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


On March 28, 2007 The Peacemakers’ Circle was invited by the Griffith Multifaith Center (Queensland, Australia) in partnership with Miriam College Center for Peace Education and the Silsilah Dialogue Movement of Mindanao to co-facilitate a workshop for educators entitled: “Promoting Understanding, Respect and Harmony Among Faiths for a Culture of Peace”. Held at the Caritas Hall of Miriam College campus in Quezon City, the one-day workshop was attended by around 50 representatives from various non-government, academic and peace institutions—from all over the country. With the support of the Australian Government through the Strengthening Grassroots Interfaith Dialogue and Understanding Program of the Australian Embassy, the workshop brought to Manila educators from Mindanao, the Cordillera, and other regions.

The event was organized with the aim of: enhancing the knowledge, and pedagogical skills of educators in Philippine schools, especially from the Mindanao region, in educating for understanding, respect and harmony among communities of different faiths in the Philippines; strengthening the educational and leadership roles of educators in the Philippines in building a culture of peace and non-violence in their school communities: and fostering cooperation and linkages among educators, administrators and schools in Manila and other regions with colleagues from Mindanao, especially from conflict zones, thereby enhancing interfaith understanding and acceptance.

The program consisted of interfaith prayers for the opening and talks from a panel of interfaith speakers showing perspectives of diverse faiths on key issues and themes related to building a culture of peace in the Philippines. Dr. Shakun Vaswani and Ms. Marites Africa of The Peacemakers’ Circle shared from the Hindu and Christian perspective respectively. Sharing from Islam was Ms. Mucha Shim-Arquiza of the Lumah Ma Dilaut Center, from the Buddhist perspective was Prof. Toh Swee-Hin of the Griffith Multifaith Center, and Ms. Beting Colma of the Manobo tribe, speaking for an indigenous spiritual tradition of Mindanao.

Case studies and best practices of multifaith and interfaith dialogue initiatives were also presented by representatives from organizing educational institutions and NGOs. Dr. Loreta Castro and Ms. Jasmine Galace talked about the Miriam College Center for Peace Education, Fr. Sebastiano D’ambra represented Silsilah Dialogue Movement in Mindanao, and Prof. Toh and Ms. shared the Griffith University Multifaith Center). Ms. Africa represented The Peacemakers’ Circle with a powerpoint presentation of its beginnings, various programs and current projects. The afternoon sessions consisted of a lectures on pedagogical principles and a workshop on the integration of interfaith perspectives in educational programs.

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.