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

Conversations with Ms. Jessie Kaur-Singh (Sikh from Australia)

is an interview section with practitioners of interfaith dialogue. In this issue, we feature Ms. Jessiee Kaur-Singh, a Sikh from Melbourne, Australia. She is the dynamic president of the Centre of Melbourne Multifaith and Others Network (COMMON) CC.

TCC: What is your faith tradition?

JKS: I am a Sikh. Sikhism is a monotheistic faith that teaches everyone to lead an honest life, to earn an honest living and share what we have with the less fortunate. It encourages one to practice daily prayers and meditation. It also seeks to develop in one’s self – unconditional love, and selfless service. The teachings of Sikhism lead us away from animosity and towards fearlessness. It teaches us to be always humble and compassionate, while standing up for social justice. We are guided into strive for continuous self-improvement towards achieving oneness with nature and all of creation. We believe in leading a life towards becoming a saint soldier.
The word “sikh” means 'learner', thus we always try to be a learner of the Cosmos.

TCC: What are your experiences in interfaith dialogue?

JKS: I was born in Malaysia-- in a multi-faith environment. Growing up in a Methodist School I have been engaged in interfaith dialogue all throughout my life since childhood. I had always been interested and fascinated by all the faith traditions. I would usually spend as much time as possible sharing with elders of diverse spiritual traditions and learning from them. I have constantly joined in celebrations of different festivals at temples, churches and various places of worship. Furthermore, religion has been a favorite subject of mine since childhood.

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

JKS: Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikh religion travelled widely east to west sharing himself and his wisdom. He insisted on saying that if you are a Muslim then be a good Muslim, or if you are a Hindu then be a good Hindu, or if you are born to any other faith then be a good practitioner of that faith. We do not ask people to convert to our faith nor treat ourselves superior to others. Those are basic teachings from Sikhism.

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

JKS: I feel very fortunate and enriched having been widely exposed to the experience of interfaith dialogue such that I see myself in the future continually engaging in it and never ceasing to learn more from it and to share my learnings with others. It has made me more capable of being there for others as it has cultivated in me the sense of kinship and equality and the consciousness that each one is my family. The practice of interfaith dialogue has helped me with my own journey as I crossed the highs and the lows along the path towards finding peace. I may now be able to lead in the area of interfaith dialogue, yet I also still remain a student who is open to new lessons.

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

JKS: To know thyself is to know others. To be at peace in ourselves we have to be at peace with our interrelationships with others. We are all on this journey, so let us just enjoy and appreciate each other's company. Divided we may fall but together we can stand and make it through. Let us enjoy this beautiful planet-- this ‘promised land' bestowed as a home for us and for our future generations.

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.