Memoirs of the URI Young Leaders Program, Compiled by Sharon Danisha M. Vaswani

3 February 2009

Also known as the spiritual capital of the world, Sri Mayapur Dham is where the Young Leaders Program of the United Religions Initiative was held from November 24-December 6, 2008. This article is a compilation of memoirs from some of the young delegates who got very inspired and nourished by the experience. It is written in the hope that it will inspire others to reach out and build bridges of understanding for a more harmonious world.

Going to Mayapur was an experience in itself!

With India’s diversity in religions, it was like the perfect place to host the global interfaith conference where over 100 young interfaith leaders from 35 countries had gathered with unique perspectives on how to engage our communities in interfaith initiatives and share the vision of building religious pluralism in our world.
-- Jenan Mohajir, Muslim/ USA

It was a great experience in my life. I got a chance to travel through airplane, local train, metro train, boat, rickshaw, taxi, local bus, comfortable shuttle, all in a single trip!
-- Bishwonath Kandel, Hindu/Nepal

It was also an opportunity to learn more about others…

I met people from different parts of the world with traditions and beliefs that I have never learned so much about or even had the opportunity to understand previously!
--Sage DiPalma, Native American /USA

Listening to other religious script through their ears and viewing the kaleidoscope of culture colours through their eyes has created in me a genuine personal sensitivity towards diverse traditional and religious values. I have as a result gratefully grown into an individual who's rooted in my beliefs yet open towards and respectful of other traditions.
--A.O., Muslim/UAE

The participants collectively represented the potential of humans to achieve their truest and highest potentials. Not only were we interested in cultivating and nurturing our own talents, we were all committed to creating a world in which others could also work towards self realization of individual and collective power.
-- Zachary Levine, Jewish /USA

… and appreciate the true meaning of Interfaith dialogue

Being in Mayapur taught me about the importance of communication with people who are different from myself. Communication has been the catalyst in helping me to appreciate my traditions, but also to recognize what I appreciate about other people's traditions. My Living half-a-world away may mean that on the outside we are different, but we can still find similarities on the inside. I have learned first-hand that religion does not have to divide people and that communication with others of unfamiliarity can evolve from acceptance to appreciation.
--Sage DiPalma, Native American / USA

Being there with so many incredible people from all of the world and from different faiths, cultures, backgrounds and beliefs provided me with an amazing opportunity to really "meet the world" and all of the beautiful people that share this planet. Each day was like a microcosm of the world! One of the biggest gifts that I received was the greater understanding of what inter-faith dialogue really is about and how important it is for all of us at this time in our history. I have always been passionate about inter-generational and inter-cultural sharing and dialogue and now feel that I have also received another important link to this whole intricate weaving towards PEACE on Earth.
-- Starr Muranko, Cree / Metis and German ancestry /Canada

It was also when we came together to jam for peace!
To me the Jam was a beautiful journey of inner discovery and inspiration. It left me with treasured memories, wide smiles, warm tears, peaceful chants, deep understanding, and grateful appreciation yet most importantly it left me with celestial serenity. It has truly been a life-changing experience that will remain gloriously engraved in my mind forever.
-- A.O., Muslim/Egypt and UAE

One of the highlights of my time in India that made my heart SOAR was the meeting of 13 amazing and beautiful women who gathered to share our dances, our cultures, our faiths and our stories. It was a gift to be able to dance with everyone and to co-create something that we could share…
-- Starr Muranko, Cree / Metis and German ancestry /Canada

Being, speaking, and doing things with other youths has inspired us to be the change we wish to see in the world:

The Young Leaders Program was both an amazing experience and a wonderful opportunity for me. Seeing the work that other young people have been doing was very inspiring. In addition, I had the opportunity to begin collaboration with Young Leaders from around the globe to better our work for peace and understanding.
-- Michal Weiner, Jewish /Israel

It gave me a very clear and beautiful example of the potential of the young to be God’s instruments for world transformation. This made me realize that each and every human being has something in his own inner secret garden that is really special to offer to the world. And that all of these gardens, when they are united by the love for the spirituality and the pure desire of a better world, can really become God’s hands to create Heaven on Earth.
-- Augusto Zimbres, Brahma Kumaris/Brazil

The knowledge and the experience that I got from this trip has enabled me to enhance my working environment more effectively making the actions broader and yet simpler. Truly, there is no way to PEACE, PEACE is the way.”
-- Bishwonath Kandel, Hindu/Nepal

In Mayapur, my soul wept, my soul danced, and it listened. In Mayapur, my soul started a new journey, my step in to the right direction. There are things that have changed in me that never would have, had it not been for my experience in Mayapur.
-- Annirene Mundia, Christian /Kenya

I returned home feeling more inspired and more engaged in social change looking forward to playing more roles with the ultimate aim of positively changing the world!
-- Franklin Koroma, Christian /Sierra Leone

That has led to a promise of a brighter future!

It is my dream that 2010 will be the beginning of a new nation. A world nation made up of hundreds of organizations and people that work hard and believe that world peace is not just possible but will take place.
--Michael A. Ware, Indigenous Earth-based traditions and Christian / USA

It is indeed amazing that a short stay at a rural town Mayapur in India, had such a profound effect on us all!