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

EDITORIAL: Lighting up the World with HOPE and PEACE

by Sr. Sandra G. Clemente, RSCJ - URI SE Asia-Pacific Regional Trustee (2005-2008)

I remember a movie I had seen some years ago, "The Never Ending Story". In this movie, the protagonist-- a teenage boy-- had only one goal, which was to search for a land called Fantasia. Along the way, he faced many obstacles and hardships that almost discouraged him from accomplishing his mission. However, the boy, not knowing that someone--the "EVIL ONE"-- was trying to stop him, was determined to go on, despite all the challenges.

Finally, when they came face to face, the "evil one" said to him: "All throughout your journey to reach Fantasia, I had been trying to destroy your HOPE. When you lose your Hope, then it is easy for me to manipulate you and put you under my spell-- my power". But even as the young hero was almost dying in the battle, his determination and unfailing Hope triumphed over the power of the evil one. For Evil is no match to the inner spirit of one who has undying Hope for a higher purpose and mission.

This story is relevant for our reflections on what is happening today. Looking back on the year that has passed, we see a picture of disasters, calamities and violence in different forms. An international figure was assassinated and political leaders were removed from office, either by self-resignation or being forcibly removed by military powers. The lack of credible and legitimate leaders is worse than ever, while the poor are still languishing in poverty all around the world, and many children are still dying of hunger. Natural disasters destroy billions of crops, and the climate change is taking effect in dramatic proportions. Indeed, it was a year of turbulence and from a layperson's point of view it would seem like the world is going crazy!

Seeing and hearing all these news and events everyday often drains up the spirit-- makes one loose hope, lull in fear and despair, and become paralyzed. And if we allow ourselves to be swept away by all the chaos we might just end up doing nothing but waiting for our final extinction. And that is precisely what the evil force, our invisible enemy, would want--- to put bring us to the brink of desperation, helplessness and Hopelessness.

The Mass Media while it is a good source of information, more often than not, becomes a "media of doom". It promotes hopelessness in the world whenever it broadcasts and prints only the sensationalized stories of violence and conflicts. Moreover, it sometimes feeds on the manipulation of the audience's feelings, provoking us to be angry and indignant. The worst thing is we tend to believe more and more the "doom" that mass media projects!

Now, more than ever, we need to be more discerning of all the things we see and read, especially via the information technology (IT). We have to learn to sift through all of the information we receive and allow HOPE to be our daily companion and ally. We have to create a culture of Hope by spreading the good news that exists in our world which is merely being left behind, overshadowed by anger and fear. PEACE cannot thrive in a world where hopelessness is being peddled on us by media as if it is the only truth and reality.

We have been trained in our faith traditions to discern. Simply put, a path leading to GOD yields positive results, while the way towards the evil always leads to a negative outcome. In these trying times, we need to go back to own faith and our spiritual gurus, to seek guidance in discernment in our daily life. Our different faith traditions speak of the same paths and values we have to live by like Hope, Peace, Love, Faith, Justice, and Truth.

In the Preamble, Purposes and Principles (PPP) of URI, we are provided with guideposts to help us respond with discernment. According to the Gandhian principle: "We cannot promote real peace with a clenched fist because a closed fist is used to strike another, peace can only happen if we open our hands, ready to reach out and hold each other in a gesture of FRIENDSHIP and PEACE."

Now is the time for everyone-- most of all, the members of the URI family-- to really understand and live by the PPP. The world needs our light of Hope to radiate discernment and clarity amidst the darkness that cloud the world today. Together we can light up our region and the whole world by sharing our stories of HOPE and PEACE! And with all of our positive energies united, let us continue to shine forth through our real actions on ground --keeping ablaze ONE flame of HOPE -- SHALOM!


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.