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

TULAY CC holds Interfaith Youth Meeting in Bohol (CC Update)

by Ludwig Bon M. Quirog

The TULAY CC is a URI Cooperation Circle (CC) of youths; it is in the name itself. Trust, Understanding, and Learning Among Youth. We formed ourselves as sort of an offspring of an older CC. Bohol Goodwill Volunteers Incorporated, whose name had already established quite a reputation both as a CC in the URI and a non-government organization in our province.

Aside from our profound interest in the URI PPP, we are also very enthusiastic about getting involved. But we did not want to just ride with what the CC of grown-ups was doing, so we decided to build our own. That way, we mused, we could make our own projects and be proud of our own efforts. We could also underscore something which is a little different from what the other CC was doing. While they were basically into initiating dialogue among adults of different faiths, which is the most common CC activity, we wanted to do a similar initiative among the youth and have fun among ourselves at the same time. We didn’t really leap at the idea of just sitting down and talking all the time. It’s guaranteed that young people wouldn’t enjoy that sort of activity at all. We wanted something through which we could channel our youthful, creative energy. And so after several food trip meetings, we figured: ‘Why not do something for the environment?’ There is, after all, something in the PPP that says about it. Plus, we get to enjoy going out on trips if we ever decide to go on clean-up activities and such. So, we toyed with the idea a bit, spun it around and tossed it all over, until we finally decided to go for it.

There were only 12 of us in the CC at the beginning and we knew we really had to expand if we wanted our ideas to be realized. So, we planned again for a key project in which we could achieve our expansion in terms of numbers and orient our fellow enthusiasts as well. We came up with the idea of calling in a number of our friends and ask them to join in what was, at that time, a vaguely premeditated project that would deal with the environment as well as an orientation to the URI. We already decided that we would do it in a beach resort to create a stimulating atmosphere for the youth but we weren’t quite certain how to run the whole project. So, to solve the predicament, we asked for help from Sr. Sandra Clemente, RSCJ, a URI Global Council Trustee representing Southeast Asia. On the 14th of July, she arrived from Cebu.

Boy, did we have fun! She’s one of the coolest Roman Catholic nuns in the world! She turned what we thought would be another table palaver of sorts into a youthful, energetic conversation. We were all in a constant up mood throughout the entire program. It was as if she was someone our age whom we could very comfortably share ideas and crack jokes with. And very luckily for us, she even volunteered to handle the project. After the get-together, everything was settled. All that was left was for the actual event to happen.

Everyone was absolutely thrilled about the activity. But alas, we weren’t able to push through with our planned date (12th of October) since most of the members weren’t free from school at that time, and on our alternate schedule Sr. Sandra wasn’t able to join us! Fortunately, we were joined by Dr. Shakuntala Vaswani, the regional coordinator for URI in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Mind you, she was no ordinary speaker when it came to making magic with words.

When the day finally came, it was the moment of truth for us all. We thought, this was it, this was the moment. At the freezing hour of seven in the morning of October 22, we all met at the park. We met a couple of regular faces, and many, many new ones. We shook hands and got to know each other before we boarded a truck that would bring us all together to the beach where we were to hold what was going to be a defining endeavor for TULAY CC. The bumpy truck ride wasn’t just any ordinary one. It was a ride for and of new acquaintances and friendships. We enjoyed the roller coaster-like movement of the vehicle as it traversed the rocky terrain leading to where we were to be.

When we finally arrived, we were greeted by the rush of the cool ocean breeze on our faces. It was all too hard for the new participants to get inside the house where we were supposed to be in. But, after a while, they all finally budged for the very thing they were there for. At the outset, we exposed the participants to different prayers. There was an Islamic prayer done by one of our Muslim participants, a Hindu prayer chanted by Dr. Shakun, and a Christian prayer recited by one of our participants who was of the Roman Catholic faith. Then, we jump-started with individual introductions typical of gatherings like these. Everyone’s face was just so bright and inspiring, to say the least.

After getting to know each other, we proceeded with hearing words of inspiration from Dr. Shakun beginning with an orientation to URI; the reading of its Preamble, Purpose and Principles; and the showing of short clips about URI which we watched while nibbling on rice cakes prepared by some members of Bohol Goodwill Volunteers CC. Then, we were pumped up with more words of enlightenment and shown more video presentations. The last one Dr. Shakun showed us was a very stirring cartoon clip that hit the very core of what we were all about—the care for the environment. It left us all in awe and in a heavily moved state.

All that added up got all hands in the air when the big question, “Are you willing to be one of us?” was asked. After a while, it was time for Dr. Shakun to fly back to Manila. Alas, her time with us was short but there was no question whether or not we were all able to make the most of it. She had left us with something to live by every single day of our lives.

Lunch finally came. We treated the participants with good food to stimulate their enthusiasm. Afterwards, we all went to the beach when it was on a low tide and we bonded. We talked and laughed together and at each other. We had the time of our lives until it was finally time for us to climb back up for the second leg of the workshop. Inside the house, we were warmly greeted by Mr. Boni Quirog, a former URI Global Council Trustee and the leader of Bohol Goodwill Volunteers Inc., our parent CC. First, he initiated the singing of the song, “Let There Be Peace on Earth”. Then, the original members discussed our CC’s own history and objectives. It was such a joy to see everyone’s eyes with sheer fervor and gusto. For that, they were again treated with food to keep them all going.

After fulfilling our stomachs’ content, we showed a video of the documentary film, “An Inconvenient Truth” by Albert Gore, Jr. to rouse awareness in every single one of our participants about the current predicament of our world. No one blinked an eye throughout the movie. They were all ears and all eyes on it through the end. And then, as a final point, we engaged in a lively discussion about plans for the future. Everyone had something to say, and we felt that it was a really good sign. The ones who were silent at the onset were now speaking their minds. Such good ideas, they had from sharing of used clothes and toys this Christmas with the poor living in depressed areas to adopting the local shoreline for regular coastal clean up. We came up with a lot of things. But in the end, the fact that we all met, enjoyed, and found new meaning on our new directions in life was what really mattered most.

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.