Issue 5 - July 2009

Dear fellow members of the TS and TOS around the world,

Welcome to this fifth edition of our international TOS electronic newsletter. In this issue you’ll meet the outstanding National Director of the largest national network of TOS groups in the world and you’ll find reports of a variety of TOS group activities in India, North Wales, the Philippines, Canada and Australia. Be inspired by the full transcript of President Obama’s speech in Cairo, learn about current animal welfare issues that you could support and consider the ‘food for thought’ in the article on a social experiment conducted by the Washington Post.

We hope you enjoy reading the newsletter and find some ideas for your TOS activities.

Remember that the newsletter is designed to be read while you are connected to the internet.

Please consider sending photographs of your TOS activities and news items that might be of interest to fellow TOS members. We would welcome your contributions, either through your National TOS Director/President/Coordinator/Correspondent or directly to the editors at:

Meet Mr Birendra Bhattacharyya, the National Director of the TOS in India

Mr Birendra Bhattacharyya spends several months each year on the road visiting groups to oversee and support them in their activities. Even with a team of some 18 regional secretaries to help him, his hands are still very full.


TOS news from around the world

Find out about recent TOS activities in North Wales, Delhi in India, Canada and Australia.


What’s new on the International TOS website?

What makes a successful lobbyist …. and can ethics and success go together in the political arena? Carolyn Cottom, known in the USA for her work in the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign, shares her experiences in the new Featured Article. Tim Boyd reports on a series of Service Workshops being conducted by the TOS in the USA. This new Featured Project provides a way for volunteers to broaden their field of service and their effectiveness. In the Recent News section, Mr Chaganti V.K. Maithreya and Dr Sunita Maithreya talk about their visit to Africa and the work of the TS and TOS that they saw. There are also additions to the TOS photo gallery and the Inspiration section. Go to:

Annie (Besant!) eco-products

The TOS in Chennai has collaborated with two self-help groups to establish recycling units to make eco-friendly paper products.

President Obama’s speech in Cairo

If you were invited to name seven major sources of social and political tension in the world today, what would they be? Many of us saw President Barack Obama on television delivering his remarkable June 4 address in Cairo and were moved by his courage. How many heard the entire speech, though? How many remember the seven issues he identified and discussed – without notes – with such frankness and sincerity? How long is it since the world heard a truly theosophical political address? We offer it here in toto as food for reflection. The question is, what can the TOS contribute toward the new beginning President Obama suggests?
Read the speech ….


Animal welfare in the news

Three animal welfare issues have recently been in the news: The European Parliament’s vote to ban the sale of all seal products in the EU; a report from the University of Bristol, UK, on the welfare of animals in circuses; and the anticipated revision of the European Union legislation governing the use of animals in research.


UN International Days

For information on UN International Days from August to November 2009.

TOS schools in the Philippines celebrate United Nations Day

Every year the Golden Link College, the Sunshine Learning Center and the TOS Learning Center celebrate United Nations Day with a varied program presenting interesting information about the UN and countries around the world.

Time to stand and stare!

In a commonplace environment at an unusual hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognise great talent in an unexpected context? The Washington Post gained insights into these questions as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. Their findings may cause us to stop and think.

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With best wishes,

Carolyn and Diana

Diana Dunningham Chapotin is the International Secretary of the TOS and
Carolyn Harrod is the National Coordinator of the TOS in Australia.

If you are unable to discover opportunities for service where you are at present, you will be unable to discover them in the place you would like to be.    -- G .S. Arundale

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Meet Mr Birendra Bhattacharyya, National Director of the TOS in India

Can you imagine being a member of a country with over a hundred active TOS groups? Our Indian sisters and brothers can because they are members of one! Total individual membership of the TOS in India is over 6,000 and growing. The National Director, Mr Birendra Bhattacharyya, spends several months each year on the road visiting groups to oversee and support them in their activities. Even with a team of some 18 regional secretaries to help him, his hands are still very full.

Most of Birendra’s work is done out of the limelight. Many Theosophists around the world know of the sterling work done in or near the international TS HQ at Adyar in Chennai: the Social Welfare Centre, the Animal Dispensary, the Olcott School and the HPB Hostel for boys attending the school. Many now know of the fine environmental, medical and relief work done by the local TOS team in Chennai under the leadership of Mr Harihara Raghavan and more recently under Dr Sunita and Mr C.V.K. Maithreya. How many know of Mr Bhattacharyya’s tireless travels in the outlying regions of India, however; of his meetings with hundreds of local workers, many of whom cannot afford to travel to Adyar themselves?

