Attended by 120 youth from different religious backgrounds, HWPL Philippines virtually held its first Religious Peace Youth Camp 2022 on June 21-22, 2022. With the theme “Breaking the Boundaries, Enlightening One’s Belief of the Youth”, the event aimed to empower the youth as the key players in peacefully resolving conflicts brought by religious disputes or misconceptions.
The organizer of the event, Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL) is an international nonprofit organization advocating for world peace and cessation of war. One of its main initiatives is promoting harmony among religions through interfaith dialogues. HWPL holds regular interfaith dialogues through the World Alliance of Religions’ Peace (WARP) Office attended by religious leaders from different faith backgrounds.
On Day 1, the participants visited the places of worship of Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikhism and learned about their culture through a Virtual Tour. Their knowledge on different religions were also tested during the World Religion Quiz.
Regarding the role of the youth in spreading awareness and promoting interfaith harmony, John Erick Z. Cortez, a senior high school student, said, “As a youth, we can help to promote peace and unity among religions. Dialogues and gatherings in interfaith activities will let us understand the different religions in fulfilling one vision. Despite our differences in religion, age, culture, views and beliefs, this should not be the reason to divide and separate ourselves but instead cultivate unity to provide inspiration, guidance and validation necessary for the people to move toward non-violent means of conflict resolution.”
On Day 2, they played a board game with various real-life situations based on the differences in religions. They also witnessed an interfaith dialogue among speakers from Christianity, Hinduism and Islam through the WARP Office to gain awareness on Freedom of Religion and to strengthen the respect for human rights and diversity of religions.
On the topic of religious stereotypes that they have experienced, Sheikh Abdulatip Amilin Kanjang, President and Founder of Awldul Islam Association Inc., shared, “In Islam, there are positive and negative stereotypes when it comes to religion. On a positive side, it is said that Islam is a religion of neutralization. Islam is a very religious religion because they pray five times a day and they have a lot of laws to follow. Those are the positives we see but sadly, the negative side regarding history when we talk about Islam, here is injustice, Islamophobia, criticism of religion… the bias when it comes to the media… also the words ‘radicalism’, ‘extremist’ and ‘terrorist’.”
Regarding the solution and prevention of these stereotypes, Prabhu Ambrisa of the Sri Sri Radha Madhava Mandir, discussed, “People tend to associate with people who have a better belief system, who know who they are and what they are capable of being. This is a positive stereotype – a clear mental model of their world view, and on the other hand, the negative side is due to the fact that some of us don't have religious belief, not following the tradition, no idea of what culture is, or forgetting our values. Just like what HWPL are doing, we are getting all the information about other religions, about their practice and their beliefs so that we will have a better understanding to result in having positive stereotypes.”
Groupings were also formed to facilitate discussion in breakout rooms. Sean Michael A. Curato, one of the participants, said, “I have been given the opportunity to view the perspective of other religions today, I realized that diversity should not be the one that divides us, rather, it should be the common denominator that despite the differences, we are still living in one world with many faces, colors, beliefs and traditions. Break Barriers, Break Walls, Break Stereotypes, our world doesn't need more judgment, rather, it needs more people who will listen, people who will understand, and people who will make world peace a thing of the present.”
HWPL Philippines will conduct a monthly Youth WARP Office to raise the future generation towards promoting interfaith harmony. They will also prepare various activities for the youths and establish Peace Clubs within HWPL’s partner schools.