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

August - December, 2011


Philippine CCs help Flood victims

Higa-onon Ha Migsabuwa Ta Lanao CC responded immediately to the devastated Indigenous Peoples of Typhoon Washi/Sendong by distributing RELIEF ASSISTANCE, both food items and non food items, with the cooperation of the National Commission on Indigenous peoples and Barangay Council and various other donors. The Indigenous Peoples were hungry, homeless and hopeless after the floods. The timely efforts of HHMTL brought hope and help to the people in the remote areas. Congratulations!

Pakigdait CC and the Interfaith Council of Lanao del Norte shared with the people of Iligan their sorrows, renewal of Strengths and moving on by organizing an "INTERFAITH SHARING & CARING”. They accept relief goods/ donations in-kind or cash from friends from within the Philippines and in the SEAPac region. The relief goods were distributed to communities who were not housed in the evacuation centres but equally needy. Congrats to Pakigdait for their timely assistance.



On November 27, 2011 (Sunday) the SEAPac Regional Office hosted a year-end gathering of CC leaders from Metro Manila. This was an opportunity for the old and new CCs to meet and bond with each other.

The six CCs - Peacemakers' Circle CC, Muslim-Christian Peacemakers Assoc. (MCPA) CC, United Muslim-Christian Peacemakers Assoc. (UMCPA) CC, Muslim-Christian Youth for Peace & Development (MCYPD) CC, Pathfinders' Commune CC, and Medicine for Gaia CC shared updates on their activities.

Observers from 3 non-CC Muslim-Christian groups from 3 grassroots communities: Culiat in Quezon City, Quiapo in Manila, Maharlika-Bicutan in Taguig City were also invited to get to know about the URI and how to form a CC.

The Regional Coordinator took this opportunity to updated on the news and activities held at the recent regional meeting in KL, Malaysia. She also explained the Trustee Selection Process and encouraged the CC leaders to participate in the fill the forms and return them as soon as possible.



The primary vision of GLOBAL PEACE DAY Foundation is Universal Peace through Individual Peace. The vision is that large numbers of people over the world observing one minute’s silence from 11.11 am to 11.12 am everyday for the sake of universal peace will bring forth a great global effect of Peace within.

In Kuala Lumpur, INsaf CC and partners led a large gathering of people of all sections consisting of parliamentarians, doctors, engineers, teachers, various religious heads and faiths assembled in one place observe one minute’s silence vibrating only one thought of Peace for the entire Globe. MAY PEACE PREVAIL ON EARTH!



Youths from different universities, NGO, Public Schools and Voluntary Organizations participated in the annual Dharma Ashram, a live in student’s camp at Gandhi Puri Ashram.

The objective of the camp is to involve the youths during their summer vacation in meaningful group activities including sports, instrumental music and dance and patriotic songs that would enhance their skills and awareness. The program is designed to inculcate values imbibe a spirit of constructive contribution to society and volunteerism

Speaking at the camp, BR Indra Udayana (founder /Chairman Ashram Gandhi Puri) exhorted the youth to take the Gandhian path of non-violence and promote the spirit of volunteering. He pointed out that volunteering was a distinct human characteristic, which connected an individual to the society.

He talked about Gandhi the volunteer and how he motivated the entire world to take to non-violent “Volunteering is something one does out of one’s freewill," he sa


The 2011 Victorian Interfaith Youth Forum on November 27 gave a chance for young people to explore what faith means to their generation, as well as learn more about the growing interfaith youth movement and how to get involved. For the older generation this was an opportunity to understand what interfaith looks like from a youth perspective. The forum was hosted by Australia's InterAction, leading interfaith youth organization.


Children’s Day Celebration in Manila

An observance of the WORLD DAY OF PRAYER AND ACTION FOR CHILDREN on UN Universal Children's Day (November 20) and kicking-off the MINDANAO WEEK OF PEACE was held at the Maharlika Elementary School, Maharlika Village, Taguig City. Jointly supported by UNICEF, Mindanao Solidarity Network, The Peacemakers' Circle, Asia-America Initiative, Religions for Peace-Phils., United Religions Initiative Southeast Asia-Pacific (URI-SEAP), National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, Muslim-Christian Unity for Peace & Progress of Taguig, Manila Muslim-Christian Community Peacemakers Assoc. of Quiapo, United Muslim-Christian Peacemakers of Tala, Integral Art Metta (IAM), and the Barangay Maharlika Local Government.

