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

A message from the URI hub: Mayapur GA08 Reflections

a letter from URI Executive Director,

December 6, 2008

Dear Friends,

Greetings of love and peace from Mayapur.

The Global Assembly that once unimaginably far off is over. The seeds planted here in these two weeks will grow and bear fruit for decades to come. None of the pilgrims who were privileged to pass this time in Mayapur will ever be the same. And neither will URI. We will be challenged, grow and flourish in ways we can't begin to predict because of all the connections that have been made here by URI's pilgrims of peace from many paths with one purpose.

At one point in our closing ceremony, I found myself in a large circle 300+ people of diverse religions, spiritual expressions, and indigenous traditions from throughout the world as we honored the pilgrims from each region by calling them into the center of the circle, where they were graced by a special song sung by a fellow pilgrim from a different region.

I was holding hands with an Iranian Muslim on my left and Israeli Orthodox Jew on my right while a Buddhist monk, who grew up as a Methodist in Toledo, Ohio and now leads a global community of Chinese Buddhists, sang in celebration of the pilgrims of Asia - "She carries me, she carries me; she carries me to the other side." - an invocation of the sacred feminine which has the power to transport and transform us. Let this be a symbol of URI's diverse community and of the surprising connections that have been made here.

Indeed, we all have been transformed. For many of the pilgrims here, this was their first experience of such a beautifully, wildly diverse and loving gathering of URI colleagues.

Inspiration these pilgrims found expression in the big ideas they shared this afternoon with the Global Council, including –

Creating a special Multi-Region whose purpose would be to catalyze a spiritually based culture of the environmental care flowing through every aspect of URI’s work and out into the world – locally, regionally and globally.

Establishing a URI traveling and inclusive Peace University that would be a resource to URI’s global community and to the larger world.

Creating a URI Youth Council, with representatives from each region, to carry out an ambitious agenda to develop youth leadership in URI in service to our world.

We heard visions of URI communications, including our website, in many languages. Of a comprehensive CC capacity building program, including ensuring that every CC is deeply rooted in the Preamble, Purpose and Principles. Of a website that would enhance connections between CCs and create a means for resource sharing.

We heard up visions to enhance URI’s fundraising, locally, regionally and globally; and how a shared commitment to spiritual depth could provide a potent foundation for successful fundraising.

So many visions of the future of a transformed URI that has grown enormously in reach and effectiveness. As I heard them I found myself sensing that these bold visions are not unreachable, and not really even so far off, if we maintain the depth of our commitment and work cooperatively in planning, raising resources, and implementing our plans. The future is not far off.

Toward the end of the afternoon, after the Global Council had listened to the community’s big ideas, and shared some positive reflections about how these ideas would guide their deliberations in the months and years to come, Yoland Trevino announced the newly elected Global Council officers:

Yoland was elected to serve a second term as Chair. Shlomo Alon, from Israel, and Marites Africa, from the Philippines, were elected as Vice-Chairs.

Bishop Swing was elected to serve another term as President.

Rabbi Doug Kahn was elected to serve another term as Treasurer. Anas al Abadi, from Jordan, was elected Assistant Treasurer.

P. K. McCary was elected to serve a second term as Secretary. Pelecinah Josiah Pele, from Nigeria, was elected Assistant Secretary.

I had previously been affirmed to continue serving URI as Executive Director.

Earlier in the day, we heard Puroshottama Swami speak of the power for the ISKCON community of having the URI pilgrims in this place. “Flowers from different parts of the world,” he said, “have blossomed in Mayapur.”

As I spoke with many pilgrims, who were offering thanks for the privilege of this experience, I heard that they were returning home filled with gratitude and inspiration. That they would forever see and be in the world in a new way that came from experiencing the depth of URI’s potential in person.

The seeds from all the flowers that blossomed in Mayapur – seeds of interfaith cooperation to end religiously motivated violence, and to create cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living beings – are already being sown and soon will begin to bloom in the farthest reaches of our Earth.

May it be so.



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.