Manila, Philippines

We, 60 youth leaders representing Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, have gathered in Manila, Philippines, from 26-30 November 2019 for the 2019 Asia Interfaith Youth Peace Camp. We discerned and discussed various issues based on the theme “Fostering our shared well-being: Empowering Asia-Pacific Youth towards common actions.” While we come from 17 countries, we have been united by our common values and vision of world peace. We come together with the understanding of the important role we must play in promoting our shared well-being and caring for our common future. We are strengthened by the hope that amid our diversity, we are united by our common humanity.

We are aware of the many challenges and issues that the youth and our common humanity face. We learned that the first step to respond to these issues is to understand the roots where they come from. We recognize that all actors and actions are important, that all our struggles, and shared experiences can unite us. We learned that we need to involve all sectors of our society when we plan on actions that affect our shared well-being. We must listen to the voices of the weak, oppressed, the minority, and those in need, and allow them to lead the charge in addressing their struggles. Actions must not be based on the ‘what’, but more importantly on the ‘who’.

Our Challenges

We have witnessed how violent conflicts have destroyed communities and families. We are saddened by the use of religion to fuel violent conflicts and grieve at the senseless loss of life brought by such actions. As an organization who values the role of religion in attaining peace, there is an intolerance for individuals who use their religious beliefs to justify acts of violence.

We recognize that Asian countries face issues on lack of or disregard for human rights, justice and equality. From the bloody drug wars in the Philippines to gender inequality in Indonesia and Japan, we have analyzed that the cause of these problems is rooted in flawed political systems in the national level and prejudice in the local levels. We identified that the challenges of having immoral, populist, or fascist leaders, coupled with the lack of education and resources, contribute to the difficulty of addressing these issues. We also recognize that even our religious beliefs and practices may often perpetuate human rights violations and injustices.

 Our Earth is facing many challenges: deforestation, the climate crisis, the extinction of species, and destruction of coral reefs. We have identified that these problems are caused by over-production of single-use plastics, lack of government actions to find sustainable resources, irresponsible human lifestyle, lack of accountability and moral responsibility.

 The Earth, our common home, have more than enough resources for all the needs of its inhabitants. We learned from the Dumagat indigenous community the value of only taking what we need, not what is fueled by our greed; that when we take more for ourselves and when we use resources only for our own profit, we take away from our brothers and sisters what they also deserve.

  Our Resources and Opportunities

We identified that young people have resources to address the problems we face. Social media, technological resources, broadcast media and our advanced knowledge can be used to bring awareness on social injustices. Our fellow youth leaders in the Philippines have shown how the use of social media can help us connect and call for awareness and actions, by showing a concrete example of how a youth-led movement led to the passage of the Mental Health Law in the Philippines.

We also identified personal resources such as our skills on resiliency and resourcefulness, our attitudes and characteristics of being optimistic and hopeful, our spiritual convictions, and values of patience, kindness, volunteerism, and compassion. We also have social resources such as partnerships with organizations and our friendships.

Our Recommendations

We call on religious leaders, heads of states and governments, and all generations before us to recognize that we must not remain as the hope of the future, we can also be the hope of the present. We ask that we, young people, be given the opportunity to be involved in the actions that directly affects our future. We may not be technical experts and professionals, but we have been developed into professionals by our personal experiences. People question our credibility to lead change, and we hope that older generations must allow us to act, no matter how simple, so we can build on that credibility.  We call on our religious leaders to recognize that when the integrity of the human person and creation is threatened, we people of faith and good will must take the reins in leading sociopolitical actions. We pray that our leaders also realize that we live in a more interconnected world, that which affects one of us, affects all of us.

We ask our leaders in Religions for Peace to not only mainstream our contributions, but to involve us more fully and equally in addressing and acting on the issues that directly affect our generation. We recommend to our Religions for Peace families that the leaders of our youth networks be given voices in their respective regional bodies. We in the Asia-Pacific region have set an example and with the support of the Asian Conference of Religions for Peace have a voice and, more importantly, a vote in our regional councils.

Our Commitment

Recognizing our common struggles and challenges, and with the use of resources and opportunities available for us, we commit to:

  • Engage with our religious leaders and encourage them to lead social actions;
  • Lobby our governments and our leaders to protect the rights of all peoples;
  • Exercise our rights to vote and encourage our families and friends to vote;
  • Empower the voiceless and the minority and involve them in planning our projects and programs, especially on those that would benefit them;
  • Continue the use of reusable and ecologically sustainable materials such as tumblers, cutlery, and containers;
  • Reduce our carbon footprint through the use of public transport, responsible use of power and water, and changing our lifestyles;
  • Support companies that invest on or work towards sustainable energies and products;
  • Continue our conversations through on-line groups and our social media networks;
  • Develop and implement projects to address issues in the local, national, regional, and global level; and,
  • Strengthen our local and national youth networks and contribute to the growth of the RfP

We all need to be accountable for our individual and collective contributions to the destruction of the environment, violation of human rights, social injustices and violence. We need to stop the blame game and start the dialogue. We need to acknowledge our lapses and use those to guide our actions towards protecting the environment.

We have realized that we are driving forces towards a better future and that we are already peacemakers in the present world. We believe that realizing this would mean nothing if we do not take the steps and if we do not act to address the challenges our world face. We are willing to lead actions; we may be young, but we are not too young to lead.

The challenges we face are not easy, the future unclear; but we will hold on to the bonds of friendship we have built and keep our faith in our religious convictions. We will work to ensure that hope remains alive.