UNITED RELIGIONS INITIATIVE Southeast Asia & the Pacific Regional E-Newsletter

URI SEAsia-Pacific 3rd Annual Regional Meeting 2007 held in Malaysia

The 3rd Annual Meeting of the URI Southeast Asia-Pacific (SEAP) Regional Trustees and leaders of Cooperation Circles on the theme, Moving forward in solidarity to build cultures of peace in the region, took place in Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia from March 14-16, 2007. This was the first regional meeting held outside Manila- the seat of the regional office.

The Regional Meeting was hosted by the Interfaith Spiritual Fellowship (INSaF) URI KL CC—chaired by Regional Trustee Dr. Amir Farid Isahak; and its mother organization, The Pure Life Society. The URISEAP 3rd Regional Meeting had the special and rare privilege of having the presence of the URI Executive Director, Rev. Charles Gibbs; and two other staff from the URI hub in San Francisco, Ms. Sally Mahe’ (URI Director for Organizational Development) and Ms. Barbara Hartford (URI Director for the Peacebuilding Program and HR). The three of them flew in together with the Philippine delegation right after their second 5-day seminar-workshop on the URI Moral Imagination Peacebuilding Training Program which was held in Manila (March 8-12). Also gracing the occasion was URI Global Council Chairperson, Ms. Yoland Trevino who flew in all the way from the US…

EDITORIAL: A Passion for Peace

by Dr. Amir Farid Bin Dato Isahak, URI SE Asia-Pacific Regional Trustee

Dearly beloved co-workers of the URI,

After many years of being active in Islamic and Interfaith activities, striving to bring peace among the peoples of various religions in my multi-racial and multi-religious country, and in the last few years also at the regional and global level, I have come to realize that peace is very elusive.

While there are possibly hundreds of thousands of us who are working on the ground in various ways and through various channels and organizations trying to prevent and resolve conflicts between the myriad groups that make up our society, and humanity as a whole, there are also many others who are busy sowing the seeds of discontent and disharmony among the peoples, and even among nations. While human history is replete with conflicts, wars, genocides and all forms of atrocities which continue until now, we are also comforted by the good deeds of peacemakers and benevolent, compassionate and munificent individuals, leaders and luminaries of the past and present.

A casual survey of the state of the world will reveal that almost every country has ongoing internal conflicts between various factions of its populace. These may have arisen from differences in their political or religious beliefs, racial interests, economic or business considerations, or just plain attitude problems. There are indeed people who are pathological trouble-makers. Then there are many ongoing conflicts between nations, with a superpower taking it upon itself to become the global police and initiated or got involved in so many wars, and threatening to start several more. In addition, we are faced with sufferings from natural disasters, famines, diseases, accidents and other calamities. Life is indeed stressful!

After thousands of years since Man first walked on this earth, we have never had complete peace. Followers of the Abrahamic faiths (Jews, Christians and Muslims) are reminded that a son of father Adam had murdered his brother out of jealousy. And humans have never stopped quarreling and killing one another since then! I wonder if the other religions also have similar stories about the first human beings.

So, is peace just an elusive dream? Are we wasting our time in pursuing this unachievable goal?

While we humans are doing all sorts of mischief on this earth, GOD is ever watching and in complete control of what is happening. Why then does GOD not give us peace? Why doesn’t HE wipe out evil from this earth, and from our lives? I will share the perspective of a Muslim, which I am sure will be similar to the understanding of many other faiths.

GOD wants us to be at peace with HIM, by knowing and understanding HIM, and obeying HIS advice, guidance and commandments. By doing so, we will also be at peace within ourselves, with all the people in our lives, and with the world at large. The commandment is that we start with ourselves. Then we are to bring as much goodness, happiness, and peace around our lives, as is humanly possible.

As the story of the wise man goes, we cannot change the world, but we can certainly change ourselves, and the world around us will start changing. Likewise, Ghandi said that we must be the change we want to see in the world.

GOD does not necessarily look at results only. HE is more interested in the best and most sincere efforts. The outcome is HIS to decide. Who deserves and who does not deserve peace are beyond our knowledge and wisdom, as we do not know what goes in the hearts and minds of other people. We should continue our peace-efforts regardless of the outcomes, as peace itself is not our ultimate aim, but it is to obey and please our Creator. If indeed HE gives us peace in the world, then we should be most thankful. If HE does not, we should still be thankful to HIM for giving us the wisdom to understand that HE has good reasons for denying it. And we should be thankful to HIM for giving us peace within, in spite of all the unrest around us.

It is for this reason that I will continue my peace-work with commitment, determination and passion, and I hope you will also continue with the same vigor.

On the good side, both Christians and Muslims are waiting for the second coming of Jesus Christ (Prophet Isa, peace be upon him, to the Muslims) who will wipe out evil and start an era of total peace (again, I wonder what other religions predict about the future). But until that happens, we will have to continue our peace-work with passion and conviction, in order to serve GOD, and to serve humanity.

