Young Adult Reflections
A total of 83 young adults participated in our 31st World Congress in Budapest. They came from 10 faith and belief traditions and 17 countries. Some of their reflections follow:
Nora Kuntz, Hungary
Having so many young adults in my hometown of Budapest was the culmination of my personal interfaith development. I started learning about interfaith work in a Christian environment at the World Council of Churches many years ago. Last December, I was fortunate to experience the united Shramadan (gift of labour), the holy work of the young adult programme in Gujarat, India. After all this, I was extremely excited to be involved with the IARF World Congress in Budapest. I saw the participants as being agents of mutual tolerance and understanding – an extremely important message not only for myself, but also for Hungarian society. For the young adults, we tried to create a programme whereby we could have first hand experience of other faiths and cultures. The creative workshops and the circle groups were a great opportunity for us to share our own traditions. As I was one of the leaders of the drama group, we tried to help the young people to see how drama can help solve real conflicts by offering a unique way of learning about communication. At the World Congress, the young adults could experience the refreshing spirit of religious freedom, but our work must not stop at this stage. The most important follow-up of this gathering has to be a network among the young people, who have already started activities in their own communities. We can share, have faith in each other, and pass on new ideas. Budapest must not remain the same. Your home cannot remain the same. We have many things to do.
Kevin Virtue, Canada
It is easy to see my life in my little corner of the world as more important than it really is. Every now and then I need to be reminded of how big, complex, diverse and wonderful the world is. This reminder came to me at the IARF’s World Congress. There I was exposed to the sights and sounds of many different traditions and was honoured to be a part of an event and a group of people who not only accepted, but also relished, diversity. The Young Adult Program (YAP) before the main Congress took place for two main reasons. One, it gave young adults from all over the world a chance to meet each other, to dialogue, and to affirm our reverence in our own and others’ beliefs. This was achieved through personal and group meetings which allowed us to share our traditions and experiences. One of the highlights was a cultural and spiritual evening where individuals sang songs, danced, and recited prayers. The second main focus was to discuss the RFYN (Religious Freedom Young Adult Network). Under the guidance of Ramola Sundram (Young Adult Program Coordinator), this network is pooling the resources of young adults from around the world to uphold and/or achieve religious freedom and promote strong positive relationships between faith traditions.
Mohseen Kausar Shaik, India
In Budapest, I was thrilled to meet young adults from different parts of the world. The YAP before the main Congress gave us a valuable opportunity to discuss our experiences of religious freedom in small groups. We put forward ideas on how to promote interfaith dialogue and religious freedom. The Congress also provided me with more information about religious oppression. The happiest moment of the Congress for me came was when I was able to share my experience of the international interfaith youth project organised by IARF in Gujarat, India in December 2001. The main project activity was to repair a mosque and reconstruct a temple for Muslims and Hindus respectively. Young people from outside and within the local communities proved that there can be “unity in diversity” with our work symbolising understanding and co-operation. (See full story in IARF World, March 2002.) There were 7 people from the Gujarat project present at the Congress. Other young adults joined us to prepare a drama presentation about the Gujarat experience at the Closing Ceremony of the Congress. The presentation was well received and seemed to inspire others. This is a memory I will always cherish.
Paul Kendrick, USA
During a creative writing workshop at the YAP, we watched a moving video about the story of Mona Mahmudnizhad, a Baha’í teenager who was executed in Iran in 1983 because of her religious beliefs. Since many of the people in the workshop were Japanese, our group decided to use the Haiku form to express our emotional reaction to Mona’s story. The Haiku was read in English and Japanese. Remember Mona In hate our faith grows weaker Please no more martyrs
I found this experience symbolic for the whole conference, as the poem we wrote was a true cultural interchange for the objective of religious freedom. This should be a time when we are all learning pragmatic ways we can help our communities strive for religious freedom. We need hope, but that will count for little if we are not prepared for the work of ameliorating religious conflicts.
Ryuji Kojima, Japan
I felt honored to join the IARF YAP in 2002. It was a precious opportunity to meet, communicate and collaborate with young leaders representing diverse religious groups from around the world. Small group discussions that took place every day were a highlight. Topics of conversation sometimes covered the agonies or joys of one’s daily life. By the end of the programme, we became more open to each other and could share sympathy as human beings, regardless of differences. I believe that making continuous efforts to meet and talk face-to-face, in this way, is one way to resolve conflicts among different religions, although it seems a long path. How wonderful it was during the Congress to see a young Jew and Muslim from Israel standing side-by-side translating each other’s prayers! Presentations by representatives from different beliefs and areas were also meaningful. I obtained first-hand knowledge about current global concerns. Finally, discussions about the Religious Freedom Young Adult Network (RFYN), a young adult initiative to take responsibility for global advancement of religious freedom, was also significant.