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


MANILA, PHILIPPINES -- An historic event took place in Metro Manila on Thursday October 2, 2008. About 30 motorcyclists and 12 vehicles carrying colored flaglets and banners of the Sowing Peace for Mindanao network drove through the streets in a Peace Caravan that called for a more intensified campaign for awareness and solidarity for the growing number of people affected by the conflict in Mindanao. Escorted by MMDA mobile traffic enforcers and several media crew, the convoy—composed of members representing the different peace organizations, religious communities and interfaith groups had earlier assembled at the Miriam College parking lot in Quezon City, and traveled all the way to Maharlika Village in Taguig City.

Awaiting them at St. Joseph Catholic Church was a contingent of about three hundred parishioners from the community led by their parish priest, Fr. Victor Virtudazo. Joining together in a Peace March the two groups filled the streets to the beat of a local drum-and-lyre marching band, interspersed with drumming and harmonium music (provided by the ISKCON) while everyone chanted, “Peace in Mindanao… Now!”-- as they made their way to the Blue Mosque. Here they were welcomed by the Muslim community led by young boys and girls who received the white flowers offered to them by their Christian neighbors and the visiting interfaith community.

Beside the mosque, everyone gathered under the sun in a circle where the interfaith manifesto for peace was read aloud and interfaith prayers for peace were offered by leaders and representatives from the Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Indigenous, Hare Krishna and Hindu faiths. Concluding the ceremony was the planting of a “Tree of Peace” at the center of the circle around which each faith representative put a peg to fence the seedling —symbolizing the concerted effort of protection and continuous nurture that peace would require from each of the stakeholders.

Right after, a celebratory cultural program was held in a tent area nearby where everyone enjoyed musical entertainment from the Muslim community and listened to the solidarity messages and Eidl Fitr greetings from the different participating groups.

Also held there was a symbolic offering of food from the Christian and interfaith community which was received by the Muslims led by their respected leader, Sultan Pangandaman.

A simple but harmonious feast was shared as a general feeling of hope filled the air and the promise for peace had been planted in each one’s heart through this fresh, new kind of interfaith Eid celebration that has been started.

The event was featured in several national newspapers the following day.
See more photos here

On behalf of the conveners of Sowing Peace for Mindanao network (Binhi ng Kapayapaan, Inc., GZO Peace Institute, Anak Mindanao, Moro Human Rights Center, Center for Peace Education - Miriam College, The Peacemakers’ Circle Foundation, Inc., Balay Rehabilitation Center, Mindanao Solidarity Network, Interfaith Center for a Culture of Nonviolence), we heartily thank all groups and individuals who have participated and contributed to the success of the event: Aksyon para sa Kapayapaan at Katarungan (AKKAPKA), Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), Motorcyclists Assoc. of the Phils., International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), SangHabi, Inc., KaliPiMu Inner Dance group, Environmental Broadcast Circle-PeaceComm., Third World Movement Against the Exploitation of Women, St. Joseph Parish - Taguig.

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.