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1 newsletter winter 2013 INSIDE THIS ISSUE Youth Pre-Assembly page 1 Youth Testimonial by Hannah Ondiek page 4 The 9th World Assembly page 5 The MENA Council Meeting page 7 The RfP Global Interfaith Youth Network harnesses the energy and commitment of religious youth leaders all over the world to advance the mission of multi-religious cooperation for peace. The Network gained full momentum in 2006 when the six regional inter-religious youth networks were launched in Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, Latin America & the Caribbean and the Middle East. Post-Assembly Edition Youth Pre-Assembly Global Interfaith Youth Network Transforming Conflict, Promoting Peace & Advancing Sustainable Development On November 19, 2013, in a prelude to the 9th World Assembly, youth leaders came together for the Youth Pre-Assembly, where they addressed their network delegates and discussed how their religious communities and networks can Welcome the Other by advancing human dignity, shared well-being, and a more robust notion of citizenship. Lawrence Chong, moderator, Religions for Peace Asia & Pacific Interfaith Youth Network, challenged the youth delegates by stating, Religions for Peace Youth both individually and institutionally, need to mobilize in order to make an impact on the world. As part of the Pre-Assembly, youth were organized into four working groups to formulate recommendations on how to address the commission themes of the 9th World Assembly Welcoming the Other: conflict prevention and transformation; just and harmonious societies; human development that respects the earth; and religious and multi-religious education. The Youth Network was very active during the 9th World Assembly, adding their voice to important discussions on the Assembly commission themes. Youth delegates also pushed for the inclusion of youth delegates on the Declaration, Nominating, and Steering Committees. Today, RfP GIYN is developing programs to stop war, end poverty and protect the earth. Follow facebook.com/rfp. GIYN

2 The Newly Elected International Youth Committee The RfP Global Interfaith Youth Network is led by the International Youth Committee (IYC), comprised of fifteen members representing the world s faith traditions from six continents. The members of IYC shall consist of official youth representatives of religious communities and other outstanding religious youth leaders with profound knowledge and experience in inter-religious cooperation for peace at the regional and/or global level. The IYC shall be composed of no less than twelve and no more than sixteen members, with due respect for achieving broad representation in terms of geography, religion and gender. They shall normally be under the age of 30 years at the time of the World Assembly. The IYC shall engage in global advocacy and action for youth-led multi-religious cooperation for peace, assist in the development of, and serve as liaison with, national and regional inter-religious youth networks and develop relevant partnerships with youth organizations, United Nations and other inter-governmental agencies, as well as civil society groups. During the Pre-Assembly, the Global Interfaith Youth Network deliberated on and voted in new members to the International Youth Committee (IYC). List of IYC Members: Coordinator: Rori Picker Neiss, Orthodox Judaism Deputy Coordinators: Sunila Ammar, Protestant and Thomas Gilet, Muslim Africa - Catherine Njuguna, Roman Catholic, IMCS - Moses F.M.D Nemour, Muslim, IRC- Liberia Asia - Sunila Ammar, Protestant, CCA - Takashi Hashimoto, Buddhist, RfP Japan - Dahnil Anzar Simanjutak, Muslim, Muhammadiya Europe - Natalie Pylypiv, Greek Catholic, RfP EIYN - Thomas Gilet, Muslim, Muslim Scouts of France - Rupal Maru, Hindu, National Hindu Students Forum Latin America - Marcelo Leites, Protestant, WSCF - Victor Gomes, Roman Catholic, Focolare MENA - Ramy Nair, Coptic Protestant, CEOSS - Manar Bilal, Muslim, Syria Interfaith Youth Network North America - Rori Picker Neiss, Orthdox Judaism, Bais Abraham Congregation - Ethan Bodnaruk, Mennonite, Mennonite Church Some of the youth delegates to the RfP 9th World Assembly 2