May Peace prevail on Earth!

With loving Greetings,


REFLECTION: What role religion?

A Reflection by Mother Mangalam* from the Pure Life Society in Malaysia

Countless schools of thought have emerged to this day about Man, his relationship with nature or with the Unseen Power that charges us almost everyday in our sleep in order to enable us to get up refreshed to face another day. This Unseen Entity has been given a name and some have given It a form. The result is we countless books published on religious topics. How? Why did this happen? You must ask Man’s mind. And, people say that Man’s mind is linked with the Cosmic mind. Part and parcel of the Cosmic Mind! But what is the Cosmic Mind?

Now let us take the word “religion”. The origin of this word has its roots in the Latin word re-ligare which means “to bind back”. To bind back to what?

Let’s consider the individual mind. the nature of the mind is to wander. The more it wanders, the more confused it becomes—becomes very insecure, just like a child without parents, going about in fear, making blunders. There is something that has been said by a certain writer: “The human-soul was sent into the world to see the show of life and thus to gain the needed experience. But when it came here it became completely absorbed in the show and lost all recollection of the Lord, like a child who goes out to see a fair, holding on to his father’s hand, but lets go the father’s hand and is soon lost in the crowd. He is then no longer able to enjoy the fair nor can he find his father. As a result he wanders from place to place, lost and filled with fear and misery.”

This feeling of insecurity is something that almost every being suffers from. It is this feeling of insecurity that makes a young man or a young girl seek a mate. It is this feeling of insecurity that makes the parents get attached to the children with the hope that they may at some time be a source from which they can obtain security.

But once Man realizes that the feeling of security is something to develop from “within” him he stops looking “without” for this. But this realization comes in very late in life or sometimes never at all. Therefore, individuals who feel this deficiency go in search of dynamic beings who act as spiritual guides. Such guides of vibrant dynamism are known as Avatars in Hindu parlance. And the Voice that guides is recorded and becomes a religious text of scripture.

Those of us who are born in a century where such vibrant dynamic beings are not seen, have to rely on religious scriptures or their interpreters for consolation and guidance. Therefore, as long as man is weak in spirit he needs something to nourish it so that he can pick up those loose ends of his life and find himself a place in society. It is here we have the Guru and disciple relationship. By Guru I mean spiritual Guru who is a reflection of God’s light on earth.

Vivekananda in one of his talks said: “In all living beings there are three sorts of instruments of knowledge. The first is instinct which you find highly developed in animals, the second instrument of knowledge is reasoning. You find it highly developed in man and the third instrument is inspiration. So instinct, reason and inspiration are three instruments of knowledge. Instinct belongs to animals, reason to man and inspiration to God-Men.”

All the three, of course are found in every man in different proportions according to each man’s inner development.

Amongst the three, the reasoning mind can sometimes go off at a tangent and lead us to destructive ways. This is where the inspired sayings contained in religious texts show us the way.

*Mother Mangalam is the president and spiritual leader of The Pure Life Society. For comments or questions you can e-mail her at: info@purelife.org.my

InterSPECT (Interfaith Perspectives): THE STORY OF CREATION

This section features central themes and subject matters viewed from the perspective of the different religions and faith traditions.

Beliefs and ideas concerning the origin of the earth and human beings are an important part of the belief system in religions. Many of these stories are not intended to be factual but are intended for literary interpretation. They are symbolic or true to some extent only in a spiritual sense.


It is God who has created the heavens and the earth, and all between them, in six days, and is firmly established on the throne (of authority): ye have none, besides Him, to protect or intercede (for you): will ye not then receive admonition? He rules )all) affairs from the heavens to the earth: in the end will (all affairs) go up to Him, on a Day, the space whereof would be (as) a thousand years of your reckoning. Such is He, the Knower of all things, hidden and open, the Exalted (in power), the Merciful; He who has made everything which He has created most good: He began the creation of man with (nothing more than) clay, and made His progeny from quintessence of the nature of a fluid despised; But He fashioned him in due proportion and breathed into him something of His spirit. And He gave you (the faculties of) hearing and sight and feeling (and understanding); little thanks do ye give!

- Qur'an 32.4-9


The Great Primal Beginning (t'ai chi) generates... the two primary forces [yang and yin]. The two primary forces generate the four images. The four images generate the eight trigrams. The eight trigrams determine good fortune and misfortune. Good fortune and misfortune create the great field of action.

- I Ching, Great Commentary 1.11.5-6


This universe existed in the shape of darkness, unperceived, destitute of distinctive marks, unattainable by reasoning, unknowable, wholly immersed, as it were, in deep sleep.

Then the Divine Self-existent, himself indiscernible but making all this, the great elements and the rest, discernible, appeared with irresistible power, dispelling the darkness.

