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UN Youth Assembly Promotes Interfaith Cooperation

USA-2009-08-07-UN Youth Assembly Promotes Interfaith Cooperation

New York, USA - Young leaders from around the globe spent three days focusing on some of the world’s most demanding problems, ranging from world hunger to protecting the environment. About 700 people from 50 countries took part in the sixth Annual Youth Assembly at the United Nations August 5-7, 2009.

“I think it’s our responsibility to empower young people and to show young people that change can happen because of their efforts”, said Elaine Valdov, the assembly’s secretary general.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Arun Gandhi, expressed hope that this generation will learn from his grandfather Mahatma Gandhi’s living example of non-violence. "I am hoping to plant some seeds," he said. "Then, the responsibility will be theirs whether to nurture those seeds or let them go to waste."

Founded in 2004, the assemblies showcase programs that address global and local issues, offering opportunities for students and professionals ages 18 to 26 to network with people from many nations and be empowered to take leadership roles in their communities.

"So many people come together from different countries, and different backgrounds, different religions and different races,” reported Yu Wanzhen, a representative of Tzu Chi, an international charity founded on Buddhist principles. “It’s a really good experience to meet so many people doing the same things that we do."

The Youth Federation for World Peace delegation of 65 people came from Kenya, Niger, Sweden, and the US. The Kenyan delegation was partially sponsored by UNESCO and officially represented the nation with endorsement from the Kenya Ministry of Youth and Sports Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Prime Minister’s office. All delegates received diplomatic visas from the US Embassy.

In addition, the Youth Federation for World Peace organized an interfaith breakout session on the theme of “Interreligious Modalities in the Accomplishment of the Millennium Development Goals.”

The 70 Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Muslims, and Scientologists at the session discussed ways to raise awareness about interfaith cooperation and develop interfaith collaborations. They talked about ways to overcome the prejudice and differences that make people hesitant to work together.

The session was coordinated by Justin Fong, Executive Director of the Youth Federation for World Peace in the USA. Rev. Zoe Chang, President of the UN Women’s Guild, was the advisor for the session and also addressed the participants.

The Universal Peace Federation hosted 40 delegates at its office UN Relations. Director of the UN and International Affairs, Mr. Taj Hamad, described UPF’s vision for renewing the United Nations by assisting the UN Missions in promoting the introduction of an interreligious council at the United Nations.

The conference, which focused on the eight UN Millennium Development Goals, was endorsed by the Permanent Missions of Australia, Belgium, Finland, France, Hungary, Italy, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and Liechtenstein. The UN Department of Public Information and the UN Programme on Youth were full partners. The program was created and directed by the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation, Inc., and the International Institute for a Culture of Peace.

For background materials on the proposal for an interreligious council at the UN, click here.

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