Tuesday, December 7, 2010

URI Southeast Asia-Pacific
Regional Meeting 2010
- A Review -

For Auntie Shakun and my United Religions Initiative Southeast Asia-Pacific Family

Dear Auntie Shakun and my SEAPac Family,

First of all:  I'm enjoying the new auntie & uncle thing going on!  I believe it's essential in making one feel that he/she belongs to THE family.  It certainly has that sort of effect on me.  I have Ate Jamel and Auntie Jessiee to thank for this. 

The SEAPac Meeting wasn't quite how I expected it to be.  I visualized an entirely different scenario.  When dad encouraged me to join shortly after my return to Bohol, I never imagined that the whole occasion involved a conference table or a projection screen, for that matter.  Me and my ideas!

Regardless of what I had thought it to be, all my expectations were bested!  I not only liked it, I loved it!  So much has changed since three years ago when I attended the country meeting in 2007.  My CC was very young back then and I was only 18.  We didn't have as much to delve on, but great ideas were brought to the fore.  Of course, the number is expected to grow as new CCs materialize all over the region.  That in itself was impressive, not because I enjoy bureaucratic set-ups, but because it meant that a lot of people actually care and are serious enough to act upon it.  It was a real pleasure meeting old friends and making a lot of new ones.  It put a genuine grin on my face getting to know young people who are involved in the cause - Filipino and foreign alike.

About old friends; I was hoping to see Tita Marites, too.  I found it rather strange seeing Auntie Shakun without Tita Marites.  To me, they are the real dynamic duo in this movement.  Along with my father's encouragement, it was their talks during the first VPAR (Visions of Peace Among Religions) Workshop I attended that led me to this path.  I miss those deeply intellectual conversations with them both involved.  Meeting Auntie Shakun and Tita Marites led to meeting amazing people like Dad Musa (whose peace work in Mindanao, I predict, will be a major catalyst in the healing of wounds made by centuries of animosity), Orlan (whose commitment and dedication to the cause is something I believe everyone should emulate), and, of course, Sister Sandra (the coolest, most youthful religious sister ever whose indefatigable encouragement to me and other youths has been a driving force towards good choices, and the one who reassured me that God doesn't smite people for their choices of who to love).

As for new friends; meeting you turned the rest of the days of being there into days of celebration.  To name them:  Ate Jamel (who reoriented me with the idea of using honorifics and taught me that there exists a combination of decency, benevolence, and utter imperfection), Peter (whose work in Melbourne has given me a couple of ideas pointing towards sustainable development and who managed to direct that awesome show in less than two hours), Auntie Jessiee (who bears words of wisdom that one could never possibly grow out of and who taught me the importance of personal address in respect to nurturing the feeling of being in a family), Uncle Dya (a sage who has proven time and again that humor need not be dirty and whose remarkable voice, which I could clearly tell emanates from the heart, can move mountains), Uncle Indra (whose exceptional spiritual abilities, sheer humility, and peaceful nature I am, up to the present, greatly in awe of), Anggra (whose ability to fit into a very tight corset and still move as swiftly as he did during his dance showed me how spiritual mastery can subdue physical limitations), Dr. Amir (whose talk on Interfaith Dialog led me to brood over and create a personal solution on how to channel the aspects of a formidable challenge and transform it into a helpful opportunity), Sam-An (whose cause-oriented activities that developed into sustainable forms of self-aid have become bases for my plans for my CC's projects), Sidon (who has made me realize that being a young CC doesn't mean entitlement to excuses of not taking initiatives and whose organization has become a model for our work in 2011), Kuya Eric (who taught me that communication barriers need not threaten the amount of dedication you have for your plans and that patience is something that does not actually have to burn out), Sharon (who, as much as Kristine, has exemplified that school does not mean one needs to forgo the goals one has aimed at satisfying the greater good), and Ishilta (who has illustrated to me the value of friendship and togetherness in a band of people working for the same cause--whether it's something developed before or after formation).

