Unification News for April 2002
RYS: Summary of Projects in 2001
by John Gehring
Australia: IIFWP Peace Initiative January 9-13
In January thirty-five young Australians from various cultural backgrounds and faiths joined in a service project in the Aboriginal community of Nambucca. The work focused on creating a playground, painting murals and pulling together for shared cultural programs all segments of the community.
Korea: IRFF/RYS Working Session: Monday, January 29, 2001
As part of the World Culture and Sport Festival a working seminar was designed to involve members of the NGO community in planning and discussing centered on the theme of ; "Forging Workable Partnerships in Development." Over forty representatives helped come up with ideas of how to cooperate with the United Nations and work to promote a culture of peace.
Australia: The 3rd RYS Island Friendship Project April 16-21
The aboriginal community in Nambucca asked that the RYS/IRFF follow up on the success of the first project and focus on providing service to and with the younger teenagers of the community where the threat of alcoholism is imminent. On April 16-21 the RYS participants shared meals, work and culture with the local communities. From New Zealand, a leader from the Morehu Youth Movement came to share and learn.
Sri Lanka Colombo, 16th Island Friendship Project April 15-21
The RYS and the IRFF combined for their seventh peace and public service project in conflict torn Sri Lanka. As part of the IIFWP’s As Friends outreach fifty participants and staff from Asia and the United States joined in a program that combined the building of a small community center for a village with programs on community building and inter-faith cooperation.
This project is a part of a peace and reconciliation process that the IIFWP has initiated in Sri Lanka that began in September, 1992 with an international service project outside of Colombo. Among the organizations that have been cooperating with these programs are the Rotary Club, the Sarvodhiya Movement, the Comparative Religion Department of Eastern University and UNESCO-Sri Lanka.
Albania: April 13-21 Culture of Peace 2001: Youth, Volunteers and Environment
The year 2001 has been designated the "Year of the Volunteer" by the United Nations. The IRFF is promoting an international service project with the cooperation with RYS and the Mayor of Vlora, Albania. Forty international volunteers built a children’s play area for use as a park combining landscaping, tree planting and light construction. The work was co-sponsored by the municipality of Vlora.
A little over a decade ago, Albania was considered by many as the most militant anti-religious country in the world. Pulling together for cooperative service, young people of various faiths is extremely important. This model of interfaith cooperation is the path to peace for the twentieth century. Most religions are still pushing their own groups and do not contribute to others. This example is very attractive to the large number of good young people in Albania who are still searching for a spiritual dimension in life. It is this RYS model that they admire rather then the provincial approach of traditional religion.
The project drew participants from various denominations in Christianity, and from Islam and the Unification faiths. Their efforts were recognized by the civic leaders of the community and were reported to the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
Indonesia: 3rd Island Friendship Project May 3-7
Indonesia is a nation struggling to maintain peace and order amidst religious and ethnic conflict. The hosting Muslim organization, Muhahmadiyah Nahdatul Ulam has four million members and they generously provided gratis the use of the dormitories and their modern lecture facilities for the duration of the project. The thirty five participants of RYS in turn worked at the Muhahmadiyah’s community center which serves local "street children" through providing meals, care and musical training. The Ministry of Family Planning, a part of the Ministry of Gender also hosted the RYS for a special banquet.
Half of the participants were Muslim and the others came from various faiths including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Unification. At a time of violent civil disturbances this program had the additional importance of bringing cooperation between the government and the NGO sector.
Caribbean: IIFWP Friendship America’s Projects in Guatemala, Honduras, Miami and Trinidad and Tobago.
RYS and IRFF have been working with various government and non-governmental organizations in sponsoring the Friendship America’s Project. These projects seek to create a greater harmony between all the nations and cultures represented in the America’s. While these projects bring into close working relationships members of the Roman Catholic and Protestant communities they often seek to provide a base for healing and understanding among the indigenous population.
As the America’s have become increasingly pluralistic these projects draw people of all faiths together to create an atmosphere of trust and peaceful reconciliation. The IIFWP is working during the Summer of 2001 to sponsor Friendship America’s Projects in Guatemala, Honduras, Miami and Trinidad.
Guatemala: 10th Friendship America Project June 13-29
Over 40 participants representing 12 countries, various Christian denominations, Islam, Unification, and Buddhism embarked on a journey that was not only educational and informative but truly transformational. As a public service the participants helped construct a wing of a school for poor Mayan children and painted several other local schools in Santiago Atitlan.
The program included various education programs, visits to the Congress, participation in an ecumenical service at a Roman Catholic Church and a Mayan spiritual ceremony.
This international team successfully melted into the spirit of trust and cooperation already in existence within this community which for the past 4 years has been the recipient of goodwill and contribution of labor from Friendship America Project.
Honduras: 11th Friendship Project July 1-13
The fourth Friendship America project to be hosted by Honduras this project had two central goals: support the development of a national level NGO center and contribute to greater cooperation between the military and the civil society. Working with the newly appointed Ambassadors for Peace the forty participants joined in building a community center, providing service to a major hospital and give assistant to a Ministry to prisoners.
The participants were hosted by the National Military College who provided rooms, facilities, food and transportation for the participants.
Miami: 12th Friendship America Project July 17-29
Working with the Pure Love Alliance the RYS helped provide staff training and coordinate service projects in the Southern Florida area. These projects included painting a Nation of Islam mosque, working with Habitat for Humanity in Homestead, painting a church, serving as staff at public program for youth at the Dolphin Stadium and offering home care for elders. The model of interfaith and interracial cooperation provided by the young participants in the inner city was very valuable for the process of healing and community building in the USA.
Trinidad: 13th Friendship America Project August 5-17. 1st IIFWP Ambassadors for Peace Youth Initiative.
