United Nations, May 4 : The spotlight for the second and final day of the 5th World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue in Baku, Azerbaijan, shined brightly on youth, with a lively discussion on the vital role young people play in countering and preventing violent extremism.
“Youth engagement has become a crucial factor in the global efforts to prevent violent extremism and to build sustainable peace”, said the moderator, Miguel Moratinos, the High Representative of the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations (UNAOC), moderator of the event.
“They are not only our present, but our hope for the future,” he stated.
With a focus on education and intercultural and interfaith dialogue, Youth4Peace: Building a Counter-Narrative to Violent Extremism featured panelists of diverse backgrounds sharing how their work is making a difference, ensuring that young people’s voices are being heard at the policy level so that youth are seen as champions of change, not just victims or perpetrators of violence.
From France, astrophysicist Fatoumata Kebe said she had founded Ephemerides, a programme that provides astronomy classes for high school students from disadvantaged background. Although she has worked with NASA, her heart lies in teaching math, physics and chemistry to girls in Mali.
“Only 30 per cent of them have the opportunity to attend school and there, they are not offered science, so I teach them about the solar system”, she said.
She also teaches astronomy to marginalised youth in Paris, including by taking them to meet with staff in the aerospace field.
For his part, Jorge Antonio Chavez Mazuelos, International Relations Master of Arts Candidate at Central European University, spoke passionately about the importance of social inclusion to fight terrorism.“My father was a police officer whose life was darkened by violence”, he said, noting that in his native Peru, victims of violence are given education rather than monetary reparations.
Jorge founded USIL Ambassadors, Peru´s largest international university club, where he organizes social and cultural activities, and channels study and work abroad scholarships.He took to heart his father’s wisdom that it was better to light a candle rather than curse the darkness, saying “When we educate, we empower victims of violence and turn on a lighthouse for a whole community”.
Meanwhile, Liyanaarachchige Neluni Tillekeratne, Co-National Director of Sri Lanka Unites, explained that after the civil war in the north, her country tried to reconcile all communities.“A youth movement was set up 10 years ago as war ended”, she said and since that time, it has “turned thousands of youth into peacebuilders” by implementing cross- and inter-cultural ideologies to create meaningful relations and friendships “across ethnic and religious lines”.
After the recent violence in Sri Lanka, in which suspected terrorists detonated suicide bombs on Easter Sunday and killed more than 250 people at churches and hotels across three cities, Liyanaarachchige said: “Thousands of our youth stood up and said violence has no place in Sri Lanka and we are now setting up a culture of peace”.
Sara Zaini, Co-Founder and Director of School and Content Development for Emkan Education underscored the importance of early education.
“We were not pleased with the education our children in Saudi Arabia were receiving”, she asserted. “We wanted to give them better opportunities, so almost five years ago, we started a programme to become agents of change there”.
Sara elaborated on implementing the Swedish approach of Kunskapsskolan, where through a portal, students collaborate and work with people and ideas from other countries, cultures and languages.“This helps to teach critical thinking and offers a platform to engage with counterparts around the world, she said, urging others to “embed change you desire in your community”. (UNI)