15 May 2019

Young people tend to be disproportionately affected by violence and conflict, but they are also often at the forefront of efforts to heal and rebuild their communities. A recent KAICIID workshop in Spain brought together a group of young leaders to train them to do just that.

A young Colombian who found the strength to forgive his uncle’s brutal killing in the guerilla warfare in his country, a Scout from Myanmar who is building sorely-needed bridges between Buddhists and Muslims in his country: the stories of each of the young people who gathered at the Cordoba Forum Youth Seminar from 13-15 May were inspiring. Each young participant brought their own unique story of adversity, personal triumph and dialogue, and through sharing these stories, learned about common challenges and aspirations, and proposed ways to work together to promote coexistence and dialogue.

Camilo Ayala from Colombia lost his uncle and his home to guerilla warfare in his hometown. Returning to the same town for the first time many years later, he chose to meet and to forgive his uncle’s killer. He is now a peace activist.

“I am trying to change the mind of the actors of the conflict in my country so that they can think of themselves as survivors by looking at the commonalities between the perpetrators and victims of the war,“ Camilo said. “The kinds of differences we had in the past, that contributed to war and conflict, could now be the base for making our society more inclusive and open in the future.”

Indeewaree Malki Thotawattage, a Sri Lankan national working in Qatar through Initiatives of Change, was moved by these stories, and like others present, bonded with her peers through exercises in compassionate listening.

“I think for me the benefit of sharing stories is that it inspires us, and also challenges us to be empathetic and put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. It leads to a collective compassion, knowing that the person in front of you has travelled a long way both physically and emotionally to be in this space. It helps us work together toward our common goal of peace.“

The group of 30 young men and women from 17 countries received intensive training in dialogue, mediation and facilitation from KAICIID experts. The participants also prepared recommendations for governments, religious leaders and civil society, which will be presented to the participants of the Cordoba Forum, from 15-17 May. The annual Cordoba Forum convenes over 100 representatives from governments, NGOs, religious groups and civil society. Together these global leaders are finding ways to foster mutual understanding and social solidarity around the world.

“We brought all of you here because you are the future, and you are the ones who will face the challenges left by my generation,” said Faisal bin Muaammar, Secretary General of KAICIID, in his address to Seminar participants. “We are inspired by your energy and by your motivation, and we are looking to you for ideas and solutions for how we can make a better future for your generation, and future generations of our world.

“Something like the Youth Symposium, in which KAICIID is an expert, particularly for such a multicultural young public was bound to be a success. Not just a success for itself, but success as an asset to the Forum,“ said Jacques Moreillon, Chairman of the Cordoba Forum. “Youth participation is a part of the DNA of the Forum. I cannot imagine it without this kind of participation.“