We, the members of the Religions for Peace (RfP) Asia & Pacific Interfaith Youth Network (APIYN) representing 50 multi-religious youth from 15 countries across the region have convened a youth camp, with the theme Multi-religious Youth Action to Overcome Violent and Non-Violent Religious Extremism on the 7th-9th of December 2015 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Asia & Pacific Youth Network (APIYN), the regional unit of the RfP Global Interfaith Youth Network (GIYN) is the Youth Committee of Religions for Peace Asia – the largest multireligious cooperation in Asia working for peace, promoting religious harmony, advancing sustainable development goals and advocating nuclear and conventional disarmament and protecting human rights. The Youth Camp was hosted by the Cambodia Interreligious Council and supported by the ACRP Seoul Peace Education Center.
Senior religious leaders of Religions for Peace have joined the opening of the youth camp to inspire the Asian youth leaders. His Holiness Ven. Tep Vong, the Grand Supreme Patriarch of Cambodia, has personally welcomed and inspired the youth and multi-religious leaders and emphasized the need for multi-religious cooperation as a way of building harmony and peace in every country and Asia as a whole. Dr. Sunggon Kim, the former ACRP Secretary General and the current President of the ACRP Seoul Peace Education Center, has challenged the youth leaders to be at the forefront of action for peacemaking and building social harmony through concrete activities. Rev. Yoshitaka Hatakeyama, ACRP Secretary General, has urged the Asian youth leaders to become more action oriented, and encouraged them to work closely with senior religious leaders both at the national and regional levels. Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, the Deputy Secretary General of Religions for Peace International, was also present to accompany the youth in their sharing of time, talents and treasures during the entire program. Rev. Sugino has drawn the attention of the Asian youth leaders as the regional network of the Global Interfaith Network. The unity and cooperation of the Global and Asian youth network, he said, is an effective way of addressing religious extremism, refugee crisis and climate change.
In view of our dialogue with Religions for Peace senior religious leaders, including the Cambodia Inter-religious Council, our sharing and discussion of best practices in our respective countries, of experiences visiting the historical sites of Cambodia’s struggle for freedom, justice and peace, and of our intimate encounter with the children at a school in Cambodia, we make the following declaration:
We support the RfP Global Interfaith Youth Network’s (GIYN) Paris declaration November 2015 urging RfP Youth Networks around the world to address the challenges of violent religious extremism, refugee crisis and climate change through multi-religious youth cooperation. We are aware that these are also the key issues in the Asia-Pacific region and that, our response must take into consideration their Asian unique context and challenges.
We uphold the core value of our Cambodian youth network, which emphasized the words of the Buddha, Hatred shall never be ceased by hatred, but by the absence of hatred, in our response and strategies in responding to the above issues. We are most reverent to their response of love and forgiveness to the perpetrators of the awful crimes against humanity perpetuated only a few decades ago by the Khmer Rouge regime for the sake of building a harmonious and progressive Cambodia.
We commend the formal establishment of the Cambodia Youth Interfaith Network (CIYN), the official youth committee of the Cambodia Inter-religious Council and national chapter of the RfP-Asia-Pacific Interfaith Youth Network.
We believe that all religions are religions for peace, love, compassion, solidarity and justice. We encourage youth religious leaders and all young people to profess the profundity of their respective faith tradition as a way of “Welcoming the Other,” and as the key element of multi-religious common action.
Based on our common understanding, we commit to the following activities:
- Strengthen the regional and national interfaith youth networks based on religious representativity, gender balance, program sustainability and improve collaboration with RfP-Global Interfaith Youth Network and the Religions for Peace Asia.
- Replicate the “Clean, Pray, Love” program of the Religions for Peace Indonesia Interfaith Youth Network. The activity gathers youth leaders and members from various religious communities to clean together each other’s places of worship. The value of cleanliness and the experience of cleaning together different sacred places deepen mutual understanding, friendship and cooperation.
- Encourage local and national interfaith youth networks to organize ‘Open Seminars.’ These forums are opportunities for multi-religious dialogue between senior religious leaders and young people. These are the days where people can approach and ask representatives of various religions about their questions and concerns in life. The target audience could be a general public, or designed for specific organizations, schools or communities.
- Use social media channels to spread ‘peace messages.’ RfP-APIYN animates the local, national and regional interfaith youth networks to engage into robust discussion about current issues, and how to respond to these concerns based on multi-faith perspective and cooperation. RfP-APIYN facilitates the uploading of narratives and/or video clips of the best practices of the youth interfaith network encouraging and promoting peaceful practices.
- Organize a tree planting activity and waste-recycle campaign. RfP-APIYN engages its local and national interfaith youth networks to conduct tree planting activity at least once a year, and initiate waste-recycling advocacies in their respective countries.
- Implement the ACRP EC Bandung Statement 2015 calling for the RfP-APIYN to engage an Asian wide campaign on “STOP VIOLENT EXTREMISM.”
- Organize programs and activities to assist migrant and refugees. APIYN coordinates with local and national interfaith networks to organize integration programs for migrants and assist in the welcoming of and advocating the rights and welfare of refugees.
The youth delegates from Asia-Pacific cherish the Cambodia experience and are strengthened by the bond of friendship amidst diversity of faith traditions and cultures. We are especially grateful to the Grand Supreme Patriarch of Cambodia, His Holiness Ven. Tep Vong for his salutations to Religions for Peace and blessings to each one of us during our brief and intimate encounter at the Wat Ounalum Temple. Finally, the APIYN appreciates the support of ACRP Seoul Peace Education Center.