3 Youth Pre-Assembly Declaration Listening to RfP Syria Interfaith Youth Network youth coordinator, Manar Bilal s account of the situation in Syria and recognizing the violent reality in all parts of the world, we, the delegates and participants of the Youth Pre-Assembly of Religions for Peace, express our pain and deepest concern over human suffering all around us. As religious youth leaders, empowered and inspired by our respective religious and spiritual traditions, we recognize the urgent need to truly welcome and embrace others and to attain sustainable peace. We reaffirm our commitment to advancing peace in all areas, including conflict prevention and transformation, citizenship for just and harmonious society, sustainable human development, and religious and multi-religious education. We commit to advocate for and engage youth in these topics. The notion of accepting, forgiving and loving the other shall guide our actions. We are calling upon the delegates of the World Assembly to join us in challenging the obstacles to peace and to ensur support and access to resources for youth-led, grassroot-level initiatives. We further demand increased efforts in quality peace and civic education and non-violence programs for youth around the world. In addition, we emphasize the importance of empowering female leadership in all sectors. We urge the International Youth Committee to represent their respective regions and ensure their contributions and needs reach the appropriate body within Religions for Peace. We further expect the IYC to act as a bridge between regional and national interfaith networks, civil society and religious and spiritual leaders. Here you are accepted, here you are safe, here you are forgiven, here you are loved - Opening meditation lead by Ven. Bhanu Cittadhanto, Youth Pre-Assembly, Vienna

4 Seeking a Common Ground through Uniting Religions. Hannah Ondiek, member of the RfP African Interfaith Youth Network, writes of her experience at the 9th World Assembly. I was privileged to be one of the delegates who attended the Religions for Peace (RfP) 9th World Assembly held in Vienna, Austria from 21st 23rd November 2013 and the Youth Pre-Assembly on 20th November as a representative from the African Youth Interfaith Network. The assembly was sponsored by Religions for Peace supported by The King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) under the theme Welcoming the other: Action for Human Dignity, Citizenship and shared Well-Being brought together more that 600 Religious leaders, friends and partners of Religions for Peace. Founded in 1970, Religions for Peace has since been working to Stop War, Protect the Earth, Build Communities and End Poverty. Noting that 84% of the world population, identify with a religious group, meaning more than 8 in 10 people identify with a religion, the work of a united voice through religion is vital in the global Development agenda and the place of religious leaders cannot be more emphasized. Some alarming statistics from one of the presentations showed that in 2007 global religious restrictions was at 29% and by 2011 it was at 40%. This shows the importance of a united religious voice in safeguarding religious freedom. The conference theme song lyrics and tune which still resonate in my mind Rising up I ll walk with you, what looks so far is near, waking together without fear, Ueomuite (Japanese word meaning Looking Up ) goes deep and speaks to the heart and if applied will go a long way in fostering mutual understanding and global peace which though may seem ambitious, can be achieved. The most exciting part of the conference was meeting and interacting with people, young, old, women, and men from all different faiths, beliefs and religions. I never thought I would meet a Monk, a Native American, and sit with Muslim Sheiks and Muftis but the assembly facilitated that. I learned and appreciate other people s religions by learning new things about the different faiths mostly how similar we are on issues relating to peace, respecting dignity and now with more effort than before the fire to promote religious cooperation has been ignited in me. Seeing how few women and youth had been represented previously especially as religious leaders was a point of concern but I believe gradually more women and youth will be seen taking centre stage. The assembly strived to include the two groups who had previously been sidelined. I was pleased to see more women and youth making presentations on the work they have done and the impacts they have made. One great example was the arms down campaign led by youth. One woman whose story caught my attention was Dr. Layla Alkhafaji who was tortured for 6 months jailed for 11 years during the reign of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, she wasn t allowed to see her family during that time and her mother passed away while she was in prison. She was finally was released and after being in exile in Canada went back to Iraq and became a member of parliament and has since then been a human rights defender. From Layla s story, one of the lessons from one of my favorite books Man s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl comes out clearly where even if she was in prison she was free to think, believe and hope; she may have been chained but her mind was free. Highlighted below is notable quote from H.E. John Cardinal Onaiyekan a Religious leader present at the assembly, "Often, human beings identify themselves by their differences instead of our common humanity, we need to seek a common ground so the so called other is not a stranger anymore". In the end, a quote by Dr. William Vendley, the Religions for Peace Secretary General, summed up where it all starts, when he stated that "Promoting dignity starts in the home, by influencing our children". 4

