The third URI Asia Assembly was held at Sarvodaya Institute of Higher Learning in Bandaragama, Colombo District, Sri Lanka on October 5-6, 2018. One hundred and fifty delegates from Asian countries, together with 100 Sarvodaya participants, united under the theme of “United in Peace: Transcending Boundaries."
Participants shared discussions and meals with each other, listening to inspiring speeches and trading ideas about peacebuilding in their respective countries. They formed warm friendships and toured Sri Lanka with their local URI hosts. The assembly's energy and excitement were shared among the participants as they enjoyed the hospitality of Mr. Ravi Kandage and the rest of the URI Sri Lanka team.Regional representatives from around Asia gave reports and multimedia presentations. "This gave a great picture of how URI is making a positive change in the societies and countries we represented," recalled Fr. Dr. James Channan OP, URI Pakistan Regional Coordinator. "It was like a bird's-eye-view of the Asian realities. So wonderful to see that in spite of many hurdles and challenges, our URI brings a ray of hope all over Asia."
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"For this incredibly important cause, the URI family yet again gathered under one roof and I was fortunate enough to experience an International get-together for the very first time. I am extremely delighted to have had made this journey. I experienced an energetic and powerful platform of peace," said Neelam Nisari, the Program Manager for URI Pakistan and Coordinator of Golden Star Cooperation Circle. "From the beginning till the end, I was absorbed into this inspiring energy and tried to participate as much as possible."
"In Pakistan, I am working with Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus, but in Sri Lanka, for the first time I met with Buddhist people. For me, it was a very blessed moment," said Asher Nazir, Executive Secretary of URI Pakistan and Coordinator of COPE Pakistan Cooperation Circle.
The assembly allowed peacebuilders to connect on a human level with friends they would never have otherwise met. "Through this URI Asian Conference, we met with URI Indian friends. For us, this was a great joy that we shared food, travel, singing, love and sharing experiences with one another, and we were not thinking that we are Pakistanis and they are Indians. Only one thing is connecting us and that is URI, because we are URI," observed Asher Nazir.
"When the people of India said, 'We love you Pakistan,' and the Pakistani people said, 'We love you, India,' that was the real beauty of the assembly"
Dr. Mohan Lal and Dr. Devi Raj, from Zero Limits Cooperation Circle in URI South India, said, "We can surely say that this assembly is really based on the purpose and principles of URI. It bridged people from many Asian countries with diverse religions, spiritual expressions and indigenous traditions. All the sessions were handled by experts and their topic selection and presentation were really the need of the hour for interfaith harmony. During the off times, we from different parts of the world discussed our beliefs, cultures and current social issues."
They remembered one moment specifically: "When the people of India, including us, said, 'We love you Pakistan,' and the Pakistani people said, 'We love you, India,' that was the real beauty of the assembly, making the feeling of oneness by forgetting the boundaries of country-wide enmity."
The URI Asia Executive Council (AEC) met in Sri Lanka on 6th October during the Asia General Assembly. New Trustees Dr. CNN Raju, Rev. Kalyan Kumar Kishku and Ravi Kandage were welcomed to the fold. URI Multiregion Director Frederica Helmiere was a special invitee. The group decided to hold the Asia General Assembly once every three years; it will be held next in Bangladesh in 2021.