Young people explore role as "ambassadors of peace" during Cairo seminar

About 40 young people from Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East met with Al-Tayyeb and other religious leaders to discuss the impact of religious discourse on contributions to peace-building. In attendance were members of the World Council of Churches (WCC).

Al-Tayyeb added: "The divine religions, sealed by Islam, affirm that man is honored and respected. They prohibit shedding the blood of, assaulting or terrorizing the innocent."

"I have an absolute confidence in your youthful and great enthusiasm and your heightened state of awareness that you will be ambassadors of peace, mercy and cooperation among all peoples." This message, from Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Dr Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, visibly uplifted and inspired young people attending a seminar, "Youth Engagement, Religion and Violence," in Cairo.

He had a clear vision to share with today's young people: "Your first cause should be how to create a new world where there is no place for blood-shedding, poverty, illness or ignorance."

Bin Heli proposed a collaboration between the World Council of Churches (WCC), Al-Azhar University and the Arab League to help face the challenge of extremism. He explained how programs of education as well as economic empowerment for young people and women, and special projects for children, are important for sustainable peace, in addition to political and religious approaches.

Participants visited the Arab League, meeting with deputy secretary-general Ahmed Bin Heli who emphasized that religion holds a divine message of peace on earth. Participants later met with Pope Tawadros II who shared his key messages about the impact of religious discourse on Christian-Muslim dialogue and on fanaticism.

The seminar offered sessions about building citizenship from social, political, economic and educational perspectives in order to have integrative and inclusive societies and prevent violence. Investing in building citizenship was considered as a measure to prevent young people from being preyed upon by extremist groups and falling into fanaticism.

Another important session covered religious discourse. Participants discussed the role of Al-Azhar University in forming imams and investing in continuing formation. Religious discourse has a great impact on the society especially in communities in which people are under social or economic hardship, living under threat of discrimination, or after a terrorist attack when people are particularly sensitive to religious discourses.

A session also focused on social justice and the importance of linking it to just and sustainable peace. Young people asked themselves which social conditions create an atmosphere that lead to engagement in extremist groups or extremist discourse.

Adapted from the World Council of Churches website

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