Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Things We Do for Peace

I was in Siem Reap, Cambodia for a week to attend the Annual Assembly of the Cooperation Circle leaders of the United Religions Initiative in South-East Asia and the Pacific Region (URI SEAPac).

If you don't know what URI is, visit our website at

I won't make a detailed write-up of what we did during the eight days we were there.  I don't intend to write a novel.  One thing I must say, though, is that the formal assembly wasn't perfect.  In fact, it was far from perfect.  Rest assured, however, it was a good learning experience for all of us.  What mattered was we were there and we got to share experiences and good practices in Peace building.  It was basically a gathering where we asked each other, "Hey, how are you?  What have you been doing for Peace this year?"  The awesome part was that we weren't only telling each other things; we were learning new useful ideas in the process.

Beyond sharing ideas and listening to inspiring stories, I must say the most important thing about the assembly was that we got to see good old friends and make awesome new ones.  The URI SEAPac has recently gone through major changes that have affected a lot of us.  People have parted from us and the goodbyes said were not necessarily happy.  For over a year, it has been an emotional roller coaster but, thankfully, we've been able to get through it without too many wounds.  The cuts and bruises in our hearts will heal in time.

Anyway, there were over 30 of us in the assembly, coming from five countries in the region (Australia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines) plus a guest from the URI Global Hub in the U.S.A.  We had different faith and spiritual backgrounds (Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Universalism, Quakerism, Brahma Kumaris, Baha'i Faith) and we came together to build peace through dialogue, understanding and loving acceptance.  We went there with a cup of blessings to offer and left with so many cups more and hearts filled with immeasurable joy and love.

So, in a nutshell, during the assembly...

We discussed stuff.

We prayed together.

We ate.

We shared ideas.

We danced a Khmer dance in a circle.

We line danced.

We shared experiences.
That's me talking.

We sang a John Lennon song.

We played games.

We had serious circle forums.

We sang in a chorus.

We shared ideas over food and tea.

We shared smiles and made new good friends.

We went shopping at Siem Reap's old market.

We went shopping at the night markets.

We went to pubs and didn't drink but had fun anyway.

We rode tuktuks.

We visited Angkor Wat.

We visited the Bayon Temple in Angkor Thom.

We visited the Preah Khan temple ruins.

We visited a Theravada Buddhist monastery.

We visited a Jesuit-run Roman Catholic Church.

We visited a Sunni Mosque.

We strengthened old bonds and forged new ones that will indubitably last forever!

Photo credits:
     - Brother Rem
     - Brother Samphors
     - Me