Interfaith prayers and intentions for the children of conflict affected areas of Mindanao were made by representatives of the various partner organizations after which seeded eggs were crafted by children with fruit and flower seeds, soil, and clay. A mural was also co-created with children using stencil designs of symbolic patterns from Muslim, Lumad, and Chiristian peoples of Mindanao.

The seed eggs are part of a series of symbolic messages by children to the Peace Panelists to mainstream children’s issues in the peace agreement particularly the rights of children affected by armed conflict and the eventual accord of the negotiations in their present generation so that this will no longer pass on to their own children.

The event ended with merienda for the children.


International Award for Indra Udayana

Indra Udayana of the Gandhi Puri Ashram CC in Bali, Indonesia received the 2011 International Jamnalal Bajaj Award for Promoting Gandhian Values outside India. He was presented with an award of 500,000 rupees ($10,000USD), a citation and a trophy at a ceremony in Mumbai, India on November 7th.

Previous winners of the prestigious Gandhi-inspired award include Desmond Tutu in 2000 and several URI members and friends, including A.T. Ariyaratne of Sarvodaya Shanti Sena CC in Sri Lanka (1990); Gedong Bagoes Oka of Indonesia (1994); Professor Michael Nagler of the United States (2007); and Professor Lia Diskin of Brazil (2010).


7th Southeast Asia Pacific Regional meeting in Kuala Lumpur

Over 45 URI SEApac members (youths & elders) representing 22 Cooperation Circles (CC) from Malaysia, Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia, Australia, and New Zealand participated in the 7th Regional meeting of the URI southeast Asia Pacific region in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from October 6-10, 2011. Three Interfaith leaders from Thailand also attended as observers. A representative from the URI’s President’s Council flew in from USA and the Coordinator of the URI Gloal Youth Leadership development Program flew in from UK to participate in the gathering which had the theme Interfaith Action for Peace and harmony in the Region.

The gathering was graciously hosted by InSaF CC through the kind courtesy of Mother Mangalam, President of the Pure Life Society and Dr. Amir Farid Isahak, the SEAPac Regional Chair.

The two day business meeting agenda began with the grounding the participants in the URI values and the purpose to build a culture of peace across the world. After the initial updates on the activities from the various CCs, there were group sessions to share stories on the challenges of peace work; workshops discussions on different ways of entering into interfaith dialogue to build a culture of peace were also conducted. The CCs from the three zones met as zonal groups and shared on the challenges of their work and share on ways of growing in strength and sustainability.

The Regional meeting was capped by an International public Seminar on Interfaith Action for Peace and Harmony at The Tun Hussein Onn National Eye Hospital auditorium in Petaling Jaya . The keynote Speaker was Dato Azman Amin Hassan, Deputy Governor National Unity & Integration Department in the Government of Malaysia . URI Leaders from the various countries shared on the peace and harmony status in their countries and how URI Cooperation Circles are contributing towards it.

The culminating activity of the Regional gathering was an evening of music and dance at the Shantanand Auditorium of Fine Arts, Bricksfield. The delegates from the different SEAPac countries showcased the culture of their country through music and dance to the invited public audience who were amazed at the variety and talent among the delegates.

The SEAPac events were well covered by the media in Kuala Lumpur and it is hoped that this gathering contributed to better understanding and harmony among peoples of different faiths that make up the Malaysian Society.

Highlights of the 7th SEAPac Regional Meeting

The sacred opening prayers ceremony to mark the formal opening of the 7th SEAPac Regional meeting was held at the Temple of Universal Spirit (TUS), a beautiful Temple at the top of the hill behind the Pure Life Society. Prayers from different faith traditions were offered followed by a short meditation offered by Amarjit Kaur, a guest participant from Thailand.

Everyone gathered at the beautiful garden outside the TUS for a symbolic watering of the URI mango tree, planted at a previous SEAPac regional meeting in KL in 2007. It was followed by the reading of the charter around the Circle.

The spacious multipurpose Room at Pure Life Society served as the venue for the business meetings.

The formal business meeting began with each CC representative making a 4 min presentation on their CC activities to update all on their programs.

CC leaders sharing their CC activities

Sharing CC stories

Musa conducted a SWOC with all CCs for evaluating CC activities

THREE workshops were conducted. Peter Mousaferides led a workshop on the Arts and cultures as a way of building harmony and peace in our societies; Orlan de Guzman and Ryan Tanuan conducted on Building ridges of understanding through Faith values ; Jamel Singh led the workshop on Social action for a meaningful change.

