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

Newsletter Jul-Dec 2010

SEAPac Cooperation Circles Celebrate the International Day of Peace

C.O.M.M.O.N. Australia organized 2 major events in September!

The Partners for Peace Malaysia (PfPM), to which INSAF (Interfaith Spiritual Fellowship)
Kuala Lumpur is a part, led an advanced celebration of the International Day of Peace through a Peace Treasure Hunt, Dinner at Taiping and a Peace Summit from September 18-19, 2010

In the Philippines, Kalinaw
Cebu, celebrated the International Day of Peace on September 26 beginning the program with a parade from Fuente to Cebu Coliseum at 6:00 a.m., followed by an interfaith prayer for the nations led by the different religions at 8:00 a.m., and a cultural presentation for Peace and Good Citizenship participated in by the different schools at 8:45 a.m. An interfaith fellowship lunch was shared after the program which was sponsored by the city government.

Pakigdait Inc. CC Commemorates International Day of Peace with Local and International Peacemakers

In Iligan City, Lanao del Norte, Philippines – Pakigdait Inc., an interfaith grassroots peace builder commemorated the International Day of Peace with the local and international peacemakers along with local stakeholders.

Musa Mohamad Sanguila, the Director of Pakigdait in a short program Tuesday night lauded the presence of the International Monitoring Team for the peace talk between the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, headed by Colonel Giuma Maraash from Libya of the Team Site 2 based in Iligan City.

He stressed “this gathering is a continuing process of talk to achieve peace that will start in our hearts and minds that hopefully will influence to others that may bridge the gap of miscommunications, misunderstanding and other problems."

Read more of this article

Peace Day Prayers in Manila

A beautiful Peace Day celebration took place in Metro Manila in the morning of September 21, by the Peace Bell area at the Quezon Memorial Circle with the presence of several prominent personalities including the Vice Mayor of Quezon City, an Undersecretary from Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP), UNDP Country Director and representatives from various civil society, faith groups and the academe. It was wonderful to see so many youths in the gathering and also actively participating in the program. Congratulations to GenPeace for spearheading the celebrations!

The festivities opened with the ribbon cutting ceremony performed by the Vice Mayor Ms. Joyce Belmonte and Under Secretary Romulo Halabaso from OPAPP, to declare open the Exhibition/Booths set up by various participating organizations.

The Peacemakers’ Circle led the interfaith Prayers. The opening address by the Vice Mayor was very supportive of the celebrations and the significance of the day for peace in the country. She announced that a “green building” will be rising in the Park in the near future which will serve as a showcase of cultures in the country and invited us to hold next year’s IDP celebration there. The message of the UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon was read by Mr. Renaud Meyer of UNDP.

Shakuntala Vaswani the SEAPAC Regional Coordinator took the opportunity to introduce the Golden Rule as a means to promote mutual respect and to achieve peaceful coexistence and solidarity among different faiths and cultures. She presented a framed Golden Rule poster to the Vice Mayor Ms. Joy Belmonte.

The program included messages the presentation of a Peace Pole from the World Peace Prayer Society Japan to the President of the Philippines (received on his behalf by Mr. Halabaso from OPAPP) sharings the war evacuees from Mindanao and solidarity messages from various concerned organizations. The song and dance presentations from various groups were entertaining as well as inspiring. A minute of silence was observed at mid-day to reflect on and pray for Peace.

The festivities ended with sharing of potluck foods brought by the different organizations. It was a perfect sunny morning for the occasion but within a short time of the conclusion of the festivities the skies opened up and there was a great downpour of rain, as if in blessing!




