21 September IDP, URI and Peace

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By M. Ibohal Singh
International Day of Peace (IDP): The General Assembly of the United Nations has designated 21 September as the annual observance of the International Day of Peace, as a day of global ceasefire and non-violence with an invitation to all 192 Member States and people to honor a cessation of hostilities for the duration of a day, and to observe a minute’s silence for World Peace at 12.00 noon.

The General Assembly passed a resolution in 1981 and the IDP was first celebrated on the third Tuesday of September 1982. But, since 2002 IDP has been observed on 21 September every year as the permanent date set by the UN General Assembly. This year, the UN-IDP will be observed on Friday, 17th September, 2010 as the Millennium Development Goals Summit falls on 20-22 September at UNHQ. But away from HQ the observance will be on 21 September as usual. The Secretary General Banki-moon will ring the bell as customary in the ceremony where messengers of peace do participate. This is called Peace Bell Ceremony, Rose Garden at 8.45 am. This is the Day on which members will reaffirm commitment to non-violence and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

A background of IDP which has been observed by the nations, civil society organizations, religious and spiritual organizations, individuals and many more is highlighted briefly. The UN would like IDP should be devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideas of peace both within and among all nations and peoples. It is a spiritual occasion to mark the 50th anniversary of the Peace Bell.

Some programmes of IDP are as follows: interfaith dialogues, sports for peace, peace concert, peace rally, planting a peace pole, peace building projects, World Peace Flag Ceremony, Prayers and meditation sessions in educational institutions, prisons, churches, masjids, temples, homes etc., 24-hr peace vigil, cultural performances of dance, music and theatre, documentary film on peace, editorials in newspapers, magazines and many more.

The Secretary General appeals the young people to play crucial roles for peace with a challenge to expand the peace building activities. He would like them to make plans and form ideas with creativity and passion so that the world’s concerns will be in their hands. He also believes that the young people would realize their full potential only in a peaceful environment and with that potential they will start building the peaceful world today.

This year’s IDP observance is focused on youth and development, under the slogan: “PEACE = FUTURE” and the UN Secretary General Banki-moon takes the lead in answering the question, “What are You doing for Peace?”

This year is the fifth observance of IDP by Manipur URICC on the theme, “IDP and Role of Youth” along with the general sessions on the themes: “URI: Pilgrims of Peace” and “Building Bridges and Peace through Singing.”

United Religions Initiative (URI): The United Religious Initiative (URI) is a global interfaith peace building consultative community and one of the largest and most active organizations in the world. It was formally declared as established in a global summit held in June 25-30, 2000 in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, USA under the leadership of the Rt. Rev. William E Swing, Bishop of Episcopal Diocese of California by signing its Charter and declaring Preamble, Purpose and Principles. URI is founded on the concept of UN’s vision and spirituality.

URI Charter: “We, people of diverse religions, spiritual expressions and indigenous traditions throughout the world hereby establish the United Religions Initiative to promote enduring, daily interfaith cooperation, to end religiously motivated violence and to create the cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living beings.”

Some of URICC’s projects include Moral Imagination Peace-building Pilot Project on the concept articulated by John Paul Lederach described in his book “Moral Imagination, the Art and Soul of Building Peace”; young leaders programme for the purpose of connecting religiously diverse young people across the interfaith movement and empowering them in interfaith peace-building activities, media and communications, social and environmental activisms; interfaith dialogues using documentaries for greater understanding, religious and inter-religious or even intra-religious peace activities, environmental protection, web services to improve communication and idea sharing, educational projects, empowering CCs through UN programmes such as culture of peace, international day of peace etc., self consciousness programmes and integration of spiritual wisdoms, sharing of voices from the indigenous traditions, peace-building programmes through music. There are a host of peace-building projects taken up by mainly 10 lakh URICC members annually from about 400 URICCs across the world.

Manipur URICC: Manipur URICC established in 2000 under the leadership of the founding president, Dr. TD Singh comprises nine diverse religions viz. Bahai, Buddhism, Christianity, Hindu Vaishnavism, Islam, Jainism, Meitei Laining, Sikhism and Tingkao Ragwang. Among many peace-building programmes so far taken up, the programme of interfaith service through prayers in the temples, masjids, churches strengthen interfaith cooperation and unity in diversity.

URI Preamble: We, people of diverse religions, spiritual expressions and indigenous traditions throughout the world, hereby establish the United Religions Initiative to promote enduring, daily interfaith cooperation, to end religiously motivated violence and create cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living beings.

(Repeat of the Charter)
· We respect the uniqueness of each tradition and the differences of practice (rituals or beliefs).
· We believe that our religious, spiritual lives and sharing of our values and wisdom with that of others will help us to do good for all, rather than dividing us.

· We unite as interdependent people rooted in our traditions for the benefit of our community, in creating the cultures of peace, justice and healing, and for protection of earth.

· We unite in building safe places for conflict resolution and reconciliation, supporting the freedom of religions and the rights of the individuals and peoples as set forth in International Law.

· We unite to bring the wisdom and values of our religions and traditions in bearing on the economic, environmental, political and social challenges that we are facing on the earth community.

