Consultation Papers

Living our Faiths in Community:
Young People as Peacemakers and Culture Bearers



5-11 September, 2004
Hyderabad, India


Jointly organized by:
Asia Pacific Alliance of YMCAs (APAY), Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), Church Development Service (EED), Germany, and Henry Martyn Institute


 Concept Paper 




 Final Statement  

        Consultation papers

Case Study from Taiwan, CHAN Hsiu-Yin (Word version)

Four Pillars of Peace, Siriphone Niradsay (Word version)

Indo-Naga Conflict: A Case Study, Khipenlo Aponza (Word version)

Khmer Ahimsa Introduction to Interfaith Consultation in India (Word version)

Living our faiths in community: Young people as peacemaker and culture bearer, Ayesha Rao (Word version)

Peace Activities in Nagaland (India), Mr. A Vikheho Chrisho, Mr. Takatoba, Nagaland Development Outreach (Word version)

Siam (Thailand), Kitiporn Promted (Word version)

Sri Lanka Ethnic Conflict, Warna Sankha Wijesinghe (Word version)


Photos 

Concept Paper

Background

 
This consultation aims to strengthen young Asians as an important human resource for peace-making. The starting point is a growing culture of violence in the multi-religious and multi-cultural reality of Asia. The consultation is part of a series of youth events aimed at encouraging inter-religious cooperation. It is part of the recommended follow-up from the Consultation on Inter-religious Cooperation held in Prapat, Indonesia in March 2003, organized by the Christian Conference of Asia and the Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs. That event gave rise to a Continuing committee to an Inter-religious Cooperation in Asia (ICP) who are the main organizing planning team for the present consultation.

Dates and Venue
When: Sunday 5 Sept. to Saturday 11 Sept. 2004
Where: Aman-Shanti Nilayam, Henry Martyn Institute Campus, Shivrampally, Hyderabad, India

Goals
        - To bring together young people of different cultures and religions
        - To affirm and promote the role of young people as promoters of peace and
           bearers of a culture of peaceful co-existence.

        - To listen, share and reflect on each other’s spirituality and experiences of 
           living with people of other faiths.

        - To study together and analyze current issues affecting inter-religious
           cooperation and dialogue.

        - To develop and enhance leadership capacity in fostering inter-religious
          dialogue and cooperation in actions that uphold life-affirming values.


Organizers
ICP Continuing and Steering Committee and Coordinator, Max Ediger


Sponsors
    - Christian Conference of Asia (CCA)
    - Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst (EED)
    - Asia Pacific Alliance of YMCAs (APAY)
    - Henry Martyn Institute (HMI)

Facilitators
Henry Martyn Institute resource team


Participants
Profile:

    - youth (i.e. 30 years and below)
    - representing four major religious traditions (Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist)
    - from Asia
    - men and women (50% each)

Selection preferences:
    - Good facility in English: understanding and speaking
    - Having community-based (grassroots) experience (at least 50% of
      participants)

    - Involvement with inter-religious cooperation and/or conflict resolution across
      communities (at least 50% of participants)

    - Promising future leaders

Numbers/categories:
The total number of participants is 40. They consist of:

20 international youth representatives
4 Local youth representatives from conflict prone areas in India (Kashmir, Northeast India, Gujarat, Dalit)
4 Local youth representatives from Hyderabad
3 HMI staff members with interest and involvement in peacebuilding and community work
4 ICP Committee Members
4 representatives: EED, CCA, APAY, ICP Committee Coordinator
2 facilitators from HMI


Selection process timeframe:
end-May: Invitations sent out
mid-June: Applications submitted
end-June: selection process completed; participants notified
10th Aug: all required writings submitted by participants



Programme Process and Methodology

The workshop will use a process-oriented approach. The methodology will be to learn primarily from the people gathered, rather than from speakers or external resource persons. Rather than considering papers which are presented formally, we will use exercises and activities to generate thoughtful findings. Our aim is to capture the emerging information and analysis through careful documentation. This becomes a valuable resource when the Report is shared subsequently among participants and interested others.


We present an overview of the activities as they are planned to meet the five specified goals.

Goal 1: To bring together young people of different cultures and religions
            - Accomplished through a careful and successful selection process.