Y4U/URISEAP Interfaith Youth Dialogue

On September 11, 2010 (Saturday) The Peacemakers' Y4U (youth for unity) and the United Religions Initiative - Southeast Asia-Pacific (URI-SEAP) celebrated "Peace in Diversity" with more than about 25 youths from diverse faiths and different nationalities and cultures in an Interfaith Youth Dialogue held at the Partnership Center in Loyola Heights, Quezon City. The participants were Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Hindus, Baha'i's and Multifaith youths from (aside from the Philippines) Malaysia, China, Myanmar, Laos, and Korea. They were representatives from the Institute of Formation Fondacio Asia (IFFA); Columban Missionary; Environmental Broadcast Circle Peace Program; Culiat Muslim community; and the Baha'i community. After the dialogue circle, The Peacemakers' Y4U and members of IFFA proceeded to the Ramadhan Fair in UP CHEd to celebrate the Eidl Fitr with our Muslim brothers and sisters.


Being Change by Marites Guingona-Africa, PCFI Founder-Executive Director

Perhaps it is true that the only constant in life is change. People, relationships among people, their circumstances, and just about everything that we can think of, do change! Some changes are for the better, while others leave us with only a deeper yearning for what we desire and hope for.

But, change comes slowly, unfolding ever so subtly on various levels in our midst that, more often than not, we hardly even notice it happening.

Those of us committed to peacemaking as a way of bringing about social change will find that in the process of ushering in its unfolding, there is a need to cultivate at least three essential capacities within ourselves that must be realized in our relationships with others. These are: the capacity to see with the heart rightly, the capacity to seek for answers to questions that liberate the human spirit from the bondage of fear, and the capacity to be with others (even our “enemies”) in the endeavor of bringing about the change that we wish to see. Simply put, we need clarity of vision, depth of conviction, and integrity of co-creative action.

For the full article, please visit my Multiply blog by clicking the following link: Being change

More Action from the CCs...

YPeace: Youth Action for Interfaith Dialogue

‘It’s just opening ourselves to something as simple as conversation’

(PDI article by Annelle S. Tayao (First Posted 22:05:00 09/11/2010)

A SEMINARIAN, a Philippine Military Academy student and the first woman president of Mindanao State University’s student government—they, with other youth leaders from all over the country, made their voices heard at the recent interreligious workshop “yPeace: Youth in Action for Interfaith Dialogue.” Initiated by the US Embassy and facilitated by the Peacemakers’ Circle Foundation Inc., yPeace gathered 34 participants, some from as far as Tawi-Tawi, who, aside from representing schools and peace-related organizations, also served as spokespersons for their different faiths: Catholic, Protestant, Born-Again, Pentecostal, Church of Christ, Islam, as well as indigenous beliefs. Held Aug. 30-31, the two-day intensive workshop was at Hyatt Hotel in Malate, Manila. In group discussions and creative presentations, participants related personal stories on conflicts in their respective communities, and their hopes for better interreligious coexistence in the country...
To read more check out this link:

"Bikers for Peace" in Lanao del Norte

On December 3, 2010, in celebration of the Mindanao Week of Peace, Pakigdait Inc. spearheaded an event called "Bikers for Peace." This was participated by a group of bikers from Ozamis City, Aurora (Zamboanga del Sur), and Maranding (Lanao del Norte). The group started to pedal from Maigo Lanao del Norte. Another set of bikers started to pedal from Iligan City. Both were destined to Brgy. Delabayan, Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte.

To learn more about Pakigdait Inc., please log on to http://pakigdaitinc.blogspot.com

6TH SEAPac Regional Meeting held in Manila

On November 24-28 the SEAsia Pacific Regional Trustees and 13 Cooperation Circle Leaders gathered in the Philippines for a Regional Meeting under the theme “Growth in Impact and Sustainability in the SEAPac region”.

Wednesday 24th November: The Sixteen delegates from 5 SEAPac countries arrived at different airports at different times where they were met by Robert/Orlan/Ishilta/Shakun and were taken to the Sulo Riviera Hotel in Quezon City which was our ‘home’ for the 4-day meeting.

In the evening, all gathered at the Divino Lounge at the Sulo for dinner. A warm welcome was given by the Regional Coordinator and self introductions made after which conversations took place to get to know each other and share stories.

