Participants of YATRA 2015 pose with their symbols on the opening day in Metta Karuna Centre, Siam Reap. © Juyeol Yun

Participants of YATRA 2015 pose with their symbols on the opening day in Metta Karuna Centre, Siam Reap. © Juyeol Yun

Young ecumenical leaders from Asia have met in Siam Reap, Cambodia to examine how religious traditions can offer resources to overcome religious violence in a changing Asian context.

Some 25 young Asian ecumenical leaders are engaged in the World Council of Churches (WCC) Youth in Asia Training for Religious Amity (YATRA) programme, from 7 to 20 June.

""The YATRA training is an important emotional and spiritual learning experience," said Marietta Ruhland, WCC staff member and co-organiser of the YATRA programme.

"For many of the participants,” she added, “this is the first time they have travelled alone, on a flight, outside their country. But here they have found a second, broader family - that of international ecumenical fellowship."

The consultation is organized by the Inter-religious Dialogue and Cooperation Programme of the WCC in close cooperation with the Cambodia-based Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPCS).

With the support of various WCC member churches in Asia, the YATRA course is designed to equip member churches with a new generation of inter-religiously competent ecumenical leadership.

Among questions they face is that of religions playing a responsible and response-led role in peace-building and conflict resolution in Asia.

They are also looking at how modest yet remarkably resilient stories of hospitality and hope found in several Asian countries engender transformation in situations characterized by religious conflict.

"Asia is a region of diversity, hope, promise. Together we face significant challenges in conflict such as the stateless Rohingya and the South China Sea, where regional tensions are pervasive", said Emma Leslie, the executive director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies.

"Yet in the Philippines, Malaysia and Myanmar efforts for peace in recent years have shown us the possibility we have to solve problems non-violently and to build a sustainable peace for our region", she said.

"Let's mobilize hope and optimism to inspire the Asian oikumene - an interfaith harmony and aspiration for just peace."

In the opening session of the gathering, participants introduced themselves using symbols, signifying peace-building for them in their respective contexts.

They noted oneness and openness as essential ecumenical elements for living, along with inter-religious learning relating to Asia.

Combining theoretical, empirical and spiritual elements as learning tools, YATRA seeks to embody a holistic learning methodology which involves the head, heart and hands.

Speaking on the opening day, Leslie enabled the participants to discern the interconnected nature of religious conflicts in Asian settings.

She encouraged them to identify and celebrate the often hidden stories of peace-making which can prove to be prophetic and pertinent resources for overcoming violence and fostering hope in an increasingly fragile context.

Read more about YATRA

WCC Programme for Youth in Ecumenical Movement

Inter-religious Dialogue and Cooperation Programme