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

E-newsletter Jan-Apr 2011

World Interfaith Harmony week


For the first celebration of the World Interfaith Harmony Week (February 1-7), The Peacemakers' Circle, in cooperation with United Religions Initiative in Southeast Asia-Pacific (URI-SEAP) and in partnership with the United Muslim-Christian Peacemakers Association (UMCPA) of Tala and the Muslim-Christian Youths for Peace and Development (MCYPD) held an Interfaith Harana (Friendship Serenade/visit to Faith Centers: Bahai Center, Buddhist temples, Sikh temple) on February 5, 2011 (Saturday).


In celebration of the World Interfaith Harmony Week, MIN and INSAF co-sponsored an Interfaith Open House on February 19, 2011 to promote interfaith awareness and harmony amongst the citizens. Dr. Amir Isahak delivered the Keynote Speech.

Women's Month Celebration

*WIN Foundation

On March 9, 2011, WIN Foundation with The Sikh Welfare Council of Victoria organized a gathering to celebrate the International Women’s Day. The afternoon proceeded with a discussion on the role of women within their faith as led by a panel of Sikh women, followed by prayers and singing of hymns by the congregation. A vegetarian meal was served for all after the program.

*Peacemakers' Circle Foundation Inc.

The International Women's Day this year was celebrated not just by women but also by men and youths from different faiths at the open evening session of the Tuesday Inner Work Circle which featured an Interfaith Women's Dialogue Circle held on March 8, 2011 at The Peacemakers' Circle.

With the theme:"The Role of Women in my Faith," insightful sharings from different spiritual traditions were heard. Among those who shared were: Sr. Ma. Arnold Noel, SSPS for Christianity; Sis. Rose Uy and Sis. Eda Valt from the Brahma Kumaris; Ms. Raquel Castillo from the Baha'i' Faith; Dr. Shakun Vaswani from Hinduism; Ms. Tomomi Shima from Shumei. Ms. Marwan Pialda and Alan Berguia (Muslim youths from Culiat); Mr. Sangkyu Lee (Jeung San Do); and Mr. Reimon Cosare (Tibetan) also shared from their faith traditions. Some also shared reflections on gender harmony and egalitarian spirituality.

It was an enlightening and heart-warming evening of dialogue, solidarity, bonding and gender harmony that was capped off by sharing of vegetarian snacks and lively conversations.


*BaliSpirit Festival 2010

Ashram Gandhi Puri promotes peace through Sacred Arts.

Bali remembers Japan; prayers offered.

April 5: Golden Rule Day

Imagine one day when people from all backgrounds came together to do something simply amazing. The Golden Rule is simple enough - treat others as you would wish to be treated; things like kindness, compassion & respect. Yet how amazing if we did this every day. That is what the Golden Rule Day is all about. A chance for people of all backgrounds and beliefs to come together around the shared value of the Golden Rule.
-Interaction Australia

Welcome new CC: WIN Foundation

The Women's Interfaith Network Foundation is a committee for women of different faiths and cultural backgrounds who come together and share their beliefs and traditions. This allows a creation of understanding and learning between different faiths and cultures.

Aims and Objectives:

To provide an opportunity for women of different faiths and ethical backgrounds and who are of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds to come together to share from their traditions.

To address issues and concerns faced by women of different faiths and ethical backgrounds and of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds living in Australia.

To mutually encourage women of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds to enrich and enhance their contribution to Australian society from their individual faiths, ethics and values.

To learn more about WIN Foundation, log on to http://winfoundation.net

More Updates from Australia

InterAct – Arts Project (2009 – 2012)

The InterACT Arts Project is a three year arts project funded by VicHealth as part of the Arts About Us initiative that partners professional artists from different cultural backgrounds with community groups in outer metropolitan, regional and rural areas to develop a music, dance, theatre and multimedia production that promotes diversity to mainstream audiences. The project, conducted in partnership with local governments in Wellington, Casey, Hume, Brimbank and East Gippsland provides opportunities to promote dialogue and cultural diversity at high-profile events such as the Australia Day Concert at Federation Square and at community and school events.

Cultural Infusion: Incursion

Student leadership and engagement program and global citizenship understanding by Cultural Infusion. Artists/cultural educators Jamel Kaur Dhillon, Dya Singh, Djammin and Gene Blow.

Teacher Professional Development Program run by Cultural Infusion artists, cultural educators, Dya Singh, Gene Blow, Djarrin Blow and Jamel Kaur Dhillon in Townsville, Feb 2011.

More News from the Philippines

Higa-onon Ha Migsabuwa Ta Lanao, Inc.: Church and Mosque Visitations

On February 18, 2011 Batches 1, 2,3,4,5 and 8 interfaith youth groups from Rogongon, Panuroganan and Kalilangan have conducted Church and Mosque visitations to promote understanding among Higa-onons, Muslims and Christians and their beliefs/practices, also to promote unity among themselves and to eliminate biases and prejudices.

