Addressing climate change
The 50 young people from 24 countries sent a message of hope to the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28), which will be hosted by the United Arab Emirates at the end of 2023. The message was delivered during a special ceremony, during which they planted an olive tree, symbolizing the importance of youth making positive contributions in addressing contemporary global challenges and building peace.
Hailing from Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe, forum participants expressed their hope for the COP28 conference to yield results that contribute to mitigating this global humanitarian threat.
They emphasized that planting an olive tree is an invitation to foster environmental peace and protect life on this planet. They stressed the need for open discussions between youth, civil society leaders, and religious leaders and for the visions, experiences, initiatives, and proposals of young people to be heard and considered.
Secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Elders Judge Mohamed Abdelsalam stated that he is pleased with the positive spirit demonstrated by the participants in the second edition of the Emerging Peacemakers Forum. He also looks forward to their active role in addressing environmental and societal challenges, highlighting the importance of raising awareness about environmental peace issues and promoting collective action to tackle global challenges for a better future for humanity.
Listening to each other
A keynote speaker at the forum, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, shared with students that peace is not a given these days. Dr Leah Pisar, chair of the Aladdin Project, whose father survived the Holocaust, stressed the need to talk and listen to one another.
Pisar combats extremism by teaching the universal lessons of the Holocaust around the Second World War era.
"This group is here to talk about building peace, which, if you follow current events, is not a given these days. The fact that you are gathered here is already a huge achievement in that direction.
"You are the emergent peacemakers; your interactions, the vibrant cultural backgrounds that you each bring to the table are the most precious ingredients for what all of us seek to achieve – and that is to help build an international society that is less violence, and more just and prosperous,” Pisar said.
As the students sought spiritual nourishment at the forum, another keynote speaker, known as Mama Shamsa, urged them to “practise humanity.”
Shamsa Abubakar Fadhil works with youth in Kenya—young people who once turned to heinous crimes. She recounted her tough upbringing and how she helps turn those youth from crime to community.
“You don’t get tired of doing God’s work,” she said. “We have to talk to each other. I have to know what you feel and you have to know what I feel.”
The setting for the forum is the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, overlooked by Swiss Alpine mountains and Lake Leman.
They spent their first day getting to know each other informally.
"We hope and pray you will begin to support each other in the years ahead," said Canon Sarah Snyder, founding director of Rose Castle Foundation. "We are convinced that our faith tradition, our cultural traditions, and our understanding of how we are different, not just how we're the same, are really important ingredients for sustainable peace."
Mohamed Elamin, the program director at the Muslim Council of Elders, said, "One of the pillars of the Muslim Council of Elders is to work with you—empowering youth by giving them the necessary techniques, tools, and also the knowledge to lead that process of establishing peace in their communities.”
WCC general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay expressed joy at being one of the three partners hosting the event. "We firmly believe young people have the potential to be powerful agents of peace and social transformation," he said.
A graduation ceremony will be held on 13 July in the Main Hall of the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, and will be broadcast live via www.oikoumene.org/live
Keynote speeches and reflections will be shared, and representatives of the student body will also speak about their experience and the road to peace that lies ahead.