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


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 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.