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


by Mr. Michael Lim, Unitarian Universalist from Malaysia

I wish to reflect on the tale of two masters – Siddharta and Jesus – two individuals whose life stories have touched the lives of billions for over two thousand years.
Siddharta (meaning “wish fulfilled”) Gautama or better known as the Buddha was born about 500 years before Jesus in Lumbini in the plains of what is today called Nepal. He was a prince who had everything while confined within the walls of their palace. When he finally saw the reality of human suffering in the outside world he gave up his affluent life to seek enlightenment through ascetism and meditation. He eventually found it and dedicated the rest of his life teaching loving kindness, compassion, mindfulness, tolerance and understanding.

Five hundred years later, in a very different part of the world, in what is today called Palestine and Israel, another master, whom we know by the name of Jesus, was born. Jesus unlike Siddharta, was not a prince but the son of a poor carpenter. He did not live in a palace and probably lived a simple life of poverty. We do not know too much about his youth except that he was also a wanderer and at about the age of thirty, he went into the desert to meditate for a long period. When he emerged, he experienced enlightenment, and like Siddharta went about preaching his message of love, compassion, justice and understanding.

How is it that two very different people, living 500 years apart and going through vastly different experiences and history; one the son of a king, the other a son of a carpenter, ended up walking the same spiritual journey and preaching the same spiritual truths? No doubt there are differences between the two; but I think they have more in common than most of us think.

The famous Vietnamese Buddhist monk,Thich Nhat Hanh, said that he was asked the question, “ If Jesus and the Buddha met today, what do you think they would tell each other?” He answered, not only have they met today, they met yesterday, last night and also will meet tomorrow. The spirit of Jesus and the Buddha is in all of us – the spirit of love and compassion. It is up to us to be in touch with it; to make it alive; to share it with others. There is no conflict between the Buddha and Jesus. They are real brothers. A Christian is a child of Jesus, a continuation of the spirit of Jesus. A Buddhist is a child of the Buddha, a continuation of the spirit of the Buddha. Just as you are a child of your father and mother who are the children of your grandfathers and mothers. How do you keep alive the memory of your parents? By living and practicing the values they taught you.

When my mother passed away in July 2005, my son, Michael had this to say: “Some people leave behind large fortunes when they pass away, but this money is of little consequence in the long run. Far more important is how they have lived their lives and the lessons they taught those around them….Although we say good by to her for a final time today, I know that she will always be with us, in our thoughts and memories, as well as who we are and how we choose to live.”

So it is true to say that when a Buddhist meets a Christian, the Buddha is meeting Jesus. What do they ask or tell each other? Who are you? What are you here for?

If I ask you these questions, what are your answers?

For most people they will say I am John (my name), or I am a teacher (occupation), I am a Filipino (nationality), I am a mother (familial role), I am a Christian (religion) etc.

One day someone asked me whether I am a Catholic, Protestant or a Buddhist? I answered that I am a bit of each and all of the above. She was quite shocked and I did not have time to explain to her.

I consider myself, first and foremost, a human being, a child of God, a citizen of the world. I seek the commonalities that bind us together as human beings, while appreciating and enjoying the differences between us. If there were no differences, life would be boring. However, it is through this bond of commonness and understanding that we build a better and more loving world; a heaven on earth, rather than a heaven after life. Heaven is not the absence of suffering; it is where love and compassion exist.

Let each of us seek that spirit that Siddharta and Jesus taught us, to live it in our lives, to meet each other daily as Jesus met the Buddha in the past, present and future.

Mr. Lim has formerly worked in the Philippines as an executive in an international bank . During his stay in the country he has contributed to the Peacemakers' Circle programs, and was instrumental in the formation of the Unitarian Universalist Community in 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.