Peacebuilding, conflict prevention, climate change, gender equality and multi-faith partnerships were all at the top of the agenda yesterday as dozens of KAICIID Fellows, past and present, Youth representatives from several of the world’s major religions and global policy institutions gathered virtually to participate in the KAICIID G20i Fellows and Youth Forum.
The meeting saw a series of fruitful discussions between youth leaders from across the world, as well as the International Dialogue Centre’s International Fellows and alumni ahead of next week’s G20 Interfaith Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Yesterday’s G20i Youth and Fellows Forum was the last event prior to next week’s G20 Interfaith Forum.
The Fellows and Youth Forum began with H.E. Faisal bin Muaammar, Secretary General of the International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID) paying tribute to the talents of Fellows. “I have often say that our Fellows are our true ambassadors of dialogue,” he said. “The 250 men and women who call themselves KAICIID Fellows represent the very best of interreligious dialogue, and represent the change we want to see in the world.”
Drawing on insights learned from six regional meetings attended by over 500 participants this year, H.E. Faisal bin Muaammar stressed the importance of listening to youth leaders. “Our goal is to bring the voices of our Fellows and youth to the ears of the world leaders meeting at the G20 Summit. The goal of the G20 Interfaith Forum is to ensure that religious voices, as diverse as possible, are represented and included in policymaking. That interreligious dialogue is recognized as a tool for building peaceful and prosperous societies.”
“To our Fellows and the young people joining us today, I will say this: you have the misfortune to live in interesting times. COVID-19 is reshaping our world, and your generation will unfortunately bear the brunt of the decisions made by world leaders in dealing with the pandemic. Climate change, natural disasters, conflict and inequality are all on the rise. Half the world’s population is under the age of 30. You are the leaders of tomorrow, and the world is yours. I invite you to use this opportunity to speak honestly, to think deeply, about the challenges we are all facing, and to tell world leaders clearly what you want them to do.”
Co-organized by KAICIID, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAoC), the G20 Interfaith Forum Association, and the National Committee for Interfaith and Intercultural Dialogue in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the G20 Interfaith Forum offers an annual platform where networks of religiously linked and faith-inspired actors engage on important global issues, within the broad framework of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the G20 host country’s agenda.
H.E. Miguel Ángel Moratinos Cuyaubé, UN High-Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, reminded attendees of the importance of empowering youth leaders and groups. “We are trying to empower young men and young women and youth led society and recognize that they are powerful agents for social change,” he said. “I think we have over the years developed a lot of programmes and projects in order that we put together young people coming from different cultures and religions, and demonstrating that they can respect each other, that they can talk to each other, that they can work together and that they can create what we call one humanity.”
H.E. Miguel Ángel Moratinos Cuyaubé highlighted some of the challenges faced by young populations around the world during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“It is a tremendous burden and a mental challenge for everybody, but particularly for youth,” he said. “The pandemic further exacerbated all challenges young women and men have to confront. Millions have lost their jobs and hundreds of thousands remain without education due to the partial closure of schools and universities. There was a failure to address those challenges which led to alienating young people and their trust in the political establishment.”
The day’s events culminated in the presentation of dozens of recommendation from workshops comprised of KAICIID Fellows and youth leaders. These included recommendations gathered by Fellows as Ambassadors of peacebuilding and conflict prevention, educators and mobilizers for youth and women.
Youth leaders also contributed recommendations on countering hate speech and the use of social media as a space for dialogue, as addressing the needs of young female refugees and migrants, as well as ecologial challenges.
Recommendations included the reform of higher-level university and adult education institutions to implement multi-faith curriculums and diversity training, protections against cyber bullying and addressing the rise in populism and extreme-right hate and violence throughout Europe and the U.S.
Other recommendations seek to fund research that investigates the connection between theology and ecology to incorporate findings as part climate change agendas, and the development of a multimedia Ecoliteracy Toolkit that could be used as an educational guide to help safeguard the planet.
One of the key areas of concern among Fellows and youth leaders in 2020 is the continued employment of social media, which is used by 3.8 billion people worldwide, as a tool for spreading hate speech.
“We live in a global village and perhaps now what could be accurately described as a global cottage,” said Ms. Jemima Nartey, Vice Chairperson of World Scout Committee. “Thanks to the power of the internet, making communication and socialisation is easier than ever before, especially in this COVID time. Unfortunately, this also brings with it a specific global danger, online hate speech. This has taken place generally on social media networks such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter, because of their popularity among people, but more especially among young people. These are suddenly being used purposely to attack persons or groups on basis of attributes such as race, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability gender and others.”
Prof. Katherine Marshall, member of the G20 Interfaith Forum Advisory Council and Senior Fellow, World Faiths Development Dialog Centre at Georgetown University's Berkley Center, highlighted the importance of including young voices in issues affecting the G20.
“Youth are not the future, they are the present,” she said. “We need the ideas, the energy, the force of young people. The challenge is always figuring out good ways to bring their voices to the table, to make sure they are not neglected and many organisations have a tendency not to hear young people. I think that the spirit of this meeting today and our participation in the G20 is very much to put those voice squarely and clearly into the complex processes.
The Forum was closed by an interactive session conducted by the Youth and Fellows and a cultural performance on a traditional Oud instrument played by a member of SALAM for Cultural Communication.