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

Vol.III, No. 2 (Jul-Dec 2008)



The United Religions Initiative (URI) held its second Global Assembly (GA08) on November 27th to December 5th, 2008 in Mayapur, West Bengal, India. The much-anticipated event brought together in one unprecedented grassroots global gathering some 200 global interfaith leaders and around 100 interfaith youth delegates representing diverse religions, spiritual expressions and indigenous traditions from 44 countries... read more


by Marites Guingona-Africa , URI Global Trustee & URI-SEAP Regional Council Chairperson

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).
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LOVE IN LUJIANG: Finding the meaning of true love and healing through filial piety

Reflections by Dr. Amir Farid Bin Dato Isahak, URI - SEAP Global Trustee

My second trip to China this year was again at the invitation of the Most Venerable Master Chin Kung, founder and spiritual sifu of the worldwide Buddhist Amitabha society. In May, I went with him, his disciples and Malaysian religious leaders on an educational tour of Beijing and Xinjiang.

This time we went to Tangchi, a small rural agricultural town with about 50,000 residents. It is located in Lujiang county, Anhui province. The area is calm and serene, with padi and tea cultivation being the main economic activities. It has many hot springs that provide pure alkaline water, something we were able to enjoy since it was piped into our rooms. It was autumn and the cool weather was just pleasant. Now the town is also filled with love... read more

Updates from Manila: PEACE DAY 2008

The Peacemakers’ Circle Foundation, Inc. (PCFI) and the United Religions Initiative Southeast Asia & the Pacific (URI-SEAP) Regional Office joined forces with the Sowing Peace for Mindanao network* in organizing a back-to-back peace event in Quezon City, Metro Manila on Saturday September 20, 2008, eve of the UN International Day of Peace.

Just before sunset a motley crowd of more than a hundred people lined the sidewalk along Katipunan Avenue-- in front of Miriam College-- to make a stand for peace and call for the cessation of violence in Mindanao. They were students, teachers, artists, lay and religious, members of the interfaith community, NGOs, and employees who took time from their busy schedule to gather together in order to make their voices heard. In solidarity, they wore white, and brought flowers, musical instruments and food to share... read more


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... read more


MANILA, PHILIPPINESThe Peacemakers' Circle Foundation, Inc. (PCFI) CC, with the support of the Australian Embassy's Strengthening Grassroots Interfaith Dialogue and Understanding (SGIDU) Program, has been conducting a GRASSROOTS LEADERSHIP TRAINING WORKSHOP ON MUSLIM-CHRISTIAN DIALOGUE in four communities in Metro Manila since June 2008. The participating communities are: Maharlika Village in Taguig City, Salam Compound in Culiat, Quezon City, Quiapo in Manila, and Tala in Caloocan City... read more


MANILA, PHILIPPINES-- The Peacemakers' Circle CC, with the help of its network of partners in SOWING PEACE FOR MINDANAO (SPM), the U.S. Embassy in Manila, and the Mindanao Peoples' Caucus, successfully followed up the series of projects and activities they conducted (from August to October) with a dialogue workshop-forum last October 23, 2008. This was entitled: IN SEARCH FOR PEACE IN MINDANAO: Engaging the Moral Imagination in Community Dialogue and Relationship- Building (a leaders' dialogue workshop-forum).

The October 23 workshop-forum was held at the Hotel Rembrandt in Quezon City and was hosted by Jasmin N. Galace of the Center for Peace Education of Miriam College. Over one hundred representatives of organizations from various sectors of society--government, media, civil society, academe, religious and interfaith institutions, and the diplomatic community-- attended... read more

Updates from Kalinaw CC - Cebu

Cebu holds big International Day of Peace 2008 celebration

CEBU, PHILIPPINES— On September 19, 2008 (Friday), Kalinaw (“peace”) CC collaborated with the University of Cebu’s Civic Welfare Training Service - National Service Training Program (CWTS-NSTP) and the Advocates of Living Values Education (ALIVE) in organizing one of the biggest UN International Day of Peace celebration in the SEAP region. With over 5,500 people gathered at the newly constructed Cebu Coliseum, the grand event saw the city’s largest participation and widest collaboration so far of multisectoral, multifaith and multicultural celebration of the UN IDP in one venue.

Around 3,000 NSTP-CWTS students from the University of Cebu (UC) were joined by 2,000 from ten other schools and colleges, plus about 500 participants from local government units, civil society groups and non-government organizations... read more

Updates from Cebu Youth CCs


Reported by Jaimini dasi Araneta

CEBU, PHILIPPINES-- Youth for Peace (Prayers for Mindanao) was a very successful and very heartwarming event for all the participating youths. Giving, Respect, Opportunity, Wisdom, Transcendence & Harmony (GROWTH) CC, in cooperation with Mugna Kabataan (“youth…create!”) CC and supported by the Kalinaw CC, gathered together at the Multipurpose hall around 30-40 youths from the National Service Training Program (NSTP) of the Lyceum of Cebu (LC)... read more