Thursday 25th November: A formal opening ceremony took place in the Function Room with interfaith prayers and video presentation on the URI and the SEAPac region. The agenda for our days together was looked at. It was to serve as a great opportunity for CC leaders to share and learn from each other’s work and best practices to grow in impact and sustainability. It included a look at the regional Challenges, Strategic planning, workshops, a Forum to promote the URI in the region and also to seek financial support, a multifaith concert and community visits.

After the morning break the regional Challenges were taken up with CC gathering together by zones to do the SWOT analysis after which the findings were shared to get a good picture of the Regional situation and challenges and this led the way to the strategic planning sessions and the workshops in the next two days.

After lunch the first Strategic planning Session was on Strengthening CCs. The dialogue was facilitated by Jessiee Kaur. Communications among CCs to exchange ideas; making use of expertise in the region; mentoring CCs; zonal gathering were some of the ideas that were shared.

The second session was on Strengthening the Region. It was facilitated by Dr. Amir. The need to clarify terminology, since this year we have had TWO regional gatherings was taken up. For a Regional Assembly – all CCs will be invited, Regional Council will sit and policy/decision meeting will take place; Other regional meetings – Country CCs meeting; Zonal CCs zone meeting will take place as needs and decisions made in the future.

Future need for zonal meetings and zonal coordinators will be taken up at the next Regional Assembly.

Other discussions on identifying expertise and collaborating among CCs in the region took place.

After dinner the delegates gathered in the Function room for the presentations from each CC. We commend all CCs for all their programs and making an effort to bring PowerPoint presentations.

Friday 26November: After the morning prayers the Session on Interfaith dialogue and Peacebuilding – the current challenges and Opportunities- was facilitated by Dr. Amir. He shared on the different kinds of dialogues, the purpose of religion and what Religions teach us and why religious people are a cause of conflict and the URI initiatives in peacebuilding. Stories were shared by the delegates on their personal experiences which were all very inspiring.

After the morning break Musa Sanguila facilitated the next sessions which was on Understanding Conflicts. He shared that Conflicts are natural and a + challenge for us to move on in life. He shared about the internally displaced people as a result of conflicts/wars and shared about the situation in Mindanao and the efforts of the Pakigdait CC. Sharing around the table brought about historical injustices in Australia, Philippines that are still disturbing people.

In reconciliation Musa shared about how conflicts – arising out of difference between position and disposition of the conflicting parties; the need for Heart listening, finding win- win solutions and getting inspiration from our scriptures.

The same afternoon a FORUM was held at the Van Gogh Room at Sulo Hotel- The region played host to friends from the various Embassies, NGOs and partners in Peacebuilding and friends to share about the URI through video, slide show and sharing from the delegates to give our partners on what the URI is and the impact our CCs are making on the ground its relevance to peace building in the region. It served as an opportunity to build relationships for future partnerships and funding. Although the guest attendance was below expectation due to multiplicity of events that afternoon ( in fact our own Trustee Musa Sanguila left the Forum earlier to participate in a Forum organized by the OPAPP!), we had a good rapport with the attending guests.

After the Forum a session was conducted by Shakun Vaswani on Resource mobilization – a slide show presentation was made on the need for resources and how to go about fund raising. She emphasised the need to document activities and keep financial records – important when requesting for funds. She encouraged all CCs to start small initially – to establish relationships and to be recognized for the peacebuilding work.

After dinner, while the Trustees gathered for a business meeting, the rest of the group took the opportunity to explore the nearby Quezon Memorial Circle – the Site of the Peace bell from the UN and the venue for many interfaith gatherings with Orlan, Sharon and Ishilta acting as guides.

Saturday 27November In the morning it was an opportunity for the Youths to share their stories and challenges and bond with other CC leaders while the Trustees and the Regional Coordinator gathered to finish their business meeting. Allan Burguia a youth coordinator in the Muslim Christian Peacebuilding project in the Peacemakers’ Circle was invited to share on the ongoing work in the communities in Metro Manila.