On August 5-17 in Trinidad and Tobago the 4th Island Friendship Service Project and the 1st Young Ambassadors for Peace Initiative was held with eighty participants from twelve nations. The project helped to make steps toward pulling together a greater cooperation among youth leaders in Island Nations and their neighbors. It follows projects in Indonesia, Dominican Republic and Haiti and Sri Lanka. Volunteers provided work service and shared educational experiences which promoted community building, character and leadership training and interfaith cooperation. Young Ambassadors for Peace Awards were presented.
This project was a cooperative effort drawing on the unique contributions of the Religious Youth Service (RYS), International Relief Friendship Foundation, the Trinidad and Tobago Ministry of Human Development, Youth and Culture and the Rose Foundation. In addition to the work service participants joined a major youth rally, visited various religious sites and took part in education programs. Their efforts directly reached tens of hundreds in the community and became a focus of national TV and media coverage.
Participants joined Habitat for Humanity in the World Leaders Build which involved the Acting President and the former Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago. Additional work took place with the Mounted Stable Police where participants built a protective wall for the horses and helped paint a run down community center in the poor area of Aripo Heights.
Participants were taken on visits to a mosque, a temple an a spiritual Baptist Church where they had teachers from these faiths share and answer questions. Leadership training sessions were offered along with talks on sustainable development. Among the highlights of the project were the cultural programs.
Kenya: 5th African Rising Project August 9-22. 2nd IIFWP Youth Ambassadors for Peace Project: ‘The Special needs of Africa: Implementing the culture of peace through health. Lugari, West Kenya
From August 9th-22nd, the Kenya chapter of the International Relief Friendship Foundation (IRFF) in cooperation with the Religious Youth Service (RYS) organized the 5th Africa Rising Project with a the theme of ‘The Special needs of Africa: Implementing the culture of peace through health. Our peace building effort included fifty representatives from all the regions ethnic and religious groups and was highlighted by the shared effort to construct a medical clinic. Various education programs including activities that promoted interfaith understanding and cooperation were an integral part of the program.
This project is part of a continued effort to promote development and peace within Africa under the banner of Africa Rising. The project was also in part sponsored by the Ambassadors for Peace and served as a way to begin training young adults to step up to the responsibility of becoming Youth Ambassador’s for Peace.
Oakland: August 17-19. RYS/CARP Bay Area team supports Operation Dignity.
Inspired by a vision and desire to build a youth service movement on campuses and by a desire to work alongside religious youth and young clergy to find solutions to social problems, Markus Voneuw, Director of the San Francisco Bay Area Collegiate Association for the Research of the Principle (CARP) and Kevin Brugman made a decision to create a local RYS program.
Our first project was held from August 17-19. and had youth from the Muslim, Christian, and Unification community worked side-by-side to clean and refurbish rooms for low-income families who needed temporary housing for an organization called "Operation Dignity".
Sri Lanka: 18th As Friends Project August 23-26
The IIFWP through its As Friends Projects helped sponsor the 8th RYS peace project in the war torn nation of Sri Lanka on August 23-26. This project took place in the rural community of Batticaloa, where a Catholic Jesuit retreat center in Manresa warmly housed and hosted the participants. The participants were trying to create a model of cooperation on the edge of a war torn zone of conflict. We worked and were housed in what is called a ‘Cleared area’ which is bordered by a lagoon which is in an ‘un-cleared’ area. In the cleared area, the Main roads close around 7 PM and moving after this time is at best risky and troublesome. Wise locals remind visitors that they "really don’t want to go into the ‘uncleared area".
Participants joined in many work tasks including cleaning a pond, clearing a large piece of land, building a hut and creating a pathway with old bricks. Additional tasks included various tasks to help landscape and garden including preparing soil for gardening and planting seeds and seedlings.
Building a grass roots foundation: During the last three years the RYS in Sri Lanka has been training a core group of leaders that are willing to work as ambassadors for peace. This willingness has brought young monks, priests, social and community workers together with students in providing basic community building skills. To reverse the course of violence these RYS graduates has been moving their experience to practical programs in the villages and countryside.
Thailand :19th As Friends Project Oct. 13-20. Theme" Building interreligious harmony among youth through dialogue in action"
Seventy participants from Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Japan and Nepal joined in a rural development project where the teams of volunteers joined in the building of a community center in the village of Phrae in Northern Thailand. Increasing regional tension between people of faith after the bombing of the World Trade Towers placed a special project focus on building a stronger understanding between people of faith.
Thailand has hosted seven RYS projects since 1990 and the value of the project was able to draw a wide range of supporters and cooperating organizations together to see to its success. As an Asian Friendship Project (As Friends) this RYS interfaith project pulled into its vision of peace, service and cooperation the Governor of Phrae Province, the local MP, Mrs Siriwan Prasjaksattru, the Public Welfare Office of Phrae, the Association of the Public Welfare Volunteers, Phrae, the IIFWP- Thailand, the Governor of Phisanulouk Province, WFWP (Thailand and Japan) and the Youth Federation for World Peace (Thailand).
The program included nightly national presentations from the young ambassadors of peace of each of the represented nations. Our education programs were open air and this provided an opportunity for the villagers to sit at the side and watch our presentation. They even got to taste the various traditional food that was brought over. More then 15 Muslims took part in the program which included sessions on conflict resolution and community building and this mixture was an important element in promoting understanding and cooperation.
Malaysian participants were so inspired that they are planning to have a project near the border of Thailand in May 2002.
Sri Lanka 20th IIFWP "As Friends" Project October
Working in cooperation with the Sri Lanka Ministry of Education a national RYS project for fifty participants was held in the Western part of the country (Murungan) near the zone of conflict. Participants worked hard to create and build a play area for the local school. the quality of the participants was exceptional for they were selected by the Department of Education and the National Youth council.
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