· We unite to provide global opportunity for participation by all people, especially by those people whose voices are not often heard.
· We unite in using our combined resources only for the purpose of non-violence, compassion, awakening of the deepest truths, and in manifesting love and justice among all living beings in our earth community.

URI Purpose: The purpose of the URI is to fulfill URI’s charter in spirit and action, i.e. 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.
URI Principles:

· The URI is a bridge-building organization, not a religion.
· We respect the sacred wisdom of each religion and indigenous tradition.
· We respect the difference among religions and indigenous traditions.
· We encourage our members to deepen their roots in their own traditions.
· We listen and speak with respect to deepen our mutual understanding and trust.
· We extend hospitality and receive it.
· We welcome the gift of diversity and model practices that do not discriminate.
· We appreciate the equitable participation of women and men in all aspects of URI.
· We practice to resolve the conflicts without violence.
· We use the sound ecological practices to protect and preserve the Earth for both present and future generations.
· We welcome all individuals, organizations and associations subscribing to the preamble, purpose and principles.
· We take decisions in a democratic way not to affect the interests of other members concerned.
· We organize all activities of URI in consistence to the preamble, purpose and principles.
· Our deliberations and decisions are made at every level to fairly represent the diversity of the affected interests without domination by the majority group.
· We sanction our resources as are essential to the pursuit of the preamble, purpose and principles.
· We develop financial and other resources to meet the needs of our own and also to help meet the needs of other URICCs.
· We maintain accountability and transparency in the expenditures and such expenditures are disclosed if required by any interested party for the information and inspection.
· We are committed to organizational learning and adaptation.
· We honor the richness and diversity of all languages, and the right and responsibility of participants to translate and interpret the Charter, Articles, By-laws and other related documents of URI in accordance with the preamble, purpose and principles, and the spirit of the URI.
· Members of URI are not forced to participate in any ritual and they are not proselytized, and we also condemn those proselytes.
PEACE: Peace does not just happen. It must be nurtured, maintained and depended. Peace begins with ourselves by living in harmony with one another.

“Peace is not a dream; it is hard work, and there is nothing naïve, glamorous or simplistic about it,” said Dr. Oscar Arias, Nobel Laureate in Peace.
In the Bhagavad-gita certain verses can be considered as the peace formula. This is God’s statement, not by any human being.
“One who is not connected with the Supreme can have neither transcendental intelligence nor a steady mind, without which there is no possibility of peace. And how can there be any happiness without peace.” (Gita 2.66). “He who abandons all desires, acts free from longing, has given up all source of proprietorship and is devoid of egotism – he alone attains real peace.” (Gita 2.71). “And having known Me (God) as the Enjoyer of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all worlds and the Friend of all beings, he attains peace from the pangs of material miseries.” (Gita 5.29).

Archbishop Desmond M Tutu, Nobel Laureate in Peace, who worships God as omnipotent, all-powerful and God of justice believes that in God’s family (all living entities in this conditioned world are God’s fragmental parts) there are no outsiders, no enemies, no blacks and whites, no rich and poor, no Jew and Arabs, no Muslims and Christians, no Hindus and Buddhists – but all belong to God’s family. He says, “There will be no future without forgiveness. Any process of peace is bound to collapse if this is missing. There is no way peace and stability can come through the gun or vengeance.”  Ms. Mairead Maguire, Nobel Laureate in Peace utters, “I knew then that God’s purpose for each of us is to love and be loved, and I could not hurt or kill another person in whom God dwells.” (God resides in all His creations as Witness).

The Supreme Lord says in Gita (9.10) that – “This material nature, which is one of My energies, is working under My direction, producing all moving and non-moving beings …” As per Vedanta, all of material universes have manifested because of a Big Vision and not by a Big Bang. It is just the opposite to Darwin’s concept of biological evolution (Dr. TD Singh quotes).

In the Scientific and Philosophical doctrine of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu – ‘acintyabhedabheda tattvam” – “the truth of simultaneous oneness and difference” – a synthesis can be made of the impersonal aspect of God and the personal aspect of God, and the Personality aspect of God and existence of the separate identity of individual living entity (‘Spiriton’ in the words of Dr. TD Singh) as well as of God. The truth is that the Supreme Being, God can only be recognized by the spiritual values (Bhakti). God is the foundation of truth and reality. Whereas reality is built on divine principles. Satyameva Jayate.

Thus, the human form of life which is the matchless gift of God should surrender unto God and by surrendering unto Him, He shall deliver us from all sinful reactions (Gita).

“Peace is a key ingredient of life’s meaning, purpose and fulfillment and without peace there is no happiness and values in life.” Said by the Scientist and Transcendentalist Dr. TD Singh. Spirituality (the distilled essence of all religious principles) and science together can have a cooperative approach so that our collective hearts and minds shall be tuned to the sacred religions and traditions which convey the message of PEACE and Compassion.

May peace prevail on Earth. May this universal message inspire people from all faiths throughout the world.
(The writer is the President of Manipur URICC. His initiated name is Radhamohan Das. Email: [email protected])

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