He who can be perceived by the internal organ alone, who is subtle, indiscernible, and eternal, who contains all created beings and is inconceivable, shone forth of his own will.

He, desiring to produce beings of many kinds from his own body, first with a thought created the waters, and placed his seed in them.

That seed became a golden egg, in brilliancy equal to the sun; in that egg he himself was born as Brahma, the progenitor of the whole world....

The Divine One resided in that egg during a whole year, then he himself by his thought divided it into two halves;

And out of those two halves he formed heaven and earth, between them the middle sphere, the eight points of the horizon, and the eternal abode of the waters.

From himself he also drew forth the mind, which is both real and unreal, likewise from the mind ego, which possesses the function of self-consciousness and is lordly.

Moreover, the great one, the soul, and all products affected by the three qualities, and, in their order, the five organs which perceive the objects of sensation.

But, joining minute particles even of those six, which possess measureless power, with particles of himself, he created all beings.

- Laws of Manu 1.5-16


In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.

And God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

And God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." And God made the firmament and separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.

And God said, "Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear." And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. And God said, "let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth." And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, a third day.

And God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth." And it was so. And God made the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.

And God said, "Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the firmament of the heavens." So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth." And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.

And God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds, cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds." And it was so.

And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds, and the cattle according to their kinds, and everything that creeps upon the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth."

And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so.

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation.

- Bible, Genesis 1.1-2.3


"To create" is commonly understood as "to produce something out of nothing." When God said, "Let there be light," and there was light, he created light out of nothing. Before that there was only darkness and no material existed out of which the light was made.

Creation out of nothing is called a "first creation," and is found principally in the Judaeo-Christian-Moslem tradition. It requires as creator a perfectly omnipotent being, thoroughly self-sufficient and capable of producing his own creation independent of any other power.

Creation as conceived of by early Filipinos is more in the nature of a "second creation," therefore the making of a particular object out of some underlying material.

We find this in all Philippine creation stories. The creator makes a specific object: the world, the tree or man. Before the creation, the world, the tree or man were nonexistent; a sub-stratum is used to form them- such as wood, clay or rock. In many traditions these substances were always there, from the very beginning. Creation simply formed them into specific objects (Demetrio 1978). Thus Melu, the Bagobo creator, used the leavings of his body skin, which he constatnly scrubbed off, in order to fashion the earth. In the Bikol account, after their unsuccessful rebellion against their grandfather, Langit the sky, the copper body of Bulan became the moon, and the golden body of Aldao became the sun (Bonto, undated).

In other native traditions, not of the Philippines, a ready world was simply lifted up with a fish hook from the bottom of the primordial ocean by the creator. Or, as with the Native Americans, the swimming animals brought up slime from the bottom of the sea, spread it over the back of another animal and it grew into the world (Kirtley 1957).

In many of our indigenous creation myths, the creator has a "brother," who is envious, short of imagination, and who is responsible for the defects and imperfections of the resulting creation. Thus in the Bagobo myth, after Melu had almost finished making figures of the first people, his brother Fun Tao Tana came up from his dwelling place in the lowest tier of the underworld, and demanded that the making of the noses be left to him. Melu, to avoid strife, agreed just before he left for his home in the sky. But Fun Tao Tana placed them upside down. As a result when the rains came, the first people almost drowned because the water flowing from their heads entered their wide-open nostrils. Seeing their plight, Melu came down form his place in the sky and reset the noses.

In a Manuvu myth, Manama's mirror image, the evil Ogassi, envious of the figures the good god had set out to dry, managed to incorporate a few white abaca strands into the clay. Hence the creatures became immortal no longer. They were doomed to grow white hair, get old and die.

The Bukidnons of the Central Highlands of Mindanao have one of the riches troves of oral literature. In their myth of creation, Magbabaya's bad brother, Mangilala, interfered with his clay figures of humans by giving them thin skins and breathing into them. Luckily, Magbabaya covered the extremities of their fingers and toes with superior material from the sky. These became their nails. But sometimes, humans are tempted to do evil - thanks to Mangilala's breath (Cole 1956).

What the motif of the "bad brother" may be saying is that the good and the bad, the positive and the negative, life and death are intertwined in life. One is not possible without the other.

(Source: "The Soul Book" Demetrio et al, GCF Books, 1991, Quezon City, Philippines)


UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISM: A Progressive Faith for Today's World

by Bob Guerrero*

Can one be religious without doctrine? Can someone form his/her own theology and yet be in a community with others who may have different views? Can someone have a faith that welcomes questions and doubts?

Unitarian Universalism (UU) answers ‘yes” to every question. UU is a liberal, progressive religious tradition that is an alternative to more rigid, conservative, dogmatic forms of religion. It is a worldwide movement with a presence in every continent and about 400,000 adherents around the globe.

