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


by Sr. Sandra G. Clemente, RSCJ - URI SE Asia-Pacific Regional Trustee

Dearly beloved co-workers of the URI,

All over the world, we celebrate September 21 as the International Day of Peace— a day when everyone supposedly promotes and becomes more aware of PEACE. But what have we seen in the weeks after that date this year?

- Buddhist monks from Burma were gunned down, hundreds died while protesting in the streets…
- Pakistan government declared a state of emergency
- In other parts of the world, bombings, and killings here and there occurred everyday as if it is just an ordinary happening.

After watching news on TV, reading the daily newspaper, and witnessing all these violence happening all over the world, one reaches a point of saturation-- a feeling of numbness. Sometimes we loose touch, we loose our drive to respond or protest, or to just even care about the situation. We just go on with our daily routines, as if nothing has happened.

Just looking at this phenomenon, I am very alarmed, especially for our youth who had been exposed to the situations today - whether seeing the events in the world or themselves experiencing violence as a part of life within the very confines of their homes. One could wonder if there’s still HOPE for the next generation. Will it still be possible to live in a peaceful and wonderful world tomorrow?

While the bleakness of the future may seem evident, a shift in perspective may reveal the other side of reality-- that there are more and more people all over the world, both young and old, who are striving to promote PEACE!

I do believe and have seen this reality all over the world – starting with our URI CC’s which slowly and quietly work for PEACE in the grassroots level.

Here in our region in the Southeast Asia and the Pacific, promising initiatives and projects of CCs enkindle the flame of Hope for Peace. Stories from Australia and from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao Islands of the Philippines resound celebrations of peacebuilding work through interfaith gatherings.

Locally, in my part of the region—Cebu-- the mayor has consulted with the different sectors of society to envision plans for the city. This involved the faith-based organizations who are coming together as a promising force in realizing interfaith cooperation and peace work in the city. Meanwhile, three youth groups are being nurtured as potential youth CCs in the region.

As reiterated in during our Global face to face meeting in Belgium-- the VISION for our region for the next 2008 and beyond is set for the youth. The light of hope shimmers in them as we look forward to strengthening and preparing them for new leadership in the global URI.

As we strive to keep the VISION of Peace burning, we draw inspiration from the seeds of hope who will be carrying on the torch and keep it aflame to shine through the very seemingly dark corners of our lives, communities, nations and the world!

Now, isn’t that a very good reason to celebrate Peace? Yes it is! And it’s all the more a very good reason to celebrate peace not only on September 21-- but everyday of our lives! Let each day be a day of PEACE!
With loving Greetings,
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.