The CC leaders attending a Regional meeting for the first time were fired up by the opportunity and the potential to collaborate and keep in touch with each other through social media sites. They will be looking into ways of supporting each other; exchanging information and helping each other grow.

A Regional Calendar of Events will be posted on the social sites to know of the ongoing activities and to support each other.

After the morning snacks the Regional Business meeting was called, the last one to be chaired by the outgoing Regional Chair, Musa Sanguila.

The Financial report was presented by the Regional Coordinator. This November Regional meeting budget is higher than projected budget due to increased number of delegates from Australia and the higher airfares this year. Unused budget from new CC planting through an introductory workshop was requested to be realigned to use for this meeting.

Budget for 2011 is pegged by the URI, expect same as 2010.

There will be some carry over balance as a result of non expenditure of certain regional expenses e.g. hire of a regular communications officer, fund raising activity , purchase of camera etc. that will be postponed/carried out next year . Shakun will request the Hub to carry over the balance to 2011.

The venue for the next Regional Assembly was chosen by consensus – it will be held in KL and all CCs and potential CCs will be invited. Dr. Amir will be playing host it and will be looking for partners to host accommodations, food etc. The preferred time is a date in October 2011.

Indra Udayana offered to look into the possibility of accommodating the youths at their Ashram in KL and invited to conduct a youth program before the Assembly.

The Next Chair of Regional Council, Dr. Amir was formally welcomed by the outgoing chair Musa Sanguila. Dr. Amir welcomes everyone to come to Malaysia.

After lunch all got ready to leave at 3.00pm for Makati for the evening concert - to present their talents for the first Regional Fund raising activity in an evening of inspirational music and dance “Beyond Differences” to celebrate our oneness in diversity and to raise funds for our programs to serve grassroots communities.

The whole program flowed through smoothly with the audience obviously captivated by the variety of numbers. It was hard to believe that the whole program was put together a day earlier by Orlan and Peter. The performers just turned up at the auditorium to offer their gift of music and dance. A big thank you to by Peter Mousaferiadis, CEO of Cultural Infusion, Australia who was a participating delegate in the regional meeting, for directing the whole show. A big thank you also to all the performers for the gift of their talent and music in the service of URI SEAPac.

Sunday 28November: While some delegates had to get to the airport after breakfast to catch their flights back home, the rest of the group paid a visit to a local youth group in Cuilat, Tandang Sora, a community served by the Peacemakers’ Circle and had a lively dialogue with the youths. Jamel Dhillon motivated the youths to be peacemakers and URI members.

From Culiat the group drove to visit the Hindu Temple where Dya Singh was invited to participate in the kirtan going on. Next stop was Indian Sikh Temple where we visited the prayer Hall and afterwards had Langar (lunch) and met community members. Dya Singh and family were invited to participate in the kirtan to begin later that afternoon.

The remaining group members returned to the hotel to prepare for their departures.

The CC leaders commented that this face to face meeting was a great experience to learn from one another’s successes and build further alliances within the URI network to play a more active role in serving the grassroots communities and for greater interfaith understanding and unity in SEAsia Pacific Region.

Beyond Differences – an evening of inspirational music and dance from different cultures and faiths in South East Asia Pacific Region was put together by the delegates attending the Regional meeting of the United Religions Initiative (URI) and friends from the Philippines to celebrate our oneness in diversity and to raise funds for their projects to serve grassroots communities.

The United Religions Initiative (URI), a global network of change makers, is celebrating a decade of building cultures of peace and healing around the world and to commemorate this milestone the leaders of Cooperation Circles in the Southeast Asia Pacific region gathered in Manila November 24-28 to strengthen their commitments and celebrate their successes.

The concert Beyond Differences held from 6.00 pm - 8.00 pm on Saturday, November 27, at the CAP I Auditorium on the 7th floor, (behind the Makati Med.) Makati City was their culminating activity. It was an evening of festive colors and variety and surprises - discovering hidden talents and creating unity in diversity.

