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

Reflections/Quotes on Mayapur GA08 from SEAP delegates

Padmini Solomon (Nur Damai CC - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia):

In a world where there is much religious exclusivity and negative religious fundamentalism, the fact that ISKCON opened its doors to the URI GA is amazing and impressive. It shows what friendships across religious barriers can achieve as well as how the “moral imagination” of URI’s global and regional leadership enables diversity to thrive and be honoured and celebrated.

I was struck particularly by the voice of the indigenous people who were present and given the spaces to teach us their ancient wisdom. I hope that their voices will grow and that their empowerment will be an ongoing process within the URI.

I met so many unique individuals, especially women. I was very impressed by the work of the young people present and the contributions of these 2 groups to the future of URI is absolutely vital.

It was wonderful to hear that URI is making a commitment to build peace proactively in the years to come. Ways of engaging global policy and decision-makers is the next logical step for URI in its evolution. Teaching “Conflict Transformation Across Cultures” is wonderful! These, for me, are the most significant outcomes of the Mayapur GA.

While quality leadership is essential at all levels, it is obvious that URI lives the dream through the vision, commitment and hard work of the whole worldwide community and not by a few individuals alone. My concern is that as URI grows worldwide, if the Charter is not closely adhered to, it will weaken the community. What drew me and my group to join the URI was the Charter. It is important that each of us makes a personal commitment to uphold the wholesome principles that underlie the idea of URI and that we examine and evaluate ourselves at each step in order to face the challenges ahead.

Sam An Ros (Interfaith Youths of Cambodia CC - Svey Rieng, Cambodia):

“I am very happy to personally meet everyone. I now feel confident in continuing my work and relationship with all of URI. Spending two weeks for YLP and GA08 was very beneficial and happy to me, I got many experiences and I learnt from all of people alot. I hope this experiences will apply for my group for growth. Thanks for your encouragement and support.”

Sidon Sok from Pnohm Pehn, Cambodia (no CC yet):

“I am happy so much to be a part of URI 's work for Peace and I will do my best with you and all URI Activist to achieve URI 's goal.”

Sr. Sandra Clemente, RSCJ (Kalinaw CC - Cebu, Philippines)

“Mayapur is an experience of heaven where you only feel and see beauty, quietness and happy people --each respecting one another, singing and dancing. There was absence of war or violence.

There was perfect weather: cool morning and evening. There was abundance: a lot of food, and no one got hungry everybody are concerned with everybody.

It was NIRVANA. No negative news. Everything seemed to stop for awhile. You have people of different faiths sharing their own traditional rituals, prayers, while where everybody had a place to worship. Everyone was living a very simple lifestyle. No competition.. etc..

That is what Mayapur place was for me...and to add to that the presence of the world religions in one place... I agree with the vision of the founder of iskcon.... one day there will come a place where all the different religions will come and converege an give a glimpse of what the vision of also which is.. that all maybe one... I am privilege to be in that moment of time.. at least i had the experience of the glimpse of heaven..Nirvana...URI is possible and even in a short moment we had experience and taste of it.. URI had come and it will be there whether we like it or not... it is the work of the spirit not ours..let us just be open and allow ourselves to make that happen...whatever we can contribute to make that happen is already our share to the mission...

Cora Ponteres (Bohol Goodwill Volunteers Inc. CC - Bohol, Philippines):

The whole of Mayapur experience was most meaningful to me! The warmth exuded by every participant was very heartwarming and revitalizing!

I was struck by the merging of dynamic and selfless people whom I met during the workshops that I attended; who inspired and opened our minds to do more our share of work for the growth of URI. I was moved by the humility and the nobility of the top URI echelon and how they have patiently listened, encouraged and motivated the youths! I also admired the deep commitment of all other URI Leaders.

It was a rare privilege to be a room-mate of New Delhi's famous woman, Mohini Giri whose generosity in caring for the plight of hundreds of widows and her other countless efforts in lifting up her people's unfortunate predicament have touched my soul!

The inspiration of the Work of URI is something that gives us hope so that the achievement of PEACE which is very elusive in this mundane world will be hastened; by also creating linkages and working hand-in-hand with all other organizations whose aim is also geared towards the same direction.

Learning from each other during the GA was an added blessing that enriched our experience, my sincerest thanks to all our benefactors and all URI people who assisted us and worked hard for the success of this gathering! The warm hospitality of the ISCKON people and our hosts is greatly appreciated and deeply treasured. At the same time, the experience gave us the opportunity to become more aware of how great is the TASK and RESPONSIBILITY that lie before us.

The great spiritual surrounding of ISKCON community was an EXTRA BONUS!

Interfaith Prayer

by Dr. Amir Farid Isahak (Interfaith Spiritual Fellowship CC / Malaysian Interfaith Network CC - KL, Malaysia)

I recently spent nearly two weeks as a vegan, interfaith explorer and peace-pilgrim at the world headquarters of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness, more popularly known as the Hare Krishna movement) at Sri Mayapur, West Bengal, India...

... The vegetarian food was always delicious. I had never seen more varieties of fruit and veggie dishes, and enjoyed all of them. Many of us became sluggish in the first few days because we ate too much, trying to savour every dish that was new to us...

... You can imagine how fun and activity-filled it was when 300 of us gathered for the Global Assembly at Mayapur. There were songs, dances and story-telling from the Sufis, Native Americans, indigenous South Americans and others, interspersed with prayers, plays and performances from every region of the world...

... And probably for the first time, the Jewish Sabbath, Christian Mass, and Muslim azan (the call to prayer) and Friday Prayer were held in Mayapur. The prayers of all the other religions were also heard as our programme was full of such prayer occasions. We have proven that the people of all faiths can unite for peace, and have fun together, while keeping true to their respective beliefs... read full article here

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.