UPF Puerto Rico Celebrates World Interfaith Harmony Week

 San Juan, P.R. – As part of the interfaith harmony week, UPF Puerto Rico visited the Jewish Reform Congregation Beth Shalom, the Islamic Center of Puerto Rico and the Padmsambha Buddhist Center. The experience helps them understand that all of the faiths are commonly longing for peace.

On February 3rd, the third UPF Conference took place with the theme: “Dialogue and Reconciliation for a Culture of Peace”, on the facilities of IYTA Wellness & Health Center. UPF partnered with IYTA Wellness & Health Center and Connecting Paths P.R.

Isabel Rodriguez Cintron, President of IYTA Wellness & Health Center and an Ambassador for Peace, opened the event. She said referring her yoga Master Serge Raynaud de la Ferriere in the Great Messages: “There are no incomplete religions, there are no incomplete leaders, there is only difference in the rituals, and they all have the same common basis”

Pastor Antonio Grillo Torres, Ambassador for Peace gave the invocation, after which, Conchita García, Executive Director for UPF PR, welcomed the guest and read the UPF’s Statement on Interreligious Dialogue and also presented a video on UPF-related observances of World Interfaith Harmony Week. Later on, the life water ceremony was held.

Four panelists were invited to talk about the theme. Among them is Willian Torres Pagan, a priest from the order of St Francis of Assisi and Vicar of Ecumenism of the Archdiocese of San Juan. Under the leadership of the Archbishop of San Juan, he mentioned Psalm 71. He noted that Pope Paul VI was the Catholic Church precursor of the First World Day of Peace in January 1968. In his speech, he called the “Harmony of all the voices of the world. Peace is the only line and true of human progress… “He warned of the danger of believing that international controversies cannot be solved by the paths of reason, that is to say, negotiations founded on law, justice, equity, but only by those of the frightening forces and deadly”... In his own words, he said: “today in the twenty-first century God is one and triune.” There is a growing need to educate people in the path of peace because peace unites us. Finally, he recited the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. That wherever there is hatred, give me love”

Another speaker is Rev. Angel L. Rivera, Director of IYTA Wellness & Health Center and an Ambassador for Peace. He mentioned that yoga brings us to peace. “There is peace in air that we breathe; there is peace in the seas, in the sun, in the fruits that feed us there is peace. The peace of the individual will be true peace and the philosophy of yoga seeks to discover the thought of peace of each individual beginning from my body, the desire to make the other image a new person.” He shared that the divine laws are the supreme energy of God and there is the necessity of reeducating humanity. The misuse of the natural resources that the Creator gave us needs to be addressed.

The third panelist was Juan Jose Santiago, a Jesuit priest. He lived for twenty years outside of Puerto Rico and in five different countries.  From a catholic mother and spiritualist father, at the age of 16, he felt the vocation of being a Jesuit, his father did not understand his decision well but he gave him his blessing. He mentioned that Jesús is the light that enlightens every man. He talked about St. John of the Cross, in everything there is a flash of light. About the Amazon tribes, we call them primitive but we have to learn from them in many aspects, like respect for nature. He also dwells on wisdom. He said, “A wise man is the one who has tasted life but today we have fast foods, cell phones, and can we communicate with some in Australia, but we do not communicate with our neighbor, with the people who are closed to us.” He encouraged the audience to pray twice a day where in the morning time pray for the people we love and at night to have a ” communion of saints”. He was always in favor of interreligious dialogue and has different experiences through his life.

And the final guest speaker was Antonio Grillo Torres, an evangelical pastor and an Ambassador for Peace. He explained that he came from a dysfunctional family. At the age of sixteen he left home and enlisted in the army, he was deployed in Korea. He lived in New York and was part of a youth gang. By then there were 139 youth gangs in the Latin Quarter and had to defend himself. From there he gave his life to Jesus. He met his wife and created a family. He has 3 children; two of his daughters are pastors of a church in Puerto Rico and in Los Angeles, CA. He referred to the Sermon on the Mount as a reflection for peace. Spiritual peace, peace with God… there is no peace outside of Christ, the inner peace that we, men and women of God, all need is with Jesus who is the Prince of Peace. We have all been called by the Prince of Peace to make peace”. He lived in violence on the streets of New York, but he met the Prince of Peace and his life changed radically.

Mabel Lassalle, President of Connecting Paths, P.R. and an Ambassador for Peace, was the moderator during the panel discussions.

Conchita Garcia closed the program and conveyed some words from Dr. Moon about the role of the religions to build peace: “Peace will never come to this earth unless we first tear down the walls between religions. For thousands of years, religions have grown in alliance with particular ethnic groups, and so they are surrounded by high cultural walls. Tearing these down is an extremely difficult task. For thousands of years, each religion has surrounded itself with such high walls using God’s name in activities that had nothing to do with his will. The will of God lies in peace.”

The priest, William Torres, gave the closing prayer. Even in a small group of nine people, there was a feeling of fraternization, a desire for dialogue and goodwill. The forum ended with more sharing and snacks.


Contributed by: Conchita Garcia, Executive Director, UPF Puerto Rico

Leave a comment