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L-R: Deputy Consul General Jaime Ramon T. Ascalon, Ms. Sharon Vaswani and Ms. Sally Mahé of the United Religions Initiative.


Filipina youth leader Sharon Vaswani paid a courtesy call to Deputy Consul General Jaime Ramon T. Ascalon during her visit to San Francisco.  Ms. Vaswani is the Philippine representative in the recently concluded Global Youth Leaders Program Leadership Training and Retreat of the United Religions Initiative (URI) which was held on 19-24 March 2014.  Youth leaders from Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the Americas were in attendance in the training program.

The program provided a venue for delegates to share their ideas of peace, equality and justice, and how these can be promoted through interfaith cooperation and dialogue in their respective communities. In one of the activities during, the delegates expressed their ideas of peace through art.  Their drawings were put together creating a tree which was later dubbed as the Banyan Tree of Interfaith Movement.  In her artwork, Ms. Vaswani stressed the importance of equality towards achieving peace.  It also symbolized the considerable amount of support and assistance that the Philippines received from the international community in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

The URI is an international grassroots organization that aims to promote interfaith movement.  It serves as a network for organizations, coined as Cooperation Circles, that is geared towards cooperation between and among people with different religions working together towards achieving peace in their communities.

Ms. Vaswani’s artwork which depicted her notion of peace is one of the leaves which made up the Banyan Tree of Interfaith Movement, the art piece created by URI youth leaders during the Leadership Training and Retreat.

The URI Regional Office in Southeast Asia and the Pacific is located in Manila, Philippines, and this is where Ms. Vaswani has been an active volunteer.  There are a total of 38 Cooperation Circles in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, a majority of which is based in the Philippines.

The Philippines has been actively promoting the interfaith movement in the international arena.  In March 2010, the country hosted the Special Non-Aligned Ministerial Meeting on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace and Development (SNAMM).  END.