With the theme 'Pilgrims of Peace: Many Paths, One Purpose' the assembly bore witness to members of Cooperation Circles from around the world meeting face to face, sharing with and learning from one another's successes in their respective interfaith grassroots work, and strengthening alliances within the URI network, as well as forging friendships with new contacts, to further worldwide interfaith cooperation and peacebuilding.
The leaders and representatives of Cooperation Circles from the Southeast Asia & the Pacific Region who attended were: Dr. Shakuntala Vaswani (URI-SEAP Regional Coordinator - from Manila); Ms. Marites Guingona-Africa (Regional Council Chairperson & The Peacemakers’ Circle CC leader – from Manila); Dr. Amir Farid Isahak (Global Trustee, Interfaith Spiritual Felowship CC leader & Malaysian Interfaith Network CC representative – from Kuala Lumpur); Bro. Musa Sanguila (Global Trustee & Pakigdait CC leader – from Mindanao); Sr. Sandra Clemente, RSCJ (Kalinaw CC leader – from Cebu); Sis. Jessiee Kaur-Singh (Center of Melbourne Multifaith & Others Network CC leader – from Melbourne); Ms. Cora Ponteres (Bohol Goodwill Volunteers CC representative – from Bohol); and Ms. Padmini Solomon (leader of the up and coming Nur Damai CC).
Also part of the SEAP delegation who arrived a week earlier (November 25th – 29th, 2008) in Mayapur to attend the URI Young Leaders Program (YLP) were: Mr. Sam An Ros (Interfaith Youths of Cambodia CC leader – from Svey Rieng); Ms. Elyse Rider (COMMON CC youth member – from Melbourne); Mr. Orlan de Guzman, Jr. (URI-SEAP Regional Information & Communications Officer, Peacemakers’ Circle CC youth member, & Youth for Unity/Y4U member – from Manila); Mr. Ramesh Balgos (YLP logo design contest winner – from Manila); Ms. Sharon Vaswani (Y4U representative – from Manila); Mr. Agus Indra Udayana (Ashram Gandhi Puri CC leader – from Bali); Mr. Gede Suwantana (Ahimsa Satya Karuna CC representative – from Bali); Mr. Ketut Suwidiarta (Ashram Gandhi Puri CC youth member – from Bali); and Mr. Sidon Sok (Youth Council of Cambodia - soon to be a CC from Phnom Penh). (See related article on the Young Leaders Program here)
Aimed as “a vibrant gathering where people can deepen their experience of living into the URI Preamble, Purpose and Principles, address visions of collective actions, and celebrate the totality of URI”, the GA08 provided a rich program which consisted of an array of sacred practices, ceremonies across traditions, capacity-building workshops, thematic plenary sessions and community-building interactions, knowledge cafes & exhibit booths, local tours and community outreach, as well as affinity dialogues, global council and regional meetings.
Some of the highlights of the event was a beautiful and solemn ritual opening at the banks of the sacred Ganges River and solidarity procession around the pilgrimage campus. This was then followed by a ceremony for URI’s Celestial CC to honour and remember the respected URI leaders who have passed on—including ISKCON’s very own Dr. T. D. Singh who was the visionary behind the whole Mayapur assembly.
Colorful and spectacular performances were offered throughout the week as the delegates were treated to music, songs, dances, story-telling and poetry not only from the local Indian traditions but also from all over the world as talents and creative presentations were shared with one another through cultural showcase sessions.
The outgoing Global Trustees (2005-2008) were honoured while the new Global Council (GC) was inaugurated. From the SEAP region, Ms. Marites Africa, Dr. Amir Isahak and Mr. Musa Sanguila stood before the global assembly along with the other incoming Global Trustees and took oath as they declared their commitment for their term of service from 2008 to 2012. The officers of the new GC were also elected and inducted. Among them is SEAP’s very own Trustee, Ms. Marites Africa, who was elected as Co-Vice Chairperson. (Congratulations, Marites!)
The GA08 also featured the formal presentation of the Moral Imagination (MI) Peacebuilding Training Program to the URI community. The URI MI learning team and MI representative trainees from India, Philippines, Uganda, and Ethiopia shared about their work not just through speeches but also with songs and creative drama. Throughout the week they have also conducted seminar workshops on engaging the Moral Imagination for grassroots peacebuilding in their respective areas.
The presentation of the Bowes Award to the winners from each region was another highlight in the GA08. Upon receiving the award for the SEAP, Ms. Marites Africa (newly-elected Co-Vice Chairperson of the Global Council) of The Peacemakers’ Circle CC called up to the stage the rest of the delegates from the region-- to emphasize that the winning proposal was a project which is not just for their own CC but for the whole SEAP region (see article on page __).
Indeed another golden mark was etched in the pages of history for URI as its second Global Assembly was a big success in Mayapur. Likewise, golden sparks of inspiration, learnings and wonderful memories of friendship and kinship, old and new-- crossing the boundaries of generations, cultures, and creed-- have been etched in the hearts, minds and souls of around 300 pilgrims of peace of diverse faiths from around the world journeying through many paths but together sharing the same one purpose.