“On the Move” is the theme, as 12 Dutch and 12 international youth gather for a Youth Pilgrimage in the Netherlands on 21-23 August.
Gathering as part of the celebrations of the World Council of Churches (WCC) 70th anniversary in 2018, the youth will spend three days together, to explore what it means to be young pilgrims in the ecumenical movement today.
“Young people have played a crucial part in the ecumenical movement even since before 1948. Celebrating 70 years of the WCC now is made possible by the engagement and faithfulness of young people in the ecumenical movement to keep it moving,” reflects Joy Eva Bohol, WCC programme executive for Youth Engagement.
“From then to now, I hear stories from older generations that their first exposure to the WCC was through the youth programmes of the council, and that very first experience led them to participate deeper and become leaders in their own context to the global community,” Bohol adds.
The Youth Pilgrimage takes place in anticipation of a series of 23 August events in Amsterdam, where a symposium, a walk of peace, and a prayer service in de Nieuwe Kerk will mark the WCC’s 70th anniversary at the very spot in which the organization was founded.
Youth participation and contributions will form an integral part of each of these events.
Moving away, dreaming, and moving on
With participants ranging from South Korea to Colombia, from Ghana to Greece to the Netherlands, to mention but a few, the young pilgrims will explore what it means to be people of faith, but also what it means to be ecumenical, in their different contexts of the world.
“Through the theme of ‘On the Move’, and through three sub-themes, ‘moving away’, ‘dreaming’and ‘moving on’, we hope to give space to the different perspectives of the lives of everyone: what would they like to leave behind, where would they like to go to, and how to put it in practical action,”says Youth Pilgrimage coordinator Hanneke van den Biggelaar from Kerk in Actie, the aid organisation of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands.
As part of their programme, the youth will meet, listen and engage in dialogue with ecumenists from across the globe to learn about the challenges Christians face in different parts of the world today.
They will meet with Mathilde Sabbagh of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon, a pastor serving in Al-Hassakeh in Northern Syria, an area that has repeatedly stood under threat of being overtaken by the so-called Islamic State.
They will meet Mpho Tutu from South Africa, executive director of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Foundation as part of a symposium at Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam.
Their voices will be heard through youth contributions to the Nieuwe Kerk prayer service on 23 August.
On the programme is also time for close interaction with senior WCC leadership.
“The WCC anniversary celebrations are also about looking ahead to the next 70 years,” reflects Bohol.
“Until now, we see the crucial role of young people as partners and not only beneficiaries of our dreams and visions for the ecumenical movement. But we must work harder and be more intentional in providing spaces for young people to be guided and to be listened to,”Bohol concludes.
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