The TOS in India concentrates its activity in the areas of medical and nutrition services, education for underprivileged children and mobility aids for the handicapped: canes, crutches, walkers, wheelchairs, etc. Emergency relief work is also extensive, of course. Birendra’s job is therefore multi-faceted. He meets the workers at zonal conferences and talks things over with them when they run into problems. He inaugurates new TOS groups (five in the year 2007-2008). He visits TOS schools, coaching classes, pre-primary learning centres (called Balwadi Schools), boarding establishments for the blind and for orphans, medical dispensaries as well as yoga therapy, naturopathy, acupressure, ayurvedic treatment and pranic healing centres. In visiting local groups as a special guest, Birendra does the formal presentation of educational materials and mobility aids to the needy; he distributes school uniforms, student kits, garments, study material, cooked food, scholarships to meritorious students, prizes to essay and elocution contest winners, and relief materials during natural disasters. He also inaugurates self-help projects, congratulates workers receiving awards for outstanding service to the community, and of course takes time to meet with our friends – the recipients of aid themselves.

We are very happy and grateful that Mr Bhattacharyya has accepted a second term of office (3 years from January 2008) and we extend thanks to him for his selfless work.

Here are some photos showing Birendra in action around the country:



Mr Bhattacharyya attends three regional TOS conferences per year in order to keep in touch with the members and convey national news and policy decisions.




As part of the TOS centennial celebrations organised by the TOS in Chennai, Mr Bhattacharyya presented a DLP projector to Besant Theosophical High School in Adyar in January 2008. He was accompanied by Mr Harihara Raghavan, coordinator of TOS work in the south zone of India.


The TOS in Chennai donated tools and machines for one of the paper recycling plants set up in coastal Tamil Nadu to provide employment for victims of the 2004 tsunami.


Dedication ceremony for a water purification plant donated by the TOS in Chennai to a tsunami-affected village.



Bhattacharyya’s work is to appear as guest-of-honour and present items gathered by local TOS groups for the needy. Here we see him with Mr S.S. Gahla, president of the TOS in Kolkata, distributing winter garments.




Born in Bangladesh, Birendra spent most of his life in a corporate sector as a general manager. He has travelled widely, visiting most TS Centres around the world. In addition to his work for the TOS, he acts as secretary to the Executive Committee of the Indian Section of the TS and recently spent 6 years as President of the Bengal Theosophical Federation. He also takes a personal interest in the development of the TS and TOS in Bangladesh and does as much as he can to develop the work there.



At the international TOS centennial celebration held at Adyar in January 2008, Mr S. Sundaram, General Secretary of the TS in India and Mr B.L. Bhattacharyya, National Director of the TOS, re-dedicate themselves to the work of the TOS during a ceremony arranged by Dr Sunita and Mr C.V.K. Maithreya.


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TOS news from around the world

   TOS in North Wales

Promoting animal welfare is one of the activities of TOS groups in North Wales.

The Conwy TOS Group Branch has been supporting World Wildlife Fund projects as well as the Cinnamon Trust. This trust is the only British charity for people in their last years and their much loved companion animals. A network of 8,000 volunteers provide loving care such as dog walking and caring for pets when their owners go into hospital. Whenever possible they aim to keep owner and pet together but find a new home for the pet when staying with their owner is no longer an option.


The Bangor Group has supported PETA’s campaign to end the terrible treatment of animals in China.


TOS in Delhi, India


The Theosophical Order of Service in the Delhi Region has established Vocational Training Centres to provide low technology vocational training to economically disadvantaged rural women. The program’s aim is to empower them with economic independence. Graduates are presented with the certificate shown here.



   TOS in Canada


The Canadian TS has recently launched its new website with a section for the TOS. Check them out at:

Lorraine Christensen, the National Coordinator of the TOS in Canada is in the picture opposite, sorting books for one of the TOS projects.


   TOS in Brisbane, Australia


The Brisbane TOS group recently honoured the many years of theosophical service contributed by older members of the Brisbane TS and TOS. As you can see, they transformed the TS Lodge meeting room into a gracious tea-room for this happy occasion.

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Annie (Besant!) eco products

The efforts of the Theosophical Order of Service Chennai to help the victims of the 2004 tsunami have been widely reported amongst Theosophists, who have taken a close interest in its activities and generously supported them, particularly the installation of numerous costly water purification plants carried out along the southwest coast of India in close partnership with other NGOs.

