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

PEACEMAKERS’ CIRCLE CC in Manila celebrates UN IDP 2007 with SACRED SONGS OF PEACE (CC Report - Manila)

The Peacemakers' Circle CC and the URI Southeast Asia-Pacific Regional Coordinating Office, together with the local interfaith community in Manila, celebrated the International Day of Peace 2007 with “SACRED SONGS OF PEACE: An Interfaith Musical Celebration” on September 21, 2007 at the Miriam College Environmental Studies Institute in Quezon City, Metro Manila.

Nearly 200 people attended the evening’s musical celebration which wove a symphony of prayers, meditation, chanting, songs and dances from various spiritual traditions. Following the Welcome Remarks by URI SEAsia-Pacific regional coordinator & PCFI OIC, Dr. Shakun Vaswani; meditation & silencing was led by Mr. John Dowling of Brahma Kumaris. This was followed by a song number from a special celebrity guest: model/actress-singer/environmentalist Ms. Chinchin Gutierrez (who recently launched an album of interfaith songs). Writer/dancer/artist-teacher Ms. Maria Abulencia, with the cultural workshop group, Hibla, rendered a spontaneous peace dance ritual. Imam Akmad Wahab of Filipino Muslim Youth Council for Peace & Development offered a Qur’anic chanting prayer and an Islamic song, while the Anada Marga Yoga Society presented a mantra song. This was followed by lively bhajan chanting and dancing by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON/Hare Krishna). Baba Surinder Singh Ragi of Guru Nanak Mission (Sikh) offered a short prayer-chant.

Another lively presentation was rendered by the Salesian Youth Movement of Don Bosco School (Catholic) who brought their whole band with full equipment. A dance number invoking Lord Ganesha, the deity of wisdom and remover of obstacles was then presented by the Hindu girls in their tradition classical dance costumes, while equally colorful in their kimonos and Japanese outfit were members of Shinji Shumei Kai who also offered chanting and a dance.

Another special group that performed was the Kulay-Wala band --composed of youths from the grassroots community of Brgy. Camarin—representing the GenPeace Youth Network. This was followed by an innovative step dance performed by youths from the Baha’i Faith national center, and a song number from Mr. Bob Guerrero of the Unitarian Universalist community of Manila. Finally, the Byakko Shinko Kai performed the Divinity-In (movement prayer/mudra), preceding the concluding ceremonies.

The evening was capped with the reading of the UN secretary general’s official message on IDP 2007 and the World Peace Prayer ceremony. This was led by WPPS representative, Mr. Toots Fungo, who distributed to each one in the hall during the ceremony the flag-cards representing the different world nations for which everyone prayed for peace to prevail.

Through Shakun as URI SEAP regional coordinator and PCFI executive director Ms. Marites Africa (who hosted the whole program), the organizers heartfully thank all the participants, performers, volunteers and supporters, and all those who attended the event-- especially representatives from the JPICC-AMRSP (UN-IDP secretariat), Xaverian Missionaries, Miriam Center for Peace Education, Young Moro Professionals Network, Christian Peacemakers Team, Canossa School - Sta. Rosa, Roots of Learning School, PeaceTeach, Pax Christi. Thank you all for the beautiful and powerful stand for unity and peace!

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.