UU has no dogma because every individual is encouraged to use his own reason and experience to help grapple with questions about God and ethical matters. It has been said that UUs have a “trinity” composed of freedom, reason and tolerance.

The closest thing in UU to a doctrine are the 7 principles that UU congregations in the United States have agreed to affirm:
The inherent worth and dignity of every person;

Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;

Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;

A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;

The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;

The goal of world community with peace, liberty & justice for all;

Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

There are many different points of view in Unitarian Universalism. UU has its roots in Christianity, and many UUs still consider themselves Christian. But Buddhists, Hindus, Wiccans, and even secular humanists and agnostics who question the very existence of God have found a home in UU. All UUs agree to respect one another’s individual’s beliefs and personal theologies.

UUs affirm that all the great religions have worth and afford wisdom to all. Not surprisingly, Unitarian Universalists are deeply involved in interfaith activities all over the world.

UUs believe that the concept of God is vast and in a sense, incomprehensible. No one man or religion can ever understand God fully. That is why UUs concern themselves not with set answers but with the continuous search for truth and meaning. UUs affirm that “revelation is not sealed.” That God is always revealing Himself to us, not only through scripture but through history, society, the voices of prophetic men and women, and through open, honest discussion.

Unitarians were first organized in Europe 500 years ago. They were called Unitarians because of their traditional denial of the concept of the trinity. They flourished in Hungary, Romania, Poland, and eventually spread to the United Kingdom and The United States.

In 1961 the Unitarian Church in the U.S. merged with the Universalist Church, another liberal Church that denied the doctrine of hell, believing instead that a loving God would save all of His creatures. Thus Unitarian Universalism was born.

UU worships resemble Christian services but draw inspiration from the world’s religions. UUs believe that life on this earth is more important than life after death, which is why they are active in issues of social justice, environmental protection, and poverty alleviation. UUs have a long history of combating oppression, slavery, and injustice.

Being an inclusive faith, UUs is one of the most welcoming denominations for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Transgenders, with many LGBTs active both as laypeople and ministers.

Throughout history there have been many prominent UUs who have made significant contributions to society. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Alexander Graham Bell and Charles Darwin were all Unitarians. Five U.S. Presidents were Unitarian, including William Howard Taft, who served as governor of the Philippines. The most famous UU of modern times is probably Robert Fulghum, a UU minister, whose book “All I Needed to Know I Learned In Kindergarten” has become a modern classic.

UU has been in the Philippines for over fifty years now established in 1955 by a former Pentecostal minister, Toribio Quimada, in the island of Negros. But since 2005 there has been a UU presence in Metro Manila as well, with two small congregations in Bicutan and Valenzuela. An emerging community has also sprung up in Quezon City.

To know more about UU in the Philippines, click on http://www.uuphilippines.org/. You may also view their Friendster site at www.friendster.com/uumanila. For inquires email uumetromanila@gmail.com or text Bob at 0917 532 4785.

*Bob Guerrero is an advertising writer, sports commentator, and lay leader of the Unitarian Universalists in Metro Manila.

EMBRACING DIVERSITY with Mr. Alfred Tay (Orthodox Christian from Singapore)

This is an interview section with practitioners of interfaith dialogue. In this issue we feature Alfred Tay (Orthodox Christian) who is the leader of the IUNUI Cooperation Circle in Singapore.

TCC: What is your faith tradition?

Alfred: I am a newly baptized Eastern Orthodox Christian. I was baptized only last January this year.

TCC: What are your experiences in interfaith dialogue?

Alfred: Since I was young I have always been interfaith because I was brought up in the Buddhist and Taoist tradition. And then in my youth I first studied in a Methodist school, and then later on in a Catholic school. So it’s like I had half of my feet wet in the different religions already. It was only recently when I found out about the Eastern Orthodox Church that I fully embraced Christianity as my religion.

Now I am engaged in interfaith dialogue through the URI. I got to know about URI last year when my ex-boss went back home to Korea. She was involved in working with volunteers of URI for the 2005 Global Assembly in Seoul. As a Baha’i' she was active in encouraging as many people from different faiths to participate and so when I mentioned to her that I was currently in between jobs she suggested that I volunteer for the event. And so I flew over to Korea to volunteer and there I got to know URI.

Meeting the URI for me was like going back home to family because URI’s attitudes have always been exactly my attitudes. I’ve also always been a strong proponent of interfaith dialogue. Most of the time, when it comes to talking about their own religion, people tend to be very defensive and their not so willing to risk the concreteness of their own faith and expose it to attacks or merely to other ideas. For me, I feel that if my own faith and belief is strong enough it doesn’t matter what other people say or how they try to convince me. But if your faith is weak, of course you would be afraid to go out into the wild winds and have attacks coming your way. If you are not be able to withstand such attacks, your faith will break down. This is the difficulty with other people whose faith is not strong enough.

