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


by Sr. Sandra G. Clemente, RSCJ
URI SEAP Trustee

The Philippines is the only Christian country in Asia and Cebu is a cradle of Catholic faith. To launch an interfaith sector in this part of the Philippines is indeed a historic event. This occasion was celebrated last June 8, 2008 at Fort San Pedro, Cebu City by the interfaith community in the presence of dignitaries from the city gorvernment and religions. The Interfaith sector was born out of the vision of the City Mayor, Hon. Tomas Osmena, to consult the various sectors of the society to help in the city's strategic planning for Cebu City+10. (see photos and read related story: http://uriseapnewsletter.blogspot.com/2008/07/uri-bears-witness-to-launching-of-cebu.html)

Adding to the significance of this day was the presence of the URI Southeast Asia and the Pacific regional meeting delegates who witnessed the event and added an international flavour. Allow me to share with you a part of the message given by Ms. Shakun Vaswani, our Regional Coordinator as representative of URI in SEAsia-Pacific:

"Today is a historic day for the people of Cebu and we are privileged to be part of this gathering to witness the formal launching if the INTERFAITH SECTOR in this beautiful city. We congratulate Mayor Osmena and his team , together with all the interfaith leaders of this City for this timely action to come together to formalize the interfaith sector in Cebu City. This is indeed an encouraging move to promote peace and solidarity among the people and make the city a better place for all who live in, work or visit it.

In the prevailing state of affairs around the world, there is a growing recognition that government, and especially local government, has to have a stronger commitment to focus on the inter-faith relationships since harmonious relationships between communities of different faiths is fundamental to a safe society in any city.

We are aware that religions and cultures are intertwined and we must enhance efforts to bridge the divides between different religions and cultures and identify common values and standards and learn to live with our differences in mutual respect for a shared culture of peace and harmony and security.

Interfaith groups are an emerging sector that need to be supported through local government and we commend this partnership in Cebu City. We also commend the role played by Sr. Sandra Clemente, a Trustee in URI, and Kalinaw Cooperation Circle to bring this dream to realization and build the interfaith solidarity to be ”one in promoting life and integrity of creation towards Cebu City + 10”, the theme of this inauguration.

It is my hope and prayer that this initiative of the local government to recognize and establish partnership with the interfaith sector will reverberate in other cities, not only in the Philippines but throughout the Southeast Asia-Pacific region and we will see more of such initiatives towards building a culture of peace in our region.

Mabuhay! May Peace on Earth Prevail!

Sr. Sandra G. Clemente, RSCJ

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.