November 2015 will be a month remembered in worry and fear for Muslims all over Europe, after the Paris attacks, yet again marked the tensions their religious community faces in Europe and the rest of the world.
Just a week before the attacks, from Oct. 26 – Nov 2nd, youth from all over Europe were building a network of peace and connection at the Religions for Peace Interfaith Youth Conference, in San Gandolfo Italy.
The outcome of the event was simple and hopeful - friendships and knowledge can break any barriers.
ISKCON-London was one of six other religious partners, sending five youth and one facilitator to the training conference entitled “Empowering Youth in Interfaith and Multicultural Peace Action” at the Focolare’s Mariopolis Centre in Castel Gandolfo, Italy.
Parabhakti das Villa Vrndavan Temple President leading a seminar about motivations for spiritual practices
The ISKCON delegation was all second generation youth from around London, took part in the seminars and forums in an active way, as well as lead a “moment of peace” for the entire assembly reciting the Mangalam Caranam prayers and the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra, as well as held evening Damodarastakam prayers where many youth form other backgrounds took part. More than 50 youth were present, representing 15 EU countries and all major faith backgrounds.
The week-long event was a rigorous schedule including back-to-back seminars such as the “Role of Interfaith Youth in the Building of the Future of Europe: Dialogue with Katarina von Schnurbein European Commission”, and “Training Youth Citizen Reporters”, “Changing Our Way of Thinking-Towards a Holistic Approach for Contributing to Peace.”
However, in between these lofty presentations was where the real learning took place. “How do deal with how people treat you in school?” Why do you think people in your country don’t understand your religion?” were some of the questions and discussions heard as one walked through the hallways and on the dining tables. The youth were setting deep set roots and making connections to the international community in ways that will last a lifetime.
London and Findland participants' adventure in Rome
As Said Touhami, a 21 year-old Sufi Muslim participant from the Netherlands, put it on the Religions for Peace internal Facebook group:
“In Roma [Castel Gandolofo is near Rome] we tasted a peace of Heaven. And if we only can taste a peace of Heaven when we are together. That's only way to create one on earth. With eachothers differences, ambitions and qualities.”[ interfaith ] [ London ] [ Italy ]