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


by Sr. Sandra G. Clemente, RSCJ

Dearly beloved URI co-workers,

United Religions Initiative (URI) as a global organization is now seven years old from the time of its charter signing in June 26, 2000. We are not a “toddler” anymore as we are now beginning to enter the world of “knowing and learning”. In the process of human development, the child at this stage not only grows physically and intellectually but spiritually as well. In a similar manner URI is now entering the world of “knowing and learning” and the organization has now begun to ask a lot of WHY & HOW questions.

Indeed, URI as a global organization is now at a threshold - a moment of joy, a celebration of continued hope for the future at this critical stage of our growth. During the Global Council (GC) meeting, we were able to cross some challenges and envision DREAMS of a brighter future for URI.

The URI Foundation has been affirmed and its organizational structures and governance have been approved. Its role in forging the future of URI as an organization has been laid, and this brings joy and hope for the global URI family, including our region, Southeast Asia & Pacific.

Another significant decision made at the GC was the amendment of extending the term of service of a Global Council Trustee from one term of three years to three terms. It is at this point of the process where I, as a current trustee, really felt the immensity and depth of our responsibilities in the whole URI organization. This is one of the thresholds we had crossed that will remain in my memory forever.

For me, this threshold is a leap of faith that will keep us on the path towards that image of what I have always envisioned URI doing: “gathering all the leaders of different faiths from the different nations in the world in one circle-- to discuss, reflect on and decide upon the future and safe-keeping of the world”. This is a very powerful vision indeed!

And how does this relate with our region? What repercussions do such processes have for us?

My co-Trustees in the region, Dr. Ratnam Alagiah and Dr. Amir Isahak, together with our Regional Coordinator, Dr.Shakun Vaswani and myself, as well as all the other officers and trustees from the other regions were given some time during the GC meeting to ponder on these questions and plan for these visions. In our attempt to see where we are going as a region for the years ahead, we have identified several strategy points like: Network-building with other non-government organizations (NGO) and the media; More visible and active involvement in local/national as well as international interfaith dialogues/conferences; a strengthened Support Structure, Communication, and Public Relations; creation and development of leadership training for peace-building; even working towards a URI-SE Asia Pacific Center and Training Institute!

As we continue to plan for the growing presence of URI in more SE Asia-Pacific countries, we also envision strong, well-trained and active Cooperation Circle (CCs) members (most especially, youths) ready to take on leadership roles in the region and global organization.

As I share with you these bright visions I am filled with gratitude and honor in being a part of this newsletter, and to share as well the reflections and stories of hope and inspiration that have fueled these dreams-- bringing them to reality.

Together, let us dream and manifest a URI future in our region with vibrant, self-witnessing, self-reliant CCs that will share its LIGHT and PEACE to the world! We may begin by looking ahead to a full-force participation in the URI GLOBAL ASSEMBLY in Mayapur, in India on November 2008!

Yours in Peace,

Sr. Sandra G. Clemente, RSCJ

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.