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


Last September, in the Southeast Asia Pacific region, the desire for lasting peace in the conflict-prone Mindanao region of the Philippines motivated the Peacemakers’ Circle to take the lead in bringing together peace advocates in Manila in support of those adversely affected by the conflict that had flared up in the wake of the aborted signing of the of the Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

The long years of building relationships between the grass roots Muslim, Christians and Lumads communities came to nothing and once again attitudes of mistrust and fear were awakened and began to create divisions among peace loving people in the different communities.

We laud the Peacemakers’ Circle CC for taking the timely lead to bring together peace advocates to join forces to sow seeds of peace for Mindanao through prayers, press conferences, meetings and various peace building activities. Likewise, we commend the work of URI Cooperation Circles all over the country and around the region that celebrated the UN International Day of Peace 2008 in September, and including in the heart of their interfaith prayers the peace in Mindanao and the whole of Southeast Asia-Pacific.

Under the prevailing situations of violence, strife and injustice in many countries of the world—like the bombing in Mumbai and the uprising in Bangkok-- it was also an opportune time that in November, over 300 youth and adults from over 40 countries journeyed to India as “Pilgrims of peace” to participate in the 2nd URI Global Assembly in the Mayapur. This was a time to celebrate our diversity, deepen our community and to engage in mutual learnings, trainings and make action plans for the next three years.

During the assembly it was heart warming to see youths and adults from different faiths engage in conversations in friendship and respect and enjoying the experience of being together and inspiring each other with their stories.

These are challenging times and as people of faith let us continue to engage in interfaith dialogue and plant seeds of hope for peaceful and harmonious societies in our countries.

Yes, let us all unite in the URI global family in the spirit of kinship and love to sow seeds of peace, justice and healing in our region and indeed the whole world!

May 2009 turn out to be a more Peaceful and Productive Year for All!


Marites Guingona-Africa

Chairperson, URI-SEAP Regional Council
Vice-Chairperson, URI Global Council

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.