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

Envisioning Peace Among Religions in Manila College Campuses (CC Newsbriefs)


The Bulwagang Balagtas (Balagtas Hall) of the Ninoy Aquino Learning Resource Center at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) in Sta. Mesa, Manila can comfortably accommodate a crowd of around 600-800. But on August 22, 2007 the venue played host to over a thousand college students who attended the Visions of Peace Among Religions (VPAR) Seminar-Forum conducted by The Peacemakers’ Circle Foundation, Inc, (PCFI), organized by the National Service Training Program - Civic Welfare Training Service (NSTP-CWTS) Office of PUP.

Gathering a team of interfaith resource speakers, The Peacemakers’ Circle offered a program for the whole afternoon which consisted of interfaith prayers; introduction to the work of PCFI and the United Religions Initiative (URI); orientation to interfaith dialogue and peacebuilding; and presentations on Peace from the different faith perspectives. There was also a film viewing of URI’s DVD clip on Religiously Motivated Violence, and the 40-minute documentary, “In the Light of the Crescent Moon” which featured PCFI’s work on Muslim-Christian relationship-building in grassroots Metro Manila. An open forum followed the presentations.

The team, headed by its co-founder and VP/OIC Dr. Shakun Vaswani (who also shared on Hinduism), composed of Mr. Sam Salter (who represented Buddhism) from the Universal Wisdom Foundation; Mr. Alireza Kunting (on Islam); Ms. Tomomi Oida-Shima (on Shumei); and assisting staff, Mr. Orlan de Guzman, Jr. (who shared on Christianity).

By far the largest crowd addressed to by the PCFI team, it was a great privilege for the speakers as well as a welcome challenge to share in a limited time to as many young people their messages of hope, peace and oneness amidst these critical times. Special thanks to Prof. Avelina Bucao and the staff of PUP NSTP-CWTS for organizing the event!


On September 19, 2007 The Peacemakers’ Circle gathered a team of speakers from the major faiths to present a Visions of Peace Among Religions (VPAR) seminar at the Miriam College in Quezon City, Metro Manila. This was organized by the Miriam Center for Peace Education (MCPE) as part of a Peace Education Program for 25 educators and peace advocates from all over Southeast Asia, namely: Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Philippines.

The Peacemakers' team composed of Ms. Marites Africa (Christian), Mr. Mon Rivera (Buddhist), Dr. Jo Kashim (Muslim), and Dr. Shakun Vaswani (Hindu)-- (see photo where they are joined by Dr. Loreta Castro of MCPE). Each of the speakers gave power point presentations on the theme, “Shared Values of the Major Religions in Southeast: Foundations for Peacebuilding,” followed by an open forum.

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.