URI Voice of Youth March 2009

11 April 2009


MARCH 2009
URI Voice of Youth

In This Issue

- Prayers for Peace in the Middle East

- Noteworthy Youth Action Projects

- Taking the Initiative on the Environment

- Upcoming Interfaith Conferences and Events

Dear friends,
During the month of February, the URI Young Leaders Program focused on conducting activities for social justice, sharing information about initiatives and ideas for both individual and community commitments. A live online chat on this topic was also held through the Young Leaders Communications Hub on March 1st in which youth from 8 countries participated: Argentina, Brazil, England, Iran, Pakistan, Scotland, UAE and USA. Click here to read the transcript of this conversation: http://www.uri.org/community/node/489.

We are excited to share the following articles from our young leaders about action projects they are organizing in their communities for social and environmental justice, as well as our Young Leader Prayer for Peace in the Middle East.

Prayers for Peace in the Middle East

On Christmas Day, 2008, just after the transformative interfaith gathering of Young Leaders in Mayapur, India, news reached the URI global community about the escalating conflict in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine. Global Council member Tareq Altamimi wrote to us, "Greetings from Bleeding Palestine," calling URI to action to release a statement alerting the world of the increasing bloodshed of innocents and escalation of violence taking place in Gaza. While the URI Global Council wrestled with the right words for this statement as representatives of the global community, the young leaders carried on a virtual conversation, sharing ideas, frustrations, their hopes for change and prayers for peace with one another.

Michal Weiner from Israel called for prayer and dialogue, quoting Nasim, a Pakistani youth working for interfaith harmony in her country: "As a human being and a peace worker we have to promote peace and interfaith harmony among the different communities and faiths for coexistence, to stress the resolving of disputes through dialogue." Anas al-Abbadi from Jordan launched a campaign - 1,000 Acts of Peace in the Middle East - calling on Cooperation Circles to organize one small activity for peace, and to send in a report of their actions to the global URI. URI staff circulated a list of relief service organizations that our members could make donations to, in order to get emergency aid into Gaza. One of our youth members, Olivia Damm, a student from University of Edinburgh, joined her Palestinian Solidarity student society to organize a sit-in demanding the university to stop supporting defense contractors. They have also been raising money for aid to Gaza (over $4,000 raised thus far!) and organizing an informative lecture series featuring Israeli and Palestinian human rights activists. These are just some of the many efforts launched by the concerned members of the URI Youth around the world.

Two months later, where do things stand in the Middle East? There is a ceasefire between the two nations, yes, but there is a long road that stretches ahead to heal the deep wounds between nations and communities that this recent breakout of violence has caused. Because of this, the URI Young Leaders have composed a collective prayer for peace in the Middle East, each one listening to his or her heart to speak out a line of this prayer. It is written by youth from Baha'i, Brahma Kumaris, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Indigenous, Muslim, Sikh, Theosophist and universal spirituality traditions. We would like to share it with the rest of our global community:

Oh Dear Lord: You named Yourself "Assalam" (Peace)
Guide your children to find YOU.


May peace in the Middle East be as wide as the star-lit skies of its immortal deserts.

And may the love of God reveal itself through each of our individual ways.

May "Waheguru" - the Almighty bless us with vision and courage to walk the path for Peace. By thy grace, may there be peace and goodwill among all people everywhere.

And my heart sings: Allah the Almighty...May the sun radiate your compassionate soul into everybody's spirit.

Oh dear Lord: please give me Serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, Courage to change the ones that I can, and Wisdom to acknowledge the difference.

And this will give me the peace that I can spread around.

Excellent Being, Father of all creation, Counselor of all minds, in your presence I invite all that is fellow humanity, may we from different paths and walks of life recognize that we are all made from one breath.

And that is how we can make peace.

Of that I'm so sure
That we will endure
Cause we have done no sin
...And our blood is pure

My dear Lord: Thank you for the peace we are already living. This beautiful universe is marvelous and perfect as it is. All is Love, all is One.

And may we all accept what we have, listen to one another, react with love and peace in our hearts, speak with care, tolerate and accept the differences.

Oh the people of the Middle East;

May there always be peace within your hearts and always know that you are never alone and that you are being sent love and light every moment of every day.

And may we be grateful for all the blessings.

Holy Spirit, lead us to our true essence, break our illusions, fill our hearts with love for life in your accord, let us remain one with all.

Oh my dear God, May you enrich our hearts with love and peace.

And may these vibrations of peace fly and reach the Middle East, transform the environment, touch the human souls and radiate in the World.

Shall you let the world overstand one another, being compassionate in its purest form, and living through the totality of unconditional love. Ase, Ahoe, Amen, Namaste', Shalom, Peace.

