The speaker was Dr Leah Pisar, chair of the Aladdin Project, which combats extremism by teaching the universal lessons of the Holocaust around the Second World War era. The project builds on knowledge among Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and Pisar was a keynote speaker at the Emerging Peacemakers Forum near Geneva.

She spoke to 52 young people from Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe, the youngest being 20, taking part in the 5-14 July forum hosted by the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Muslim Council of Elders, and Rose Castle Foundation, just outside Geneva, Switzerland.

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.

"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.”

Value of the programme

Pisar said that the value of the programme is that the people participants meet might have different ideas, as she noted that the experiences, cultural vantage points, and encounters of such a meeting "help each of us see beyond our own viewpoints, and work together to create common experiences and common values."

The Emerging Peacemakers Forum is an international community gathering youth from different beliefs and backgrounds to talk and build peace.

Organizers said holding the forum emerged through the recurring dialogues between the East and the West, initiated by Prof. Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, to build bridges of dialogue and cooperation between the East and the West.

The first edition of the Emerging Peacemakers Forum was held in London in 2018.

Pisar said that Geneva is symbolically important for the gathering this year as it has been the backdrop of many peace talks over several decades.

"And of course, it is the second headquarters of the United Nations at the Palais des Nations," said Pisar noting that other UN agencies are headquartered in Geneva, such as the World Health Organization, the UN High Commission for Refugees, the International Labour Organization, and others.

She cited the UAE, which currently sits on the UN Security Council, and held its presidency in June, posting a resolution to call out the dangers of hate speech and human conflict.

It was voted on unanimously, with Pope Francis sending a message as he was coming out of the hospital and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar addressing the council.

"I don't think the Security Council has ever been addressed in such a way. And again, the fact that in tandem, the Security Council and the General Assembly took this up shows this is a vital, collective security issue - hate speech."

"Young Christians, Jews, and Muslims begin a peace-building journey" - WCC news release 6 July 2023

Photo gallery of the Emerging Peacemakers Forum 2023

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