Group sharing

A break to stretch in between the sessions!

Mother Mangalam is being presented with a token of appreciation for the Pure Life Society.

International Seminar on Interfaith Action for Peace & Harmony at Kuala Lumpur – October 9, 2011

On the morning of October 9 all participants travelled in vans to Tun Hussein Onn National Eye Hospital auditorium where a public Seminar on Interfaith Action for Peace and harmony took place. The keynote Speaker was Dato Azman Amin Hassan, Deputy Governor National Unity & Integration Department in the Government of Malaysia .

URI SEAPac Leaders from the various countries of the region shared on the peace and harmony status in their countries and how URI Cooperation Circles are contributing towards building a culture of peace in their communities and the region.

Biff Barnard, representing URI’s President’s Council remarked: “Attending these gatherings in parts of the world far distant from the relative tranquillity of the United States provides me opportunity to meet with and get to know local people of different religions from around the world, the people who make up the URI community and to hear firsthand the difficult issues they face every day as a result of religiously motivated conflicts. Hearing about their lives, their hopes, their aspirations for their families and communities to be able to live better lives without such violence motivates me and the members of URI’s President’s Council to do whatever we can to support their efforts.

URI is about people of different religions working together to improve their communities and in doing so they are learning to cooperate with, understand and accept each other and respect each others’ religious beliefs. Talking with people involved in URI I hear stories of the work they are doing and I know that by being involved in URI they are making positive changes not only in their local communities but in the world community. “

Cultural Night at Kuala Lumpur

The URI –SEAPAC International Cultural Night held on the 9th Oct at the Shatananda Auditorium Temple of Fine Arts, Brickfield was a mega stage show that was truly spectacular - a feast of arts and culture through the fusion of many countries - showcasing a unique blend of Traditional, Folk, Contemporary Dance and Music which interspersed to invoke a delightful sensory feast by Regional meeting Representatives and the Alumni from the Pure Life Society and Baha’i group. Peter Mousaferides of Culturalfusion CC put together the program with a few hours of rehearsals before the program. The audience of around 300 people from different sectors of society were amazed by the variety of presentations and raved about it.


SEAPac Youth Leadership Program in Kuala Lumpur

Twenty-five youth from six countries and eight religions, spiritual and indigenous backgrounds from the SEAPac region attended a two-day Youth Program: Leadership in Service which preceded The SEAPac regional meeting. This was a fun and interactive program organized by the URI Global Youth Training program Coordinator, Matthew Youde assisted by Sharon Vaswani from SEAPac region.

The starting “ice breakers” and team building games got the young people to “jell” at the beginning and got them excited. They bonded well and enjoyed each other’s company and the rest of the programs activities which included interesting discussions on Conversation, Dialogue and Debate. What are they, what are the differences and what are their purposes?

Jamel Kaur from Australia put across management, leadership and mentoring views, discussions and activities. It helped participants to get some clear logistical ways on why, how, what, when and where to run Interfaith events

The concluding activity was a service project - painting some railings in the school compound, where the regional meetings were held. Some youths also entertained and playing games with the Children from the orphanage school.

Faith and Service, an Inseparable Pair

Many religions, spiritual expressions and Indigenous Traditions deliver clear imperatives to their followers to engage in the service of others. There are rich philosophies, concepts and doctrines that tie serving others to being a follower of the Divine. Tikkun Olam in Judaism upholds the sacred responsibility to repair the world and while this has most recently been used to argue the case for active environmental work, it also extends beyond that to caring for those in need in the world. In the Quran, followers of Islam are said to have been “raised to serve others” (3:111).

In Christian Scripture there are a wealth of references to something called “Servant Leadership”, that is, making oneself last, not first and serving others in order to be considered a leader in the Christian Church. I am a student of social justice and there is a rich vein of thought in my own Catholic faith that deals with serving others. Catholic Social Teaching informs much of the service work performed by Catholics and its concepts of solidarity and a preferential option for the poor and vulnerable are what most inspire me to get involved in good causes and service work. It follows from the idea that every person in need is God inviting us to serve Him by helping them. In Jesus’ parable of the Last Judgement, it is made clear that when a person refuses aid to someone in need, they refuse God (Matthew 25:31-46). This story always has a profound effect on me and it makes me so frustrated to see others claiming to be Christian but vehemently opposing social welfare programs and bemoaning taxes that go towards them. I am not, however, here to judge. That’s not my job. I’m here to act. I do my best to be involved in service projects and I am blessed to be in a job that allows me to deliver training to young people from different faiths on planning and implementing service projects and working together.

