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

Newsletter Jan-Jun 2010

Global Celebration of 10th Anniversary of URI Charter Signing

United Religions Initiative (URI), one of the largest and internationally acclaimed interfaith organizations, commemorated the 10th anniversary of its Charter signing with a moving celebration at the Royal Cultural Center in Amman, Jordan on June 26, 2010. The occasion was attended by the URI Global Trustees, Staff, representatives of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, invited guests, friends and countless others who watched the live streaming on the internet.

The URI Executive Director Charles Gibbs and URI leaders from around the world opened the celebrations with a contemplative candle lighting ceremony and prayers for peace. URI founder and President, Bishop William Swing and Global Council Chair Yoland Trevino welcomed, inspired and challenged each one to bring interfaith cooperation into a global force for transformation.

Commitments to foster greater interfaith understanding were made by several regional groups. A sharing of commitments to action by the audience ended the celebration of URI's first decade and launched the second decade - hopeful and happy of the great opportunities and mindful of the challenges that lie ahead.

New GC Trustee

The SEAPac family warmly welcomes Jessie Kaur Singh (Greenfaith CC and COMMON CC) who was elected as a Global Trustee from the Southeast Asia-Pacific region in March 2010 to fill the position vacated by Marites Africa who resigned earlier in the year.

Message from the Chairman of the Regional Council

United Religions Initiative (URI) is now one of the largest interfaith organizations in the world. Since the Charter signing in Pittsburgh on June 26, 2000 individuals from all walks of life and all religions have come together as Cooperation Circles (CC) to overcome the differences that so often divide communities and to build strong diverse coalitions for peace and Justice.

In just 10 years URI has grown into a powerful community of more than 470 CCs in 75 countries. The dedicated community of change makers are working daily to mediate religiously motivated conflict, building schools, orphanages and clinics campaigning for citizen’s rights and more. Our work is touching the lives of over 1.5 million people every year.

In the Southeast East Pacific region there are now 24 Cooperation Circles and annually growing in numbers. They are engaged in various peace building activities - bridging grassroot communities in conflict prone areas, taking care of environmental issues and conducting peacebuilding and leadership development training programs.

Our CCs are doing a wonderful activities to foster better understanding and cooperation among people based on our shared values in communities where increased interaction among people of different, cultures, religions and faiths is bringing about fear and prejudices e.g in Australia

We salute all the dedicated individuals, especially those in conflict prone areas e.g. in Mindanao in the Philippines, who are overcoming daily challenges of distrust and hostility to better the lives of people.

At 10 we renew our commitment “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”.


Musa Mohamad Sanguila

Chair, SEAPac Regional Council

URI Global Staff and Council Meeting in Amman

The SEAsia-Pacific region Trustees Musa Sanguila, Dr. Amir Farid Isahak, Jessie Kaur Singh and Regional Coordinator Shakun Vaswani joined the rest of URI's Global Council and the Staff at the Rosary Sisters Visitation Center in Amman, Jordan for their annual meeting. This year's gathering from June 17-26, 2010 with the theme "URI's Next Ten Years: Equipping Ourselves for Growth in Impact and Sustainability," explored future developments in organizational expansion, growth and effectiveness.

SEAPac Gatherings in the Philippines

“LIVING INTO THE URI VISION” was the theme of the joint gathering of leaders of Cooperation Circle (CC) from the Southeast Asia-Pacific (SEAPac) region and the URI Young Leaders Program (YLP). It was held from April 13-18 at the picturesque Meralco Millennium Leadership Development Center in Antipolo City, 25kms east of Manila.

The first two days were given to the YLP. The invited youth delegates from Australia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Nepal, and the Philippines shared stories, played games, engaged in heart listening, visioning excercises and interactive workshops which aspired to empower the youth and inspire them to become active in grassroots communities and in building cultures of peace.

