What is the vision?
Our vision for the Interfaith Youth Peace Seminar is that it would be a step toward bringing justpeace to our community and society. Shanti Mitra believes in an understanding of peace that encompasses all areas of life; peace requires a transformation of our thoughts and attitudes, as well as an increasing awareness of the ways violence and injustice are present in our lives. We use the word “justpeace” because we believe that true peace can only be achieved through restoring just, right relationships. Peace is therefore a continuous process of living together, of creatively reorienting our relationships with one another, our environment, our communities, and broader society. The Interfaith Youth Peace Seminar provides a place where young people of different religions, ethnicities, and genders can come together to form relationships and celebrate our diversity. When we actually practice being together we find that the assumptions and stereotypes we make about those who are different from us are challenged, and we can work together for change. We do not wish to eliminate our differences, but acknowledge them and learn how they can help us work together. By this we hope to creatively engage in justpeace.
What do we do?
The Interfaith Youth Peace Seminar has been held every December since 2009, each year with a different theme and focus. The 2014 theme was, “Living Peace.” The participants engage in different topics such as identity, love, forgiveness, friendship, dreams, diversity, comfort zones discrimination, and the environment. All topics are approached with an emphasis on creativity; not only is creativity an effective way to transform ourselves and our societies, part of our transformation is learning to develop our creative capacities in order to bring about freedom and change. The workshops are taught with very participatory methods such as group discussion, brain storming, storytelling, dialogue, reflection, art, and drama. Our goal is for the Seminar to be a place where youth feel free to express opinions and are willing to learn from each other. It is our hope that, through these methods, youth will learn to recognize what needs to change in themselves and in their communities, and begin to find creative ways to restore the world around them.
Who are the participants?
The Interfaith Youth Peace Seminar focuses on bringing young people, specifically students, to discuss the topics above. We are dedicated to this age group because we believe that they have the ability to influence what society will look like in the future. If they can become aware of the dynamics of domination, power, and violence now, then they can work to restore injustice and bring about newness in their relationships as they grow older, hopefully then bringing about cultural and societal change.
Participants must be studying at the college or university level. We often ask local schools to recommend their students to us. One of our goals is to have equal representation of different genders and religions in the students that are invited to come. We also try to invite students from all over Bangladesh as a means of spreading justpeace even farther than the Mymensingh region.