URI Voice of Youth Newsletter - January 2009

6 March 2009

URI Voice of Youth

In This Issue:

- Reflections from Mayapur

- Noteworthy Action Projects

- Invitation to Collective Action

- Launch of Young Leaders Communications Hub

Dear friends,
We are excited to present to you the first edition of the URI Voice of Youth, a monthly newsletter that is being sent out to a global network of hundreds of interfaith young leaders and thousands of youth supporters. Each month we will be sharing the good news and developments from the United Religions Initiative's Young Leaders Program, issuing calls to collective global action and providing useful resources and training materials for youth-led interfaith action projects. Join us in celebrating the Voice of Youth!

Reflections from Mayapur

From November 24th - 29th, 2008, 100 young leaders from 34 countries gathered in Mayapur, India for a five-day leadership training program followed by the URI's triannual Global Assembly, a meeting of religious and spiritual leaders from around the world. During this five-day gathering, the young people learned methods of interfaith peacebuilding, NonViolent Communication, spiritual practices for well-being and peace of mind, and got involved in the community through several service projects, including a visit to a local village school to provide school supplies, plant trees and paint a peace mural with the school children. The following article is a compilation of reflections from the youth participants about their experiences and what they learned.

  • Memoirs of the URI Young Leaders Program

Compiled by: Sharon Danisha M. Vaswani

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...Click here to read the full article: http://www.uri.org/community/node/396

Noteworthy Action Projects:

The five-day gathering in Mayapur - Taking the Initiative...The Role of Youth in Global Interfaith Action - was a launching pad for collaborative and collective action projects of the young people assembled, which will be supported and sustained through the URI's ongoing Young Leaders Program. Already, only two months after the program, a number of action projects have been seeded. Read more about these action projects below...

* Youth and Faith for Life (Malawi Computer Training Center - A Collaborative Project Between American and Malawian Youth)

"Ian, Prescot and Lucious were the first individuals I met when the Young Leaders Program was about to begin in Mayapur, India. We immediately bonded over joyful stories of our respective homelands. The warm welcome they offered me was powerful and it set the stage for an incredibly inspiring gathering. All of the participants involved continually challenged each other to find solutions and make measurable progress. My Malawian brothers are currently working very hard to improve the lives of their community members. But similar to many not-for-profit groups, their work would benefit greatly from an infusion of resources. During the YLP, we designed a youth elevation project that would add something new to their repertoire of existing activities. We will call it Youth and Faith for Life. We successfully collected 10 laptops to use for developing the job skills of the Malawian youth. Training courses will be offered for a significantly reduced cost as compared to commercial programs, and the income generated will funnel directly back into existing interfaith initiatives. These include interfaith dialogue, environmental conservation projects, HIV/AIDS awareness and general life-skills planning. Curriculum is being developed right now and the training programs will begin at the end of February. " - Zach Levine, Jewish / USA

* International Women Dance for Peace!

"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 with the Global Assembly as part of our gratitude for all that we had received. The late night rehearsals, the "stress" of trying to learn all of the new & different steps, the challenges with language, time and "what are we going to wear for the performance" all gently and gracefully faded away as the music began and the dancers emerged united together while remembering "to just smile and enjoy ourselves". It was pure bliss to dance with all of these wonderful women from around the world and you could feel the collective energy, beauty, strength and grace as we moved together on the stage that day. This will always be a memory that I hold dear and now I am thrilled that we are going to be forming a new CC...the International Women Dancing for Peace! We will be celebrating around the world in our different communities each April 29th which is International Dance Day as well as September 21st: International Day of Peace.YES!" - Starr Muranko, Cree / Metis and German Ancestry, Canada

* Ugandan Football Friendly

"We the Ugandan young leaders who attended the two conferences hereby promise to take up the initiative of working together to achieve our theme 'Taking the Initiative'. Since we came back, we have met thrice and we have agreed to jointly work together. We have realized that our country is faced with north/south divide. This situation has been worsened by the conflict in Northern Uganda. The people from Northern Uganda feel that they have been left out from the mainstream of the country’s development. We have decided to conduct a two friendly football matches between the youth from Northern Uganda vs. the Youth from the southern Uganda, and between Members of parliament foot ball match from the same regions." - Wako Hannington, Christian, Uganda