TCC: What are teachings from your faith or some or your personal insights that inspire you to engage in interfaith dialogue?

Alfred: It is probably too early for me to be able to cite the teachings because I’m still very young in my faith. I can share more on insights from personal experiences in the past on interfaith dialogue.

I do believe that interfaith dialogue is the only way to go. People have to understand other people’s perspectives. The more you try to hide or try to defend a position, the more difficult it is to maintain peace. We need to open up in order to see the core of each other, person to person, to be able to clear away any misunderstanding.

People often use religion more as an excuse not to open themselves up. They hide behind the view or shadow of their religion—which offers them security. They are not open to expose their own religion out into the world, such that when people criticize their religion, they get angry or defensive about the whole thing or the other. But as a true practitioner of faith, such anger or defensiveness should not creep in. We should be tolerant of other people no matter what they throw at us. We should welcome them with open arms at the same time that we are standing firm to what we believe in.

I think it is best and most beneficial when people openly talk to one another—not only to know something from the other but also to discover more about themselves. Some people think they believe in something when deep at its core they actually don’t. Sometimes they are not aware of this aspect of themselves. It is when they encounter questions from others or criticisms that their belief is tested and the truth will be revealed. If they are not truly deeply rooted in their faith, it may easily crumble as they encounter challenges. But if people have strong faith they can never be affected by whatever anyone else says or does. They can never be afraid to face others however different they are. Sometimes when we talk to others who are of different faith, we gain a deeper understanding of our own. This is how meaningful interfaith dialogue is not only as a social approach to peacebuilding but also as an inner process of self-awareness and personal transformation.


The URI Peacebuilding Training Program held its second workshop-seminar in Metro Manila last March 8-12, 2007. International peacebuilder and conflict transformation expert John Paul Lederach and his colleague, Dr. Herm Weaver facilitated the workshop on Awakening the Moral Imagination for 5 international teams and members of URI Cooperation Circles from the Philippines, India, Ethiopia and Northern Uganda. The workshop was organized by the host team, The Peacemakers’ Circle CC, with assistance from the URI hub in San Francisco. Held at the Eugenio Lopez Center in Antipolo City, the workshop is based on Lederach’s latest phenomenal book on peacebuilding entitled, “The Moral Imagination: Art and Soul of Peacebuilding.”

His latest book further elaborates his thoughts on an earlier book entitled, “Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies.” At the heart of the book is the search for ways to transcend the cycles of violence that plagues human society while still living in it. More than two decades of international peacebuilding led him to the Moral Imagination, which in essence is the ability to hold together four disciplines and capacities, that of: being able to see ourselves in a web of relationship even with our enemies; the ability to see beyond dualistic either-or choices and embrace complexity; the ability to embrace the creative act and imagine what does not yet exist; and the willingness to risk and venture toward what is yet to be known.

The Workshop in Antipolo gathered eighteen interfaith advocates and practitioners from five countries experiencing violence within their societies divided along religious lines. The participants shared stories of challenges and triumphs in their work, from facilitating Muslim-Christian relationship building in Metro Manila to making sure that talks between the government and rebel groups resume in Northern Uganda. During those sharing sessions, Lederach along with his co-facilitator Dr. Herm Weaver, took the participants on a journey of probing for answers (in the hope of “tilling the soil”) or exploring possible solutions to the challenges they faced.

A typical day during the workshop started early with all participants taking a walk to commune with nature. Immediately thereafter, they wrote their thoughts down on what were called “morning pages”. After breakfast, the day proceeds with activities, workshops, small and big group discussions and sharing and inputs from Lederach. A day would not be complete without the singing of songs coming from the different cultures represented, dancing and even shedding of tears and sharing of prayers by participants who were moved by the both the difficulties faced by their fellow participants and their enduring strength and spirit to continue working for peace.

The third leg of the workshop will be held sometime in September in Kerala, India where the same participants will once again be gathered to report on the progress they’ve made on their work in their countries. The second leg held here in Manila ended with wild and un-shackled sharing of dreams of a peaceful future shared with laughter and hopeful faces. This was capped by Lederach saying, “Let your head soar way up in the sky while your feet are planted firmly on the ground.”

A report from Mr. Michael Frank Alar (volunteer documenter)

URI Peacebuilding Teams visit grassroots community in Metro Manila

On March 7, the members of the URI Peacebuilding Teams from Northern Uganda, Ethiopia, India, and the United States who were in Manila (for the second session of the training workshop on Dr. Lederach’s “Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace”) visited the grassroots Muslim-Christian community of Tala, Caloocan City.

There, they met the members of the Muslim-Christian Peacemakers’ Association CC. Dr. Herm Weaver, Rev. Charles Gibbs, and the other delegates enjoyed playing basketball with the young men. When they finally settled down and sat around in a circle together, welcome remarks and introductions were made amid laughter and good cheer.

