Convenor, Dr. Thomas C. Daffern, International Institute for Peace Studies and Global Philosophy,
Castle of the Muses, Craigard, Carrick Castle, Cairndow, Argyll and Bute, Scotland PA24 6AH.

Telephone: 01301 703053 - Mobile: 07500 238523.

Email: Website: (peace affairs)

Retreat Centre: Camlad House, Forden, Powys, Wales, SY21 8NZ

THE COMMONWEALTH INTERFAITH NETWORK: the launch of this new initiative of the Institute took place on FRIDAY OCTOBER 24, 1997, UNITED NATIONS DAY, at New College, University of Edinburgh, Martin's Hall, Mount Place, Edinburgh. The College is the senior centre for theological studies in the University of Edinburgh. The purpose of the Commonwealth Interfaith Network (C.I.N.) is to provide an international network for persons and organisations active in any of the 53 Commonwealth Countries, concerned with advancing better interfaith understanding, and to act as a forum for advanced ethical, philosophical and religious dialogue and educational studies.

The concerns of the Network encompass the full range of Commonwealth affairs, as expressed in the inter-governmental agreements and Declarations issued at the regular Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings over the years, and as embodied in the full spectrum of ongoing work of the Commonwealth Secretariat. Our aim is to provide space for reflection and informed comment; also to monitor and give moral support for such activities, from an interfaith and spiritual perspective. Our emphasis is on finding common values to underpin Commonwealth activities and projects, which can better enable Commonwealth countries to play a vibrant and dynamic role in the wider world community, alongside other members of the United Nations, in the common search for peace, justice, prosperity and well- being that concerns us all, as citizens of planet earth. Our goal is to consider and work together how best to manifest the true "common wealth", namely our spiritual and moral heritage, which underpins our connectedness.

Our launch meeting took place during the first Commonwealth Heads of Government in the U.K for two decades, expected to be one of the most important international gatherings held in the United Kingdom in recent decades. It also came at a time of considerable turbulence and challenges facing the world community, with innumerable ethnic and religious tensions affecting relations between and within Commonwealth and other countries. As a Non Governmental interfaith project spanning the Commonwealth, and comprising representatives of NGO's and concerned individuals, we hope to work together towards common solutions to intractable situations and dilemmas facing us as a single family of nations and peoples. Speakers who addressed the launch meeting of the NETWORK included: Dr. Ruth Page, Principal, New College, University of Edinburgh; Prof. Frank Whaling, Faculty of Theology, University of Edinburgh; Yusuf Inait O.B.E. Life President, Edinburgh Interfaith NETWORK; Rev. Andrew Morton, Director, Theology and Public Values Project, Edinburgh; George Paxton, Gandhi Foundation; Sister Maureen, Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University; and a speaker from the Contemporary African Music and Arts Archive. The meeting was chaired and introduced by Dr. Thomas Daffern.

The event was a thoroughly enjoyable and inspiring occasion, with over 50 people in attendance, in the splendour of the setting of New College, overlooking Edinburgh's famous skyline. Contributions were of a high quality. Considerable thanks go to the Edinburgh Interfaith Association for supporting the event. Representatives of many different faith communities attended: Bahai, Anglican, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Church of Scotland, Islamic, Buddhist, Femininst-New Age, Pagan and traditional, Sikh, Hindu, Jewish etc. Concerns were raised about specific conflicts underway in various Commonwealth countries where religious conflicts were an unfortunate part of political life. Emphasis was placed by all on the need to search for common spiritual and human values to support and endorse the high level intergovernmental work of the Commonwealth secretariat and its agencies.

The meeting began and ended with several minutes of silent reflection and a candle lighting ceremony. The Secretary General of the Commonwealth had also supported the project, and we received a letter of endorsement from him; likewise a letter of encouragement was received from The Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Ms Eleni Stamiris, Director of the Women and Youth Division of the Commonwealth, without whose support and guidance we could not have proceeded, was unfortunately prevented from attending and giving her speech, due to a back injury, but she has since expressed her thanks to all those who did attend and pledged her continuing support and ecouragement for the growth of the Council's work. The next step is to work towards officially registering the NETWORK as an NGO with the NGO liaison office of the Commowealth Secretariat, and to receive nominations for regional representatives to sit on the Association from each of the 53 Commowealth Countries. The Network is intended as a networking organisation, open both to individual members, as well as to other organisations active in Commownealth countries who support and endorse the project's vision. The Institute's role is to focalise the vision and to ground the project, but it will only succeed with the help of many others who care about activating the potential role of the Commonwealth in contributing to the evolution of a more just, peaceful and equitable world community. Participation in the ongoing work of the Network, is open to all persons and organisations interested in the interfaith, ethical and spiritual dimensions of Commonwealth affairs. Among the organisations which have so far expressed their support, in varying ways, for the launch of the CCVC are the following: The World Conference on Religion and Peace (U.K. and Ireland Chapter - with the WCRP International Secretariat having also expressed interest and support), the Multifaith and Multicultural Mediation Service, Silent Minute, The United Religions Initiative, The Gandhi Foundation (School of Nonviolence), The International Association of Spiritual Academies, The United Nations Values Caucus, The New World Academy, The Jain Vishva Bharati, Zones of Peace International Foundation, International Philosophers for Peace, The Namdhari Sikhs, The Karma Kagyu Order of Tibetan Buddhism, The Brahma Kumaris, The South African Pagan Federation, The Prajapati Youth Group, plus local interfaith associations - of which the Edinburgh Interfaith Association played the crucial role. Many thanks to all these organisations.

Thanks are also due to Ms. Eleni Scondra, who travelled up from London specially for the occasion, and assisted with the practical arrangements for the meeting. Particular thanks also to Prof. Frank Whaling of New College, who acted as our host and co-convenor for the occasion, and who spoke movingly about his work in promoting interfaith theological understanding. A full copy of Andrew Morton's excellent address about the role of theology in issues of public policy is also available on special request. Congratulations to all who attended and made this such a special event.

Particularly moving was the location of the launch event in Scotland, in the year that Scotland has voted to reinstate its Parliament after nearly 3 centuries of direct control from Westminster. A conference of the Scottish Civic Assembly was taking place at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh on the following day, and the lively spirit of the Scottish people, in all their religious diversity, certainly contributed to the special atmosphere which accompanied our successful launch meeting.
For further information on the work of the Network as it unfolds, or to contribute news items for future information bulletins, please write in stating your particular interests and concerns, and the way in which you would like to help move the vision forward. Official endorsements and applications for membership from appropriate organisations active in any of the 53 Commonwealth countries are particularly welcome.

Continuing unrest and uncertainty in Zimbabwe makes the work of the CIN more vital than ever, as does the ongoing crisis in the Middle East over Israel and Palestine. This is in fact a matter for CIN since the Palestinian authority has indicated it would apply for membership of the Commonwealth if and when it achieves independent statehood.