* Saturday's Sweet Serendipity (Youth 4 Unity Participation in Street Children's Festival to celebrate street children's rights and educate the public about the issues that face them)

"Children naturally gravitate towards candies and will do almost anything to get hold of their favorite sweets. Candies bring joy, happiness and smiles to brighten up kid’s faces. This is the kind of joy we witnessed during the 2nd Street Children’s Festival held at Museo Pambata (Museum for Children) in Metro Manila, Philippines. For a change, the children were eagerly rushing to various booths on the 5 “worlds” of Freedom, Health & Nutrition, Family Care, Protection, and Education, Culture & Leisure." Click here for link to full article:http://www.uri.org/community/node/397 - Sharon Vaswani, Hindu / Philippines

Invitation to Collective Action and Reflection:

We are launching an exciting new pilot program called Taking the Initiative, to spark young people's creativity around a range of social justice and environmental issues, and support young peoples' initiative to organize local interfaith actions in their community followed by reflection on these actions with youth from around the world through live chat discussion. We have created a calendar of monthly action themes for 2009, in coordination with United Nations observances, which follows below. We invite each one of you to take action in a meaningful way either individually or with others in your community and the young leaders' global network, and then join in the live chat to share your experience and learnings with other young leaders. We will provide a menu of possibilities for these actions - individual or collective - to get you thinking about what you might do in your community. The dates for the live chats will be posted on our community calendar. As the World Day of Social Justice is February 20th, the theme for February will be social justice. The monthly calendar themes follow below:

January: Reflection (Sharing Experiences from Mayapur)

February: Social Justice

March: Environment

April: Health and Healing

May: Interfaith Service and Cooperation

June: Refugees / Celebrating the URI Charter

July: Education and Community Partnership

August: Indigenous Peoples / Cultural Awareness

September: Peacebuilding / International Day of Peace

October: Eradication of Poverty

November: Sharing the Sacred

December: Human Rights for All

Launch of URI Young Leaders Communications Hub

The Young Leaders Program aims to connect religiously and spiritually diverse young people from around the world, and to develop their capacity to be servant leaders in the areas of interfaith cooperation, peacebuilding, ecological imperatives, human rights, and sustainable just economics. Supporting this is an online community for interfaith young leaders, spread over a variety of networks and accessible through a community Hub: www.ga08youth.com.

Here you will find: a community portal for social networking, dialogue forums and live chat discussions, a community calendar that shares important events of our youth members and the action themes for each month, a media gallery that highlights youth projects and video clips of URI youth in action, a newsdesk that shares update developments of the Young Leaders Program, and a resources section that contains helpful resources developed by youth participants for the URI Young Leaders Program. Connect with us online and help to build this vibrant interfaith youth movement together!
To find out more about the ongoing work of the URI Young Leaders Program, we invite you to visit our URI Young Leaders Communications Hub at www.ga08youth.com. If you are a young leader who has recently organized an interfaith project in your community, and would like it featured in an upcoming newsletter, we would love to share your work! Please send in a brief report of the project (in 200 words or less) and high-resolution photos of your activity in .jpg format by February 23rd!

On behalf of the Young Leaders Program Steering Committee, I thank you for your support and participation in building the interfaith youth movement!

In peace,

Sarah Talcott
Director of Youth Programs

[email protected]

URI Young Leaders Program Steering Committee:

Kiran Bali - United Kingdom

Joseph Kigozi - Uganda

Rim Nour - Tunisia

Jahangir Piara - Pakistan

Sam Ruben - USA

Atefeh Sadeghi - Iran

Sarah Talcott - USA

Sharon Vaswani - Philippines

Matthew Youde - Wales / UK

Soroush Zand - Denmark