Goal 2: To affirm and promote the role of young people as promoters of peace and bearers of a culture of peaceful co-existence.
            - To collectively, as a group, produce a booklet which would include:
                    - “case studies”/stories brought by participants
                    - biodata with photo of each participant
                    - documentation of the consultation process
                    - any findings and analysis from the consultation
                    - drawings
                    - photos
                    - an appendix of devotional materials


The booklet affirms young people by highlighting their experiences; it also affirms them as they construct the booklet together. The contents of the book gives strong positive examples of the role of young people in promoting peace.

Goal 3: To listen, share and reflect on each other’s spirituality and experiences of living with people of other faiths.
            - Morning devotion to take place each day; organized by teams of
              participants who concentrate on offerings, rituals, etc. which are a
              source of strength in working for peace. There is also a time for feedback
              on the devotion process, and an assessment of the experience as part of
              creating the final closing devotion.
        
            - An activity/exercise which helps people to identify and defuse
              stereotypes.

            - Analyzing faith communities and the effects of religion
            - does religion play a role: 1) encouraging us, 2) dividing us
            - what role does religion play in the “case studies”/stories we shared? Do
              we see any trends?


Goal 4: To study together and analyze current issues affecting inter-religious cooperation and dialogue.
            -  Looking at, analyzing “case studies”/stories and taking them deeper
            - Looking at trends across regions

Goal 5: To develop and enhance leadership capacity in fostering inter-religious dialogue and cooperation in actions that uphold life-affirming values.
            - through a participatory style process, which gives opportunities for
               people to lead and take initiative, and get feedback within the
               Consultation itself, strengthening people’s leadership.

            - through the collective effort of achieving a challenging task: producing a
              booklet

            - by writing “case studies”, presenting them before the group, and
              strengthening them so that they are highly appreciated stories which
              effectively communicate key ideas and issues.

            - by practicing and developing practical skills at dealing positively with
              conflict.



Notes and Recommendations
Dedicated documentation team
To have a documentation team whose only job it is to see that documentation is comprehensive and analytically strong, compiled fairly quickly, and attractive in presentation.


Exposure visits
To ensure that the visit to Hyderabad provides occasions to become acquainted with 1) the culture, history and people of the region; 2) local challenges and initiatives in interfaith dialogue and peacebuilding.


To do this we suggest:
            - the Inauguration be an evening event with a local cultural component
              (eg. dance, music) and local participation;

            - there be one evening for participants to attend a local cultural
              programme (eg. the sound and light show at Golconda fort);

            - as part of the Consultation process, the participants spend ˝ a day at
              local initiatives (the group divided up to visit several NGOs or
              organizations) to understand practical work, and then return to share
              and discuss with the group what they saw and observed.


Solidarity Night
To have the final night before the Closing of the workshop as “Solidarity Night”, when participants organize a programme which showcases their talents and other offerings, and underlines the rich diversity of cultures they represent.


Participant Preparation
To help people prepare for this event, and to encourage participants’ confidence and leadership, they will be asked to assemble in advance a number of materials:

            - their full contact information,
            - a personal introduction which gives details about their involvements,
              commitments, interests and goals;

            - written “case studies”/stories which highlight their own experiences or
              the experiences of others in their region re. interfaith initiatives leading
              to increased peace;

            - devotional materials which are a source of strength in working for peace
              coming from two sources: their own tradition, other traditions, cultures,
              practices which they find spiritually inspiring or challenging.


Materials
When people arrive they will receive folders containing (among other things):

        - list of participants with full contact information,
        - personal introduction/biodata for each participant,
        - people’s written “case studies”/stories.
        - Introduction to India; introduction to Hyderabad (with map)
        - Updated program schedule

Steering Committee
    - A 4-member Committee to be selected (as much as possible) before the
    Consultation on the basis of people’s submitted written materials (criteria: clarity
    of ideas and written expression, punctuality in getting material in on time),
    and/or personal recommendations of the ICP Committee.

    - People to be informed and their consent taken on day of arrival at consultation
    by ICP Committee (nb. importance of having back-ups also selected in case
    people do not accept responsibility).


Responsibilities:
        - collecting and finalizing documentation of the workshop;
        - assessing the workshop (through evaluation by participants and own
          analysis), and giving feedback and recommendations about the event;

        - identifying possible next steps (reflecting what the full group is thinking).

At introduction stage of consultation to introduce the Steering Committee to the full group, explaining:
        - Who they are,
        - How they were selected,
        - What their tasks and responsibilities are.    