Updates from Pakigdait CC- Mindanao

Pakigdait CC Leads the 27th International Day of Peace

LANAO DEL NORTE, Mindanao -- The civil society organisations of Iligan City and Lanao del Norte gave recognition to a member of the peace panel, Prof. Rudy Rodil, at the celebration of the International Day of Peace (IDP). The network of civil society organisations of Iligan City and Lanao del Norte, through the initiative of Pakigdait, Inc. CC-- in partnership with the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD-UK)-- commemorated the Peace Day on September 21, 2008 at the Balay Mindanaw Peace Centre in Bulua, Cagayan de Oro City... read more

We Continue Interfaith & Cultural Solidarity Amid Armed Conflict in Lanao

KOLAMBUGAN, LANAO DEL NORTE, MINDANAO-- It was a moving moment. Christian leaders waited outside the town’s main Mosque in celebration of solidarity with Muslims on the last day of Ramadhan. Muslims were greeted outside the Mosque after they completed their worship (Sambayang) by the Christian leaders with offering of warm embrace, flowers, garlands, and fruits. It highlighted the celebration of the Eid’l Fit’r, the feast signifying the end of the month-long fasting... read more

Updates from MALAYSIA CCs

International Day of Peace – Malaysia

PETALING JAYA & TAIPING, MALAYSIA--The 2008 International Day of Peace is commemorated in Malaysia in many fronts. In one of these celebrations the Interfaith Spiritual Fellowship (INSaF)/KLCC, and Malaysian Interfaith Network CC, joined partners--the Service Civil International (SCI)-Malaysia, Malaysia for World Peace (M4WP), and Malaysian Indian Youth council -- in a 2-day event aimed at touching the hearts of the participants with peace activities that involved children, youth, schools, non-government organizations (NGO), and local council units... read more

Updates from COMMON CC - Australia

Sharing our Space: Multi-faith Healing Conference held by COMMON CC

VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA-- In celebration of the UN International Day of Peace 2008 Center for Melbourne Multifaith and Others Network (COMMON) CC successfully organized the annual MULTI-FAITH WEEK that kicked off with a Multi-faith Healing Conference entitled: SHARING OUR SPACE—held on its first day on September 21, 2008... read more


The Bowes Awards were established by the URI to recognize and catalyze innovation and cooperation among Cooperation Circles and the individuals and organizations in their communities. CCs are doing amazing interfaith work throughout the URI community, and the Bowes Awards is to lift up model action projects in each of the eight regions, all which embody the Preamble, Purpose and Principles of URI.

The Bowes Award Project, Leadership Training in SEAP Region will be conducted on March 16-18 in conjuction with the next Regional Meeting which will be held in Lanao del Norte, Mindanao (Southern Philippines)... read more

HONORING MOVERS in the Southeast Asia & the Pacific

by Marites Africa & Shakun Vaswani

As we take the next steps forward in our journey towards building and strengthening URI in our region, some of us who have journeyed the longest--and have seen how URI in our region has grown through the years-wish to express our gratitude to all the wonderful people in the region who have helped give birth to URI in our part of the world.

In the spirit of gratitude, joy, and love, we have humbly attempted to recognize and honor them--the MOVERS of URI in Southeast Asia-Pacific--by presenting each one of them to the URI global list serve (one person a week in the past few months) with a brief write-up on their invaluable contributions to the URI in our region. We hope you will be inspired, as we have been, by the beautiful and colorful tapestry of diversity and uniqueness that is being created by the efforts and contributions of each precious MOVER in our part of the world. We give you a glimpse of a few of these MOVERS here—the past and present Global Trustees of SEAP…read more

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...

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CATHARSIS OF THE SOUL: A Young Leader's Experience in Mayapur

YLP delegates sharing on the role of the youth in global interfaith action

Reflections on the Young Leaders Program & GA08

By Sharon Danisha M. Vaswani*

Who would have thought that a short stay in a little rural town with a population of just over 9,000 in West Bengal, India would have such a profound effect on me?

Not that long ago, my world was amazingly cosmopolitan in comparison to the outlying villages around Mayapur but, I must admit that when I first arrived in Sri Mayapur Dham last November 24, I was surprised at the big complex of the Temple and buildings, all painted pink & white in a garden setting and at the bare foot ISKCON pilgrims walking across the campus silently chanting the Hare Krishna mantra with their prayer beads. Mayapur Dham, 130km north of Calcutta across the Ganges River, is the Spiritual Capital of ISKCON. Considered as one of the most holy and peaceful places in all of India, it amazingly houses over one million pilgrims each year.

Mayapur Dham was also the venue for the Young Leaders Program and the 2nd Global Assembly of the United Regions Initiative held from November 24 to December 6, 2008 where I was privileged to be part of the delegation from the Philippines and experience beautiful and enriching moments... read more

A message from the URI hub: Mayapur GA08 Reflections

a letter from URI Executive Director,

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.
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Prayer Song for Peace

This is the third prayer from the eight prayers of Lord Chaitanya sung by devotees. See Lyrics

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.