Pakigdait, Inc. Leads a Study Tour for Peace and Development

The 4th National Volunteer Summit with the theme “The Role of Volunteers in Building Authentic Peace and Human Development” held at Cagayan de Oro last April 8-10, 2011 was yet another enriching experience for peace workers and volunteers alike. The event provided an opportunity for volunteers and volunteer managers from organizations to interact with each other and learn various best practices in peace and development efforts. The study tour to Inudaran, Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte was especially remarkable. It opened an awareness and a better understanding of the journey towards authentic peace and development.

Peacemakers' Circle Foundation Inc.

Lights for Peace: Children's Voices through Art

After decades of conflict, long awaited Peace Talks are set to resume between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (also with the National Democratic Front and the Moro National Liberation Front).

Four hundred children from diverse faith backgrounds gathered with artists, ritual leaders and indigenous musicians to channel the power of art and ritual for peace building. On February 7th, 2011 the children were invited to craft terra-cotta candle and flower holders inspired by the Tri-People culture of Mindanao.

The next day the children were joined by the President of the Philippines, leaders of the military, universities, police, government agencies, and NGOs for a ritual lighting of a peace mandala of candles featuring their clay creations. It was the call of the children to end armed conflict in their generation. It was a celebration of the end of the cycle of war, misunderstanding, and separation. It was a reminder of our interconnection across lines and generations. United, one light at a time, peace will shine.

*The project was made possible by United Muslim-Christian Peacemakers' Association of Tala, Peacemakers' Circle Foundation, 1Mandala, GINHAWA, and SangHabi.

Robin Padilla Special Film Screening for the Peacemakers' Circle

On March 24, 2011 The Peacemakers' Circle interfaith community was honored to have been invited to a special screening of TUM: MY PLEDGE OF LOVE latest film directed and produced by the Filipino action star, Mr. Robin Abdul Aziz Padilla, together with his new wife, Ms. Mariel Rodriguez-Padilla. Known to be the first Filipino film shot almost entirely in India, TUM speaks of the message that resonates well with the advocacy of The Peacemakers' Circle about peace, interfaith harmony and unity amidst diversity. Before the viewing the couple autographed a framed poster of the film and awarded it to The Peacemakers' Circle which was received by its founder/executive director, Ms. Marites Africa, who --on behalf of the officers and members, including the grassroots youths and leaders from the various communities present in the event-- thanked Mr. & Mrs. Padilla for the relevant work they have put into the film and for recognizing the organization.

Culmination of the Bowe's Award Youth Leadership and the Muslim-Christians Grassroots Leadership Programs

On April 2, 2011 (Saturday) The Peacemakers' Circle celebrated the culmination of the Bowes’ Award and the Muslim-Christian Grassroots Leadership Programs and honored 75 youths and 16 leaders from the four grassroots communities of Tala, Caloocan City; Culiat, Quezon City; Maharlika & Upper Bicutan, Taguig City; and Quiapo, Manila.

In partnership with the Miriam College Center for Peace Education, and supported by the United Religions Initiative-Southeast Asia-Pacific, and the Australian Embassy in Manila, the event was held at the ESI Conference Hall of Miriam College in Quezon City.

The 75 Muslim and Christian youths were participants of a 10-session training program entitled Strengthening Interfaith Youth Leadership under the URI Bowes Award project that was awarded to The Peacemakers' Circle. The young participants came from two communities: 44 youths were from Tala, Caloocan City; and 31 from Culiat, Tandang Sora, Quezon City. The program started in October 2010 where each community separately under went twice-a-month sessions of the same content. Towards the end of the program that two communities were merged.

During the culminating event each community showcased their talents in order to present a synthesis of what they learned throughout the training. The audience were awe-inspired and touched by the creative presentations these talented youths painstakingly prepared for just a few weeks. They presented dances, drama, and songs which were intertwined to convey their messages of peace, unity and understanding. One of the most moving presentation was the doxology or dance interpretation of a prayer song that was performed by Muslim and Christian girls.

The event also highlighted the recognition of the 16 Muslim-Christian grassroots leaders who have finished the training under the Strengthening Grassroots Interfaith Dialogue and Understanding Program of the Australian Embassy. This 9-month program consisted of twice-a-month action-reflection sessions with four Muslim-Christian leaders each from the four communities mentioned. In gratitude for their support in the work of The Peacemakers' Circle a plaque of appreciation was also awarded to the Australian Embassy in Manila. Towards the end of the program the youths and elders took pledge to continue striving to become peacemakers in their respective interfaith communities and being the change they wish to see in the world.

