I was privileged to be part of the Philippine delegation that was among the 150 delegates representing the diversity of religions and cultures in 15 countries in the Asia-Pacific region. We gathered together in Waitangi, New Zealand from May 29 to 31, 2007 to “Build Bridges” of interfaith understanding and cooperation in our parts of the world. Being the third in the region, the conference built on the commitments from the 1st Asia-Pacific Regional Interfaith Dialogue Conference in Yogyakarta , Indonesia in December 2004 and the 2nd Conference in Cebu , Philippines in March 2006.
This 3rd Asia-Pacific Regional Interfaith Conference in Waitangi had me experiencing, for the second time in my life, the sense of awe at seeing the world the way I envisioned the world to be, the realization of the kindom of God here on earth. The first time I had that experience was in 1999 at the URI Summit in Stanford University in California where two hundred people from diverse religions, spiritual expressions, and indigenous traditions gathered together in the spirit of mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation to articulate their hopes, dreams and aspirations for the world in the United Religions Initiative Charter! I feel blessed to have borne witness to two momentous occasions in history!
On the third and last day of the conference, we, the 150 delegates, came up with a plan of action focusing mainly on three areas of concern: Building bridges, Education (with emphasis on the strengthening of intra-faith dialogue); and the role of Media.
Back home, as I reflect on the Waitangi experience, I am filled with hope and joy knowing that there is a growing awareness in our midst of the need to cross the great divides in our parts of the world and to collaborate with one another. But I also realize that the best action plan that I could take in this direction is that of disarming the heart and speaking the language of the heart so that all of us may come together to that "safe space," that "sacred ground" of our common humanity, and together we can bring forth the triumph of our human spirit!