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

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,


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.