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

EMBRACING DIVERSITY with Mr. Ludwig Bon Quirog, Christian from Bohol, Phils

This is an interview section with practitioners of interfaith dialogue. In this issue, we feature Mr. Ludwig Bon Quirog, a non-denominational Christian from Bohol Island, Philippines. He is the youth leader of one the newest cooperation circles in the region, the TULAY CC

TCC: What is your faith tradition?

Ludwig: I am Christian but i have no denomination. I am generally a believer and a follower of Christ Jesus and his teachings.

TCC: What are your experiences in interfaith dialogue?

Ludwig: I've had quite a few experiences in the context of interfaith dialogue. My first official one was when I attended a VPAR (Visions of Peace Among Religions) workshop with Tita Marites Africa and Dr. Shakun Vaswani as our speakers; and then our subsequent youth interfaith meetings (up to such time when we were able to form the TULAY-CC and several times after). But then again, when I was very young, my dad would introduce me to some of his friends who were of different faith traditions. Most of whom were foreign and some (although not all) were missionaries. They would talk to us about their faiths and I would be sitting down with all ears while my mom & dad exchanged words with him/her. What I particularly liked about those conversations was the fact that they never tried to convert us; they told us about them so we'd be aware and so we'd understand not because they wanted us to transfer or anything. This happened around five times with different people and I was around each time not because they told me so but because I was curious and I wanted to be a part of what was going on.

TCC: What are teachings from your faith or some or your personal insights that inspire you to engage in interfaith dialogue?

Ludwig: My faith teaches me that there is one absolute being above all, everything comes from this being, and we all believe in this being with all love in our hearts. It is just that the different religions we have are our own ways of communicating with this absolute being. So that, whatever we may refer to this being as and whatever name we give this being, they are all the same and refer to this being we Christians call The God, our Parent. True Christianity teaches nothing fundamental and that every single individual is to be respected for who she/he is.

TCC: How has the practice of interfaith dialogue enriched you?

Ludwig: The practice of interfaith dialogue has enriched me in a way that hope for a peaceful (though imperfect) world has actually been lit back in my mind. It has helped me understand others; it has also been the key to helping me understand others in their perspective and helping them understand my faith.

TCC: What message would you like to convey to the readers about interfaith dialogue?

Ludwig: I see the interfaith dialogue of the URI as the very thing that would fix the severely broken bridge that connects all humanity and all beings with each other. It is, to me, the key to worldly brotherhood and sisterhood that would put an end to religiously-motivated violence and unnecessary havoc. With small groups (CCs) all over the world, changes may not be speedy but they are guaranteed to last. All we need is an open mind and an open heart.

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.