Final Statement

We, 48 participants from Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Philippines, India, Bangladesh, Taiwan, Indonesia, Hong Kong and America met in Henry Martyn Institute at Aman Shanti Nilayam-Shivrampally Hyderabad, India from 5-11 September 2004 to attend a consultation on ‘Living our Faiths in Community’ organized by APAY, CCA and EED. We came from regions and countries ravished by wars, conflict and violence, and representing different faiths, belief systems and ethnicities. During the five days, we explored, shared and deliberated on how our different religions can be used to promote peace, harmony and unity in our communities, region and the world.

We acknowledge the presence of a unifying power of compassion and love in our lives and our work which brings us together to work for justice, peace and harmony. Our rootedness in this belief is what motivated us to gather here as a multi-faith, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural community of young people to study the root causes of conflict and seek positive alternatives to bring about transformation. We also acknowledge that each of us has a significant role to play in co-creating a new and just world.

In the year 2000, the United Nations declared the following decade as the ‘Decade of a Culture of Peace.’ In reality the world, especially Asia, remains filled with conflict, violence and division. In the midst of these realities, we recognize that all religions promote unity, harmony, love, peace and tolerance and could play a significant role in helping realize the UN’s ‘Decade of a Culture of Peace’.

As we explored Asian realities through personal experiences and case studies from our respective regions, we identified five major issues that contribute to conflict and seriously impact the lives of all people in the region, especially the marginalized. These five issues are:

1. Globalization

We have seen the negative impact of those aspects of globalization that create unjust economic structures and relationships, preventing the vast majority of the people from enjoying the benefits of their own resources while filling the pockets of a powerful few.

2. Identity

The rise of chauvinism and dominance by majority groups in many countries has marginalized minority groups giving rise to power struggles. The response to these struggles is often more severe repression, further alienating the minority groups. Thus violence spirals further out of control.

3. Religion

Religion is often misunderstood, misinterpreted and misused by extremist groups, resulting in hostilities, mistrust, hatred and violence. Even though all religions teach tolerance and love, these misrepresentations dehumanize societies and breakdown conditions for peaceful co-existence.

4. Militarization

We observed that militarization does not provide people with a true sense of security and thus alternative forms of security, from local to the regional level, need to be explored and modeled by the interfaith community.

5. Patriarchy

Our social systems are deeply rooted in patriarchy and many of our religious institutions are sources that reinforce this injustice. This contributes to the marginalization of women, both in religious communities and in the society at large.


Our vision as youth is that religious communities of all faiths will come together in unity and cooperation to creatively address these identified issues. We as youth in Asia believe that it is our responsibility to work toward this vision by building a network that is multi-faith, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and regional in nature.

From experiences shared through our case studies and discussions, we became more aware of our collective strength and potential in working for justice and peace at the local, national and regional levels. To more effectively utilize these strengths we need to build an interfaith regional network that can educate, organize and mobilize youth as agents of change. Through our lives and work, we will strive to be examples of an alternative society in which the five identified crucial issues are challenged and transformed.

This can be achieved by:
        - Conducting local, national and regional workshops/consultations that would
        provide skills and knowledge needed to address these issues.

        - Building national and regional inter-faith networks that can cooperatively
        respond to violence of all kinds and forms in the region.

        - Organizing public campaigns to pressurize governments, religious
        institutions/bodies and the civil society through creatively using all forms of
        media.

        - Creating spaces and platforms for interfaith dialogue and cooperation.
        - Utilizing development and social programs that respond to the felt needs of
        communities as a channel for raising awareness and organizing for action.

        - Setting up exposures, exchange visits and live-in experience programs for
        youth and grassroots communities.

        - Reaching out to support groups for financial aid and human resources that
        help sustain local and regional interfaith initiatives.



We further recommend to the international community that:
        - Assistance be given to organize workshops/consultations and other inter-
        faith youth programs to help strengthen and expand the regional network.

        - To help provide opportunities for interfaith youth of Asia to study and learn
        the skills and knowledge needed to build peace constituencies.

        - Support be given to establish an interfaith youth center for research,
        documentation, publication, and dissemination of information that can
        strengthen the work of youth in confronting the issues identified.

        - Help build interfaith spiritual centers that foster interfaith understanding,
        cooperation and inner transformation.

        - Governments, religious institutions and UN bodies be urged to support
        interfaith youth initiatives for justice and peace.



We urge that all women, young people and marginalized communities affected by political, economic, religious or social policies, be given a voice in decision-making processes.


May peace prevail in the world.