After a video presentation introducing the United Religions Initiative and a warm welcome from the MC Sharon Vaswani, the program opened with Taiko drumming from Shumei Shinji Kai and the Pilipino Ethnic musicians Sanghabi.

The URI Regional Coordinator, Shakuntala Vaswani shared about the purpose of the URI gathering in Manila and introduced an inspiring video on The Golden rule that runs through all religions giving the same message of “treating the other as one would like to be treated”. It was presented to create a new spring for humanity to build cultures of harmony and peace.

The dance program which featured a variety of cultures from the region was an awakening to the richness of our cultures.

A traditional Khmer folk dance was performed by the two Cambodian delegates Sam An Ros and Sok Sidon.

The Balinese soloist Putu Anggradana in his colourful costume and elaborate make up skilfully performed the Tari Kabbyar Duduk – an energetic dance about empowering the youth and the power of discipline.

The young children of the Malaysian delegates Dr. Amir stole the show with their number Din Din Berindin – a series of rhymes inviting all to enjoy an Endang dance with its movements depicting the daily activities of the villagers.

Dance performances from the Philippines included Allaripo- an Indian classical dance in Bharatnatyam form - by Vrja Devi Dasi from ISKCON.

The Pahingalay Artists Circle performed a traditional dance from Sulu Islands. The slow, continuously flowing arm and hand movements, downcast eyes captivated the audience.

The youths from a URI community in Tala, Caloocan came in colorful costumes and performed the Singkil, a Maranao Muslim dance with bamboo sticks.It was their first stage performance and skillfully done.

In the vocal performances, the duet of Yeyette & Shayne rendered original compositions on love and peace in their melodious voices. The Bahai youth choir sang beautifully to remind us that we all share of one planet one earth. Musa Sanguila, the outgoing Chair of the Regional Council rendered a couple of songs on the guitar on the love of his homeland.

During the interval Sr. Sandra Clemente of Cebu led the audience in a participative body prayer accompanied by Orlan de Guzman on the nose flute.

The internationally acclaimed performer Dya Singh of the Dya Singh World Music Group from Australia rendered uplifting spiritual songs with his daughter Jamel accompanying him. CJ Vasu accompanied them on the table.

The climax of the program was the multifaith chant by Dya Singh and the Tari Kalingga Bali with Indra Udayana and Putu Anggradana aspiring towards developing inner peace and enlightenment.

The finale had all audience on their feet and holding hands together and singing we are one!

The whole program flowed through smoothly with the audience obviously captivated by the variety of numbers. It was hard to believe that the whole program was put together a day earlier by Peter Mousaferiadis, CEO of Cultural Infusion, Australia and Orlan de Guzman who were participating delegates in the regional meeting. The performers just turned up at the auditorium to offer their gift of music and dance.

A big thank you to all the performers for the gift of their talent and music in the service of URI SEAPac.

The proceeds from this event will be utilized to give seed grants to empower the women and youths in grass root communities to build bridges of understanding and transform religious tension/conflicts into a positive social change.

Kindly visit the URI website: www.uri.org to learn more their heart warming activities of the URI around the world.

Some reflections on URI-SEAPac Regional Assembly in Manila - Nov.2010 by DYA SINGH

At the tail-end of 2009, my wife who is an active '(global) inter-faith harmony' advocate encouraged me into registering my music group as a 'Cooperation Circle' (CC) of URI (United Religions Initiative), an international inter-faith organisation. This was when the 'Parliament of Worlds Religions' was taking place in my hometown. I was participating as part of Cultural Infusion, a company I am listed with, as a cultural ambassador and spiritual musician of Australia.

I had played a fairly active part in the 'multi-faith' scene in the 1980's as a 'faith representative' for the Sikh faith in South Australia and MASA (Multifaith Association of South Australia).

But after about 5 years representing the Sikh faith I grew tired of it as the 'movement' seemed to be going nowhere. I used to go to 'inter-faith' activities, perhaps sing the Sikh chant or offer a Sikh prayer besides representatives of other religions or give the Sikh viewpoint on different subjects.