5 RfP 9th World Assembly: The Religions for Peace 9th World Assembly took place November 20-22, The Assembly brought together more than 600 religious leaders representing Baha i, Buddhist, Christian, Tao, Hindu, Indigenous, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Shinto, and Zoroastrian communities and focused on the theme: Welcoming the Other. Special commission sessions were held on issues of: conflict prevention and transformation; just and harmonious societies; human development that respects the earth; and religious and multi-religious education. Many prestigious religious leaders attended the World Assembly, commenting on recent achievements and the Assembly theme. Key speakers included: H.E. Sheikh Shaban Mubajje, Grand Mufti of Uganda Muslim Supreme Council and Co-Moderator of African Council of Religious Leaders RfP; Dharma Master Most Venerable Sitagu Sayadaw of Myanmar; His All Holiness Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch; and H.E. Mr. Faisal bin Adulrahman bin Muaammar, Secretary General of the KAICIID Dialogue Center. Additionally, special sessions were held on the Responsibility to Protect, Child Survival, and the Protection of Internally Displaced Populations and Refugees. 5

6 Welcome the Stranger Leaders of different faiths at the Assembly signed Welcoming the Stranger: Affirmation for Faith Leaders. The declaration, developed by diverse faith communities and organisations in collaboration with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), is a commitment of religious leaders to welcome the stranger in their communities. Dr. Volker Turk, Director of International Protection for the Office of the UN- HCR, highlighted that, The idea of asylum is a legal concept, but its roots, its moral, its values are rooted in all faiths. The declaration begins, A core value of my faith is to welcome the stranger, the refugee, the internally displaced, the other. I shall treat him or her as I would like to be treated. I will challenge others, even leaders in my faith community, to do the same. A Historic Demonstration of Unity In a moving demonstration of the power of religious communities to welcome the other, religious leaders from both North and South Korea took the stage together at the Closing Session of the 9th World Assembly of Religions for Peace. To emotional and extended applause, they joined hands, bowed, and asked the assembled Religions for Peace family to pray and work for peace on the Korean peninsula. Jan Jen Won, President of the Korean Council of Religionists (North Korea), Although Korea is divided by north and south, in our religious communities we are not divided. We are performing reunification. Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong, President of the Korean Conference of Religions for Peace, said, We will to do our best to continue our work to bring peace to all of Korea Peace in Korea will surely bring peace to the world. Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong, President of the Korean Conference of Religions for Peace, said, We will to do our best to continue our work to bring peace to all of Korea Peace in Korea will surely bring peace to the world. 6

7 Religious Leaders Call for Release of Two Syrian Bishops More than 600 religious leaders at the 9th World Assembly of Religions for Peace unanimously appealed for the release of two abducted Syrian bishops. Throughout the 9th World Assembly of Religions for Peace, delegates from different faiths around the world sent prayers to and expressed concern for those who are suffering in Syria. On the floor of the Assembly, delegates unanimously affirmed the appeal for the release of Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim and Bishop Yazigi. Syrian religious leaders attending the Assembly also made individual appeals for the bishops release during the Assembly. MENA Council Meeting Religious leaders from all faith traditions from throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) convened in Vienna on November 23, the day after the Assembly. The MENA Council meeting focused on religious freedom, citizenship, and protection of vulnerable populations and called upon all religious believers to become a united force to help ensure that governments honor the full rights, protect and serve all citizens without exception. Different Faiths, Common Action. Since its founding in 1970, Religions for Peace has been guided by the vision of a world in which religious communities cooperate effectively for peace, by taking concrete common action. Religions for Peace is committed to leading efforts to advance effective multi-religious cooperation for peace on global, regional, national and local levels while ensuring that the religious communities organized on these same levels assume and exercise appropriate leadership and ownership of these efforts. Send us your news and work, and we ll include it in the next newsletter! Questions, comments, or news? Kindly contact Ms. Elida Jbeili Youth Program Officer Religions for Peace International 777 United Nations Plaza, 9th Fl. New York, NY (212)

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