Unification News for March 2002
RYS/ IIFWP in New Zealand, Tonga and Samoa
by John W. Gehring
In January, the RYS International Director of RYS, Rev. John W. Gehring and Oceania RYS Education Director, Paul Saver went to Auckland, New Zealand to hold a two day Youth Leadership Training Program. The training involved 35 people who had expressed an interest in working together on public service project which were open to people of all faiths and cultures. Among the participants were leaders of the Ratana Movement and members of various non government organizations
The training was designed to pull together community leaders and share their vision for 2027. After forming their visions they were asked to list challenges to accomplishing that vision. The participants then could work on proposals of how to practically move closer to the vision of a happy New Zealand in 2027. After coming up with a list of project proposals the participants were given a power point presentation on how to put together an RYS project.
During the training an interfaith Sunday worship service was held. At this meeting an elder of the Ratana Movement encouraged that the IIFWP Ambassadors for Peace to continue to promote youth initiatives and he requested that 5,000 of their youth be trained in seminars and programs like the one being held.
The conclusion of the training had the participants actively involved in designing approaches to carrying out RYS and other related service projects. The excitement was matched with a sense of commitment as participants agreed that New Zealand will host an International RYS project in January 4-12, 2003. New Zealand had sent 13 people to the Australian RYS and is designing its International program to integrate volunteers from throughout Oceania into a program that will include service, character education, nature and environmental training and substantial fun.
Some background on the Ratana Morea Movement: From 1918-1928 the Prophet Ratana of the Maori people of New Zealand left New Zealand with 39 followers and travel to 67 nations by ship. His message was a Christian based message that called for a call for interfaith harmony and for a reform of some of the Maori traditions. Their prophecy said the movement (now over 130,000 members) and its membership was to stay in New Zealand until the 4th generation.
The pathway out to the world for the Ratana Movement re-opened in the year 2000 when a youth leader of the Ratana Movement, a 4th generation youth, accepted the invitation to attend the Youth Federation for World Peace event in the USA. Soon after the Ratana Movements Youth Leaders, Kimimori and Suzanne Pene came to New York and became IIFWP Ambassadors of Peace.
Now the RYS and the IIFWP have been invited to work out plans for programs that will serve to fulfill the goal of interfaith harmony that the Prophet Ratana spoke of eight decades ago.
Following the IIFWP conferences on September 10th in Tonga and September 11th in Samoa the IIFWP was seeking to offer some of the programs and projects that are available for grass roots development under its broad banner. For this reason John Gehring, RYS International Director and Rev. Paul Saver, RYS Regional Education Director set up a training seminar in both Tonga and Samoa in January.
Both the Kingdom of Tonga and the nation of Samoa consider themselves Christian nations and their religiosity is displayed in the closing down of commerce on Sunday and the flow of parishioners who stroll down roads to attend a local service. Among these people are some of the best choral sings in the world, the island people sing together as one melodic body. The lush tropical islands are home of some of the most friendly people but each of the islands has many of the problems that are global in nature: drugs abuse, suicide and HIV/AIDS and lots of denominational tension.
The IIFWP organized a two day program on January 23-24 with a theme of "Youth’s Role in Serving the Community as Citizens of Character"
This program was designed to draw together ministers, teachers, NGO and youth leaders and provide them an opportunity to come together an share their hopes for Tonga and vision of how they can work together in practical ways to create the substance of those hopes.
Among the 65 attending the training was the IIFWP Ambassador for Peace the Hon. Vena who is the former Prime Minister and one of the nations 33 nobles. His personal effort to pull all the divergent groups together at the opening of the seminar was an important element in the trust and openness that marked the spirit of the gathering. He participated throughout the project and even worked hard picking up litter during the work service portion of the program.
This seminar was unusual for the participants because of its interactive style and it getting everyone out for work service. The hot sun did not hinder our efforts as we collected garbage deposited on a special hired truck. We had a mixed group of ministers, teachers and youth and the tendency is for some to disappear after the first day or after lunch on the second day. The participants were so excited after the first day that our final numbers actually increased to 67 .
Along with creating a vision for Tonga in 2027 and the outlines of a plan to reach that vision participants were introduced to a variety of the character education material that the International Educational Foundation has been using around the world. Many of the local teachers and the Ministry of Youth expressed an interest in getting more of these materials. At the concluding session participants came up with ideas and plans for local service programs.
The Honorable Vena effort at beech cleaning shocked the participants. He proved to be a most excellent example of a true Ambassador for Peace. On both days the seminar and the cleanup were both covered by national TV.
We hope that this training will serve as a launching point of RYS in Tonga.
Following the two day training seminar pattern set in Tonga, the Samoa program was held under the theme: Youth Ambassadors for Peace Training. This program was co-sponsored by the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Cultural Affairs whose staff served as an excellent host for the two day event. Introducing the seminar was the head of the Ministry, the Hon. Ulu Kini who also serves as an Ambassador for Peace. Among the 60 who attended this program where: Christian Minister’s, Muslim representatives, NGO workers, youth leaders and a Peace Corp representative.
Our first days program was held in a nice hotel (not fancy) while the second day was held at a rustic office of the National Olympic committee. The participants were inspired by several Christian ministers and leaders who worked to build a consensus among all the participants. Some of the most enthusiastic among the participants were the four Muslim participants. The Leader of the Samoan Muslim community had recently attended the Intra-Muslim conference in Indonesia which the IIFWP supported.
During our sessions many ideas on plans for service were introduced by the participants who then agreed to build a national RYS interfaith organization. It was decided to form an RYS committee of twelve with representatives from each faith and denominations and include members from relevant government ministries. This committee will which will work in consultation with IIFWP representative Yves Moreau and make plans for the next local action. Already several organizations are offering to host local events.
During the two day program the TV news crew came and gave very good coverage on the national station. Our team also gave a 30 minute radio interview that was broadcast on two stations, one in English and the second in Polynesian.
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