The Changing Climate of Religious Youth Leaders in Asia: A Reflection on the 2017 ACRP Youth Peace Camp

The able leadership of Mr. Danhil Anzar Simanjunta, RfP-APIYN Moderator, and the great works of local youth leaders and volunteers have made our 2017 Asian Religious Youth Leaders camp a resounding success. I also extend my deepest gratitude to Rev. Kim Taesung, Director of Seoul Peace Education Center (SPEC), for his valuable support in continuing this program.  Having journeyed with you in the past few days, allow me to share with you my own reflections on the 2017 Youth Peace Camp, with theme “Our Earth, Our Responsibility” organized by SPEC, Korean Conference of Religions for Peace and Indonesia Conference of Religions for Peace, held at Sofyan Hotel Betawi, Jakarta, Indonesia on December 12-15, 2017


              Since the start of the program, I have observed how you were able to get along with one another. Day by day, radiant smiles beamed on your beautiful faces at the breakfast table, in the meeting room, and at the site of the fieldwork. This is a clear indication that all of you have become close and nourished deep friendship among one another.


              The fact that almost 60 young people, who came from different countries in Asia and the Pacific, have become sisters and brothers gives an overwhelming inspiration so worthy to witness, in comparison with peoples who are divided from time to time in various parts of your region. Honestly, the togetherness among APIYN members, which you have achieved, is one of the greatest achievements in this peace camp.  


Now, the following are what I have learned in this program.


              His Excellency Jusuf Kalla, Vice President of the Republic of Indonesia, mentioned at the opening session that all religions are praying for peace, but no peace has been achieved yet. For this reason, he went on saying that, what is important is not a “conference” but an “implementation.”  His Excellency Jusuf Kalla, gave us a convincing message: Act! Implement specific actions!


              While pointing out that carbon dioxide emission and the operation of industrialized plants are the prominent causes of climate change, Prof. Pablito Baybado, Jr, the keynote speaker and ACRP Associate Secretary General, stressed in his presentation that moral and ethical responsibility is a requisite in responding to climate change. The transformation of person’s “mindset” (a way of thinking) is the key in mitigating the negative impact of climate change. Then he encouraged the participants to use the RfP Resource Guide on Climate Change to deepen their understanding and to design common action in addressing climate change. Prof. Baybado also gave us concrete messages: live simply, and consume less in our daily lives.


              Prof. Dr. Din Syamsuddin, ACRP Moderator, emphasized in his speech that at this moment, “how” is more important than “why,” in responding to the issue of climate change because it is not a myth anymore. He numerated some important points for the consideration of the religious youth leaders: 1) To change theological argument because climate change is real; 2) To change people’s mindset;  3) To develop technology, which is environmentally friendly; and, 4) To launch joint efforts with credible partners.  Along this line, Prof. Dr. Din challenges to change our understanding of the word environment from an “object” to a “subject” based framework, which is a religious perspective of nature.


              Both Prof. Dr. Din and Prof. Baybado converged to common action points challenging the youth leaders: 1) Identify one specific action to carry out; and, 2) moral and ethical responsibility (imperatives) need to be paid attention to by people. Changing people’s mindset is the first thing to do for the protection of the environment, they emphasized.


              This was again highlighted during our dialogue-visit at the Catholic Cathedral.  During the conversation, I raised a question to the woman who guided us to look around the Cathedral. Her reply was inspirational. She said: the Catholic Church widely shares the pronouncements of Pope Francis on climate change. In accordance with the Pope’s declarations, the members of the Catholic Church try to change their lifestyles or their way of living, such as the decision to avoid using plastic bag, to plant trees, and to turn off parked car’s engine to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide. Her reply did remind me that “outreach” to wider audience and “individual endeavor” in protecting the environment are two important components. In other words, the effort in influencing a wide range of people and effort by an individual are two sides of the same coin. We must bear these points in mind when we implement some actions for climate change. The outcome of the Group Discussions has illustrated these key points.


              Our visit to Gema Suchi village was also an unforgettable experience. The village leader told us that they have two important engagements: first, cleaning up Ciliwung River; and, second, preserving the eco-system in the village and its surrounding areas. The two main problems of the villagers are the contamination of the river and frequent flooding. It should be pointed out that the former is a human-made disaster, and the latter is a natural disaster.  His words reminded us that we need to distinguish a natural disaster from a human-made one when we engage ourselves with activities combating climate change.

              The Asia Pacific Youth Interfaith Network (APIYN) has come out with concrete recommendations to address climate change.  In my view these recommendations are summarized by the position of group 5.  Group 5 asserted that the “solution begins with you and me” and “start from where you are and move one step forward to change.” These messages spotlight an important basis for responding to climate change issue.

              In conclusion, I wish to emphasize that in Asia-Pacific region, there are other pressing problems besides climate change, such as child abuse, human trafficking, discrimination against women, etc. ACRP is committed to contribute in addressing these concerns through multi-religious cooperation, hence its adoption of its “Strategic Action Plan” at its Executive Committee meeting held in Bandung Indonesia in 2015. Among the key players in our organization, the leaders of APIYN are encouraged to play their crucial role in implementing some of the programs and projects contained in this Action Plan. For instance, “planting tees” is one of the specific projects contained in the Action Plan. You, the representative of APIYN, are a powerful source for change and transformation towards a better world, making use of your unlimited imagination, creativity, curiosity and interest, which can empower you and unveil your hidden potential. Those in younger generations like you are truly peace-builders so that we can attain a better Asia-Pacific region. And finally, you are not only the future of ACRP but the future of all inhabitants on Mother Earth.


Rev. Masamichi Kamiya

Senior Advisor to the ACRP Secretary General