When it was time for the Muslims to pray, the men among the foreign delegates proceeded to the mosque to be with them in prayer. The women proceeded to the humble home of Maklis Bala, the Muslim leader of the grassroots CC, where conversations with the local Christian members went on over simple snacks that were passed around for all to share.

It was a warm moment of exchange between the locals and their foreign guests with whom they shared a sense of oneness in the URI.

URI visits Philippine government offices

The directors of the global URI hub and members of the organizing team of the URI Peacebuilding Program paid a courtesy call to two Philippine government offices during their visit to Manila. They were here to attend the second session of the peacebuilding workshop on the Moral Imagination that was designed and facilitated by Dr. John Paul Lederach and Dr. Herm Weaver.

Upon their arrival on March 6, Rev. Canon Charles Gibbs (URI Executive Director), Ms. Sally Mahe (URI Director for Organizational Development), Barbara Hartford (URI Programs Director), with Ms. Elizabeth Hoffman and Dr. Dr. Herm Weaver (Directors of the Organizational Learning Team of the URI Peacebuilding Program), were accompanied by Marites Africa (Executive Director of The Peacemakers’ Circle) and Shakun Vaswani (URI SEAP Regional Coordinator) to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP). They were met by Undersecretary Nabil Tan (in behalf of Sec. Jesus Dureza) and Program Directors Romulo Halabaso and Rolly Asuncion.

The URI team of directors was warmly received by the OPAPP executives. Support for the URI event in Manila was offered. OPAPP committed to have their media and public affairs department arrange for a television interview with Rev. Canon Charles Gibbs in a talk show program of the government channel. This was aired live on March 8, 2007.
URI visit to DFA

On March 13, 2007, before leaving for the URI Regional Meeting in Malaysia, the URI team of directors visited the office of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Manila. They were warmly received by Undersecretary Rafael Seguis in behalf of Secretary Alberto Romulo who was out of the country during that time.


On March 12, 2007 The Peacemakers’ Circle CC and the URI SEAsia-Pacific Regional Office hosted a public forum on Awakening the Moral Imagination in Interfaith Peacebuilding. This was held at the Balay Kalinaw (House of Peace) of the University of the Philippines-Diliman Campus. The event was attended by over a hundred people consisting of dignitaries, leaders and representatives of different faith groups, international agencies, government, civil society groups and local organizations, friends and supporters of The Peacemakers’ Circle. The team members from India, Ethiopia, Uganda and the USA arrived in the Philippines and met with the host delegates for the second workshop-seminar that was to be held in Antipolo City from March 8 – 12...

(For the full article and more pictures, please click here:


About a hundred representatives, leaders and members from different religious groups and faith organizations gathered on March 17, 2007 at the Hotel Singgahsana in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia for the interfaith conference on “Peace Among Religions.”

As a highlight event of the URI 3rd Southeast Asia-Pacific Regional Meeting, the host CC Interfaith Spiritual Fellowship URI Kuala Lumpur Cooperation Circle (InSaF-URIKLCC) organized this one-day conference with the objective of promoting awareness of URI and its principles, to inspire interest among the general public in interfaith dialogue and cooperation, and to build Cooperation Circles while envisioning peace among religions within and around the region.

The program brought together distinguished speakers from seven major faiths (Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Baha’i, and Taoist) who each shared on how their respective religion contributes to peace and harmony in the world. The conference also gave the opportunity to introduce to the public the distinguished officers or URI as they heard messages from InSaF/URIKLCC Chairman & URI Trustee Dr. Amir Isahak; URI SEAP Founding Coordinator, Ms. Marites Africa; URI SEAP Regional Chairperson, Sr. Sandra Clemente; and URI Executive Director, Rev. Charles Gibbs; and URI global Council Chairperson, Ms. Yoland Tevino— who gave the key note speech.

During the later half of the conference a workshop was held where the participants were divided into seven groups to discuss suggestions and ideas that can be shared and implemented individually and socially to promote interfaith understanding and harmony and oneness of humanity. After the plenary the ideas shared were synthesized and a summary of current interfaith initiatives in Malaysia were presented.

Towards the end of the day there was a general sense of renewed inspiration as the conference successfully gathered together committed and like-minded people of goodwill who worked together for a fruitful dialogue in furthering unity in diversity and interfaith cooperation.

(In the upcoming issues we will be featuring excerpts from the messages of the panel of interfaith speakers.)


Report from Dr. Shakuntala Vaswani, URI SEAsia-Pacific Regional Coordinator

Moving forward in solidarity to build cultures of peace in the region
March 14-16, 2007 – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

(For the full report and pictures, please click here: http://uriseapacregionalmeeting2007.blogspot.com/)


An inspirational message from REV. CANON CHARLES P. GIBBS (Executive Director, URI)
March 10, 2007 - URI MI Manila

Dear Friends,

Greetings of love and peace at the end of a long and extraordinarily full day from Manila!

