Your Concern, Our Concern
The previous ethnic and religious violence in Kenya was perpetrated by young people who were being preyed on by greedy and selfish politicians. Our youths have become vulnerable due to their appalling living conditions coupled with the widespread unemployment.
More than ever, extremism that is being preached along religious strife through radicalization, is threatening to devastate this beautiful country. These worrying trends need to be countered! Today’s youths are vulnerable because they can easily be lured with eye-popping promises in exchange for their participation in terrorist acts.
Taking the Initiative
Founded to appeal for unity and equality, the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation – Franciscans Africa (JPIC – FA) has embarked on a nation-wide peace and tolerance preaching mission to turn around the country’s youths by infusing a positive mindset.
Among other reasons, the JPIC – FA seeks to dissuade the youths from engaging in all sorts of religious extremism, tribalism, ethnocentrism, discrimination, prejudice, and radicalization. It should be noted that the majority of the 2007 post-election violence participants were the youths, upon being fuelled by politicians, heavily engaged in violent riots. Our mission is to encourage them to take part in activities that promote peace and unity.
The JPIC – FA volunteer staff regularly organizes the Interfaith Youth Dialogue in partnership with several religious leaders who assist us in mobilizing youths to join. All major religions are represented, i.e. the Catholics, Anglicans, Born Again, Orthodox, Islam, African Traditionalists, etc.
These events are held in local halls that are spacious enough for a seating capacity of more than 50 participants. Recently, meetings have been held with local youths from various religions in several suburbs of Nairobi namely; Embul-bul, Kibera, Eastleigh, and others. More dialogues are being organized to reach out to even more youths to benefit from this initiative.
The volunteer teaching staff includes Sr. Mary Frances Wangari, the Director of Franciscans Africa. Others are Richard Kakeeto – OFS, Cyprian Omoding and Johnstone Shisanya. They make presentations with the aid of documentary videos using a projector system, PowerPoint slides, and other basic teaching methods.
Youths Actively Getting Involved
We understand that giving youths an opportunity to express their feelings and sentiments about what they believe, can help us to apprehend their behavioral and attitudinal changes. During our dialogues, the youths are consistently encouraged to ask questions concerning the beliefs and practices of other religions. These questions are then promptly answered by anyone knowledgeable about a topic being discussed.
The following points of interest are emphazised to address the core grievances that youths face: religious prejudices, stereotypes, discrimination, terrorism, extremism, and radicalization. These are then scrutinized by both the volunteer staff and the participating youths to come up with ideas to bring together people from various religions. This is done by promoting a common understanding of each other, encouraging mutual existence and discouraging religion-based violence.
But Why the Youths?
As mentioned in the onset, today’s youths are a soft target through which selfish politicians can achieve their motives. These youths are later abandoned to starve on their own and therefore, feel betrayed. From there, they turn into criminals of all sorts and thus posing a grave danger to the current and future humanity.
Furthermore, we believe that young trees are the strength of a future forest. Today’s youths will shape tomorrow’s Kenya. They will be in charge of our nation and that is why we aim to bring them up in an orderly way that is fit for them to succeed us after we depart the earthly life. Part of this initiative involves nurturing them with upbuilding and positive information that helps them to resist the evil forces of destruction.
None of the participants remains with the same attitude that they had before the engagements. These face-to-face interactions that are exhaustive in nature, have facilitated the youths to freely express their inner feelings about other people’s beliefs and cultures. This has empowered them to speak and express themselves with boldness. The price of having a wrong stereotype corrected straight away is indeed invaluable!
Besides, youths also get to make new friends from different religions/ethnicities. We believe that such level of personal interactions will positively help them to see each other as equal humans without minding about their ethnic or religious identity. To boost their morale during the dialogues, the participants are served both breakfast and lunch.
The proceedings of these lively interactions are recorded and preserved for future reference. They will be made available on our official website as soon as it gets activated. Feedback is highly welcomed concerning the Interfaith Youth Dialogue events, including on how we can reach out to as many youths as possible. Thank you for your time to read.
Compiled by Eric Wagobera Jnr