One of its initiatives, it will be remembered, was the creation of new employment opportunities. The TOS helped set up twelve tailoring units, for instance, providing dozens of sewing machines for the wives of fishermen. It also provided machines for the production of ‘idlis’ (a staple food item in the region) by women in the village of Injambakkam, close to Chennai. Further, it donated machines and tools for two waste recycling units for the making of paper products.

In setting up these recycling units, it collaborated with two self-help groups, the Annie Besant Ammaiyar Coastal Women’s Federation in Cuddalore and the Annai Theresa Coastal Women’s Federation in Pazhaverkadu. The TOS has been very happy to contribute to such constructive new enterprises and has developed friendly ties with its partners. At the International Convention of the Theosophical Society in December 2008, for example, members of one of the self-help groups put up a stall of eco-friendly products, which were very popular among the delegates.

In order to become the owner of its own premises, the Annie Besant Ammaiyar Coastal Women’s Federation recently re-located its unit. The new ‘waste to paper’ unit was set up in the coastal hamlet of Killai near the temple town of Chidambaram, south of Pondicherry. About a hundred women are now employed there.

A function was held to inaugurate the new premises on May 31, 2009. The Chief Guest was Mr. Rajendra Ratnoo, the District Collector of Cuddalore. (The town falls in the jurisdiction of the Collectorate.) Mr Ratnoo was also greatly instrumental in getting the money for the construction from one of the tsunami relief funds of the state government. The TOS, Chennai Region, had donated nearly half a million Indian Rupees for the machinery.

Mr. Chaganti V.K. Maithreya was the keynote speaker on the occasion and he spoke of the life and work of Annie Besant and the role of the TOS in setting up the plant. He emphasised the aspects of self-reliance and self-respect for women in addition to the importance of women’s rights and responsibilities in human society.

The session was chaired by a functionary of the local government, Mr. Ravichandran. Mrs. Geetha Ramakrishnan of the Unorganised Workers Federation and Mrs. Krishnaveni of the Self-Help Group were among the many speakers. Attention was drawn to the life of Dr.Annie Besant by the speakers.

Lamps were lit by the dignitaries, before the meeting. The lamps on behalf of the TOS were lit by Mr. Maithreya & Dr. Sunita Maithreya. Their daughters Upasika and Aditi accompanied them. The function was covered by the English and Tamil newspapers.

It was decided to give the brand name of ‘Annie Eco Products’ for the produce of the plant. The Collector, in consultation with Mr. Maithreya, suggested this name.

The TOS in Chennai thus continues its work with its partners for the victims of the 2004 tsunami. Each project requires follow-through and opens opportunities for further collaborative service.

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President Obama's speech in Cairo, as delivered

Text provided by the White House.

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Thank you very much. Good afternoon. I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions. For over a thousand years, Al—Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning; and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt's advancement. And together, you represent the harmony between tradition and progress. I'm grateful for your hospitality, and the hospitality of the people of Egypt. And I'm also proud to carry with me the goodwill of the American people, and a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: Assalaamu alaykum.

We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims around the world — tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of coexistence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim—majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.

Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. All this has bred more fear and more mistrust.

So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. And this cycle of suspicion and discord must end.

I've come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles — principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. I know there's been a lot of publicity about this speech, but no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have this afternoon all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly to each other the things we hold in our hearts and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, "Be conscious of God and speak always the truth." That is what I will try to do today — to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.

Now part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I'm a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and at the fall of dusk. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith.

As a student of history, I also know civilization's debt to Islam. It was Islam — at places like Al-Azhar — that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe's Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities — it was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.

I also know that Islam has always been a part of America's story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President, John Adams, wrote, "The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims." And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, they have served in our government, they have stood for civil rights, they have started businesses, they have taught at our universities, they've excelled in our sports arenas, they've won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers — Thomas Jefferson — kept in his personal library.

So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn't. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.

But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words — within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum — "Out of many, one."

Now, much has been made of the fact that an African American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President. But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores — and that includes nearly 7 million American Muslims in our country today who, by the way, enjoy incomes and educational levels that are higher than the American average.

Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state in our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That's why the United States government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab and to punish those who would deny it.

So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America. And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations — to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.

Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. These needs will be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead; and if we understand that the challenges we face are shared, and our failure to meet them will hurt us all.

For we have learned from recent experience that when a financial system weakens in one country, prosperity is hurt everywhere. When a new flu infects one human being, all are at risk. When one nation pursues a nuclear weapon, the risk of nuclear attack rises for all nations. When violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains, people are endangered across an ocean. When innocents in Bosnia and Darfur are slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective conscience. That is what it means to share this world in the 21st century. That is the responsibility we have to one another as human beings.

