Who We Are

In Memorium

Joan Kirby, RSCJ 5/24/1926 – 9/9/2015


In 1994, Sister Kirby found her true passion when she became the director of the Temple of Understanding (TOU) in New York, an interfaith organization affiliated with the United Nations. The TOU works to educate adults and young people across cultures and religion to create understanding and peaceful co-existence. Sister Kirby remained with the Temple of Understanding, first as director, then as its representative to the United Nations, until 2014, when her illness made it necessary for her to retire.

In 2010, the Temple of Understanding presented Sister Kirby with the Interfaith Visionary Lifetime Achievement Award, “for promoting interreligious values at the United Nations, her lifelong commitment to addressing human rights and ecological issues, and her passionate devotion to the development of young leaders.” UN Secretary General BAN Ki-Moon wrote at the time, “We are especially mindful of the special role you have played in advancing the Millennium Development Goals and interfaith and intercultural dialogue, as well as confronting climate change. I am also thankful that you have taken the time to nurture young global citizens from all parts of the world. Your leadership has been exemplary. Your influence profound. I thank you.” For a complete obituary, click here.



THE TEMPLE OF UNDERSTANDING has led the way in interfaith education and advocacy for 50 years.

For those who wish to learn who we are, it might be essential to learn of what we do. We educate youth and adults both cross culturally and inter-religiously for global citizenship and peaceful coexistence; advocate for acceptance and respect for religious pluralism by the worlds governing bodies; and actively continue to promote justice and tolerance.

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.


who we are

Global forum of spiritual and parliamentary leaders on human survival.
Christ Church, Oxford University – April 1988


 The Temple of Understanding Co-Sponsored this event with The Global Forum