I don’t have the energy to share everything I’d like, but I do want to offer a few highlights from the day.

First, URI is blessed with extraordinary leaders, and some of them are here for this workshop.

Today we heard from our host team from the Peacemakers Circle of the Phils. Their growth from a small & easily ignored grassroots group into a national resource working in partnership with many organizations, including the Office of the Presidential Advisor to the Peace Process, is inspiring & presents a compelling model of how URI’s grassroots work can develop into a significant force, making valued contributions on a national level & beyond.

Their pioneering work in Christian - Muslim dialogue is being extended into four communities in Metro Manila and may be a cornerstone of an imagined summer peace institute at the University of the Philippines.

In spite of their success, and requests for partnerships, funding remains elusive. Work that is clearly seen as being of tremendous value, with frequent requests that the Peacemakers Circle expand its efforts, is not deemed worthy of funding by many obvious funding sources. We spent sometime brainstorming possible funding sources, but finally were left standing in a prayer circle offering our intentions that this great and valuable work will attract the funding it needs to survive and thrive; and that its sacrificial leaders are rewarded in ways that allow them to survive and thrive.

We spent a considerable amount of time today on listening, beginning with a one question appreciative interview in pairs – people were asked to share the story of how they had come to understand the purpose of their life, and to share how their religion – through a teaching, a sacred text, a mentor – had inspired that understanding. The conversations were animated and led to comments like these:
- I felt like I’ve known my partner all my life.
- We were talking from different books and different languages, but we share the same understanding.
- If we emphasize dogma, we will be divided, but if we talk about service, we will be united.

We also spent some time exploring the importance of creativity in peacebuilding work. Herm Weaver offered the following guiding principles from a musical project he did as part of his doctoral work:
…to be guided by internal rather than external standard
…to be honest
…to be simple
…to make space for the listener to participate
…creating music that grew out of our hearts as much as our heads
…committed to a flexible timeframe
…committed to having fun

Our reflections on these points led the Uganda team to reflect that a key challenge they face these days is a conflict between an internal standard of restorative justice and the external practice represented by the International Criminal Court.

They proceeded to describe their own internal restorative justice system – matopput (drinking the bitter root). In this practice, each party acknowledges what they have done wrong and asks for forgiveness. Then, with hands behind their backs to show that they are through fighting, they drink together out of a calabash of an herbal drink as a sign that they will forgive and be forgiven, and will move forward positively.

The Acholi leaders now have hired lawyers to document the process of matopput so that it might become acceptable to the ICC and open a way past the current stalemate in their peace efforts.

We also heard from the Peacemakers Circle that commitment to staying true to their internal standards has made it a challenge to attract funding, since so many funders have a rigorous set of external standards that would draw them away from what they feel is the most essential work to be done and the best way to do that work.

And so we have worked our way through a Saturday filled with new insights, laughter and tears here in Manila; through a day that has made me more deeply aware of how precious is the unique community we are creating, of the extraordinary value and potential of our work, and of the deep challenges we face individually and together.

May we all be blessed in our work for peace, justice and healing.

(For more articles from the Exec. Dir. please click here: http://www.uri.org/Features/Features_Main/ )



G Em C D
Dream Dream, we’re coming out of the night
G Em C D
Let’s close our eyes, and dream of the light
G Em Am D
Dream of new tomorrows, from the rubble of today
G Em Am D
Dream of things that we can do, to build a better way.
Ahh let’s dream (Repeat)

G D Em
It happened in the sunlight of the day
D Em
Filled with fear that would not go away
C D Em
A rising pile of rubble in the haze
And I couldn’t even find the strength to pray
No I couldn’t even find the strength to pray


Fear turned into anger from that day
Revenge it could be heard along the way
Somewhere in the night a soft voice would say
Hold fast and dream about the light of day
Hold fast and dream about the light of day


Some dreaming has been done since that day
Singing, telling stories ‘bout someday
We shall overcome they used to play
Building new tomorrows from the rubble of today
Building new tomorrows from today.

Dream Dream, we’re coming out of the night
Let’s close our eyes, and dream of the light
Dream of new tomorrows, from the rubble of today
Dream of things that we can do, to build a better way.
(Repeat twice)

Written by Dr. Herm Weaver 10/6/01 (Played in G, Capo 6th fret) in support of Dr. John Paul Lederach’s story “How a High School Stopped a War”


The United Religions Initiative (URI) was founded in 2000 by an extraordinary global community committed to the promotion of enduring daily interfaith dialogue and cooperation to end religiously motivated violence and to create cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living beings. Today, it includes thousands of members in over 50 countries representing more than 100 religions, spiritual expressions, and indigenous traditions.