And this is a difficult responsibility to embrace. For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes — and, yes, religions — subjugating one another in pursuit of their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners to it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; our progress must be shared.

Now, that does not mean we should ignore sources of tension. Indeed, it suggests the opposite: We must face these tensions squarely. And so in that spirit, let me speak as clearly and as plainly as I can about some specific issues that I believe we must finally confront together.

The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in all of its forms.

In Ankara, I made clear that America is not — and never will be — at war with Islam. We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security — because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as president to protect the American people.

The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America's goals, and our need to work together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by choice; we went because of necessity. I'm aware that there's still some who would question or even justify the events of 9/11. But let us be clear: Al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with.

Now, make no mistake: We do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We see no military — we seek no military bases there. It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and now Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.

And that's why we're partnering with a coalition of 46 countries. And despite the costs involved, America's commitment will not weaken. Indeed, none of us should tolerate these extremists. They have killed in many countries. They have killed people of different faiths — but more than any other, they have killed Muslims. Their actions are irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations, and with Islam. The Holy Quran teaches that whoever kills an innocent is as — it is as if he has killed all mankind. And the Holy Quran also says whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism — it is an important part of promoting peace.

Now, we also know that military power alone is not going to solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That's why we plan to invest $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who've been displaced. That's why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend on.

Let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible. Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: "I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be."

Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future — and to leave Iraq to Iraqis. And I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq's sovereignty is its own. And that's why I ordered the removal of our combat brigades by next August. That is why we will honor our agreement with Iraq's democratically elected government to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, and to remove all of our troops from Iraq by 2012. We will help Iraq train its security forces and develop its economy. But we will support a secure and united Iraq as a partner, and never as a patron.

And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter or forget our principles. Nine-eleven was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.

So America will defend itself, respectful of the sovereignty of nations and the rule of law. And we will do so in partnership with Muslim communities which are also threatened. The sooner the extremists are isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the sooner we will all be safer.

The second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.

America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed — more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, it is ignorant, and it is hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction — or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews —is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people — Muslims and Christians — have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years they've endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations — large and small — that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.

For decades then, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It's easy to point fingers — for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought about by Israel's founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.

That is in Israel's interest, Palestine's interest, America's interest, and the world's interest. And that is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience and dedication that the task requires. The obligations — the obligations that the parties have agreed to under the road map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them — and all of us — to live up to our responsibilities.

Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That's not how moral authority is claimed; that's how it is surrendered.

Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have to recognize they have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel's right to exist.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

And Israel must also live up to its obligation to ensure that Palestinians can live and work and develop their society. Just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be a critical part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.

And finally, the Arab states must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab—Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state, to recognize Israel's legitimacy, and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.

America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and we will say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.

Too many tears have been shed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of the three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, joined in prayer.

The third source of tension is our shared interest in the rights and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons.

This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is in fact a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage—taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I've made it clear to Iran's leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question now is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.

I recognize it will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude, and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect. But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America's interests. It's about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.

I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons. And that's why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. And any nation — including Iran — should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I'm hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.

The fourth issue that I will address is democracy.

I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other.

That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas; they are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere.

Now, there is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: Governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments — provided they govern with respect for all their people.

This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they're out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. So no matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who would hold power: You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Barack Obama, we love you!

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you. The fifth issue that we must address together is religious freedom.

Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it first-hand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind and the heart and the soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it's being challenged in many different ways.

Among some Muslims, there's a disturbing tendency to measure one's own faith by the rejection of somebody else's faith. The richness of religious diversity must be upheld — whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt. And if we are being honest, fault lines must be closed among Muslims, as well, as the divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq.

Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which we protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That's why I'm committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.

Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit — for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We can't disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.

In fact, faith should bring us together. And that's why we're forging service projects in America to bring together Christians, Muslims, and Jews. That's why we welcome efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah's interfaith dialogue and Turkey's leadership in the Alliance of Civilizations. Around the world, we can turn dialogue into interfaith service, so bridges between peoples lead to action — whether it is combating malaria in Africa, or providing relief after a natural disaster.

The sixth issue that I want to address is women's rights.

I know, I know — and you can tell from this audience, that there is a healthy debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well educated are far more likely to be prosperous.

Now, let me be clear: Issues of women's equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, we've seen Muslim—majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women's equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.

