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Youth and Students Engagement in Peace-Building through Dialogue 16 April , 2012

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The root of DIALOGUE is the Greek “dia” and “logos”, which means “through meaning”. Understanding Dialogue with Discussion, in Dialogue people are seeking for a more complete picture of reality rather than breaking it down into fragments or parts as happens in Discussion. Having Dialogue is not about convincing others of certain point of view; there is no emphasis on winning, but on learning, collaboration and a synthesis of different points of view instead. Dialogue is towards a community-based culture of cooperation and shared leadership. Thus, a Dialogue of Life is one of the best ways to express ourselves for mutual understanding. Without Dialogue the world would be either silent or suffered from misunderstanding voices.

Why Dialogue with other Religion? This is a burning question of the present time. Religious pluralism has been a wealth of the Asian continent; on the other hand, it has been a fertile ground for conflicts and communal violence. Although supposed to be a personal and community belief of love and peace, religion by vested interest turns out to be an erupting volcano, causing countless sufferings to the toiling masses and the already marginalized.

There must be a clear understanding that the many conflicts and problems happening around in the present world are not caused by religions themselves, but a misuse of religious ideology. Moreover, religion should not be a tool to draw boundaries, but a spirituality to overcome barriers for an inclusive ground. Looking into the social, economic, political and cultural context, youth and students should realise that Dialogue is a way to move forward to build a just society.

Though the initiation of such Dialogue is religion-based, it relies on justice for all, no matter believers or non-believers. A true Dialogue is for the abundant life of all. Peace could not be seen without Justice, which could be achieved only when everyone respects all people and everyone can Dialogue with each other. Last few year I am working with the youth and students and I believe harmony should be pursued and dialogue be practiced at the individual and grassroots levels. Living in the political tension of “minority” and “majority”, facing discrimination even by the legal instrument, and feeling insecure though there was increasing legislation of national security policies, youth and students should read the signs of time and be an instrument to develop alternatives and cultivate just peace. We have to consider that dialogue is a part of life and an ongoing journey for a person to have holistic grow. Dialogue should be a sustainable process with humanity and an integrated approach.

All religions speak about peace and harmony through forgiveness and reconciliation. Religions are positively teaching us to love neighbours including ‘enemies’. However, looking at the present situation, it is quite different and sometimes showing the opposite indications. Some people or groups even misunderstand and misuse religion. Today we are facing the same situation and struggle. Understanding that through religions, cultures are defined and spiritually inspired in history, we must acknowledge the historical fact that there are many different religions. Exclusivism is neither a solution nor an alternative, and we must stop the wider world to continue spreading this vicious circle of insanity. We must meet them, not in the old way, but with understanding and respect of their spirit of self-affirmation. Realising this burning issue, it is urgent to work with the students of different faiths and eventually build up an inter-faith students’ network. Peace through dialogue is a key to uphold justice, which is the passionate desire to motivate people to work towards peace.

All people are unique  masterpiece creation. We are born to be independence with human dignity, the aggregate rights and freedoms of all. As understood in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” This includes freedom to change religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance (Article 18). At the same time, everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms without distinction or discrimination of any kind including religion.

As one of the religions, the Vatican Council in the Catholic Church declares that every human person has a right to religious freedom. It means that all people are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to her/his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others within due limits. (Declaration on Religious Freedom, Dignitatis Humanae on the Right of the Person and of Communities to Social and Civil Freedom in Matters Religious promulgated by His Holiness Pope Paul VI on 7 December 1965).

After the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), the Catholic Church became more open for dialogue between different religions. Based on clear, specific and precise guidelines rooted in the teachings of Nostra Aetate (Vatican Council II), the Catholic Church understands inter-religious dialogue with a definite meaning. In her practice the Church approaches inter-religious dialogue in different ways: reciprocal communication, attitude of mutual respect and friendship, constructive common action, obedience to truth which transcends all and respect for freedom of conscience.

Pope John Paul II said, “The unity of all divided humanity is the will of God”. The Catholic Church in Asia (FABC 7th Plenary Assembly, Jan 2000) regards inter-religious dialogue as a priority in local Churches. The Federation of Asian Bishop’s Conference (FABC) is very much concerned about inter-faith issues; therefore, the Church encourages every Christian to enter into dialogue with other religions. The goal of dialogue is to bring both partners within closer reach of complete salvation. A continuation of awareness-raising and advocacy should be pursued.

In the past, the global community understood peace as the absence of conflict and war. However, in Pope Benedict XVI’s message of World Day of Peace entitled “IN TRUTH PEACE”, peace embodies its own truthfulness because of its undeniably “intrinsic and invincible truth” (no. 3) for reasons that peace corresponds “to an irrepressible yearning and hope dwelling within us.” (nos. 3, 6) Second, the truth about peace is that it is “the fruit of an order which has been planted in human society by its divine Founder…which must be brought about by humanity in its thirst for ever more perfect justice.”