We pray that all people and leaders of the Middle East be awakened to the light of truth. May they be liberated from the bonds of ignorance, fear and suffering.


And that shall be the love to give us the strength to live the peace that is already gifted to us.

Noteworthy Youth Action Projects

We are happy to report on the collaborative and collective action projects URI Young Leaders are organizing around the world. This month, we are blessed with the birth of new URI Cooperation Circles - URI-Sierra Leone (approved March 11th) and GreenFaith Australia - as well as news about inspiring action projects for environmental and social justice being carried out by members of our Global Youth Network.

* Birth of URI - Sierra Leone - Training Youth Community Animators

"URI-Sierra Leone, an interfaith meditation team, is a collection of seven members from the Christian, Islam, Judaism, Baha'i, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism faiths in Sierra Leone. URI-Sierra Leone is an outgrowth of URI worldwide. It challenges young people, men and women to:

- Engage in the resolution of religiously motivated violence with a particular focus on disadvantaged communities in Sierra Leone.

- Build networks of reconciliation and friendship along religious and social divides.

URI-Sierra Leone was borne out of the desire of a driven team of young men and women who resolve to contribute to the post war reconstruction process in Sierra Leone starting by acknowledging their roles and responsibilities to build bridges across religious and social divides thereby sustaining our hard won peace in Sierra Leone." - Franklyn Koroma, URI-Sierra Leone

Click here for the full article on the URI community website: http://www.uri.org/community/node/488

For more information, contact: Franklyn Koroma, fra[email protected]

* Working Together for Social Transformation in the Philippines - Youth 4 Unity's participation in Kaya Natin! Movement

"...Regardless of whether you are a career oriented professional, or just a kid playing on the street, what makes us all alike is our desire for a trouble-free, happy and peaceful existence. But as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, 'true peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice' and this is exactly what the Kaya Natin! Movement aims to do…

Recently I was privileged to attend the 1st Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship Training Seminar of the Kaya Natin! Movement in pushing for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership in our country. But what exactly is this Kaya Natin! Movement, you may ask… Well, in the Philippines, a group of trustworthy and inspiring leaders met and together have created an emerging political movement which aims to bring about social justice in the country..." Click here for link to the full article: http://www.uri.org/community/node/471.

- Sharon Vaswani, Youth 4 Unity of the Peacemakers' Circle CC, Philippines

For more information, contact: Sharon Vaswani, [email protected]

* Rally and Seminar Against Burning of Girls' Schools in Swat Valley, Pakistan

"About 100 people from different civil society, labor and students organizations organized a rally and a seminar against the burning of the girls' schools in Swat and FATA by Taliban in front of the District Press Club Toba Tek Singh. The participants of the rally were carrying banners asking government to reconstruct the schools and start education facilities for the girls in Swat and FATA areas. Harmony Foundation Toba Tek Singh, Democratic Commission for Human Development (DCHD) Lahore and Toba Tek Singh CC organized the rally.

Later the participants gathered in the courtyard of the District Press Club and speakers stressed on the government not to spare the Taliban as they have deteriorated the law and order situation and have now spread to all parts of the country. The speakers said the government should deal with the matter with iron hands as the education facility is a basic human right of all human beings and nobody can be allowed to deprive them of this right. The extremism was nourished in the patronage of the government and now it is the duty of the government to restore peace in the areas and ensure the provision of basic human rights to the people. The speakers spoke on the importance of the girls' education and how the Constitution of Pakistan ensures this basic right. The participants of the seminar and rally presented a resolution to the President of the Press Club about their concern on burning the girls' school in Swat and FATA...

We have reached this stage of protesting in rallies on sensitive issues after a deep interfaith and social harmony dialogue in our area. The Muslim and Christian friends get together for these kinds of activities. The worker unions, civil society groups, youth groups and women's groups join us in the activities." - Atif Jamil Pagaan, Toba Tek Singh CC, Pakistan

For more information, contact: [email protected]

* GreenFaith Cooperation Circle, Australia: Linking People of Faith through Ecological Initiatives

"Greenfaith Australia is a new URI Cooperation Circle [approved February 2009]. We began as an organization in August 2008 and are now incorporated with a growing membership. Our purpose is to link people from different faith communities in acting together on ecological themes and issues.

Since we began, we have run two successful eco-interfaith events: 'Water for Life' and 'Spirit into Sustainability.' Water for Life was a three-part seminar series that looked at water from a variety of angles. Firstly, from the perspective of faith traditions with an interfaith panel including Sikh, Muslim, Christian and Jewish speakers who reflected on what water means spiritually and mythologically in their traditions. Secondly, we invited an environmental scientist, journalist and community worker to speak about water from a scientific, political and community action perspective. Our final session was a facilitated discussion on how we can act as people of faith on water issues in our lives and communities.

