HWPL Intercontinental Religious Youth Peace Camp 2021

“Put yourself in others’ shoes”

The HWPL Intercontinental Religious Youth Peace Camp was held online for two days from July 17-18, involving youth across 16 countries and among five religions.

Prior to COVID-19, attendees gathered at temples or schools and were able to experience a variety of religions and cultures firsthand, although limited to specific countries and regions. However, the Religious Youth Peace Camp proceeded as an intercontinental event this time, taking advantage of having to use an online platform. Through the group activity program, participants had a time to understand and discuss a diverse range of religions and cultures, as well as think together about the causes and solutions of conflict at the religious level.

For this Religious Youth Peace Camp, religious leaders of six religions, including Buddhism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism, explained regarding the appearance of the temple and role of the space. The etiquette, religious rites, and representative culture of each respective religion were introduced through videos.

Youth who attended the camp expressed their feelings about watching the video saying, “I would say it was probably the three videos we had each day explaining each religion. So I think those mostly helped me to understand other cultures, and it kind of gave me an idea of what is happening,” “Especially the practices around the temple, how to respect them, how to clean before you enter and things like that. The video presentations, they were all really good.”

In the group activity on the first day, through a role-play program in the form of a board game, they indirectly experienced the differences in privileges and discrimination of religious groups. The board game is a summary of various events in life, and is designed to have different results depending on whether the participant belongs to a major religious team or a minor religious team. All of these events were produced based on real events, and the participants were surprised to learn that the events that felt unrealistic and absurd were real cases of religious discrimination. The participants shared their experiences and lessons learned from being in those positions through interviews and times of sharing in the game.

Ven. Nam Koe, a student monk at Pannasastra University of Cambodia, said, “When we were playing the game, we realized that some religions are very privileged and other religions are less privileged, which refers to the majority and minority. Because of that, the idea of combined and divided between the majority and minority groups, sometimes the conflict can occur between those two. So in other groups, when we go in to discuss these parts, we can recognize that we are from the privileged. the privileged religion should give opportunity to the less privileged religion to join and discuss together in order to find peace in the world.”

On the second day, a discussion was held on the causes and solutions of disputes. Based on the actual case of the conflict in Mindanao, the participants analyzed what the biggest causes of conflict were, and discussed what kind of effort should be made to resolve these disputes and conflicts as a religious person and bring peace. After the discussion, as an example of the effort to resolve conflict, they watched the video of HWPL's drawing up a private-level peace agreement in Mindanao and the peace activities that continued to be done so that peace could be established in Mindanao after that. The participants expressed their surprise at the achievements of peace activities at the private level.

After all the programs, attendee Bharat Sharma of South African Hindu Maha Sabha(SAHMS) said, “It was really impressive to see and hear other people’s perspective, and to think to myself that ‘I didn’t think of this or I didn’t think of that.’”

Jako Gerber of Welgemoed NG Church said, “I think it’s good to have something like that regularly and to have it be exposed to the broader public so that you can change the perception of ‘religions only cause war.’ Add something fun, like you did with the board game and it can be a thing on people’s calender where they say ‘Oh yeah! I’m going to go to this month’s thing.”

Rajbir Kaur of Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle said, “So considering the situation we are in, the covid situation where we all are trapped in our houses. We hardly interact with the people outside just the families we interact with. And there is such a scenario where there is an event with the youth and you are connected to the people all over the world and sharing the same views and the same analogies. It was so overwhelming to see how it went through. And we interacted with each other so well that it was not expected. Because we were all coming from different religions, different faith, and yet connecting on a particular topic in the same direction is such a rare scenario.”

This HWPL Religious Youth Peace Camp was a time that confirmed effective programs of experience and dialogue could be conducted online, overcoming the limitations resulting from a pandemic environment preventing offline meetings for face-to-face communication and experience. It is anticipated that the culture of religious peace will be expanded throughout civil society through the continual research and development of the online religious youth peace program.