The most recent URI Young Leaders Program in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, focused on service and how it could be a form of leadership. Participants from different faiths and countries in South East Asia and the Pacific shared their own faiths’ perspectives on service and we all joined together to repaint parts of the Hindu school that was hosting our gathering. The young people were able to live out the value of service they had been discussing and it was a joy to see. It really embodied the sacred mandate I believe we all have to serve others and the world we live in and it reminded me of the reason I am involved in interfaith work. Social justice cannot be achieved without solidarity. True solidarity means standing with our neighbours of all faiths and none, seeking them out to build broad and meaningful coalitions for peace, justice and healing in our world. My aim is for the URI Young Leaders Program to bring more and more young people into this work. Matthew Youde

My URI Interfaith Experience in Malaysia : Vivian Baraguir

My Malaysia experience was tremendous! The United Religion Initiatives (URI) through the Youth Leadership Program opened my opportunity to meet new friends from other countries, establish networks with other faiths and understand better what is interfaith.

Being one of the URI Youth Ambassador for 2011, is another wonderful chapter of my life and touch other's lives through interfaiths. It was a best ever experience I had in my entire life and it means so much to me! It is an additional package to the totality of me. The context of interfaith is an additional ingredients in volunteerism. To share doesn’t always means to give, but sometimes, understanding one's faith is a useful tool to touch one's heart.

Mingling with other people that made significant contributions in promoting peace and harmony, genuine respect with religions and diversity and love to music inspires me to move forward and continue to share and volunteer.

Ratna, Puji, Nivy, Jamel, Vincent, Amier and others are though young yet dedicated. I really admire how they showcase their cultures and traditions and I believe that they are good role models with great potentials in changing the world and touch other's lives.

It was during this wonderful event where I finally met Matthew Youde, Youth Coordinator from Wales, Sharon Vaswani and Jessica Woodward whom I only talked with at "skype" and Facebook"! Being with them is an awesome experience, though I always got "nosebleed" when they speak a little faster!

From the Philippines, I met Orlan who has been a brother to all of us and he inspires me to discover more about "spiritual connections" with God. Shane Merioles helped me unveil my inner most talent on spiritual singing which I only discovered during our music concert! The poignant words of Rem Tanuan while reading our prayer poem seems like a relaxing sound to my soul. The gracefulness of Ishilta while doing the spiritual dancing is irresistible! The group singing of "We are all connected" is like a chain of electric current that passes from us to the audiences.

The Youth Leadership Training, for me, is a form of bonding. We share knowledge, insights and experiences with different young leaders from the SEAPAC Region. This training provide significant contribution on how we are going to improve our ways in the context of volunteerism.

The YLP Training and my visit to Malaysia is very fruitful and meaningful. I thank everyone I met for sharing and for becoming part of my life's new chapter.



The Bohol Goodwill Volunteers CC (now led by Ludwig Bon Quirog & Marjorie Angalot) and the Trust, Understanding, & Learning Among Youth (TULAY) Cooperation Circle (now led by Kristine Genita), with the help of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) came up with an innovate idea to encourage local youths to take care of their local environment.

Knowing the youths to be interested in music, they tapped a local youth band (the Dimiao Youth Band) and a members of the dramatics club of the St. Nicholas Academy High School to receive training in exchange for cleaning up their surrounding environment. The result was two workshops for 18 & 36 youths and two coastal clean ups! Congrats to all!


Interfaith Youth Soccer Camp with a difference in Cambodia

An “Interfaith Youth Soccer Camp” was conducted by Sam An Ros of Interfaith Youth Circle CC during September 5-16, 2011. Itbrought together 48 Cambodian youth from Buddhist, Christian, and Muslim faiths in a fun environment, combining sport with learning to teach soccer skills, religious tolerance and shared values, and leadership skills so that participants can return to their communities and be young leaders espousing the benefits of interfaith cooperation, understanding, and acceptance. Separate training workshops of 5 days duration were held for the 2 boys and the 2 girls groups. This camp was made possible with the generous support of the United State Embassy in Cambodia. The Orange People Company and Santi Sena assisted in the planning and preparations and success of the camp.