Presently,  I am working with the Youth Net which is interfaith youth network. During our meetings we feel and every one we realize that religious freedom is basic human rights. Respect to religion is an attitude for justice. So inter-faith issues, developing network with different faiths and organising training on inter-religious dialogue are given priority. Youth and students must continue to play the prophetic role to denounce any unjust practices. There must be efforts on critical study of the current realities and effective strategy-planning for structural changes to ensure fairer and non-discriminative means of distribution of the world resources amongst all people and all nations of different religions. The intellect and skills of students should be developed along with Dialogue. Hence, the necessary condition of Dialogue is a mutual respect for the identity and belief of each party and the elimination of any impediments. The intention of Dialogue is not to create one common religion, but harmony with diversity.

Bipul Alite Gonsalves  is Executive Secretary for Programmes, The National Council of YMCAs of Bangladesh, National Director, Y’Net, Interfaith Youth Network, and Regional Coordinator, EASY Net (Ecumenical Asia Pacific Students and Youth Network)

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Mustafa Abdullah on Story Line 11 April , 2012

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Mustafa Abdullah talks with Miranda Kingsley Kelly.  Mustafa is Egyptian-American and President of World Faith Winston-Salem, a multi-faith organization.  Mustafa reflects on his experience as a Muslim-American living in a post-9/11 world and discusses his motivations to help shape the community consciousness regarding world religion.


To listen to Mustafa´s story visit:


First Coexist Prize Winner Announced 21 March , 2012

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On March 20, 2012, the Coexist Foundation brought together a distinguished panel of religious leaders to discuss how to build bridges between different faith communities. During the First Coexist Prize Ceremony, six finalists were honored for their extraordinary commitment to promote interfaith dialogue.

Lian Gogali, from Indonesia, is the first recipient of the Coexist Prize.  She was honored for her outstanding and courageous work establishing Institute Mosintuwu educating Muslim and Christian women and children in post-conflict Poso. The runners up were Mustafa Ali, the Secretary General of the African Council of Religious Leaders and Dishani Jayweera the founder of the Centre for Peace Building and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka. The ceremony took place at the Skirball Auditorium at New York University in the presence of the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Rabbi David Saperstein, Bishop Mark Hanson and other distinguished Religious leaders, academics and diplomats. Also receiving Highly Commended awards were Joshua Stanton founder of the Journal of Inter-Religious dialogue, Oliver McTernan from Forward Thinking in London and William Ury of the Abraham Path Initiative.

Watch the full program here:


The British Sikh Association Annual Seminar 4 August , 2011

The British Sikh Association (BSA) hosted an inter-faith Seminar at the Nehru Centre, London on 28th July 2011 to promote interfaith dialogue for peaceful coexistence.  

Over 130 guests attended the seminar including high profile guest speakers: Lord Hylton; Lord Popat of Harrow; Founder-Director of Faith Matters, Mr. Fiaz Mughal OBE, FCMI; Vice Chancellor of World Sikh University, Dr. Sukhbir S. Kapoor OBE.

Mrs. Jasminder Kasturia, Acting Director of the Nehru Centre, welcomed guests and was proud that the Nehru Centre was promoting such seminars designed to build bridges between communities. She also said that she was looking forward to more events of this nature in the future.



Tutu Sets off to Inspire One Young World Summit in Zurich

Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights campaigner Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is to attend One Young World 2011 in Zurich next month.

Despite announcing his international retirement from public life last October, Tutu will play a central role at the opening ceremony of the One Young World 2011 Summit and chair the plenary session on interfaith dialogue.

One Young World is a global youth leadership summit, bringing together delegates aged 25 and under from most of the world’s 192 countries.

It combines the social power of the internet with the energy and ideas of global youth to address the most challenging issues of today.




Plans Under Way in Dumont to Mark 10th Anniversary of Sept. 11

Plans are under way in Dumont to mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on America.

A community-wide interfaith service will be held at 9 a.m. at Dumont High School followed later by a candlelight vigil at dusk in Memorial Park.

The public and emergency responders from Dumont and local communities are invited to participate in either or both events to honor those who died and those who responded.

“Our goal is not only to remember the fallen and the responders, but also to honor their lives by sharing any positive outcomes from such horrific violence,” said the Rev. Elaine Wing, pastor of Calvary United Methodist Church, and John Perkins, borough administrator.

Three local churches have committed to canceling their regular Sunday morning worship service and to encourage their congregations to worship together at 9 a.m.

“Our administrative board, like the Calvary United Methodist and Our Redeemer Lutheran Church Councils, decided this event was very important,” said the Rev. Richard Vander Borgh, pastor of Old North Reformed Church.




Curiosity May Be Hard on Cats, but It’s Great for Interfaith Friendships

The youngest member of my family is our one-year-old cat, Margery. She is a most inquisitive creature (my wife thinks she has attention deficit disorder). Curiosity may have killed the proverbial cat, but this feline hasn’t been deterred. She gets into everything — to the point where my wife and I have spray-bottles at strategic locations throughout the house, just to remind our kitty that some locations are off-limits. We’ve had to put a bit of lemon in the water to make the “punishment” more truly unpleasant to her; getting squirted with plain water just wasn’t enough of a deterrent to slow her down.

I write about this like it’s a bad thing, and sure, we get annoyed when we find her perched on the dining room table, blissfully drinking out of one of our glasses. But in truth, her eager exploration is rather inspiring to me. I like how every corner of the house represents a new frontier for investigation, learning, and insight. In fact, I think her inquisitive nature is a good model for me — and for all of us, living in this age where people of different cultures and faiths live as next-door neighbors.