I am convinced that our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons. Our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity — men and women — to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice. And that is why the United States will partner with any Muslim—majority country to support expanded literacy for girls, and to help young women pursue employment through micro—financing that helps people live their dreams.

Finally, I want to discuss economic development and opportunity.

I know that for many, the face of globalization is contradictory. The Internet and television can bring knowledge and information, but also offensive sexuality and mindless violence into the home. Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities, but also huge disruptions and changing communities. In all nations – including America – this change can bring fear. Fear that because of modernity we will lose of control over our economic choices, our politics, and most importantly our identities – those things we most cherish about our communities, our families, our traditions, and our faith.

But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be contradiction between development and tradition. Countries like Japan and South Korea grew their economies while maintaining distinct cultures. The same is true for the astonishing progress within Muslim—majority countries from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai. In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education.

And this is important because no development strategy can be based only upon what comes out of the ground, nor can it be sustained while young people are out of work. Many Gulf States have enjoyed great wealth as a consequence of oil, and some are beginning to focus it on broader development. But all of us must recognize that education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century, and in too many Muslim communities there remains underinvestment in these areas. I am emphasizing such investment within my country. And while America in the past has focused on oil and gas when it comes to his part of the world, we now seek a broader engagement.

On education, we will expand exchange programs, and increase scholarships, like the one that brought my father to America. At the same time, we will encourage more Americans to study in Muslim communities. And we will match promising Muslim students with internships in America; invest in online learning for teachers and children around the world; and create a new online network, so a teenager in Kansas can communicate instantly with a young person in Cairo.

On economic development, we will create a new corps of business volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim—majority countries. And I will host a Summit on Entrepreneurship this year to identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world.

On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim—majority countries, and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create more jobs. We'll open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and appoint new science envoys to collaborate on programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, clean water, and grow new crops. Today, I'm announcing a new global effort with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio. And we will also expand partnerships with Muslim communities to promote child and maternal health.

All these things must be done in partnership. Americans are ready to join with citizens and governments, community organizations, religious leaders, and businesses in Muslim communities around the world to help our people pursue a better life.

The issues that I have described will not be easy to address. But we have a responsibility to join together on behalf of the world that we seek – a world where extremists no longer threaten our people, and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes; a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all God's children are respected. Those are mutual interests. That is the world we seek. But we can only achieve it together.

I know there are many – Muslim and non-Muslim – who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn't worth the effort – that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There is so much fear, so much mistrust that has built up over the years. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country – you, more than anyone, have the ability to reimagine the world, to remake this world.

All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort – a sustained effort – to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.

It's easier to start wars than to end them. It's easier to blame others than to look inward. It's easier to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There's one rule that lies at the heart of every religion – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This truth transcends nations and peoples – a belief that isn't new; that isn't black or white or brown; that isn't Christian, or Muslim or Jew. It's a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the hearts of billions around the world. It's a faith in other people, and it's what brought me here today.

We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.

The Holy Quran tells us, "O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another."

The Talmud tells us: "The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace."

The Holy Bible tells us, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."

The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God's vision. Now, that must be our work here on Earth. Thank you. And may God's peace be upon you. Thank you very much. Thank you.


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Animal welfare in the news


Seal product ban

The European Parliament voted on 5 May to ban the sale of all seal products in the EU, except those hunted by indigenous communities. The ban comes as a victory for animal welfare groups, but riles Canada, which licenses the culling of 280,000 seals a year and now fears the collapse of the sealing industry.


Report recommends ban on circus animals

Circus acts featuring elephants, lions and tigers should end, the first global study of animal welfare in circuses concludes.

Whether it’s lack of space and exercise, or lack of social contact, all factors combined show it’s a poor quality of life compared with the wild,” says lead researcher Stephen Harris of the University of Bristol, UK.

On average, circus animals were found to spend just 1 to 9% of their time training, and the rest confined to cages or enclosures typically covering a quarter of the area recommended for zoos. Species such as elephants, lions, tigers and bears cannot adapt to these conditions, the researchers say.

Many of the confined animals exhibit stress behaviours such as pacing up and down for hours on end. “Even if elephants, for example, are in a larger circus pen, there’s no enrichment such as logs to play with, in case they use them to break the fence and escape,” says Harris.

Some countries, including Austria, have already banned wild animals in circuses, but they still feature prominently in the USA and much of Europe. While elephants were not seen in UK circuses for about 10 years, three have been performing in 2009 in the Great British Circus.

Anticipated EU vote on using animals in research

After 23 years, the European Union legislation governing the use of animals in research is being revised.

