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

Forum on Moral Imagination & the Mindanao Peace Process

Dr. Abdulhusin "Jo" Kashim, presided over a public forum organized by The Peacemakers' Circle CC last February 27, 2008 as the concluding activity under the URI Moral Imagination (MI) grant that was awarded to our Philippine team in August 2007.

The forum, entitled "Finding Place for Moral Imagination in the Peace Process in Southern Philippines," was inspired by the conversations that the members of the MI team had concerning Dr. Jo's experience as a member of the MNLF--Joint Working Group of the GRP-MNLF-OIC (Gov't of the Rep. of the Phils.-Moro National Liberation Front-Organization of the Islamic Conference, a union of Muslim nations to which Muslims in the Philippines looked for support) Tripartite Meeting. The MNLF-GRP-OIC Tripartite Meeting had been postponed about six times over the past year, and the last meeting held early in February this year was strongly contentious, according to Dr. Jo.

Dr. Jo pointed out that the problem in the southern Philippines was aggravated when in September 1972 martial law was declared by then President Ferdinand Marcos and all civilians were ordered to surrender their guns. This resulted in spontaneous rebellions among Moros, who traditionally had equated the right to carry arms with their religious heritage and were suspicious of the government's intentions toward them.

The problem eventually gave rise to the creation of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) that fought for an independent Moro nation. But during the late 70s differing goals, traditional tribal rivalries, and competition among Moro leaders for control of the movement produced a split in the MNLF. In January 1987, the MNLF accepted the government's offer of semi-autonomy.

Last February, Dr. Jo (though not a member of the MNLF) was invited to be in the MNLF Joint Working Group of Nur Misuari, incarcerated President of the MNLF. The experience, according to Dr. Jo, challenged his being a "peacemaker" because of the abusive treatment he received from the prison guards of Misuari. As MI Phil. team co-member, Ms. Marites Africa, listened to his story, she realized that this was something that had to be shared with the public. Thus she urged him to do so but from the perspective of an MI peacebuilder (so that we could offer an "out-of-the-box" way of looking at the problem).

The lecture was well attended and successful. The MI Phil. team plans to offer similar seminars on the MI approach to social change and/or integrate them into the various workshop-seminars that they will be conducting in the coming months. Further, Ms. Marites I have invited Dr. Jo to present the same lecture (with some suggestions for improvement) in one of the modules of the MUSLIM-CHRISTIAN DIALOGUE FOR NATION-BUILDING training program this April.
(see also: http://moralimaginationmanila.blogspot.com/2008/05/mi-peace-process-in-southern.html)

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.