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

Kalinaw CC meets with City Government in Cebu for Interfaith Project (CC Update)

On November 16, 2007 around 100 representatives from different faith-based groups in Cebu City gathered together to attend a consultation meeting with the city mayor and other government officials at the Cebu Grand Hotel. Cebu City Mayor, Hon. Tomas Osmena, called for the meeting to consult with different sectors of the society for the government’s visioning and planning for the city in the next 10 years. About 15 different sectors were convened each week for the whole month of November.

Having known for her active involvement in interfaith dialogue and having heard of her being a member of an international interfaith network, Sr. Sandra Clemente, RSCJ URI SEAP Global Trustee and Kalinaw CC leader, was invited to attend the meeting. In fact, she was even requested to gather more participants from the different faith groups to the consultation. She was more than glad to comply with the request and to grab the opportunity not only to serve the society but also to introduce the URI to the local government and its larger constituents.

It was a very comprehensive consultation wherein inputs from the faith-based sector were later on presented to a larger group of around 500 delegates representing all the other sectors which include: the children/youth, academe, people with disabilities, senior citizens, vendors and workers, women and health, environment, business, and the civil society.

From the faith-based sector, the participants came up with the plan to establish an Interfaith Council in Cebu. With reference to the Office on Muslim Affairs already in existence as a government agency, Sr. Sandra put forward the idea which resonated with everyone.

The new task at hand is to build the sector into a council within the next few months. For this, Kalinaw CC has taken the challenge of organizing the potential council members by holding a Celebration of Life on December 19, 2007 whereby they will be formally introduced to the URI. Sr. Sandra & Kalinaw CC are looking forward with inspiration and hope that URI will shine brightly over the future of their beloved city.

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.