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Activity: Structure and Needs

The number of activities and their dates need to be carefully planned and set to be sensitive to different religious calendars. For example, the activity can last for a week and bring together groups of six to ten participants with one to two mentors in order to allow for intimate group dialogues. Participants can select interest groups, such as drama, music, art, writing, dance or film, which enable them to express their passion and motivation for peace and justice. These interest groups are conducted by a trainer with experience in the field. The promising practice should follow an experiential rather than a didactic approach when it comes to educating participants about different faith traditions. Furthermore, it is recommended that the program includes visits to local religious communities. Workshops and seminars would allow participants to tackle and discuss issues related to spirituality, leadership, and social justice and guest speakers from other local organizations can be invited to lead a discussion with the group. The immersion experience is meant to be implemented by a team consisting of 1-2 mentors for each affinity group and a core implementation team developing and overseeing the activity.

In order to train youth on peace building, young people are chosen from their communities based on their influence and networking abilities in their area, village or university. During the training sessions, they live and work together as an interfaith group and are taught to develop their empowerment, community management, and leadership and conflict-resolution skills. Once back to their homes, they act as peacekeepers and trainers for the younger generations, and unite the communities in their cities, universities, high schools and families as a means to spread awareness and knowledge and to help bring and maintain peace.

In regards to “Better your country”, this activity can gather up to 200 people, which are then divided into smaller groups to engage in dialogue and exchange opinions on different subjects. After discussions, policy notes on social cohesion can be drafted, which would then be sent to state representatives. During the two days, participants work together to find a way to foster reconciliation and social cohesion. The event should be organized in a public space during the summer to be able to gather outside in public parks and draw the attention of people passing by. It requires the assistance of volunteers to conduct the different workshops as well as an individual in charge of communications to attract the youth to the event. One should plan up to 10 groups of 20 people in order to anticipate the number of people attending the event.

The love dice is mainly suitable for schools as an educative tool or ice-breaker, however it can be also used in other contexts by anyone interested in setting themselves a daily goal to follow. With throwing the Dice you choose a universal value to share with the rest of the students each day. It has to be printed on cardboard in order to fold it properly. Once the children receive their love dice, they fold it every morning in order to engage in the activity; at the end of the day, the dice should be unfolded to avoid breaking it. The initiative should be briefly presented to the teachers to decide whether they want to implement this daily activity. The dice is made of sustainable material and if lost it can be easily replaced.

As for other education based programmes, such as “Goodness me Goodness you”, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, responsible for the writing of the curriculum has created a platform displaying all the major tools to implement the program. Anyone can access the database on this website: www.gmgy.ie. This initiative mainly addresses people working in the education field and anyone who wishes to create a safe space for children willing to share and learn about their respective identities.

Camps and scout activities require more resources than the love dice or event-based practices. The InterFaith Youth Camp takes place in a period of one to three days and should welcome a large number of young people (up to 60) from different religions and cultures. It could also last longer depending on the outreach the organization in question is looking for and the resources available. The groups should gather around different sport activities followed by various classes or focus trainings in order to engage the youth in discussions on cultural and religious differences. The classes should focus on the study of religions, the disagreements that occur between different communities, and contemporary issues. Classes should be led by different religious leaders and the youth should be given the opportunity to think about it collectively.

In order for a united scout initiative to work, people from the different branches have to collaborate; this could also be transposed to various other movements that usually separate participants by religious affiliation. Such a global organization opens possibilities for collective action, and is thus in itself an open door for solidarity and mutual understanding. When it comes to scouts, joining hands is part of their basic values.

 

Objectives: Impact and Focus

This is a promising practice because it aims to empower young people from young ages to high school students to be leaders for social change and is designed to foster deep relationships across religious diversity as well as other diverse forms of identity. The activities of the practice focus on issues of social justice and how interfaith engagement and activities can contribute to the solution of those issues. The experience in the immersion camp is meant to inspire young people to include interfaith approaches in their daily lives and spread interfaith understanding and engagement within their peer groups.

This practice also multiplies the impact of peace building training while giving responsibilities to younger generations. A network of young peace ambassadors populates a given region with skilled individuals who are able to manage conflicts and are peacekeepers in their local communities. Furthermore, it raises awareness on the importance of interfaith dialogue, peace building initiatives and social cohesion at a grassroots level. This network also enables an organization to coordinate programs with a broader and direct reach in various communities simultaneously.

