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


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.

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.