Inter-faith youth delegates to the 2010 World Religions Summit today urged religious leaders to promote “multi-faith religious education” to equip young people with “tools of non-violence and peace.”
The proposal stirred different reactions from religious leaders here. Some said multi-faith dialogues and events in a university setting would foster understanding and respect between religions. Others said strict laws separating church and state would make such an education unfeasible in a school setting.
Thirteen youth were invited for the first time in the summit’s six-year history. The June 21 to 23 event, which is focused on extreme poverty, climate change, and peace and security, has been dubbed the alternative to the G8 and G20 summits in Huntsville, Ont. and Toronto, slated to begin June 25.
One youth member, Ketevan Chigogidze, said priorities identified by at least 100 youth who attended a multi-faith dinner at the University of Winnipeg, include building partnerships with NGOs, recognizing the root causes of violence, (“unfulfilled basic needs, and corruption and abuse of power by an elite minority”) and adopting a culture of dialogue and non-violence.
Shannon Kaur, a student at Carleton University in Ottawa, urged religious leaders to “set higher expectations” for world leaders, saying “there must be a sense of urgency.”
Pandit Roopnauth Sharma, president of the Federation of Hindu Temples of Canada, asked the youth: “How typical are you in your generation? Are you a voice in the wilderness or are you giving voice to your generation?”
To which, Zak Rosentzveig, from Montreal, replied, “I know a lot of people like me.” He added that the number of young people who care about the burning issues of the day is bigger than it’s portrayed to be. But he acknowledged that many are disenchanted with institutions, including religious institutions. “Disenchantment is not apathy,” he said.
Sharma cautioned the youth against “demonizing” institutions. “We must look at how things could be better,” he said.
At their dinner, youth raised $1,000 for a project to fight malaria, and have made plans to stage a multi-faith concert in Winnipeg in the near future.