After the YLP program, the 12 youth delegates joined the SEAPac Trustees and the new CC leaders for a meeting from April 15-18, that was aimed at deepening appreciation of URI’s vision and goals, strengthening CCs in the region and planting the seeds for future growth and expansion in the region. The meeting opened with a welcome and URI’s Vision of Peace from the Regional Coordinator, Inspiring Messages from Charles Gibbs, URI Executive Director and Sally Mahe, the Program Director were read. The gathering concluded with sharing of ideas for the upcoming URI celebrations—the 10th anniversary, on June 26, and the International Day of Peace, on September 21.

YLP Highlights

Whistling water “pipas," 'Survivor'-style team building, rose-giving, and jamming with indigenous musical instruments complemented the Young Leaders Program led by Sarah Talcott (URI Director of Youth programs) assisted by Sharon Vaswani (YLP Steering Committee Representatives for SEAPac), and Jahangir Piara (YLP Steering Committee Representative for Asia).

The youth participants felt privileged to have Sarah Talcott, who inspired them through interactive workshops such as “Headliners” to share on their vision for the future; “Kinship Circle” discussions on building safe places for conflict resolution, healing and reconciliation, caring for the earth and social well being for humanity Building in ‘World CafĂ©’ style.

Ms. Marites Africa from the Peacemakers’ Circle and the URI Travelling Peace Academy presented ‘Visions of Peace Among Religions,’ a slideshow highlighting the wars and violence around the world and also showcased the commonalities of the different religions. An exercise on visioning was then carried out by the youths to create a blueprint of the world they wish to see.

The second module Interfaith Dialogue and Relationship Building. Exercises were carried out on “conflict” and “dialoguing” and “heart listening” processes, with lessons in handling differences in position and disposition. Finally, lessons from the Water Crystals and the Power of the Thought were presented through a slide show.

Two interesting events at the gathering were the game SURVIVOR: SEAPac Islands and an Intercultural Evening. The game was skilfully organized by Sharon and the teams (each named after two Filipino tribes) did their best to outwit, outplay and outlast each other. In the evening, the youths shared their talents via traditional dancing and singing.

The participants proved themselves to be the ultimate survivors of YLP in the SEAPac Islands, and ended the YLP on a high, with the flames of ’wanting change’ ignited in their hearts.

Sandiwang Earth Day Celebration 2010

Dr. Sushil Koirala, URI Youth Ambassador from Nepal and initiator of the Rose Movement for World Peace led a rose-giving ceremony--distributing around 200 roses at the Sandiwang Earth day celebration in the Philippines.

The URI Youth leaders participated in the Sandiwang Earth day celebration at the Marikina Riverside Ampitheatre. They met the Marikina City Mayor and Chief of Police during the festivities and shared with them about the URI initiatives.

CC Updates

People from different walks of life representing several religious denominations participated in an interfaith conference on "Consumers' Rights and Welfare" in April as organized by the Bohol Goodwill Volunteers CC. This was to encourage leadership and vigilance among consumers and to create among them a moral force to deal with the issues of rising cost in basic services and commodities, for the benefit of the people of Bohol island.

The Higao-non ha Migsabuwa ta Lanao, Inc. CC commemorated the 10th Anniversary of the URI with a gathering of 50 young and adult learners. Among the activities was a peace evaluation among the members and participants.

The youth of TULAY CC were caught in action during their coastal cleanup exercise in Bohol, Philippines last April 24 as part of their Earth Day celebration.

Mindanao Peace Garden CC gathered at the home of their leader Noemi Medina in Cagayan de Oro, Philippines to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the URI. After reading the URI PPP, they shared poetry, songs of love and peace, and renewed their pledge to become instruments of peace.

The Peacemakers' Circle through its interfaith youth arm Y4U (Youth for Unity) and the Muslim-Christian Peacemakers Association CC, as with other CCs, celebrated URI's 10th anniversary through a community service project CLEAN & GREEN tree-planting. This service project included planting 70 saplings and a waste management seminar. The youth felt inspired to practice zero waste management.

New CCs from Australia: Welcome!

promoting harmony, diversity, inclusiveness, health and well-being


promoting peace, understanding and harmony among peoples of faiths through music


promoting pluralism by engaging young people in 'common action for the common good'


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.