Religious Harmony Day at INSaF CC

The Interfaith Spiritual Fellowship (INSaF) CC of Malaysia together with its parent body - The Pure Life Society, celebrated the 48th Malaysia Day Anniversary at the Pure Life Society's Multi-purpose Hall, Puchong, Malaysia, on Sat 16th Sept 2011.

Speakers from the various religious organisations represent by INSaF - Islam, Christianity, Hindusim, Buddhism, Toasim, Sikhism, and the Bahai Faith spoke on the theme of Race and Religious Unity in Malaysia since its independence on 31st Aug 1957.

At the end of seminar, the Unity Dance Group of the Bahai Community of Subang Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia put together an inspiring performance - a medley of lively cultural dances representative of the major cultures and peoples of Malaysia

Recognition for Pakigdait CC

On 19 September 2011 the Pakigdait family was honoured by Ateneo de Zamboanga University (AdZU) and recognited as a civil society organization who had made significant contribution to the peace process and the culture of peace.

This timely recognition is a boost to Pakigdait to continue and move on in making greater difference to their spheres of influence in the midst of the challenges in the region.Congratulations to Pakigdait CC!

UN International Day of Peace celebration in Australia

September 21, 2011--

COMMON CC with the support of Moreland City Council, State Government Australia, WIN Foundation, GreenFaith Australia, organized an event at Brunswick Town Hall to mark the International Day of Peace.

The Forum, SHARING OUR ENVIRONMENT- was an evening of learning from each other – sharing faith and cultural perspective of the environment. There was also a kid’s program forcreating peace and harmony with each other and our common denominator – OUR ENVIRONMENT. It was a fun filled evening with the kids and a vegetarian meal provided for all.

Peace Day celebrations in Quezon City, Philippines

Around 500 people, mostly youths, gathered at the Peace Bell in the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City on September 21 for the IDP celebrations dubbed “Kapayapaan, Ating Karapatan”(Peace is our Right).

The event was spearheaded by Generation Peace Youth Network in partnership with the URI SEAPac Regional Office, the Peacemakers’ Circle CC and several other non-governmental organizations engaged in building a culture of peace in the Philippines. It aimed to raise awareness on the IDP, enlist public support for the Peace Process in the Philippines and also to ask for ceasefire in the conflict areas. It was heartening that the youths dominated, both in the organizing committee of the event and in attendance.

Members of the Muslim-Christian Youth for Peace and Development CC

The event started with a Hindu Ritual and chants for peace, followed by interfaith prayers from representative of different faith traditions invited by the Peacemakers' Circle. Solidarity messages sent by the Philippine President, UN Country Representatives, Secretary in the Office of the President on Peace Process, vice Mayor of Quezon City and others were read out, interspersed by entertainment numbers.

This was followed by a colorful parade of the participants led by the Quezon City Marching Band to the Volleyball courts for the second part of the activities - simultaneous games (cheering competition, Amazing race and Pinoy game). The highlight of the games was the wheelchair basket ball match.

Partner organizations set up booths to promote their advocacies and sell their products in the same venue. A pot-luck lunch was enjoyed by all.

There is an ongoing month long campaign "Give Peace a Shot", a photo petition for peace in the Philippines led by Generation peace Youth Network to declare our support for the peace talks (GPH with the CPP/NPA/NDF and with the MILF); and to urge everyone (government, rebel groups, etc.) to declare September 21 as universal ceasefire day is ongoing.

This IDP event helped to bring together youths and others from different sectors and advocacies and many friendships were forged through the games. The youths from the URI grassroots community participated fully in the activities and were very enthusiastic and inspired by the event.


AUGUST, 2011


Dr. John Gurusamy

The coordinator for Malaysia Interfaith Network (MIN), Dr John Gurusamy, also known as the champion of the Golden Rule: “Do unto others what you want others to do unto you” passed away on August 7, 2011.

A memorial service for the late MIN/INSaF member Dr John Gurusamy was held on Monday, August 8 at the Anglican Church PJ. Peoples of all religious backgrounds came to bid farewell to this much loved soul.

John was a teacher, a unionist, lawyer,theologist, peace activist and above all a humanist. He was always cheerful and the live-wire of any gathering. He will be missed by all.

May his Soul Rest in Peace.

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.