٠ Centre of Melbourne Multifaith & Others Network CC — Melbourne, Australia

٠ Unity, Peace and Multiculturalism CC — Queensland, Australia

٠ Peace, Justice and Harmony CC — Sydney, Australia

٠ Interfaith Spiritual Fellowship (INSAF) CC — Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

٠ Malaysian Interfaith Network (MIN) CC — Selangor, Malaysia

٠ United Religious Education Circle CC — Auckland, New Zealand

٠ Ashram Gandhi Puri CC — Bali, Indonesia

٠ Interfaith Youths of Cambodia CC — Phnom Penh, Cambodia

٠ IUNUI CC — Singapore

٠ Kalinaw CC — Cebu, Philippines

٠ Bohol Goodwill Volunteers CC — Bohol, Philippines

٠ Trust, Understanding & Learning Among Youth (TULAY) CC — Bohol, Philippines

٠ Pakigdait of Mindanao CC — Lanao del Norte, Philippines

٠ Muslim-Christian Peacemakers’ Association CC — Manila, Philippines

٠ The Peacemakers’ Circle CC — Manila, Philippines

A Cooperation Circle (CC) is the basic unit of URI membership and consists of local or virtual groups that include at least seven members and at least three different religions, spiritual paths and indigenous traditions. CC’s organize around local needs and visions and operate within the parameters of the Preamble, Purpose and Principles of URI.

Everyone is invited to be part of this global network and ignite the spirit of URI in your community !

URI Statement on the Crisis in the Middle East

(Approved by the Standing Committee on behalf of the Global Council of
the United Religions Initiative)

As trustees of the Global Council of the United Religions Initiative, we write to urge an immediate and complete ceasefire of violence that is currently happening in the Middle East, and a commitment by all parties, including the international community and the world's religions, to find the will to complete, implement and invest in a comprehensive peace agreement that will allow current and future generations of Palestinians and Israelis to live their lives in peace.

We write as leaders of the URI, a global interfaith organization active in 70 countries, through the work of 400 member Cooperation Circles. URI's purpose is to promote enduring, daily interfaith cooperation, to end religiously motivated violence and to create cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living beings. We have many members in the Middle East, including Palestinians, Israelis, Jordanians and Egyptians. The URI has consultative status at the UN through ECOSOC.

As leaders of an interfaith organization dedicated to resolving conflict without resorting to violence, we recognize and laud the heroic work of Palestinians, Israelis and peace advocates all over the world who are dedicated to rising above the violence and working for peace, justice and healing.

We believe that a new day is possible when a comprehensive, just peace will allow current and future generations of Palestinians and Israelis to live their lives in peace.

We call on all involved - Israelis and Palestinians, people of other nations, international bodies, religions, and grassroots groups working heroically for peace - to take the following steps to speed the dawning of that day:

* To stop the violence immediately.

* To supply immediate humanitarian aid to address urgent suffering and long-term aid to rebuild.

* To commit to negotiate, invest in and implement a comprehensive peace agreement that will allow current and future generations of Palestinians and Israelis to live their lives in peace.

* To invest in every means possible to weave a fabric of genuine, mutually honoring community among Palestinians and Israelis at the grassroots level.

* To invest less in armaments and more in social and economic infrastructure.

We commit to do all we are able, beginning with support for URI member Cooperation Circles in Israel and Palestine, and engaging our members around the world to help these steps be fulfilled.

And we commit to pray and meditate that violence will cease, peace prevail and a life of hope be restored to the long-suffering people of this region.

URI Global Youth CC Statement on the current situation in Gaza.

We, the members of the Global Youth Cooperation Circle of the United Religions Initiative, wish to express our concern at the current situation in Gaza. Conflict creates hardship and fear for people on both sides and takes its toll on civilians, both young and old, and the livelihood of communities and economies.

As a youth network we sympathise with our fellows, the young people who are caught up in the crisis, in both Gaza and in the Israeli communities that live in fear of rocket attacks. Young people are the future of any community and we feel that they should not have to live amidst a cycle of violence and hardship. In order for young people to make meaningful and healthy contributions to society, it is imperative that they grow and develop within a space of security and integrity.

We are also concerned about those who are vulnerable in these times, such as the elderly and the sick. They need access to medical resources and clean, safe environments. In times of crisis these people suffer the most because basic facilities are less accessible.

They also need to live without the fear created by constant attacks. This situation is robbing people on both sides of basic human rights that are theirs by international law.

We implore both sides to pursue the path of peace and reconciliation and reduce hostilities so that aid and supplies can reach the people of Gaza to alleviate their suffering and so the Israeli people can live without fear. It is our hope that both sides can cooperate in order to achieve a lasting peace and quality of life for all people. Our goal, as members of a global interfaith community, is to achieve this all over the world.