A few die-hards especially old folks used to attend. Sometimes we were invited to some secondary schools or some divinity classes to talk to the students and teachers. Students of Religious Education and others doing secondary school projects or University dissertations, wanting first-hand information on our faiths used to visit us to gather information. That was rewarding. We did concerts during 'Refugee Week'; 'Year of Tolerance' etc.

We used to have fairly regular meetings amongst faith representatives to give the views of our own faiths on various topics like treatment of women; treatment of children; homosexuality; the environment; abortion; war, and so on. Faith Representatives used to come armed to tell us all how glorious, progressive and perhaps modern thinking their individual faiths were in all these issues. I, of course, not to be outdone, used to go prepared to hopefully dazzle everyone on what Nanak or any of my other 'gurus' thought of all these issues with copious quotations from the Guru Granth Sahib (our scriptures and Guru). I wonder whether we really heard each other or were just there to push our own barrels!

We even had the glory of meeting the Dalai Lama as 'faith representatives' of our various faiths'.

I finally grew tired doing all this but not really seeing anything positive transpire, and dropped out. I grew tired of telling others how glorious my religion was and hearing how good their religions were! My wife carried on first as Secretary and then as Chairman of MASA.

I formed my own world music spiritual music group based on the Guru Granth Sahib while wife Jessiee continued her work as a peace advocate and inter-faith activities.

I used to attend occasionally as a Sikh musician and offer a shabad (hymn) or a Sikh Prayer at some auspicious occasion. I can proudly say that with my group which includes Christians (of various denominations), 'free-thinkers', Socialists, Humanists, Budhists, Hindus and a Muslim percussionist (tabla-player), I have made our form of spiritual music (and song) an accepted form of entertainment in folk, arts and world music festivals in Australia, USA, Canada and UK.

We then moved to Melbourne and continued in our personal arenas. Jessiee, seeing that Melbourne was not well represented multifaithly, set up COMMON (Council of Melbourne Multifaith and Others Network) and also WIN (Womens Interfaith Network) and involved herself in Greenfaith and other such organisations. I continued singing and playing music with my group worldwide at various folk, world music, inter-faith, new age and arts festivals worldwide.

Then in 2009, I was invited by Jessiee to register my group with URI and in November 2010, I was invited to attend their SEAPac (South-East Asia & Pacific region) Assembly-cum-Meeting in Manila. It was an opportunity for me to see what had changed in the 'inter-faith' dialogue arena since the 1980's.

You see, even the Parliament of World Religions is really more a four/five yearly smorgasbord or Olympics of religions and those who attend seem more interested in pushing their own religion or faith or 'way of life' rather than hoping to learn and go back to their 'flocks' to preach 'inter-faith' harmony!

URI somehow seemed different because, for a start, one of their principles is ... 'thou shalt not proselytise'! (My own words of course, but true in essence.)

Was I going to be bombarded by speeches glorifying Jesus, Mohammed, Budha, Bahau-ullah, Zarathustra or Swami Vivekananda etc. etc. And will I have to throw back in kind, the glory of Guru Nanak or Guru Gobind Singh!

The four day meeting turned out to be refreshing, and an eye-opener. For a start, not one CC representative talked about the glory of their faiths - not even the Muslim representative, Dr. Amir, who, in fact, gave a tremendous insight of the importance of faith in our lives. In fact, every CC representative gave amazing accounts including a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & threats) Analysis of their individual Cooperative Circles - the tremendous common good efforts they were making in their regions of activity.

Christians, Muslims, Budhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Indigenous members including Humanists, Brahma Kumaris, Bahai's, SaiBaba devotees and others came together not to glorify their sons of God, 'final' prophets of God, teachers, gurus, swamis etc. but to discuss ways of 'working and playing' together! Some 'religious' jokes of mine were even tolerated!