T.U.L.A.Y. Interfaith Pilgrimage

As an exposure activity for the non-Catholic members of TULAY, members of the group agreed to do a pilgrimage to the Loboc (Bohol, Philippines) Big Cross in observance of the holy week. On April 20, 2011 the group walked 25 kms. from the town of Baclayon to the top of Loboc Hill where the Big Cross was located. As soon as they reached the top, the group shared questions and views for the purpose of understanding more deeply Catholic beliefs and practices. On Thursday, they did their Visita Iglesia. –Kristine Genita

G.R.O.W.T.H for Wellness

Early in January 2011, GROWTH CC in Cebu, Philippines organized a mass feeding and in February 2011 a Leadership Training and some wellness-oriented activities as yoga exercise, talk on vegetarianism, cooking demo, facial massage and shiatsu services.

Tambal Para Kay Inang Kalikasan: Meditation Circle of Light

Kindred souls from different walks of life have gathered round at the heart of Makati City last March 21 to celebrate the full moon and vernal equinox via a group meditation circle called ‘Meditation Circle of Light’ organized by ECHO Yoga in collaboration with Pulse Yoga, Still Point Manila, and Medicine for Gaia CC. It is our common understanding that at special times of the year, the shift of the seasons and phases of the moon bring potent energies of change which we can harness for peace and transformation.

Medicine for Gaia CC led the opening ceremony by performing an interfaith chanting. Spiritual music filled the air as prayers and beautiful chants from the Eckankar faith, Islam, Hellenic spirituality, Buddhist, Hindu, and eco-feminist tradition were sung. While the interfaith chanting was going on, the earth suddenly shook and everyone have joined hands in prayer. While some people got scared, many of us interpreted it as a sign of Mother Earth’s response or approval. Later that evening, we were able to confirm that a magnitude 5.4 earthquake really took place.

The chanting was followed by a series of guided meditations which primarily aimed to send healing to the casualties of the tsunami and earthquake incident in Japan. It was such a beautiful meditation inspired by the Buddhist’s tonglin, a simple practice of breathing in the suffering of others while breathing out pure white light.

The evening drew to a close with our hearts filled with peace, gratitude, and love.

Prayers for Healing in Japan

On March 28, 2011 (Monday) The Peacemakers' Circle participated in an interfaith prayer service at the front of the Japan Embassy in the Philippines, for the healing of Japan and the rest of the ailing nations in the world.

The event was spearheaded by the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP) in cooperation with partner organizations such as the College of St. Benilde Social Action Center.

A special participation to note was the presence of youth representatives from the Muslim-Christian Youths for Peace and Development (MCYPD) of Tala, Caloocan who brought with them and offered the origami lotuses their young community previously made out of collected prayers for Japan which they have folded into the paper flowers used in the ceremony.

The occasion was also graced by the presence of leaders from different religions who offered prayers from their faith traditions, namely: Dr. Shakuntala Vaswani (Hindu), Ven. Vincent Taguinod (Buddhist), Baba Surinder Singh (Sikh), Mr. Alan Berguia (Muslim), Mrs. Martha Taylor (Baha'i' Faith), Mrs. Tomomi Shima (Shinji Shumei Kai), and the religious sisters from the different Catholic congregations.

Live musical accompaniment was provided by cultural artists – peace advocates. The ceremony was capped-off by candle-lighting.

Earth Day Celebration

On April 24, 2011 (Easter Sunday in the Christian tradition) Earth Day was celebrated with 'Sandiwang' (isang Diwa ng Pagdiriwang para sa Kalikasan), an interfaith gathering led by the Earth Day Network-Philippines.

The whole day program started with interfaith prayers from over 20 different groups and civil society organizations, including the Peacemakers’ Circle Foundation. All offered solidarity prayers from their faith tradition. This was signaled by the ringing of the Peace Bell by the Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista.

Among other faith groups present were: Baha'i' Faith; Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University; Brazilian Catholic Order; Day of Pentecost Church of Jesus Christ; Diliman Bible Church; Golden Cross Curcillo; H-World United Nations Military Philippine Government; IESU; House of Inter-Faith; Iglesia Ni Kristo; International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON/Hare Krishna); Multi-Tribal Movement in the Philippines, Inc. (Muslim); Persons with Disabilities Federation, Inc; Philippine Dao De Gong, Inc.; Samahang Bagong Babaylan; Shinji Shumei Kai; Pamayanang Saniblakas; Victorious Chosen People Ministry, Inc.; United Religions Initiative SEAP.

There were booths set up by the various participating organizations. Tree seedlings were given away, discounted eco-products and wellness services well demonstrated and offered while performances were staged throughout the day.

The afternoon was concluded with community Earth dancing and vortex meditation walk around the fountain at the Quezon Memorial Circle, Quezon City which served as the venue for the day-long event.

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.