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We must shift the arms race into a 'peace race.'
|Religious Youth Service Project in Chitlang, Nepal|
|By UPF - Nepal|
|Saturday, June 09, 2012|
Kathmandu, Nepal - Thirty-six young people participated in service-learning activities June 2-9 in the village of Chitlang in the Makwanpur district. They developed leadership and communication skills, experienced Nepal's rich and diverse faith traditions, and helped build a library at the secondary school and renovate the community drinking water system as part of this year's Religious Youth Service program.
The project brought together young people from the different regions and religious traditions of Nepal as well as from other nations of Asia. Coming from different faiths (Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, and Baha'i), cultures, and traditions, participants had unique interfaith and intercultural experiences.
They received a warm welcome from the community, with traditional dances and drums. Local cooperation was marvelous: community leaders, school staff, and local government officials attended events, and students and mothers came to offer support. Word about the project spread to the local communities, religious organization, and NGOs. The program was well covered by local newspapers.
Read the report by P. Venugopal, a participant from Malaysia.
Comments by group leaders and participants
"It was a breathtaking experience … a life-time learning experience that opened my heart to other faiths … it is amazing that I had an interfaith dialogue and work at the site.... While working, the love and understanding towards each other improved, and we learned a lot from each other.” - Nepal
“RYS provided us the common platform to realize things about ourselves. I certainly contributed back to my organization, my area, and my community. I never will forget this opportunity and will pass this experience on to my family, children, and community.” - Mauritius
"The Universal Peace Federation and Religious Youth Service did a great community service for the local community of Chitlang and the Swachanda School. It’s a great gift to the local community there." - Malaysia
Introduction to Nepal
The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal is a landlocked sovereign state located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India. With an area of 147,181 square kilometers (56,827 sq. mi.) and a population of approximately 30 million, Nepal is the world's 93rd largest country by land mass and the 41st most populous country. Kathmandu is the nation's capital. Nepal has a rich geography. The mountainous north has eight of the world's ten tallest mountains, including the highest point on Earth, Mount Everest, called Sagarmatha in Nepali. It contains more than 240 peaks over 20,000 ft. (6,096 m.) above sea level. The fertile and humid south is heavily urbanized.
Making a difference in Chitlang
With sites dating to the prehistorical inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley, the village of Chitlang is an emerging tourist destination in the hills southwest of the Kathmandu Valley. Yet it lacks development due to its geographic isolation. There are only a few schools, and the school where the project will take place is the only higher school in this area. The Swocchanda Bhairav Higher School was established more than yp years ago. Many of the 550 students walk more than an hour every day to attend this school since it is the only school that offers classes from first grade to college level. The school is popular in the community, but there is no library in this school or the surrounding area. The establishment of a library will benefit the students, teachers, and researchers and will be a treasured gift to the people of Chitlang. Therefore, a service component of this project was to build a library, which is a very important component of improving the educational standard of the children.
Clean drinking water is essential for human life and health, and participants will do renovations to the community water tap so that people will have access to natural spring water 24 hours a day. Also, work was done to the drainage system near the water tap so that water will run smoothly. This was another significant contribution towards improving life for the people of Chitlang.
It is hoped that this project will be a catalyst for ongoing partnerships for development in this region.
Promoting interreligious understanding and respect
Imparting knowledge, providing education, and giving training to the RYS participants is the other half of the RYS service-learning experience. Therefore, various religious leaders, scholars, teachers, and NGO leaders joined participants for interaction and devotional programs so that young people will have ample opportunity to learn about and better understand the traditions, cultures, faiths of Nepal so that they can share their experiences when they return to their local communities.
Similarly, international participants had a chance to learn about the Nepalese culture, tradition, deep rooted religious background and history by visiting local families and community.
Religious Youth Service contributions to the nation
Religious Youth Service has been making ongoing efforts in Nepal to promote peace and harmony through service projects; since 2003 RYS Nepal has been organizing such service projects in different parts of country and making significant impact by bringing together religiously-minded and socially conscious young people to promote sustainable peace and development.
Annual RYS projects have been promoting interreligious harmony through educating youth from different traditions, cultures, and faiths in Nepal. RYS offers a unique combination of:
Nepal has suffered a great deal due to internal conflicts over the past 12 years. Many Nepalese people have died or lost families and relatives due to the conflict. Many families have been displaced, and houses have been destroyed. Among the many issues to be addressed in Nepal are interreligious relations. Eighty-one percent of the people are Hindus and percent Buddhist, but over the centuries there has been much historical and cultural intermingling. Since Nepal was declared a secular state in 2008, the people have been classified as either religious believers and non-believers. On the political scenario, the ruling party is Maoist. In this complex situation, RYS works with the Nepal Buddhist Organization, Christian Interfaith Alliance, Islamic Association, Hindu Federation, Jain Ashram, Tibetan Buddhist Association, Baha’i Center, Brahma Kumaris, and many other interfaith organizations in Nepal.
The project was planned in partnership with the Shree Swachanda Bhairav Higher Secondary School in Chitlang, Local Village Development under the Ministry of Local Development, the Chitlang Local Community, and the Universal Peace Federation.