A vote by members of the European Parliament is expected later in 2009, and lobbying has already begun.

Many anti-vivisectionists believe we have the technologies to replace animals now. In-vitro research, for instance, has already supplanted some animal experimentation, a trend which will continue as more complex cell types are replicated in the laboratory. In the future, engineered human tissue could be used in place of animals to test new drugs and study disease.

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UN International Days
August to November 2009

The United Nations was built on spiritual principles and universal values such as peace, human rights, human dignity and worth, justice, respect, good neighbourliness, freedom, respect for nature and shared responsibility. TOS groups will therefore find that many UN designated International Days provide opportunities for promoting the theosophical principles underpinning TOS work as well as networking with similar community groups in supporting relevant UN activities.


August 9: International Day of the World’s Indigenous People
Coincides with the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People; 2005-2014.

August 12: International Youth Day

August 17-23: World Water Week

August 23: International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition

September 8: International Literacy Day
Coincides with United Nations Literacy Decade (2003 - 2012) “Literacy as Freedom”.

September 10: World Suicide Prevention Day
On average, almost 3,000 people commit suicide daily.

September 15: International Day of Democracy

September 21: International Day of Peace
The International Day of Peace was established in 1981 by the United Nations as an annual observance of global non-violence and ceasefire.

September 28: World Heart Day
Cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and strokes, are the world’s largest killers, claiming 17.5 million lives a year.

October 1: International Day of Older Persons

October 2: International Day of Non-Violence (Gandhi’s birthday)

October 6: World Habitat Day

October 8: International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction

October 9: World Sight Day

A worldwide initiative aims to eliminate avoidable blindness by the year 2020. About 37 million people worldwide are blind and 124 million people have poor vision. Three-quarters of cases of blindness are treatable or preventable. Without intervention, the number of people who are blind will increase to 75 million by 2020.

October 10: World Mental Health Day

October 15: International Day of Rural Women

October 16: World Food Day

October 17: International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

October 24: United Nations Day

October 24-30: Disarmament Week

November 6: International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict

November 14: World Diabetes Day

This year the theme is Diabetes in Children and Adolescents. Diabetes causes about 5% of all deaths globally each year. 80% of people with diabetes live in low and middle income countries. Most people with diabetes in low and middle income countries are middle-aged (45-64), not elderly (65+). Diabetes deaths are likely to increase by more than 50% in the next 10 years without urgent action.

November 16: International Day for Tolerance

November 20: Universal Children's Day

November 25: International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

November 29: International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People

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The TOS schools in the Philippines celebrate United Nations Day

Every year the Golden Link College, the Sunshine Learning Center and the TOS Learning Center celebrate United Nations Day.

Students wear the national costumes of different countries, with a sash indicating which country each one represents. Their parents usually take the trouble of looking for the appropriate national costume.


The whole body of students parades around the community with the flag of the United Nations in front. Community members have fun watching the parade and become conscious not only of the UN but of the different countries represented by the students.


The program has a variety of items that introduce the audience (which includes the parents of the students) to interesting information about the countries of the world. For instance, younger children might use greetings in different languages. Older children sometimes give complete short speeches in several languages, such as Spanish, Chinese and French.

Students might give slide presentations on particular features or customs of selected nations. For example, they could share information about the Petronas Buildings in Malaysia; talk about wedding customs in various countries, or demonstrate how New Year is celebrated in different ways around the world.


Sometimes students may deliver speeches about international peace, the history of the United Nations and so on.

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No Time to Stand and Stare

A man stood at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning in 2007. He played six classical masterpieces in 43 minutes. During that time it was rush hour and 1,097 people passed by, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

In the 43 minutes that Joshua Bell played, seven people stopped what they were doing to hang around and take in the performance, at least for a minute. Twenty-seven gave money, most of them on the run – for a total of $32 and change. That leaves the 1,070 people who hurried by, oblivious, many only three feet away, few even turning to look. Only six people stopped and stayed for a while. When he finished playing and silence took over, no-one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

It was all videotaped by a hidden camera. No-one knew it, but the violinist was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing incognito some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made. His performance was arranged by The Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. In a commonplace environment at an unusual hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognise great talent in an unexpected context? Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theatre in Boston where merely pretty good seats sold for $100.

One of the possible conclusions from this experiment could be: if we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing? If we can't take the time out of our lives to stay a moment and listen to one of the best musicians on Earth play some of the best music ever written; if the surge of modern life so overpowers us that we are deaf and blind to something like that – then what else are we missing?

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
   – from Leisure, by W.H. Davies

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