Two young-looking Cambodian CC leaders, Sam An and Sok Sidon, informed us of how URI and also especially the Australian Embassy had helped them to establish their CC's which began a number of small, modest business ventures in their communities to raise money to help poverty stricken families with bare essentials and equipping children to go to schools.

A young Hindu spiritual leader, Indra Udayana, of an 'ashram' in Bali informed us of the 'inter-faith' gatherings and other activities like yoga, spiritual and physical cleansing activities, teaching spiritual dancing and eco-hiking which also generate revenue and the charity work which is being carried out in parts of Bali amongst the needy. Indra and one of his students dazzled us with some Balinese spiritual dances on the last day.

Local (Manila) and other national CC leaders reported on some of the amazing activities which included Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and Indigenous members. Sister Sandra stood out as a nun helping to run a school involving 3000 children of different faiths being educated in Cebu. Then there was Musa Sanguila, an Indigenous Muslim from Mindanao, a pacifist political leader of his people working selflessly, under life-threatening circumstances trying to bring about a peaceful resolution between (supposedly) secular forces of the government who appear to be eroding the autonomy of his people and some of his people who have resorted to armed struggle for their rights.

Two youngsters from the small island of Bohol in central Philippines, Ludwig and Kristine surprised us with the enthusiasm and energy with which they are running their charitable CC's.

We discussed ways of raising further funds for our activities. It was generally accepted that most western governments wish to see people of different faiths/religions getting on in harmony, and so were multi-national companies whose success depended on peoples of different religions getting on with each other and hence could be successfully approached for necessary funding. Other marketing strategies were aired.

The greatest benefit by far, was the fact that each CC leader returned home, fired up and inspired, that the work of his/her CC did make a difference - that there were others doing similar work and that it was in the better interest of humanity if more such CC's came into existence.

The four day meeting culminated in a dazzling concert put together by Peter Mousaferiadis of Cultural Infusion Australia which included almost all the delegates - even the beautiful children of Dr. Amir who stole the show with a sit-down dance and song.

A number of CC delegates visited two new CC's and there was some interesting dialogue including a very interesting question by one youth. Firstly we had to convince everyone that URI was not a new religion, just advocating inter-religious harmony (which by the way most religions do).

The Question: How come, knowing what a great concept URI is and the fact that it is UN initiated, after ten years, so few people in the world knew about it?

I leave the higher echelons of URI to reflect on that.

As supposedly, URI is a grass-roots organisation, this blade of grass has this to add...

Firstly, it will appear that from my perspective, and also the fact that I have only attended one 'meeting'/assembly/or forum, (and hopefully not my last for what I have written!) there appears to be a reluctance on the part of those in charge, to create 'too many' CC's perhaps because that might cause logistical headaches. Secondly, there needs to be further and much greater awareness of URI.

As a final note, as I sat doodling, on my note paper, through the four-day assembly, I wrote down a few 'meanderings' or sayings which might come in handy to others or improve on, or reflect on ... or discard.

"May we step above the apparent weaknesses within our own faiths (or perhaps the followers and leaders who mislead) to reach out to fellow human beings of all faiths and backgrounds and accept others as equals."

No one religion can claim ownership to God.

Someone quoted an African proverb - "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others."

Inspired by Dr. Amir of Malaysia - "You are not truly spiritual unless you have been through the discipline of a religion. Religion is the grounding for true spirituality."

"You have to relate to your past to understand your present - to chart your future."

I like to thank Shakun Vasvani and her team and Orlan especially, for their hospitality and of course URI for coming up with such a great movement!

I look forward to meeting more CC leaders worldwide as time goes by and perhaps contribute more effectively towards greater understanding amongst devotees of religions/faiths and hence contributing towards world peace through my spiritual music group.

Welcome to 2 new CCs!

Women's Interfaith Network (WIN) Foundation

provides an opportunity for women of different faiths & traditions
to come together to share and become a bridge
between families and the various sectors of society


Tambal Para Kay Inang Kalikasan (Medicine for Gaia) CC

promotes the healing of the natural environment and the Earth community
through rituals and ceremonial prayers

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.