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Religious Youth Service

Religious Youth Service Bridges Faiths and Ethnic Backgrounds in Nepal

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Bungamati, Lalitpur, Nepal - The Religious Youth Service Project was held Oct. 9-17, 2007 in the ancient village of Bungamati, Lalitpur, Nepal. Forty local and international participants from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, England, and Jordan, representing different faiths, cultures, and ethnic backgrounds, participated in the project.

"This was an amazing experience," marveled Tej Maya Maharjan, one young participant from Nepal, "working together with other young people from different backgrounds, faiths and cultures, clearing the differences among us by living together and making friendships during and after the RYS service project."

Participants communicated a lot with each other and developed strong friendships through their experiences, thus overcoming doubts about each other's religious beliefs and cultural traditions.

The many facets of the Nepal RYS experience, including yoga and meditation, the service work and education, interreligious site visits, plus the cultural sightseeing, all reinforced the message of interreligious harmony by "bridging over barriers."

RYS supported building a multipurpose Community Hall at the Buddhist monastery, Amarapur Vihar, where Buddhist nuns have lived for the past decades, serving the people and maintaining harmony and peace within the local community. This monastery had limited space to serve the children and youth. RYS volunteers worked at building and painting the community hall for underprivileged children. Now the children have enough space to attend classes regularly, and the monastery can conduct various vocational training programs for them in years to come.

The volunteers' activities also included painting and cleaning a Hindu temple.

Nepal was officially a Hindu state until 2006. About 10 percent of the population is Buddhist and 4 percent Muslim. There are 1,200 Buddhist monuments in the Lalitpur district, which is south of the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu. Participants visited a mosque and a church as well as a temple and monastery in this area so rich in architectural treasures that it has been declared a Unesco World Historic Site.

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