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

Updates from PAKIGDAIT CC - Mindanao, Phils.

Maranao Language Program MOA signed
Looking at language as a vital ingredient in peacebuilding and dialogue, Pakigdait CC has partnered and signed on February 7, 2008 a Memorandum of Understanding with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) 103rd and 104th Brigades for the Maranao Language Program. This undertaking is an effort to teach the Government soldiers to learn the Maranao language for them to communicate more effectively with the Muslims in Lanao and to instill cultural sensitivity and understanding among the men in uniform as they will be immersed in the values and traditions of the Maranaos.

Pakigdait CC has been at the forefront in the declaration of March as the Lanao Month of Peace. This year’s celebration saw a series of activities spread throughout the whole month. Among these was the Panagtagbo sa Kalinaw (“Gathering for Peace”), a traditional convergence of religious, traditional leaders, women, youth and local government unit (LGU) officials through a colorful traditional parade at the Provincial capitol on March 17, 2008.

On March 26, 2008 over 60 cyclists travelled a distance of about 80 kilometers from Iligan City to the Provincial Capitol of Lanao del Norte—as they symbolized the movement of civil society organizations (CSO) in partnership with LGUs in their athletic rush towards attaining goals of peacebuilding in the province. This activity was the Bike for Peace program, the first of its kind in Lanao!

Seeing the religious personalities and leaders as the appropriate “disseminators” of peace using the pulpits in churches and mosques, Pakigdait CC conducted on March 24, 2008 the Pastors, Priests, Imams and Nuns (PPIN) conference where participants were trained to facilitate interfaith dialogues at the grassroots level.

After a series of consultation and planning sessions, the successful conference bore fruit with the creation of an Interfaith Council which comprised of 13 faith leaders from Iligan City and all over the province of Lanao del Norte. An Interfaith Covenant for Peace and Unity was composed and signed by the council members to seal their solidarity and commitment to work together in proactive cooperation and harmony.

Equally valuing the youth sector for its crucial role in peacebuilding Pakigdait CC gathered them in a two-day Interfaith Youth Convergence on April 22-23, 2008. With the conviction that if properly mobilized the peace-builder in the youth would eventually break the cycle of violence plaguing the province for generations—Pakigdait engaged the youth participants in workshops and activities that fostered their commitment for peace.

As a result, an Interfaith Youth Council was created composed of youth leaders and representatives from the different municipalities of Lanao del Norte.

On April 25-26, 2008 Pakigdait went on a Historical Journey to “expand the horizon for peace” by visiting historical sites for peace and conflict in and around the province. The activity aimed at rediscovering the past in order to more deeply understand the present (especially the conflict situation), and to be able move forward into the future with clarity and conviction.
(for more info check out www.pakigdait.org )

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.