On the educational level, the love dice is easy, innovative and fun for children, and at the same time it spreads shared human values, as participants would focus on daily activities that promote caring and love. Through the daily practice of this initiative children learn about common ideals that are important to everyone, regardless of their differences. Moreover, on a general level, educational initiatives focus on pupils and their experiences, and structure the curriculum in a way that allows each child to fully embrace their identity and feel free to share it with their classmates. This curriculum is not only a useful tool against religious prejudice but also a way to prevent extreme communitarianism which would sideline a part pf the child’s identity in the context of social activities with other children. Moreover, it fully involves parents by cooperating with them through the experimental work that the children carry out when telling stories about how they live and why.

Camps and the scout movement are perfect opportunities for youth to meet and strive for the common good. Having them learn about one another’s religion is also a way to challenge stereotypes and advocate for respect and tolerance. The impact of this initiative could be estimated through time as it trains youth for peace and mutual understanding. They are a display of how different people unite around a shared cause, such as religious differences. The goal is to make sure that kids of different backgrounds are given an opportunity to meet, play and work together regardless of their religious and spiritual affiliations.

 

Field Data: Examples and Sources (Activity – Organisation – Location)

1.) Interfaith Youth Initiative (IFYI) – Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries – Newton, Massachusetts, USA

The Interfaith Youth Initiative (IFYI) is a one-week summer immersion experience for thirty to forty high school students hosted by Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries, self-identified as the Boston area’s “oldest interfaith social justice network.” IFYI began in 2001 as a program specifically for Christian youth but was expanded in 2007 to include students from all backgrounds. IFYI attendees come to Boston from across the United States to participate in the event. IFYI, as well as CMM, draw inspiration from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision of the “beloved community.” Five “core values” guide IFYI: Building Bridges, Engaging Faith, Training Leaders, Making Peace, and Serving Others. CMM employs a program director to oversee the development and implementation of IFYI, and several adult mentors (including college students) assist with the program and lead small group discussion and presentations during the week. Since 1966 CMM has worked to bring together religiously and economically diverse communities in peace and justice work. Today, that network consists of nearly 100 congregations, nonprofit agencies and educational institutions in Boston and surrounding cities, with representation from Bahá’í, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Unitarian Universalist, and various Protestant communities, in addition to secular allies inspired by their own conscience for such social justice work. Programming focuses on interfaith education and dialogue, legislative advocacy and social action on issues of shared concern as well as youth leadership and peacemaker training.

 

2.) Interfaith Young Peace Ambassadors – The Aegis Trust – Kigali, Rwanda

After building the memorial for the 1994 Genocide, the Aegis Trust in Rwanda has been maintaining efforts to bring about and keep peace in the country. Each year, the organization holds trainings for the youth to become ambassadors and advocates for peace.

 

3.) Better your Country – YEU Cyprus – Nicosia, Cyprus

“Better your Country” is an initiative carried out by youth seeking global impact and a better future for their country. The two-day event’s aim is to gather all the different narratives existing among the youth, which then would be used as a draft document presented to state authorities. These tasks would empower the youth while engaging them in current issues, thus showing their ambition and state of mind. Promoting social cohesion, diversity and religious understanding through youth and work is the leitmotiv of this initiative.

 

4.) Love Dice – F Proyecto – San Jose, Costa Rica

The F Proyecto Costa Rica is an initiative that organizes awareness events using art and photography. The organization also focuses on educating the youth about peace-building, solidarity and shared human values.  Among their concepts is the love dice, which was shared with schools in San Jose to promote these values among the youth.

 

5.) Goodness me, goodness you! – The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment – Dublin, Ireland

Goodness Me, Goodness You is a faith and belief-nurturing programme. It is not an ethical-moral programme, nor does it assume a secular stance in regards to religious education. Rather than separating religious identity from the educational environment, this practice engages the identities of students, and empowers them to learn about their and other’s faith through the educational curriculum.

 

6.) Interfaith Youth Camp – FFKM (Council of Christian Churches in Madagascar) – Antananarivo, Madagascar

In Madagascar there has always been an ancestral coexistence between Christians and Muslims. The arising of extremism is the reason why the FFKM (Council of Christian Churches in Madagascar) decided to push for the creation of the interfaith youth camp.

 

7.) Scouts United – Federation du Scoutisme Malagache – Antananarivo, Madagascar

In Madagascar, though the country is rather Christian, there is a lack of information on the different denominations within the Christian faith. Federating the different branches of the Malagasy scout movement became a way to teach kids about these differences through communal play time and interaction. This initiative was undertaken because of the success of the federation within the world scout movement. This initiative already occurred in many other countries. As this union federates even more people, collective action has a much wider impact.