
  • J. Steven Anderson, Development Chair
  • Diane M. Williams, International Consultant, Representative to the United Nations (Main Rep. Geneva, Alternative Rep. NY)
  • Sister Joan Kirby, Representative to the United Nations
  • John D. Miller
  • Tiffany Puett, Administrative and Program Assistant
  • Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey
  • Laxmi Shah
  • Dr. [aran Singh, International Chairman

Council of Trustees

Accessed May 2012: [4]


"In order to honor our founder Juliet Hollister's achievements and to support and affirm those secular and religious people whose life work has helped to create interfaith understanding, the Board of Trustees of the TOU established the Juliet Hollister Award in 1996. Past awardees include such luminaries as Swami Satchidananda, H.H. the XIVth Dalai Lama, Mary Robinson, Maestro Ravi Shankar, and Nelson Mandela." [5]

"*Honorary Chairpersons: H.H. the XIVth Dalai Lama and Dr. Wangari Maathi and Dr. Karan Singh

"Past awardees include Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, the Very Reverend James Parks Morton, His Holiness Sri Swami Satchidananda, President Nelson Mandela, His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama, Maestro Ravi Shankar, Wangari Maathai, Fr. Thomas Berry, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, and Hans Kung." [7]


The Temple of Understanding
720 Fifth Avenue, 16th floor
New York, NY 10019
Tel: 212-246-2746
Fax: 212-246-2340
email: info@templeofunderstanding.org

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch articles


  1. About, Temple of Understanding, accessed December 16, 2011.
  2. Founding Friends, Temple of Understanding, accessed December 16, 2011.
  3. Temple of Understanding Trustees, organizational web page, accessed May 16, 2012.
  4. Temple of Understanding Council of Trustees, organizational web page, accessed May 16, 2012.
  5. History, Temple of Understanding, accessed July 23, 2008.
  6. Hollister Awards, Temple of Understanding, accessed July 23, 2008.
  7. Hollister Awards, Temple of Understanding, accessed July 23, 2008.

External links

Critical articles