Without a doubt, I was deeply struck by something more than acquaintances and numbers.  It was essentially the sheer dedication of heart that the new leaders gave to the cause of peace-building that greatly moved me.  I can't fathom why I decided to go on that hiatus in the first place.  There is so much to do where I am and there isn't that strong an initiative.  Well, that will change very soon.  URI of Bohol WILL BE the initiative.  The walls of culturally- and religiously-motivated hostility are strong, but The TULAY (Trust, Understanding, and Learning Among Youth) CC and Bohol Goodwill Volunteers CC are the forces that will lead to its demolition.  We will tear it down brick-by-brick and replace it with perpetually-opened doors and windows of understanding and brother/sisterhood.

The concert that Peter and Orlan put together was nothing short of inspiring.  It was one of the best diversity-and-peace-themed productions I've ever borne witness to!  I'm quite certain that a lot of those in the audience told heaps and heaps of their friends (who weren't in attendance) that they missed a lot for having missed that concert.  I've been involved in productions with audiences over five times that crowd, but never have I been able to generate reactions close to that.  The finale where everyone stood up, held hands, and sang "we are all connected" in unison was the most amazing thing ever!  Such powerful harmony of hearts!  I loved it and I could tell back then that everybody else loved it, too.  The power of grassroots action is great, indeed!

Speaking of grassroots, we have collectively decided that my leadership of TULAY CC be turned over to Kristine Genita.  She is a very good leader and she has done a lot in my absence despite being a full-time student.  It's the most appropriate initial course of action to get things moving again.  I'm now handling BGV CC.  It's not that I didn't want to share TULAY CC with Kristine; I just felt the need for Bohol Goodwill Volunteers CC to get in motion.  I care and that's my reason for taking over it.  My father is a very good leader, but his line of work compels him to miss a lot no matter how much he wishes to be involved.  Members now tend to ignore the existence of the cooperation circle.  It's sad to know that BGV CC has become less of a priority to the people whose names are very clearly and honorably listed as members.  All that is going to change.

This year's regional meeting has inspired me to do more.  No, my motivation does NOT, in any way, involve any driven attitude or form of competition against other CCs.  They have simply inspired me and opened my mind to the possibilities that actually exist in my locality.

Over all, I'm glad I attended the SEAPac Meeting.  It was a much-needed wake-up call.  It encouraged me to make a lot of changes (that have now started to take place) in my lifestyle and my attitude towards the world and all beings.  It has been said by Mohandas K. Gandhi that we must be the change we wish to see in the world.  "We" is a collective term, but in order for a collective to form, action must take place first in the self.  I firmly believe that examples encourage influence and that is why I have decided to make myself a good one.

Bheannacht go léir timpeall.



From: Shakuntala Vaswani <*************@*****.com>
To: SE Asia Region <**************@***********.com>
Sent: Mon, December 6, 2010 4:59:21 PM
Subject: [uri-seapacific] Higlights of SEAPac Meeting & THANK YOU [2 Attachments]

Dear SEAPac Family,

I trust this finds you well.

It was such a pleasure to have 3 Regional Trustees and 13 CC Leaders here in Manila for the recent Regional gathering (November 24-28, 2010).

Thank you all for making time from your busy schedule to be here to share your stories of successes and challenges and participate in strategic planning for the region to grow in impact and sustainability.

I hope you will make time to share the learnings from the meeting with you CC members and will be becoming up with a calendar of activities for 2011.

We will put the information together in a Regional Calendar of activities so CCs can link with each other for any collaboration/support.

Thank you for sharing about your CC programs at the Forum on November 27 with our various friends from Embassies, International Funders and NGO partners in peace building. We hope it increased their awareness about the URI   work and its relevance to peace building in the region. We hope to benefit from the encounter.

Thank you also for the gift of your talent at our cultural night “Beyond Differences”. Each presentation was colourful and unique. It was commendable how the whole show came together with the direction of Peter Mousaferiadis. Thank you Peter!  It was a joy to watch the program. The audience also loved it. Congratulations to ALL!

Attached please find the Highlights of the meeting. 

Any additions, corrections are welcome. The full report is under preparation.

Best wishes &


United Religions Initiative
in Southeast Asia-Pacific
Shakuntala M. Vaswani • Regional Coordinator
Email and GoogleTalk: ********@***.org • Skype **********
Phone: (***) ***-**** • Fax: ***-****
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