UN officials hail role of cultural, religious dialogue in advancing peace, development

Muslim contestant delivers her speech during the elocution contest on peace on Jan. 30, 2014 as part of Zamboanga City's observance of 3rd World Interfaith harmony Week. - screen grab from video by Silsilah Dialogue Center on YouTube http://youtu.be/jIappGJ3V3k

Muslim contestant delivers her speech during the elocution contest on peace on Jan. 30, 2014 as part of Zamboanga City’s observance of 3rd World Interfaith Harmony Week. – screen grab from video by Silsilah Dialogue Center on YouTube

United Nations officials yesterday highlighted the important role played by the initiative known as the Alliance of Civilizations in building bridges to peace, especially amid the current instability in many parts of the world, as they kicked off a global forum in Bali, Indonesia.

The Forum hosted this past week for the first time in the Asia-Pacific region focused on the theme “Unity in Diversity: Celebrating Diversity for Common and Shared Values.” Discussions ran along the lines of  the UN’s post-2015 development agenda.

Launched in 2005 through the initiative of Spain and Turkey, under the auspices of the UN, the Alliance seeks to promote better cross-cultural relations worldwide.

“The Alliance is here for you to serve as a soft power tool for conflict prevention, reconciliation, and to advance sustainable development,” said the High Representative of the Alliance of Civilizations, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser.

“Globally, there is a persistent need for the work of the Alliance if we really want to pursue the future we want,” he told the gathering of government officials, business representatives, faith leaders, media professionals and young people from around the world.

Nasser noted that the Alliance retains a strong commitment to innovative approaches. For example, it is working with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to promote digital games and apps as avenues for cross-cultural dialogue and conflict resolution.

It is also working with private sector organizations such as the BMW Group and others to promote dialogue and intercultural understanding, while making vital contributions to prosperity and peace.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his remarks noted that too many of the world’s worst crises are driven by those who exploit fear for power. “Too many societies are fracturing along cultural, religious or ethnic lines,” he stated, adding “We have much work ahead of us across a landscape of tension.”

In this context, the the alliance has supported grassroots initiatives, including encouraging Muslim-Christian volunteerism in Mindanao and helping Pakistani university students take the lead in healing sectarian divisions. 

Read the full report here

View video of Nasser’s speech here

Pope Francis to visit Madhu Shrine, spend time with war victims, orphans? – Sri Lanka web news

Archdiocese of Colombo website photo

screenshot – Archdiocese of Colombo website photo

Pope Francis would visit the historical Madhu Shrine during his stay in Sri Lanka in January next year, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo reportedly announced in Madhu.

The Pope will arrive in Sri Lanka on the 13th of January 2015, and celebrate mass at the Galle Face Green on the 14th morning before heading to Mannar District in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province, reported EyeSriLanka online newspaper.

The Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu in the district of Mannar is considered one the holiest Catholic shrine in Sri Lanka, and is a place of worship for both the Sinhalese and the Tamils and has been considered a symbol of unity between the two communities.

Bishop Rayappu Joseph, said Pope Francis would visit the Madhu shrine during his January visit and bless the war victims at a special mass at the shrine.

Bishop Joseph along with Cardinal Ranjith blessed thousands of pilgrims who gathered there from various parts of the island for the August festival last Friday, Aug. 15 . 

“Pope Francis will be the first Pope to travel out of Colombo,” Bishop Joseph is quoted saying. The Pope is expected to interact with the war widows, disabled persons and orphans, he added.

Read EyeSriLanka report

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Strength from faith, Rosary – American journalist Foley slain by IS

Photojournalist James Wright Foley who the US government confirmed has been executed by Islamic State captors had reportedly said his faith and praying the Rosary during captivity made him feel close to God and his family.

Stories about how their Catholic faith and the Rosary carried him and his family through agonizing days of his captivity spread after the the National Security Council announced on Aug. 19 that the U.S. intelligence community judged as authentic, a gruesome video of Foley’s beheading released Tuesday on social media by the Islamic State movement.

Read the full story of how faith and praying the Rosary gave Foley and his family strength in the face of death

Related sites

Find James Foley website

Find James Foley Twitter

Free James Foley Facebook

West India state bans Hindu vigilante groups

The government of Goa has banned a Hindu right wing group, which is infamous for its moral policing tactics, from entering the western Indian state.

“We have banned Sri Ram Sena,” Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar told the state legislative assembly on Wednesday.

Sri Ram Sena (the Army of Lord Rama) chief Pramod Mutalik had announced in June their plans to set up a branch in Goa in September.

Founded in the late 1960s, the organization won media attention in 2009 when its members attacked women for going to a pub in Mangalore, a coastal town in neighboring Karnataka state.

Read full report in Matters India

More than 35 percent of the 1.76 million people in the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman in a 2006 report were listed as  Catholics.