Our second event, 'Spirit into Sustainability' was held at a major Melbourne Festival called the Sustainable Living Festival. Our program involved story-telling from faith traditions, an interfaith eco-ritual and meditation, art work, live music and a panel showcasing faith communities who are taking ecological action seriously in our region. This was moderated by the religion editor of The Age, our main state newspaper. After the success of these events we are a growing organization and have many hopes and dreams for the coming years. Our next major event will be a pilgrimage tour for those attending the Parliament of the World's Religions in Melbourne this year to come on a pre-parliament journey to the drought affected local towns and rural communities in the Murray-Darling Basin area. We will be connecting with interfaith and indigenous communities and bringing their messages back to the PWR with us. Anyone interested in joining us for htis journey is most welcome. For more info check out our website: www.greenfaithaustralia.org


Thank you for welcoming us into the URI Family!" - Elyse Rider, Chair of GreenFaith Australia

Taking the Initiative on the Environment

This month's Taking the Initiative focus is on the environment. We invite young people to organize environmental projects in your communities and to engage in a live chat online to share your ideas for what people of faith can do to better care for the environment. This year's World Water Day will take place on March 22nd. Our live chat will follow on Sunday, March 29th, at 14:00 GMT / UTC. Details about how to participate in this live chat can be found at the Young Leaders Hub at http://www.ga08youth.com.

The Peace and Environment CC in Pakistan offers a wonderful model for a project you could begin in your own community. They have begun the creation of Green Clubs as a way to involve youth in practical actions for conservation and to promote environmental education. "A Green Club is a forum through which students and youth can get guidance and awareness about a clean and healthy environment and can organize themselves in a way to clean and protect the surrounding environment. A Green Club is generally comprised of 20-25 youth and students.

Every Green Club will prepare its botanical garden in which different plants will be produced and then the club will transplant these at schools and different public places like parks, streets and roads. After completion of the project, botanical gardens will be handed over to school management, who will prepare green clubs for each session and hence this will be a continuous system providing environmental education to young students."

For more information about how to start your own Green Club, contact: Liaquat Shahzad, Youth Coordinator, Peace & Environment CC Pakistan, [email protected] , +92-300-4515297.

Upcoming Interfaith Conferences and Events

The Young Leaders Program aims to connect religiously and spiritually diverse young people from around the world, and to develop their capacity to be servant leaders in the areas of interfaith cooperation, peacebuilding, ecological imperatives, human rights, and sustainable just economics. We especially wish to encourage youth participation in regional interfaith conferences, workshops and trainings this year. Here are just a few of the upcoming URI conferences and other interfaith events this year:

- URI Southeast Asia and the Pacific Regional Conference: "Building Teamwork and Strengthening Leadership in the SEAP Region," March 15 - 21, Lanao del Norte, Mindanao, Philippines.
To find out which URI young leaders are participating, go to: http://youth4unity.multiply.com/calendar/item/10008/. For more information, contact Regional Coordinator: Shakuntala Vaswani, [email protected]. Phone: +63-2-9207622. Website:http://www.uriseapnewsletter.blogspot.com

- URI North American Regional Assembly "The Year of Reconciliation with Self, Others and World," May 7-10, Asheville, NC, USA,www.uri.org/na. For more information, contact: Margi Ness, Regional Coordinator, [email protected]

- Interfaith Youth Core 6th Conference on Interfaith Youth Work "Leadership for a Religiously Diverse World," October 25-27, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA, http://www.ifyc.org

- NAIN Connect 2009: "Experiencing the Spirit in Education: The Challenge of Religious Pluralism", June 25-28, Kansas City, MO, USA,http://www.nain.org

- Parliament of the World's Religions: "Make a World of Difference: Hearing Each Other, Hearing Ourselves," December 3-9, Melbourne, Australia, http://www.parliamentofreligions.org

On behalf of the Young Leaders Program Steering Committee, I thank you all for your support and participation in building the interfaith youth movement!

In peace,

Sarah Talcott
Director of Youth Programs
[email protected]

URI Young Leaders Program Steering Committee:

Kiran Bali - United Kingdom

Joseph Kigozi - Uganda

Rim Nour - Tunisia

Jahangir Piara - Pakistan

Sam Ruben - USA

Atefeh Sadeghi - Iran

Sarah Talcott - USA

Sharon Vaswani - Philippines

Matthew Youde - Wales / UK

Soroush Zand - Denmark